National: Lawmakers, Obama, civil rights leaders to honor Selma’s ‘Bloody Sunday’ this weekend | McClatchy

Nearly one-fifth of Congress will be in Selma, Ala., this weekend with President Barack Obama and his family to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the “Bloody Sunday” march – a watershed moment that led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act. Civil rights groups say the commemoration of this moment in the civil rights movement should spark work in Congress to update the law after the Supreme Court weakened it in 2013. Some congressional supporters say the lawmakers’ pilgrimage could help build support. Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C., chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, will be one of 98 members of both parties from the House of Representatives and the Senate going to Selma. “It shows me there’s interest by Republicans to guarantee voting rights for African-Americans,” Butterfield said.

National: GOP backs voting rights event, but not legislation | USA Today

A record number of lawmakers will help celebrate the 50th birthday of the Voting Rights Act this weekend, but only a few have committed to supporting legislation that would restore a key piece of the landmark law. President Obama likely will raise that issue on Saturday, when he delivers a speech on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., to a crowd that will include about 100 members of Congress. Many of the Republican members will be participating for the first time in the annual commemoration of the 1965 voting rights marches in Selma. But back in Washington, GOP lawmakers have mostly resisted efforts to advance a bill — the Voting Rights Amendment Act — that supporters say is needed to make sure minorities continue to have equal access to the ballot box.

Editorials: Still Waiting in Selma | Hank Sandres and Faya Rose Toure/New York Times

The memory is as powerful as if it were yesterday. On March 25, 1965, tens of thousands of us gathered before the Alabama State Capitol, the endpoint of a five-day, 54-mile march from Selma to Montgomery. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called out, “How long?” and the crowd responded, “Not long!” The moment was electric. We believed it would not be long before the right to vote was deeply rooted and bearing fruit in America. In one sense, we were right. The Voting Rights Act, passed just months after the Selma marches, banned the discriminatory voting practices that many southern states had enacted following the Civil War. Over time, the Act enabled millions of African-Americans to register to vote, and for decades following its passage, voting rights continued to slowly expand. But in another sense we are still waiting. Either Dr. King was wrong or “not long” is biblical, measured in generations. We came to Selma in 1971, newly married and fresh out of Harvard Law School. Our intentions were to stay for five years. We were sure that by then Dr. King’s vision of voting rights would have been realized. Over 40 years later, not only are the fruits scarce, but the roots are shallow and feeble.

Arkansas: House committee advances bill to allow concealed handguns in polling places | Arkansas News

Concealed handguns would be allowed in Arkansas polling places under a bill advanced Thursday by the House Judiciary Committee. The panel also endorsed bill to require the collection of a DNA sample from a person arrested for any felony offense. House Bill 1432 by Rep. Jeff Wardlaw, D-Warren, would remove polling places from the list of places where possession of a firearm is prohibited. Polling sites located inside public buildings or other facilities that prohibit firearms would not be affected, however. “What this one does is it allows it in a country store, where people go in and eat their dinner every day and carry their guns, on voting day they’re not allowed to do that. This bill will allow them to do that. It will also allow churches that allow concealed carry to allow it,” Wardlaw told the committee. Asked if some church congregations might opt out of allowing their facilities to be used as polling places if the bill is passed, Wardlaw said there might be a few and said they would have the option of posting signs prohibiting weapons.

Hawaii: Senate passes bill for chief elections officer evaluations | Associated Press

The state’s chief elections officer would have to undergo a performance evaluation after each general election under a plan approved by the state Senate. The bill, SB 622, requires the Elections Commission to provide the written performance evaluation to the Legislature. It was introduced after problems during the 2014 elections that included 800 ballots that were missing in Maui and voters in storm-damaged parts of the Big Island who couldn’t get to the polls. The Senate approved the bill Thursday. It now goes to the House. Democratic Sen. Russell Ruderman, who represents some of the Big Island voters, called the bill a “baby step when a giant step is needed. I think we have serious problems in the way the Election Commission does nothing in the face of election problems,” Ruderman said. “I watched them do it before my eyes. I watched them do nothing in the face of a disaster in my community.”

Missouri: State Official Says Photo ID At Polls Would Put ‘Unjust Burden’ on Missouri Voters | The Missourian

Voter photo ID legislation filed in the Missouri House would put an “unjust burden” on voters, a spokeswoman for Secretary of State Jason Kander told The Missourian Monday. Under the legislation, which would be subject to voter approval, citizens could be required to present a photo ID at the polls in order to vote. Currently, voters can present an ID without a picture to vote but also have the option of presenting a photo ID. Proponents of photo ID at the polls say it can reduce the risk of voter fraud. Opponents say requiring photo ID can put up barriers for voters.

Oregon: Sweeping ‘New Motor Voter’ bill clears Oregon Legislature on partisan vote | The Oregonian

A sweeping voter registration bill that could add another 300,000 to Oregon’s voting rolls won final passage in the Oregon Senate on Thursday on a 17-13 vote and heads to Gov. Kate Brown for her promised signature. The so-called “New Motor Voter Bill” was promoted by Brown when she was secretary of state as a way to remove many of the barriers to voting, particularly for younger and poorer Oregonians who tend to move more often. Republicans, however, charged that using drivers’ license data to automatically register voters raised worries about ID theft and undermined the privacy of Oregonians. House Bill 2177 passed both chambers without a single Republican vote. The only Democrat to vote no was Sen. Betsy Johnson of Scappoose, who had cast the deciding vote against a similar measure that died in the 2013 session.

Utah: Bill for presidential primary and limited internet voting advances | Standard Examiner

An Ephraim lawmaker’s bill to provide for Utah’s participation in a Western States Presidential Primary in March 2016, along with internet voting options for military personnel and people with disabilities advanced out of committee Thursday with a 7-1 vote. “We have two options in state statute and it is an appropriations decision,” Rep. Jon Cox, R-Ephraim, sponsor of HB329, said of the $3 million implementation cost. “If that’s something we feel is worth that expense, at certain times we’ve said yes in our state’s history and other times we’ve said no.” The other option Cox referenced is the caucus system where delegates select the party’s presidential nominee.

Washington: Future of state Voting Rights Act unclear | Yakima Herald Republic

A proposed state Voting Rights Act remains alive this legislative session, but the odds of it passing the Republican-controlled Senate remain dim. On Wednesday, Senate Democrats attempted to pull Senate Bill 5668 from committee for a floor vote, but the motion was defeated along party lines, 26-23. However, this morning the Democratic-controlled House passed its own version of the Voting Rights Act by a vote of 52-46, again along party lines. It’s the third straight year that Democrats in Olympia have sought aggressively to move the bill forward. The law would allow residents to petition state courts for changes to local elections systems they believe violate the rights of protected minorities and other voters.

Wisconsin: The Supreme Court’s concerns don’t apply to State’s redistricting bill | Wisconsin State Journal

The nation’s high court sounded skeptical this week about the constitutionality of Arizona’s independent redistricting commission. Good thing Wisconsin didn’t follow Arizona’s model for encouraging fair voting district maps. Instead, Wisconsin’s bipartisan reformers have patterned their good-government redistricting bill on neighboring Iowa. “So we’re safe,” Jay Heck, executive director of Common Cause in Wisconsin, said Thursday. “If anything, it shows we were wise to do this.” The U.S. Supreme Court may strike down Arizona’s independent redistricting commission this summer if justices determine the U.S. Constitution forbids state voters from taking away the power of elected state legislatures to decide how U.S. House members are elected, the Associated Press reported Monday. But the Iowa model, which Wisconsin seeks to mirror, doesn’t do that.

Estonia: On the border: Estonia’s election | The Economist

Narva, an Estonian town on the Russian border, is tired of hearing it is next. “There simply couldn’t be a repeat of Crimea here,” says Vladislav Ponjatovski, head of a local trade union. Mr Ponjatovski, an ethnic Russian, helped launch a Narva autonomy referendum in 1993. Now he would never consider it. Today’s Estonia offers higher living standards and membership of NATO and the European Union. Nobody in Narva longs to be in Ivangorod, the Russian town over the river. The fear that the Kremlin may test NATO by stirring up trouble in the Baltics haunts the West. Britain’s defence secretary, Michael Fallon, says there is already a “real and present danger”. Russia has violated Baltic airspace and harassed ships in the Baltic Sea. Russian agents crossed the border and kidnapped an Estonian intelligence officer last autumn. The new security environment is “not just bad weather, it’s climate change,” says Lieutenant General Riho Terras, head of the Estonian Defence Forces.

Japan: Major parties submit bill to lower voting age to 18 next year | The Japan Times

The nation’s top political parties have submitted a bill to amend the electoral law to lower the voting age for national elections to 18 from 20. Six parties, including the Liberal Democratic Party-Komeito ruling coalition and the Democratic Party of Japan, the main opposition force, submitted the bill Thursday for passage during the current Diet session, which runs through June 24. If the bill passes, 18- and 19-year-olds will get their first chance to vote in next year’s Upper House election, unless the Lower House is dissolved before then. Some 2.4 million people aged 18 and 19 are expected to become voters next year if the proposal becomes law.

Nigeria: Opposition Parties Threaten to Boycott Elections | VoA News

Nigeria’s opposition political parties have threatened to boycott the March 28 presidential vote if the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) continues with its plan to use voter card reader machines during the poll. INEC says the card reader machines are meant to help authenticate voters with permanent voter cards, before they are allowed to vote. But the parties argue that the machine is prone to malfunction, which they say will disenfranchise prospective voters and undermine the credibility of the election. Nick Dazang, INEC’s deputy director for public affairs, said officials of the electoral body are shocked at the stance of the opposition parties. He said the parties agreed about measures INEC implemented to address their concerns ahead of the election. He dismissed reports that the card readers are not efficient.

National: Obama, at Selma Memorial, Says, ‘We Know the March Is Not Yet Over’ | New York Times

As a new generation struggles over race and power in America, President Obama and a host of political figures from both parties came here on Saturday, to the site of one of the most searing days of the civil rights era, to reflect on how far the country has come and how far it still has to go. Fifty years after peaceful protesters trying to cross a bridge were beaten by police officers with billy clubs, shocking the nation and leading to passage of the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965, the nation’s first African-American president led a bipartisan, biracial testimonial to the pioneers whose courage helped pave the way for his own election to the highest office of the land. But coming just days after Mr. Obama’s Justice Department excoriated the police department of Ferguson, Mo., as a hotbed of racist oppression, even as it cleared a white officer in the killing of an unarmed black teenager, the anniversary seemed more than a commemoration of long-ago events on a black-and-white newsreel. Instead, it provided a moment to measure the country’s far narrower, and yet stubbornly persistent, divide in black-and-white reality.

Press Release: ES&S Wins Contract to Provide New Voting Technology for the City of Virginia Beach | Election Systems & Software

Election Systems & Software, LLC (ES&S) announced Thursday that the company has inked a contract with the City of Virginia Beach, Va., to replace the jurisdiction’s existing touch-screen voting system with an innovative secure paper ballot scanning and tabulation system. After a detailed and thorough procurement process, the City of Virginia Beach evaluation committee selected ES&S’ DS200 in-precinct digital scanner, and the ExpressVote Universal Voting Device. This voting solution is fueled by Electionware, the election industry’s powerful new election management software. Under the agreement, North Carolina-based Printelect Inc. will provide the City of Virginia Beach with Election Day support, training, equipment maintenance and project management. Together, ES&S and Printelect have provided election services and support to Virginia jurisdictions for over 35 years. “We are excited to implement state-of-the-art voting technology for the citizens of Virginia Beach,” commented Donna Patterson, General Registrar for City of Virginia Beach. “The ES&S voting equipment is user friendly for voters and officers of election. ES&S and their local partner Printelect have an outstanding track record in the Commonwealth as well as across the country, truly distinguishing itself throughout our vigorous evaluation process.”

National: House Democrats Express Concerns About Outdated Voting Machines | Baltimore Citybizlist

Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Baltimore, joined other House Democrats in a letter Wednesday urging the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to review the status of voting machine technology and the potential problems posed by using outdated equipment. The members asked the GAO to review challenges state and local jurisdictions face with aging voting systems, the impact of federal standards on developing new voting systems and benefits and challenges of policies in place regarding voter turnout. The letter cites a report by the Presidential Commission on Election Administration issued in January 2014, which lists its findings and recommendations to President Barack Obama. Congress passed the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002 as an attempt to modernize voting technology, including optical scanning and touch screen voting devices.

Arizona: U.S. justices raise doubts about Arizona redistricting commission | Reuters

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday appeared skeptical of a voter-approved plan that stripped Arizona state lawmakers of their role in drawing congressional districts in an bid to remove partisan politics from the process. The nine-justice court’s conservative majority, including regular swing vote Justice Anthony Kennedy, asked questions during a one-hour oral argument that indicated there could be a majority willing to find that the ballot initiative violated the U.S. Constitution’s requirement that state legislatures set congressional district boundaries. The state’s Republican-controlled legislature objected to a 2000 ballot initiative endorsed by Arizona voters that set up an independent commission to determine the U.S. House of Representatives districts.

Florida: Court hears one more challenge to congressional district maps | Miami Herald

Florida’s congressional redistricting maps should be rejected because they are the product of a shadowy process infiltrated by Republican political operatives in violation of the law against partisan gerrymandering, lawyers argued before the Florida Supreme Court on Wednesday. The plaintiffs in the case, a coalition of voters and the League of Women Voters, want the court to adopt an alternative map because, they said, Leon County Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis erred when he ruled that the entire map had been infiltrated by operatives but then asked lawmaker to redraw only two of the districts. The court concluded that the political operatives “tainted the map with improper partisan intent,” said David King, lawyer for the League of Women Voters, who initially commended Lewis for his ruling. King said that constituted an “intentional violation by the Legislature” and invalidated the map.

Louisiana: Sending Out an S-O-S for Voting Machines | WRKF

Addressing the House and Governmental Affairs committee Wednesday, Louisiana Secretary of State Tom Schedler sent out an S-O-S on the condition of the state’s stock of voting machines. “I just will tell you that it’s getting a little scary out there,” Schedler said, reminding lawmakers, “Voting machine equipment is all 15-20 years, plus.” Sulphur Rep. Mike Danahay, part of a contingent that’s been investigating new voting technology with Schedler, noted, “They’re having to scavenge parts off old machines to keep the current machines running.”

North Dakota: Student IDs for voting sets off heated debate | Bismarck Tribune

Student leadership and university officials faced off Thursday at the state Capitol over a bill that would create a new student identification option for voting amid questions of student safety and over whether it creates a special class of voters. The House Government and Veterans Affairs Committee heard testimony on Senate Bill 2330, which would add a university-issued student ID as an acceptable form of ID for voting. The new IDs would need to list a student’s date of birth and residential address and would be issued beginning Jan. 1. Universities would also be required to provide information on voting eligibility requirements. The debate centered on whether a new student photo ID would enable more students to vote, as well as whether the action would create a special class of voters. The idea of student information on the IDs drew criticism from university officials based on safety concerns.

Oregon: Senate clears automatic voter registration | Portland Tribune

Automatic voter registration, linked with Oregon driver records, is headed to Gov. Kate Brown. The Senate passed the bill on a 17-13 vote Thursday. “I applaud the Senate for passing House Bill 2177, Oregon’s motor voter bill,” Brown said in a statement after the vote. “Our goal is to make it as easy as possible for eligible voters to participate in our elections. As secretary of state, the motor voter bill was my top priority, and I look forward to signing this bill into law.” As she did on a similar bill two years ago, Democratic Sen. Betsy Johnson of Scappoose joined 12 Republicans against HB 2177. All other Democrats voted for it. The 2013 bill died on a 15-15 vote; Republicans then had 14 members. The House passed it on Feb. 20, also along party lines.

Australia: NSW state election 2015: China may seek to hack electronic votes: report | The Canberra Times

If you thought Chinese intelligence agencies had more on their minds than the NSW election, you should think again, according to a security analysis that found our key trading partner may seek to disrupt the state’s democratic big day. A report commissioned by the NSW Electoral Commission warned cyber attacks could be waged against iVote, an electronic system that will allow eligible people to vote in the March 28 election using the internet or a phone. Up to 200,000 voters are expected to register. The consultants’ report, parts of which have been labelled “silly”, lumped groups such as al-Qaeda and the governments of China, North Korea and Iran with the home-grown “threat” of anti-coal and refugee activists. It claimed covert groups with a “broad spectrum of capability” may use “offensive actions” to influence the NSW election result, embarrass authorities or gain media attention.

El Salvador: Sabotage Alleged as El Salvador Vote Count Enters Fifth Day | Bloomberg

Four days after El Salvador’s legislative and mayoral elections, voters in the Central American country are still waiting for results as officials allege that the process of transmitting the votes electronically was sabotaged. Julio Olivo, the head of the country’s elections tribunal, said on Thursday that the Attorney General’s office will investigate failures of an electronic system that prevented officials from disclosing preliminary results on Sunday after polls closed. He said Soluciones Aplicativas S.A, a company hired to scan and disclose voting ballots, “could be extracting information and even changing certain things. There was sabotage in the process of transmitting data,” Olivo said on Wednesday. “We are going to prove it in the courts and a bunch of people are going to fall.”