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.

Editorials: Changing The Way We Vote Isn’t Getting More People To Vote | Amy Walter/Cook Report

California is the closest thing we have to a political lab for engineering a solution for the country’s voter apathy problem. From permanent absentee voting to term limits and redistricting reform and now a top-two primary system, California has tried just about every remedy imagined to help boost voter participation in the state. The result: turn-out in the Golden State last year for both the primary and general election was the lowest it has been in recorded history. Did reform fail? Was it a failure of candidates themselves? Or is there something more that California’s lack of voter interest can tell us about why/how reforms to voting systems impact actual voting behavior? At a conference organized by the Institute of Governmental Studies at the University of California at Berkeley – called California Votes 2014 – some of the smartest and most plugged-in political professionals in the state tried to diagnose the state’s lack of interest in the 2014 election. Before we get to the question of why voters didn’t turn out, it’s notable that California’s low turn-out election didn’t bring Republicans the success they found in other parts of the country last year. Democrats actually swept all seven of the Golden state’s partisan offices and picked up one seat in the House. The joke out in California is that the GOP wave of 2014 stopped at the foot of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Some have attributed this to the younger and more diverse (i.e, heavily Hispanic) electorate. But, the Latino turn-out was just 15 percent – 4 points less than it was in 2012. And, young people didn’t show up either.

Iowa: How shy stay-at-home mom is shaking up a major voting ban | MSNBC

In 2013, Kelli Griffin went to vote in a local election in Montrose, Iowa. She had been through some hard times — a survivor of domestic abuse who had suffered from drug addiction, she was convicted in 2008 of a drug-related crime, and served five years probation. But now Griffin was turning her life around, and voting was a rite of passage. She even took her four kids to the polls to teach them about the democratic process. “I felt good,” said Griffin, 41. “I mean, it’s one of the steps to being back into society, to fulfilling that I am just like everybody else. I mean, I’ve overcome a lot.” But what happened next would make clear that in the eyes of the law, Griffin wasn’t at all like everybody else. It would set this shy stay-at-home mom who never graduated college on a path to challenging her state’s highest officials. And it would help spark the latest step in a growing push-back against a set of laws that, five decades after the passage of the Voting Rights Act, still disenfranchise millions of Americans.

Kansas: Senate elections chairman wants law changes to dilute teacher vote | The Wichita Eagle

The chairman of the state Senate elections committee said Thursday that one of the reasons he wants to move school board and city elections from spring to fall is to dilute the voting power of teachers in low-turnout elections. A spokesman for the state’s largest teachers union said it’s ridiculous to think teachers, who are often in conflict with their school boards, are controlling those elections. Sen. Mitch Holmes, R-St. John, said he wants to reduce teachers unions’ influence in local elections in a news release on a bill he’s calling the “Help Kansas Vote Act.” Holmes, chairman of the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee, introduced the bill in his committee Thursday. “The teachers unions do not want to give up the majority they currently enjoy in low turnout, off-cycle elections,” Holmes said in his release. “But this act is not about protecting incumbency or special interest groups, it is about giving community members representation in local issues.” Holmes did not return a message seeking comment.

Nebraska: Mail-in voting bill could boost turnout in rural Nebraska | Star Herald

Voting precincts in rural Nebraska could see a jump in turnout if lawmakers pass a bill to expand the use of mail-only ballots, Secretary of State John Gale said Thursday. Gale told a legislative committee that counties which use mail-only voting have saved money because they’re no longer required to haul special equipment to polling sites to comply with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act. It’s also helps turnout in areas with bad roads or bad weather on Election Day, he said. “It definitely improves the voter turnout because the ranchers and the farmers and small businessmen in those rural precincts are able to cast their ballot by mailing it back,” said Gale, a Republican. “It’s been very well-received by the citizens who are in those precincts.”

New Mexico: Candidates, election … but no voters | Albuquerque Journal News

What if there was an election and no one showed up to vote – not even the candidates themselves? That’s precisely what happened in the recent Hagerman school board election. Three candidates ran unopposed: None received a single vote, not even their own. It was a lack of opposition and not a lack of interest in education that kept the town’s 1,034 eligible voters away from the polls, said Superintendent Ricky Williams, who supervises the three-school district of fewer than 500 students. The fact that the candidates were unopposed – and that the election was held in Roswell 26 miles away – may have had something to do with it, he said. Polling stations were not open in the southeast New Mexico community, a decision made by Chaves County.

North Carolina: Voting machine replacement to cost Guilford County more than $6.5 million | News & Record

Replacing the county’s voting machines to comply with a new state mandate could cost more than $6.5 million. “It’s going to be pricey,” Guilford County Elections Director Charlie Collicutt told the Board of Commissioners at its annual retreat Friday in Colfax. “There is no outside funding from the state, or any other body.” Guilford County residents currently cast their ballots via touch-screen voting machines, which tabulate votes electronically but spit out paper rolls that officials can use to audit election results. Under the mandate, passed by the N.C. General Assembly in 2013, touch-screen machines are still allowed. But votes have to be counted using paper ballots. “What’s tabulated has to be on paper,” Collicutt says. “So our machines will be illegal.”

Florida: Rep. Alan Williams pushes online registration | Tallahassee.com

A Tallahassee legislator wants to bring voting registration into the Internet age. And he has the backing of the supervisors of election whose offices must deal with all the paper generated by the electorate. Florida would be the 21st state to implement an online voter registration system should lawmakers approve Rep. Alan Williams’ HB 227 this legislative session, according to the Pew Center. Williams, D-Tallahassee, hopes the system would be ready by the 2016 election. It will save money and get more people involved in the electoral process, he said. Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, has filed a companion bill (SB 228) in the Senate. “The byproduct of it is more people engaged in the electoral process,” Williams said. “We cannot continue to embrace a typewriter mentality in an iPad world.” Currently, a prospective voter can download a voter registration form online but still must mail it to a local supervisor of elections office, which must scan the document and mail it to the state to be approved, said Ion Sancho, Leon County supervisor of elections. The state then notifies local offices if the person is approved.

Utah: Task force would tackle low-voter turnout in Utah | The Salt Lake Tribune

Utah has gone from a state with one of the highest rates of voter turnout in the nation to one of the lowest in the past 30 years, and a group of Democrats and Republicans are banding together to find out why. Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox and Rep. Patrice Arent, D-Millcreek, revealed a new piece of bipartisan legislation Friday, HB200, that would create a task force to find out why Utahns are not voting. Arent said the task force would study voter trends in Utah and other states, review possible administrative barriers to voting, and look at other Utah-specific issues that might be affecting the turnout.

Virginia: Legislature divided on redistricting | Your Daily Journal

Some state lawmakers are joining together in a bipartisan effort to limit legislative control over redistricting. A House bill introduced Wednesday calls for an amendment to the state Constitution that would establish an independent redistricting commission to determine districts starting in 2030. The commission would propose three plans to the General Assembly for the election of state House and Senate members and U.S. representatives. If legislators fail to act within 120 days, the commission would adopt one of the three plans. The bill sets up a nine-person commission with two members chosen by the chief justice of the state Supreme Court, three by the governor and the remaining four by the leadership in both houses. Membership on the commission would be limited to those who had not held or ran for a public office four years prior to being appointed and prohibited from holding public office for four years after leaving.

Virginia: Arlington election officials look to start from scratch with new voting machines | Inside NoVa

Big changes could be on the horizon at Arlington polling places in time for the 2016 presidential election. County election officials are considering scrapping their entire stock of voting machines, replacing them with new-generation equipment to the tune of about $1 million. “We don’t want to go with older technology,” Arlington Registrar Linda Lindberg said of the proposal to upgrade equipment. “We might as well just go whole-hog and replace the whole thing. We may not like it, but we’re going to have to do it.” Lindberg briefed Electoral Board members on Feb. 5, and will go before County Board members in March to detail the plan. If put into place, Arlington voters would see the demise of the popular touch-screen voting machines, which are being phased out statewide because they do not provide a paper trail to be used in case of recounts or malfunctions.

Japan: Move to lower voting age from 20 to 18 now a done deal | The Asahi Shimbun

The voting age in Japan is set to be lowered from 20 to 18 in the current Diet session, the first such revision to the election law in 70 years. The two ruling coalition parties and four opposition entities agreed to the measure Feb. 6. As all six parties occupy a majority in the Diet, it is certain to be passed. The policy change will almost certainly be first applied to the next Upper House election, scheduled to be held in summer 2016. The voting age was last lowered in 1945, from 25 to 20. Officials noted that the change will bring Japan into the international norm. According to the National Diet Library, people aged 18 or older have voting rights in about 90 percent of approximately 190 countries or regions in the world whose data is available. In some countries, the voting age is as low as 16.

Nigeria: Nigeria to postpone elections to fight Boko Haram | The Guardian

Nigeria’s electoral commission will postpone next Saturday’s presidential and legislative elections for six weeks to give a new multinational force time to secure north-eastern areas under the sway of Boko Haram, an official close to the commission told the Associated Press on Saturday. Millions could be disenfranchised if the voting went ahead while the Islamic extremists hold a large swath of the north-east and commit mayhem that has driven 1.5 million people from their homes. Civil rights groups opposed to any postponement started a small protest on Saturday. Police prevented them from entering the electoral commission headquarters in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital. Armed police began deploying to block roads leading to the building. The Nigerian official, who is knowledgeable of the discussions, said the Independent National Electoral Commission would announce the postponement later on Saturday. He spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

Nigeria: Election postponement gets mixed reaction | BBC News

“Nigerians Shocked!” proclaimed one headline reporting that presidential elections due to take place next Saturday had been delayed for six weeks. It was certainly a topic for discussion as people headed to church on Sunday in Lagos, the country’s commercial capital and a city where the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) and its presidential candidate Muhammadu Buhari has much support. The electoral commission said they were postponing elections by six weeks because troops needed to protect polling stations were occupied fighting Boko Haram militants. But reaction seems to have split along party lines, and many here saw the delay as a ploy to give the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) an opportunity to gain ground in the campaign. The news did not dampen electioneering, however, with APC youths chanting “change, change, change” as they headed for an afternoon rally in Ikoyi. Sweeping the road symbolically with brushes, they were vocal about their suspicions.

Slovakia: Referendum on Gay-Adoption Ban Fails | Wall Street Journal

A referendum to prevent granting new rights to gays in Slovakia, an ex-Communist state in the European Union’s east, failed Saturday due to a low turnout as opponents of the popular vote urged people to stay at home. Only 21.4% of 4.41 million eligible voters cast their ballots, below the required 50% quorum in this predominantly Roman Catholic country of five million people to make the national-vote results legally binding, final results released Sunday by the Slovak electoral commission showed. They confirmed preliminary results published late Saturday. The final tally also showed that between 90.3% and 94.5% of 944,209 Slovaks voting in the referendum agreed to all three questions it asked: whether marriage can only be a union of a man and a woman; whether to ban same-sex couples from adopting children; and whether parents can let their children skip school classes involving education on sex and euthanasia. The Slovak antigay vote followed a similar referendum that succeeded in Croatia, also a Roman Catholic EU member, in 2013. The different results reflect cultural differences within Europe on gay rights. Some people in mostly ex-Communist eastern EU states, including also Hungary and Poland, are against what they view as excessively liberal policies such as legalizing various forms of same-sex unions and children adoptions by gay couples possible elsewhere in the 28-nation bloc, including Austria and the Czech Republic.

Slovakia: Referendum is invalid – turnout fails to reach threshold | The Slovak Spectator

Almost 1 million people cast their ballot in the February 7 referendum which, as its initiators say, sought the protection of family. The turnout, however, failed to surpass the required 50-percent quorum as only 21.41 percent of eligible voters went to the polling stations. It was the third lowest of the eight referendums already held in Slovakia and surprised analysts as pre-referendum polls suggested that about 35 percent would attend the voting. Despite the failed vote, both the referendum’s organisers and representatives of the LGBTI community consider the results a success and claim they want to continue with the discussion it has opened. “For me, as a sociologist, the turnout is really surprisingly low,” Martin Slosiarik of the Focus polling agency told the public-service Slovak Radio (SRo), adding that a pre-referendum poll Focus conducted for the Sme daily suggested the most pessimistic variant for turnout at about 30 percent. Of more than 4.4 million eligible voters, only 944,674 people came to cast their ballot. The highest turnout was in Prešov Region (32.31 percent), while the lowest was in Banská Bystrica Region (15.84 percent).

The Voting News Weekly: The Voting News Weekly for February 2-8 2015

nvrd_260Pam Fessler surveyed voting legislation being considered in state legislatures in 2015 while Techonomy considered the potential of open source voting systems to upend the elections technology market. The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in a case brought by Arizona legislators challenging the authority of the state’s independent redistricting commission, which was set up by voters through a ballot initiative back in 2000. A longstanding proposal to change Nebraska’s Electoral College system to winner-take-all may finally reach the Republican governor’s desk, amid a renewed push by conservative lawmakers hoping to have new rules in place for the 2016 presidential election. A Democratic proposal that would establish automatic voter registration, adding as many as 300,000 new voters to the rolls, appears likely to pass the Oregon legislature. In Washington abill has been introduced that would provide prepaid postage on ballots as well as another that would allow, in spite of the well-established security concerns, the return of voted ballots by fax and as email attachment. In a move seen as favorable to the ruling party, Nigeria’s electoral commission has said it is postponing the Feb. 14 presidential election until March 28 and with events held across Britain on National Voter Registration Day over 80,000 people used Gov.uk to apply to be put on the electoral register.

Iowa: Senate panel OKs primary election runoff bill | Des Moines Register

Iowa voters would be allowed to choose party nominees for elected office in a runoff election if the results of a party primary were inconclusive under a bill advanced Thursday by an Iowa Senate subcommittee. Senate File 10 is proposed by state Sen. Brad Zaun, R-Urbandale. He finished first in last June’s primary among six candidates who sought the Republican Party nomination in Iowa’s 3rd District race for Congress, but he ultimately lost his bid for the race. Because no candidate received 35 percent of the vote in the primary, the decision on the GOP’s nomination for Congress was sent to a district convention of about 500 Republican activists. They selected David Young of Van Meter, a former top aide to U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, who subsequently won election to Congress in November, even though he placed fifth in the primary.

National: How The Voting Debates Will Be Different In 2015 | NPR

State legislatures are back in session, under more Republican control now than at any other time in U.S. history. One issue they’ll be debating a lot is voting — who gets to do it and how. It’s a hot topic, but this year’s debate could be less contentious than it has been in the past. One reason is that lawmakers will be considering a lot of proposals to make voting easier and more efficient. “In many states the most divisive battles have already been fought,” says David Becker, director of election initiatives at the Pew Charitable Trusts. “That does give these states an opportunity to address more of these good governance issues. Things like, how do we make the voter registration process more effective, bring it into the 21st century? Should we adopt early voting, for instance? Should we expand the reach of mail voting?” There are many such proposals among the 1,200 voting bills already introduced in state legislatures this year. Several measures would expand online voter registration, something half the states already allow. Voters like the option and it saves money — something both parties can support. Many lawmakers also want to clean up voter registration lists, which are often filled with outdated and invalid entries.

Editorials: Can Open-Source Voting Tech Fix the U.S. Elections System? | Techonomy

American voting technology is trapped in the last millennium. This lifeline to democracy is kept secret—closed off from public inspection and controlled by large businesses. It is decades old to boot. Our voting methods ought to be at least as cutting edge as our selfie apps, but they’re not. “Our nation’s elections systems and technology are woefully antiquated. They are officially obsolete,” says Greg Miller of the TrustTheVote Project, an initiative to make our voting system accurate, verifiable, transparent, and secure. He adds: “It’s crazy that citizens are using twentieth-century technology to talk to government using twentieth-century technology to respond.” Miller and others are on a mission to change that with an entirely new voting infrastructure built on open-source technology. They say open source, a development model that’s publicly accessible and freely licensed, has the power to upend the entire elections technology market, dislodging incumbent voting machine companies and putting the electorate at the helm. With Miller’s system, we’d still go to the polls to vote and use a machine to cast our ballot. But the software on that machine would be completely open to public inspection. While coders wouldn’t be able to edit or tamper with the code, technically literate citizens would be able to, in effect, cross-examine the processes tabulating all of our votes, verifying their integrity and assuring accountability.

Arizona: U.S. Supreme Court to Rule on the Meaning of ‘Legislature’ | Governing

When is a legislature not a legislature? That odd question could have big implications for election law. The U.S. Supreme Court is about to hear arguments in a case brought by Arizona legislators challenging the authority of the state’s independent redistricting commission, which was set up by voters through a ballot initiative back in 2000. The federal Constitution states that election law shall be crafted “in each state by the legislature thereof.” The idea that this clause refers to anything other than the legislature itself is “wholly specious,” argues Arizona Senate President Andy Biggs. The commission’s lawyer, however, notes that the high court has previously held that the word “legislature” in the Constitution doesn’t necessarily mean the literal legislature, but rather the state’s lawmaking process on the whole. But the fact that the Supreme Court agreed to hear this case in the first place might mean some of the justices are ready to rethink this interpretation.