National: Campaign to Lower Voting Age to 16 in Local Races Ignites a Debate | The New York Times

Turning 16, for many teenagers, means finally driving a car without supervision or starting the college search. Now, a new campaign is hoping to add the ability to vote in local elections to the milestones of that age. The campaign, called Vote16USA, which will be announced on Wednesday, aims to lower the voting age to 16 from 18 to spur civic engagement by younger Americans. But the push, by a nonpartisan group based in New York called Generation Citizen, which seeks to promote youth participation in politics, is igniting a debate about voter competency, adolescent decision making and whether allowing younger people to vote is the best way to politically engage teenagers. Opponents say that teenagers are not mature enough to vote at 16, that they will not make informed decisions and that Vote16USA is a partisan push to get more liberals on voter rolls. Advocates, however, argue that lowering the voting age would increase turnout, allow teenagers to weigh in on issues that directly affect them and push schools to improve civic education.

Editorials: History Draws a Line on ‘One Man, One Vote’ | Noah Feldman/Bloomberg

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments on whether states’ drawing of legislative districts should be based on total population, as it is now, or voter population, as some conservatives want. The case, Evenwel v. Abbott, raises a fundamental question about who is represented in our democracy. But as so often happens, the oral argument took a turn in the direction of our history with a focus on the drafting of the Constitution. The key moment came when Justice Elena Kagan asked petitioner William Consovoy what would seem like devastating question: The Constitution requires counting total population when apportioning congressmen, so why should the states have to count voters rather than population?

Editorials: SCOTUS wrestles with redistricting cases | Josh Gerstein/Politico

The politically contentious topic of redistricting was front and center at the Supreme Court Tuesday, as the justices wrestled with a pair of cases challenging what factors states can and cannot consider as they draw lines. One case, out of Texas, looks at whether states should be required to take into account the number of voting-age citizens instead of or in addition to broader measures of population when setting up political boundaries. If the justices rule that the “one person, one vote” principle should be measured in part based on eligible voters, areas with high numbers of children or immigrants will likely see a loss of political power, while areas with fewer children and more U.S. citizens see a boost to their clout. Another case, out of Arizona, addresses whether political partisanship and concerns about qualifying for Justice Department approval under the Voting Rights Act are valid reasons to cause imbalances in the population of various districts.

Florida: Ex-felons Struggle to Regain Their Voting Rights | The Intercept

The remnants of Hurricane Patricia were sweeping over Orlando, Florida, and Eddie Walker was soaked. It was a Wednesday morning in late October, and Walker, the pastor of In God’s Time Tabernacle, located in the downtown neighborhood of Parramore, had spent part of his morning repairing a jammed window in the white 2001 Chevrolet van that he uses to transport food donations from grocery stores and fast food restaurants across the city to his parishioners, many of whom are homeless or recovering drug addicts. When I found Walker behind his church, he beckoned me out of the rain and into the van’s cab. Walker is barrel-chested and of medium height, and his voice carries with a pastor’s booming resonance, even when he speaks quietly. I’d come to hear Walker’s life story, but from the start his cellphone continuously interrupted our conversation. Volunteers were calling to troubleshoot logistics. “Anything that you can get and you don’t have to pay for,” Walker pleaded into his phone, “order as much as you can, ’cause we can use all of it.”

Illinois: State Representative Introduces Bill To Create Recall Mechanism For Chicago Mayor | CBS Chicago

The protesters calling for the ouster of Mayor Rahm Emanuel have been stifled because there is no mechanism to do so but, a member of the Illinois general assembly wants to change that with a bill that would provide a way to call a special election to recall the mayor of Chicago. “The people have lost confidence in the mayor and until he can regain confidence, we have to have something in place that we can try to bring the city together,” said Rep. La Shawn Ford (D-8th District). The bill proposes that a recall election can be initiated by a petition with signatures totaling at least 15 percent of the total votes cast in the previous mayoral election. It would need at least 50 votes from each ward in Chicago and must be signed by at least two aldermen.

Editorials: What if Going Viral Matters More Than Iowa? | Emma Roller/The New York Times

The candidates have posed next to a life-size butter cow in Des Moines, ridden motorcycles down the streets of Boone, bought 3,500 ears of sweet corn in Windsor Heights and given helicopter rides to state fair attendees. This is just what it means to run for president: ritual fun, meat-on-a-stick and all, in the great state of Iowa. “Pretty much every day in Iowa, you can go listen to somebody who wants to be president,” Cody Hoefert, the vice chairman of the Iowa Republican Party, said. But is the presidential race listening to Iowa? Well before Feb. 1, when Iowa voters head to their caucuses, the 2016 contest is already a national campaign. National polls, not early voting states, have dictated who gets stage time in the Republican debates. The candidates who did invest early in Iowa have faltered and, in some cases, left the race entirely. And some presidential hopefuls have found more success from a viral social media post than from a day out on the stump. (One notable exception may be Senator Ted Cruz, who dethroned Mr. Viral himself, Donald J. Trump, from his front-runner status in one Iowa state poll on Monday).

Voting Blogs: In Kansas, 90 Days to Prove Citizenship | State of Elections

Is 90 days enough time to comply with proof-of-citizenship voter registration requirements? In Kansas, at least 31,000 presumably qualified electors who have attempted to complete applications to register to vote will see their applications deleted under new administrative regulations in the state. Most of these applicants failed to submit proof of their U.S. citizenship, to a county election official satisfactory which is required by the 2011 Kansas Safe and Fair Elections Act (“S.A.F.E. Act”). Such suspended voters are generally unable to cast ballots in local, state, or federal elections; however, following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Arizona v. Inter-Tribal Council of Arizona, Inc., under the National Voter Registration Act (“NVRA”), any Kansan who applies to register to vote using the federal voter registration form is allowed to vote in federal elections, even if he or she does not include proof-of-citizenship. In order to be removed from the list of suspended voters and be added to the state’s voter rolls, applicants must provide proof-of-citizenship to their local county election official. Under the previous system, county election officials worked feverishly to contact all applicants on the suspended list repeatedly in order to help them complete the proof-of-citizenship requirement. Some argue these unending attempts to encourage applicants to comply with registration requirements were too onerous.

Maryland: US Supreme Court revives Maryland redistricting challenge | Associated Press

The U.S. Supreme Court has revived a challenge by some Maryland residents to their state’s 2011 redrawing of its congressional districts, ruling unanimously Tuesday that the case was thrown out prematurely. The court said federal law requires that the Maryland case be heard by a panel of three judges, not the lone judge who dismissed the challenge. Writing in an eight-page opinion for the court, Justice Antonin Scalia said the law “could not be clearer.” The group of three residents originally sued in 2013 arguing that the new district map, which enabled Democrats to pick up an additional seat in Congress, was irrational and violated their First Amendment and other rights.

Michigan: Straight-ticket voting ban, absentee voting bills approved by Michigan House |

Michigan’s Republican-led House moved late Wednesday to approve bills that would eliminate straight-ticket voting and allow no-reason absentee voting after an in-person ballot request. The straight-ticket ban, modified and advanced in a 54-51 vote at around 10 p.m., faced criticism from Democrats, who called it a political proposal that would have the practical effect of creating longer voting lines. “The reason we’re doing this is because Republicans have not been able to win education board seats,” said Rep. Sam Singh, D-East Lansing. “…So they decided to change the rules.”

Missouri: Bill Would Let Secretary of State Prosecute Voter Fraud | Ozarks First

A bill that would give the Secretary of State’s office the authority to prosecute voter fraud in Missouri is being submitted for 2016. The bill would also allow the Secretary of State to write probable cause statements in potential voter fraud cases. “It allows them to prosecute voter fraud cases if the local prosecutor chooses not to or doesn’t have the resources,” said Senator Will Kraus (R-Lee’s Summit), who is sponsoring the bill. “There are some small counties in the state of Missouri that may not have the resources and then there are some large counties that may be taking care of more violent crimes and other things that the prosecutors are a little busy with and don’t have the time for a voter fraud case.”

Armenia: U.S. urges Armenia to investigate any referendum irregularities | Reuters

The United States urged Armenia on Tuesday to investigate any credible reports of irregularities in a weekend referendum in which preliminary results showed voters approving a strengthening of the prime minister’s powers. The changes envisaged in Sunday’s referendum, which are due to come into force after elections in May 2017, would curb the role of the historically powerful president and give more authority to the Armenian prime minister and parliament. The opposition has said the changes are a ruse to let President Serzh Sarksyan take on an enhanced prime ministerial role at the head of the Republican Party after his presidential term ends in 2018. He has denied that. His supporters have said the changes are needed to prevent political instability.

New Zealand: Time runs out in first flag referendum | Radio New Zealand News

The Electoral Commission has advised anyone who has not yet voted in the first flag referendum to get a wriggle on.
The latest figures showed 1,372,783 voting papers have been returned in the flag referendum, representing 43.3 percent of eligible voters – and tomorrow is the last day for people to vote. Electoral Commission chief electoral officer Robert Peden said people could still get their votes in, by dropping it into a Post Shop. “It’s not too late to get your vote in but you really need to get a wriggle on and our advice is to take it to your nearest Post Shop and put it in the box there, just to be sure of getting it back on time.” But Mr Peden said the commission would still count the stragglers.

Saudi Arabia: Saudi women are voting and running for office for the first time | The Washington Post

One candidate wants more recycling. A rival envisions community centers with day care. How about creating Western-style public libraries? asks another. These are hardly the rallying cries of revolutionaries. But, in the ultraconservative context of Saudi Arabia, such appeals are breaking new ground: They are coming from some of the more than 900 female candidates in the kingdom’s first nationwide election in which women are able to run — and vote. The balloting Saturday for municipal council seats across the kingdom — from Riyadh’s chaotic sprawl to oil-rich outposts — marks a cautious step forward in a nation where social change does not come easily. It must always pass muster through a ruling system that may be Western-allied but still answers to a religious establishment very wary of bold moves, particularly regarding the role of women. Women still cannot drive. They must receive a male guardian’s permission to travel abroad alone, and they face other daily reminders of Saudi Arabia’s strict brand of Islam and the state’s punishing stance against any open dissent. “Saudi Arabia has done a great PR job in selling these elections as part of much-touted reforms,” said Ali al-Ahmed, director of the Institute for Gulf Affairs, a Washington-based political affairs group. “The reality is that not much changes.”

Venezuela: Opposition awaits final count but claims a convincing election win | Examiner Times

Hours after polls closed, several opposition leaders took to the Internet to announce that their sources showed they had won a majority of seats in the National Assembly for the first time since 1998. The ruling Socialist party and its allies won 55 seats. “I can say today that the economic war has triumphed”, said Maduro, who was surrounded by top socialist leaders in the presidential palace as he mostly pulled phrases from the stump speech he had been delivering before the election. Fireworks were set off in celebration in pro-opposition districts of Caracas when the results were announced, while government supporters dismantled planned victory parties. In the plaza in affluent eastern Caracas that was the epicenter of this past year’s bloody anti-government demonstrations, a tiny group of adversaries, a number of them sipping on champagne, burned red shirts which are the ground-breaking dress that is obligatory.