Central African Republic: Elections to Go Ahead Sunday in Central African Republic | Associated Press

Central African Republic’s long awaited presidential runoff vote will go forward Sunday alongside a second attempt at credible legislative elections, election authorities said as the two top candidates campaigned outside the capital Wednesday. The nation recovering from several years of intense communal violence between Muslims and Christians must now choose between two former prime ministers — both Christians. The presidential runoff vote has been delayed several times already, raising concerns about whether Sunday’s polls would go forward. Commission President Marie-Madéleine N’Kouet Hoornaert confirmed the voting will be held as scheduled

National: Can Edward Snowden vote in the 2016 elections? | The Daily Dot

Edward Snowden is the world’s most wanted man. He faces charges related to espionage and theft of government property for leaking classified NSA documents to journalists. He is actively evading U.S. law enforcement by living under asylum in Russia. So, can he still vote in the 2016 election? Absolutely, yes, according to Ben Wizner, leading U.S. attorney for Snowden and director of the Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project at the American Civil Liberties Union. “There’s no legal basis whatsoever for depriving Edward Snowden of the right to vote. The short answer is: He’s eligible,” Wizner told the Daily Dot when asked about Snowden’s voter status. “There’s no legal basis whatsoever for depriving Edward Snowden of the right to vote. He’s been convicted of no crime, much less one that would strip him of his civil rights.”

National: How Polling Station Design Could Influence Elections | Co.Design

Today, an estimated half a million people in New Hampshire will go to the polls to vote in the Republican and Democratic primaries, and in the weeks ahead, many other Americans will vote as well. Depending on where you live, you’re guaranteed to get a totally different voting experience compared to someone in another state, or even another county. That’s because the physical design of polling stations varies wildly across the U.S.: they’re located in libraries, civic centers, grocery stores, and other random places, and there isn’t a universal set of rules that tells officials how to set up polling stations. But new research suggests that the design of polling stations is critical to the voting process—and if we don’t design these places well, some people may decide not to vote. Just like an ATM machine or public transportation, polling stations are systems, and their poor or great design could influence whether voters use them. When people deal with a badly designed system—one that’s inconvenient, confusing, or takes too much time—they might make mistakes or avoid the system altogether. The problem with polling stations is that people can’t just switch to a different location—they have to use the one to which they’re assigned (unless they vote by mail). Rice University researchers Claudia Acemyan and Phil Kortum say this all-or-nothing situation, along with a poorly designed system, could disenfranchise people. Since there currently aren’t general design standards for polling places, they’ve set out to create a set of guidelines, based on science.

National: UCSD researchers: Voter ID laws hurt Democrats, minorities | San Diego Union Tribune

Researchers from the University of California San Diego have created a new statistical model indicating that voter identification laws do what detractors claim — reduce turnout for minorities and those on the political left. Overall, the researchers found, strict ID laws cause a reduction in Democratic turnout by 8.8 percentage points, compared to a reduction of 3.6 percentage points for Republicans. The study focused on the 11 states with the strictest voter ID laws, generally requiring photo identification to cast a ballot. Researchers used a large voter survey database to compare turnout in those states to those in states with lesser or no ID requirements. Several states have passed less strict ID laws. But in 17 states including California, New York and Illinois, a more traditional honor system still applies at the ballot box.

National: Clinton Allies Forming Group to Protect, Register Voters | The New York Times

Allies of Hillary Clinton are forming a new $25 million political organization aimed at expanding voter protection efforts and driving turnout and registration among Latino and black voters essential to her Democratic presidential campaign. The new group, Every Citizen Counts, is beginning its work as Clinton faces a stronger-than-expected challenge from Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, whose overwhelming victory in Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary has set off new worries among Democrats that Sanders may soon cut into Clinton’s advantage with black and Hispanic voters. The non-partisan organization will focus on legislation, litigation, voter registration and turnout among black and Latino communities in the general election. It was formed in August and has recently begun developing partnerships with other organizations to expand voter education, registration, protection and turnout.

Florida: Lee elections website hacking involves elections supervisor candidate | News-Press

State law enforcement officials served a search warrant Monday morning in the investigation of two men accused of hacking the Lee County supervisor of elections website. “There was an attempted hacking of the website, but this is an ongoing investigation,” said Vicki Collins, spokeswoman for the Lee County Supervisor of Elections. “The info they accessed was an old server with no (useful) information on it … Nobody is compromised.” Dan Sinclair is running for supervisor position against the incumbent Supervisor of Elections Sharon Harrington. He appeared in a video of the hacking posted to YouTube with David Levin, CEO of Vanguard Cybersecurity, walking through how Levin hacked into the Lee elections website a couple of weeks ago.

Maryland: Voting Rights Restored for 40,000 Felons | The Atlantic

The Maryland General Assembly restored Tuesday the right to vote for more than 40,000 released felons, overriding a veto by Governor Larry Hogan. Maryland’s Senate approved the bill on a narrow 29-18 vote, while the state House of Delegates voted 85-56 in favor of it on January 20. Under the state’s previous laws, felons regained the right to vote after completing their entire sentence, including probation or parole. The new law restores voting rights to felons who are no longer imprisoned, but are still under probation or parole. About 44,000 Marylanders will regain their vote under the new law, according to the Washington Post. The law goes into effect in 30 days, just over one month before the state’s primary elections on April 26.

Massachusetts: Thousands of voters confused by ‘independent’ party name | Boston Globe

Massachusetts election officials believe thousands of people who thought they had registered to vote as an independent in fact registered as a member of the United Independent Party. The mixup could mean that those people are not able to vote for any candidates in the high-profile presidential primary on March 1. Anyone who mistakenly registered in the fledging party would have to change their party status by Wednesday, February 10. Secretary of the Commonwealth William F. Galvin said officials noticed an “inexplicable increase” in new members of the United Independent Party, or UIP, about a month ago. Many of these people were more casual voters, Galvin said, who were registering for the first time or online.

New Hampshire: State relies on a mix of new and old voting systems | Los Angeles Times

After Curtis Hines marked his paper ballot for Bernie Sanders on Tuesday, he brought it to the ballot box where his father, Patrick, cranked the handle to feed it in. “Ding!” The vote was counted. This was state-of-the-art technology – in 1892. But there’s no need for anything newer in this town of 198 people, the second smallest in New Hampshire. Its 127 registered voters are casting ballots in the same 12-by-16-inch wooden box that voters used in the Granite State’s first presidential primary 100 years ago. The controversy over so-called butterfly ballots in Florida during the disputed 2000 presidential election led to a major overhaul in voting equipment in many states, prompted by an infusion of federal dollars as part of the Help Americans Vote Act, or HAVA. Many of the new voting systems featured technology that officials thought would help restore confidence in elections at a critical point. New Hampshire, though, saw little need for wholesale change.

New Mexico: Voter fraud claims lead to fight over legal fees | Albuquerque Journal

Just months into her stint as New Mexico secretary of state, Dianna Duran made Fox News, The Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times after announcing her office had discovered more than three dozen foreign nationals had fraudulently voted in New Mexico elections. “This culture of corruption that has given all New Mexicans a black eye is unacceptable,” Duran was quoted as saying in a March 2011 press release. But a protracted public records lawsuit filed by the ACLU of New Mexico revealed no voter fraud lists existed, although other records were produced. And now taxpayers may be on the hook for more than $90,000 in attorney fees and costs awarded to ACLU lawyers who won the case.

North Carolina: Chief justice gives critics of election maps a week to respond | McClatchy DC

North Carolina’s civil war over its election map will stretch on for at least another week – raising more questions about whether the state’s March 15 primary takes place as scheduled. Tuesday night, Gov. Pat McCrory and other state leaders asked Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts to set aside a lower court order that found portions of the state’s congressional district map unconstitutional. The three-judge panel also gave the state until a week from Friday to come up with a new map. Wednesday afternoon, Roberts responded. He gave the plaintiffs in the case, including retired Charlotte-Mecklenburg school teacher Christine Bowser, until next Tuesday to respond to the state’s request for a delay. State lawyers have argued that with the primary about a month away – and with absentee ballots already being returned – any changes will throw the upcoming election into turmoil. Yet without any guarantees on when and how Roberts or the full court will rule, McCrory may be compelled to call the legislature into special session next week to meet the lower court deadline for new maps. “The timing of this process practically means the state needs to prepare … a new map, just in case the (earlier) order is upheld,” said Kareem Clayton, a Vanderbilt University election law expert who has followed the North Carolina case.

North Carolina: She’s 86. She can’t get a photo ID. Look at the voter fraud we’ve prevented | The Charlotte Observer

Reba Bowser seems like the kind of person North Carolina Republicans might want on their side this November. She’s 86 years old. She’s a staunch Republican. She’s been a faithful voter since the Eisenhower administration, missing only the most recent election after moving from New Hampshire to western North Carolina to be close to her son’s family. “Both my parents, they voted in every election,” that son, Ed Bowser, says. “My grandparents did, too. They took this seriously.” So this month, with the North Carolina primary approaching, Reba wanted to make sure she could vote again. She needed to register, and she needed a valid photo ID, because beginning this year, North Carolina is requiring one to vote. Last week, Ed helped her gather the papers the state said she needed for that ID. They decided to make an event of the process – a celebration of democracy. They went out to lunch. They filled out her voter registration form. They took a happy photo. On Monday, they went to the Department of Motor Vehicles in west Asheville. There, they laid out all of Reba’s paperwork for a DMV official – her birth record from Pennsylvania, her Social Security card, the New Hampshire driver’s license she let expire because she no longer wanted to drive. But there was a problem. When Reba got married in 1950, she had her name legally changed. Like millions upon millions of women, she swapped out her middle name for her maiden name.

Editorials: The redistricting case: Dump the districts, but not until after elections | Winston-Salem Journal

North Carolina’s congressional map belongs in the trash. But practical necessity argues for keeping it for one more election. A panel of federal judges ruled Friday that the legislature violated the U.S. Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause when it, in 2011, drew the 1st and 12th congressional districts [the latter of which takes in a large part of our area]. It ordered the legislature to fix them by Feb. 19. With absentee voting already begun ahead of the March 15 primary, and because changes to one district affect districts that border it, the remedy is disruptive. Yet the judges were right to point to the harm done by partisan politicians’ cynical manipulations. “Unfettered gerrymandering is negatively impacting our republican form of government,” Judge Max O. Cogburn Jr. wrote in a concurring opinion. “Elections should be decided through a contest of issues, not skillful mapmaking.”

West Virginia: House Judiciary Committee moves controversial voter ID bill forward | WV MetroNews

The House Judiciary Committee moved a controversial bill forward Wednesday afternoon that would require a photo ID at polling places. The 15-8 party line vote was met with strong opinions on both sides during public hearing, with GOP supporters maintaining the measure is necessary to prevent fraud. Democrats contend that the bill would only hurt senior citizens who may not possess a photo ID. “It’s clear to me that this isn’t about voter fraud. This is about voter suppression; that’s exactly what this is about,” said Del. Shawn Fluharty (D-Ohio).

Australia: Northern Territory Adopts Optional Preferential Voting and Bans Campaigning Near Polling Places | ABC Elections

The Northern Territory Parliament yesterday passed legislation that will dramatically change the face of elections in the Northern Territory. I outlined the provisions of the bill in a blog post in January (you can find the post here), but the two provisions with significant political consequences are a switch from full to optional preferential voting, and a ban on posters, how-to-votes, handbills and all forms of campaigning within 100 metres of a polling place. The original bill included a 500 metre ban, reduced to a more practical 100 metres by government amendment in the debate. The ban will remove what locals call ‘the gauntlet’, the tunnel of posters and party workers thrusting how-to-vote material at voters outside polling places. From my own personal observation, campaigning outside polling places is more vigorous in the Northern Territory than in any other Australian jurisdiction.

Iran: Grandson of Khomeini fails election appeal | Al Arabiya

Hassan Khomeini, grandson of the founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran, said Wednesday he had lost an appeal against his exclusion from elections for the powerful Assembly of Experts. “Based on news we have received, Sayyad Hassan Khomeini’s qualification for candidacy for the Assembly of Experts has once again not been approved by the Guardian Council,” he wrote on instant messaging service Telegram. The Guardian Council, a conservative-dominated committee that decides who can run for public office, has barred hundreds of candidates from standing for the assembly on February 26, the same day as parliamentary polls.

Pakistan: UN expert advises Pakistan should not move to electronic voting system before 2023 | The Express Tribune

A leading United Nations expert on electoral technology has advised Pakistan’s top polls supervisory body against completely moving to an electronic voting system before 2023. Ronan McDermott was speaking on ‘Use of Technology in Elections’ — with particular focus on electronic voting machines (EVMs) and biometrics — jointly organised by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and the United Nations Development Programme. Members of the parliamentary committee on electoral reforms attended the session, during which the UN expert presented a global view of the merits and demerits of the main electoral technologies, and shared comparative experience on their adoptio

Uganda: Opposition Candidate: Only Intimidation, Vote Buying Can Prevent Victory | VoA News

One week before Uganda’s February 18 presidential and parliamentary elections, main opposition candidate Kizza Besigye of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), says he fears voter bribery could be one of the obstacles to his victory. Besigye ran against President Museveni in three previous elections: 2001, 2006, and 2011. Earlier this week, Ugandan government spokesman Ofwono Opondo said the ruling party, the National Resistance Movement (NRM), will once again deflate what he called the Besigye “bravado” on election day. Besigye said given the extremely high enthusiasm Ugandans have shown toward his campaign, perhaps Opondo was referring to the three previous elections that, he said, the government stole from him.