Virginia: Is voting machine replacement funding slipping away? | Daily Press

When Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced plans to fund replacement voting machines with Rep. Scott Rigell, R- Virginia Beach, at his side, it looked like an unusual bipartisan accord on election matters. But the staff of both the House Appropriations Committee and the Senate Finance Committee recommend dropping McAuliffe’s plan — $1.7 million from the operating budget and borrowing $28 million through the sale of $28 million worth of Virginia Public Building Authority bonds.

National: Bipartisan duo pushes to restore the Voting Rights Act | The Hill

Reps. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) and John Conyers (D-Mich.) are reintroducing their bill to restore part of the Voting Rights Act of 1964, despite warnings by prominent Republicans that they won’t support it. The bill aims to revive a section of the Voting Rights Act that had required states with a history of racial discrimination to approve voting changes with the Justice Department. The Supreme Court overturned the formula in 2013, determining the criteria were outdated. The proposed overhaul from Sensenbrenner and Conyers would create new criteria for “pre-clearance,” allowing courts to place states under that standard if they commit certain voting violations. The bill would also give the Justice Department more power to step in before an election takes place to protect voting rights.

Voting Blogs: The FEC Hearing and Its Detractors | More Soft Money Hard Law

It seem unfair that just holding a hearing subjects the FEC to criticism and ridicule. The agency was acted entirely reasonably in inviting views on what it might do, if anything, in response to the McCutcheon case. So what followed was predictable: the usual strong divisions were expressed and anyone hoping for a clear picture of the problems of campaign finance and how to address them was bound to be disappointed. The FEC is not the culprit here: it only hosted the discussion and is not responsible for its content. It was a hearing. And while additional ridicule has come the agency’s way for inviting public comment, some of which was colorfully off-point, that, too, is no crime: why not give members of the public a chance to come and say what they will about money in politics? Critics cannot have it both ways, complaining one minute that campaign finance is an insider’s game and the public is shut out of it, and then mocking the expression of public sentiment when it is provided for.

Arkansas: Proposed constitutional amendments to require voter ID filed | Arkansas News

State legislators filed two proposed constitutional amendments Wednesday that would require voters to show photo identification at the polls. During the 2013 regular session, lawmakers approved legislation requiring photo ID at the polls and overrode a veto by then-Gov. Mike Beebe. But the law, Act 595, was struck down last year by the Arkansas Supreme Court, which said it violated the state constitution by imposing qualifications for voters that went beyond those set forth in the constitution.

Voting Blogs: Denver Elections Division creates app to streamline petition process | electionlineWeekly

Coffee stains, bad penmanship, rips, tears and lots of folds and crinkles. From elections office staff to candidates to campaign volunteers, anyone who has worked an election knows what a mess ballot petitions can be. That’s why the Denver Elections Division has come up with what’s believed to be a first-in-the-nation way to gather signatures that is fast, efficient and coffee stain free. Beginning with the qualifying process for municipal elections this May, the office is test piloting a program that allows candidates to use a tablet and stylus to gather ballot petition signatures. “This cutting edge application has the potential to transform the petition process – providing easier access to the ballot and efficiencies never seen before in this country,” said Denver Clerk & Recorder Debra Johnson. “For years the hallmark of Denver Elections has been innovation and progress – 2015 will be no different. This bold approach has one thing in mind: our customers.” eSign, as the office is calling new application, allows circulators to gather signatures on a tablet that is registered with the  Elections Division.

Connecticut: Hartford Drafts Resolution to Remove Registrars of Voters | NBC

The Hartford City Council has drafted a resolution seeking to remove the city’s three registrars of voters over problems at the polls in November that “resulted in the lack of an accurate vote count, which persists to this day,” according to the draft. Attorney Ross Garber, of Shipman & Goodwin, one of two firms selected to advise city’s investigation into what went wrong Nov. 4, submitted his findings to the city council this week. “The Report of the Committee of Inquiry identified multiple, serious errors, which plagued the administration of the 2014 General Election Hartford and resulted in the disenfranchisement of Hartford voters and the lack of an accurate vote count,” the resolution states. Read the full draft of the resolution

Georgia: Bill to cut early voting advances | Atlanta Constitution Journal

A revised bill that would limit early voting to 12 days passed a key committee vote Wednesday. The House Governmental Affairs Committee voted 9-5 to advance House Bill 194. Sponsored by Rep. Mark Hamilton, R-Cumming, the bill originally would have required every county to be open on the Sunday during the early-voting period. But in an effort to please religious conservatives, the bill now makes Sunday voting optional. Any county choosing not to open the polls on Sunday would be required to allow access to the polls on an additional Saturday.

Indiana: Bill to end straight-ticket vote goes forward | Journal Gazette

The House Elections committee voted 8-4 Wednesday to move forward a proposal that would eliminate one-button, straight-ticket voting in the state. The vote fell along party lines with Republicans in support and Democrats opposed. Under current law, voters can cast their ballots for all of one party’s candidates – Democratic, Republican or Libertarian – with a single click or mark. House Bill 1008 would require voters to choose a candidate specifically for each office. Party identifiers would still be next to each name. Rep. Dave Ober, R-Albion – author of the legislation – said in the last election, only one state in the top 10 in terms of voter turnout used straight-ticket voting. In the bottom 10 states – including Indiana – five offer straight-ticket voting.

Editorials: Kansas Secretary Of State Says His Voter Suppression Crusade Is Meant To ‘Protect Immigrants’ | ThinkProgress

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R) is headed to Capitol Hill this afternoon to tell lawmakers he fears the President’s action protecting millions of young immigrants and their parents from deportation will lead to a spike in voter fraud. “It’s a very real problem of aliens registering to vote, sometimes unwittingly,” Kobach told ThinkProgress earlier this week. “They go to get a drivers’ license, and the person at the DMV says, ‘Hey, would you like to register to be an organ donor and register to vote?’ So some are given the misimpression by the clerk that they are entitled to register to vote. We have plenty of cases like this. And if you increase the population of people who are not US citizens getting drivers licenses, it necessarily follows that these errors that keep happening would increase as well.” Citing what he calls President’s Obama’s “recent controversial en-mass deferred action,” Kobach is pushing a policy he has advocated since long before the President’s executive order: requiring proof of citizenship for everyone registering to vote, even though Kansas’ and Arizona’s attempts to do this have been ruled illegal. Continuing his argument that undocumented people are “unwittingly” committing felony-level voter fraud, Kobach told ThinkProgress that his policy is really about keeping immigrants safe.

Kentucky: Rand Paul asks GOP leaders for a presidential caucus in 2016 | Lexington Herald-Leader

Requesting help to avoid a “costly and time-consuming legal challenge,” U.S. Sen. Rand Paul is asking members of the Republican Party of Kentucky to create a presidential caucus in 2016 that would happen well ahead of the May primary election. In a letter dated Feb. 9, Paul told GOP leaders that an earlier presidential preference vote would give Kentuckians “more leverage to be relevant” in the wide-open competition for the Republican presidential nomination. And it could help him win that nomination, he said. “You, as a member of the Kentucky Republican Central Committee, will be the one to decide if you want to help me get an equal chance at the nomination,” Paul wrote.

Maryland: Bills would curb governor’s power to replace U.S. senators | Baltimore Sun

Two Montgomery County Democratic legislators have introduced legislation that would strip the governor of the power to name a long-term replacement to the U.S. Senate in the event of a vacancy and instead fill the post through a special election. For the next four to eight years, the bill would have the effect of preventing Gov. Larry Hogan from naming a fellow Republican as more than a temporary placeholder if either of Maryland’s two Democratic senators leave office. … Under the legislation, the governor would appoint a temporary senator, who could not run in the special election to fill the vacancy. Unless the next regular election were too close, the special election primary would be held within 90 days of the vacancy.

Missouri: Dugger’s photo I.D. legislation debated | Webster County Citizen

Tony Dugger, R-Hartville, who represents Seymour and eastern Webster County in the Missouri House of Representatives, admits he has brought his voter I.D. bill before the legislature many times. “If you’ve been on [the Missouri House Elections] Committee in the past, you are not seeing any new information here today,” he said. “This is basically the same bill I’ve been presenting for the last several years.” Dugger, the former Wright County Clerk, presented his bill to the House Elections Committee on Tuesday, Jan. 27, and it was met with significant hostility from lawmakers, interest groups and everyday Missourians. “I’m not exactly speechless, but I am just amazed that you have the chutzpah to keep bringing this back to this committee,” said State Rep. Stacey Newman, D-St. Louis County.

Nebraska: Legislation would expand elections by mail | The Banner-Press

Voting in special elections could be easier for rural Nebraskans under a bill considered Feb. 5 by the Legislature’s Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee. LB 319, introduced by Sen. Jim Smith of Papillion, would change two aspects of mail-in voting: the population requirement for counties to qualify for holding elections by mail and allowing special elections by mail to include candidate issues. Under current law, counties must have a population of 10,000 people or less to qualify for elections by mail. Currently there are 74 counties in Nebraska with 10,000 people or less. The bill would remove that cap to accommodate counties that have both a metropolitan and rural voter demographic. Sarpy County Election Commissioner Wayne Bena testified in favor of the bill, specifying that it would not require mail-in ballots for special elections but “would allow commissioners from each county to determine the best method for each election.”

New York: Legislation Would Allow New Yorkers to Track Absentee Ballots Online | Observer

Without the satisfying pull of a lever or the little sticker that says “I voted,” mailing in an absentee ballot can leave a voter a little uncertain this his choice will actually count—and Councilman Ben Kallos is looking to change that. Mr. Kallos is introducing legislation today that would require the Board of Elections to provide a secure website through which New Yorkers could track their absentee ballot—from the moment the city receives the request for a ballot until the moment the vote is counted. “The tracking system we’re asking for is something the Board of Elections should have in place for their own internal tracking purposes, and we’re asking them to have it in place not only for themselves but for the general public,” Mr. Kallos told the Observer.

North Carolina: Details on stopping non-US citizens from North Carolina voting released | Greensboro News-Record

A concerted effort by North Carolina officials to prevent non-U.S. citizens from voting in last fall’s elections led to 11 people having their ballots rejected. The State Board of Elections released results of an audit of voter rolls in October that flagged 1,454 registered voters in 81 of the state’s 100 counties as potential non-citizens. Information on the rolls was matched up against data from the state Division of Motor Vehicles and the federal Department of Homeland Security. It’s illegal for a non-citizen to vote or register in North Carolina. More than 2.9 million registered voters voted last fall, or 44 percent of the 6.6 million registered.

North Dakota: After heated debate House committee endorses special election for Senate vacancy | Grand Forks Herald

After a heated exchange Thursday, a North Dakota House committee narrowly endorsed legislation that would force a special election to fill a U.S. Senate vacancy – a bill Democrats have criticized as a political move to discourage U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp from running for governor in 2016. The bill’s chief sponsor, Rep. Roscoe Streyle, R-Minot, said a possible run for governor by Heitkamp in 2016 “wasn’t the primary reason” for putting House Bill 1181 together, “but it just got me interested in what the process would be.” Heitkamp has been mum on whether she’s considering a run, and her office said Thursday she had no comment.

Ohio: Local Government Insider: Not voting won’t cost local poll workers | The Columbus Dispatch

About 12 percent of people who worked the polls in Franklin County on Election Day last fall never cast their own ballot. Does that matter? It does in Hamilton County, where The Cincinnati Enquirer reported this week that about 100 poll workers were fired for not voting in 2013 or 2014. That made us ask what happens here, and this is what we found: The percentage of local poll workers who didn’t vote in the last four elections has declined since the primary election in 2013. That year, 577 of the 2,219 eligible poll workers (26 percent) did not cast ballots. It has gotten better since, with about 17 percent of poll workers not casting ballots in the general election that year, and 18 percent of poll workers not casting ballots in last year’s primary election. In November, 367 of 3,001 poll workers did not vote. So will they the get fired for it? No.

Chile: Electoral reform in Chile: Tie breaker | The Economist

Augusto Pinochet left the scene as Chile’s dictator 25 years ago, but the electoral system he bequeathed has governed politics ever since. Under the country’s unique “binominal” system, each parliamentary constituency has two seats; the winning candidate takes one and in most cases the runner-up takes the other. This has reserved nearly all the seats in parliament for two big coalitions, the centre-left New Majority (to which the president, Michelle Bachelet, belongs) and the centre-right Alliance. The system has brought Chile stability at the expense of diversity. It kept small parties out of parliament unless they joined one of the two big coalitions, and ruled out landslide victories by either side. Moreover, it has tended to over-represent the Alliance at the expense of New Majority. Rural areas, which had supported Pinochet, were given more weight than their populations warranted.

Congo: Presidential election set for November 27, 2016 – commission | Reuters

Democratic Republic of Congo’s election commission has set Nov. 27, 2016, for presidential and legislative elections, an election official said on Thursday, satisfying a key demand of the political opposition and international donors. President Joseph Kabila, who has held power since his father’s assassination in 2001 and won disputed elections in 2006 and 2011, is constitutionally barred from standing for a third term. But critics say he intends to cling to power beyond the end of his mandate next year. Kabila has refused to comment on his future, saying it is a distraction from his political agenda. A government spokesman has said that the president intends to respect the constitution.

Nigeria: An Election Postponed in Nigeria | The New Yorker

Nigeria’s electoral commission has delayed the Presidential election, which was to occur this Saturday, by six weeks in order for the military to launch an operation to secure the northeast from Boko Haram and guarantee the safety of voters in the region. President Goodluck Jonathan, whose government is undeniably corrupt and who could well lose the election to his challenger, the former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari, stands to benefit from the postponement. It’s true that people in the northeast would find it difficult to vote: more than a million and a half of them have fled their homes, while others are living under Boko Haram occupation or have been warned by the Islamist terrorists not to participate in the election. It’s also true that Boko Haram’s insurgency began almost six years ago. If the government can neutralize the group in just six weeks, what has taken so long?

Israel: Electoral commission bans Arab MP’s reflection bid | AFP

Firebrand Arab MP Haneen Zuabi, a regular critic of Israel’s right-wing government, was banned Thursday from standing in next month’s general election. The elections committee gave no reason for the disqualification, reported on its website, but Zuabi’s lawyer Hassan Jabareen said it was because she was deemed “hostile to the Jewish state.” The committee also banned extreme right winger Baruch Marzel, a follower of radical rabbi Meir Kahane, assassinated in 1990. A member of the leftwing Arab-Israeli Balad party, the 45-year-old Zuabi was also banned ahead of the 2013 election in a move overturned by the Supreme Court. The country’s top tribunal must also rule in this case.

Nigeria: Election delay raises red flags about military, electoral commission | Associated Press

The six-week delay in Nigeria’s presidential election has raised red flags both in the international community and among local political and civil rights groups, with many concerned about the independence of the country’s electoral commission and whether the military hierarchy had too much say in the matter. President Goodluck Jonathan and his chief rival, former military dictator Muhammadu Buhari, are facing off in what is probably the tightest presidential contest in the history of Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation and its economic powerhouse, so any change like moving back election day is seen as suspicious and a possible game-changer. Many international observers had already arrived in the country and foreign journalists were struggling to obtain visas when Nigeria’s electoral commission announced Saturday it was postponing the Feb. 14 presidential and legislative elections until March 28.

United Kingdom: Prisoner vote ban: ‘can you put a value on the loss of this right?’ | The Guardian

“I was in prison on the day of an election. I posted a mocked-up ballot paper into the wing postbox. It was utterly pointless of course, but I was just looking to make a point,” an anonymous former inmate told the Guardian. Despite finding yet again that the UK continues to violate prisoners’ rights to participate in elections, the European court of human rights (ECHR) declined to order compensation to 1,015 UK prisoners on Tuesday. “I broadly agree with ECHR’s ruling: can you really ever put a monetary value on the loss of this human right? “It troubles me. You would hope that the fact it’s illegal would put pressure on the government to address it, but I feel the right wing are just using this to show how out of touch the European Court is,” he said.

United Kingdom: UK prisoner voting rights breached, European judges rule | BBC

The rights of UK prisoners were breached when they were prevented from voting in elections, European judges have again ruled. The case was brought by inmates who were in prison during various elections between 2009 and 2011. This is the fourth time the European Court of Human Rights has ruled against the UK’s blanket ban on giving convicted prisoners the vote. The court has called for a change in the law but this has not happened. Both the previous Labour government and current coalition have failed to legislate – although various proposals have been debated in an attempt to end the long-running row with the Strasbourg court. This latest case concerned 1,015 prisoners, a grouping of long-standing prisoner voting cases, and the court ruled there had been a violation of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights – right to a free election.

National: Paul, Reid join on offender voting rights bill | The Hill

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.

Guam: Trio of bills promote online voter registration | KUAM

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.

Kansas: Proposed bill would change out-of-state voting | The Salina Post

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: Kobach seeking power to prosecute suspected voter fraud himself | The Wichita Eagle

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.