National: GOP Senator Says DOJ Challenge To His Voting Law Is A Waste Of Resources | Huffington Post

One of the newest members of the U.S. Senate suggested Wednesday that he did not think the Department of Justice’s decision to sue him was a wise use of its resources. During a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Loretta Lynch’s nomination to be attorney general, Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) used his time to take issue with the DOJ lawsuit that sought to block provisions of a North Carolina election law that civil rights advocates considered one of the most restrictive in the country. Tillis, who previously served as speaker of the house in North Carolina, helped push through the law in 2013 shortly after the Supreme Court struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act that had required 40 of the state’s 100 counties to obtain federal pre-approval of changes to voting procedures.

Missouri: Legislators Once Again Consider Photo-ID Mandate For Voters | St. Louis Public Radio

The decade-long effort to require photo IDs in Missouri voting booths is once again under way in the General Assembly, although it’s unclear if the chances are any brighter. State Rep. Tony Dugger, R-Hartville, is once again the chief sponsor of the two-pronged campaign to mandate government-issued photo IDs at the polls. “I am 100 percent sure that voter impersonation fraud is taking place in the state of Missouri,’’ he said a hearing Tuesday before a House committee. State Rep. Stacey Newman, D-Richmond Heights, is among the opposition leaders who say there’s been no proof of such fraud. They say that Dugger is targeting certain groups of Democratic-leaning voters – including students and minorities – who are less likely to have the types of photo IDs his legislation requires.

New Mexico: House Democrat aims to lower voting age for school elections to 16; bill may face GOP opposition | The Santa Fe New Mexican

A freshman legislator introduced a bill Wednesday that would give 16- and 17-year-olds the right to vote in school board elections, but it likely faces an uphill fight. Rep. Javier Martinez, D-Albuquerque, said in an interview that he wants to expand the pool of voters to improve historically low turnouts in school elections. Just as important, he said, the bill would allow more high school students to have a voice in the body of government that affects them most. Martinez, a 33-year-old lawyer, said he didn’t have a sense of whether his bill would have a chance in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. But, Martinez said, House Speaker Don Tripp, R-Socorro, has stressed bipartisanship, and this bill should appeal to most everyone.

North Carolina: Law change could cost counties | The News Herald

Come 2018, the county could have to cough up more than half a million dollars for new voting equipment and it could go back to paper ballots. Kim Strach, executive director of the North Carolina State Board of Elections, said in a letter sent to local elections offices that most voting equipment in the state is nearing the end of its lifespan. She said counties will need to plan for large expenditures to buy new voting equipment. In her letter, Strach said direct record electronic voting equipment will need to be replaced because the machines will be decertified in January 2018. She said a law change will require a paper ballot for all certified voting systems. The state board of elections will have to approve any new voting equipment, she said.

Voting Blogs: Exercise of Democracy or Destruction of Impartiality: Election of Judges in Ohio | State of Elections

States select their judges in a couple different ways, but in thirty-nine states most or all judges are elected. Supporters of competitive elections for judges say that it is “the most democratic way to make judges accountable to the public.” Ohio is one such state, through constitutional mandate, to hold elections for judges. But do we really want courts to be accountable to the public? Or is the integrity of the law and its effective application of greater concern for the judiciary, and if so, is it incompatible with the interest of public accountability. One concern which suggests that public accountability is incompatible with judicial integrity is a concern over partisanship. This is a concern that the dirty political fights, which take place in legislative elections are starting to make judges look like anything but “neutral arbiters of the law.” Even if you do not have party identifiers on the candidates for judges, like in Ohio, all that means is that there is one less factor informing voters about the actual judicial candidates. In a sense, when a state opts to elect judges it must chose between allowing partisan leanings to take hold in the election, thus calling into question the impartiality of the judge, or take away a major source of information for the voter.

South Dakota: Amendment Would Make Ballot Access More Difficult for Independent Candidates | Ballot Access News

On January 28, the South Dakota Senate State Affairs Committee amended SB 69 to make ballot access more difficult for independent candidates. Furthermore, the committee defeated an amendment that would have eased the deadline for a newly-qualifying party to submit its petitions, and approved the original part of the bill that moves the new party deadline from March to February. The votes on these amendments were all party-line, with all Republicans voting in favor of making ballot access more restrictive, and all Democrats voting in favor of easing ballot access. As amended, SB 69 says that no one can sign an independent candidate’s petition except voters who are registered “independent.” The bill also lowers the number of signatures needed for an independent, from 1% of the last gubernatorial vote, to 1% of the number of registered independents. The number of signatures for a statewide independent for 2016 would fall from 2,775 to 862. However, the net effect of the change would be to make ballot access worse for independents. Only 16% of South Dakota voters are registered “independent.” Going out on the street with a petition in which only 16% of the registered voters are eligible to sign would be difficult: effective petitioning depends on speed, and having to ask every person encountered if he or she is a registered independent would be perceived as nosy, and would be time-consuming. Also, not everyone knows whether or not he or she is registered “independent”. It’s especially likely that even well-informed voters wouldn’t know if they are “Nonpartisan” or “independent.”

Washington: State Voting Rights Act returns in Legislature | Yakima Herald Republic

A bill drafted with Yakima’s council elections system in mind has returned for a third straight try at passing in the Legislature. The state Voting Rights Act, which would make it easier to force localities to switch to geographic district-based elections, was reintroduced Wednesday in the House and with a companion bill in the Senate. The bills are sponsored by Rep. Luis Moscoso, D-Mountlake Terrace, and Sen. Cyrus Habib, D-Kirkland. The proposal would make it easier to challenge a local government’s elections format in court if evidence of racially polarized voting exists.

Washington: Lawmakers suggest state pay for ballot postage | The Seattle Times

Covering return postage for the state’s all-mail balloting would cost about $1 million for a presidential election and about $2.7 million for the next two years, a Senate committee was told Monday. But supporters of a proposal to do just that say it would make voting more convenient and remove a possible barrier for poor residents. “Of all the barriers (to voting), being poor should not be one of them,” said Sen. Bob Hasegawa, D-Seattle. “I think today, for some people it’s pretty hard to find a postage stamp,” said Sen. Pam Roach, R-Auburn.

West Virginia: Senate bill would eliminate straight-ticket voting | WV MetroNews

Straight-party voting would no longer be an option in West Virginia under a bill moving through the state Senate. “The right to vote is so important and this freedom that we have to elect people who will govern and represent us is so important,” said Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Charles Trump (R-Morgan, 15), one of the bill’s five sponsors. “It’s not unreasonable to expect that voters should actually look through the ballot and consider the candidates in both parties, all the parties, for each office.” According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, West Virginia is one of 11 states still offering straight-ticket voting, also called straight-party voting. The others are Alabama, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas and Utah.

Editorials: Compulsory voting, much like democracy, beats the alternatives | Lisa Hill/The Conversation

Queenslanders will soon head to the voting booths to either oust or re-elect the Newman government and no doubt some will be wondering why. “Why must I vote or be fined? Why must I be forced to choose who leads my society when I’d rather save myself the trip and stay home?” Victorian Liberal MP Bernie Finn criticised Australia’s compulsory voting laws after the Victorian state election in November. He said: To force people to vote who don’t want to be there, who don’t know what they are doing, is frankly quite ludicrous. While, at first glance, Finn’s claims might ring true, many experts consider Australia’s electoral system to be one of the finest in the world. The majority of Australians apparently share this view: 70% approve of compulsory voting. For decades, compulsory voting has done what it was supposed to do: maintain high and socially even turnout levels that are the envy of the industrialised voluntary-voting world. Prior to its introduction at the federal level in 1924, turnout was hovering in the 50–60% range (of registered voters). Since then, it has remained steady for many decades at around 93%.

Ireland: How an electoral commission can stop another e-voting fiasco | The Journal

Much ink has been spilled on the issue of setting up an independent Electoral Commission to oversee the management of elections and referenda here. Successive governments over the years have been effective at talking about it, but only the current administration is going to make it a reality. While our electoral system and the easy accessibility of politicians mean that citizens are deeply engaged with the electoral process, this isn’t necessarily matched by a sense of public confidence that the current system works. Various controversies over the years have highlighted a level of political interference in our electoral system and have only added to the further erosion of that confidence. For example, the botched €50 million e-voting machine debacle was due in no small way to the Minister of the day going on a solo run.

India: One-third of Delhi voters untraceable | The Hindu

One-third of the people on Delhi’s voter list had moved house, were dead or could not be found, a sample survey has revealed. The findings raise serious questions about the accuracy of the information in Delhi’s voter lists and put in doubt official voter turnout numbers, the researchers said, but were refuted by the Election Commission. Janaagraha Centre for Citizenship and Democracy, a Bangalore-based citizen engagement group, identified a representative sample of 3,210 Delhi voters spread across eight assembly constituencies. They then went to the addresses listed for these voters and attempted to find them. 21 per cent had moved house, the current occupant of the house informed the surveyors. Another one per cent was either dead, a repeated name or as in the case of two voters, in prison. Another 11 per cent could simply not be located despite three attempts. In all, 33 per cent of the sampled voters surveyed was not at the listed location and could potentially need to be deleted, the researchers found.

Nigeria: Election to Proceed on Schedule | VoA News

The spokesman for Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) says the February 14 presidential and gubernatorial elections will proceed as originally planned. Some recent reports had said the vote could be postponed. Kayode Idowu said the electoral body had updated its plans to administer elections in areas where residents often come under attack from radical Islamist militant group, Boko Haram. “The commission is doing everything it has to do to be in a position to conduct elections on February 14 and February 28 this year,” said Idowu. A senior security adviser to President Goodluck Jonathan is reported to have suggested that the election be postponed because of security challenges in parts of the country.