National: Professor says right to vote in U.S. ‘has never been intrinsically tied to citizenship’ | Providence Journal

Extending voting rights to non-citizens is a hot topic from Burlington, Vt., to New York City to San Francisco. Supporters say allowing non-citizens to vote would give members of the community, including large numbers who pay taxes and own property, a voice in local political affairs. Opponents argue that extending voting privileges to immigrants would demean the value of citizenship and effectively disenfranchise legitimate citizen voters by diluting their vote. Ron Hayduk, a political science professor at Queens College, City University of New York,  supported expanding voting rights in a commentary “Noncitizens voting? It’s only fair,” published Jan. 1, 2015, in The Providence Journal. … In stating his case, Hayduk made this provocative statement: “But what most don’t know is that the right to vote in this country has never been intrinsically tied to citizenship.”

Editorials: Party insiders would be big winners if Los Angeles switches election timing | Bernard C. Parks/Los Angeles Times

f two charter amendments headed to Los Angeles voters March 3 get approved, it will make it next to impossible for candidates who aren’t party insiders, or the darlings of labor or business interests, to run for and win city office in L.A. Charter Amendment 1 and Charter Amendment 2 would move city and school board elections to June and November in even years from March and May in odd years to coincide with state and federal elections. The professed goal is to increase voter turnout, but I believe that’s a smokescreen. The proposals miss that objective while tilting the playing field in favor of special interests and in ways detrimental to good representation for residents. First, there’s turnout. Higher turnout alone doesn’t necessarily mean a higher percentage of voters who are engaged and knowledgeable on local races and issues. Besides, voter turnout in three of our last four odd-year city elections for mayor actually exceeded the even-year turnout, which has been especially weak in primary elections. Yet primaries are where most of our local elections get decided (over that period, 78% of City Council and school-board elections were determined in primaries). So the promise of voter turnout rings false.

Guam: Territories’ voting rights lawsuit to be filed | Pacific Daily News

A national civil rights group is preparing a lawsuit against the federal government in an effort to grant the millions of citizens living in U.S. territories the right to vote in presidential elections. We the People Project, a nonprofit organization advocating for equal voting and citizenship rights for U.S. territories, is developing its case and could file the lawsuit within the next few months. “At this point we have a legal team together; we’re looking to identify people interested in identifying with the case,” said WPP President Neil Weare, a civil rights attorney. “Once we’re able to identify the plaintiffs we’ll proceed to file the case over the next few months.”

Indiana: Common Cause: let citizens draw political maps | Lafayette Journal Courier

Common Cause Indiana is recruiting residents to support a state plan that would remove politicians from the process of redrawing political districts after every U.S. Census, policy director Julia Vaughn said. She found nearly 50 willing partners at the Tippecanoe County Public Library who on Sunday viewed “Pay 2 Play,” a documentary that aims to change campaign laws which filmmaker John Ennis sees as a system that allows donors to influence policymakers. One way to level the field is to create an independent redistricting commission that includes a cross-section of citizens, Vaughn said.

Maine: LePage to propose adding lieutenant governor, dropping secretary of state | Bangor Daily News

Gov. Paul LePage wants to get rid of the secretary of state position and replace it with a lieutenant governor. The duties of the secretary of state, from running elections to licensing drivers, would come under the lieutenant governor, who also would be first in the line of succession to replace the governor. The governor’s office confirmed it is drafting legislation that would not only make that change to the state’s constitution but would change how two other constitutional officers are appointed. LePage wants the governor, not the Legislature, to name the attorney general and state treasurer. LePage has had numerous disagreements with the Attorney General Janet Mills, a Democrat who was elected by the Legislature. She is serving her third term, having been elected when Democrats held legislative majorities in 2008, 2012 and 2014.

Maryland: Hyattsville passes teen voting measure | Gazette.Net

Sixteen and 17 year olds in Hyattsville will get to enjoy the right to vote in municipal elections, and may even be able to run for office. The Hyattsville City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to give final approval on lowering the voting age in municipal elections from 18 to 16, joining Takoma Park, which became the first municipality in the country to lower its voting age in 2013. With the decision, 16- and 17-year-olds will be able to vote in Hyattsville’s May 5 municipal elections for mayor and City Council. Another charter amendment, which would have set the minimum age to run for office at 18, failed 5-5. Councilwoman Paula Perry (Ward 4) was absent.

Nebraska: Voter photo ID sparks opposition | Journal Star

Proposed legislation requiring Nebraska voters to present government-issued photo IDs attracted a flood of opposition Friday while prompting Kansas Attorney General Kris Kobach to travel to Lincoln to support the bill. Kobach, best-known nationally for his activities opposing illegal immigration, told state senators a similar voter ID law is working well in Kansas and early evidence demonstrates that it “does not depress (voter) turnout.” His testimony before the Legislature’s Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee was prompted by an invitation from its chairman, Sen. John Murante of Omaha, he said.

New York: Disabled hope to retire lever voting machines for good | Legislative Gazete

Legislators joined disability and voting advocates at a press conference on Tuesday, Jan. 13 in Albany to call for an end to the use of lever voting machines in local elections. Although lever voting machines have been replaced in most elections in New York since the implementation of the Help America Vote Act in 2002, many are still in use in village, school district, and other local elections due to repeated extensions by the state Legislature. Some local municipalities and schools prefer to use lever machines because some do not own newer voting machines and must borrow or rent them from the Board of Elections or pay a private company to conduct their elections using more modern voting machines. But advocates say voters with visual, mobility and cognitive disabilities are unable to use the lever machines privately, needing the assistance of a caretaker or poll worker to help them vote.

North Dakota: Another voter ID proposal emerges | Grand Forks Herald

Another Grand Forks legislator has introduced a bill to tweak North Dakota’s voter identification law. State Sen. Ray Holmberg, R-Grand Forks, introduced a bill Thursday that would require student photo identification cards provided by North Dakota universities to include the student’s date of birth and residential address. It would also require the university to provide each student with information on voter eligibility requirements. Holmberg said the bill was in response to trouble some students had voting during the November election. Some students were able to change their paper student identification certificates, which are different than ID cards, to reflect their current address on the day of the election even though addresses were to be updated 30 days prior to the election, according to lawmakers and election officials.

Texas: Four Texas legislators push to make student ID acceptable as voter ID | The Daily Texan

Four Texas lawmakers are making voter turnout among college students a priority by proposing bills that would make university-issued ID cards an acceptable form of voter ID. The bills, filed in both the House and Senate by Rep. Terry Canales (D-Edinburg), Rep. Celia Israel (D-Austin), Sen. Carlos Uresti (D-San Antonio) and Sen. Kirk Watson (D-Austin), would allow students to present a university-issued photo ID as a valid form of voter ID. Watson said his bill, if passed, would make voting more convenient for students. “Those in control of the Capitol have created unnecessary burdens for folks who don’t already have an acceptable form of ID to vote,” Watson said in an email to the Texan. “This is an easy way to begin removing those burdens.”

Virginia: African-American lawmakers surprised by redistricting suit | Associated Press

A recently filed lawsuit seeking to redraw Virginia House district boundaries has surprised and sparked concern among some of the Democratic African-American lawmakers. Filed in December by a law firm with ties to both national and state Democrats, the suit argues that state Republicans illegally packed black voters into a dozen House districts when it drew new district lines in 2011. But many of the African-American lawmakers who represent those districts said they weren’t consulted about the lawsuit before it was filed. “We certainly weren’t told. It would have been good if someone had shared with us that they had this great concern,” said Del. Delores McQuinn, D-Chesterfield County. The lawmakers said they wanted to make sure any effort aimed at redrawing is comprehensive, not focused solely on areas with large minority populations. “We should take into consideration the entire state, not areas that’s just totally dominated by black populations,” said Del. Roslyn Tyler, D-Sussex County.

Comoros: Voters go to polls in Comoros ahead of 2016 presidential race | AFP

Voters went to the polls Sunday in the chronically unstable Indian Ocean archipelago of the Comoros in a parliamentary election seen as a test for former leader Abdallah Sambi, a Muslim populist poised to make a comeback. The vote, which was reported to be peaceful, is the first in a cycle of legislative and local government polls culminating in 2016 presidential elections. “Turnout has been very high, above 60 percent,” the Interior Minister told AFP before midnight local time (2100 GMT). “The emerging indications show Juwa (Sambi’s party) in the lead.” Ismael Saadi, the head of the election monitor in the Comoros, said voter participation had reached 60 to 70 percent. Polling booths opened at 7:00 am (0400 GMT), with voting slow off the mark in the capital, Moroni, but with long queues snaking through small villages elsewhere.

Greece: Anti-Austerity Party Appears Poised to Win Greek Elections | New York Times

Greece on Sunday appeared to reject the punishing economics of austerity and send a warning signal to the rest of Europe as exit polls showed the left-wing Syriza party with a strong lead in national elections, leaving the party’s tough-talking leader, Alexis Tsipras, likely to become the next prime minister. Exit polls, released on national television after voting stations closed at 7 p.m., showed Syriza running well ahead of the governing center-right New Democracy Party of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and in a good position to win a plurality in the multiparty race. It remained unclear whether Syriza would be able to win an outright parliamentary majority, or if it would have to form a coalition with one or more of the trailing parties. Syriza’s likely victory would represent a dramatic milestone for Europe at a time when continuing economic weakness has stirred an angry, populist backlash from France to Spain to Italy, as more voters grow fed up with policies that demand sacrifice to address the discipline of financial markets without delivering more jobs and prosperity. Syriza would become the first anti-austerity party to take power in a eurozone country, and would shatter the two-party political establishment that has dominated Greece for four decades.

Nigeria: Kerry Meets With Nigerian Leaders to Encourage Peaceful Election | New York Times

Concerned that Nigeria could face postelection turmoil, Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday urged President Goodluck Jonathan and his principal political rival to respect the results of next month’s presidential vote and to discourage their supporters from carrying out violent protests. “It is imperative that these elections happen on time, as scheduled, and that they are an improvement over past elections,” Mr. Kerry said in a news conference at the end of his visit here. But a major attack by Boko Haram militants on Sunday in Maiduguri, a major city in northeastern Nigeria, demonstrated the challenge that confronts the Obama administration as it tries to develop a strategy to help stabilize the strategically important nation. Mr. Kerry said there was evidence that the militants from the Islamic State group, which has declared a caliphate in eastern Syria and northern and western Iraq, were now making an effort to forge alliances with terrorist groups in Africa.

Zambia: The ruling party candidate wins in Zambia… for now. | The Washington Post

On Jan. 20, 1.6 million Zambians went to the polls to vote in a special presidential election arranged after the death of former President Michael Sata. (Technically, some of them had to wait until Wednesday and Thursday, Jan. 21 and 22.) Edgar Lungu of the ruling party, the Patriotic Front (PF), won the closely fought race, with 48.3 percent of the vote. United Party of National Development (UPND) candidate Hakainde Hichilema lost after garnering 46.7 percent of the vote. It was unclear who would emerge the victor until late Saturday when the final ballots were counted and acting Chief Justice Lombe Chibesakunda declared Lungu the winner. Hichilema released a statement Saturday before the final declaration was made; in it, he alleged the election had been stolen by Lungu and the PF. The allegations didn’t stop Lungu from being inaugurated early Sunday.