Florida: Group proposes amendment to open Florida’s primaries to all voters | Miami Herald

Armed with data showing that the fastest growing segment of Florida’s electorate is choosing no party affiliation, a bipartisan group of activists is pushing for a constitutional amendment to open Florida’s closed primary system to all voters. The All Voters Vote amendment will be delivered Wednesday to the Florida Division of Elections with the hope of getting enough signatures to place it on the 2016 ballot. Miami lawyer Gene Stearns, who is leading the effort, said the goal is to encourage elected officials to listen to a broader swath of voters by giving voice to the growing number of Floridians who are written out of the state’s primary election system because they choose not to register with any political party. “The two parties are becoming increasingly extreme and increasingly shrill because the people who control the outcomes dictate what you have to do to be nominated to a particular party,” said Stearns, who served as chief of staff to former House Speaker Dick Pettigrew and campaign manager to former Gov. Reubin Askew, both Democrats.

Florida: Redistricting session set for Aug. 10 | Orlando Sentinel

House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, and Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, issued a joint proclamation Monday ordering lawmakers to return to the Capitol for a 12-day special session to redraw Congressional districts starting Aug. 10. The Florida Supreme Court ruled earlier this month that GOP consultants colluded with legislative leaders to draw congressional districts that favor Republicans, in violation of a 2010 constitutional amendment known as Fair Districts, which calls for contiguous districts that don’t “favor or disfavor” incumbents, political parties or minorities. In a joint memo, Gardiner and Crisafulli directed legislative redistricting staffers not to have any contact with members of Congress or the Legislature, members’ aides, political consultants or any communications that could be interpreted as favoring a political party. Any conversations are about favoring a political party are to be reported to them.

Editorials: New York’s Big Money Loophole | The New York Times

Nearly two decades ago, New York’s Board of Elections quietly created a gigantic loophole in the state’s campaign finance laws when it decided that limited liability companies were no different from people when it came to donations to candidates. Under state law, corporations are limited to political donations of $5,000 a year. But limited liability companies are allowed to donate $60,800 a year to any statewide candidate, just like individuals. The loophole has been an invitation to abuse. The most recent campaign filings in New York revealed that in the last six months, Gov. Andrew Cuomo received $1.4 million from L.L.C.s while Attorney General Eric Schneiderman got about $220,000. Both politicians have called for closing the loophole, which allows donors to set up numerous small, secretive companies often identified only by an address. For instance, 56th Realty, 80th Realty and 92nd Realty are three L.L.C.s listed at the same address, which is also the address of Glenwood Management, a powerful real estate company.

North Carolina: North Carolina Just Relaxed Its Voter ID Law, But Will Voters Get The Memo? | Huffington Post

Voting rights advocates were at least somewhat pleased when the North Carolina General Assembly unexpectedly voted in June to modify the state’s strict requirement that voters present government-issued photo ID at the polls. But now, they’re concerned that the state won’t adequately educate people about the softened ID law before it goes into effect next year. In July 2013, Gov. Pat McCrory (R) had signed an extensive package of voting restrictions that included the photo ID provision along with cuts to early voting and the elimination of same-day registration. A federal judge is currently hearing arguments over whether that law discriminates against African-Americans, Latinos and students. The trial is considered one of the biggest tests of the recently weakened federal Voting Rights Act. Supporters of voter ID laws argue that they combat in-person impersonation fraud (although the supporters present little evidence of such fraud), while opponents say they reduce turnout among minorities and younger voters.

North Carolina: Expert: Voters would have faced longer lines in ’12 had election law been in place | Winston-Salem Journal

An expert testified today that voters would have encountered drastically longer lines in 2012 had many of the provisions of North Carolina’s controversial election law been in effect. Theodore Allen, a professor of integrated systems engineering at Ohio State University, testified this morning in a federal trial in which plaintiffs — including the N.C. NAACP and the U.S. Department of Justice — are challenging North Carolina’s Voter Information Verification Act. Gov. Pat McCrory signed the legislation into law in August 2013. The plaintiffs are suing the state and McCrory. The law eliminated seven days of early voting, got rid of same-day voter registration and prohibited out-of-precinct provisional voting, among other changes. The law also required registered voters to have one out of eight qualifying photo IDs by 2016, though state legislators passed an amendment easing the restriction last month. The photo ID is not a part of the federal trial.

Editorials: In Virginia, redistricting being used as a political weapon | Daily Press

Political power, not racial bias, was the General Assembly’s driving force for drawing district boundaries for the House of Delegates in 2011. So goes the argument made earlier this month by lawyers for House Speaker William Howell, who is the subject of a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the process. The federal court hearing the case will decide if that’s true, but we cannot help but marvel at that line of defense. Even more troubling is the notion that the argument might work. After all, using redistricting to protect incumbents and preserve political power is perfectly legal so long as race isn’t the primary determining factor. Never mind what that means for citizens, who see their communities arbitrarily divided so partisan advantage remains intact.

Wisconsin: Scott Walker Proposes Shutting Wisconsin Ethics Board | The New York Times

Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin said on Monday that he wanted to eliminate the state’s Government Accountability Board, a nonpartisan agency that oversees elections, ethics, campaign finance and lobbying. In 2012, the board voted unanimously to approve an election to recall Mr. Walker, the first governor in the state’s history to face such a challenge, and it later authorized an investigation into allegations of violations by the governor’s campaign in that election. Mr. Walker would replace the board with “something completely new that is truly accountable to the people of the state of Wisconsin,” he told reporters after a bill-signing ceremony.

Burundi: Disputed Election Goes Ahead, Despite Violence | Wall Street Journal

Burundi’s long-delayed presidential poll proceeded on Tuesday despite a night of gunfire and explosions in the capital and international appeals to President Pierre Nkurunziza to postpone it. Bloody street protests, a refugee exodus and a failed coup attempt have roiled this tiny central African nation since Mr. Nkurunziza announced in April he would seek a third term in office, even though the country’s constitution limits the president to two. The U.S., France and other international powers have urged him to reconsider his bid, and top officials have defected from the government to protest it. On Tuesday, the answer from Mr. Nkurunziza was clear: He wouldn’t back down. As polls opened at 6 a.m., the streets of the capital Bujumbura appeared relatively calm.

Canada: Long-term Canadian expats denied right to vote, court rules | The Globe and Mail

The million-plus Canadians who have been living outside the country for more than five years have been denied the right to vote. The Ontario Court of Appeal upheld federal voting restrictions in a 2-1 ruling Monday, saying non-residents do not live with the consequences of their votes on a daily basis, so it would therefore harm Canada’s democracy to let them cast a ballot. It would “erode the social contract and undermine the legitimacy of the laws,” Chief Justice George Strathy said for the majority, joined by Justice David Brown. The challenge to voting restrictions was brought by Gillian Frank, a former Canadian Forces member from Toronto who has lived in the United States for 13 years and is pursuing postdoctoral studies, and Jamie Duong, who left Montreal for high school in Vermont and now works at Cornell University. Both have family in Canada and say they would return if they could find suitable jobs in their fields.

North Korea: Voters in North Korea face little choice in local elections | The Independent

North Korea has held local elections to decide provincial governors – with the official turnout recorded at a near-perfect 99.97 per cent of the population. Voters do not mark their ballot papers, but put them into a ballot box to show support for pre-approved candidates. There is only one candidate on the paper for each district. A near-100% turnout in North Korean elections is common since voting is mandatory for everyone over the age of 17 and abstaining is considered an act of treason. Observers say the polls are used as an informal census, allowing the authorities to ensure citizens are where they are supposed to be and identify defectors.

Sri Lanka: EU to send election observers to Sri Lanka | The Hindu

After a gap of 10 years, the European Union (EU) has decided to send a 70-member delegation of observers to Sri Lanka for the August 17 parliamentary polls. The observers have been drawn from 17 member-countries of the EU. Apart from a core group of eight persons, the team has short-term and long-term observers and at least six Members of the European Parliament. Local observers, who are from the European diplomatic community in Sri Lanka, will also join the team, according to Cristian Preda, Chief Observer and a Romanian member of the European Parliament.