Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) have revived legislation that would give the right to vote back to some nonviolent criminal offenders. The Civil Rights Voting Restoration Act would restore voting rights in federal elections to people convicted of nonviolent crimes who are no longer in prison. Under the law, offenders on probation will receive the right to vote after one year. The law also sets up procedures under which states and the federal prison system are required to notify offenders that they will be allowed to vote. States can lose federal grants for their prison systems if they do not comply with the law.
Arizona: Posting ballot photo on Facebook is now a crime; lawmaker says that needs fix | The Verde Independent
So you voted early, are proud of your choices, and want to share them with the world by putting a photo of your ballot on Facebook. Guess what? You’ve just committed a crime. Now state lawmakers are trying to get you off the hook. HB 2536 came from Rep. Paul Boyer, R-Phoenix. “I have a constituent who was threatened by the police with a misdemeanor because he had posted the way he voted, and posted it on Facebook,’ Boyer told the House Elections Committee. The problem, he said, is a provision of law which make it a crime to show a ballot after it has been voted “in such a manner as to reveal the contents.’ The only exception is someone who is authorized to assist the voter.
Arkansas: Effort to reinstate voter ID requirement among proposed amendments filed | Associated Press
The Arkansas Constitution would be amended to require voters to show photo identification before casting a ballot under separate proposals lawmakers filed Wednesday in response to the state’s highest court striking down a 2013 voter ID law. The measures aimed at reinstating the voter ID law the state Supreme Court struck down in October were among about 40 constitutional amendments lawmakers have proposed putting on the 2016 ballot. Wednesday was the deadline to file proposed constitutional amendments. The Legislature can refer up to three amendments to voters. Arkansas’ majority-Republican Legislature approved the voter ID law two years ago, overriding a veto by then-Gov. Mike Beebe, a Democrat. Justices in October upheld a lower court ruling that determined the law unconstitutionally added a requirement for voting.
In the last general election, only 71% of the voting electorate cast their vote – the lowest percentage for any gubernatorial election in Guam’s history. However, a trio of bills before the Guam Legislature is hoping to change that. Freshman senator Mary Torres hit the ground running introducing not one, but a trio of measures upon her first month in office. “I’ve introduced three bills to modernize and streamline voter registration on Guam,” she explained. Among the trio of measures include Bill 23 allowing for online registration. “And studies have shown that it saves tax payers dollars, it increases the accuracy of voter rolls, and it provides a convenience option for citizens who wish to register to vote,” she added.
During the November mid-term election, state Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau’s daughter was unable to vote while attending college in Texas. She intended to vote but her advanced ballot did not arrive in the mail until after the election. Last week, the Senate Ethics Committee heard amendments to Senate Bill 41 that would allow students attending a college or university outside the state to vote electronically. Under current Kansas law, voters in the armed services and their families residing outside the U.S. may request to vote through electronic means either through their county elections officer or the secretary of state. SB 41 recognizes that out-of-state residents cannot always vote timely by mail. Faust-Goudeau, D-Wichita, the committee’s ranking minority member, said an electronic voting method would have allowed her daughter and other out-of-state students to cast their votes. “I just see…the students, especially in that age category, casting their vote electronically,” Faust-Goudeau said. “It’s what they do now.”
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, the architect behind some of the nation’s strictest voter ID requirements, is asking lawmakers to give him the power to press voter fraud charges because he says prosecutors do not pursue cases he refers. The state’s top federal prosecutor, however, says Kobach has not sent any cases his way. Some county prosecutors say cases that have been referred did not justify prosecution. Kobach publicly chastised Kansas-based U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom late last year, telling Topeka television station WIBW he had referred voter fraud cases to Grissom and that Grissom didn’t “know what he’s talking about” when he said voter fraud doesn’t exist in Kansas. But in a Nov. 6 letter sent from Grissom to Kobach and obtained by the Associated Press through an open-records request, the prosecutor responded that his office received no such referrals from Kobach and chided the secretary of state for his statements.
A Kentucky House committee on Tuesday passed a bill that would give felons the right to vote. The House has passed a similar bill every year since 2007, but the bills have died or been significantly changed in the Senate. Janet Tucker, of the advocacy group Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, said that keeping felons from voting disproportionately affects minority communities. “Those communities really aren’t getting their full vote in our democracy still, so it’s an important issue for our democracy as well as individuals and their rights as citizens,” Tucker said. Felons convicted of murder and sex offenses are excluded in the House bill.
It’s official: Oregon has become the only state in the country with three major political parties. Secretary of State Kate Brown announced Monday afternoon that the Independent Party of Oregon has enough members to be a major party, on par with the Republican and Democratic parties. As of Feb. 2, the party had 108,742 members, just three more than the threshold requires, which is more than 5 percent of the registered voters in the 2014 gubernatorial election. Brown noted in a statement that the party will be subject to re-verification on Aug. 17, which could potentially change the outcome if it were to lose four members.
Virginia: Redistricting reform debate continues with little traction in State House | The Washington Post
The day after the House and Senate passed bills policing gift-giving and travel, good-government advocates said lawmakers were silent on the biggest ethics issue facing the state: redistricting. A House panel will consider Thursday the first of several Senate proposals that call for nonpartisan drawing of the lines separating legislative districts — a political process currently controlled by the General Assembly. Because districts are often drawn to protect incumbents, they tend to include populations that lean heavily toward one party over the other — attracting candidates who appeal to the extremes of their parties at the expense of bipartisanship or moderation. As a result, redistricting is regularly blamed for the partisan discourse that sometimes defines the tenor of the Legislature.
New voting machines are coming to Virginia Beach. City Council Tuesday is expected to approve spending money right away to get the machines in time for the June primary election. In a letter to council, General Registrar Donna Patterson reminded Council that several TSX machines had to be removed from service during the November 4, 2014 election. 13News Now reported on issues with 32 voting machines at 25 different precincts that showed signs of irregularities and had to be pulled out of service. The City used 820 machines that election.
Myanmar Wednesday said identity cards for people without full citizenship, including Muslim Rohingya, will expire within weeks, snatching away voting rights handed to them just a day earlier after nationalist protests at the move. The Rohingya along with hundreds of thousands of people in mainly ethnic minority border areas, who hold the documents ostensibly as part of a process of applying for citizenship, will see their ID cards expire at the end of March, according to a statement from the office of President Thein Sein late Wednesday. “Those who are holding temporary identity cards must give back the expired registration documents, the statement said, in a move that effectively overrides a clause giving them the right to vote in a constitutional referendum in a bill enacted with presidential approval on Tuesday. The dramatic about-face comes after dozens of protesters gathered in the commercial hub Rangoon Wednesday to call on the government not to allow people without full citizenship to vote in the proposed referendum.
A researcher looking at internet voting says older Sudburians were more likely to use the internet to cast a ballot in the last municipal elections. Sudbury was one of 47 Ontario municipalities to use the internet in the October vote for mayor and council. The research director at the Centre for E-Democracy in Toronto said the results of questionnaires show more than half of internet voters in Sudbury in October were older — between 45 and 64 years old. Only 15 per cent were 34 years old and younger.
Estonia: Parliament approves of lowering voting age to 16 at municipality elections | The Baltic Course
The Estonian Riigikogu approved on Wednesday a bill lowering the voting age at local municipality elections from 18 to 16 years; the law amendment that requires a change in the Constitution needs also the approval of the next Riigikogu, in order to come in force, LETA/Postimees Online reports. The bill, initiated by 41 MPs, provides that for the law amendment to take effect, the new composition of the parliament must approve of it with a three-fifths majority vote in favour, i.e. at least 61 deputies have to vote for it. The bill goes in the new parliament to the final vote at once and it must be included in the agenda as soon as possible. If the new Riigikogu adopts the law, then at the next local elections in 2017, 16 and 17 year-olds can also cast their votes.
The decision by Nigeria’s electoral commission to postpone the upcoming general election due to security concerns over the Boko Haram insurgency has brought the country closer to a political crisis. The Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) announced its decision Saturday based on the military’s assessment that it could not guarantee security at the polls amid newly announced military operations in Nigeria’s troubled northeastern states. The election were originally scheduled for this coming Saturday. Critics, however, say the delay is a political move by President Goodluck Jonathan, who is facing fierce competition from main opposition party candidate Muhammadu Buhari.
Editorials: ‘Election delay does not signal death of Nigeria’s democracy – yet’ | Simon Allison/The Guardian
So Nigerians will not be voting on Valentine’s Day after all. The new date is 28 March, the delay officially justified by the worsening Boko Haram-inspired insecurity in the north-east, and the military’s refusal to guarantee the safety of the poll. “The security agencies reiterated that they will be concentrating their attention to the insurgency and may not be able to play its traditional role in providing security during the elections,” said Attahiru Jega, chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission. The announcement late on Saturday sparked a flurry of outrage both within Nigeria and abroad, with Nigeria’s democracy viewed as the main victim. Few bought Jega’s statement, seeing instead the underhand machinations of under-fire President Goodluck Jonathan and his ruling People’s Democratic Party.