A few weeks ago, a Massachusetts government agency you’ve probably never heard of settled a lawsuit over what kinds of forms it has to hand out to people who apply for welfare. That might sound dull, but it’s the backdrop for a fight against growing political and economic inequality. The lawsuit, brought by a coalition of nonprofit voting-rights groups, charged that the Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance was in violation of the 1993 National Voter Registration Act, which requires agencies that offer public assistance to help their clients register to vote. The coalition claimed the department wasn’t handing out voter-registration forms or taking other steps to ensure that people who wanted to register did.
National: Presidential candidates-to-be make the most of fundraising rule-bending | Los Angeles Times
The charade comes to an end this month for many of the 2016 presidential contenders, who have long avoided saying they are running — while they are so obviously running — in order to sidestep rules that burden declared candidates. Ted Cruz is already in. Rand Paul is expected to follow suit Tuesday. Marco Rubio has a big announcement planned a week later. The timing, like most things in politics, is driven by money. April marks the start of a sprint to raise as much of it as possible for an official candidacy before the summer reporting deadline, which lands as televised primary debates are about to get underway. Candidates who fail to show that the early big money is flowing into campaign accounts could quickly falter. One big exception is Jeb Bush. Although he is perhaps the least coy of the pre-candidates about his plans to run — and among the most aggressive fundraisers — his announcement may not come for a while.
Plans for online voter registration are moving through the Florida legislature. Thursday, a Senate committee approved legislation that would implement the system. Leon County Supervisor of Elections Ion Sancho says it’s seen as the last great hurdle to overcome in the area of voter registration. “We’re just talking about making the process convenient to citizens using technology that they’re already using for almost every other kind of application that’s being done,” said Sancho. But some election supervisors across the state say it appears the governor’s office is trying to kill the bill.
A Republican bid to cut early voting in Georgia – which was slashed once already not long ago – failed last week after voting rights activists mobilized against it. A measure that would have cut the maximum number of early voting days that counties could offer from 21 days to 12 passed a House committee in February, and its prospects for passage in Georgia’s GOP-controlled legislature looked good. It would have left only one weekend of early voting, and just four hours on Sunday. But when the state’s legislative session ended Thursday, the bill hadn’t received a full house vote. That means its supporters would have to start from square one when the legislature reconvenes, or tack the cuts on to a different measure. The effort’s apparent demise came after feverish organizing by a broad coalition of voting rights, civil rights, good government, and Democratic groups.
As Chicagoans trek to the polls Tuesday for the city’s first-ever mayoral runoff election, some may wonder why they can’t yet vote from the palms of their hands. “For me the biggest benefit of online voting would be convenience,” said K.C. Horne, a 26-year-old accountant from Edgewater. “If I can file my taxes from my phone, I should be able to vote from my phone.” But so far, both technological and legislative hurdles have sharply limited the use of online voting. One major difference: The need to keep the user’s identity secret makes filing ballots different from other secure online transactions. “It’s an unconventional transaction where you have to be able to do business with me, but I can’t know exactly what you’re buying,” said Chicago Board of Election Commissioners spokesman Jim Allen.
Minnesota: State official raises concerns about aging election equipment | Litchfield Independent Review
Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon met with Meeker County Auditor Barb Loch on Monday to discuss election-related issues, including concerns about aging election equipment. Simon, who made six stops in the region Monday, said a common concern among local officials is finding money to replace a fleet of election equipment purchased about 10 to 12 years ago with federal funds. Those federal dollars are no longer available, Simon said during an interview after his meeting with Loch. “Now the question is … what can we do to alleviate costs for counties,” he said, adding that he is hoping the state can help pay for new machines, which run as much as $7,000 each.
North Carolina: US Supreme Court won’t review voting rights provisions – for now | News and Observer
With lawsuits pending in federal court on sweeping changes to North Carolina elections law, the U.S. Supreme Court has declined to review questions about two specific provisions dealing with same-day registration and out-of-precinct voting. The decision is just a step in a protracted legal process that began in 2013 when the League of Women Voters, the NAACP, registered Democrats and others challenged changes to voting procedures adopted by the Republican-led legislature. Because U.S. District Judge Thomas Schroeder has set a trial for July 2015 to hear arguments for and against constitutional questions about the 2013 changes, the U.S. Supreme Court decision on Monday has little impact.
North Dakota drew one step closer Monday to joining a minority of states requiring special elections to fill vacancies in the U.S. Senate. The Senate passed House Bill 1181 by a 27-20 vote. The bill would require the governor to call a special election to be held within 95 days. If the Senate term is set to expire in less than 95 days, no election to fill the vacancy would be needed. A pair of amendments by Democratic-NPL senators failed prior to the final vote. One was to allow for an interim appointment to the Senate, the other would have required elections for all statewide offices.
A growing number of states have updated their election laws to make the hub of the democratic process more convenient and voter-friendly, but so far Pennsylvania isn’t among them. Twenty-one states allow online voter registration and three others have passed similar laws that have yet to take effect. Thirty-six states permit all voters to cast ballots prior to Election Day and 10 allow voters to register and vote on the same day, all according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Philadelphia officials are focused on getting new voting machines to replace the original crop of electronic machines, now more than a decade old. But a bit of bureaucracy may hinder the purchase. The mayor’s new budget sets aside $22 million for new voting machines, with the hope to having them in place for the May 2017 primary. At a city council budget hearing this past week, Chief Information Officer Adel Ebeid said the current machines are past their useful life.
Virginia: Report questions security, accuracy of some Virginia voting machines | The Washington Post
Dozens of local governments — including Fairfax City and Arlington — could be left scrambling to replace all of their voting machines after a state report called into question the accuracy and security of one-fifth of Virginia’s aging equipment. The state Board of Elections will decide at a public hearing on April 14 whether to scrap the touch-screen voting machines used in 30 counties and cities. The board will accept public comment through April 12. Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s administration is eager to settle the issue in time for the November election, when all General Assembly seats will be on the ballot — but also before the 2016 presidential contest. … The latest voting machines flap was prompted by complaints from voters who had trouble casting ballots in November. McAuliffe, who said he grappled with a malfunctioning machine at a Richmond precinct, called for an investigation into machine irregularities.
According to the Council of Canadians, there were 100,000 Canadians who got the chance to vote in 2011 because someone vouched for them. And there were 400,000 Canadians who used voter-information cards to gain access to the ballot box. The council claims that with amendments put in place by Stephen Harper’s government through the Fair Elections Act, those votes could be in jeopardy. The new act does not allow for individuals to vouch for more than one person and it also prohibits the use of voter-information cards.
Sudan’s presidential and parliamentary elections take place as opposition figures rot in jail and the government’s campaign of ‘ethnic cleansing’ makes it dangerous, if not impossible, for millions to vote. Newspapers are routinely confiscated and peaceful protest is crushed with unhesitating brutality. Respectable international election-monitoring organisations are unlikely to be present, because few conditions for a credible election exist. Nevertheless, after the 13-15 April poll, the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) will claim to have a legitimate mandate. The result will be recognised by Sudan’s supporters within the Arab League and the African Union (AU) and by its business and military partners, such as Iran, China and Russia. Officials in the US, the UK and the EU will likely wait until afterwards to express any doubts about its validity, ostensibly because they do not wish to damage the unlikely possibility that there might be a meaningful national dialogue about the future of Sudan—their concerns will attract little attention.