National: How an obscure committee could decide the GOP nomination | Politico

The four GOP presidential campaigns are quietly preparing for a battle over an obscure rule-making committee that could control the balance of power in a contested Republican National Convention in July. The convention’s 112-member Rules Committee wields enormous power to influence the outcome of the party’s nomination fight, including the authority to undo policies requiring most of the 2,472 convention delegates to abide by the will of the voters — freeing them to vote according to personal preference — or to erect all kinds of obstacles to Donald Trump’s nomination. “By majority rule, they can do anything that they want,” said Barry Bennett, an adviser to Donald Trump who’s coordinating the mogul’s convention strategy. “They can throw out the chairman. You can throw out the RNC members. You can do anything.”

American Samoa: “People of American Samoa Aren’t Fully American” | Bloomberg

The circumstances of the birth of Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz put constitutional citizenship into the headlines. Also in the news: A federal judge in Puerto Rico ruled last week that the U.S. Supreme Court’s gay-marriage decision doesn’t follow the flag to the island. What would happen if you mashed the two issues together, mixing birthright citizenship with the Constitution’s applicability to U.S. territories? The answer to this otherwise random-seeming question is in fact before the Supreme Court right now. At issue is whether it’s constitutional for Congress to deny birthright citizenship to people born in American Samoa, which has been a U.S. territory since 1900. In June, a conservative panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit upheld the congressional rule, which uniquely applies to American Samoa and no other U.S. territory. Now the Samoan-born plaintiffs are asking the Supreme Court to review the D.C. Circuit’s decision — and asking Congress to change the rules.

Arizona: Senate tentatively OKs bill aimed at curtailing voter fraud | Associated Press

A bill to keep voters from casting ballots using the names of dead people received preliminary approval Monday in the Arizona Senate even though there was no evidence that type of fraud was occurring in the state. Arizona conservatives are pushing the legislation in the wake of legislative victories that include limiting the collection of early ballots and erecting more hurdles to get initiatives on the ballot. Republicans say the measures help protect against voter fraud while Democrats argue the moves limit voter participation.

Kentucky: Online voter registration comes to Kentucky | Lexington Herald-Leader

Kentuckians can now register to vote online. Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes touted the state’s new online registration system,, Monday at a news conference in the Capitol Rotunda. Grimes, the state’s chief election official, said Kentucky voters also can use the system to change their existing registration information, such as political party affiliation. Before, Kentuckians had to register to vote or change voting information by mail or in person using voter registration cards. The new system will be more convenient, said Grimes, noting that 30 states already have online registration. The system was activated March 1. “Already, a 93-year-old went online to update her registration,” Grimes said.

North Carolina: North Carolina’s Voter ID Law Could Block 218,000 Registered Voters From the Polls | The Nation

Ethelene Douglas, an 85-year-old African-American woman who grew up in the segregated South and first registered to vote in 1964, was one of them. Her struggle to obtain the necessary ID vividly illustrates the problems with the law. In September 2012, Douglas’s niece, Clara Quick, took her to the DMV in Laurinburg, North Carolina, to get a state photo ID. Douglas was told she needed a copy of her birth certificate to get an ID. So they traveled across the state line to Dillon, South Carolina, where Douglas was born, to find her birth certificate. But the government office there said she needed a photo ID to get a birth certificate, and Douglas was caught in a seemingly unresolvable catch-22. (This account comes from an affidavit Quick filed in federal court.) Her niece called the South Carolina’s Vital Records office, paid $17 for an expedited birth certificate, but still couldn’t get one. Instead, she was told to find her aunt’s marriage certificate, which was in Bennettsville, South Carolina. After getting that, they made a second trip to the North Carolina DMV, but were once again told Douglas couldn’t get a photo ID because she didn’t have a birth certificate. They were so frustrated that they gave up trying for a time. In the fall of 2013, after North Carolina passed the voter ID law, they made a third trip to the DMV. An employee told Quick to get a census report to confirm her aunt’s identify, which she purchased for $69. Quick brought her aunt’s census report, marriage certificate, Social Security card, and utility bill during a fourth trip to the DMV in September 2014 and was finally able to get her the photo ID needed to vote.

Pennsylvania: John Kasich: The 13 minutes that could make — or break — his campaign | CNN

That amount of time may be the saving grace for John Kasich’s presidential campaign strategy, one that relies heavily on the state of Pennsylvania — a state where Kasich’s lawyers are battling to keep him on the ballot. Central to that battle is a missed deadline by a Marco Rubio supporter in the state who objected to hundreds of signatures filed by Kasich’s campaign to get onto the state’s ballot. The deadline was missed, according to Kasich’s legal team, by all of 13 minutes, making the petition void. Yet even seizing on that technicality hasn’t led to a simple resolution of the issue. As both sides prepare to file new briefs in the case Monday, no less than Kasich’s entire post-Ohio primary strategy is at stake.

Texas: Analysis: Scant Evidence for Abbott’s “Rampant” Voter Fraud | The Texas Tribune

The governor of Texas thinks that fraud in the electoral system that put him and others in office is “rampant.” He can’t back that up. Greg Abbott was asked on Monday what he thought about President Obama’s throwdown last week on the state’s lousy voter turnout. “The folks who are governing the good state of Texas aren’t interested in having more people participate,” the president told The Texas Tribune’s Evan Smith at South by Southwest Interactive. The chief of those “folks” would rather limit turnout than expand on what he seems to think is an election system that has run off the side of the road.

Virginia: Argument preview: Once again, the issue is race | Lyle Denniston/SCOTUSblog

More than halfway through the latest cycle of redrawing election districts after the 2010 census, the Supreme Court is still trying to sort out when those who draw the map rely too heavily on the race of the voters. It will be doing so in a case that has been to the Court once before, but the case may not even produce a decision this time on the key issue: the validity of a Virginia district for a single seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. Next Monday, March 21, the Court will hold one hour of oral argument on Wittman v. Personhubullah. The case reached the Court again in an appeal by all eight of Virginia’s current Republican members of the House (together with two others who no longer are in the state’s delegation but continue to be named). The lawmakers are seeking to defend the constitutionality of District 3 under the 2012 plan, which was struck down as a “racial gerrymander” in a split decision by a three-judge federal district court last June. Actually, that lower court has twice nullified the 2012 plan for District 3. Then, when the legislature last year could not agree on a replacement, the court fashioned a new one on its own. Adding to the strangeness of this case, the court-drawn map is the one that will be used in this year’s June 14 primary and November 8 general elections in Virginia, under an order by the Supreme Court last month.

Washington: Voters could get $150 to give to candidates under proposed initiative | The Seattle Times

Washington voters would be allowed to make $150 in taxpayer-funded donations to legislative candidates every two years under a state initiative proposal preparing to launch this week. Backers of the measure, aimed at the November 2016 ballot, say it would curb the influence of moneyed special interests by creating the new public campaign-financing system, modeled in part on a “Democracy vouchers” initiative approved by Seattle voters last year. While some details are still being finalized, supporters of the Washington Government Accountability Act, calling themselves Integrity Washington, have raised $250,000 from two out-of-state nonprofit groups and put down a $100,000 deposit toward a paid signature-gathering campaign.

Benin: Country heads to polls for presidential elections | The National

A so-called cotton king once accused of trying to poison his president could be about to take power in the tiny West African country of Benin. Cotton magnate Patrice Talon is the main challenger to Prime Minister Lionel Zinsou in the current presidential elections. The pair are due to face each other in the second round of voting on March 20 after the first round last week failed to produce a clear winner. Preliminary results showed that neither Talon nor French-born Zinsou had the majority of votes for an outright win with the former taking 24 per cent of the vote against the Prime Minister’s 28 per cent. Another businessman Sebastien Ajavon was a close third but if the preliminary results are confirmed Talon and Zinsou will vie against each other in a run-off on Sunday.

Germany: Election bruises Merkel, but isn’t a knockout blow | Reuters

“It’s the refugees, stupid.” That might as well have been the catchphrase in Sunday’s regional elections in Germany, where Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ruling coalition suffered a crushing defeat. A budget surplus of 19 billion euros and the lowest unemployment rate in 25 years weren’t enough to keep the loyalty of voters in three states. The 1 million asylum seekers who reached Germany in 2015 — and the prospect of a similar number arriving this year — turned these elections into a referendum on Merkel’s refugee policy. The right-wing populist party, Alternative for Germany (AfD) burst into all three regional legislatures, winning not only a quarter of the vote in Saxony-Anhalt, a rustbelt state in the former East Germany, but also 15 percent in wealthy Baden-Wuerttemberg, according to preliminary results. The AfD was founded as an anti-euro party during the Greek debt crisis, but has since taken a hard line on refugees. The upstart party now holds seats in half of Germany’s 16 state assemblies.

Kazakhstan: Is Kazakhstan Holding the World’s Most Boring Election? | The Diplomat

On March 20, Kazakhstan will hold snap parliamentary elections. While the OSCE election monitoring mission’s preliminary report notes several systemic problems, comments from the CIS observers mission present a different picture, one without significant flaws. As with previous elections in Kazakhstan and elsewhere in Central Asia, two narratives will predictably emerge. One will cast Kazakhstan as a young democracy: ”Look, elections!” believers will say; and the other narrative will pursue a more critical line. In the election’s mercifully brief campaign, most of the parties are toting the ruling party’s line. Although new energy is promised, the likely outcome will be more of the same faces and more of the same policies.

Kosovo: Opposition MPs Repeat Election Demand | Balkan Insight

Opposition politicians in Kosovo have reiterated their demand for early elections as the only solution to the political crisis – while government MPs insist the answer is further dialogue. Opposition politicians in Kosovo have repeated their demand for early elections, saying this alone will solve the country’s acute political crisis. Rexhep Selimi, an MP from the opposition Vetevendosje [Self-Determination] movement, said the government had lost its legitimity and even its legality. “Elections are necessary and inevitable,” he told BIRN, adding that early elections should be considered a healthy option for society.

Niger: Niger to evacuate jailed opposition leader due to health issues | Reuters

Authorities in Niger will attempt to evacuate to a hospital in the capital jailed opposition leader Hama Amadou, who will face off against President Mahamadou Issoufou in a Sunday run-off election, due to health issues, a government official said late on Monday. Amadou, a former president of parliament speaker, was jailed in November in connection with a baby-trafficking scandal but finished second to Issoufou in the first round of polling last month. He denies the charges against him and says they are politically motivated. His supporters claim he has suffered from ill health during the time he has been jailed in the town of Filingue, around 180 km (112 miles) northeast of the capital Niamey.