National: Starting from principles: remote ballot marking systems | Center for Civic Design

Remote ballot marking systems are one of the new uses of technology in election administration. As part of a vote-by-mail system, they allow voters to receive a blank ballot to mark electronically, print, and then cast by returning the printed ballot to the elections office. In a recent project, NIST, the Center for Civic Design, Verified Voting Foundation and experts in security, accessibility, usability, and election administration set out to answer the question: Can we make remote ballot marking systems both accessible and secure, so voters can use and trust them? We were pleased to discover that these goals can co-exist in a well-designed system, and in many cases they support each other. Following the lead of state election directors, we started with strong principles and supporting guidelines for remote ballot marking systems focusing on the important goals for any election system.

Editorials: One person, one vote in America? The ideal is often not the practice | David Cole/The Washington Post

In 2008, 57 percent of Americans voted, and Barack Obama became the nation’s first black president. In the 2010 midterms, only 37 percent voted, and Republicans gained control of the House of Representatives, as well as 18 state legislatures. They learned their lesson. The following year, Republican legislators introduced 180 bills in 41 states designed to make it harder to vote. Nineteen states passed 25 laws that limited voting. They included onerous voter-identification laws and registration requirements, restrictions on early voting and increased penalties for volunteers who make mistakes in registration drives. Not coincidentally, the laws all had a foreseeably disproportionate impact on the young, the poor and minority voters — groups that tend to vote Democratic. As conservative strategist Paul Weyrich told the Republican National Convention some 30 years earlier: “I don’t want everybody to vote. . . . Our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.” Such a self-consciously partisan and highly coordinated strategy of vote suppression is, one might think, profoundly un-American. The nation was founded on the “consent of the governed.” “We the people” rejected monarchy for popular sovereignty. Yet as Michael Waldman deftly shows in “The Fight to Vote,” there have long been two competing strains in American politics.

Nevada: Voting rights advocates: DMV is breaking the law by failing to register voters | Las Vegas Sun News

Voting rights advocates claim the state is violating a federal law enacted more than 20 years ago requiring the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles to register voters. Attorneys representing Mi Familia Vota Education Fund and others sent a letter this week to Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske and DMV Director Terri Albertson detailing areas of non-compliance. Across the country, implementation of the law, often called the “motor voter” law, has stagnated since it was passed in 1993, voting rights advocates and law experts say. Mi Familia Vota Education Fund, Demos, Project Vote, the ACLU and the League of Women Voters now are partnering to push for compliance in Nevada, as several of the organizations have done in other states.

North Carolina: North Carolina Exemplifies National Battles Over Voting Laws | The New York Times

The stakes are high here and nationwide. The four lawsuits over the Republicans’ 2011 redistricting plans make their case on racial grounds. But some scholars are wondering whether the challenge to the congressional districts, and cases like it, might prompt the Supreme Court to take a new look at blatantly partisan gerrymandering. Advocacy groups and the Justice Department brought the federal lawsuit challenging Republican-backed legislation that established a voter identification provision and cut or curtailed provisions that had made it easier to register and vote. Those provisions were adopted over the last 15 years and championed by Democrats. The Justice Department argues that black and younger voters were especially likely to take advantage of them. The law included a reduction in early-voting days and ended same-day registration and preregistration that added teenagers to voting rolls on their 18th birthday. If the case is decided before November, it could have an effect on turnout in a tight presidential contest here — President Obama won North Carolina by a hair in 2008, and lost it by a hair in 2012 — as well as what is likely to be a difficult re-election fight for Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican.

Ohio: Judge Lets 17-Year-Olds Vote in Primary in Sanders Win | Bloomberg

Ohio must let 17-year-olds vote in the state’s March 15 primary, if they turn 18 by Election Day, a judge ruled in a boost to Bernie Sanders. Sanders’s surprise win over Hillary Clinton in the Michigan primary this week was driven in part by his popularity with younger voters, many of whom are attracted to his call for an economic revolution against the wealthy elite. Sanders got the support of 81 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds in the Michigan primary, according to CNN’s exit polls. Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, a Republican, reinterpreted a decades-old law by describing the primary as an election of delegates, rather than a nomination. Ohio doesn’t let voters under 18 directly elect people, Husted said. That was a misinterpretation of the law, Franklin County Court Judge Richard A. Frye said in a ruling Friday.

Texas: A Voter-ID Battle in Texas | The Atlantic

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals said Wednesday it would rehear a case on Texas’s voter-ID law with its full complement of judges, setting up a major voting-rights battle ahead of the 2016 elections. Wednesday’s order underscores the increased power of the federal appellate courts while Justice Antonin Scalia’s former seat remains vacant on the U.S. Supreme Court. A potential 4-4 deadlock between the justices for the foreseeable future means the Fifth Circuit’s full ruling “may be the final word on Texas’s law,” Rick Hasen, a professor at UC Irvine law, wrote Wednesday. A three-judge panel in the Fifth Circuit ruled last August that the state’s voter-ID measure violated the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965, which banned racial discrimination in election laws. Texas officials then sought a rare en banc review of that ruling, meaning the case would be reheard by the Fifth Circuit’s entire 15-judge bench. The circuit judges granted the request more than six months after it was made.

Germany: A right-wing party in Germany hopes to capitalize on anti-migrant anger | The Washington Post

In a new German political ad, a young woman in a dimly lighted underground crossing gazes directly into the camera. She flashes a concerned look, then references the series of sexual assaults in the city of Cologne allegedly committed by migrants on New Year’s Eve. “I want to feel carefree and safe when I go out,” the woman says in the spot. Afterward, a voice demands the deportation of criminal migrants. Sponsored by the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party ahead of key local elections this Sunday, the ad is heralding the rise of a new brand of right-wing populism in this nation still haunted by its Nazi past.

Uganda: Court Rejects Vote Recount |

In the Supreme court yesterday, the nine justices rejected a request for a presidential vote recount by lawyers representing Amama Mbabazi in the petition challenging the results of the February 18 presidential election. The request, which can still be entertained in the course of the main hearing, sought to compel the Electoral Commission to recount votes in 45 districts, before the petition is heard. “The law doesn’t give vote recount as a preliminary relief…” said Bart Katureebe, the chief justice and head of the nine-panel judge.

National: ‘Motor-voter’ registration laws pitted against citizenship IDs in court case | Washington Times

A federal official overstepped his authority by allowing three states to demand proof of citizenship on the national “motor-voter” forms that help many Americans register to vote, the Obama administration and allied groups argued Wednesday in a case that pits one part of the federal government against another. The League of Women Voters said eligible voters in Kansas, Alabama and Georgia will be turned away in a pivotal election year because the U.S. Election Assistance Commission’s executive director waded into a “clear question of policy” that can be tackled only by commissioners of the independent agency. “The practice is clear,” Michael C. Keats, an attorney for the league, told U.S. District Court Judge Richard J. Leon in the District of Columbia, pleading with him to block changes to the federal form’s instructions in all three states until their lawsuit is decided on the merits.

National: In Maryland and Virginia, efforts to end gerrymandering face major obstacles: Lawmakers | The Washington Post

In deep-blue Maryland, Democratic state lawmakers have shown little interest in giving up their power to redraw the boundaries of congressional districts every 10 years. The Republicans who control the legislature in Virginia are similarly unwilling. But with both states’ congressional maps under attack for unfairly favoring the majority party, a few lawmakers have come up with a new suggestion: Why don’t we give up our power together, negating the political effects? “The only way to get through this now is for everybody to give up a little bit in a partisan sense for everyone to gain a lot in terms of principle,” said Maryland state Sen. Jamie B. Raskin. The Montgomery County Democrat is calling for a “Potomac compact” in which a single, independent panel would draw congressional lines for both states.

Editorials: How to Reverse Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission | The Atlantic

New supreme court opinions have been as controversial as Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the 2010 decision that struck down limits on corporations’ campaign expenditures, finding them to be an abridgment of free speech. Like most of the Court’s recent campaign-finance rulings, the case was decided 5–4, with Justice Antonin Scalia in the majority. Even before Scalia’s death, Citizens United featured significantly in the presidential primaries. Bernie Sanders had made its negation, through a constitutional amendment, a key goal of—and rationale for—his candidacy. Both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton had condemned the existing campaign-finance system, and Clinton had vowed to appoint “Supreme Court justices who value the right to vote over the right of billionaires to buy elections.” Now, with a new justice in the offing, the prospect of reversing Citizens United, among other Roberts Court decisions, seems suddenly larger, more plausible: For campaign-finance-reform proponents, the brass ring seems within reach. But the matter is not so simple. Even if Scalia is replaced by a more liberal justice, the Court’s campaign-finance rules will not be easily reversed. The precedents extending First Amendment protection to campaign spending date back to 1976, long before Scalia became a judge. The Court generally follows precedent, and overrules past decisions only rarely, even as justices come and go. A new justice will not be sufficient.

Arizona: Elections director keeps bill details from Democrats | Arizona Republic

Elections Director Eric Spencer, the author of the controversial overhaul of Arizona’s campaign-finance laws, apparently doesn’t like pushback. He had told Senate Democrats he would share a major amendment to Senate Bill 1516 with them before it came up for a floor debate Tuesday. But, he told The Arizona Republic, he changed his mind when the state Democratic Party used a media account of the bill to do some fundraising last weekend. And when the attorney for the Senate Democrats inquired about the whereabouts of the amendment the night before the debate, Spencer reiterated his pique in an emailed reply and attached the offending fundraising pitch.

Iowa: Bill makes it easier for overseas military members to vote | Daily Iowegian

Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate applauds the Iowa Legislature and Gov. Terry Branstad for making it easier for Iowa’s overseas military members and citizens to vote, and ensuring their votes are counted. The legislation, House File 2147, passed both chambers of the legislature unanimously and was signed into law by Gov. Branstad Thursday morning. The bill gives Iowans serving or visiting overseas an extra 30 days to request, receive and return special absentee ballots, extending the time from 90 days to 120 days prior to an election.

Michigan: Primary ballot snafus arise in Detroit | The Detroit News

Balloting problems came to light in Detroit on Wednesday, one day after U.S. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders pulled off a shocking upset of front-runner Hillary Clinton in the Michigan Democratic primary. Wayne County Board of Canvassers officials discovered that a handful of Detroit precincts registered zero votes during balloting. Memory cards for three precincts showed no votes cast, while five absentee ballot precincts were uploaded Wednesday as zero, acknowledged Daniel Baxter, director of Detroit elections. Canvassers will have to review the ballots in those precincts, but Baxter said they’re unlikely to change the results. Sanders won the statewide contest by 18,350 votes — 595,073 to 576,723 — and the precincts at issue had about 1,500 votes, Baxter said. Another estimate at the canvassers meeting put the tally at closer to 5,000 voters. “This will have no effect on the outcome,” Baxter said.

Louisiana: Schedler now wants to keep Election Assistance Commission | USA Today

Louisiana Secretary of State Tom Schedler, in a break with other state election officials, now says the Election Assistance Commission should remain in place. His view marks a reversal of his earlier position that the commission, which helps states run their elections, should be eliminated. ‘’I kind of like what I see now,” Schedler said in a recent interview. “And I’m willing to take a look-see attitude.” Schedler heads the National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS), but he said he was speaking only in his capacity as Louisiana’s secretary of state in offering his revised position to shut down the federal agency.

New Hampshire: House tackles voter eligibility bills | Associated Press

Tackling a handful of bills aimed at expanding or restrict voter eligibility, the New Hampshire House on Wednesday approved a 10-day residency requirement for new voters. The bill, which now goes to the Senate, would require voters to be domiciled in the state for 10 days before an election. It also would change the definition of domicile to exclude those who are in the state temporarily or don’t intend to make it their home.

North Dakota: ID law may complicate voting for students | Bismarck Tribune

McKinley Theobald has volunteered in Fargo-Moorhead and canvassed in Iowa for Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders. But the North Dakota State University junior still doesn’t know where or how she will vote for Sanders in November, should he become the nominee. “I wanted to register in North Dakota because this is where I live now. I spent the entire school year; it’s where I’ve invested my life,” Theobald, 23, said Tuesday. “But my parents are now moving to Illinois, and I have no connection to Illinois, but it’s easier for me to vote in Illinois, and that’s just kind of absurd to me.”

Pennsylvania: For John Kasich, a battle over signatures to appear on primary ballot | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s own lawyer agrees the presidential campaign submitted fewer valid signatures than are required for the candidate to appear on Pennsylvania’s primary ballot. But he argued in court Wednesday that it doesn’t matter because an objection to Mr. Kasich’s nominating petitions was filed 13 minutes too late. At issue is whether challenges to Pennsylvania nominating petitions are due by 5 p.m. or 11:59 p.m. on the last day to file. Attorneys for Mr. Kasich and the objector have stipulated that the campaign filed no more than 2,184 signatures with the state, and that 192 of those signatures were not valid. Republican and Democratic candidates for president must submit 2,000 signatures to appear on the ballot.

Texas: Court to re-examine decision striking down of Texas voter ID law | Reuters

A Texas law previously struck down requiring voters to show authorized identification before casting ballots will be re-examined, the U.S. Court for Appeals for the Fifth Circuit said on Wednesday. The court, which said its full bench of judges will participate, did not set a date or elaborate on why it will hold the review of the law a three-judge panel from the court said in an August 2015 decision violated the U.S. Voting Rights Act through its “discriminatory effects.” The measure was signed into law in 2011 by then Texas Governor Rick Perry, a Republican, and has been in effect since even as the legal challenges have wound their way through the courts. Plaintiffs have argued the law hits elderly and poorer voters, including minorities, hardest because they are less likely to have such identification. They contend the measure is used by Republicans as a way suppressing voters who typically align with Democrats. The measure, which supporters say will prevent voter fraud, requires voters to present a photo identification such as a driver’s license, passport or military ID card.

Vermont: House approves automatic voter registration | Burlington Free Press

A bill that would automatically register Vermonters to vote as part of the driver’s license application process has passed the Vermont House of Representatives. House members voted 137-0 Tuesday to send the bill to the Senate. If the bill becomes law, Vermonters could opt out of voter registration by checking a box on the application or renewal form for a driver’s license or nondriver identification card. Otherwise, the Department of Motor Vehicles would assume applicants met the legal requirements for voting and would send their information to the Vermont Secretary of State’s Office.

Washington: State Voting Rights Act likely dead again this year | Yakima Herald

A state Voting Rights Act bill that has passed the House two years in a row will again not make it out of the Senate. Senate Republican leaders said earlier this week there were negotiations on the bill through last Friday, but they failed to reach a compromise. Senate Majority Leader Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, said the sole focus now is passing a supplemental budget to fund government through the 2015-17 biennium. “I think right now all of the bandwidth is focused on getting the three budgets out of here because that is the one thing we do really need to do that we all agree on,” Schoesler said at a news conference Tuesday in Olympia. Gov. Jay Inslee called the Legislature into an immediate special session Thursday night when no budget had emerged.

Bulgaria: Bulgaria takes step towards mandatory voting in elections | Reuters

Bulgaria’s parliament paved the way for the introduction of compulsory voting in elections on Thursday, passing a draft bill to amend the electoral code at its first reading. The centre-right government believes making it mandatory for Bulgarians to vote will curb electoral fraud and boost the legitimacy of the Balkan country’s political institutions. European Union member Bulgaria has had five governments in less than three years. The last national election in 2014 saw the lowest turnout in 25 years, of about 51 percent, and produced a particularly fractured parliament.

Niger: Niger opposition candidate Amadou will take part in presidential polls | AFP

Niger opposition candidate Hama Amadou, held in jail since November on shadowy baby-trafficking charges, will take part in the run-off race against President Mahamadou Issoufou, his lawyers said Thursday. The head of the country’s national electoral commission (CENI) announced earlier that the elections would go ahead despite the withdrawal of the opposition coalition, known as COPA 2016. The pullout was expected to include candidate Amadou, who has campaigned from behind bars throughout the race. But his lawyer told AFP that Amadou never said he would withdraw. “COPA has only said that they will suspend their participation in the process, but Hama will run in the election,” his lawyer said.

Russia: Putin’s ex-pm, facing death threats, warns of vote crackdown | Bloomberg

The Kremlin is putting “unprecedented” pressure on opposition activists as President Vladimir Putin prepares for his toughest electoral test amid Russia’s longest recession in two decades, according to his former prime minister. “The authorities understand that 2016 will be decisive because the economic and political situation is acute,” Mikhail Kasyanov, who was premier from 2000 to 2004 and is now one of Putin’s harshest critics, said in an interview in Moscow. “They are tightening the screws, and if they don’t allow the opposition to engage in politics and compete in elections, all this will soon lead to a revolution.” Kasyanov said pro-Kremlin activists are hounding him and supporters of his opposition Parnas coalition across the country ahead of parliamentary elections in September. He’s also facing death threats, including an Instagram video posted last month by the Kremlin-backed leader of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, that showed him in the crosshairs of a scope sight. Kadyrov later added a picture of himself with a sniper rifle.