National: Voting rights advocates observe somber King holiday | USA Today

While most of the country will spend the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday remembering the peaceful nature and civil rights successes lodged by the late leader, voting rights advocates say this is a dark time for them. Many might spend Monday reflecting on King’s 1965 Selma-to-Montgomery march to push for voting equality for black Americans, but voting rights advocates note that there has been a major setback in their world. In 2013, a Supreme Court ruling struck down the part of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that indicates which parts of the country must have changes to voting rights laws cleared by the federal government or by a federal court. Preclearance was a requirement for states and communities that had a history of discrimination against black voters. Advocates viewed it as a necessary safeguard against discrimination at the ballot. Also, 33 states now have Voter ID laws in place with increased identification requirements for people seeking to cast ballots. The issue has been a controversial one for civil rights advocates, who maintain that some groups of Americans, including older people and minorities, are less likely to have the sort of identification that would be required.

National: When Will We Be Able to Vote Online? | Scientific American

Sooner or later everything seems to go online. Newspapers. TV. Radio. Shopping. Banking. Dating. But it’s much harder to drag voting out of the paper era. In the 2012 presidential election, more than half of Americans who voted cast paper ballots—0 percent voted with their smartphones. Why isn’t Internet voting here yet? Imagine the advantages! … It’s all about security, of course. Currently Internet voting is “a nonstarter,” according to Aviel D. Rubin, technical director of Johns Hopkins University’s Information Security Institute and author of the 2006 book Brave New Ballot. “You can’t control the security of the platform,” he told me. The app you’re using, the operating system on your phone, the servers your data will cross en route to their destination—there are just too many openings for hacker interference. “But wait,” you’re entitled to object, “banks, online stores and stock markets operate electronically. Why should something as simple as recording votes be so much more difficult?” Voting is much trickier for a couple of reasons. Whereas monetary transactions are based on a firm understanding of your identity, a vote is supposed to be anonymous. In case of bank trouble, investigators can trace a credit-card purchase back to you, but how can they track an anonymous vote? And credit-card and bank fraud goes on constantly. It’s just a cost of doing business. But the outcome of an election is too important; we can’t simply ignore a bunch of lost or altered votes.

Florida: Legislature won’t appeal redistricting ruling | Miami Herald

The Florida Legislature is giving up the fight and will not contest a court ruling that redraws all of the state’s 40 state senate districts for the 2016 election cycle. Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, said he told Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, on Wednesday that the Legislature should let court-ordered maps go into effect, even though he says there were legal issues that were open to appeal. “My recommendation is for us not to appeal, and the Senate president has agreed,” Galvano said. The decision means that the state’s new map will become official on Feb. 8, when the clock runs out on the appeals process. It is the first time lawmakers have refrained from challenging a lower court ruling after four years of legal battles that have cost Florida taxpayers more than $11 million.

Maryland: House votes to overturn Larry Hogan’s veto of felon voting rights | Baltimore Sun

Maryland’s Democrat-led legislature began the process Wednesday of overriding Gov. Larry Hogan’s vetoes, with one chamber upholding legislation that would allow felons to regain the right to vote sooner. After a passionate, 45-minute debate, members of the House of Delegates voted, 85-56, to uphold the bill they passed last year that allows people convicted of felonies to vote as soon as they leave prison. The House reached the minimum number of votes needed to override Hogan’s veto after the bill received 82 votes last year. The House also overrode the Republican governor’s vetoes of a Howard County bill that changes the way hotel taxes are collected and $2 million in the state budget that was earmarked for the Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts, a community arts center in House Speaker Michael E. Busch’s district. The Senate is expected to vote on veto overrides on Thursday.

North Carolina: Voter-ID Law Goes on Trial in Federal Court | Wall Street Journal

The legality of a 2013 North Carolina law requiring identification to vote will be challenged in a trial set to begin in federal court Monday ahead of March U.S. presidential primaries in the state. The trial in Winston-Salem, the second to stem from the law, is one of several closely watched voting-rights lawsuits unfolding as the election season gets under way. In 2013, Republican Gov. Patrick McCrory signed a law barring people without photo identification from voting. The move sparked a number of lawsuits by the U.S. Justice Department, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and others that were eventually consolidated into one suit claiming that the law disproportionately affected black and other minority voters who are less likely to have access to birth certificates and other documents needed to obtain photo identification.

Virginia: Election Officials Urge Supreme Court to Let Redistricting Plan Stand | Roll Call

Virginia’s election officials urged the Supreme Court on Thursday to keep in place a new, judge-selected redistricting plan for this year’s congressional elections, putting the officials at odds with 10 current and former members of the state’s Republican delegation in Congress. Halting the plan, put in place Jan. 7, would again allow “racial packing” to taint elections following the redistricting that occurred after the 2010 census, the Virginia State Board of Elections said in a brief. The redistricting plan was put in place by a panel of three federal judges. At issue are the lines drawn for the majority-black district held by Virginia Democrat Rep. Robert C. Scott. A lower court in 2014 found that to be an unconstitutional gerrymander.

Bulgaria: Parliament backs introduction of electronic voting | The Sofia Globe

Bulgaria’s MPs approved on January 21 a resolution on the introduction of electronic voting in elections, with 136 votes in favour and 56 against. Parliament was required to debate the issue after a referendum on electoral rules reform, held in October 2015, passed the turnout threshold of 20 per cent, but it was not bound by the outcome of the plebiscite, which had 69.5 per cent of respondents in favour of introducing electronic voting. On the House floor, the resolution to introduce electronic voting was backed by GERB, the senior partner in the ruling coalition, and two of its junior partners, centre-right Reformist Bloc and socialist splinter ABC, as well as two opposition parties, the predominantly ethnic Turk Movement for Rights and Freedoms and populist Bulgarian Democratic Centre. Opposition socialists and ultra-nationalist Ataka, as well as the nationalist Patriotic Front, which is part of the government coalition, voted against the resolution.

Haiti: U.S. Presses for Haiti Runoff Vote Amid Fears of Violence and Fraud | The New York Times

After spending more than $33 million on a widely discredited election in Haiti, the United States has been pressing the country’s leaders to go ahead with a presidential runoff election this Sunday, despite a growing chorus of warnings that the vote could lead to an explosion of violence. Haitian leaders, political parties and others have denounced the first round of voting in October as a fraud-riddled fiasco and protested in the streets to stop the runoff. One of the two remaining candidates says he is boycotting, effectively making it a one-person race. President Michel J. Martelly took to the airwaves on Thursday to warn that protests on Election Day would not be tolerated. Civic, business and religious leaders are engaged in tense back-room negotiations to broker a deal in an effort to avoid violence and put off the race. Eight election observer organizations have pulled out over the fraud accusations and chaos, including a Haitian group funded by the United States.

North Carolina: Voter ID Laws Back in Spotlight in North Carolina Case | VoA News

A federal court is scheduled to hear a legal challenge to North Carolina’s Voter ID law on Monday. The law, H.B. 589, enacted in August 2013 shortens the early voting period by one week, eliminates same day registration, requires specific forms of identification to vote, and cancels a pre-registration program for 16 and 17-year-olds. … Restrictive voter laws have been a controversial issue for the last two presidential elections. More than 32 states have voter ID laws or restrictive measures of some form. North Carolina is scheduled to join them in 2016. All of the new measures have been introduced and implemented by Republican-led state legislatures and governors. Supporters say the laws are necessary to battle fraud and build confidence in the electoral process. Critics argue the laws disproportionately discourage minorities, the poor, senior citizens and young people – those who are more likely to vote Democratic – from voting.

National: Appeals court upholds FEC rule on disclosure requirements | Associated Press

A federal appeals court on Thursday dealt a setback to campaign finance reform advocates in a ruling about who pays for political ads. The ruling upheld a Federal Election Commission regulation that narrows disclosure requirements for corporations and labor groups paying for ads that run close to Election Day. The regulation says groups running the ads only have to reveal donors who contribute for the express purpose of paying for the ads. That means donors who choose not to say how they want their money used can remain anonymous. Opponents say the rule undermines Congress’ goal of letting voters know which donors are trying to influence elections. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit reversed a lower court decision that threw out the regulation last year. The ruling comes on the six-year anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which lifted limits on political spending by corporations and labor unions.

Editorials: Democracy under attack | Eliza Webb/The Hill

Near the end of his final State of the Union address on Tuesday, President Obama lambasted the countrywide attack on voting rights, and called for Americans to stand up and fight back. He spoke of the need to make “voting easier, not harder,” and criticized “the influence of money in our politics” and the practice of redistricting “so that politicians can pick their voters, and not the other way around.” He outlined his intention “to travel the country to push for reforms,” while adding that he “can’t do these things on my own.” He invoked the concept of “a government of, by, and for the people” to ask Americans to act, saying that change “depend[s] on you,” and the future rests “on your willingness to uphold your obligations as a citizen.”

Verified Voting Blog: All Election Integrity is Local: Remembering John Washburn (1962-2016)

We were saddened to learn of the untimely passing of election integrity activist John Washburn at the age of 53. John was a fiercely independent thinker – disarmingly honest and contagiously cheerful – and a passionate advocate for transparent election administration. Verified Voting President Pamela Smith noted that John “was actively engaged with the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, referring to himself as their “thorn” in his good-natured way. He could be thorny, but it was in the best interests of reliable elections, and he came at the work with the highest level of integrity. I suspect he will be missed by both friends and “adversaries” alike.”

On a tribute board set up by the funeral home where John’s memorial service will be held on January 23, Verified Voting Advisory Board member Douglas Jones observed that “John was a man who fought to protect democracy using careful research and the weight of facts to ensure that election results actually report the will of the people. His testimony before government panels at both the state and national level was always calm, reasoned and persuasive.”

John studied the issue of pre-election testing extensively and compiled exemplary guidelines for creating ballot test decks for Logic and Accuracy Testing. A glimpse of his contributions to the struggle for transparent and reliable elections can be gained from his blog Washburn’s World and his website Washburn Research. John felt strongly that election activists should get involved with their local elections. With deep appreciation for John’s contributions to the struggle for fair and accurate election, we are reposting John’s plea for getting involved on the ground that first appeared on the VoteTrustUSA website in 2006.

All Election Integrity is Local
by John Washburn

It has been pointed out on my blog, my focus on the election irregularities in my home voting district of Gemantown District #1 is petty and I should move down the road to the big fish, the City of Milwaukee. I agree the City of Milwaukee is where 10% of the entire ballots cast in the state of Wisconsin are cast in the 314 wards of the City of Milwaukee. So by the simple application of the Willy Sutton Maxim, the bulk of state fraud is committed there because that is where the votes are. And, I have spent time examining the election irregularities there. I disagree though that I should ignore the election irregularities perpetrated by my neighbors and my village clerk. The Swedes have a delightful proverb, “Sweep your own stoop before you offer to sweep you neighbor’s stoop”. The same holds for election integrity; more so actually.

Arizona: GOP, Democrats nix county bid to cancel hand count of presidential primary | Tucson Sentinel

Local political leaders said “nay” Wednesday to a request by the Pima County elections director to call off a hand count to verify the local results of the upcoming Arizona presidential preference election. Brad Nelson asked to cancel the tally because it would take place over Easter weekend. Bill Beard, the chairman of the Pima County Republican Party, blasted the attempt to call off the audit. emailing an evening press release. “I take the constitutional responsibility for over site (sic) of elections in Arizona very seriously,” he wrote in response to Nelson’s request. “The Pima County Republican Party will have the adequate number of people to complete the Presidential Preference Election Hand Count at the appropriately legal time and place.”

Arizona: Former attorney general launches Election Reform Initiatives | Associated Press

A former Arizona attorney general and a former Phoenix mayor are launching a campaign to bring elections reform to voters through a pair of ballot measures. The Open and Honest Elections Coalition is sponsoring a measure to increase disclosure requirements for groups contributing more than $10,000 to a political campaign and a second measure to put all Arizona candidates on a single primary ballot. Former Attorney General Terry Goddard and former Phoenix Mayor Paul Johnson are sponsoring the bi-partisan initiatives in conjunction with HighGround Inc., a political consulting and lobbying firm. The coalition’s goals are to limit the influence of dark money in Arizona elections and make it easier for Independents to get on the ballot.

Idaho: New bill proposes to move deadline for switching party affiliation | Coeur d’Alene Press

The Idaho Legislature is considering another primary election bill which, for voters who plan to vote Republican, further complicates this spring’s two primary elections. The new bill, SB 1195, proposes to move the deadline for switching party affiliation prior to voting in the upcoming May 17 primary election. The bill would move the current deadline for affiliating with the Republican Party from March 12 to Feb 12. Those voters who are officially affiliated with a party other than the Republican Party have already missed the Dec. 9, 2015, deadline to affiliate and participate in the Republican presidential primary race. The Idaho Legislature voted last year to separate the Republican presidential primary elections from all of the other statewide and local primary races that are set for May 17 this year.

Maine: How an 1880 Maine insurrection could sink ranked-choice voting | Bangor Daily News

Leave it to Civil War Gen. Joshua Chamberlain to affect Maine politics 136 years after defusing an armed Augusta standoff that could have led to civil war. Law changes made after that 1880 standoff over who would be Maine’s next governor may sink an effort to change the way the state votes in 2016. It’s a complicating factor for advocates of ranked-choice voting, who submitted enough signatures last year to place on the November 2016 ballot a question that would implement the new voting system. Ranked-choice voting would allow voters to rank candidates for governor, the Legislature and members of Congress in order of preference in multi-candidate races, creating an “instant runoff” when no single candidate receives more than 50 percent of the total vote and counting second- and third-place votes if necessary.

Maryland: Senate postpones vote on Larry Hogan’s veto of felon voting rights bill | Baltimore Sun

The Maryland Senate on Thursday postponed its attempt to override Gov. Larry Hogan’s veto of legislation that would give felons the right to vote as soon as they leave prison. Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, a Democrat, said Thursday the vote was moved to Feb. 5 to allow the chamber time to fill an open seat. Lawmakers did override five other vetoes Thursday. Two bills will change the way hotel taxes are collected, $2 million will go toward the Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts, a community arts center in House Speaker Michael E. Busch’s district, possession of a marijuana pipe will become a civil offense, not a crime and the power of police and prosecutors to seize property will be limited.

Missouri: Photo voter ID bill heard in Senate | Missouri Times

After last week’s House Elections Committee heard overwhelmingly negative testimony against a piece of photo voter ID legislation offered by Rep. Justin Alferman, the Senate had their turn to hear from opponents of the measure. While Sen. Will Kraus’, R-Lee’s Summitt, bill did receive some support from those who sought to prevent voter fraud, those who testified in opposition expressed their fears that this measure could unintentionally disenfranchise people of their fundamental right to vote. … “We can’t support any legislation that would disenfranchise a single eligible Missouri voter,” said John Scott of Secretary of State Jason Kander’s office. “The way that the legislation tries to accommodate for some of the folks that wouldn’t have that ID or have access to that ID doesn’t fully or adequately protect their right to vote.”

Editorials: Voter ID laws advance in Missouri, but what about the state’s need to comply with federal ID standards so residents can board flights? | Lewis Diuguid/The Kansas City Star

Missouri lawmakers on Wednesday took action on the wrong photo identification issue. People statewide are more interested in whether their driver’s license will be accepted in the next few months as a credible identification for them to be able to board commercial flights. U.S. Department of Homeland Security last year notified state officials that Missouri’s exemption from federal Real ID requirements will come to an end Jan. 10. That deadline passed last week. Missourians no longer will be allowed to flash their driver’s license to get into federal facilities or a nuclear power plant. State driver’s licenses — for now — still enable people to get through airport security. But that’s not expected to last unless some corrective action is taken by state officials. So what does the Missouri House do instead? It approved two bills that will force state voters to show a photo ID to cast ballots in elections. One voter restriction bill would amend the state Constitution — with voter approval — to require a photo ID in polling places on Election Days. The Missouri Supreme Court in 2006 ruled that an earlier voter ID law was unconstitutional.

North Carolina: Lawyers return to court to argue voter ID case | Digital Journal

The legal battle over a new law requiring North Carolina voters to show a photo ID at the polls will head to federal court on Monday, just six weeks before early voting is set to begin in the state’s presidential primary. The photo ID requirement is perhaps the best-known provision of the Voter Information Verification Act (VIVA), a sweeping overhaul of North Carolina election law signed into law by Gov. Pat McCrory in August 2013. Beginning in 2016, it requires voters to show one of government-issued photo IDs in order to vote, or sign an affidavit stating a “reasonable impediment” prevented them from getting an ID. Attorneys representing the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP are suing to overturn ID requirement, claiming it creates an unfair burden for poor, elderly and minority voters.

Cambodia: National Election Committee Addressing ID Challenges | Khmer Times

The National Election Committee (NEC) is confronting challenges this week regarding new voter registration, paying particularly close attention to problems arising from the dissemination of new voter ID cards and allowing better access to monks who wish to obtain them. In an internal meeting yesterday, NEC spokesman Hang Puthea said that one of the problems with the voter ID cards is that obtaining one takes too much time. The NEC plans to continue discussions with the Interior Ministry in order to come up with solutions to that problem, such as allowing birth certificates to stand in for the cards. “We need solutions because people that have old ID cards will see them expire in 2018,” Mr. Puthea said. “They won’t be able to use them to register to vote. We will continue to talk with the ministry about the people who don’t have ID cards. They should use their birth certificates.”

Japan: Lower House passes bill to preserve voting rights for new electors | The Japan Times

The Lower House on Thursday passed a bill to enable people aged 18 or 19 to vote in the upcoming Upper House election even if they change their address shortly before the ballot. While the country is set to lower its voting age to 18 from 20 on June 19, some 70,000 of the 2.4 million new voters were expected to become ineligible to vote as the current election system shuts out those who change their address less than three months before the election.