National: Scalia’s absence could shape election rules | Politico

Justice Antonin Scalia’s death is certain to have an impact on the political debate in this year’s elections, but it could also have a far more direct effect on the elections themselves. There are numerous challenges to Republican-led congressional redistricting plans and new voter ID laws likely to come under Supreme Court scrutiny. Scalia had been a reliable vote for allowing such redistricting plans and voting rules. A new justice nominated by President Barack Obama and confirmed by the Senate would almost certainly shift the court in the direction of stricter voting rights enforcement and a greater willingness to take account of race when considering redistricting and election law matters. But the more likely scenario in the near term — deadlock over Scalia’s replacement — could have a similar effect by leaving the court less likely to come up with the five votes required to set precedents on such matters and to issue emergency stays in challenges to last-minute voter ID and election-law changes coming up from lower courts.

National: Google wants you to be able to vote online | Computerworld

Like the idea of using Google to vote online for the best airline, steamed dumpling or health app? What about using Google to vote for governor or president? That seems to be Google’s plan. The search giant received a U.S. patent for a voting user interface (VUI). The interface would appear along with search results and would allow the user to vote for one or more contestants competing in a campaign. The patent application was filed on Oct. 30, 2013, and the patent was awarded to Google on Tuesday. What does the company plan to do with the technology? Google did not respond to a request for comment.

Editorials: Florida needs open primary | Tampa Bay Times

First the good news: Tens of thousands of voters in Florida are rushing to register as Democrats or Republicans to have their voices heard in the upcoming presidential primary. But these voters don’t identify with the two major parties, and forcing them to pick sides only reinforces an antiquated and disenfranchising elections system. Florida needs to adopt an open primary to fully and fairly bring these voters into the political process. As the Tampa Bay Times’ Steve Bousquet reported Wednesday, nonpartisan voters scrambled to meet Tuesday’s registration deadline to vote in the state’s presidential primary March 15. Florida is the largest of 13 states that still have closed primaries, meaning that only Democrats and Republicans can vote in those parties’ nomination races.

Idaho: Democrats object to state-funded primary election billboards | The Spokesman-Review

The Idaho Democratic Party is protesting a statewide, 22-billboard voter education campaign launched by the Idaho Secretary of State’s office for the upcoming March 8 presidential primary, because the billboards don’t indicate that the election is just for the Republican and Constitution parties. Bert Marley, Idaho Democratic Party chairman, called the billboards “misleading and inaccurate,” and demanded that Secretary of State Lawerence Denney alter them by Monday. Denney’s office says it’s not planning any change in the $20,000 billboard campaign. The billboards say “Official Information” at the top, with a large “Idaho Votes” logo in the center, with the web address Across the bottom in large red letters, the billboards say, “Presidential Primary March 8.”

New Mexico: Bill expanding primary voting rights to some 17-year-olds heads to governor | The Santa Fe New Mexican

Certain 17-year-olds would be able to vote in primary elections under a bill now on its way to Gov. Susana Martinez. The measure would allow 17-year-olds to vote in the primary if they will turn 18 before the general election. Rep. Jeff Steinborn, D-Las Cruces, has sponsored the bill for three years as a way to interest younger people in government and politics. His earlier attempts cleared the House of Representatives, but Wednesday was the first time the proposal made it through the Senate.
Senators voted for the measure 24-16. House members approved it 10 days ago in a 41-26 vote.

North Carolina: Republicans propose major changes to congressional districts | News & Observer

Republican legislators’ proposed changes to North Carolina’s congressional boundaries dramatically reshape two districts a panel of federal judges found unconstitutional. But the proposed map also changes each of the state’s 13 congressional districts, some of them strikingly. Two House members would no longer live in the districts they represent, although by law that isn’t necessary. The 13th District, now anchored in the Triangle, would move across the state. And the serpentine 12th District would become the most compact. But one thing would not change. According to voting statistics released for the proposed districts, three would strongly favor a Democrat, while the other 10 lean Republican. GOP lawmakers say they want to keep the existing 10-3 partisan split.

Ohio: Proposed constitutional amendment would require automatic voter registration tied to driver’s l Twinsburg Bulletin

A group has submitted initial petition language to the attorney general’s office for a proposed constitutional amendment requiring automatic voter registration when Ohioans apply for or renew their driver’s licenses. The Ohio Motor Voter Automatic Registration amendment would register new voters and update existing ones, unless residents opt out in writing. A summary of the amendment notes that bureaus of motor vehicles already are required to ask whether patrons want to register to vote or change their voter status. The amendment would make the registrations mandatory.

South Carolina: How Will South Carolina’s Voter ID Law Affect the Democratic Primary? | Pacific Standard

Coming out of turbulent electoral contests in New Hampshire and Iowa, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton now have their sights set on South Carolina. But both campaigns face a potentially major roadblock: Some of their most loyal supporters may not be able to cast their votes. MSNBC reports that “confusion” over South Carolina’s new voter ID laws could keep thousands of citizens away from the polls. The new measure, which voting rights advocates claim was introduced in response to the record turnout among African Americans and Hispanics in the 2008 elections, requires voters to present an accepted form of photo identification unless they’re burdened by a “reasonable impediment,” like lack of transportation or family responsibilities. After a lengthy legal battle with the Department of Justice over whether the new measure constituted a disproportionate burden in the run-up to the 2012 elections, the law went into effect in 2013. But, according to the state, there are at least 178,000 primarily non-white South Carolinians who don’t carry any form of identification the law requires.

Wisconsin: Assembly OKs online voter registration, eliminates special registration deputies | Wisconsin State Journal

The Assembly early Wednesday morning passed a bill allowing online voter registration in Wisconsin — but which critics say will halt some voter registration drives. The bill would make Wisconsin the 31st state in which online registration is permitted, a move that has broad support. Civic groups such as League of Women Voters have assailed a controversial provision in the bill that eliminates so-called Special Registration Deputies, or SRDs, from state law. Election clerks deputize SRDs to aid civic groups in conducting registration drives at senior centers, college campuses and public events. Supporters of the bill have dismissed concerns that it will halt registration drives. With online registration, they say special registration deputies no longer will be needed because anyone could help a voter register online using tablets or other mobile devices.

Australia: Flux Party seeks to be the bitcoin of Australian politics | Reuters

A new Australian political party is using the virtual currency bitcoin as a model to replace what they say is an outdated political system – representative democracy – with a streamlined new polity for the information age. The Flux Party says its goal is to elect six senators. They will propose no policies and will not follow their consciences, but will support or block legislation at the direction of their members, who can swap or trade their votes on every bill online. “If they didn’t have to be senators, if they could just be software or robots they would be, because their only purpose is to do what the people want them to do,” Flux Party co-founder Max Kaye told Reuters in an interview. Australia is set to hold an election in September or October after a period of turmoil that brought five prime ministers in as many years.

France: Former French President Sarkozy charged over campaign funding | New Europe

The former French president Nicolas Sarkozy has been placed under investigation in a scandal over irregularities in his 2012 re-election campaign finances, dealing a serious blow to his hopes of running again in 2017. France had a ceiling on presidential campaign funding in 2012 of 22.5 million euros. The conservative Sarkozy, who was president from 2007-2012 and lost that year’s election to Socialist Francois Hollande, is accused of spending 17 million euros over that limit. Sarkozy, 61, was questioned all day on Tuesday by magistrates at the Paris financial prosecutor’s office before being notified that he was under investigation for “suspected illegal financing of an election campaign for a candidate, who went beyond the legal limit for electoral spending”. This means Sarkozy will be tied up in legal proceedings for months to come, making it hard for him to contest a center-right primary in November ahead of next year’s presidential election.

Ireland: Voting in Ireland’s general election 2016 – No Emigrants Need Apply | Irish Central

We remember the long lines at ports and airports when Irish emigrants, at great personal cost, came home to vote in the marriage equality referendum, in May 2015. The sense was of a lost tribe returning to its roots and having a say in a critical decision for the Irish people. The Irish government did not make it easy. Polling stations could have been set up in embassies and consulates, a form of postal voting could have been introduced. Instead, many trekked thousands of miles, from as far away as Australia and California, to make their vote count. Yet, as Washington expert Kevin Sullivan wrote, only about 66,000 of the 280,000 who left after the Celtic Tiger collapsed were eligible to vote leaving the emigrant Irish with a much diminished voice when it came to the battle over human rights for all.

Philippines: Oops, ballot printing delayed again | The Manila Times

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) halted the printing of ballots on Tuesday because the name of the political party of Sen. Miriam Defensor- Santiago was not included in the ballot face that bears the names of presidential candidates. “Printing was stopped because the name of the party of Santiago was missing, but printing has resumed,” Comelec Chairman Juan Andres Bautista told reporters. He did not elaborate. Director Genevieve Guevarra, head of the Comelec Printing Committee, said the error was discovered on Monday during the printing of the FTS or final testing and sealing ballots which form part of the 56,772,230 ballots that the commission will print. But Guevarra gave assurances that the glitch created no substantial wastage because only 39 FTS ballots have been printed when the error was spotted by personnel of the ballot verification team. She said printing was stopped the whole day on Tuesday.

Uganda: Ugandans start voting for president amid long delays | Reuters

Ugandans started casting their votes on Thursday to decide whether to give Yoweri Museveni, in power for three decades, another term in office. Voting at most polling stations in the capital, Kampala, was yet to start 90 minutes after the official opening of polling at 7 am local time (0400 GMT), leading to concerns among some voters. “If the voting time is reduced like this there will be many people who will not be able to vote,” said Dickson Mamber, a 34-year-old history teacher, who had been waiting in line for two hours at Muyembe polling station in Kampala. Voting at the station still had not started by 0545 GMT. All sides contesting the election accuse each other of stoking tensions and assembling vigilante groups, and the leading opposition candidates have predicted vote rigging.