A group of voting rights activists is up in arms after the executive director of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) told elections officials in three states that they could require residents to provide documented proof of U.S. citizenship when using federal forms to register to vote. On Wednesday, the coalition filed a complaint in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia asking a federal judge for a temporary restraining order blocking the changes in Alabama, Georgia and Kansas. “Voters have been using the Federal Form to register without having to comply with a documentary proof of citizenship requirement for over two decades, but the Executive Director’s sudden unilateral changes to the Federal Form – implemented without public notice – ratchet up the requirements for registering to vote at the last-minute, mere weeks before primary elections and a presidential caucus in the affected states,” according to the complaint. “Imposing such eleventh-hour restrictions on voting risks voter and election official confusion and is contrary to the public interest,” it argued.
President Obama backed a bill in Illinois last week that would automatically register people to vote when they apply for a driver’s license or state ID. “That will protect the fundamental right of everybody,” he said. “Democrats, Republicans, independents, seniors, folks with disabilities, the men and women of our military — it would make sure that it was easier for them to vote and have their vote counted.” But so far, support for automatic voter registration — now being considered in about two dozen states — has pretty much broken down along party lines. Democrats, including Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, generally think it’s a great way to expand the electorate. But Republicans are far more wary. Some say they’re worried it could expose voter rolls to mistakes and fraud. And there’s a philosophical divide, too. Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill, a Republican, says it’s important that citizens take the initiative when it comes to registering.
Voting Blogs: Justice Scalia’s Death and Implications for the 2016 Election, the Supreme Court and the Nation | Election Law Blog
Justice Antonin Scalia has died in Texas at the age of 79. Let me begin with condolences to his family, friends, and former clerks who were fiercely loyal to him (and he to them). Whatever you thought of Justice Scalia’s politics and jurisprudence, he was an American patriot, who believed in the greatness of the United States and in the strength of American courts to protect the Constitution’s values as he has seen them. He also wrote the most entertaining and interesting opinions of any Justice on the Court. I was just in the early stages of a project to evaluate Justice Scalia’s legacy, and I will have much to say later on about Justice Scalia’s impact on the judiciary where his views on constitutional originalism and new textualist statutory interpretation have have played a key role in the development of American jurisprudence and argumentation in the federal courts. But let’s begin here with the implications for the Court’s current term, its impact on the 2016 election, and on the Nation as a whole.
A federal judge Wednesday deciding against effectively suspending Alabama’s law requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls. U.S. District Judge L. Scott Coogler refused a preliminary injunction request to allow alternate means of identification for voters in the upcoming 2016 elections. Currently, a person without photo identification can vote if two poll workers sign affidavits saying they recognize and “positively identify” the voter. Greater Birmingham Ministries and the NAACP asked Coogler to expand that provision so people can vote if they provide certain identification documents without photos or information to identify themselves to poll workers.
Kansas: Judge: Wichita State statistician can’t have tapes to audit voting machines | The Wichita Eagle
A Sedgwick County judge has ruled that a Wichita State University statistician won’t get access to paper tapes from voting machines to search for fraud or mistakes. Judge Tim Lahey denied a motion by Election Commissioner Tabitha Lehman to dismiss the case brought by statistician Beth Clarkson. But that was a hollow victory for Clarkson. Her point in filing the lawsuit was to gain access to the tapes to check the accuracy of the voting machines, searching for an answer to statistical anomalies she has found in election results. The paper tapes at issue are printed by the voting machines as each voter casts a ballot. The voter can view the tape through a plastic window in the machine to verify their choices before hitting a button that records their votes. Clarkson sued last year seeking access to the tapes under the Kansas Open Records Act. Representing herself without a lawyer, she lost.
The United States Supreme Court declined late Friday to stay a lower court ruling that has forced North Carolina’s Republican-dominated legislature to redraw its congressional electoral maps on the grounds that the original maps amounted to racial gerrymandering. As a result, the state must now follow a contingency plan, also devised by Republican lawmakers, that tries to comply with the lower court’s ruling by making significant changes to the boundaries of the some of the state’s 13 congressional districts. The changes take effect less than one month before the originally scheduled March 15 primary, which has forced the legislature to set up a second election dedicated exclusively to the congressional primaries, which will now take place June 7. The contingency plan was approved by the state legislature on Friday, hours before the Supreme Court announced that it had rejected North Carolina Republicans’ application for a stay. But the approval of the contingency plan came over the strenuous objection of Democrats, who claimed that the new congressional maps were hyperpartisan — giving Republicans 10 safe districts to the Democrats’ three — and still failed to protect black voters’ interests.
Central African Republic: Ex-Prime Minister Touadera wins Central African Republic presidential vote | Reuters
Former Central African Republic prime minister Faustin-Archange Touadera has won a presidential run-off, the electoral commission said on Saturday, in what was widely seen as a step toward reconciliation after years of violent turmoil. Crowds sang and danced into the night in the streets of the capital Bangui, where many people have been killed during three years of inter-communal strife. “It’s the central African people who have won tonight,” said Max Farafei, a 32-year-old motorcycle taxi driver. “Now we all need to rally behind (Touadera) to rebuild the country.” Touadera, 58, a former mathematics professor who campaigned against corruption, won 62.71 percent of votes cast in the Feb. 14 election, according to initial results announced by National Elections Authority (ANE) president Marie-Madeleine Nkouet.
Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni won a fifth term on Saturday, extending his three-decade rule in a vote rejected as fraudulent by an opposition leader under house arrest and criticised by the international community. The veteran 71-year-old won 60 percent of the vote in the sometimes chaotic elections, far ahead of the 35 percent garnered by detained opposition chief Kizza Besigye, whose house was surrounded by dozens of armed police in riot gear. Large numbers of police and troops have been deployed on the streets of the capital Kampala, which appeared calm immediately after the widely expected victory for Museveni was declared. Besigye slammed the results as a fraud, saying in a message to the international community: “Should you ratify the results of these sham elections, at least have the courage to admit that you do not care about democracy or human rights in Africa.”
As John Oliver discussed on his HBO program Sunday, many states have passed laws in recent years making it more difficult to cast a ballot. Yet there is no sign that actual voter participation has decreased. University of Michigan political scientists Nicholas Valentino and Fabian Neunerhave come up with a psychological explanation for this disconnect. They argue that news of such laws—which are widely seen as attempts by Republican legislatures to reduce voting of predominantly Democrat poorer voters—infuriates people on the political left, making them more likely to go to the polls.
Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott on Wednesday declined a request by Alaska Democrats to allow candidates not affiliated with a political party to run in the Democratic primary. State law requires a candidate seeking a party’s nomination to be a registered voter of that party. State party chair Casey Steinau has said that Democrats believe the law is unconstitutional and unenforceable based on research done by attorneys for the party. But Mallott, in a letter to Steinau, said it’s up to a court to decide whether a law is ultimately constitutional. The state intends to follow the law as it stands, said Mallott, who oversees elections in the state and said he consulted with Alaska’s Department of Law.
A judge will hear arguments on Friday from an Illinois voter alleging that Republican presidential hopeful Ted Cruz is not a “natural-born citizen” and should be disqualified for the party’s nomination. Lawrence Joyce, an Illinois voter who has objected to Cruz’s placement on the Illinois primary ballot next month, will have his case heard in the Circuit Court of Cook County in Chicago. Joyce’s previous objection, made to the state’s Board of Elections, was dismissed on February 1. He appealed the decision and was granted a hearing for Friday before Judge Maureen Ward Kirby. Joyce challenges Cruz’s right to be president in the wake of questions put forth by GOP rival Donald Trump about being born in Canada. Cruz maintains he is a natural-born citizen since his mother is American-born.
Indiana: Cruz, Rubio presidential candidacies face citizenship challenges in Indiana | Indianapolis Star
Republican presidential candidates Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio are facing challenges alleging they don’t qualify for the Indiana primary ballot because they aren’t “natural born citizens.” The Indiana Election Commission is scheduled to take up those challenges Friday, along with the question of whether U.S. Senate candidate Todd Young submitted enough signatures to qualify for the May 3 primary ballot. Most legal scholars agree that Cruz and Rubio meet the U.S. Constitution’s eligibility requirement. Cruz was born in Canada to an American mother and a Cuban father, while Rubio was born in Florida to Cuban immigrants.
The American Civil Liberties Union sued Kansas officials on Thursday over what it calls illegal demands for additional proof of citizenship for people trying to register to vote when they renewed or applied for drivers’ licenses. In a suit filed in federal court, the ACLU claimed that more than 35,000 potential voters were blocked over two years from voting because of the additional hurdle – or nearly 14 percent of all new registrants. The Kansas law requiring documents like a birth certificate or U.S. passport for voter registration, which took effect Jan. 1, 2013, is one of numerous voter ID laws passed by Republican-led state legislatures in recent years. The ACLU alleges that Kansas goes beyond what is required by federal law.
Maine: New accessible voting system will accommodate voters with disabilities | The Portland Press Herald
The state will debut new voting devices during the June primaries that will make it easier for voters with disabilities to cast secret ballot. The ExpressVote system has a video display screen and built-in ballot printer. It’s both audio and visual, allowing a voter to make selections by touching the screen or using a controller that has different-shaped colored buttons with Braille labels. Before this new device was chosen by the Secretary of State’s Bureau of Corporations, Elections and Commissions, towns used a phone line that allows voters with disabilities to listen to an audio ballot and select the choices by pressing a button. A few hundred voters used those devices, according to Julie Flynn, deputy secretary of state. She hopes the ExpressVote system will attract many more potential voters. “I think it’s more intuitive,” she said. “I don’t think it takes as much instruction as the one we had.”
New York: Board of Elections receives flurry of ‘natural-born’ objections to Rubio, Cruz | Times Union
The state Board of Elections has received three objections contesting the “natural-born” citizenship of presidential candidates and U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz and/or Marco Rubio submitted in hopes of knocking them off the April 19 Republican primary ballot. Cruz was born in Canada, though his mother was a U.S. citizen (his father was at the time a Cuban citizen); Cruz finally shed his Canadian dual citizenship in 2014. Rubio was born in Miami, though neither of his parents were at the time naturalized U.S. citizens. Gregory-John Fischer of Suffolk County, who objected to Cruz, noted in his one-page complaint that “the willful 2014 Canadian citizenship of Ted Cruz highlights his conflicted dual-citizenship (and possibly mixed loyalties)” that underscores what Fischer sees as the intent of the framers of the Article 2 of the Constitution.
The drama around the state’s congressional districts got a confusing new chapter Thursday with a proposed reshuffling of the state’s primary elections. The state House voted not to proceed with the congressional primary March 15 and instead hold it June 7, effectively hitting the restart button on those campaigns. All other issues on the ballot – including races for governor and a statewide $2 billion bond issue – still would be decided March 15. But in a major change, the House proposal also said no runoff elections would be held in March or June. Currently, if no candidate gets 40 percent of the vote, a second primary is held. But if this change is enacted, the final winner would be the top vote-getter in the initial vote this year, no matter how many candidates compete.
A three-judge panel has decided a new option for choosing members of the North Carolina Supreme Court is unconstitutional. Lawyers were alerted Thursday to the judges’ ruling striking down the 2015 law creating “retention elections.” The Superior Court judges — Anna Mills Wagoner, Lisa Bell and Benjamin Alford — heard oral arguments earlier this week in a lawsuit challenging the concept. The law gives most sitting justices the option to be re-elected to additional eight-year terms without head-to-head matchups with challengers. Instead, the justice can choose to be elected in an up-or-down vote. It’s supposed to be used by Associate Justice Bob Edmunds for the first time this November.
A Pierre software company is weaving an electronic path between millions of election-night ballots and the media who report them. The company, BPro, is owned by Brandon and Abbey Campea and employs 12 programmers who write election software called “TotalVote.” “When a person votes on Election Day, the ballot is counted by a tabulator and then transferred into our system,” explains Campea. “Our software reports the results and provides them to the media outlets.” He adds, “We’re the official people who know the results before anyone else.” BPro staff are the first-receivers of election results in South Dakota and six other states—Montana, North Dakota, Nebraska, Hawaii, New Mexico and most recently Oregon, as well as Sacramento County in California and 11 Minnesota counties. It’s a quick turn-around that’s months in the making. “We begin preparing way ahead. For instance, New Mexico’s primary is in June, but we began testing the system in January … six months early.”
The House of Delegates will vote on a contentious piece of legislation Friday; a bill that would require West Virginians to show a form of identification at their polling place. But on Thursday, the bill saw a change on the floor. House Bill 4013, the voter ID bill, would require West Virginia voters to show a photo ID or some kind of other official documentation to prove their identity before voting at the polls. A voter without proper documentation will be allowed to vote on a provisional ballot.
The Constitutional Court of Benin has ruled that both old and new voter cards can be used for the March 6 presidential elections. This follows the inability of the first body (COS-LEPI), instituted and given the powers to put a new register together from the old and new lists to finish their work before February this year. Consequently, the court has dissolved COS-LEPI and replaced it with a new body, Centre de National Treatment (CNT) which is under seeing the manufacture and distribution of the identity cards. The decision is also to ensure that not many people are disenfranchised if the new cards are not available.
Supporters of a coalition of reformists and backers of President Hassan Rouhani held their first joint rally in Tehran as thousands of Iranian candidates on Thursday launched their election campaigns ahead of the country’s Feb. 26 parliamentary elections. Hundreds of demonstrators — men and women, young and old — gathered in a public hall in central…
Macedonia: A Blogger Exposes Personal Data Protection Flaw on Election Commission Website | Global Voices
Ensuring that the next elections are free and fair is crucial to the return of democracy and stability in Macedonia. A young female blogger contributed to this process by discovering a flaw related to the government’s voters’ registry web app. One of the reforms needed to end the current political crisis in Macedonia, as stipulated within an agreement that was overseen by the European Union and the United States, is the restoration of the State Election Commission (SEC) to good and honest working order. It also requires a “clean-up” of the voters’ registry, ensuring that only people with the right to vote can do so. The first official investigation that the Special Public Prosecutor has launched as part of this effort is looking into the creation of “phantom voters,” as well as votes in the name of dead or absent citizens.
Niger will hold concurrent presidential and legislative elections Feb. 21. Although Jan. 30 marked the official start of campaigning for the presidential candidates, drama has surrounded the race for months. A string of government arrests, including those of five journalists and nine suspected coup plotters, has tested rule of law. Presidential contender Hama Amadou was seized Nov. 14 on charges of baby trafficking. His supporters subsequently joined violent demonstrations and posted a graphic photo of a dead protester on Facebook. Some commenters warned that the photo was a fake meant to smear incumbent President Mahamadou Issoufou as he runs for reelection. Singer Hamsou Garba, who publicly supports Amadou, was just released after spending 10 days in jail. One of Garba’s recent songs critiqued Issoufou’s government and called for him to have the same fate of former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, who was voted out of office last year. She was accused of inciting civil disobedience.
A group of bishops, former military and police officials and IT experts is poised to file a petition asking the Supreme Court to compel the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to use the voter verification paper audit trail (VVPAT), one of the four minimum security requirements mandated by law, in the May 9 elections. The Reform Philippines Coalition on Wednesday said it will file a petition for mandamus at the High Court on the first week of March. The group is led by seven bishops from various denominations — former Ligayen-Dagupan Archbishop Oscar Cruz, Rey Santillan, Bernie Malitao, Boner Andaya, Larry Celda, Butch Belgica and Noel Pantoja and IT experts Glenn Chong, Toti Casiño and Greco Belgica. It is supported by former Bukidnon congressman Al Lopez and two former Philippine National Police chiefs—Roberto Lastimosa and Hermogenes Esperon—and former Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency head Dioniso Santiago, also a former Armed Forces chief of staff.
Opposition supporters stormed out of a tallying center on Friday amid mounting allegations of vote rigging, as an early count from this week’s disputed election showed Uganda’s authoritarian President Yoweri Museveni on track to extend his three decades in office. Opposition supporters said the partial results showing 62% of the vote going to Mr. Museveni didn’t match results collected at individual polling stations by their operatives. “We know how Ugandans voted, and what is being announced is not what is on the ground,” said Ingrid Turinawe, a spokeswoman for the main opposition party, the Forum for Democratic Change. “We will not be party to this fraudulent process.” Electoral Commission head Badru Kiggundu rejected the allegations. “We are announcing results as sent to us from the districts,” he said, with about 15% of votes from Thursday’s contest counted. FDC leader Kizza Besigye was in a distant second with about 34% of the vote.
United Kingdom: Tories under investigation by Electoral Commission over ‘breaking election spending rules’ | The Independent
The Electoral Commission has launched an inquiry into whether the Conservatives violated election spending rules at the general election. An investigation by Channel 4 News said that alleged irregularities in recording expenses in Thanet South meant the Tories broke spending limits during the campaign. During last year’s election Ukip’s Nigel Farage lost to the Tories’ Craig Mackinlay in one of the most high-profile contests in the country. The loss for Ukip sparked Mr Farage’s short-lived resignation as party leader. However, the Conservatives were said to have attributed £14,000 worth of hotel bills spent for activists in Thanet South to “national” election expenditure rather than to Thanet South’s account.