National: Federal Election Commission Raises Contribution Caps for 2016 | Wall Street Journal

A ticket to a political party fundraiser could cost as much $100,200 in the 2016 election cycle, following a routine increase in Federal Election Commission contribution caps and last year’s Supreme Court ruling striking down the overall limit on individuals’ political contributions. Under new FEC limits, which are adjusted for inflation in odd-numbered years, individuals can give up to $5,400 to candidates—$2,700 for their primary campaigns, and another $2,700 for the general election—and up to $33,400 per year to national party committees in the 2016 cycle. Previously, the limit was $2,600 to candidates and $32,400 to national party committees per year. In April 2014, the Supreme Court threw out the $123,200 cap on what individuals could give to federal candidates and political committees over a two-year election cycle, saying the limits infringed on First Amendment free-speech rights.

California: Del Mar Can Accept Votes Via Internet | Courthouse News Service

Del Mar can conduct an online poll of residents today, a state judge ruled Friday, rejecting a claim that it’s an illegal election through an unapproved process. The advisory election, or poll, will ask voters to choose one of three plans for a new Civic Center, also known as the City Hall/Town Hall Project. Only Del Mar voters will be allowed to vote. A resident sued the city on Jan. 29, claiming the voting system “has not been certified by the California Secretary of State,” and that the City Council did not give final approval for it until its Jan. 20 meeting.

Editorials: Election law changes aid politicians | Dan Walters/The Sacramento Bee

When politicians tinker with the laws governing their own elections, one should view their proposals with a guilty-until-proven-innocent attitude. Almost always, the politicians proclaim that they are acting in the public interest to make elections fairer. And almost always, election law changes would improve the politicians’ chances of holding their offices or advancing up the political food chain. The most obvious example of the syndrome is redistricting – altering the boundaries of legislative, congressional, city council, county supervisor or school trustee districts to comply with population shifts. Self-serving gerrymanders had become so common in California that the state’s voters finally shifted the power over legislative and congressional districts from the Legislature to an independent commission.

Editorials: Nevada recall campaigns face hurdles | Joshua Spivak/Las Vegas Review-Journal

Enraged by political maneuvering that resulted in moderate Republican John Hambrick being elected speaker-designate of the state Assembly, Nevada conservatives are preparing a recall petition to kick Hambrick out of office. If this recall came to pass, Nevada would be following other states — in the past 21 years, five states have had legislative leaders face recall elections. But the tea party types should not hold their collective breath — because of the quirks of Nevada law, a recall is much harder to get on the ballot in the Silver State than in many other places in the United States. Using recall elections to target legislative leaders has been a popular, bipartisan undertaking in recent years. It started in 1994, when California Senate President Pro Tempore David Roberti, a Democrat who was already term-limited, faced a recall over his support for gun control legislation. Roberti easily survived the recall, although he lost the Democratic primary for state treasurer. California also got to see a recall used the next year against Doris Allen, a Republican and an independent, who was briefly made speaker after she switched her vote to support the Democrats retaining control of the Assembly. Allen stepped down from the speakership before the recall, and then was trounced in the ensuing election.

North Carolina: New effort begins to remove politics from drawing districts | The State

Republicans in 2011 carved North Carolina into new districts from which public officials are elected, creating 170 areas for state lawmakers and 13 for members of Congress in a required effort to maintain balanced populations. Democrats and left-leaning groups complained that the new maps intentionally deflated their candidates’ chances in the state and federal elections, but courts have upheld the redistricting effort — which is necessary after every Census — as fair, legal and based on sound methodologies. But there’s a reinvigorated movement among officials and policy groups with ties to both political parties who say they’re sick of gerrymandering, or at least of the public skepticism that comes when politicians handle how the voting areas are drawn.

Puerto Rico: Voting Rights For Noncitizens Debated | International Business Times

Puerto Rico is undergoing a widespread debate regarding the governor’s plans to support a bill extending voting rights to all island residents, regardless of immigration status. Puerto Rico’s largely Dominican immigrant community has celebrated the proposal, but opponents say the move will undermine the privileges granted by citizenship. Gov. Alejandro García Padilla declared last month he would submit legislation allowing all noncitizen residents to vote in islandwide elections, a move with significant implications for the hundreds of thousands of Dominican immigrants estimated to be living on the island.

Tennessee: GOP calls emergency meeting on open primaries | The Tennessean

Those sneaky Democrats need to stop meddling with Republican elections in Tennessee — at least that’s the sentiment of a new push by conservative members of the Tennessee Republican State Executive Committee that’s forced party Chairman Chris Devaney to call an emergency meeting. Earlier this month a group of 16 members of the GOP state executive committee requested the party call a special meeting to discuss a resolution pertaining to open primaries. If the resolution is adopted, the Tennessee GOP would officially support requiring everyone to register to vote by party and allowing people to vote only in the primary election of their party. Seems simple, and it’s required in 28 other states. But in Tennessee, voters don’t need to register by party and they can choose to vote in the Republican or Democratic primary. In the view of many tea party-aligned Republicans, that leaves the party open to Democrats voting for moderate Republicans in the primary because they know their Democratic candidates can’t win in Tennessee, particularly in statewide races.

Utah: State GOP chairman wants caucus, not a primary | Deseret News

Utah Republican Party Chairman James Evans said Friday the party plans to hold a caucus instead of a primary election next year to choose the Republican nominee for president. “We’ll just do our own presidential caucus,” Evans said, calling the decision the party’s to make. “If the state is trying to insist on something different, then they would be out of bounds here.” It’s the latest salvo in an ongoing dispute between Utah Republicans on how best to select candidates and centers on control of the nominating process and voter turnout. Rep. John Cox, R-Ephraim, said he wants to draft a bill to hold an online primary election for president in 2016. Cox said the dates of the primary will also have to be changed to conform with new national party requirements.

Vermont: Legislature Considering Voter Registration at the Polls | myChamplainValley

Every year, U.S. citizens are barred from voting because they missed the registration deadline. In our area, Vermont sets the deadline to the Wednesday before election day. In New York, it’s weeks before. New Hampshire, however, allows voters to register on Election Day. Some Vermont leaders want to do the same. Secretary of State Jim Condos told lawmakers Friday, Vermont should do away with registration deadlines. “Right now, my office has no reasonable answer for why these Vermonters cannot exercise their right granted to them under our constitution,” Condos said.

Washington: Moscoso introduces new version of Washington Voting Rights Act | HeraldNet

Democratic State Rep. Luis Moscoso has introduced a new version of the Washington Voting Rights Act. Moscoso introduced the bill Thursday, Jan. 28. It is scheduled for a hearing Thursday, Feb. 5, before the House committee on state government. It would empower local governments to tailor solutions to systemic electoral issues, which, he said, ensure fairness in local elections and a voice for all communities.

Washington: State House bill explores statehood for East Washington | Yakima Herald Republic

A group of conservative lawmakers from east of the Cascades wants a task force to provide recommendations on how to divide Washington into two separate states. House Bill 1818 would create a task force “to determine the impacts” of dividing the state in two along the Cascade range. The bill cites heightened differences of “cultural and economic values” as the reason for exploring the split. The task force would consist of 10 members from different caucuses in the House and Senate and from the Governor’s Office. It would have to report its findings to the Legislature by the end of September this year, according to the bill.

Lesotho: Soldiers attacked ahead of Lesotho’s election | Associated Press

Two soldiers have been wounded and a private security guard killed during a shooting outside the presidential palace gates in Lesotho, adding to an already tense political climate ahead of elections later this month, an official said Monday. The two soldiers were attacked on Sunday by “renegade” soldiers who wanted to destabilize Lesotho ahead of the Feb. 28 elections, Thabo Thakalekoala, the prime minister’s press secretary said.

Luxembourg: Campaigners push for yes vote on foreigner voting rights | Luxemburger Wort

Expat organisations in Luxembourg have relaunched their migration and integration platform in a bid to educate the public and promote foreigner voting rights. On June 7, this year, Luxembourg’s electorate will decide whether or not it approves of voting rights for foreign nationals resident in the country in legislative elections. Ahead of this consultative poll, the Migration and Integration platform or MINTÉ is campaigning in favour of a yes vote.

Nigeria: Nigeria braces for more Boko Haram attacks in election buildup | AFP

Nigeria on Monday braced for fresh Boko Haram attacks ahead of this month’s elections, with the key city of Maiduguri in the firing line and forces from Chad and Cameroon joining the regional fight. A weekend of violence saw the Borno state capital, Maiduguri, hit for the second Sunday in a row, but Nigerian Army soldiers, helped by civilian vigilantes, managed to keep the militants at bay. The border town of Gamboru, on Borno’s eastern fringe, meanwhile was pounded by artillery fire and from the air by Chadian jets, as troops massed in Cameroon for a possible ground offensive. The increase in both militant and military activity reflects growing fears over the Islamists’ threat to regional security and crucial elections scheduled for February 14.

Philippines: Comelec signs precinct count optical scan contract with Smartmatic | Rappler

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has finalized the contract with technology provider Smartmatic for the diagnostics of the voting machines to be reused in the 2016 national elections. On Monday, February 2, his last day with the poll body, Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr announced that he signed the contract on Friday despite the criticisms and attacks against it. Brillantes said the contract price has been lowered to P240 million from P300 million. The poll body was also able to negotiate an expanded scope of work to be done on the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines. “It will not cover only diagnostics. It will not cover only minor repairs, but it will also cover all forms of repairs. It will also involve replacement of destroyed machines, which was not in the original proposal of Smartmatic,” he said. Due to this, Smartmatic’s proposed second stage worth P900 million may not push through anymore given the new scope of work, Brillantes added. He also said Smartmatic is preparing to start on the diagnostics this week.