National: Post-Scalia supreme court could start to turn tide on voting rights restrictions | The Guardian

Just over a week after the death of Antonin Scalia, legal experts are seeing signs that a newly configured supreme court may lead to a modest expansion of voting rights after years of setbacks. Although a new justice is unlikely to be appointed before election day, a court deadlocked between four conservatives and four liberals could still have a significant effect during a presidential election year in which activists on both sides of the partisan divide will be banging on the door of the country’s highest court to settle disputes over restrictive voting rules and racial discrimination. “It’s starting pretty much immediately,” said Dan Tokaji, an election law specialist at Ohio State University’s Moritz School of Law. “You’re going to start seeing cases challenging voting rules like you do in every election … These cases tended to be decided on a 5-4 vote, so Justice Scalia’s absence could be very important.”

Alaska: Democrats want to embrace candidates who won’t wear label | Alaska Public Media

The Alaska Democratic Party wants to allow non-partisan candidates to run on the Democratic ballot in Primary Elections, and the party has filed a legal challenge to a state law that restricts the primary ballot to members only. Some Republicans allege the Democrats are trying to pull a fast one. State Democratic Party chair Casey Steinau says Democrats want to open their ballot to be more inclusive, to welcome candidates who don’t want to wear labels. “This allows folks who are clearly aligned with us, that have our values to — who don’t necessarily want to be pigeonholed into one political party, which is where I think Alaskans are these days — and it allows them to go ahead and compete for our support,” she said.

Florida: Some absentee voters ask for re-dos on ballots after Bush drops out | WFTV

Although former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has dropped out from the presidential race, his name remains on Florida’s primary ballot. Tens of thousands of absentee ballots have been casted already in Florida, some with Bush’s name on them. Supervisors of elections have received calls from voters, asking if they can recast their vote now that Bush has suspended his campaign. “Every single year, we get these calls, and every single year, it’s no surprise,” Seminole County Supervisor of Elections Mike Ertel said. Ertel said the answer is always the same: No.

Kansas: Republicans hold to hard-right stance; ACLU and League of Women Voters ‘communists,’ Kobach says | Lawrence Journal-World

The Kansas Republican Party held firm to its hard-right stance on social issues during its state convention this weekend as various officials gave speeches railing against Planned Parenthood, same-sex marriage, the Kansas Supreme Court, the Obama administration and even the League of Women Voters. The convention came just two weeks before Republican voters in the state will vote in the March 5 caucuses to make their choice for a presidential nominee. And while some of the presidential campaigns sent surrogates to speak on their behalf, the real focus was on upcoming races for the Kansas Legislature. “Help them out because the national left doesn’t like what we’ve done in Kansas. So the next target will be getting at these state legislators,” Gov. Sam Brownback said. “You really need to get out and help them.” One of the biggest events of the day Saturday was the annual Kansans for Life prayer breakfast, which drew attendance from dozens of legislators and the state’s entire congressional delegation.

Minnesota: Minneapolis landlord-based voter registration ordinance starts March 1 | Star Tribune

If you move in to a rented house or apartment in Minneapolis, you’ll soon be handed a packet of voter information along with the keys to your new place. Starting March 1, the city will require landlords to give all new tenants two documents: a voter registration information sheet and a voter registration application. Landlords can either hand out paper copies or send tenants a link to the website where the documents are posted online. The new ordinance was approved by the City Council in September. Council Member Jacob Frey, who introduced the idea, said the requirement is a simple way the city can reach more young people, people of color and other groups who move frequently and may miss out on registering to vote.

Nevada: Donald Trump wins messy GOP caucuses after contest was plagued by alleged voter fraud, intimidation and men in Ku Klux Klan garb | NY Daily News

Donald Trump won the Nevada GOP caucuses Tuesday in a messy night of voting punctuated by allegations of fraud, intimidation and a slew of other instances of disorganization and chaos. In one of the most extreme cases of such irregularities, several alleged Trump supporters at a caucus site at a Las Vegas high school were photographed sporting white, hooded Ku Klux Klan robes. The men, holding signs saying they were members of the New England Police Benevolent Police Association — a controversial group that endorsed Trump in December — expressed their support for the GOP front-runner. “Make America Great Again,” read one sign, which was equipped with a GoPro camera.

North Carolina: McCrory wants redistricting changes, praises new maps | Citizen Times

State legislators “made the best of a bad situation” when they adopted new U.S. House districts for North Carolina last week but the argument over the districts illustrates the need for a nonpartisan redistricting process, Gov. Pat McCrory said. A three-member panel of federal judges on Feb. 5 directed the General Assembly to draw up new districts no later than Friday, saying legislators had made race too much of a factor when the districts were originally approved in 2011. Legislators approved a new district map Friday on party-line votes – Republicans in favor, Democrats against – and moved the U.S. House primary date from March 15 to June 7. “I didn’t think it was an appropriate time for the federal (judges) to rule after the elections were already started … since those maps have been around literally for 25 years with minor revisions done by both Democrats and Republicans,” McCrory said Monday in a brief interview after an announcement of a new auto parts manufacturing plant coming to Mills River.

Virginia: Trial begins on lawsuit challenging Virginia voter ID law | Richmond Times-Dispatch

A 69-year-old black woman who grew up in a small, segregated city wept on the witness stand Monday as she testified about the trouble she had voting in 2014 because she could not comply with Virginia’s voter identification law. Josephine Okiakpe said she plucked several forms of ID from her purse — birth certificate, Social Security card, voter registration card, even a bank statement — and handed them over to workers at her Woodbridge polling place. The only things she had with her picture on them were her North Carolina driver’s license and an expired Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles ID card. “They wouldn’t take any of that,” said Okiakpe, who earlier had described attending an all-black public school in Clinton, N.C., that got hand-me-down books when the white schools got new ones.

Wisconsin: State GOP secretary is first appointee to new ethics commission | Wisconsin State Journal

The first announced appointee to the new state ethics commission is the secretary of the Republican Party of Wisconsin, state officials said Tuesday. Critics said the appointment of Katie McCallum confirms their fear that the commission and its new counterpart, which will oversee elections, will be beholden to legislative leaders and partisan interests. Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, appointed McCallum, of Middleton, said Reid Magney, a spokesman for the Government Accountability Board.

Australia: Coalition amends Senate voting reform bill to ensure election night ballot count | The Guardian

The Turnbull government has moved to amend its electoral legislation two days after it was introduced to parliament, after concerns preliminary Senate results would no longer be available on election night. The Labor frontbencher Anthony Albanese said the legislation had been rushed and the amendments “exposed how bad this dirty deal is”. The bill introduced to the lower house on Monday included new procedures for the scrutiny of Senate votes, with the assistant returning officer being required to count the number of ballot papers without inspecting them. “There will no longer be requirements to reject informal Senate ballot papers or count first preference votes prior to transmission to the Australian electoral officer,” the government’s original explanatory memorandum said.

Bolivia: Referendum goes against Evo Morales as voters reject fourth term | The Guardian

Bolivian voters appeared to have delivered a slim but stinging defeat to President Evo Morales after election officials announced he had lost a bid to run for a fourth straight term in office. As early results came in Morales appeared defiant and unwilling to accept what increasingly looked like his biggest electoral setback in 10 years. But the country’s electoral authorities announced on Tuesday night that voters in a referendum had ultimately rejected by a slim margin a constitutional amendment to let him run for a further term in 2019. After the announcement people poured into the streets to celebrate in the eastern city of Santa Cruz, where opposition to Morales is strong. Fireworks also sounded in La Paz, where there is weariness of corruption in the governing party.

India: 2019 general elections to have paper-trail electronic voting machines | The Economic Times

Polling for 2019 general elections will be conducted through paper trail-based electronic voting machines to “enhance transparency”. Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Nasim Zaidi also said that voting through the internet is not on EC’s agenda in the near future though it is going to use information and communication technology (ICT) in a big way to reach the voters in the coming days. “We have reached a stage where people are demanding hundred per cent deployment of paper audit trail machine. We have preserved the secrecy (in this system) as well. Our plan is that by 2019, the whole country will be covered by paper audit trail machines. The budget for this has been committed now,” Zaidi said while addressing an international seminar today. The next general elections are due in 2019.

Niger: Opposition rejects initial election results, citing fraud | Reuters

Opposition parties in Niger on Tuesday rejected initial results from Sunday’s presidential election that showed incumbent Mahamadou Issoufou in the lead, calling them fraudulent. Provisional results from 20 of the West African country’s 308 municipalities gave Issoufou 40.18 percent of the vote, more than 10 percentage points ahead of his closest rival. “These results are completely contrary to what was expressed at the ballot box,” said Amadou Boubacar Cisse, an election candidate and spokesman for the Coalition for Change group of opposition parties.

Uganda: UN Chief Concerned About Irregularities in Uganda Elections | Associated Press

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday backed concerns of international observers about shortcomings and irregularities in Uganda’s elections and urged all parties to settle any disputes peacefully. Neutral observers have criticized the government for using security forces against opposition candidates and supporters, and tensions rose Monday when police arrested President Yoweri Museveni’s main challenger, Kizza Besigye. The electoral commission announced Saturday that Museveni won the vote with more than 60 percent of counted ballots, while Besigye got 35 percent. Museveni needed 50 percent plus one vote to avoid a runoff election. The 71-year-old Museveni, a key U.S. ally on security matters, seized power in 1986 and has led Uganda for 30 years.