National: As 2016 race goes on, states debate election costs | Associated Press

Arizona officials are getting tired of footing the $6 million bill for the state’s presidential primary and want to foist the cost onto the political parties as states around the country weigh the cost of the contests. Colorado may go the other direction, bringing back state-run primaries. Utah lawmakers voted to scrap primaries in favor of caucuses in the two most recent presidential election cycles. States have come up with various ways to handle the contests every four years, and cost is a factor. About a third hold primaries for governor, Congress and other races at the same time as their White House primaries to save money on poll workers, locations and ballots, said Wendy Underhill, elections program director with the National Conference of State Legislatures.

National: The 130-Year-Old Law That Could Determine Our Next President | Edward Foley/Politico

Political junkies and history buffs have spent weeks dreaming about the unlikeliest possible scenarios that could determine the 2016 election: contested conventions, third-party bids, a cross-party ticket. But here’s one prospect they probably haven’t thought of: There’s a legally sound scenario in which John Kasich could single-handedly pick the next U.S. president. And it’s all thanks to a federal law that’s been on the books since 1887. It’s a far-fetched outcome, to be sure, but here’s how that could happen—and why Congress should consider revising that 130-year-old law. It starts with a serious ballot dispute in November, something like the contested results in Florida during the 2000 election—the odds of which aren’t trivial. Setting aside the very real prospect of a Hillary Clinton-Donald Trump nail-biter, the risk of a recount and related litigation is higher than it was in the past, thanks to a greater number of absentee and provisional ballots, which often get counted after Election Day. In this situation, the Supreme Court could step in to resolve the dispute. But the odds of that happening have probably decreased due to the vociferous criticism of the Bush v. Gore decision. Not to mention that in the wake of Justice Antonin Scalia’s death, there could still be only eight sitting justices in November; that also makes it more likely the court will stay out of the matter this time.

National: How ‘ghost corporations’ are funding the 2016 election | The Washington Post

Two days before Christmas, a trust called DE First Holdings was quietly formed in Delaware, where corporations are required to reveal little about their workings. A day later, the entity dropped $1 million into a super PAC with ties to Jersey City, N.J., Mayor Steven Fulop, a Democrat considering a gubernatorial bid. The trust, whose owner remains unknown, is part of a growing cadre of mystery outfits financing big-money super PACs. Many were formed just days or weeks before making six- or ­seven-figure contributions — an arrangement that election law experts say violates a long-standing federal ban on straw donors. But the individuals behind the “ghost corporations” appear to face little risk of reprisal from a deeply polarized Federal Election Commission, which recently deadlocked on whether to even investigate such cases. Advocates for stronger campaign-finance enforcement fear there will be even more pop-up limited liability corporations (LLCs) funneling money into independent groups, making it difficult to discern the identities of wealthy players seeking to influence this year’s presidential and congressional contests.

National: Many ex-felons don’t know they can get their right to vote restored | witf

On a Tuesday afternoon in December, Richard Walker stood on the corner outside the city’s social services building and hollered.
“Hey! I’m helping people who’ve got a felony conviction like me get their rights back. You know anybody like that?” Walker, 57, called out to office workers in suits, the women in line for cheap cell phones and the young man pushing a baby stroller down East Marshall Street. Every few minutes he brought someone back to a card table where he patiently explained the forms they would need to fill out to have their right to vote restored after a felony conviction. Walker soothed their worries: It’s OK if you have outstanding fines, it’s OK if it was a long time ago, it’s all OK. For three hours, he moved nonstop. Then he tallied up the forms he had stuffed into a manila envelope and walked them across the street to the government office where they would be processed.

Editorials: America’s disturbing voter-turnout crisis: How inequality extends to polling place – and why that makes our country less fair | Sean McElwee/Salon

Automatic voter registration isn’t the sexiest way to start a political revolution, but it may be the most effective. The United States lags behind the rest of the rich world in turnout, but it leads the rich world in disparity in turnout across income and education levels, which has profound effects on policy. This so-called “turnout skew” further biases policy towards the rich, even more than it already would be because of the structural advantages the rich enjoy. Bolstering turnout could lead to a self-reinforcing feedback loop in the opposite direction. As I’ve shown, turnout in the United States is dramatically skewed by class, race and age, in both midterm and presidential elections. The class divides in U.S. turnout are dramatic when compared with other countries (see chart). These divides lead to turnout that is overwhelmingly anti-redistribution, and biases the political system toward policies that favor the wealthy.

Editorials: The Right to ‘Mobocracy’ | Henry Olsen/Wall Street Journal

Who’s rigging our elections? Ask Republicans and they’ll insist that Democrats promote voter fraud through early balloting, same-day registration and lax oversight that encourages illegal immigrants to vote. Nonsense, Democrats will say. It’s the GOP that’s trying to disenfranchise young, poor and minority voters by requiring picture IDs at polling places and bringing court cases intended to eliminate federal oversight of voting practices in many Southern states. As Michael Waldman, president of the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law School, reminds us in “The Fight to Vote,” such disputes are not new: Voter eligibility and qualifications have been at the heart of the struggle for American democracy from its outset. After the Revolutionary War, Pennsylvanians debated for 14 years over who should be able to vote, with opponents of universal suffrage like Benjamin Rush deriding it as “a mobocracy.” The book is an engaging, concise history of American voting practices, and despite a heavily partisan treatment of today’s “voting wars,” it offers many useful reforms that advocates on both sides of the aisle should consider.

Illinois: Aging voting machines in Clark County, statewide need replaced | Springfield News Sun

A sensor in a voting machine in Green Twp. stopped working during the primary election this week, which elections officials locally and statewide said is a symptom of Ohio’s aging voting machines that need upgraded soon. The Presidential Commission on Election Administration called the aging voting machines an “impending crisis” in a 2014 report to President Obama. It could cost $150 million to $175 million to buy new voting equipment statewide, a recent state report found, and there’s likely little federal money available now like there was a decade ago. The Ohio Secretary of State’s Office has been developing a plan to upgrade voting equipment statewide by the 2020 election.

Minnesota: Election-year session sees election-reform bills | Capitol Report

Irony alert: Election-reform bills proposed this session must pass through legislative panels led by lawmakers who’ve decided they aren’t going to run in the next election. The chairs of the House committee and Senate subcommittee overseeing proposed changes to Minnesota elections both said last month (before the March 1 precinct caucuses and the March 8 start of session) that they won’t be on the ballot for re-election in November. Rep. Tim Sanders, R-Blaine, chair of the House Government Operations and Elections Policy Committee, made his announcement in late February, and Sen. Katie Sieben, DFL-Cottage Grove, chair of the Senate Rules and Administration Subcommittee on Elections, announced in early February.

Montana: GOP challenges cross-over voters | SCOTUSblog

The Montana Republican Party and eight of its county-level committees have asked the Supreme Court to bar non-Republicans from crossing over and casting GOP ballots in the state’s “open primary” election on June 7. The application (Ravalli County Republican Central Committee v. McCulloch, 15A911) seeks action by the Court by March 31. The state has been told to reply by Tuesday afternoon. Potentially, this dispute over cross-over voters could affect all of the eleven states that now have an “open primary” — that is, one in which voters are not restricted to vote only for a specific party’s candidates for state and congressional offices. The request was filed with Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, who handles emergency legal matters from the geographic area that is the Ninth Circuit, which includes Montana. Kennedy has the option of acting on his own or sharing the request with the other Justices.

Ohio: Election laws under scrutiny as focus shifts to fall | Associated Press

Some rules for Ohio voters are under legal scrutiny as the focus starts shifting toward the fall election. The perennial presidential battleground is no stranger to election-law challenges. Voting disputes in Ohio seem to appear at the rate of political TV ads as Election Day nears. “There are always new issues that arise as the election approaches, especially in Ohio, given that we’re a perpetual swing state,” said Dan Tokaji, an Ohio State University law professor. … A federal judge began hearing testimony Wednesday over changes to requirements for absentee and provisional ballot. Advocates for Ohio’s homeless and the state’s Democratic Party claim the 2014 changes create new hurdles for voters, particularly minorities and Democratic-leaning voters. Among other arguments, they allege that numerous ballots are being tossed because of paperwork errors. They say voters lack an opportunity to cure the problems, in violation of their 14th Amendment rights.

Utah: GOP to Test First-Ever Statewide Online Voting in US | VoA News

This Tuesday, March 22, when Republicans in Utah caucus to nominate a candidate for U.S. President, many of them won’t actually be in Utah. In fact, some won’t even be in North America. That’s because for the first time ever in the United States, a state party will allow voting via the Internet. Members of the Utah Republican party who either can’t make it to a caucus site, or simply choose to participate via the Internet, will be able to cast their ballot by registering online at the party’s website. Once registered, online voters will have all day – from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. MDT – to select which candidate they want to be this year’s Republican presidential nominee. “I think it’s going to be great,” Utah Republican Chairman James Evans recently told the Deseret News during a demonstration of how the online voting will work. “There’s not a reason for anyone not to participate.” (Utah’s Democratic state party is not allowing online voting this cycle.)

Virginia: Republicans take redistricting fight to the Supreme Court | The Washington Post

The Supreme Court on Monday takes up a long-running political fight about whether Virginia lawmakers redrew the state’s congressional map to protect the commonwealth’s lone African American congressman — or to make sure he was not joined by a second. The court will consider whether Republican lawmakers packed African American voters into Democratic Rep. Robert C. “Bobby” Scott’s district to comply with the Voting Rights Act or to make surrounding districts more hospitable to white candidates. A lower court ruled against the legislature last year, and the judges then created a second district designed for a black candidate. Voters in the state’s congressional primary go to the polls in June — about when the justices would seem likely to rule on this new plan. The case presents what has become familiar litigation over how states divide up their residents into congressional districts, which is essential to the country’s politics and crucial to political parties. But state lawmakers charged with the task compare it to walking a tightrope, or crossing a minefield, or preparing a meal for Goldilocks.

Africa: It’s a #SuperSunday in Africa, with elections being held in Benin, Cape Verde, Congo, Niger, Senegal and Zanzibar | The Washington Post

Election watchers have deemed today a #SuperSunday in Africa, where people are voting in elections in Benin, Cape Verde, Congo-Brazzaville, Niger, Senegal and Zanzibar. To be more exact: Benin and Niger are holding run-off presidential elections; the poll in the Republic of Congo (Congo-Brazzaville) is a first-round (and probably only-round) presidential election; Cape Verde’s poll is a parliamentary election; Zanzibar’s election is due to an annulment of an earlier poll; and Senegalese are voting on a referendum. Below are a few snapshots and a round-up of links to learn more about each election.

Australia: Electronic ballot-scanning trial holds up council election results across Queensland | ABC

The electronic ballot-scanning pilot launched in five councils during the weekend’s local government election in Queensland has left some councillors clueless about their future. The technology that runs first-past-the-post ballot papers through a scanner, takes a photo, and then recognises the numeral, has caused extensive delays in the Noosa, Mackay, Toowoomba, Livingstone and Gladstone council regions. Less than 8 per cent of the vote has been counted in Noosa, and less than 4 per cent in Toowoomba, Gladstone and Mackay, while not a single vote has been declared for councillors in Livingstone. Electoral Commission Queensland (ECQ) assistant commissioner Dermot Tiernan said the delays in Noosa had been caused by sensitivity in the technology.

Benin: Businessman ‘wins Benin’s presidential election’ | AFP

Businessman Patrice Talon ‘won’ the second round of Benin’s presidential election on Sunday, his adversary and incumbent Prime Minister Lionel Zinsou told AFP before the release of official results. “The provisional results point to a decisive victory for Patrice Talon,” Zinsou told AFP by telephone. “The difference is significant, (Talon’s) electorial victory is certain. “I have called Patrice Talon this evening to congratulate him on his victory, wish him good luck and put myself at his disposal to prepare for the handover.” Some 4.7 million people were eligible to cast their ballots in the vote to elect a successor to Benin’s outgoing President Thomas Boni Yayi. He is bowing out after serving a maximum two five-year terms, marking him out from many African leaders who have tried to change their country’s constitution to stay in power. Benin’s electoral commission is expected to announce provisional results at some time on Monday, Zinsou said.

Congo: Presidential polls close under media blackout | AFP

Congo voted on Sunday under a nationwide media blackout in a tense ballot expected to see President Denis Sassou Nguesso prolong his 32-year rule over the oil-rich but impoverished nation. Interior Minister Raymond Mboulou ordered telecoms firms to block all telephone, Internet and SMS services for 48 hours due to “reasons of security and national safety”. In what appeared to be an isolated incident, police fired tear gas to disperse a crowd of around 200 opposition supporters at a polling station in Brazzaville. Officers hit some of the crowd with clubs and took away one person after supporters of opposition candidate Guy-Brice Parfait Kolelas demanded officials let them into a polling station to observe the counting. Polls closed at 1700 GMT and results are expected from Tuesday.

Kazakhstan: Analysis: Make No Mistake, Kazakhstan’s Elections Still Meaningless | RFE

The results of Kazakhstan’s lackluster parliamentary elections are in and they show that three parties will have seats in the Mazhilis, the lower house of parliament. The ruling Nur-Otan party took nearly 81 percent of the vote; Ak Zhol, 7.47 percent; and the Communist People’s Party of Kazakhstan, 7.19 percent. Wait a minute. My mistake. I am so sorry. Those are the results from the 2012 parliamentary elections. The results of the March 20, 2016, parliamentary elections show, too, that three parties will have seats in the Mazhilis. Nur-Otan got 82.15 percent of the vote; Ak Zhol, 7.18 percent; and the Communist People’s Party of Kazakhstan took 7.14 percent. Not sure how I could have confused the two polls.

Tanzania: Ruling party declared winner in Zanzibar re-run vote | Reuters

The ruling party candidate in Tanzania’s semi-autonomous Zanzibar was declared the winner in a re-run of presidential elections boycotted by the opposition. The incumbent Zanzibar President Ali Mohamed Shein, of the national ruling CCM party, won 91.4 percent of the votes in Sunday’s ballot, the electoral body said after it annulled the initial poll in October that the opposition said it had won. In October, the Zanzibar Electoral Commission (ZEC) called for a re-run citing fraud, a charge the opposition said was made up.

Senegal: Senegal votes on referendum to reduce presidential term | Associated Press

Senegalese residents on Sunday voted on a constitutional referendum that could see sweeping constitutional reforms including a reduction of presidential powers and terms from seven to five years, on a continent where many leaders try to hold onto power. More than 5 million people are expected to vote Sunday to determine if 15 reforms will be adopted, according to the election commission. The proposed changes include measures to strengthen the National Assembly, improve representation for Senegalese abroad, provide greater rights for the opposition and boost participation of independent candidates in elections. “We are a modern African democracy. Today in Africa, many countries impose mandates. Here we are giving referendums for which people can say yes or no,” said voter Mamadou Diagne, 58, a human resources representative at an oil company. “It’s very satisfying to be a Senegalese today.” Diagne said all of the reforms represent advancement.