National: The Nation’s Election Watchdog Just Hit a New Level of Dysfunction | Mother Jones

In 2011, former Bain Capital executive Edward Conrad decided to give $1 million to the super-PAC supporting the presidential bid of his pal Mitt Romney. But he didn’t contribute the cash directly. Instead, he put the money in a generically named shell company he had recently created, which then cut a check to the super-PAC, Restore Our Future. Election law prohibits donors from taking steps to hide their identities, and campaign finance activists pressed the Federal Election Commission to investigate. Five years later, the FEC—which since at least 2010 has been existing in a fugue state of partisan paralysis—has finally rendered a decision on whether it will probe the matter, which is something of a post-Citizens United test case. Nah, we’ll pass on this one, the FEC decided on Monday.

Alaska: PFD voter registration initiative approved, will appear on August ballot | KTVA

A ballot initiative that would register Alaskans who qualify for the Permanent Fund dividend to vote has been approved for the primary ballot in April. Alaska Division of Elections Director Josie Bahnke announced Monday the signature petitions were properly filed. During the signing of the certification documents with Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott Monday morning, she noted that the initiative would be the only one on the ballot during the primary election on Aug. 16.

Illinois: Prosecutors look into vote-buying allegations in Chicago | Associated Press

In a city where voter fraud is part of local lore, prosecutors are examining allegations by a Chicago alderman and others that campaign workers are paying people to vote for a Democrat involved in one of Illinois’ most contentious legislative elections. Sally Daly, a spokeswoman for Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez, said Monday that the office’s election unit is “looking into” a complaint against state Rep. Ken Dunkin of Chicago. The complaint was first lodged by Alderman Pat Dowell, a supporter of Dunkin’s opponent in the Democratic primary who on Sunday released videos that she says were made by “volunteers” who entered a Dunkin campaign office to secretly record the payments. A spokesman for Dunkin has called the accusations “baseless.”

Kentucky: Secretary of State Calls for No-Excuse Early Voting | WKU Public Radio

Kentucky’s Secretary of State says lawmakers have a way to increase voter participation statewide. Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes spoke in Frankfort Monday in support of early voting legislation. Under a bill proposed by Secretary Grimes, Kentucky voters could cast early in-person ballots without an excuse. Currently, voters must have a qualifying reason to vote early. Grimes points to the success of no-excuse early voting in other states.

Maine: Support builds for switching back to presidential primaries | The Portland Press Herald

A bipartisan group of legislative leaders expressed support Monday for switching back to presidential primary elections in Maine after record voter turnout led to lengthy delays at some caucus locations over the weekend. Senate Minority Leader Justin Alfond, D-Portland, renewed the caucuses-versus-primaries debate one day after unprecedented turnout forced Portland’s Democratic leaders to accept thousands of absentee ballots rather than require participants to attend traditional caucus meetings. Many left without voting, either unable or unwilling to wait up to four hours in a line that stretched a half-mile outside Deering High School. While Alfond acknowledged that town meeting-style caucuses have advantages, he said a primary format is preferable during presidential-election years because voters cast ballots throughout the day rather than congregate for an hours-long meeting.

Maryland: Congressional candidate David Trone: Machines for disabled voters are ‘unfit’ | The Washington Post

Attorneys for congressional candidate David Trone are demanding that Maryland election officials overhaul the use of touch-screen machines that are to be used by disabled voters in the April primary — but are not programmed to display all candidates on a single screen. The State Board of Elections voted last month to abandon these machines for general use in early voting because it is difficult to navigate long lists of candidates and could disadvantage those with last names at the end of the alphabet — including Trone, U.S. Senate candidate Chris Van Hollen (D) and GOP presidential hopeful Donald Trump. Election officials are keeping the touch-screen machines available for voters with disabilities, including blind people, who can’t easily use the alternative paper ballots that are being rolled out during early voting and the April 26 election. Trone’s campaign objected to elections officials continuing to sanction machines for disabled voters that it deemed “unfit” for general use.

Montana: Group calls Indian voting proposals ‘unequal’ | Great Falls Tribune

An Indian advocacy organization has told Secretary of State Linda McCulloch that the counties that have submitted proposals for Indian voting satellite offices have proposed plans that offer unequal access. It’s also noted that none of the counties is providing Election Day voter registration, which denies tribal residents equal access to the ballot box. In October, McCulloch issued a directive stating Montana counties must establish satellite voting offices for in-person absentee voting and later-voter registration for the 2016 general election.

Ohio: 17-year-olds sue over voting rights | Toledo Blade

Nine 17-year-olds, including one from Toledo, sued Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted Tuesday over his office’s refusal to allow them to vote in the presidential race in next week’s primary election. The lawsuit contends the state’s chief elections officer, a Republican, has misinterpreted state law allowing 17-year-olds to vote in primary elections if they will be 18 by the time of the November general election. Mr. Husted determined that because voters are electing convention delegates rather than nominating candidates in the primary, 17-year-olds cannot vote in the presidential race. They can vote in U.S. Senate, state legislative, judicial, and other races on the same ballot in which candidates are nominated, but not elected at this stage.

Ohio: Republican voters get 2 votes for president, only 1 counts | Associated Press

Every Republican primary voter in Ohio will have two opportunities to vote for president, in a ballot twist that only escalates the potential confusion caused by the party’s large and fractious field of candidates. GOP ballots for the March 15 primary feature two boxes for president: one for designating an at-large presidential delegate and one for designating a district delegate. It’s a carry-over from a time when Ohio’s Republican vote was divided proportionally, rather than in the winner-take-all fashion being used in 2016. The two boxes raise obvious questions: Do voters get two votes? Can conflicted voters split their vote, or do votes for two candidates cancel each other out? If only one of the two boxes is filled in, does the person’s vote still count? Ohio never changed a requirement that both boxes be listed, and the secretary of state’s office says both will also tallied. But the Ohio Republican Party says only one will count.

Utah: GOP caucus will be online, but don’t expect Internet voting to take hold elsewhere | Deseret News

When it comes to innovative ways to increase voter turnout, Utah seems to break all the rules. This is a state that lets you vote by mail, vote early and, at least for a three-year trial period, lets you register on the day you vote. Conventional wisdom says that if Republicans run your state, you aren’t supposed to have all those things. “When I go to national election conventions, people are all scratching their heads,” Mark Thomas, chief deputy to Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, told me. “We’re doing things that only some of the liberal states are doing.” So it shouldn’t be terribly surprising that, if you are a registered Republican in Utah, you will have the chance to vote online in the upcoming presidential preference caucus March 22. That’s just another bold step in a conservative state that’s surprisingly progressive about elections, right? Well, it’s bold all right. As Shakespeare said, “Boldness be my friend.” But as English essayist Charles Lamb said, “’Tis the privilege of friendship to talk nonsense, and to have her nonsense respected.”

Benin: Election heads to runoff between PM and cotton king | Associated Press

Benin’s prime minister and a cotton magnate are leading in the presidential election, but neither has the majority of votes to win outright and they are expected to face each other in a second round, according to preliminary results released Tuesday. Lionel Zinsou, a French-born investment banker who was named prime minister last year, earned 28 percent of Sunday’s vote, according to the election commission. Patrice Talon, known locally as “the king of cotton,” came in second with 24 percent. He was followed closely by Sebastien Ajavon, another businessman. If the results are validated by the Constitutional Court, Zinsou and Talon will participate in a runoff, expected later this month. More than 3 million voters chose among 33 candidates in this cotton-producing country.

New Zealand: NZ First calls for Hindi flag votes to be nullified, after translation differs |

A slight change in the Hindi translation of flag referendum instructions is “misleading”, claim NZ First. Therefore, party leader Winston Peters has called for all votes from Hindi-speaking people to be nullified. The pamphlet titled ‘How to vote’ accompanies the ballot papers, and sets out the first step in English: “Tick the flag you want to be the New Zealand flag”. However, the Hindi translation reads: “Tick the flag you want to be the new New Zealand flag” – the word ‘new’ had been inserted.

Niger: Opposition Suspends Participation in Runoff Election | VoA News

Niger’s opposition coalition said Tuesday that its candidate, Hama Amadou, would not contest a runoff election March 20, increasing the chances that President Mahamadou Issoufou will win a second term. Amadou has been in prison since November on charges relating to baby-trafficking. He says he is innocent and a victim of political repression. The government denies wrongdoing and says it follows the law. “The Coalition for an Alternative has decided to suspend its participation in the electoral process and asks its representatives to withdraw from the electoral commission,” it said in a statement.

Philippines: High court orders Comelec to activate voting receipts | Inquirer News

The Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to issue voting receipts as a verification mechanism for the electorate in the May 9 elections, the first time the poll body was compelled to issue printouts of voters’ choices since automated counting in the country began in 2010. In a unanimous ruling, the high court ordered the Comelec to use the voter verification paper audit trail in voting machines, which will issue a receipt to each voter after casting his or her ballot. The ruling came just two months before Election Day. “The Commission on Elections is ordered to enable the vote verification feature of the vote-counting machines, which prints the voter’s choices,” the high court said in the dispositive portion of its ruling.

Switzerland: E-voting suffers setback in parliament | SWI

The OSA has called for an end to discrimination of the about 147,000 Swiss living abroad who have registered to take part in votes and elections. “It is difficult to understand how the government gives priority to cantonal autonomy as the introduction of e-voting for the Swiss Abroad is a task of the [national] government,” says OSA co-director Ariane Rustichelli. She says last year’s parliamentary elections are a case in point to prove that the current policy of leaving the introduction to the individual 26 cantons has been a failure. “Registered Swiss Abroad citizens of four cantons had the right to use e-voting in 2015. This has already been the case in 2011,” she says.

Uganda: Poll Petition Faces Setback After Lawyers’ Offices Robbed |

Suspected burglars broke into the offices of two of Amama Mbabazi’s lawyers on Tuesday night and reportedly made off with computers and case files. Though the lawyers did not report the cases to the Uganda Police Force, the police have now gone to the offices of the two lawyers, Fred Muwema and Muhammed Mbabazi, to carry out investigations. “I think the police should come to tell us that they [the police allegedly] broke in because they were here,” said counsel Mbabazi during a televised interview. He ruled out going to the police to report the incident. “The police were seen to have come here. They came, they [allegedly] broke [in and] they took away whatever they took. So I report to whom? They should be the ones to come and tell me ‘we came in, we didn’t find you then we broke in’.”