New Mexico: State House committee OKs middle-road bill on voter ID | The Santa Fe New Mexican

State Rep. Eliseo Alcon held up his right hand where everyone in the room could see it and squeezed his thumb and forefinger tightly together. It was his demonstration to show exactly how negligible the problem of voter fraud is in New Mexico, in his estimation. Alcon, D-Milan, summed up the objections several groups had expressed Saturday to two proposals that would require voters to present identification documents before casting ballots. Opponents argued that the legislation would chill participation in elections — particularly among women, minority groups and senior citizens — when its aim is to thwart voter fraud, an activity that there’s scant evidence of in the state. “Neither one of these bills do anything but hurt a small percentage of people” who are eligible to vote but don’t possess identification cards with photos, Alcon said. But neither critics of the proposals nor New Mexico’s Republican Secretary of State Dianna Duran, who backed the more rigid of the two plans considered by the House Government, Elections and Indian Affairs Committee, got their way.

Oregon: Automatic voter registration bill passes Oregon House on party-line vote | The Oregonian

A sweeping voter registration bill that could add hundreds of thousands of new voters in Oregon moved a big step closer to law Friday when it was approved by the House on a party-line vote. The “new motor voter bill,” so called because it calls for the state to use drivers’ license data to automatically register voters, is sought by Democrats who see it as a way to help sweep away barriers to voting, particularly among younger and poorer citizens who frequently move. Republicans fiercely argued against House Bill 2177, saying that people should take their own steps to register to vote. In the end, not a single Republican joined Democrats in the 35-24 vote in favor of the bill. Although it wasn’t expressed on the floor, some Republican activists have worried that the bill is aimed at padding the Democratic political advantage in the state.

South Dakota: Election review board may propose legislation changes | Argus Leader

A committee reviewing election issues in Minnehaha County moved one meeting closer to releasing what its chairman later called “a series of recommendations and critiques,” some of which could require changes made in the state Legislature. Election night issues last November kept the state’s largest county from reporting election results until 14 hours after the polls closed. That followed problems in the 2012 election and issues in last April’s city election. The seven-member committee heard testimony for well over two hours Friday and ended the meeting receiving copies of a draft report that will be examined during the next two weeks. That draft report will not be made public, said Robert Wilson, the county employee assigned to the election review committee. All this effort is designed to prevent what chairman Bruce Danielson described as “heartache and headache and voter frustration” when elections go wrong and people are unsure whether their vote will be counted properly.

Utah: Same-day Voter Registration Extended to Early Voting Days | KUER

House lawmakers passed a bill Friday to slightly expand a pilot program aimed at getting more voters to participate in Utah elections. Utah had one of the nation’s worst turnout rates in the last election. Now some counties have opted to take part in a three-year experiment that allows voters to register and vote on election day. Salt Lake, Davis, Weber, Sanpete and Kane counties haves seen more than twelve hundred additional voters cast ballots through the program.

Virginia: Federal court gives legislature more time to redraw districts | The Washington Post

A federal court on Monday gave the Virginia General Assembly more time to redraw the state’s congressional map, which the panel ruled unconstitutional for diluting the influence of African American voters. The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia moved the April 1 deadline to either Sept. 1 or 60 days after the U.S. Supreme Court rules on a pending appeal from congressional Republicans, whichever comes first. The ruling favors the approach taken by House Speaker William J. Howell (R-Stafford), who said Friday that he would not redraw the lines until the appeal was decided. Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) disagreed and said last week that “running out the clock” unnecessarily confuses what, he said, should be a straightforward process. “The governor remains ready to work with the General Assembly to pass a fair, nonpartisan congressional map that complies with the court’s standing ruling on this issue,” McAuliffe’s spokesman, Brian Coy, said Monday.

Washington: Yakima facing mounting costs in ACLU elections suit | Yakima Herald Republic

As the Yakima City Council considers whether to appeal a federal judge’s decision changing the city’s elections system, members are confronted with an issue of cost versus conscience. Most have at some point in the 21/2-year case come out opposed to changing the elections system. Yakima voters also rejected a separate redistricting proposal in 2011 brought about by a citizen initiative. Regardless, a federal judge has said the system violates the federal Voting Rights Act and on Tuesday ordered a new system of voting by district that includes two districts with a majority of Latino voters. Even if a majority of the council dislikes that outcome, their options for continuing the fight create potentially enormous financial challenges. It’s not just that the city has already spent $918,314 defending the case, or that the American Civil Liberties Union, which filed the case, is expected to seek a sum even greater to cover its legal fees and costs. It’s also a question of where the money to pay for it comes from because the case isn’t covered by the city’s insurance policy.

Canada: Chief electoral officer hopes public remains vigilant over political dirty tricks | Calgary Herald

The upcoming federal election will see tougher rules around the use of robocalls, but Canada’s chief electoral officer hopes greater public awareness will help stamp out improper use of automated calls and other political dirty tricks. Fraudulent robocalls to direct voters to the wrong polling station in the 2011 election in Guelph helped lead to new rules requiring political parties and service providers to register with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) before contacting voters. Chief electoral officer Marc Mayrand said in an interview that Elections Canada will be watching closely for abuse of any robocalls on election day, set for Oct. 19 under the federal fixed election date law. But he said there are also other potential issues to watch for, including false Facebook and Twitter accounts and the risk of someone hacking into party or Elections Canada computer systems.

Israel: Arab parties angry that election slip printer is in settlement | Jerusalem Post

The United Arab List expressed disappointment Sunday after the printer of election slips was revealed to be in Karnei Shomron, a settlement in Samaria. “It’s long been clear that the Netanyahu government is the settlement government,” the List’s spokeswoman said. “Are there not enough printers inside the Green Line?” The Central Election Committee confirmed that Israphot Ltd. won the tender to print the slips of paper on which parties’ names and letters representing them are printed and that it is the sole such printer. “They’re Israeli; there’s an Israeli flag there,” a committee spokesman said of the printer.

United Kingdom: House of Lords raises voting age concerns | BBC

A House of Lords committee has criticised the plan to transfer power from Westminster to Holyrood to enable 16 and 17-year-olds to vote. The proposal has the backing of all the political parties involved in the Smith Commission. But the House of Lords Constitution Committee said it had concerns about the way the process was being handled and the impact in the rest of the UK. The criticism was dismissed by both the UK and Scottish governments. The UK government said the proposal to give votes to 16 and 17 year olds at Holyrood elections would be fully scrutinised by the Scottish Parliament.

Editorials: Conniving by crossover voters is more myth than threat | Los Angeles Times

Loch Ness has its monster. The Pacific Northwest has Bigfoot. And elections have their own mythic creature, feared though seldom seen, who lurks large in the fevered imaginations of candidates, would-be pundits and some paranoid partisans. It’s the mischief-making crossover voter. In the popular telling, masses of cunning Democrats and Republicans stand ready and eager to wade into the opposition’s primary, itching to cast a calculated ballot for the weakest possible candidate, thence to be defeated in November. That sort of meddling is cited by opponents of so-called open primaries — which allow voters to cast ballots for whomever they please, regardless of party — as a reason to limit participation to those of their political affiliation. It’s also heard now and then as the reason why a certain candidate lost; last year, after the out-of-nowhere defeat of Rep. Eric Cantor in his Virginia primary, some credited (or blamed) the interference of crossover Democrats, who supposedly targeted the No. 2 House Republican. All of which is a lot of hooey.

Voting Blogs: DNC Adopts Resolution Calling for ‘Right-to-Vote’ Amendment to the U.S. Constitution | Brad Blog

While Republican state legislatures around the nation have been working to limit access to the polls over recent years, Democrats moved a non-partisan initiative forward over the weekend to help expand — or, at least, to help protect — the franchise for all Americans. At their Winter Meeting in Washington, D.C. on Saturday, the Democratic National Committee unanimously voted to adopt a resolution calling for a “Right-to-Vote” Amendment to be added to the U.S. Constitution. According to the resolution, posted in full below, the Democrats are calling for “amending the United States Constitution to explicitly guarantee an individual’s right to vote.” The resolution also calls on “state parties to work with state lawmakers and others to access the need to petition for a statewide referendum on the November 2016 general election ballot (and all states where this is possible), advocating to amend the United States Constitution to explicitly guarantee an individual’s right to vote.”

Editorials: California fixed redistricting; will the Supreme Court break it again? | Nicholas Stephanopoulos/LA Times

Californians may not realize it, but one of their best political ideas is under attack. In 2008, voters approved an initiative that created an independent redistricting commission; then in 2010, they expanded its reach to include the state’s congressional districts. The commission, which designed its first maps in 2011, has quickly become a model for the country. Structurally, it shields its members from political pressure. Aesthetically, its districts are compact and respect community boundaries. And electorally, they are competitive and politically balanced compared to the ones they replaced. If Arizona’s commission falls, California’s cannot stand. Both were created by a voter initiative — not by the Legislature. Neither gets legislative approval for their maps. The reason this reform is in jeopardy? Arizona State Legislature vs. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission — set to be argued before the U.S. Supreme Court on March 2.

Florida: Scary storage for Brevard County voting gear | Voting Today

Brevard avoided national embarrassment the past few election cycles because you, the taxpayers, have spent more than $3 million on state-of-the-art voting equipment. So where does the county keep all our cutting-edge, computerized gear — upon which democracy itself depends? It is jammed wall-to-wall in what amounts to a really big, old metal shed in west Cocoa. The Election Support Center warehouse, which also stores meticulously arranged ballots, has no smoke alarms or fire-prevention system such as sprinklers. It has no security system. It has holes in its truck-bay door and holes in walls covered by duct tape. The floors are clean, the gear precisely arranged. But insulation dangles from collapsed portions of ceiling over voting machines. Streaks of black gunk line a wall above racks of ballot bags. “It’s mold,” Elections Supervisor Lori Scott says (although it might only be mildew.)

Florida: Registering to vote online: Will Florida join in? | The Gainesville Sun

Online voter registration is happening. Twenty states currently have it. Another four have passed authorizing legislation. And the Florida Legislature is considering it this session. “When done right, people have trust in the system. It’s successful,” said Adam Ambrogi, a program director at the Democracy Fund, one of the co-sponsors of the University of Florida’s election forum at the Florida State Conference Center in Tallahassee on Friday. Many among those at the forum were county election supervisors from around the state who wanted to learn more about how effective and safe online registration is, like Mark Andersen of Bay County.

Minnesota: Senate Considering Bill to Restore Voting Rights for Former Felons | Valley News

A Senate committee Thursday passed a bill that would restore voting rights to former felony offenders in Minnesota as soon as they’re released from incarceration. Currently an estimated 47,000 Minnesotans who’ve been released from jails or prisons aren’t allowed to vote because they’re on probation. Some went straight to probation and lost their voting privileges for long periods of time. “How can you explain to people that they pay their taxes and they can’t vote?” asked Demetria, one of many who lined up outside the hearing room at the State Capitol.

Minnesota: Senate committee approves early voting | Minnesota Public Radio News

The Minnesota Senate subcommittee on elections approved legislation Thursday that would allow people to vote beginning 15 days before Election Day. Right now, the state has a no-excuse absentee voting system. The only ways to vote absentee are by mail or by visiting a polling place. But if the absentee ballot is cast in person, the voter has to fill out lots of paperwork and the ballot is kept under lock and key until Election Day. Bill sponsor Sen. Katie Sieben, DFL-Newport, said the process is confusing for voters, because they expect to be able to cast a ballot as easily as they would on Election Day.

New Mexico: One bill advances, another tabled in voter ID discussion | NM Political Report

The House Government, Elections and Indian Affairs Committee voted to pass one bill related to voter ID, while the more strict version was tabled. However, lawmakers on the panel hinted that portions of the stricter bill will appear in the next version of the legislation that passed. The committee saw two different bills related to voter ID on Saturday in a lengthy hearing. The first—called a compromise bill by sponsors Rep. James Smith, R-Sandia Park, and Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, D-Albuquerque—passed on a party-line 6-5 vote with Republicans in favor. The other, a more strict voter ID bill—was sponsored by Rep. Cathrynn Brown, R-Carlsbad—was tabled on an 8-3 vote, with three Republicans voting against it.

New York: Cuomo Sets Election Date to Fill Grimm’s House Seat | Wall Street Journal

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday called a special election in the race to succeed former U.S. Rep. Michael Grimm on Staten Island. The special election will be held May 5, Mr. Cuomo said. U.S. District Judge Jack Weinstein had ordered Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, to set a date for the election by the end of the week. Mr. Grimm, a Republican who was re-elected in November over Democrat Domenic Recchia, resigned Jan. 5 after pleading guilty to tax fraud related to a restaurant he once owned. The only Republican candidate is Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan. There are a handful of possible Democratic contenders, including Brooklyn City Councilman Vincent Gentile, Brooklyn Assemblyman William Colton and Robert Holst, a Staten Island electrician and a founder of the Middle Class Action Project, an advocacy group. The congressional seat represents all of Staten Island and a sliver of southern Brooklyn.

North Carolina: Redistricting Bill Gets House Support But May Falter In Senate | WFDD

Support for reforming the way the state’s political maps are drawn is getting bi-partisan support in the State House. A bill to make those changes has 63 co-sponsors, but that far from guarantees it will be passed. The bill is the third attempt by the House since 2011 to put the responsibility for drawing congressional maps in the hands of a non-partisan panel. That power now lies with the lawmakers themselves, which many observers see as a conflict of interest. Jane Pinsky is director of the non-partisan group End Gerrymandering Now. She says she’s encouraged that so many have signed on to the House Bill, but says it still faces an uphill battle in the Senate.

Ohio: Online voter registration would save money, reduce errors, Ohio officials say | Cleveland Plain Dealer

Ohioans would be able to register to vote online under legislation being considered at the Ohio Statehouse. Sen. Frank LaRose, a Copley Republican, introduced a bill Wednesday requiring the secretary of state to set up an online voter registration system as an option to filling out paper forms. LaRose’s bill has Republican and Democratic cosponsors. Similar legislation was introduced last week in the House by Rep. Michael Stinziano, a Columbus Democrat. LaRose and Stinziano introduced online registration bills last year. “Online voter registration will improve the accuracy of our voter records, reduce the potential for fraud and protect voter privacy, all while reducing costs to the taxpayer,” LaRose said in a statement. “Most importantly, online registration will be more convenient for Ohio’s citizens, thus increasing citizens’ access to the ballot box, which is a victory for good government and a victory for democracy.”

Virginia: House has no immediate plans to redraw congressional map | The Washington Post

The speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates said Friday that he will not redraw congressional district lines while appeals are pending in a federal court case that deemed the map unconstitutional for diluting the influence of African American voters. The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia last year ordered the Virginia General Assembly to remake the map by April 1, but congressional Republicans quickly appealed the ruling. House Speaker William J. Howell (R-Stafford) said initiating the redistricting process could create confusion if the Supreme Court reverses the lower court. “The Virginia House of Delegates fully intends to exercise its legal right to attempt to remedy any legal flaw ultimately found by the courts with respect to the current congressional districts,” Howell said in a statement Friday. “However, we believe it would be inappropriate to act before the defendants have fully litigated this case. We are confident that a stay will be granted.”

Washington: Ruling bars state from treating free legal advice as a campaign contribution | The News Tribune

Free legal advice to a recall campaign isn’t a campaign contribution — neither is free legal advice in pursuit of that argument, and state campaign finance regulators can’t claim otherwise. That idea, the heart of a ruling issued Friday in Pierce County Superior Court, appears to end a four-year battle between backers of a 2011 county recall campaign and the state Public Disclosure Commission that has climbed to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and back. It also adds a footnote to the stormy tenure of ex-Pierce County Assessor-Treasurer Dale Washam, the target of an unsuccessful recall effort in 2011. “The court correctly recognized that pro bono representation in civil rights cases cannot constitutionally be treated as political contribution,” said Bill Maurer, managing attorney in the Washington branch of the Institute for Justice, a Virginia-based public interest law firm. The institute is one of the parties in the case.

Australia: Electronic vote counting one step closer | Government News

The Australian Electoral Commission appears to be taking tentative steps towards having electronic vote scanning and counting at the next general election. The Commission has called for requests for expressions of interest (REI) for companies to provide advice on ballot paper scanning and counting technology to use in the House of Representatives ballot in the 2016 general election but the technology would not be used widely, instead being run as a pilot project in a handful of polling booths. The REI is at pains to point out: “this is not a request for tender. The AEC intends to initiate a multi-stage procurement process for the required services. “The AEC would appreciate advice from the market regarding the minimum number of tabulators to provide a reasonable (cost effective) pilot.”

Comoros: Isolated incidents as Comoros votes ahead of 2016 presidential race | AFP

Voters in the Indian Ocean archipelago of the Comoros returned to the polls Sunday in the second round of a parliamentary election seen as a test for former leader Abdallah Sambi, a Muslim populist preparing a comeback. Minor incidents were reported during the vote, the results of which will give an indication of Sambi’s support ahead of next year’s presidential election. Fist fights broke out at two polling stations in the capital Moroni on Grande Comore island, between supporters of Sambi’s Juwa party and members of another party, an AFP reporter witnessed. In another district, shops owned by people from Anjouan — another of the three islands making up Comoros, which is Sambi’s home island — were defaced with graffiti.

Lesotho: Electoral Body Ready to Organize Election | VoA News

The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) of Lesotho says a cross section of citizens will participate in planned advance voting on Saturday ahead of the February 28 general election. Lesotho’s electoral law stipulates that security forces, nurses, media houses, embassy officials and officers from the electoral commission who will be on duty on election day, are permitted to vote ahead of a scheduled general election. Tuoe Hantsi, spokesman for the electoral body, says the IEC is ready to administer a transparent and credible election. “The [IEC] is so ready. All is in place. The materials have been sent to the stations where the voting is going to take place. The main one on the 28th,” said Hantsi. “The politicians all stakeholders are now together and would see to it that we are having a successful election on the 28th.”

Nigeria: As Boko Haram grows stronger, Nigeria prepares for vote | Toronto Star

They are still missing. #BringBackOurGirls was pleaded from the United Nations to the red carpet, from Michelle Obama to the Pope, but the Twitter activism and all the attention it garnered didn’t help. If anything, Boko Haram, the group that kidnapped and enslaved 276 young women in Nigeria 10 months ago, has only gotten stronger. Nigeria’s elections, originally scheduled for Feb. 14, were postponed until March 28, ostensibly to give President Goodluck Jonathan’s government time to improve security. But the delay was met with allegations of political interference, as Jonathan is in a tight race against opposition candidate Muhammadu Buhari, who is from the northeastern region where Boko Haram is strongest. Denying the inference, Jonathan vowed in a CNN interview that there would be “serious advancements” against the terrorist group. But how will six weeks help?

United Kingdom: Britain braces for most uncertain election in decades | USA Today

Amelia Abplanalp doesn’t know who to vote for in the United Kingdom’s next general election and her indecision doesn’t appear to be unique. The 27-year-old who works in politics said she represents the problem many voters here face with fewer than 100 days to go before polls open May 7 in what analysts say is the most wide open race in generations. “It’s a real challenge to know what it is I’m voting for,” Abplanalp said. “The Conservative Party (says it’s) going to address spending, but at what sacrifice? Labor is traditionally a party that says ‘we’ll put money in and make sure people have enough food,’ — how are they going to pay for that? The Green Party is offering fantastic policies, but how is it going to pay (for them)?” For years, the Conservative and Labor Parties have dominated British politics. With the exception of the current coalition government — led by Prime Minister David Cameron — in power since 2010, the two main parties have effectively taken turns governing the nation since 1945. But experts say the political landscape is now vastly different, making outcomes more unpredictable.

The Voting News Weekly: The Voting News Weekly for February 16-22 2015

hartford_260NPR reviewed the state of voting technology in the US, while in ab Atlantic oped Noah Gordon considered gerrymandering and proportional representation. Pew Charitable Trust’s Make Voting Work Initiative and the JEHT Foundation have released the Survey of the Performance of American Elections, a comprehensive national public opinion study of voting from the perspective of the voter. Less than 24 hours after beginning what many expected to be a long, heated debate, Nebraska lawmakers voted 25-15 to table a voter ID proposal. Just as Secretary of State Kate Brown became Oregon’s Governor, the automatic voter registration that she has championed cleared its first legislative hurdle. In a disappointing decision for election integrity advocates, Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court denied an appeal of 2013 Commonwealth Court decision allowing the continued use of direct recording electronic voting machines without voter-verified paper records in the State. the postponement of Nigeria’s Presidential election has raised fears of vote rigging and increased violence and the United Kingdom is poised to join the only 20 countries around the world that look to private corporations to provide electronic voting systems, a potential windfall for the international voting industry.

National: Around The U.S., Voting Technology Is All Over The Place | NPR Berlin

Remember all that new voting equipment purchased after the 2000 presidential election, when those discredited punch card machines were tossed out? Now, the newer machines are starting to wear out. Election officials are trying to figure out what to do before there’s another big voting disaster and vendors have lined up to help. During their annual meeting in Washington, D.C., this week, state election officials previewed the latest voting equipment from one of the industry’s big vendors, Election Systems and Software. ES&S expects a huge surge in buying very soon. It hopes its new ExpressVote machine will appeal to those who want convenient voting as well as the security of a paper ballot that’s counted separately. “We’re seeing a buying cycle that’s starting now, and will probably go for the next maybe four or five years,” said Kathy Rogers, a senior vice president at ES&S who used to run elections for the state of Georgia. Rogers says companies have to be more flexible than they were 10 or so years ago. Both the technology and how people vote is changing rapidly. “Some are moving to all vote by mail; some are increasingly becoming early vote sites,” she said. “We have some that have moved as far away from direct record electronics as they possibly can, and then we have others who love that technology.”

Editorials: Should the Victor Share the Spoils? | Noah Gordon/The Atlantic

“Left Party whip Keith Ellison spoke in Washington today in an attempt to rally centrist support for tighter financial regulation—his liberal coalition has support on the issue from Tea Party leader Steve King, but without more Democrats and Republicans the bill is doomed to fail. Leaders of the Green Party have yet to take a stance on the bill but …”

Wait, what?

This might sound absurd in the United States, but it’s not as crazy elsewhere in the world. The American system of government is stable, popular, and backed by the Constitution—and dominated by two political parties. A political system comprised of multiple, smaller parties and shifting coalitions may be unimaginable in America, but it’s the norm in most other democracies. While the United States is one of the world’s oldest democracies, and spreading democracy is a central tenet of the country’s foreign policy, our winner-take-all system itself is among our least-popular exports. In Western Europe, 21 of 28 countries use a form of proportional representation in at least one type of election. What is proportional representation, or PR? It’s a system that aims to gives parties the same percentage of seats as the percentage of votes they receive—and it might be able to end our gerrymandering wars.