Editorials: The Future Of Voter Suppression Is Before The Supreme Court | Ian Millhiser/ThinkProgress

A petition asking the Supreme Court to consider the fate of Wisconsin’s voter ID law begins with a powerful quote: “There is no right more basic in our democracy than the right to participate in electing our political leaders.” Yet, this quote may prove more revealing than the authors of this petition may have intended, as these words do not come from a court decision upholding the right to vote. Rather, they are the opening line of Chief Justice John Roberts’ decision in McCutcheon v. FEC, a case which made it easier for wealthy donors to influence elections. The question facing the Supreme Court in Frank v. Walker, the Wisconsin voter ID case, cuts much closer to the “right to participate in electing our political leaders” than McCutcheon did. McCutcheon struck down a $123,200 cap on donations to federal candidates and political committees — a decision that, by its very nature, only benefited the very wealthy. Frank, by contrast, will consider to what extent illusionary concerns can justify restrictions on the right to vote itself. Yet, if the Roberts Court’s past is prologue, they are unlikely to pay the same regard for the actual right to vote that they do for the right of wealthy individuals to use their fortunes to influence elections. The plaintiffs’ petition asking the Court to hear Frank was filed last month. Wisconsin’s response to that petition is due to the justices on Monday.

California: A mail-in ballot for everyone is proposed | Central Valley Business Times

Every registered voter in California would get a vote-by-mail ballot, whether they asked for one or not, under legislation being considered in Sacramento. State Sen. Bob Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys, says it might help reverse a slide in voter turnout. “Unless we find a way to increase voter participation statewide, nothing less than our democratic way of life is at risk,” says Mr. Hertzberg, author of the legislation known as SB 163. Voters would still have the option of voting in person at their designated polling location.

Georgia: Republican Bill Would Cut Early Voting Days, Mandate Sunday Voting | WABE

A Republican-sponsored bill in the Georgia House would shorten the number of early voting days from 21 to 12. Rep. Mark Hamilton, R-Cumming, said his bill is about creating a more uniform voting system. “Cities and counties all over the state have different days, different times … The purpose of this was really uniformity,” said Hamilton. Under the bill, polling locations would be open on the 12 consecutive days before elections.

Hawaii: Lawmakers look at a fine for those who don’t vote | KITV

Vote or be fined. It’s an idea moving through the legislature this year that’s got so many people fired up. “Hawaii should be embarrassed by itself. We’ve got the lowest voter turnout in the nation,” said Republican Re. Gene Ward, who represents Hawaii Kai. That’s why Ward says he’s introduced a bill requiring Hawaii residents to vote or be charged a $100 fine. That triggered thousands of hits and hundreds of comments on KITV4’s Facebook Page. The debate keeps on raging. “I think it’s one of the worst ideas I’ve ever heard. You have a bunch of people who don’t have a clue about what they’re voting about and they have no business voting,” said Waialua resident Chuck Vowell. “I would agree — some fine on their taxes, or on their driver’s license. And a small fee or penalty to encourage them to vote, because we should. It’s your civic duty,” said real estate agent David Bautista.

Indiana: Proposed voting law changes draw objections | Associated Press

Indiana lawmakers are taking up Republican-backed proposals to eliminate straight party-line voting on state ballots and require the use of voter identification numbers for mail-in absentee ballots, moves that Democrats argue will make voting more difficult and could hurt turnout. State House and Senate committees could vote this week on advancing election bills that include those topics, along with a provision that some lawmakers worry could lead to confusion over whether university students are allowed to vote in their college towns. Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma and other legislative leaders are squarely behind the proposal to no longer allow straight party-line voting with one click or mark of an election ballot. Some Republican and Democratic officials, however, are leery of the change, with concerns including longer lines at polling sites if voters need more time to complete their ballots. The proposal would allow only votes for candidates for each specific office on the ballot. They still would be identified by their party affiliations.

Michigan: Democrats Renew Push for No Excuse Absentee Voting | WMUK

Democratic state lawmakers are again hoping to allow no-reason absentee voting in Michigan. Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson has said recently that more people who have died or moved out of state must be removed from the state’s voter registration database before lawmakers will agree to stop putting conditions on who can vote absentee. The state Bureau of Elections says significant progress has been made to clean up Michigan’s voter files. “We are (removing people from the files) much more quickly than we did before and probably more thoroughly than we did before,”

New Jersey: Special gubernatorial election could mean special problems | PolitikerNJ

During this year’s State of the State Address, Governor Chris Christie stated that whether or not he runs for President, he will remain governor and be back to give next year’s speech. However, let’s say, hypothetically, that the Governor decides to step down early. It’s happened before, most recently with former Governors Whitman and McGreevey. It could happen to future governors. If a gubernatorial vacancy occurs now, the Lieutenant Governor would assume the Office of Governor. But only under certain circumstances would the Lieutenant Governor serve the duration of the gubernatorial term. Unlike a vacancy in the office of the President, when the Vice President takes over for the remainder of the term, the Lieutenant Governor completes the term only when a little over a year is left on the term. In every other circumstance, a special election must be held.

New Mexico: Independent redistricting commission fails in Senate committee | NM Political Report

A piece of legislation that would put the decennial redistricting in New Mexico in the hands of an independent redistricting commission instead of the state legislature and governor failed in a Senate committee. “This is big,” Sen. Bill O’Neill said in reference to the changes the legislation would make. “This is huge. This is seismic.” The Senate Rules Committee voted overwhelmingly to table the bill, but not all because they disagreed with the bill itself or the sentiments the sponsor said brought him to introduce the legislation. The legislation is that “both the legislature and the executive do not make the final determination on the lines when it comes to redistricting,” according to O’Neill. “Rather an independent commission makes that final decision.

Oregon: Secretary of state slow to recognize Independents; Independent Party could be first new major party in decades | Bend Bulletin

The Independent Party of Oregon last month received enough members to become the newest major party in the country, joining Oregon’s Republican and Democratic parties that receive state-funded primaries. It was a well-documented and long-expected achievement as voters left the two main parties to become either unaffiliated with any party or register with a minor group, and the Independent Party membership steadily grew. So party officials and a former secretary of state wonder why Secretary of State Kate Brown hasn’t certified the party as Oregon’s first new major political group in decades. The longer Brown waits to certify the party — she has until mid-August — the less time the party has to get ready for its first election comparable to the other major parties, so the party’s officials hope Brown moves quickly as they prepare for 2016. “What’s really driving the membership growth is that more than half the country doesn’t feel well-represented by either two of the major parties,” party secretary Sal Peralta said.

South Dakota: Voting: ‘It’s a piece of technology. It can fail’ | Argus Leader

What exactly kept Minnehaha County from reporting election totals for 14 hours in the last general election, and how should the auditor’s office make sure it never happens again? The seven-member panel appointed to answer those questions reviewed the issues again Friday as it spent more than two hours on the matter with several issues brought up. Earlier questions on problems with the machines that counted the votes, and froze on election night, had been put to the manufacturer, but it did not respond until an hour before this meeting and did not address what happened on election night. The machines apparently were too sensitive, rejecting ballots with stray marks as “overvotes.” Pennington County had the same problem during the election, said its county auditor, Julie Pearson, but only briefly. It was fixed with a simple adjustment to the equipment. Making that change eliminated the rejection of ballots with hesitation marks.

Virginia: Senate bill calls for runoff vote in close elections | Washington Times

Virginia’s GOP-led Senate passed a bill Monday that would require candidates for statewide election and for the U.S. Senate to win the outright majority of votes on Election Day or else face a runoff with the second-highest vote-getter. Describing an election system similar to that of Louisiana, the legislation faces an uncertain future in the state’s Republican-controlled House, where a similar bill died in committee earlier this session. It also would have to be signed by Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat who was elected in 2013 after receiving less than 50 percent of the vote. The bill’s Senate patron said the measure would ensure that elected officials receive majority support, and comes after elections in 2013 and 2014 in which several Democratic candidates, including Sen. Mark Warner, were elected to office with less than the majority of the vote.

Virginia: House approves ID requirement for absentee voting requested by mail | The Washington Post

The Virginia House of Delegates on Monday passed a bill that would put additional limits on voting in a state where the laws are already among the most restrictive. Under the bill, voters would have to submit a copy of their photo identification when they apply by mail to vote by absentee ballot. Currently, only people who apply for absentee ballots in person have to present a photo ID. Proponents say the bill is needed to prevent voter fraud and instill confidence in the electoral process.

Wisconsin: State Department of Justice urges U.S. Supreme Court not to take up voter ID case | Wisconsin State Journal

The state Department of Justice wants the U.S. Supreme Court to stay out of Wisconsin’s controversial voter identification case. In a brief filed Friday, the DOJ argued that there is “no legitimate reason” for the nation’s highest court to revisit the validity of laws requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls. The American Civil Liberties Union and others sued in 2011 over Wisconsin’s voter ID law, which was passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Scott Walker in May of that year.

Myanmar: White card vote prompts call for ministry resolution | Myanmar Times

The status of holders of temporary IDs – widely known as white cards – should be clarified as soon as possible, a leading MP said last week, as parliament voted to give them voting rights in an upcoming national referendum. Meanwhile, the head of an ethnic Rakhine party said he plans to submit the issue to the Constitutional Tribunal. U Zaw Myint Pe, chair of the Amyotha Hluttaw National Planning Affairs Committee, urged the Ministry of Immigration and Population to settle the matter without delay. “If the problem persists into the next generation, it will be rather difficult to settle it. White card holders should not be allowed to vote. They should be recognised as citizens or foreigners,” said U Zaw Myint Pe said. He made the comments on February 4, two days after the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw voted 328 to 79 to approve a proposal from President U Thein Sein that people who voted in the 2010 election should have the right to vote in a referendum scheduled for May.

France: First vote since Paris attacks raises tensions | Associated Press

France’s resurgent far right is vying for a shining moment this weekend, when the National Front is facing the Socialists in an election for a vacant seat in parliament. Sunday’s vote in the Doubs region is the first electoral test since the January terror attacks. It has raised political tensions as the nation waits to see whether the party’s anti-immigration message captures more hearts than the message of unity the French government is trying to preserve. The National Front’s candidate for the seat, Sophie Montrel, warns against the “Islamic peril” in France, while her Socialist opponent, Frederic Barbier, hopes to capitalize on the unity that bound the nation after the attacks on the satiric Charlie Hebdo newspaper and a Kosher grocery store that killed 17. The trauma wrought by three radical Muslims boosted the sagging profile of Socialist President Francois Hollande. Since then, he has worked to limit a backlash against France’s 5 million-strong Muslim population and ensure that youth living on society’s margins become active members of French society.

Lithuania: Parliament to discuss legalizing online voting in elections | Xinhua

Lithuanian government approved an initiative on Monday under which online voting could be allowed as soon as in 2016. The proposal to allow e-voting in Lithuania has been put forward by two ministers of the Lithuanian social-democratic cabinet at a governmental meeting and given green light for the further discussions in the parliament. “We have discussed the proposal, it has been approved and forwarded for discussions in the parliament’s spring session,” Juozas Bernatonis, minister of justice, told journalists after the meeting.

Nigeria: Authorities under fire over vote delay | AFP

Nigerian authorities came under fire on Sunday over the decision to postpone national elections in the face of relentless Boko Haram violence, with the opposition branding the move a “major setback for democracy”. Nigeria’s electoral commission announced over the weekend that the presidential and parliamentary polls would be postponed from February 14 to March 28. The announcement came after weeks of near-daily attacks by the insurgents in the north-east, which had threatened the safety of the vote. But some observers charged that the political woes of incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan — who faces a stiff challenge in his re-election bid against ex-military ruler Muhammadu Buhari — were the real reason for the delay.

United Kingdom: Judges to rule on prisoner voting | Press Association

European judges are set to rule on whether the rights of 1,015 serving prisoners in the UK were breached when they were prevented from voting in elections. The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) is due to announce its judgment regarding applications brought by people who were in jail throughout various elections between 2009 and 2011. The ruling will group together all of the long-standing prisoner voting cases against the UK that have been pending before the court. In August last year the ECHR ruled that the rights of 10 prisoners had been violated in relation to Article 3 of the European Convention of Human Rights – right to a free election. Judges said they reached the conclusion as the case was identical to another prisoner voting case in the UK, in which the blanket ban was deemed a breach.