Shrinking Georgia’s early voting period by four days was billed Tuesday as a cost-savings measure, but at least one voter group said the economy gained wasn’t worth the price in lost convenience. Rep. Mark Hamilton, R-Cumming, introduced House Bill 194 the day before, but it became public when it was given its first “reading” in the state House and assigned to a committee for consideration. He said it will simplify the various schedules individual counties have used for when early voting is available and makes Sunday voting mandatory in every county.
Straight-ticket voting is a thing of the past, a local state legislator says, and he is carrying a bill to officially make that statement a reality. Currently, Hoosiers can vote for all the candidates from one party with the click of a single button during a general or municipal election. Rep. David Ober, R-Albion, has introduced a bill to remove that option. Ober said the change would update Indiana ballots for modern voting norms. “The way that Hoosier votes are trending is more based on individual candidates and their views rather than a party or platform,” said Ober. “This bill codifies what Hoosier voters are already doing.”
Editorials: Kris Kobach’s bill on straight-ticket voting in Kansas is not helpful | The Kansas City Star
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s voting proposals have always been about marginalizing certain citizens and smoothing the way for Republican candidates. This year’s crop of ideas, a couple of which unfortunately are moving in the Legislature, is more of the same. The House Elections Committee has recommended that the full House pass a Kobach bill to restore straight-ticket voting in Kansas. Combine that with a proposal by Gov. Sam Brownback, which Kobach supports, to move elections for local and judicial races from the spring to the fall, and you can see where this is headed. Brownback and Kobach would love nothing more than to engineer a partisan takeover of local races by creating long ballots with a tempting option at the top to simply vote the ticket.
Gov. Larry Hogan said Wednesday he will form a bipartisan commission to explore reforming Maryland’s legislative redistricting process. Hogan said his goal is to give the authority of redrawing the state’s legislative districts to an independent, bipartisan commission. Currently, the shaping of legislative districts every 10 years in Maryland is largely in the hands of the governor, who submits a proposed map to the Legislature, which votes on it. Critics say Maryland has some of the most gerrymandered congressional districts in the country. Gerrymandering is the process in which state officials draw congressional districts to benefit their party. “This is not a distinction that we should be proud of,” Hogan said near the end of his first State of the State speech. Hogan said he would form a commission by executive order to explore reforms.
With a 10 to 10 vote, the House State Administration Committee tabled a bill that would have allowed electronic voter registration for qualified Montana electors. Introduced by the request of Montana Secretary of State Linda McCulloch and sponsored by Rep. Geraldine Custer, R-Forsyth, House Bill 48 would have allowed online voter registration to Montanans who possessed a valid Montana driver’s license or ID card, making it even more secure than the current paper registration form.
Two bills guaranteed to generate controversy advanced from committee to the full Nebraska Legislature Wednesday. Legislative Bill 111 would require most voters to show government-issued photo identification before casting a ballot. LB 10 would return Nebraska to the winner-takes-all system of awarding electoral college votes in presidential elections. Both advanced on a 7-1 vote from the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee, which is dominated by conservative Republicans.
Republican lawmakers in Nevada this week took the first step toward solidifying their hold on a state that looks increasingly up for grabs — if those members are willing to detonate the political equivalent of a nuclear bomb in Carson City. Buried deep within the yearly package of rules that will govern how the state Assembly and Senate will operate, Republicans inserted a provision that would allow them to consider redrawing Nevada’s political boundaries. The new rules, which ordinarily govern mundane legislative procedures, such as parliamentary rules and disclosure reports, passed both chambers on party-line votes. But the threat of redrawn lines that could solidify Republican control may be less about actually implementing new maps and more about forcing Democrats to come to the negotiating table on other issues.
Oregon: Automatic voter registration bill sails through committee; Bill would add 300,000 voters to registry on day one | The Bulletin
The hallmark bill in Secretary of State Kate Brown’s legislative agenda that would automatically register eligible residents to vote is in the fast lane and appears headed quickly through the Legislature after passing out of committee Wednesday. Under Brown’s bill the state would proactively register eligible residents to vote, rather than require voters to register themselves. The move would add 300,000 voters to the state’s rolls on the first day it goes into effect and eventually register virtually every eligible voter. The proposal faced opposition from rural county clerks last session before it failed by a single vote in the Senate. The state’s clerks association is in favor of the proposal this time around, shoring up support outside most Republicans who tried and failed four times Wednesday to change or stop it.
How do you inform people of something that won’t be on the next General Election ballot? That was the question Secretary of State Nellie M. Gorbea hoped would be answered at a meeting with elected officials and representatives from local boards of canvassers on Friday. She got some answers. While the 2016 elections seem a long way away, Gorbea said she had the meeting to comply with legislation eliminating the party master lever from the ballot. The bill, introduced by Warwick state Rep. K. Joseph Shekarchi and approved by the General Assembly last year, calls for elimination of straight party voting as of Jan. 1, 2015. The measure also calls for voter information sessions beginning within a month. State Sen. David Bates introduced the Senate version of the bill. Gorbea agreed it seemed a bit early to get started on educating the public, but then she’s complying with the law.
South Carolina: Report: Disabled voters face barriers at polls across state | The Times and Democrat
Voter registration directors throughout The T&D Region say they’re taking to heart a report released on Tuesday identifying barriers for disabled voters at South Carolina’s polls. “Unequal access for voters with disabilities continues to plague South Carolina. This is not just an issue in a few select precincts. Voters with disabilities face barriers statewide,” said Gloria Prevost, executive director of Protection & Advocacy for People with Disabilities Inc. “The state has a responsibility to uphold the fundamental right of voting access for all citizens,” she said. Last election day, P&A and volunteers completed polling place surveys at 303 polling precincts across the state during the general election. They found widespread problems.
Voting Blogs: The Voter ID Law that No One is Talking About: Why Voting Rights Activists Should Take Notice of Tennessee | State of Elections
With the Supreme Court recently issuing a flurry of orders and stays on the implementation of certain states’ voter ID laws—allowing some to be in effect for the 2014 midterms, but blocking another—there has been no shortage of attention on voting rights developments. While states, such as Texas and North Carolina, are often criticized for having some of the strictest voter ID laws in the country, little scrutiny has been placed on another state’s voter ID requirement that is arguably just as burdensome and theoretically more primed for a constitutional challenge: Tennessee. Despite receiving scant attention from the national media, a recently released study by the U.S. Government Accountability Office found that Tennessee’s three-year old voter ID law has deterred voter turnout, notably among younger voters. According to U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.), the report proves that the state’s voter ID law unfairly suppresses Tennessee residents’ voting rights.
Vermont: Lawmakers consider changing majority rule in elections, could opt to do nothing | Associated Press
A month after state lawmakers had to elect a governor because no one got a majority in November, a key lawmaker said Wednesday that the best solution to the issue may be to do nothing. “We are more seriously looking at whether we need to have a change,” said Sen. Jeanette White, chairwoman of the Senate Government Operations Committee. “I think a number of people automatically assumed that we had to have a change, but now we’re looking at do we need to have a change.” The panel is considering proposed amendments to the Vermont Constitution, which currently says that if no one gets more than 50 percent of the vote in a general election for governor, lieutenant governor or treasurer, the election goes to the Legislature.
Virginia: Senate panel backs bill to aid older voters, defeats other proposals | Richmond Times Dispatch
In the 2015 legislative session, the Senate Privileges and Elections Committee has tried to be nice to older people. But the same might not be said for the young registered voters who attend Virginia’s private high schools, religious schools and military academies — or for people whose form of voter photo identification was issued by one of several of the state’s social services agencies. A week after advancing a bill to allow people 65 and older to vote absentee without providing an excuse — a measure that passed the full Senate on Monday — the committee on Tuesday went a step further and advanced legislation that would allow voters age 75 and older to go to the front of the line at the polls on Election Day.
Senators approved a bill Tuesday that repeals straight party voting, a ballot provision that allows a voter to vote for all candidates from one party instead of considering individual races. Both Democratic and Republican Senators stood to speak on behalf of Senate Bill 249, some saying the elimination of straight ticket voting requires voters to consider each race rather than voting on a partisan basis. “I think it’s fair to say we have benefited from this over the past couple election cycles,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch Carmicahel said, referring to the Republican Party’s take over of the legislature, “but that’s not a reason to continue a process.”
Nigeria’s election body said Wednesday that it may push back the deadline for distributing voter identity cards but denied media reports that the vote itself could be postponed. The spokesman for Independent National Election Commission (INEC), Kayode Idowu, told AFP that the body may allow voter ID cards to be handed out after the current February 8 deadline. However he described media reports about a possible election postponement as “completely false”.
Facebook users in the UK will be reminded to register to vote tomorrow in a bid to increase turnout for the general election. The message, which could be seen by more than 35 million people, is the biggest voter registration campaign to ever take place in the UK. A prompt at the top of Facebook feeds will encourage people to register online with users also able to share the news with friends. A new “life event” on Facebook will tell other users when people have registered to vote. Similar schemes were used to encourage voters in the US and India. In the run-up to polling day Facebook will also be used to target 17-year-olds who turn 18 before the election. The Electoral Commission said the targeted advertising was part of an effort to get more young people on the electoral register.