Editorials: Florida voting reforms should reflect reality | Miami Herald

There will be an abundance of issues competing for state lawmakers’ attention when they convene starting Tuesday for the 2016 legislative session. Voting reform, however, is not among them. Not unexpected — after all, it is an election year — but it’s too bad all the same. Florida, in some ways, remains a regressive state when it comes to making voting convenient, secure and easy to access for those who are eligible. Too much of such stagnation is mired in politics and policies calculated to disenfranchise some Floridians, be they ex-felons who must petition the state to regain their ability to vote, students who couldn’t find a voting site on major campuses or African-American voters who have seen early-voting sites curtailed in their neighborhoods. And then there are the lines, the interminable lines that, in 2012, made Florida pretty much irrelevant in the presidential election. It’s time for state legislators to take more of their cues from their constituents, who increasingly are not waiting to schlep to the polls on Election Day — a long-enduring but increasingly archaic event that pays homage to the country’s agrarian roots. But farmers no longer need an entire day to travel by horse to the county seat to vote.

Idaho: Boundary County now has new electronic voting tabulators, will be used in upcoming March Presidential Primary | Newsbf

Elections and voting in Boundary County will take a technological leap forward this year. Two months from today is the Idaho Presidential Primary election, scheduled for March 8. Boundary County voters on that day will find there has been a substantial change in how they cast their ballots. Up until now, ballots in Boundary County were counted by humans, and by hand. Four or five poll workers staffed the vote counting rooms. One worker would read each ballot aloud, one at a time, while a second worker observed closely as a witness to make sure the ballot was read correctly. Two or three other poll workers would tally votes as the ballots were read. After every 25 ballots, they would stop, and the workers tallying the votes would compare and balance their counts to ensure all were recording the same totals. Poll workers in the counting rooms were not allowed to leave the room until all votes were counted.

Louisiana: ‘Drastic change’ coming as Louisiana shifting to iPad voting, and it won’t be cheap | The Advocate

When Louisiana voters go to the polls to elect a governor in 2019 — if all goes to plan — they will cast their ballots on iPads. Secretary of State Tom Schedler said he’ll ask the incoming administration of Gov.-elect John Bel Edwards and the Legislature for money to roll out this new way of voting. The idea was first broached in 2014 by a presidential commission. A few counties, such as Denver and Los Angeles, already are experimenting with it, but Louisiana could become the first state to adopt the new technology. “It is a drastic change. We’re going to take it slow, but this is the best way to go,” Schedler said. His plan is to replace voting machines with tablet computers over the next three years, starting with the big parishes around Baton Rouge, Lafayette and New Orleans. This will give time to work out the kinks and train staff, as well as voters, on how it all works. “Money is the big obstacle. But we don’t have a choice,” said Schedler, a Republican who also is president of the National Association of Secretaries of State.

Maryland: Baltimore City Council urges override of Hogan’s veto of sooner voting rights for ex-offenders | Baltimore Sun

The Baltimore City Council on Monday urged the Maryland General Assembly to override Gov. Larry Hogan’s veto of a bill that would have given voting rights to ex-offenders while on probation or supervised release. “There is a movement to override this veto,” said City Councilman Brandon Scott, who sponsored a resolution calling for an override that was adopted by the council. “These people are taxpayers. With everything that happened in our city, we should realize that we should invite people back into society.”

Maryland: Non-U.S. citizens likely to vote in Hyattsville city elections soon | Hyattsville Life & Times

At the Jan. 4 Hyattsville City Council meeting, councilmembers discussed a motion that would direct the city attorney to draw up a charter amendment concerning the qualifications of voters in municipal elections. The council is likely to pass the motion, which was submitted jointly by Council President Edouard Haba (Ward 4), Council Vice President Bart Lawrence, and Councilmembers Patrick Paschall (Ward 3) and Joseph Solomon (Ward 5). The biggest change proposed by this new legislation would allow non-U.S. citizens — even undocumented residents — to vote in municipal elections. According to a city memo, Maryland ended non-citizen voting rights in 1851, but left it up to municipalities to decide local voting rights. Six Maryland cities currently allow non-citizens to vote: Takoma Park, Barnesville, Garrett Park, Glen Echo, Martin’s Additions and Somerset.

Missouri: Ferguson Voting Rights Lawsuit Heads to Trial | Al Jazeera

A year and a half after a white police officer shot black teenager Michael Brown and left his body in the street in Ferguson, Missouri, the city continues to grapple with longstanding racial inequities. Since Brown’s death, community members have pushed for police reform and evened out the racial composition of the heretofore predominantly white Ferguson city council. Now three Ferguson residents are trying, with help from the American Civil Liberties Union and NAACP, to change a voting system that they say keeps African-Americans from having a voice on the local school board. Community members Redditt Hudson, F. Willis Johnson, and Doris Bailey are suing the Ferguson-Florissant School District and the St. Louis County Board of Elections in federal court over allegations that the district’s system for electing school board members violates the Voting Rights Act. The Missouri NAACP is also a plaintiff in the case, which goes to trial Monday.

New Jersey: Democrats’ controversial redistricting plan ‘dead for today’ | NJ.com

A controversial proposal aiming to change the way New Jersey redraws its legislative districts will not be voted on Monday as state lawmakers gather for the final votes of the two-year legislative session, according to the measure’s top sponsor in the state Senate. Instead, state Sen. Nicholas Scutari (D-N.J.) said, Democratic lawmakers pushing the resolution need more time to work on it. “It’s dead for today,” Scutari told NJ Advance Media. The resolution seeks to put a question on November’s ballot asking New Jersey voters to amend the state constitution to make a number of changes to redistricting — including one that would require at least 10 of the state’s 40 districts be deemed “competitive.”

South Dakota: Secretary of State approves nonpartisan election measure for ballot | Associated Press

Secretary of State Shantel Krebs says an initiated amendment to the South Dakota Constitution establishing nonpartisan elections will appear on the November ballot. Krebs says the measure’s sponsor turned in more than 44,000 signatures to her office. A 5-percent random sampling determined that 67.8 percent of the signatures the 29,924 signatures were in good standing, more than 2,000 above what is necessary for an amendment.

Virginia: Judge adds state GOP as defendant in suit against primary oath | The Daily Progress

A federal judge in Richmond on Monday added the Republican Party of Virginia as a defendant in a lawsuit challenging the GOP’s “statement of affiliation” in the March 1 GOP presidential primary. Also Monday, the State Board of Elections, the original defendants, asked U.S. District Judge M. Hannah Lauck to dismiss the suit. Lauck has set a Wednesday hearing in the case. Three black pastors from the Richmond area who support Donald Trump filed suit last week against the State Board of Elections in an effort to block the requirement under which voters would fill out a form that says: “My signature below indicates that I am a Republican.” The State Board of Elections approved the requirement Dec. 16 at the request of the GOP’s State Central Committee. Trump says his campaign is not part of the suit, but supports its go

Central African Republic: Vote recount demanded | AFP

A top candidate in presidential elections in the Central African Republic, Martin Ziguele, wants a manual recount of first-round votes because of alleged irregularities, his party said on Monday. Ziguele, a former prime minister who came fourth out of 30 hopefuls in the December 30 vote, plans to go to the Constitutional Court to “demand a manual recount of the voting slips”, according to the Movement for the Liberation of the Central African People (MLPC). The party accused the National Authority for Elections (ANE) of breaching the electoral code as it released figures “each day muddling up different (administrative districts) with varying rates of vote counting, rendering any checks and follow-up impossible.”

Haiti: Martelly’s one-man rule comes to an end in Haiti | Miami Herald

As a paralyzing political crisis pushed Haiti into an uncertain phase a year ago this month, a stoic President Michel Martelly assured the Haitian people and the international community that he had no interest in governing without the checks and balances of a parliament. “The only decree that I would take is one to organize elections,” Martelly said on the fifth anniversary of the devastating Jan. 12, 2010, earthquake as the terms of the entire lower house and a second tier of the 30-member Senate expired because of overdue legislative elections. Now as Haiti prepares to mark another quake anniversary, it is also preparing to welcome back a functioning Senate and lower house after 14 new Senators and 92 Deputies were elected in the much-criticized Aug. 9 and Oct. 25 election

Italy: Prime Minister Renzi makes progress with constitutional reform | Reuters

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi on Monday moved one step closer to passing a constitutional reform aimed at streamlining the lawmaking process when the lower house of parliament approved the bill in its fourth reading. Renzi has staked his political future on the reform to cut the size and powers of the upper house Senate. The Chamber of Deputies approved it by 367 votes to 194. Under the lengthy procedures required for constitutional changes, both houses now must pass the reform again. It will then face what promises to be a fiercely contested national referendum which Renzi hopes to hold in October.

Japan: Administration looks to let people vote in major train stations, other high-traffic locations | The Japan Times

Hoping to raise voter turnout, the Abe administration plans to allow people to cast their ballots at major train stations and commercial complexes, according to a government source. The administration will try to get the necessary change to the public offices election law by the end of March so it will be in effect for the Upper House election this summer, the source said Monday. People are currently allowed to vote at only one place, usually a school or public office in the neighborhood where they live, designated by the election council. The bill would permit setting up “common voting stations” in high-traffic places, such as train and subway stations, shopping centers and other public facilities, in addition to current polling stations.

Niger: Presidential candidate denied release from prison | Reuters

Hama Amadou, a major opposition figure approved to stand in Niger’s February elections just two days ago, failed on Monday in an attempt to gain release from prison in a plea to the country’s appeals court. President Mahamadou Issoufou, a key Western ally in the fight against Islamist militancy in the fragile Sahara region, is expected to win a second term; but critics accuse him of becoming increasingly authoritarian, especially after uncovering what he described as an aborted coup in December. Amadou, a one-time ally to the president, was jailed in November for alleged complicity in a baby trafficking ring upon return from a year-long exile. He has publicly denied the charges, which he says are politically motivated.

Portugal: Campaigning begins for presidential election | AFP

Campaigning for Portugal’s presidency officially got underway Sunday, with a record 10 candidates, led by conservative Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, contending the Jan. 24 ballot. De Sousa, a 67-year-old professor of law and veteran TV political commentator, is backed by 52.9 percent of the public, according to an opinion poll of 600 voters, published Sunday by the newspaper Correio da Manha. If so, he could be elected in the first round. A runoff will be held Feb. 14 if no candidate gets more than 50 percent of votes cast.

Taiwan: Social media a key battleground in Taiwan election | Channel NewsAsia

With just days to Taiwan’s elections, the presidential race is heating up online. All three parties are putting everything they have into the battle to win young voters, with Facebook, Line and Instagram as the three key theatres of engagement. Eric Chu from the Kuomintang (KMT) and James Soong from the People First Party (PFP) are both using social media to get their message out to the electorate. Chu’s Facebook page not only carries his campaign commercials, it also features short videos and cartoons to illustrate his policies. And his latest video has roused the curiosity of many netizens. “The video has no sound, but you can see a ray of light moving across the chairman’s forehead over and over,” said Hsu Chiao-Hsin, spokeswoman for KMT’s presidential campaign. “It quickly got many netizens talking, asking why is his forehead shining with light? What does it mean? Many people are curious.”