National: US elections 2016: Anger over new voter ID laws | Al Jazeera

In many ways, Alabama is the cradle of the voting rights movement, a place where Wilcox County circuit clerk Ralph Ervin says “stumbling blocks” have been turned into “stepping stones”. But on Super Tuesday civil rights activists say those stumbling blocks are preventing black voters from going to the polls. The issue in this state, where a quarter of the population are African-American, is voter ID laws. In 2014, the state changed the law and now requires all voters to produce government-issued photo IDs. At first glance that does not seem like an unreasonable request and those who back the law say it prevents voter fraud. But in sparsely populated poor communities, like Wilcox County, public transport is virtually non-existent -compounding the problem is the partial closure of more than 30 drivers license offices, many in predominantly black counties.

Editorials: Why Is Anyone Still Doing Caucuses? | Evan McMorris-Santoro/BuzzFeed

About a half hour from the Las Vegas Strip, in a large public high school on the day the state’s Democratic nominating contest, a man stepped up onto the gym bleachers and shouted: “Let’s make sure we never caucus again!” “And then,” said Sondra Cosgrove, president of the League of Women Voters of Las Vegas Valley, “the whole room erupted, chanting, ‘No more caucus! no more caucus!’” The man, and Cosgrove, were among the 80,000 or so who sucked it up and made their voice heard during a chaotic Saturday in Nevada last month. Their particular caucus site — El Dorado High School — had all the hallmarks of the process: confusing rules, long lines that seemed to go nowhere, volunteers unprepared to deal with the crush of people who showed up.

California: Online voting will be vulnerable to hackers | Los Angeles Daily News

Fraud will be massive if we let people register online to vote, the doomsayers warned in 2012 as California’s then-Secretary of State Debra Bowen put the finishing touches on software now used by all 58 of the state’s counties. Those skeptics were wrong. So far, there are no signs of massive fraud or even moderate fraud in use of that online registration system, available to anyone at the secretary of state’s website. This system is now widely accepted, and there are very few known cases of false registrations, signups by non-citizens or fake names being registered online. Now comes an initiative aiming for a spot on the November ballot that would take online voter registration much farther, authorizing actual voting via the Internet. Doomsayers have many of the same objections today as in 2012, and this time they may be correct. …Backers insist votes can be made secure and encrypted in ways that are almost impossible to hack. But the same was said of electronic voting machines. That was before Bowen conducted her “top to bottom” review of those gadgets and essentially ordered almost all of them scrapped or resold to other states and countries because of the ease with which votes cast on them could be “flipped.”

Idaho: Senate unanimously backs online voter registration | The Spokesman-Review

Legislation to start online voter registration in Idaho has passed the Senate on a unanimous vote, 34-0. It wouldn’t start until after next fall’s general election. The bill estimates a state cost of about $258,000 in one-time development costs, but Sen. Curt McKenzie, R-Nampa, said over time the move should save the state money. A study in Arizona found that online registration cost the state 3 cents per voter, McKenzie said, while registering on paper costs about 83 cents per voter. “So over time it does result in cost savings,” he said. “But for the most part, it really just makes it easier for citizens to register to vote. That’s what states have seen that have implemented, so it’s a good-government bill.” In an earlier committee hearing, Ada County Chief Deputy Clerk Phil McGrane told the State Affairs Committee, “As far as clerks go, this is long overdue, in terms of the time and the workload that we handle. … It’s good policy in that it makes voting more accessible to our voting public.”

Voting Blogs: Conflicted Court Likely to Reverse 4th Circuit in Maryland Redistricting Case | State of Elections

The stakes were high at oral argument for Shapiro v. McManus on November 4, 2015. Justice Breyer said Shapiro and his co-plaintiffs “want[ed] to raise about as important a question as you can imagine . . . And if they [were] right, that would affect congressional districts and legislative districts throughout the nation.” It was clear that the justices struggled with the serious implications that their decision could have for future redistricting and partisan gerrymandering cases. In Shapiro v. McManus, a group of Maryland citizens brought suit challenging the state’s contorted congressional districts, drawn by Democrats in 2011. Petitioners claimed that the political map violated Republicans’ First Amendment rights “by placing them in districts where they were the minority, therefore marginalizing them based on their political views.”

Mississippi: Top election officials place blame for ballot change costs | WLOX

The Secretary of State’s Office said it will cost Mississippi hundreds of thousands of dollars to add a name to the Democratic Presidential Primary ballot. On Feb. 25, 2016, the Mississippi Supreme Court ordered the Secretary of State’s Office to add Willie Wilson to the ballot. While Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann’s office appealed the decision, citing already printed absentee ballots, the Supreme Court issued a revised decision placing Wilson on all other ballots for the March 8 primary. The Secretary of State’s Office estimates the change will cost Mississippians hundreds of thousands of dollars. Additionally, it says the state’s Democratic Party is to blame.

New York: After locking horns, Senate passes August primary election bill | Times Union

Following one of the more robust debates of the year, the state Senate on Wednesday approved legislation that would consolidate state and federal primaries to a single date in August. The bill, designed to follow federal mandates for getting out overseas absentee ballots, sparked debate over more than just New Yorkers’ voting habits and saving tens of millions of dollars on costly separate elections. It also hit on when people take their summer vacations, the need to stop “playing tiddlywinks” and pass legislation that ensures military personnel the right to vote, and whether time allows for lawmakers to campaign during the legislative session. It also featured the unusual move by a senator to stop yielding the floor for another senator to continue his line of questioning about the bill.

Texas: Counties grapple with aging electronic voting systems | KXAN

As the 2016 election approaches, Texas counties are looking toward future elections and the possibility that the machines you use to vote might begin breaking down. “The longer we delay purchasing new equipment, the more problems we risk,” the authors of a 2015 report from the Brennan Center for Justice wrote. “The biggest risk is increased failures and crashes, which can lead to long lines and lost votes.” The report points to a lifespan of 10 to 20 years for key components in the electronic systems. Travis County uses machines from 2001. Williamson County uses a system that it purchased around 10 years ago, putting both systems in the range for issues.

Virginia: GOP vote surge in Northern Virginia definitely included some Democrats | The Washington Post

Did Democratic “crossover” voters in Virginia help fuel the state’s extraordinary surge in Republican voting on Super Tuesday? More than twice as many GOP ballots were cast on Tuesday than had been submitted in the 2008 presidential primary. Part of the increase was undoubtedly because of the tumultuous nature of this year’s Republican primary, and the fact that there are still many candidates jostling for votes. But interviews at the polls and posts on social media showed that at least a slice of those voters were people who planned to vote Democratic in the fall, but took advantage of Virginia’s open-primary law to try to impact the Republican race. “Lifelong Democrat here and I cast my first vote for a Republican yesterday in the VA primary,” Liz Odar, an Arlington millennial, said in an email. “I decided my vote was better used as a vote against Trump.”

Australia: Coalition ditches building watchdog trigger for double-dissolution election | The Guardian

The Turnbull government appears to have given up its most plausible double-dissolution trigger, with legislation establishing the new building industry watchdog left off the list of bills it is insisting be passed in the final Senate sitting week before the May budget. The legislation to re-establish the Building and Construction Commission has been widely assumed to be the government’s preferred trigger for a double dissolution, building on findings and allegations about construction unions raised during the Heydon royal commission. The employment minister, Michaelia Cash, has held several meetings this week with the Senate crossbench about the building watchdog bill, but it has appeared unlikely to pass – particularly since the government angered the crossbenchers with the Senate voting changes that will make it extremely difficult for them to be re-elected.

Nebraska: Ballot-counting machine purchased for Gage County | Beatrice Daily Sun

Votes cast in Gage County for the 2016 elections will be processed through a new machine aimed to tally more quickly and with fewer issues. The County Board voted unanimously to purchase a DS850 machine from Omaha-based Election Systems and Software (ES and S) during its Wednesday meeting. Dawn Hill, County Clerk and Election Commissioner, said the current machine, a 650 model, is prone to several issues, adding hours to the counting process on election night. “The machine that we currently have now, I did confirm with ES and S and that was manufactured in 1996,” Hill said. “We have issues with slow ballots, jamming, it stops. It does read correct — I want to make sure everyone knows we do not have a problem with reading the ballots and totaling the votes. We do have an audit performed.”

Ireland: Counting finally ends six days later | Financial Times

The counting of votes in Ireland’s general election finally ended on Thursday as the last two parliamentary seats were distributed six days after voters went to the polls. The result of the election is now official – and it does not make happy reading for Enda Kenny, the outgoing prime minister, writes Vincent Boland in Dublin. Mr Kenny’s centre-right Fine Gael party won 50 of parliament’s 158 seats – a far worse showing than it had expected. It had won 76 seats in the last election in 2011, and (after defections) had 66 seats in the outgoing parliament, making it by far the biggest party.

New Zealand: Flag vote — ‘beach towel v colonial relic’ | AFP

New Zealanders began voting Thursday on whether to adopt a new flag, in a referendum Prime Minister John Key has called a once-in-a-generation chance to ditch Britain’s Union Jack from the national banner. After 18 months of heated debate, Kiwis must choose between an existing flag that Key insists is a colonial relic and an alternative silver fern design critics label “an ugly beach towel”. About three million ballot papers are being distributed in the South Pacific nation of 4.5 million people for the vote, conducted only by post, which closes on March 24. The result will be binding and John Burrows, the head of a panel overseeing the referendum, said New Zealanders would have to live with their choice far into the future. “Whatever the decision, this flag will fly for generations to come,” he said.

Slovakia: Fico set for election win, reinforcing central Europe’s EU dissenters | Reuters

Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico is on course to win another term in parliamentary elections on Saturday, maintaining an anti-immigration alliance with his European Union neighbors, Hungary’s Viktor Orban and Poland’s Jaroslaw Kaczynski. Fico, 51, is a Social Democrat but fits in with his two conservative peers when it comes to a focus on national pride, social conservatism and strong opposition to immigration. Opinion polls show Fico’s Smer party will win 32.5-38.4 percent of the vote, enough to retain power with a coalition partner or two. Many in Brussels are watching the election and Fico’s views on migration because Slovakia will hold the rotating six-month EU presidency from July, giving it a bigger voice in EU discussions.

Spain: Parliament Rejects Socialist Sánchez’s Bid to Form Spain’s Government | Wall Street Journal

The Spanish parliament on Wednesday rejected Socialist party leader Pedro Sánchez´s candidacy to form a center-left government in the first of two votes that will end or prolong the country’s 10-week-old leadership impasse. The conservative Popular Party of incumbent Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and the far-left Podemos party led the opposition to Mr. Sánchez, who lost the vote of confidence by a margin of 219 to 130. If Mr. Sánchez loses a second confidence vote on Friday Spain will face more weeks of bargaining among political parties represented in the parliament elected on Dec. 20 and the possibility of a new parliamentary election this summer.

Uganda: Mbabazi Narrowly Beats Election Petition Deadline |

Independent presidential candidate Mr Amama Mbabazi has finally filed his petition before the Supreme Court, challenging president Yoweri Museveni’s victory in the February 18 elections. Journalists who had been waiting to cover the petition in the Kampala based court since morning breathed a sigh of relief when Mr Mbabazi’s lawyers arrived at the court, from downtown Kampala, at 5:07pm. The court’s registrar Tom Chemtai received the lawyers and took them through the requirements for a petition. He spent four minutes on this. Among other requirements, the lawyers had to pay Shs400, 000 to file the petition and Shs1 million, which serves a security for costs in case the petition fails, which they did.