Connecticut: Automatic voter registration is eyed for DMV | The Berlin Citizen

Legislation proposed by Secretary of the State Denise Merrill would allow voters to automatically register at the state Department of Motor Vehicles. Merrill, a Democrat, said the initiative could add over 400,000 people to the voter registration rolls by making the process “easy and accessible.” Registering voters or keeping people’s registration information up to date when they move is a “point of frustration,” she said Monday. “We have the technology to run an easier, more efficient and cost-effective system.” she said. Under the plan, a person would be automatically registered to vote after conducting business at the DMV, unless they decide to opt out. Information necessary for voter registration, such as age and place of residence, would be collected from drivers’ licenses. The state would determine if the person is eligible to vote. If so, they would be automatically registered as a non-affiliated voter. The person could still register with a political party, but would not be able to do so at the DMV.

Editorials: DMV Voter Registration Great — If Agency Can Handle It | Hartford Courant

In theory, Secretary of the State Denise Merrill’s proposed legislation to set up an “automatic, permanent” voter registration system in Connecticut sounds great — if the state is ready to take it on. In a democracy, the more people registered and voting, the better. Under Ms. Merrill’s plan, eligible people who interact with the Department of Motor Vehicles would be automatically registered to vote unless they don’t want to be. With 600,000 eligible but unregistered citizens in Connecticut, there is a fertile field to plow. As Ms. Merrill explains, the information a person gives at the DMV would automatically “populate” a voter registration form. An “e-signature” program would permit an electronic signature to be collected so that the person could certify U.S. citizenship, accept or refuse to register to vote (it’s an opt-out system), and affiliate with a political party, or not. The registration applications would then be electronically transmitted to the appropriate registrars of voters.

Georgia: Lawsuit accuses Secretary of State of illegally removing voters from rolls | Atlanta Journal Constitution

A federal lawsuit has accused Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp of illegally bumping Georgia voters off the state’s rolls ahead of the 2016 presidential election. Kemp’s office has denied the claim. The suit filed by the Georgia NAACP and government watchdog group Common Cause said the state is violating the National Voter Registration Act because of its longtime practice of sending “confirmation of address” notices to voters who haven’t cast a ballot in three years — and removing them from active status if they eventually do not respond. “People have a right to vote and they also have a constitutional right not to vote,” said attorney Emmet J. Bondurant, who is representing the groups. Federal law, he said, does not allow state officials to demand confirmation of address if they have no reason to believe a voter has moved other than that they have not cast a ballot.

Guam: Federal government asks judge to dismiss voting case | Pacific Daily News

The federal government is asking an Illinois federal judge to throw out a case challenging how voter rights are extended to the territories, saying the plaintiffs’ issue should be with the state, not the feds. Guam resident and National Guard Staff Sgt. Luis Segovia and five others — plus two veterans groups — filed a lawsuit in November 2015 saying they were unconstitutionally deprived of their rights to participate abroad in Illinois elections. All of the plaintiffs are former Illinois residents. They have targeted the federal Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act and the Illinois Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act. Those laws allow military members and overseas citizens to participate in Illinois elections even if they live outside the United States. However, the law defines the United States to include the territories of Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Kansas: Thwarted By The Courts, Kris Kobach Finds Yet Another Way To Restrict Voting | TPM

Kris Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state with a long history of pushing a stridently conservative agenda on voting rights and immigration, is back in the news again — this time, for the actions of one of his former underlings. Late last month, Kobach was granted permission by the newly-appointed executive director of a federal voting commission to require proof of citizenship in order to register to vote. The decision — issued unilaterally by Brian Newby, who previously worked under Kobach as an elections official in Kansas’ largest county — was a major surprise that was done without the say of the members of the U.S. Elections Assistance Commission (EAC), which had rejected Kobach’s request for the change twice before. The revised EAC guidance represented a major win for Kobach, who had been stymied by the courts in his efforts to fully implement his state’s proof-of-citizenship requirement. It is a blow to voting rights advocates who have opposed proof of citizenship requirements on the grounds that procuring the necessary documents will make ballot access harder people who are perfectly eligible to vote.

Maryland: Democrats barraged with hate mail, calls after expanding felon voting rights | The Washington Post

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s pointed attacks on Democrats who overturned his veto of expanded voting rights for felons appear to have tapped into a current of anger among some state residents, who are sending hate mail and making threatening phone calls to lawmakers who voted for the override. Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) read excerpts of letters his office has received since the Senate voted last week on the felon voting rights bill, which will allow felons to vote while they are on probation or parole. “You need to check yourself, you moron,” one letter said. “You are only selfish fools.” At least one senator who voted for the override said his office received a call from a man who said he hoped that the senator’s wife and daughter would be raped and murdered.

Montana: Report details challenges facing Indian voters | Great Falls Tribune

Conditions such as distance, health, weather, income and a history of discrimination in voting are some of the reasons why satellite offices on American Indian reservations would help with late registration and in-person absentee voting, according to a recent study prepared for two Indian voting rights groups. The 47-page study, “An analysis of factors that result in vote denial for American Indian voters living on reservations in Montana,” has been forwarded to Secretary of State Linda McCulloch by Four Directions and the Indian People’s Actions. The report was commissioned shortly after McCulloch issued a directive Oct. 19 that Montana counties must establish satellite voting offices for in-person absentee voting and later-voter registration for the 2016 general election. Bret Healy, a consultant with Four Directions, a South Dakota-based Indian voting rights organization, said the report is a comprehensive look at the reservations and encouraged counties to read it.

North Carolina: Scalia’s death could have quick impact on redistricting case | News & Observer

As the political battles heated up over who should replace Justice Antonin Scalia on the U.S. Supreme Court, lawyers familiar with North Carolina’s redistricting case and other high-profile lawsuits took time on Sunday to weigh what impact the conservative jurist’s death might have on their cases. The North Carolina redistricting case, which invalidated the state’s 1st and 12th congressional districts, is one that could see a different outcome now, legal analysts speculate. Some analysts say Scalia’s death makes it much more likely that North Carolina’s March 15 primary elections will be delayed – at least in the congressional races. Until a new justice is appointed – and U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has promised a delay for anyone President Barack Obama nominates – there could be a succession of 4-to-4 vote standoffs among the remaining justices. In such cases where there is a tie, the lower court ruling stands as if the high court had never heard the case.

North Carolina: Carved-up county braces for redistricting fight | Associated Press

Mary Hodgin lives in North Carolina’s 1st Congressional District. Her neighbors across the street do not. In fact, Hodgin didn’t live in this district until a few years ago — even though she’s been in the same Durham home for 25 years. The change came when Republican lawmakers drew the dividing line right down the mile-long stretch of Alston Avenue in front of her house. And, with the March 15 primary just weeks away, a court fight could change the boundaries again. “It’s very concerning as a voter who tries to stay abreast of the issues,” she said. “Worst-case scenario, it would put voters off from participating in any election.” Durham County had been part of a single congressional district for more than a decade until legislative mapmakers carved out chunks and added them to other territories before the 2012 elections. A color-coded map by state legislators makes the 1st District look like a yellow fist reaching in to scoop up downtown Durham and the surrounding neighborhoods. The county is now divided among four congressional districts.

North Carolina: Legislature to begin work on new congressional maps Monday | News & Observer

The state legislature will hold meetings starting Monday to draft new congressional maps in response to a court order, House Speaker Tim Moore announced Friday afternoon. Moore and Senate leader Phil Berger said in a news release that they still hope the U.S. Supreme Court will issue a stay that allows them to avoid a lower court’s deadline next week to produce new maps. But the court doesn’t act, the full House and Senate will return to Raleigh on Thursday and Friday for a rare special session. “Due to the extremely tight deadline imposed on us by the federal trial court, we are being forced to hope for the best but prepare for the worst,” Rep. David Lewis and Sen. Bob Rucho said in a joint statement. “Hopefully, this is an unnecessary exercise since the overwhelming majority of times our redistricting plans have been reviewed, they have been validated as fair, legal and constitutional – and we remain confident that the U.S. Supreme Court will issue a stay.”n U.S. District Judges William Osteen of Greensboro and Max Cogburn of Asheville along with U.S. Circuit Judge Roger Gregory of Virginia ruled last week that the GOP-led legislature relied too heavily on race to draw the boundaries for the 12th and 1st Congressional Districts.

South Carolina: Election Commission wants $41.5 million for new voting machines | The State

Before hundreds of thousands of S.C. Republican voters head to the polls Saturday for their party’s presidential primary, poll workers will be setting out roughly 13,000 voting machines that were purchased more than a decade ago — in 2004. Those machines have a life expectancy of about 15 years, meaning they should be OK Saturday. However, the S.C. Election Commission is asking lawmakers for $41.5 million for a new voting machines. “We’re still confident in our current voting system,” said Election Commission spokesman Chris Whitmire. But, Whitmire added, the voting machines are kind of like a family car — it’s not a good idea to wait until it breaks down to start the search for a replacement.

South Carolina: Confusion over ID law could keep voters away | MSNBC

Voting rights advocates say confusion around South Carolina’s voter ID law could keep would-be voters from the polls in the state’s pivotal Democratic primary later this month. And they claim Republican state officials, including Gov. Nikki Haley, are in part to blame. It’s impossible to say how significant the law’s impact might be when Democrats cast their ballots on February 27. But the concerns highlight how even relatively lax laws around photo IDs and voting can nonetheless end up suppressing the vote if they’re poorly understood by voters and poll workers. South Carolina could play a key role in the Democratic contest, in which Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are in a heated battle. In 2008, black voters, who could be disproportionately affected by the ID law, made up over half of all voters in the state’s Democratic primary. This year, polls suggest blacks in the state favor Clinton, but Sanders has been working to make inroads.

Central African Republic: Central Africans cast their ballots for peace | Reuters

Central Africans wrapped up voting to elect new democratic leadership on Sunday, determined to turn the page on years of bloodshed that has killed thousands and split the impoverished nation along religious and ethnic lines. One of the world’s most chronically unstable countries, Central African Republic was pitched into the worst crisis in its history in early 2013 when mainly Muslim Seleka fighters toppled President Francois Bozize. Christian militias responded to Seleka abuses by attacking the Muslim minority community. One in five Central Africans has fled, either internally or abroad, to escape the violence.

New Zealand: Is internet voting secure enough to use? | Radio New Zealand

Serious weaknesses exposed in an online election in Australia are a warning for upcoming New Zealand local body elections, a computer security expert is warning. Eight councils throughout New Zealand are due to trial online voting in local body elections later this year: Selwyn, Wellington, Porirua, Masterton, Rotorua, Matamata Piako, Palmerston North and Whanganui. University of Melbourne computing expert Vanessa Teague did an analysis of the iVote internet voting system used in the New South Wales (NSW) state election last year, and she and the University of Michigan’s Alex Halderman have found a way to break into the system and interfere with votes. She told Nine To Noon there had been a lot of assurances about the safety of the system, and she wanted to test it and see if this was true.

Uganda: Electoral Officials to Meet Poll Observers Ahead of Vote | VoA News

Uganda’s electoral commission plans to meet with both local and international poll observers on Monday ahead of the February 18 presidential, parliamentary and local elections. The electoral officials say they will brief the poll monitors about preparations made so far to ensure the polls are free, transparent and credible. They also said the electoral commission would seek to inform the poll observers what is expected of them during the elections. The electoral body has so far approved about 2,000 poll observers who would be deployed across the country to monitor the elections. “They have been coming in to pay courtesy calls to also ask a few preliminary questions. They have been around so we think they also have notes they have made through their observations since we accredited them, and on Monday we will share with them and to learn something from them,” said Jotham Taremwa, spokesman for the electoral commission. “