National: Want honest elections? Meet America’s new election integrity watchdog | Public Radio International

With the 2000 presidential election’s voting debacle still raw, President George W. Bush in 2002, signed into law the “Help America Vote Act,” which he promised would help “ensure the integrity and efficiency of voting processes in federal elections.” A key component: the Election Assistance Commission, a new, bipartisan federal agency tasked with adopting voting system guidelines, distributing grants and otherwise aiding states in improving their election processes. But the little commission soon hit downdrafts. Congress routinely cut its already modest budget. The federal government moved its headquarters from prime digs in downtown Washington, DC, to a nondescript office tower in suburban Maryland. Then in 2010, the Election Assistance Commission began a nearly five-year stretch where it lacked enough appointed commissioners to conduct meetings, and, therefore, conduct its most important business. Some members of Congress tried, and failed, to kill what had effectively become a zombie agency.

Indiana: Porter County bracing for $150,000 loss over failed poll book deal | NWI Times

The Porter County Election Board’s decision to purchase electronic poll books without first securing the funding has triggered a response that may result in losing more than $150,000 in taxpayer money. A fractured Porter County Council on Tuesday agreed, after a lengthy and heated discussion, to address the situation by paying off the bill for the books even though most of the equipment likely never will be used. Council President Dan Whitten, D-at large, called it an “egregious government waste” and a failed attempt to force county government to consolidate the number of polling places.

Maine: After legislative raids and funding delays, public campaign-finance money could run out | The Portland Press Herald

The publicly funded campaign-finance system backed by Maine voters in a November referendum could run out of money during this year’s election because lawmakers have repeatedly raided the fund for other purposes. Jonathan Wayne, executive director of Maine’s ethics commission, told the Legislature’s budget-writing committee Tuesday that lawmakers have taken nearly $12 million from the Maine Clean Elections fund since 2002, including $3.4 million through the fiscal year that ended in June 2015. The Legislature has repaid $5.6 million, but Wayne said the voter-approved program designed to limit big-money influence on legislative and gubernatorial candidates could run into a “cash flow problem” later this year. That’s because more candidates are entering the program after last fall’s referendum, which increased the amount of money that could be available to support campaigns. If the Maine Clean Elections program runs out of money, it will suffer a “black eye” that could lower confidence and participation among candidates, said Wayne, whose agency oversees the campaign finance system.

Voting Blogs: The Will of the People: Michigan’s Ballot Initiative to Allow By-Mail Voting | State of Elections

Alexander Hamilton once said, “A share in the sovereignty of the state, which is exercised by the citizens at large, in voting at elections is one of the most important rights of the subject, and in a republic ought to stand foremost in the estimation of the law.” In Michigan, the citizens have incredible power to voice their opinion and influence the sovereignty of their state. Through initiative, Michiganders may propose either a constitutional amendment, which does not require state legislative approval before being placed on the ballot, or state statutes, which must first be submitted to the state legislature for approval before being placed on the ballot. In order to participate in the initiative process, Michigan does not even require that the petitioner register with the state, but rather only requires that the petitioner report campaign contributions in excess of $500. However, petitioners may submit their proposal to the Bureau of Elections in order to greatly reduce the chance that formatting errors will prevent the proposal from being accepted.

North Carolina: Judge revises proposed court schedule in redistricting case | Greensboro News & Record

A federal judge has given the opponents of North Carolina’s congressional redistricting maps until Monday to outline their objections. U.S. District Court Judge William Osteen Jr. asked the plaintiffs to “state with specificity the factual and legal basis for each objection.” Plaintiffs David Harris and Christine Bowser had sued the state over its 2011 maps that redrew North Carolina’s 13 congressional districts. A three-judge panel ruled Feb. 5 that the maps were unconstitutional and ordered the state to come up with new ones.

North Carolina: Local elections boards await word from state | Sun Journal

Local elections officials are awaiting word from the state Board of Elections on how to proceed with a possible extra congressional primary this year.
The regular primary for all other races is still scheduled for March 15. The U.S. Supreme Court denied a state request for a stay on redistricting maps, and the state legislature redrew the U.S. House district maps late last week. House Bill 2 was approved and did away with a potential second primary and added a June 7 special congressional primary. It also added a new filing period from March 16 to 25 for U.S. House candidates. “We are just waiting,” said Meloni Wray, elections director for Craven County. “The state board has not given us any direction. What we know is according to the paper.” The areas involved for Craven County are District 1, which has no primary slated, and District 3, which has a Republican primary with incumbent Walter B. Jones and challengers Phil Law and Taylor Griffin. Pamlico and Jones counties have only the District 3 primary on their March 15 ballots.

Ohio: Appeals court strikes down ban on campaign lying | The Columbus Dispatch

A federal appeals court in Cincinnati Wednesday may have delivered the death knell to a 42-year Ohio election law which prohibited candidates or independent political organizations from lying in their campaigns. In a unanimous ruling by a three-judge panel, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a 2014 decision by U.S. District Judge Timothy Black that the law violated political free speech guaranteed by the Constitution. In its 12-page ruling, the court of appeals concluded “Ohio’s political false-statements laws target speech at the core of First Amendment protections — political speech.”

Virginia: Expert witness testifies that there is no justification for Va. photo ID law | Richmond Times-Dispatch

An expert witness testified Wednesday in a suit challenging Virginia’s photo ID law that there is no evidence voter fraud is a rational justification for such a requirement in Virginia or any other state. Lorraine C. Minnite, author of “The Myth of Voter Fraud” and co-author of “Keeping Down the Black Vote: Race and the Demobilization of American Voters,” said the sort of fraud that photo ID is meant to prevent is so uncommon there is a concern it would cause more legitimate ballots to be lost than fraudulent ballots cast. “If there is no voter fraud, the question is, what is this all about? … Why are the two parties fighting so intensely?” asked Minnite, a witness for the plaintiffs, including the Democratic Party of Virginia. Minnite contends parties can win by expanding their own base or by decreasing the other party’s. “It goes to the logic and the strategy of trying to win elections,” she said.

Wisconsin: Justice Ann Walsh Bradley: Uncle who served at Iwo Jima unable to vote | Wisconsin Journal-Sentinel

A state Supreme Court justice on Tuesday urged Gov. Scott Walker to allow people to use veterans ID cards to vote after her uncle who fought at Iwo Jima was unable to cast a ballot in last week’s primary election. “It makes no sense to me that this proud patriot with a veterans card displaying his photo would be turned away from the polls and denied the right to vote,” Justice Ann Walsh Bradley wrote to the Republican governor. In her letter, Bradley said her uncle had fought at Iwo Jima, the bloody World War II battle that was immortalized in a photo of the U.S. flag being raised on the tiny Pacific island. Tuesday marked the 71st anniversary of the 1945 flag raising.

Afghanistan: Commission releases disputed 2014 Afghan election results | Reuters

Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission publicly confirmed the official results of the disputed 2014 election on Wednesday, more than a year and a half after the vote that elevated former finance minister Ashraf Ghani to the presidency. The 2014 election, touted as the first peaceful democratic transfer of power in Afghanistan, descended to the brink of chaos as Ghani and his rival, Abdullah Abdullah, traded accusations of fraud. According to the official numbers, Ghani won a runoff election in June 2014 with 55.27 percent of the vote to Abdullah’s 44.73 percent. It was at the request of both candidates, who now share power as part of a U.S.-brokered unity government, that the election commission delayed the release of the official numbers, said the commission’s chief, Ahmad Yousuf Nuristani.

Comoros: Vice President wins first round of presidential vote | AFP

The vice president of the Indian Ocean archipelago of the Comoros, Mohamed Ali Soilihi, won the first round of the country’s presidential elections with 17.61 percent of the vote, preliminary results released late Tuesday showed. Soilihi edged ahead of Mouigni Baraka, the governor of Grande Comore island, who garnered 15.09 percent, ahead of Colonel Azali Assoumani, who placed third with 14.96 percent. The three candidates will now face off in a second-round of voting on April 10, with the winner succeeding outgoing President Ikililou Dhoinine.

United Kingdom: Nearly 800,000 names axed from voter register, official figures show | The Guardian

Almost 800,000 potential voters were deleted from the electoral register under government changes to the system, official figures have confirmed. The Electoral Commission said about 770,000 names were removed from the register as the government introduced the requirement that people sign up as individuals rather than as households. Figures from the Office for National Statistics showed the overall register in December 2015 had shrunk by 600,000 names in the preceding 12 months, suggesting a voter registration drive over the same period was successful in getting people to sign up. But Labour said the huge number of deletions meant hundreds of thousands of people were at risk of disenfranchisement, highlighting a particular problem in university towns and among younger people who are almost eligible to vote. Overall, the electoral register is smaller by 1.6 million names than at its peak in 2012 when 46.4 million people were on the list.

Uganda: Opposition Gathers Evidence to Challenge Election Outcome | VoA News

Uganda’s main opposition party says it’s working hard to gather evidence to legally challenge the outcome of the February 18 general election. Uganda’s electoral law says challenges can be filed up to 10 days after results are announced. Mugisha Muntu, chairman of the Forum for Democratic Change, said the party was doing everything possible to meet the deadline, despite what he said had been continuous harassment and intimidation by state security operatives. Muntu noted that the intimidation followed the frequent arrests and subsequent release of Kizza Besigye, the FDC presidential candidate. “We started gathering evidence on Saturday, right after we found out that there were huge discrepancies between what was being announced and what we’ve been gathering from our own polling stations,” he said. Since then, he added, “our presidential candidate … has been taken to the police cells several times.”