National: Study: U.S. voters face shorter waits, but voting methods are changing | Atlanta Journal Constitution

New data from the 2014 midterm elections show a vast majority of national voters waited 10 minutes or less to cast their ballot, while a surprising number of people who requested mail ballots either didn’t vote or returned their ballot in ways other than by mail. In short, states have gotten better at getting voters in and out of the polls quickly. But with mail voting increasing in popularity, both voters and election officials still face planning challenges when it comes to absentee and mailed ballots. The report from the Pew Charitable Trusts comes as the nonpartisan research and public policy organization readies a comprehensive review of how each state fared during the 2014 election. That “elections performance index” is due out at the beginning of next year, ahead of the 2016 presidential election.

Editorials: Alabama’s DMV Closures Disfranchises Black Voters | Lauren Carasik/Al Jazeera

On Sept. 30, Alabama announced plans to shutter nearly half its driver’s license offices, citing budget constraints. The decision came a year after the state implemented a new ID requirement to vote, purportedly to protect against voter fraud. At least half a million Alabamans, or 20 percent of the state’s registered voters, lack a driver’s license or alternative DMV-issued ID. As with the restrictive ID law, civil rights advocates say the closure of 31 DMV offices — disproportionately affecting poor, rural communities where black people make up a large share of the population — narrows access to IDs and, as a result, will disfranchise black voters. State officials insist that their decision was not race based. Irrespective of intent, the move will suppress black votes. The closures target communities that lack easy access to public transportation. Nearly 14 percent of black families do not own a vehicle, while only 4 percent of families are without private transportation. Of the 10 counties with the highest percentages of black residents, only two will have DMV offices. Unsurprisingly, the DMV closures affect 53 percent of the 15 counties that voted for President Barack Obama in 2012 and the five counties that voted most heavily Democratic in that election. Meanwhile, 40 offices will remain open in the 55 counties that are predominantly white.

Alabama: Driver’s license offices could reopen under Bentley plan |

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley is seeking legislative support for a plan that would reopen 31 closed rural driver’s license offices. The plan would involve a “bridge loan” from the governor’s emergency fund to pay for staffing closed license offices, officials say. In return, Bentley wants rural and black lawmakers to support permanent funding when the Legislature convenes next year. Government sources say Bentley has not committed finally to the plan yet, but has floated the idea to seek lawmakers’ response. Bentley’s office said last week he would seek solutions to keep the offices open and, on Friday, the rural legislative caucus headed by state Rep. David Standridge (R-Hayden) asked caucus members for feedback on a bridge loan idea from Bentley. The governor’s office had no immediate comment Tuesday morning.

Alaska: Historic Native Voting Rights Win in Alaska | ICTMN

The Native American Rights Fund (NARF) and Alaska have jointly announced an agreement that requires the state to provide translation of election materials and ballots into Gwich’in and several Yup’ik dialects. U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Gleason, who presided over the lawsuit that resulted in the settlement, also ordered increased bilingual training for election workers, expanded collaboration with Native language experts and tribal councils, meaningful outreach to voters, and additional help for those with limited English-language proficiency. Alaska Lieutenant Governor Byron Mallott, who is of Tlingit heritage, called the agreement “historic.” He said it “will strengthen our election process, so that voters can have the opportunity to understand fully all voting information before they vote.”

Press Release: Ramsey County Votes Yes for New Election Technology | Hart InterCivic

One of the largest voting jurisdictions in Minnesota is upgrading its election systems to the newest technology available. Ramsey County officials confirmed this week that Hart InterCivic’s new Verity® Voting system will replace their outdated voting software and hardware.
With nearly 300,000 voters during each election cycle, Ramsey County is the first Minnesota County to adopt the comprehensive Hart solution for managing the process of casting, counting, compiling and reporting votes in all state, federal and local elections. Home of the state capital, St. Paul, the County is a leader in the state’s election community and will be the nation’s largest user of Hart’s Verity system to date. “It’s nice to have a system that won’t soon be obsolete,” said Ramsey County Election Manager Joe Mansky.

California: What You Need to Know About San Mateo’s New All-Mail Elections | KQED

If you’re a registered voter in San Mateo County, you won’t head to your usual neighborhood polling place on Nov. 3. And chances are you already got your ballot in the mail — whether you registered for vote-by-mail or not. That’s because San Mateo County has launched an all-mail election effort. More than 353,000 official ballots have been sent out to all registered voters in the county, according to Mark Church, chief elections officer for the county. Voters have until Nov. 3 to put those ballots in the mail, or drop them off at any city or town hall in the county, at a 24-hour drop box or at one of 32 voting centers. (Check San Mateo’s election website for a full list of locations.) “This election is already underway,” said Church. “Voting is now taking place.”

Florida: Federal judge deals blow to those hoping to invalidate redistricting law | Tampa Bay Times

In a stinging blow to opponents of the state’s anti-gerrymandering amendments, a federal court this week has thrown out a lawsuit filed by two Florida Republican Party officials who claimed the new law violated the constitution because it had a “chilling effect” on their free speech and petition rights. Tim Norris, the Walton County Republican Executive Committee Chairman and Randy Maggard, the Pasco County Republican Executive Committee Chairman. sued the Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner in August, demanding that he not enforce the Fair Districts provisions of the state constitution. They made the argument being echoed by many lawmakers that their speech is chilled because, as members of a political party, it will be used to invalidate a map. Hoping to find a venue that was most favorable to them, they filed the case in the Northern District of Florida in Pensacola.

Illinois: Automatic voter registration bill could add 2.3 million voters | Chicago Sun Times

Automatic voter registration could help reach more than 2.3 million Illinois residents who aren’t registered to vote. But it could also lead to the accidental registration of undocumented residents which could get them deported, an immigration advocate testified at an Illinois Senate committee hearing in Chicago on Tuesday. Sen. Andy Manar’s automatic voter registration bill would allow residents to be automatically registered to vote when they obtain or renew a driver’s license or state identification card.

Kansas: Man in voter fraud case says charge surprised him | Lawrence Journal World

One of three people charged with voter fraud by the secretary of state in Kansas acknowledged voting in two states where he lives, but said he didn’t think he was doing anything wrong. Lincoln L. Wilson, who faces three felony counts, was registered both in Goodland in northwest Kansas’ Sherman County and in Hale, Colorado. Records indicate the 64-year-old Republican voted in both states in the same elections in 2010, 2012 and 2014. Wilson told The Wichita Eagle he lives part time in Sherman County and part time in Yuma County, Colorado, which borders Kansas. He said he owns several real estate properties in each state and believed he was restricted to voting in only one county in each of those states.

Maryland: Redistricting reform commission wraps up hearings | Maryland Reporter

Gov. Larry Hogan’s Redistricting Reform Commission wrapped up its fifth and final regional hearing Tuesday night in Laurel with what has become the typical list of witnesses advocating for an independent commission to cure Maryland’s partisan gerrymandering of congressional and legislative districts. Republican legislators and citizens outnumbered Democrats and African American Democrats complained of underrepresentation. But in a break from previous hearings, a smattering of Democrats opposed changes that unilaterally weaken their party while larger Republican-controlled states continued their gerrymandering ways, disempowering Democrats.

North Carolina: Voter ID law goes back to court in North Carolina | Digital Journal

The voter ID provision of North Carolina’s controversial Voter Information Verification Act (VIVA) will be the subject of a hearing in federal court next week. Lawyers for both sides will return to court on October 23 to update U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Schroeder on negotiations meant to settle legal challenges to VIVA’s voter ID provision out of court, the Winston-Salem Journal reports. The photo ID requirement is one of the most controversial provisions of VIVA, a comprehensive overhaul of North Carolina voting law signed into law by Governor Pat McCrory on August 12, 2013. In its original form, the ID provision required voters to present one of eight state-approved photo IDs before casting a ballot, starting in 2016. Critics of the law have argued the photo ID requirement unfairly burdens poor, elderly, minority and student voters who are more likely to lack one of the eight approved IDs.

Ohio: Expert Says Ohio’s Redistricting Proposal Could Serve As Model For Other States | Ohio Public Radio

A national political expert visited Columbus to talk about the push to change the way state lawmakers’ districts are drawn, and it’s an opportunity to achieve something rare in this country. “That is not a natural community in any sense of the word,” says Michael Li, the redistricting expert at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University. He’s pointing to a district map drawn in California. One particular district is just a sliver of land that snakes up the west side of the state. “It stretches almost 200 miles up the coast of California, here it’s barely there—in fact—there’s a point in which it disappears at high tide,” said Li. Li’s notes drew laughter but also point out the odd realities of gerrymandering. This is when one party can draw legislative districts to benefit one party over another.

Virginia: State launches online application for absentee ballots | Richmond Times-Dispatch

Virginia voters who are unable to make it to the polls for next month’s election now have the option of applying online for an absentee ballot. The Virginia Department of Elections launched a new website feature Wednesday morning that allows voters to sign an application electronically using their Social Security number and information on a driver’s license or identification card issued by the DMV.

Editorials: Process of redrawing 3rd Congressional District evidence of Virginia’s need for reform | Daily Press

Considering Virginia’s checkered approach to issues of openness and transparency, we probably should have expected that redrawing the 3rd Congressional District would be a process shrouded in secrecy. But the requirements included in a federal court order governing the participants in that effort, even by the commonwealth’s standards, are astounding. As readers know, the 3rd District has been the subject to a lengthy court battle over whether Republican lawmakers illegally packed it with minority voters in an effort to diminish their strength and limit their influence in neighboring districts. The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia has twice ruled the boundaries invalid, and ordered the General Assembly to redraw the district. However, a bit of deft legislative maneuvering in August threw the issue back to the courts. The District Court then selected Bernard Grofman, a professor of political science at the University of California Irvine, as a “special master” to draw new district boundaries. He is being assisted by three members of the General Assembly’s Division of Legislative Services.

Wisconsin: Democrats jump ship on bill that would allow voters to register online | Wisconsin State Journal

Wisconsin would become the 26th state to offer online voter registration under a bill up for a public hearing Tuesday morning. Several Dane County Democrats signed on as co-sponsors to the bill late last week, but they withdrew their support Monday because of several concerns, including that it limits registration options for certain voters, such as college students, seniors and low-income people, and is moving too quickly to address problems they have raised about it. The bill would allow eligible voters with driver’s licenses or state-issued IDs to register to vote on a secure website maintained by the Government Accountability Board. Voters could also update their address information on the website. The bill allows GAB and the Department of Transportation to coordinate their records for verification purposes.

Canada: Is vote swapping legal? | Global News

Some Canadians are getting creative in an effort to make their vote count this election. They’re “vote swapping” and a Facebook page called Vote Swap Canada is promoting the idea in an effort to defeat Conservative leader Stephen Harper. The idea is that if you don’t think your preferred party will win your riding, you can go online and swap your vote with another person in a different riding. Political scientists think it could have an impact on this year’s outcome, but Elections Canada is warning against the idea.

Egypt: Parliamentary elections: ‘Who cares’? | Ahram Online

When he felt his vote would finally count after years of indifference, Mohamed Saad decided to cast his ballot in consecutive referendums and parliamentary and presidential elections after the popular uprising in 2011 renewed hope for a better future for Egypt. A little less than five years have passed and Saad lost his enthusiasm and passion. He realised that hope is a good breakfast, but a bad supper. “I won’t vote again; it’s useless. I will do nothing, absolutely nothing,” said the 25-year-old, who works in a travel agency in Downtown Cairo, referring to Egypt’s upcoming parliamentary elections that kick off 18 and 19 October after months of procrastination and legal wrangling. The election of Egypt’s House of Representatives will complete a roadmap drawn up following the 2013 ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi and return legislative powers from President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, but few feel the urgency left over from the days when heated political discussions yielded long voting queues and interesting debates over the credentials of potential lawmakers.

Guinea: Main opposition leader Diallo pulls out of election | Reuters

Guinea’s main opposition leader Celloun Dalein Diallo withdrew on Wednesday from the presidential election, alleging fraud, and will not recognize the outcome, his campaign director said. The decision came as the national election commission began to announce early results from a vote held on Sunday that is expected to return incumbent Alpha Conde to a second five-year term. Figures from three of the capital Conakry’s five communes showed Conde won 55 percent, 60 percent and 49 percent of the vote. All results must be ratified by the West African country’s constitutional court.

Kyrgyzstan: Korean technology helps Kyrgyzstan count ballots in election | Korea JoongAng Daily

Korean’s electoral ways may provoke anguish in editorials and groans from the public at large. Don’t tell that to Kyrgyzstan, which thinks Korea’s way with elections is the best. Kyrgyzstan’s general election earlier this month involved 2,338 polling places nationwide. In previous elections, counting the votes was manual and the process took three days. But on Oct. 4, it took only two hours to count 95 percent of votes. The process could be viewed by the public in real-time through the Central Election Commission (CEC) website. The technology was brought in from Korea. Voters placed their ballots on optical readers that read the votes and automatically sent the tallies to the country’s Central Election Commission (CEC) via the Internet.

Tanzania: President warns against violence ahead of polls | Reuters

Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete dismissed opposition accusations on Wednesday that his CCM party planned to rig a presidential vote next week and warned against violence ahead of the Oct. 25 elections. Addressing a rally in the administrative capital Dodoma, Kikwete accused the opposition of stoking unrest before the parallel presidential, parliamentary and local government polls. “Anyone who participates in violence during the elections will be dealt with,” said Kikwete. “Our security forces will ensure that the elections are peaceful … we will never allow our democracy to be kidnapped.”

United Kingdom: Peers speak out for expat referendum vote | The Connexion

Peers spoke out strongly in favour of a referendum vote for all Britons living in EU countries when the UK’s EU Referendum Bill had its first House of Lords debate. Many members gave their backing to the idea in yesterday’s debate – which the Liberal Democrats have confirmed to Connexion will also be the subject of an amendment which will be lodged before the bill is discussed in detail in a Lords ‘committee stage’. (The date for this has yet to be set, but it will be the next part of the bill’s journey through parliament). Chairman of Brussels and Europe Liberal Democrats Giles Goodall said it has been agreed that the cross-bench peers [those of no specific party] will table an amendment on this, with Liberal Democrat support. He said the same is planned for an amendment calling for an independent report into the impact of leaving the EU. The Liberal-Democrats will also table amendments on votes for 16-17-year-olds and for EU citizens living in the UK, Mr Goodall said. Readers wishing email peers with support or comments can find contact details here: House of Lords.