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National: Groups Want Federal Health Exchange to Register Voters, Too | The New York Times

When the Affordable Care Act’s new enrollment season begins next month, people seeking health insurance through the online federal exchange will also be offered something they may not expect: a chance to register to vote. But voting rights groups say the offer — a link to a voter registration form that they can print and mail, deep inside the application for health coverage — does not go far enough. This week, the groups accused the Obama administration of violating federal law by not doing more to ensure opportunities for voter registration through the exchange, HealthCare.gov, which serves 38 states. In a letter to President Obama, the groups said that in contrast, most of the 13 state-based insurance exchanges have worked to comply with the National Voter Registration Act. The act, also known as the “motor voter” law, requires states to offer voter registration to people applying for a driver’s license or public assistance.

Full Article: Groups Want Federal Health Exchange to Register Voters, Too - The New York Times.

Editorials: A New Low in Campaign Finance | Robert Maguire/The New York Times

One corner of the world of “dark money” just got a little brighter, and it doesn’t bode well for the 2016 election. A recent tax filing by Carolina Rising, a 501(c)(4) social welfare organization, shows that in 2014 the group spent $4.7 million on ads that had one thing in common: touting the legislative accomplishments of Thom Tillis, who was then North Carolina’s speaker of the House. That year, Mr. Tillis also happened to be trying to unseat Kay Hagan, the incumbent Democratic senator. Carolina Rising spent the money in a three-month blitz leading up to Election Day, but we may never learn where these millions came from. The partial disclosure required of 501(c)(4) outfits means that while we do know that 98.7 percent of the group’s revenue came from a single donor and that virtually every penny of it was used to further the cause of Mr. Tillis’s campaign, we don’t know who Carolina Rising’s secret benefactor was.

Full Article: A New Low in Campaign Finance - The New York Times.

Florida: Tensions flare as Senate narrowly passes redistricting map | Miami Herald

The personal and political conflicts that have divided Florida Senate Republicans for months reached the boiling point on Wednesday as the Senate narrowly approved a redrawn redistricting map 22-18 and two powerful senators used the opportunity to point to each other for the chamber’s mistakes. Democrats united against the map, predicting it would be struck down by the court as a violation of the anti-gerrymandering rules of the Florida Constitution. They were joined by Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, and three other Republicans. The vote came halfway through the three-week special session the Legislature called to redraw the Senate map after agreeing in July that it had violated the constitutional Fair Districts standards when approving the redistricting map in 2012.

Full Article: Tensions flare as Florida Senate narrowly passes redistricting map | Miami Herald.

National: Former lawmakers join campaign-finance fight | USA Today

A bipartisan group of former members of Congress and ex-governors is banding together to put a new spin on a long-standing cause: reducing the influence of big money in American elections. The ReFormers Caucus, as the group of more than 100 former officeholders is known, plans to kick off its effort Nov. 5 with an event on Capitol Hill. It’s all part of a push by a group called Issue One to put the spotlight on overhauling the system. Goals include boosting small donations to campaigns, finding ways to restrict political contributions from lobbyists and unmasking secret contributions made to tax-exempt groups that are active in politics.

Full Article: Former lawmakers join campaign-finance fight | OnPolitics.

National: Federal Election Commission Panel Delays a Decision on Spending in ’16 Races | The New York Times

The Federal Election Commission put off a decision Thursday on just how far so-called super PACs — a dominant force so far in the 2016 campaign — can go in raising millions of dollars for politicians. The inaction was not surprising for a commission often gridlocked by partisan divisions. Still, it frustrated Democratic lawyers, who had asked the commission last month for an “emergency” ruling on whether a dozen fund-raising tactics used by super PACs and politicians should be considered legal. A number of the tactics, like having super PACs host lavish fund-raisers for politicians before they actually announce their candidacies, have become common this election season, particularly among Republicans. A super PAC supporting Jeb Bush hosted him at several dozen events earlier this year before he declared himself a candidate, raising more than $100 million to support his now-flagging campaign.

Full Article: F.E.C. Panel Delays a Decision on Spending in ’16 Races - The New York Times.

Voting Blogs: Plenty to watch during ‘off-year’ election – U.S. Postal Service may play biggest role in 2015 | electionlineWeekly

While the focus of many Americans — well, at least the American media — seems to be on the election that is still more than year away, elections officials across the country are gearing up for state and local elections next week on November 3. Just because this isn’t the big show 2016 will be doesn’t mean that there isn’t plenty to keep an eye on as voters in more than half of the states will head to the polls in some capacity on Tuesday. We’ve been watching the news in the months leading up to November 3 and these are some of the stories we think are worth watching. By far, we think the biggest story for the 2015 elections will be voting by mail—whether it’s casting an absentee ballot or a vote-by-mail ballot. In the days leading up to the election, the U.S. Postal Service and elections officials in numerous states have urged voters to get their mail ballots posted even before this newsletter hits your inbox.

Full Article: electionlineWeekly.

Editorials: Alabama’s failure to follow ‘Motor Voter’ law indefensible | Montgomery Advertiser

As if our state did not look bad enough after the widely criticized decision to close driver license offices, there now comes the report that Alabama faces a lawsuit from the Department of Justice because it is not in compliance with the National Voter Registration Act – and never has been. That law, commonly referred to as the “Motor Voter Act,” was enacted in May 1993. Politically, that’s a lifetime ago. Jim Folsom Jr. was governor of Alabama. Bill Clinton was president of the United States. The purpose of the law was simple – to make voter registration easier by allowing people to register when obtaining or renewing driver licenses or when visiting state offices that provide public assistance. It was supposed to be a seamless process; individuals did not have to make a special request for registration. But Alabama has essentially ignored the act in many cases, acting as though it were some sort of optional proposal rather than the law of the land. Thus Vanita Gupta, principal deputy assistant attorney general, has warned the state that a lawsuit looms.

Full Article: Failure to follow ‘Motor Voter’ law indefensible.

Maryland: Redistricting reform commission reaches consensus on new independent process | Maryland Reporter

The Maryland Redistricting Reform Commission met Tuesday to craft recommendations for ways to fix gerrymandering in Maryland, focusing on establishing an independent group to redistrict both congressional and legislative districts. The commission hashed out intricate rules to limit partisan influence and ensure the independence of the new panel. The commission will recommend that any new independent commission apply current state standards for legislative districts to congressional redistricting. When drawing congressional boundaries in the current system, Maryland’s governor leads the process, which follows a more general federal standard.

Full Article: Redistricting reform commission reaches consensus on new independent process | MarylandReporter.com.

Editorials: Ohio wants a fair map. Sound familiar, Illinois? | Chicago Tribune

Tired of talking about how Democrats in Illinois rigged the legislative maps to elect more Democrats? Let’s talk about how Republicans in Ohio rigged the legislative maps to elect more Republicans. And about how Ohio voters are trying to fix it. In the 2012 election — the first using new maps based on the 2010 U.S. Census numbers — Republican candidates for the Ohio House of Representatives got 49 percent of the vote and won 60 percent of the seats. Republicans running for Senate got 68 percent of the vote and won 83 percent of the seats. Those maps weren’t drawn to ensure that voters had their say. They were drawn to benefit the politicians who controlled the redistricting process. Using sophisticated software and voter history data, Republicans drew grossly misshapen districts, surrounding their allies with friendly voters and busting up communities to disadvantage their enemies. It worked.

Indiana: Incarcerated, homeless excluded on Election Day | Indianapolis Recorder

The days of blatant and direct disenfranchisement — literacy tests, poll taxes, etc. — might be in the past, but there are still countless Americans who struggle to have their voices heard on Election Day. Indiana’s prison population, which was near 28,000 people as of July 1, 2015, according to the Indiana Department of Correction (IDOC), is one group unable to cast a ballot. Indiana could be considered moderate compared to the rest of the country in terms of voting rights for felons. According to ProCon.org, Indiana is among 13 states (and Washington, D.C.) that restore a felon’s voting rights after the offender has served their full prison term.

Full Article: Incarcerated, homeless excluded on Election Day - Indianapolis Recorder Newspaper: News.

Michigan: Redistricting reform and frustration | Michigan Radio

The League of Women Voters has been holding a series of forums on redistricting reform. Everyone who has studied the issue and has any sense of fairness knows that our present system of gerrymandering has badly crippled democracy in this state. Peoples are frustrated, angry, disillusioned, and less and less likely to vote, because they think their votes don’t matter and nothing they can do will have any effect. What’s even worse, they are mostly right. In Michigan their votes mostly don’t matter, not for state government, anyway. Though more voters chose Democratic candidates for Congress and the state house of representatives last year, Republicans once again won huge majorities. Twenty-five years ago, that would have meant a government that might have been unrepresentative, but which would at least been able to get things done. We don’t even have that. The combination of term limits and one-party districts has resulted in a legislature full of craven extremists who have no interest in bipartisan cooperation or solving long-term problems.

Full Article: Redistricting reform and frustration | Michigan Radio.

Washington: King County acknowledges using cardboard boxes to collect ballots | King 5 News

King County Elections Director Sherill Huff acknowledged Friday that she approved use of a temporary, cardboard ballot box for a recent “voting party.” The box was used during a party, attended by the governor, mayor and political candidates and hosted by “The Stranger.” Huff says the agency supplied the box, which was not handled by elections staffers, after “The Stranger” asked for it. She says it is an effort to encourage more people to get out to vote. The boxes, as shown by Huff, include protective straps. Huff added that the ballots were delivered properly to her agency and believes it could be a tool to build turnout in the future. “We’re encouraging people to vote, people to have their friends and neighbors vote and this was a part of that effort, that I believed would be a start for that,” said Huff. “It turned out it was a wonderful event.”

Full Article: King County acknowledges using cardboard boxes to collect ballots.

Armenia: ID Debate: Issue of voting by identification cards comes up ahead of Dec. 6 referendum | Armenia Now

This week the debate in Parliament over making addenda in the Election Code and in the law on Identity Cards ahead of the December 6 constitutional referendum has given rise to new concerns among opposition parties that believe that identification cards are a loophole for multiple voting because it will not be possible to put stamps on ID cards like in passports which is done to prove that a person has already voted. With the changes in the law proposed by the government people will be allowed to vote with identification cards. A total of 500,000 people in Armenia have ID cards, of whom 176 are without passports. The National Assembly has already rejected the draft law of parliamentarian Tigran Urikhanyan, who offered not only to give those half a million people, who have ID cards, a chance to vote, but also through special devices to prevent possible multiple voting. The Republicans’ refusal is grounded by the fact that it would not be technically possible to purchase and install the appropriate equipment by the time the referendum is to be held.

Full Article: ID Debate: Issue of voting by identification cards comes up ahead of Dec. 6 referendum - Constitution | ArmeniaNow.com.

Egypt: Even fatwas don’t bring Egyptians out to vote | Al-Monitor

The first round of Egyptian parliamentary elections, held Oct. 18-19, opened the floodgates once again for religious and political fatwas. Clerics from Egypt’s official religious institutions were at the forefront of these fatwas, which continue to be strongly condemned by the political Islam movement. The Egyptian Ministry of Awqaf dedicated the Oct. 16 Friday sermon to call upon citizens to vote in the coming elections. On Oct. 19, Minister of Local Development Ahmed Zaki Bader even insinuated that those who were registered but refrained from voting without a valid excuse could be fined 500 Egyptian pounds ($62) in accordance with the Law on the Exercise of Political Rights. Yet nothing seems to be working, with voter turnout in the first round of elections, held in 14 of the country’s 27 provinces, coming in at less than 27%.  

Full Article: Even fatwas don't bring Egyptians out to vote - Al-Monitor: the Pulse of the Middle East.

Moldova: Between real and imitation democracy: elections in Transnistria | openDemocracy

Transnistria is currently in the throes of a parliamentary and local election campaign. The main candidates talk of their loyalty to Russia and accuse their opponents of impoverishing the population of this unrecognised post-Soviet republic—the region is on the brink of an economic collapse. The elections are due to take place on 29 November. As usual, electoral observers from Russia and fellow de facto states Nagorno Karabakh, Abkhazia and South Ossetia are expected to take part. Taking the lead from Russia, the Transnistrian authorities will conduct a single day of voting, whereby city councils, village council heads and the parliament will be elected on the same day. But, unlike Russia, Transnistria is hosting a real election for parliamentary seats, and not just imitating one. Transnistria, a thin strip of land between Moldova and Ukraine, is the only territory in the world whose national symbol is still the Soviet hammer and sickle. State holidays include 7 November (the date of the October Revolution) and orthodox Easter. The republic’s principal symbol is Alexander Suvorov, the 18th century Russian military commander who founded Tiraspol (and now features on the republic’s currency). 

Full Article: Between real and imitation democracy: elections in Transnistria | openDemocracy.

Myanmar: Poll fairness questioned as many blocked from standing or voting | The Guardian

A United Nations rights investigator has questioned whether Myanmar’s elections in November can be considered free and fair because dozens of candidates had been disqualified and hundreds of thousands of people denied the right to vote. Yanghee Lee, UN special rapporteur on rights in Myanmar, said restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association – including arrests and excessive use of force against protesters – put genuine elections at risk. “The credibility of the elections will be judged by the environment in which they are conducted and the extent to which all sectors of Myanmar society have been allowed to freely participate in the political process,” Lee told a UN general assembly committee in a report on Wednesday. 

Full Article: Myanmar poll fairness questioned as many blocked from standing or voting | World news | The Guardian.

Ukraine: Mariupol mess | Kyiv Post

While most of the nation got results from the Oct. 25 election, Mariupol got a criminal investigation. Ukrainians want to know who is to blame for the cancellation of the elections in the strategic Azov Sea port city of 500,000 people, whose voters were deprived of the right to choose their mayor and city council. The cancelled election has triggered a spate of conspiracy theories, claims and counter-claims and criticism. Parliament has not yet set a date for a new election. What’s clear is that Mariupol voters were the victims of a power struggle between the traditional powers in the region, represented by the Opposition Bloc party and billionaire oligarch Rinat Akhmetov, and the post-EuroMaidan Revolution forces, including Donetsk Oblast Governor Pavlo Zhebrivsky. Anyone found guilty of obstructing the electoral process – in this case, leaving 215 city polling stations without ballots – could face up to seven years in prison if convicted, according to a statement released on Oct. 27 by the Donetsk Oblast Interior Ministry.

Full Article: Mariupol mess.

Switzerland: The battle for the future of electronic voting | SWI

Government-owned Swiss Post has become the latest player to enter the electronic voting market, announcing that it will work with Neuchâtel to offer an e-voting system next year. But its partnership with Spanish firm Scytl has some questioning whether the use of foreign voting systems could leave the Swiss exposed to security concerns. The move by Swiss Post follows the government’s decision, on security grounds, to reject the use by a consortium of nine cantons of a voting system developed by American company Unisys during the October 18 parliamentary elections. Since the first trials at electronic voting in 2003, Swiss cantons have been wrestling with the development of secure e-voting systems. To date, canton Geneva has been the most successful in rolling out an approved system, due in large part to the platform being 100% publicly funded and locally developed. The model has so far been adopted by three other cantons: Lucerne, Basel City and Bern. Aside from the failed attempt by the consortium of nine cantons to introduce the use of an American e-voting system, Neuchâtel has been the only other canton to enter the fray. In partnership with Syctl, a global leader in the field, it has developed a unique online voting platform that offers the possibility of voting directly from a computer keyboard. Having eyed the market for some time, it is this system Swiss Post is banking on to provide its entry into the world of e-voting.

Full Article: The battle for the future of electronic voting - SWI swissinfo.ch.

Virginia: State Moves Back to Paper Ballots for the Election | Newsplex

Charlottesville resident Paul Jacob has been rocking the vote since he was 18. He’s been voting for nearly 60 years now and he’s seen quite a few changes. “From marking X’s, to punching holes,” said Jacob. “To the computers.” At Tuesday’s election, he’ll see one more. The city registrars office is taking people back to the future when it comes to voting. Touch screens are now a thing of the past and paper is back in style. One reason for the change is because of problems with voting machines in previous years. Another reason is computer hacking. Hacks have occurred across the United States, including Washington, D.C. To prevent that, Rick Sincere from the Electoral Board says the Commonwealth is steering away from computer voting statewide.

Full Article: Virginia Moves Back to Paper Ballots for the Election.

Wisconsin: Senate Republicans take cautious tack on Government Accountability Board, campaign finance bills | Wisconsin State Journal

Undecided Senate Republicans are grappling with pressure from groups on opposing sides of bills to replace the state’s Government Accountability Board and rewrite state campaign finance law. The GOP-controlled Assembly voted largely on party lines to pass the bills last week, less than two weeks after they were introduced. But the Senate, also under Republican control, isn’t rushing to get the bills to the desk of Gov. Scott Walker. “I don’t think there’s any sense of urgency, at least on my part,” Sen. Howard Marklein, R-Spring Green, said Tuesday. “I’m still studying the options.”

Full Article: Senate Republicans take cautious tack on GAB, campaign finance bills | Politics and Elections | host.madison.com.