National: Voter equality: The Supreme Court seems suddenly worried about partisan gerrymandering | The Economist

On December 8th, the Supreme Court heard back to back arguments in cases involving the idea that everyone’s vote should bear roughly equal weight—the so-called “one person, one vote” principle that was developed in a series of cases in the 1960s. Evenwel v Abbott, a challenge to the calculus Texas uses to work out population, makes an appearance in this week’s paper. Harris v Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, which poses a similarly fraught question about district map-drawing, was argued one hour prior to Evenwel. Harris re-ignites a debate most court watchers thought was long settled: whether and to what extent America’s constitution permits partisan considerations to factor into the drawing of electoral maps. Until last week, the justices looked askance only at racial gerrymandering. Now at least a few Supremes seem to be entertaining the idea that there may be sharp limits on partisan political considerations as well, at least where voter equality is at stake.

National: Inside the 2016 black market for donor emails | Politico

Scott Walker has begun selling access to his email list to pay off his leftover presidential debt, renting out the email addresses of hundreds of thousands of supporters to former rivals, including Marco Rubio, John Kasich, Ted Cruz and Ben Carson. The solicitations arrive as if Walker’s donors magically landed on the lists of his old foes, as they plead for cash for themselves, linking to their own campaign sites. But there’s a catch. While it never says so in the emails from his old foes, or anywhere, the money that donors give isn’t necessarily all going to whichever smiling candidate is pictured on the site and writing the email. That is because Walker’s committee has struck secret deals with at least some of his old competitors to split the proceeds — unbeknownst to those doing the giving. It’s part of the presidential campaign’s hidden world of digging for donors online, where so-called revenue-sharing agreements — rev-shares, for short — are skyrocketing in popularity. “Is that ethical to the donor? I’m not sure,” Vincent Harris, chief digital strategist for Rand Paul’s campaign, said of such pacts. “I can say, if I was the donor, I would probably be pretty upset.”

Editorials: Bush v. Gore as Precedent in Ohio and Beyond | Richard Hasen/ACS

Almost from the moment in December 2000 that the Supreme Court decided its controversial opinion in Bush v. Gore ending the recount in Florida, there has been great debate about whether the case had any precedential value and, assuming it did, what precisely its equal protection principle stood for. Was it a one-day-only ticket? Is it a case about equality of procedures in the conduct of a jurisdiction-wide recount? Or does it require broader equal treatment of voters, so as to fulfill Bush v. Gore’s admonition against the government, by “arbitrary and disparate treatment, valu[ing] one person’s vote over that of another”? We may finally find out the case’s precedential value as soon as the 2016 elections. At the Supreme Court, Bush v. Gore has been a legal Voldemort, a case whose name a Court majority has dare not spoken since 2000. Only Justice Clarence Thomas has cited the case, in a dissenting opinion, and not speaking on its equal protection principles.

Editorials: Republicans’ coup de grace on voting rights? | Scott Lemieux/The Week

Last week the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a case called Evenwel v. Abbott. The case involves an issue of increasing importance to American politics: congressional districting. It got to the Supreme Court because conservative litigators with a successful track record of fighting against the right to vote are trying to turn the logic of pro-voter rights decisions on their head. And it’s very possible that they may succeed again. This most recent battle in the voting rights war involves two of the Warren Court’s most important decisions. One of the tactics that state legislatures used to disenfranchise African-Americans was to draw district lines (or refuse to revise them) in ways that left minority voters massively underrepresented. In Alabama in 1964, for example, some counties included 40 times more people than others. In Baker v. Carr and Reynolds v. Sims, the Supreme Court held that such schemes were illegal. States were required to adhere to a “one person, one vote” standard when apportioning their legislatures. Combined with robust enforcement of the Voting Rights Act, these landmark cases helped to end Jim Crow disenfranchisement schemes.

Colorado: State Poised To Overhaul Voting System | Colorado Public Radio

Colorado is about to take a major step toward overhauling its voting equipment. This week a panel will recommend one or more electronic systems for the state to adopt. Counties currently use a patchwork of different voting systems. Secretary of State Wayne Williams said many of those haven’t been updated in more than a decade. “Do you still use the same phone as you used 15 years ago? Do you use the same computer as you used 15 ago?” he said. Williams says older voting technology is less reliable and secure than what’s on the market now. And having counties using a lot of different systems makes it hard for them to share expertise.

Florida: Political futures in balance as Senate redistricting trial begins | Orlando Sentinel

A trial that will decide the fate of Florida’s 40 state Senate districts and shape the political future of the state began Monday in Leon County circuit court under a pressing deadline to have the districts in place for the 2016 elections. The trial is only expected to last a week but the case will also be reviewed by the Florida Supreme Court. An attorney for the Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections said Senate maps need to be in place by “mid-March” to allow time for supervisors of elections to conform the new districts to ballots for each precinct ahead of primary elections in August. In opening statements, lawyers for the League of Women Voters and Common Cause, the voting rights groups challenging the Republican-controlled Legislature’s maps, said they’ll show that lawmakers rigged the process again, just as they did with congressional districts, to favor the GOP. “This is simply business as usual in the Legislature,” said League of Women Voters attorney David King.

Georgia: Brian Kemp releases Georgia data breach report | Atlanta Journal-Constitution

A long-awaited state report detailing how Georgia gave out more than 6 million voters’ Social Security numbers and other private data put the blame squarely on a employee fired for the breach last month. That employee, longtime state programmer Gary Cooley, flouted office protocol and policy within Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s office, according to the internal report about the data breach released Monday by the office and the state Department of Human Resources. The breach, it said, “was due to Mr. Cooley working outside of and circumventing established policies and procedures,” the report concluded. It called for more training, clearer policies and more active management of sensitive data.

Guam: Attorney General argues rights in territories, states can differ | Pacific Daily News

The rights of those who live in the states can differ from the rights held by residents in the territories. That’s one argument Guam’s attorney general’s office is making in a case challenging the island’s long-awaited political status vote. Guam resident Arnold Davis in 2011 challenged the island’s pending plebiscite after he wasn’t allowed to register for it. The plebiscite is a non-binding vote, intended to measure the preferred political status of Guam. Davis’ legal counsel said the plebiscite violates his fundamental right to vote. In a response filed Dec. 4, the AG states “even if the right to vote is fundamental in the several states, it does not follow that it is necessarily so in the territories.”

Montana: GOP lawsuit to force “closed primary” election is going | MTN News

The Montana Republican Party’s lawsuit to force a “closed primary” election to choose its candidates is going to trial, a federal judge ruled Monday – but he refused to block the 2016 June primary until the issue is settled. U.S. District Judge Brian Morris of Great Falls said “factual questions” remain on whether non-Republicans consistently vote in GOP primaries in Montana and somehow influence the outcome, against the wishes of actual Republicans. “Those issues must be resolved at trial,” Morris said, rejecting requests by both the party and the state to resolve the case on written arguments.

Pennsylvania: State’s online voting initiative recognized | York Dispatch

More than 31,000 people have turned to the Internet to register to vote since Pennsylvania introduced online voter registration nearly five months ago. For its efforts implementing the website, the Pennsylvania Department of State was awarded the 2015 Pennsylvania Excellence in Technology award, which recognizes projects that use technology to deliver government service. From the end of August, when the initiative was launched, through Dec. 7, nearly 51,000 people — 31,317 who have registered to vote and 19,560 who changed their registration — used the state’s website, according to Department of State data.

Virginia: Judge suggests conditional ruling on congressional districts | Richmond Times-Dispatch

A three-judge federal panel in Richmond might choose a fix for the constitutionally flawed 3rd Congressional District, but condition its imposition of a new map on a later ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court. U.S. District Judge Robert E. Payne suggested that course of action Monday as he, U.S. District Judge Liam O’Grady and Judge Albert Diaz of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals presided over a hearing in Virginia’s congressional redistricting case. “Would there be any difficulty in drafting a plan, but making it contingent on affirmation” by the U.S. Supreme Court, Payne asked during the hearing.
That might enable the Supreme Court to consider the panel’s initial finding, throwing out the current map, and the proposed remedy at the same time, Payne said.

Central African Republic: Voting extended for Central African referendum after violence | Reuters

A referendum on a new constitution in Central African Republic spilled into a second day on Monday after violence marred the first day of a vote intended to help end nearly three years of instability. A Red Cross official said five people were killed and 34 others were wounded during clashes in the capital Bangui which the military commander of the U.N. peacekeeping mission said was an attempt by “spoilers” to block the vote. The referendum is a precursor to long-delayed presidential and legislative elections due on Dec. 27.

New Zealand: Final voting confirms winner in New Zealand flag referendum | AFP

A flag with a silver fern on a black-and-blue background was confirmed Tuesday as New Zealand’s preferred option if the country decides to replace its current standard that features Britain’s Union Jack. The counting of late and overseas votes from a recent referendum on the New Zealand flag confirmed the preliminary results released last week, electoral commission officials said.

Saudi Arabia: Up to 17 female councillors in historic election | The Guardian

Saudi Arabia has elected its first female local councillors in a historic step for a country where women are banned from driving and face routine discrimination. Results from Saturday’s municipal council elections indicated there were about 17 female winners. These included four in Jeddah, one near Mecca – home to Islam’s holiest site – and others in Tabuk, Ahsaa and Qatif. Several more, reported by al-Sabq online newspaper, were expected to be confirmed later. Rasha Hefzi, a prominent businesswoman who won a seat in Jeddah, thanked all those who supported her campaign and trusted her, pledging: “What we have started, we will continue.” Hefzi and other candidates used social media to contact voters because of restrictions on women meeting men and bans on both sexes using photographs.

Slovenia: Vote on gay marriage launched | Politico

EU politicians, including European commissioner Violeta Bulc, are urging Slovenia to back same-sex marriage as early voting begins Tuesday on a referendum that could overturn a controversial marriage equality law. If the country supports gay marriage — as Irish voters did in May 2015 — Slovenia would break new ground, becoming the first Central European, Slavic and post-Communist nation to do so. In contrast, more than 10 Western European countries have implemented same-sex marriage laws. The referendum results will be released Sunday. Voters are deciding whether to uphold a Slovenian law passed in March that legalizes gay marriage.

Spain: Ruling PP party consolidates lead, short of majority | Reuters

Spain’s ruling People’s Party (PP) held onto its lead in the last polls before Sunday’s general election, but looked set to fall well short of a majority, leaving the door open to potential pacts. Surveys published on Monday suggested the conservative PP would top the poll, with the main opposition Socialists (PSOE) and two newcomers, liberal Ciudadanos and left-wing Podemos, following closely behind. No new polls are permitted under Spanish voting rules after the end of today. The fragmented vote is unusual for Spain, where the PP and the PSOE have traditionally alternated in power. A deep economic crisis marked by soaring unemployment and corruption scandals has broken their dominance, leaving many seeking alternatives.

Press Release: Clackamas County Pioneers New Voting Technology in Oregon | Hart Intercivic

Clackamas County is known for its pioneering spirit, an attitude born in the 1840s when the area was settled by the rugged travelers of the Oregon Trail. No surprise this trailblazing county’s election officials were the first in the State to adopt Verity Voting by Hart InterCivic, the most technologically advanced election system available in the U.S.

“We like to be first and we take pride in moving ahead,” said Sherry Hall, Clackamas County Clerk. “Choosing Verity was a natural choice to upgrade our older system. It’s a new technology that will serve our voters well for years to come.”

Clackamas County officials carefully scrutinized Verity before they embraced the new technology.