National: White House seeks $50 million to restore civil rights sites as voting rights anniversary nears | Associated Press

The White House is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act by earmarking $50 million to restore key civil rights areas around the nation. The president’s budget includes money for the national historical trail from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, which commemorates in part the “Bloody Sunday” attack by police on civil rights demonstrators. Their march was portrayed in the Oscar-nominated film “Selma.” The attack helped boost the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which banned the use of literacy tests, added federal oversight for minority voters and allowed federal prosecutors to investigate the use of poll taxes in state and local elections.

Verified Voting Blog: Principles for New Voting Systems

Many jurisdictions will need to replace their voting systems in the next few years. Commercial voting systems currently in the marketplace are expensive to acquire and maintain and difficult to audit effectively. Elections may be verifiable in principle–if they generate a voter-verifiable paper trail that is curated well–but current systems make it hard or impractical to verify elections in practice.

Recent experience with open-source tabulation systems in risk-limiting audits in California and Colorado, and voting system projects in Los Angeles County, CA, and Travis County, TX, suggest that the US could have voting systems that are accurate, usable, verifiable, efficiently auditable, reliable, secure, modular, and transparent, for a fraction of the cost of systems currently on the market.

The key to reducing costs is to use commodity off-the-shelf hardware, open-source software, and open data standards.  Usability and auditability need to be designed into new systems from the start. The US could have the best possible voting systems, instead of just the best voting systems money can buy, if new systems adhere to the Principles enunciated below. (Download PDF)

Georgia: Butler rep seeks quick voter application processing | Macon Telepgraph

A former Taylor County voting registrar says every registrar in the state and their oversight agency should face the threat of a lawsuit if they do not process voting applications quickly enough. “Forty-five days is more than enough, in my opinion,” said Patty Bentley, now a state representative and author of a new bill setting that deadline. Her House Bill 130 would allow anyone whose registration is not processed within 45 days to take either the county registrar or the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office to court.

Illinois: Will county clerk: amend voter registration law | Chicago Tribune

Will County Clerk Nancy Schultz Voots continues to press state legislators for more time to implement a new law requiring all county clerks to provide Election Day registration in all precincts by the March 2016 election. She has provided them with a cost study, detailing that it would cost Will County more than $1.3 million to buy electronic equipment, implement the technology and train election judges to provide registration in all 303 precincts. “They should have done a cost study before implementing the law,” she said after presenting her figures to the county board’s finance committee Tuesday.

Kansas: Bills on straight-party voting, removing candidate from ballot headed to full House | Lawrence Journal-World

A House committee advanced two bills Monday that would change the way elections are conducted, despite objections from Democrats that one of the bills would impose significant costs on county governments. House Bill 2104 would provide that candidates could be removed from the ballot only if they die on or before Sept. 1. And in those cases, the party affiliated with that candidate would be required to name a replacement. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach had asked for the bill, saying it was a response to controversy in the 2014 election when Democrat Chad Taylor was allowed to withdraw from the U.S. Senate race. Taylor’s withdrawal request did not explicitly state that he would be unable to fulfill the duties of that office if he were elected, as required under current law. The Kansas Supreme Court eventually upheld Taylor’s withdrawal anyway, saying it was enough that he cited the relevant statute in his request. And a three-judge district court panel later ruled that the Democratic Party could not be forced to name another candidate, despite a law saying the party “shall” name a replacement in such cases.

New Hampshire: Bill aims to allow ballot selfies in voting booth | WMUR

A House bill is aiming to repeal a law that bans people from taking selfies with their ballots. The law was modified last year and prohibits voters from taking pictures of their ballots and sharing them online. Supporters of the law said sharing that information could influence other voters. But the New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union and a number of citizens are challenging it, saying it’s a violation of the First Amendment and freedom of speech. Attorney Dan Hynes testified in favor of the bill Tuesday and brought along a photo he took with the ballot he cast in the last election. “I would like the attorney general to prosecute me so I can contest this law in court and hopefully go up to the New Hampshire Supreme Court,” Hynes said. “This law is unconstitutional.”

North Carolina: Redistricting bills face Senate resistance | Charlotte Observer

Lawmakers from both parties Tuesday renewed their effort to take politics out of one of their most politically charged jobs – redistricting. And advocates say they’re optimistic despite the continued opposition of leaders in the state Senate, where earlier efforts have died. “Realistically it’s an uphill battle,” said Jane Pinsky, director of the Coalition for Lobbying and Government Reform. “We hope that the legislators will … not remain confident that just because they’re in charge now or just because they were in charge 10 years ago that they’re going to be in charge in 2020.” Legislative and congressional districts currently are drawn every 10 years by legislators. As a result, critics say those districts typically favor the party in power, result in less competition and therefore fewer moderates who have to answer to a broader constituency. Last year nearly half of the state’s 170 legislative seats were uncontested.

Virginia: House Speaker Howell joins redistricting lawsuit | The Washington Post

The Speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates has intervened in a federal lawsuit that alleges his chamber’s legislative districts were gerrymandered to dilute African-American influence. Speaker William J. Howell (R-Stafford) and the House of Delegates will now be defending in court the map they drew in 2011 against a lawsuit filed by a group of Virginia citizens against the state Board of Elections and Department of Elections. Judge David J. Novak granted Howell’s motion Tuesday. “The speaker has an obligation to ensure that the House is represented in court,” spokesman Matt Moran said. Any legal fees will be paid out of the House budget at Howell’s discretion.

West Virginia: Bill ending straight-ticket voting could go to House Tuesday | WV Metro News

The bill that would end straight-ticket voting in West Virginia will get a final vote from the state Senate Tuesday before moving to the state House of Delegates for consideration during the ongoing Regular Legislative Session. George Carenbauer, a former state Democratic Party chair, said on Monday’s MetroNews “Talkline” it’s long past time for the change. “I’m all in favor of things that make it easier and more accessible for people to vote, but I also think the voter has a responsibility to really know what he or she is doing when they go into the voting booth,” he said.

India: Arvind Kejriwal Alleges Voting Machines Tampered With to Help BJP | NDTV

Arvind Kejriwal, the chief of the Aam Aadmi Party, today alleged massive tampering of electronic voting machines or EVMs to favour the BJP. The BJP linked his allegation to the funding scandal; AAP has been accused by a group of its former supporters of accepting Rs. 50 lakh from four companies that have no credible finances and appear to be fronts for money laundering. Mr Kejriwal tweeted today that during an inspection in the Delhi Cantonment area on Monday, four machines were found doctored in a way that the result always showed BJP, no matter what party the voters chose.

Nigeria: Continued Boko Haram insurgency prompts fears of Valentine’s Day massacre when country heads to polls | The Independent

Nigeria’s commercial hub is in the middle of election fever. The country heads to the polls on Valentine’s Day amid a Boko Haram insurgency wreaking havoc throughout the north-east. The security situation deteriorated further this week when a female suicide bomber blew herself up at a rally in Gombe, a city in the north-east, a few minutes after President Goodluck Jonathan had left. The presidential convoy was parked 200 metres from the explosion on Monday. One person was killed and 18 others were injured. At the same time, Nigerian soldiers and vigilante groups were trying to repel the Islamist militants’ advance on the northern city of Maiduguri. Boko Haram fighters initially tried to capture Maiduguri a week ago, but were resisted by Nigerian troops.

Nigeria: Elections in the Time of Boko Haram Violence, Displacement and Religious Tensions | International Business Times

As Nigeria prepares to go to the polls to elect its new president on 14 February, in what is seen as the first election contested by two rival parties, millions of Nigerians may not be able to cast their votes after all. A suicide bomb attack in a north-east Nigeria school killed at least 47 and injured 79 others as students had gathered for a morning assembly on Monday. Flaring Boko Haram violence in the northern states has left many towns ravaged, thousands dead and millions displaced. Over the last weekend, the group launched a heavy attack on Maiduguri, the biggest city in northeast Nigeria, as it seeks to build an Islamist state in the region. But it is not just the ruthless terror group that has posed a grave threat to the elections; the religious north-south divide, a seemingly ill-prepared election commission and plain logistics could be just as explosive.

Togo: Election set for mid-April: minister | AFP

Togo’s presidential election will be held in mid-April, a minister said Tuesday, clarifying a constitutional court ruling on the date of the vote. The cabinet is expected to set the date based on proposals from the national election commission, the minister for territorial administration, Gilbert Balawa, told AFP. A statement from Togo’s constitutional court on Monday was interpreted to mean that voting had to take place no later than March 5, a timeline that opposition leader Jean-Pierre Fabre said was “materially impossible to respect”. But on Tuesday, the court issued a second statement to clarify that in fact only the date of the election had to be set by March 5.

United Kingdom: Drive to recruit 100,000 expatriate voters | Telegraph

The Electoral Commission has launched an ambitious drive to persuade 100,000 British expats to join the UK voting register ahead of the general election on May 7. However, pro-democracy campaigners say Britons abroad are annoyed with politicians at home over topics such as frozen pensions and winter fuel payments being cut – so they may not heed the call. Only 15,849 of the estimated 5.5 million Britons overseas were signed up to vote in UK elections as of March 2014, according to the commission. The last recruitment drive – aimed at adding 25,000 expats to the voters’ roll in the weeks before the European and local elections last May – fell flat. Only 7,079 signed up.