National: Sen. Grassley: No Need To Fix Voting Rights Act Since ‘More Minorities Are Already Voting’ | Huffington Post

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said Monday he doesn’t expect to bring up legislation to restore the Voting Rights Act, because lots of minority people are already voting. During an event at the National Press Club, Grassley was asked about the committee considering a bill that would fix the landmark 1965 law. The Supreme Court struck down Section 4 of the law in 2013, ruling that it needed to be updated. The section determined which states and localities with a history of suppressing minority voters had to get permission from the Justice Department to change their voting laws. The justices instructed Congress to come up with a new formula for designating which regions of the country warrant special scrutiny. Grassley dismissed the idea that there’s a need to act.

National: Federal Election Commission Deadlock Could Open Door To More Foreign Money In Local Ballot Initiatives | HNGN

“Imagine, for example, a foreign billionaire who was dissatisfied with U.S. Immigration policy and decided to try to change it more his own liking, one statewide ballot measure at a time,” wrote Democratic Commissioner Ellen Weintraub. “The ballot measure is the mechanism design to most directly express the will of the American people regarding the laws that govern us. I think most Americans would be disturbed by the notion that a wealthy foreigner could freely spend to rewrite our laws.” In reaching a 3-3 deadlock, the Federal Election Commission decided to not investigate allegations that an international pornography and advertising firm made $327,000 in donations to a campaign to defeat a ballot initiative in Los Angeles County, a move that some worry could open the door to more foreign money in state elections.

Editorials: How Record Spending Will Affect 2016 Election | Albert R. Hunt/Bloomberg View

The role of money and politics in the 2016 presidential election is a conundrum. Humongous sums will be spent; the effect on the outcome could be minimal, but in time the flood of cash may produce Watergate-level money scandals. Spending by candidates, parties and outside groups and individuals may approach $10 billion. Both Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush, if they receive their parties’ nominations, each could spend more than $2 billion, about twice as much as Barack Obama and Mitt Romney each forked out in 2012. With several Supreme Court decisions lifting restrictions — on the misguided premise that money doesn’t buy political influence — the way is open for an orgy of spending by well-heeled interest groups and super rich individuals on both political sides. Even beneficiaries, including Clinton and several top Republican aspirants, say the system is rotten.

Arizona: Federal court upholds election law | Arizona Daily Star

A federal appeals court on Friday upheld a 2011 Arizona law designed by Republicans to slow the tide of people not registering with their party. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals acknowledged that the statute says voter registration forms can specifically list the names of only the two parties with the highest number of members, and list them in the order of most adherents. That means the Republicans and Democrats. And anyone who wants to register as a Libertarian or otherwise has to fill in that party’s name on a line that’s less than an inch long. But Judge Wallace Tashima, writing for the three-judge panel, said that differentiation was not enough of a burden on minor parties — or those who want to sign up for them — to make it illegal.

Florida: Senate approves bill to create an online voter registration | Tampa Bay Times

The Florida Senate on Monday overwhelmingly passed a bill that requires the state to create an online voter registration application by 2017. The 34 to 3 vote sends the bill to the House, where passage is also expected, despite strong opposition from Gov. Rick Scott’s chief elections official, Secretary of State Ken Detzner. To underscore bipartisan support for online voter registration, the Senate’s Republican leadership left a Democratic senator as the bill’s sponsor. The bill (SB 228) is sponsored by Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth. Three Republican senators voted no.

Georgia: Think Congress has a gerrymandering problem? It has nothing on Georgia | The Washington Post

Want to know how badly gerrymandered American politics is? Take a look at the Georgia general assembly. There are 236 seats in both the state House and the state Senate. Precisely three of those 236 seats are held by people who aren’t in the same party as the presidential candidate who won the district in 2012. The lone exceptions are the in state House, where three non-Democrats represent districts that President Obama won. Republican state Reps. Gerald E. Greene and Joyce Chandler and independent state Rep. Rusty Kidd are the exceptions. Kidd’s district went for Obama by a hair, while Chandler’s went for him by two percentage points, according to data shared with The Fix by the election reform group FairVote.

Ohio: Legislature considers enacting automatic voter registration | Ohio Capital Blog

Residents would be registered to vote automatically when seeking driver’s licenses or interacting with other state agencies, under legislation planned in the Ohio House and Senate. The bills also would allow online voter registration and automatically register graduating high school students. The proposed law changes will be offered by Rep. Kathleen Clyde (D-Kent) and Sen. Kenny Yuko (D-Cleveland), who said in released statements April 24 that the legislation would add more than a million Ohioans to the state’s voter rolls. “It’s 2015 and with all the technology we have at our disposal, there is no good reason not to modernize our voter registration system,” Clyde said. “We can easily make a list of all eligible voters in our state.

Texas: Right to vote at stake in Texas voter ID appeal | MSNBC

By any measure, Mario Rubio went to great lengths to vote last fall. Though he was in a rehab center after developing an infection during surgery, Rubio, a 60-year-old resident of Austin, Texas, asked the facility’s director whether a trip to the polls could be arranged. But he had given his wallet with his driver’s license to his brother for safe-keeping when he went to the rehab center, meaning he didn’t have an acceptable photo identification under the state’s strict voter ID law. As a result, after waiting in a van for over an hour and a half, Rubio was forced to cast a provisional ballot, even though he had plenty of other identification. A day later, Rubio was transferred to a different facility. But the papers he’d been given telling him where to send a copy of his ID in order to make his provisional ballot count weren’t transferred with him. That left him unable to validate his provisional ballot within the 6-day time frame provided by the law. Rubio later got a letter telling him his vote was thrown out.

Editorials: Will the Courts Finally Block Texas’ Worst-in-the-Nation Voter-ID Law? | Ari Berman/The Nation

The 2014 election in Texas illuminated the burdens of voter-ID laws. Because of the law—the strictest in the country—many longtime voters were turned away from the polls and unable to vote. The Texas voter ID law is once again before a court on Tuesday, when the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit will consider whether to uphold a lower-court decision striking down the law as an “unconstitutional poll tax.” The debate over voter ID in Texas is like a bad movie that never ends. A federal district court first blocked the law in 2012, a decision that stood until the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act a year later, freeing states like Texas from having to approve their voting changes with the federal government.

Wisconsin: Legal fight over voter IDs in Wisconsin continues | Associated Press

With two special elections looming next month and one to fill a vacancy in the state Senate coming later this year, opponents of Wisconsin’s new voter identification law want a federal court to expand the number of IDs that voters can show at the polls. The legal fight comes in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court last month rejecting a challenge to the law’s constitutionality. The issues raised by the American Civil Liberties Union in the challenge to the law, passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature and signed by Gov. Scott Walker in 2011, remain unresolved. Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights project, said Monday that it’s unclear when the legal fight will end.

Italy: Parliament starts possible final push on new electoral law | Europe Online

What could be the final phase of legislative consideration of a controversial new electoral law – the passage of which Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has staked the survival of his government upon – began Monday in Italy‘s lower house of parliament. The so-called Italicum law is designed to put an end to political instability in Italy, a country that has had 63 governments in 69 years of republican history, and last suffered paralysis after a hung parliament result in the general elections of 2013. The new system would guarantee a 55-per-cent majority to election winners, but critics – including a minority of the ruling Democratic Party (PD) – argue this would give too much power to the executive, weakening parliamentary democracy.

Kazakhstan: Nazarbayev apologizes for 97.7 percent re-election victory | Reuters

Kazakhstan’s long-serving President Nursultan Nazarbayev apologized on Monday for winning re-election with 97.7 percent of the vote, saying it would have “looked undemocratic” for him to intervene to make his victory more modest. Sunday’s election gives another five year term to the 74-year-old former steelworker, who has ruled the oil-producing nation since rising to the post of its Soviet-era Communist Party boss in 1989. Central Election Commission data showed turnout was 95.22 percent. Television showed a triumphant Nazarbayev walking on a red carpet, smiling and shaking hands and greeting thousands of jubilant supporters at what officials called “The Victors’ Forum” held in a spacious stadium in the capital Astana. “Kazakhstan has shown its political culture to the entire world,” he told his supporters.

Sudan: President Is Re-elected With 94 Percent of Vote | New York Times

President Omar Hassan al-Bashir of Sudan, the country’s longtime leader, was declared re-elected on Monday, winning 94 percent of the vote in balloting that was boycotted by opposition groups and marred by low turnout and public apathy. Mukhtar al-Asam, head of the Sudanese Elections Committee, said that 46 percent of eligible voters across the country had cast presidential ballots in four days of voting that began April 13, and that the turnout was lowest in the capital, Khartoum, and its surroundings, at just 34 percent. “The elections were useless,” said Mouyaser Hasan, 26, an engineer in Khartoum who said he did not vote.

Sudan: Election Chief Defends April Poll Results | VoA News

The chairman of Sudan’s Independent Electoral Commission has defended the conduct of the country’s April 13 elections, saying the only way to have peace in Sudan is to have a constitutionally-elected government. Mukhtar al-Assam said those who criticized the election want Sudan to be in chaos like South Sudan, Syria, Libya, Yemen, and Iraq. The commission announced Monday that President Omar al-Bashir had been re-elected to another five-year term after winning more than 94 percent of the vote. Most of the major opposition parties boycotted the election. Assam said the turnout of 46 percent was better than last month’s general election in Nigeria, which was 42 percent.