Minnesota: Dayton advocates voting rights for released felons | Duluth News Tribune

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton would like formerly imprisoned felons to be able to vote in Minnesota, he said Wednesday. “We should let people who have served their sentences, paid their debt to society, be given their chance to restore their active participation in our … democratic process,” the Democratic-Farmer-Labor governor said. With his comments, Dayton waded into a debate that has roiled the state and nation. On Tuesday, the Minnesota Senate approved a measure to allow felons to vote after they served their sentences. Last week, Virginia’s governor used his executive power to restore voting rights to felons who are on supervised release in that state. Other states have also grappled with laws that limit felons ability to vote evening after they have served their prison sentences.

Missouri: Democrats launch filibuster as voter ID brought up again in Senate | St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Missouri Senate Democrats launched another talk-a-thon Wednesday night in the Missouri Senate in a bid to stop a proposal that would require voters to show photo ID at the polls. The measure advanced in the House early in the legislative session but has been stalled in the Senate. The Republican majority has brought the bill up on the floor in recent weeks, but it paused debate each time as it became clear the two sides wouldn’t reach an agreement. On Wednesday, about 7 p.m., state Sen. Joe Keaveny of St. Louis, the minority floor leader, said Democrats and Republicans were feeling each other out.

New York: State may expand online voter registration | The Journal News

New York may see an expansion of online voter registration after Attorney General Eric Schneiderman ruled Tuesday that the practice is legal. The opinion came in response to questions from Suffolk County officials asking if state law permits the county to implement an online voter registration system. Currently, the state Department of Motor Vehicles offers online voter registration for New Yorkers that uses an electronic signature, but not elsewhere. Schneiderman said his opinion of county online voter registration is a “new era of truly online voter registration,” and he encouraged county elections boards to develop online registration systems.

North Carolina: Rights groups appeal ruling upholding voter ID law | Reuters

Civil rights groups and churches opposed to sweeping changes to North Carolina’s election rules said on Tuesday they would ask an appeals court for a reversal after a federal judge upheld provisions they argue will suppress minority votes at the polls in November. The ruling late on Monday was highly anticipated in a presidential election year in a state that had close results for the White House in 2008 and 2012, and it received praise from the voting law’s Republican backers. U.S. District Judge Thomas Schroeder in Winston-Salem said the state could require voters to show approved photo identification at the polls, one of a number of provisions in the law that challengers have said targets groups of people who typically support Democratic candidates.

Texas: Fifteen GOP states back Texas voter ID law in legal brief | San Antonio Express-News

Fifteen Republican-controlled states are wading into the contentious court fight over Texas’ voter ID law, arguing in a legal brief that similar laws around the country have already been upheld by the courts. A three-judge panel at the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last year that Texas’ law requiring voters to show picture identification at the polls violated parts of the federal Voting Rights Act. However, the court’s full bench has agreed to reconsider the case at a May 24 hearing. Ahead of oral arguments next month, Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller is leading a coalition of GOP states supporting Texas’ controversial measure. In a recent court filing with, Zoeller’s office argues that a ruling against Texas’ measure could create “uncertainty for States attempting to enforce or enact voter ID laws.” “This, in turn, would leave State voter ID laws in a constant state of flux,” Indiana Solicitor General Thomas Fisher writes in an amicus brief.

Editorials: Voting Rights Lose in North Carolina | The New York Times

Late Monday, a federal district judge upheld one of the most regressive and restrictive voting laws in the country — a 2013 North Carolina law that eliminated same-day voter registration and preregistration for 16- and 17-year-olds; cut back on early voting by a week; barred counting votes cast outside voters’ home precincts; and required voters to show identification at the polls. State lawmakers said these changes were necessary to reduce fraud and inefficiency in elections — though there is no evidence of voter fraud to combat or inefficiency to cure. The Justice Department, the American Civil Liberties Union, the N.A.A.C.P. and the Advancement Project, among others, sued on the grounds that the law illegally discriminates against minority voters.

Virginia: McAuliffe rejects GOP leaders’ call for special session on voting rights for felons | Richmond Times-Dispatch

Gov. Terry McAuliffe rejected Republican leaders’ call Tuesday for a special legislative session on the governor’s order restoring voting rights for 206,000 felons, saying the legislature has “no specific role” in the matter. The back-and-forth escalated a constitutional clash that could ultimately land in court as Republicans continue to seek ways to mount a legal challenge to Friday’s sweeping executive action. In a letter to the governor, House of Delegates Speaker William J. Howell, R-Stafford, and Senate Majority Leader Thomas K. Norment Jr., R-James City, said McAuliffe, a Democrat, had shown a “flagrant disregard” for the Virginia Constitution. They also called on the governor to release a list of names of all people whose voting and civil rights were restored by Friday’s order, including details about their crimes.

Wisconsin: Government Accountability Board Director Calls Walker’s Comments On Voter ID Law ‘Disingenuous’ | Wisconsin Public Radio

The director of the Government Accountability Board called Gov. Scott Walker’s recent comments about funding a voter ID public education campaign “disingenuous” on Wednesday. In a 4-2 decision, the board voted Tuesday to ask for money from the state Legislature to fund a statewide campaign to educate voters on what forms of ID are acceptable at the polls. Walker addressed the funding request on Tuesday, saying that the high turnout during the April 5 primary demonstrates the funding is unnecessary. Moreover, the governor said the state has already spent too much money defending the law in court.

Virginia: Why Virginia Disenfranchised Felons | The Atlantic

Last Friday, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe restored voting rights to more than 200,000 people with previous felony convictions. It’s a momentous stroke in both scope and effect; with an eye towards the 2016 races, The New York Times estimated its electoral impact as “small but potentially decisive.” But the significance of McAuliffe’s efforts goes far beyond a single election. It instead marks an exorcism for one of Jim Crow’s last vestiges in Virginia’s state charter—and a reminder of how many of its legal aftereffects still linger today. Many of Jim Crow’s most pernicious aspects were swept away in a Second Reconstruction of sorts during the civil-rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. But those efforts had little effect on the criminal-justice system and its role in enforcing white supremacy, both in the South and beyond it. Disenfranchising people with criminal convictions was one of many vote-suppressing tools deployed in the state’s 1902 constitution, which was explicitly drafted and ratified to destroy black political power in the Old Dominion.

Wisconsin: Elections board to ask lawmakers for funds to publicize voter ID | Journal Times

The state elections board will ask lawmakers for $250,000 to publicize Wisconsin’s new voter ID requirement in the lead-up to the November election. The co-chairman of the Legislature’s budget panel, Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, said Tuesday that he expects it to “seriously consider” the request. Providing “$250,000, to assure every vote is counted, I don’t think is a problem,” Nygren told the Wisconsin State Journal. The Government Accountability Board approved the request on a 4-2 vote at its regular meeting Tuesday. Judges Harold Froehlich and Timothy Vocke were the dissenting votes.

Bulgaria: Online Voting to be Tested in 2018 | Novinite

Remote online voting will have its first experimental introduction starting 2018, Bulgarian lawmakers decided on Wednesday. The emergency session of full Parliament, that has been holding marathon debates and votes since Tuesday to pass a final version of the new Electoral Code, was the first to set a clear timetable for e-voting after the latter was overwhelmingly approved in a referendum last year. A total of three tests will be held throughout 2018, each in a single Bulgarian region. If they prove successful, online voting will be officially introduced as a legitimate means to take part in an election for the 2019 European Parliament vote. By 2018, electoral officials will have to organize at least three simulations of online voting with fictitious parties, coalitions and candidates.

Iran: Parliament in the balance in election run-offs | AFP

Nearly a quarter of Iran’s parliamentary seats are at stake Friday in an election in which reformists want to consolidate their recent comeback and minimise the clout of hardline lawmakers. The second round run-offs were triggered because no candidate in 68 constituencies managed to win 25 percent of votes cast in the initial nationwide ballot on February 26. Reformists who backed the country’s moderate President Hassan Rouhani made big gains in the first round following Iran’s implementation of a nuclear deal with world powers, which lifted sanctions blamed for long hobbling the economy. Conservative MPs, including vehement opponents of the West who openly criticised the landmark agreement that reined in Iran’s atomic programme, lost dozens of seats.

Kenya: Electoral Body Seeks Improvements in Next Year’s Polls | VoA News

A leading member of Kenya’s Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission said the group wants to improve the administration of next year’s general election. The constitution requires that elections be held August 8, 2017. IEBC officials said they have been engaging with stakeholders to address their concerns in the run-up to the election. Yusuf Nzibo of the IEBC said the commission was working with international partners to help correct some of the challenges the group faced during the 2013 elections.

Philippines: Comelec scraps mall voting | The Manila Times

The Commission on Elections (Comelec), via a 4-3 vote, has scrapped the holding of elections in malls because of legal problems that may later put the poll body in a bind. “It will no longer push through,” Chairman Juan Andres Bautista said on Wednesday. “It’s a pity, it’s disturbing. I apologize to our voters.” The commission arrived at the decision after a marathon en banc session on Tuesday. It reversed its earlier 6-1 ruling in favor of mall voting.
The legal issues on mall voting were raised by former Comelec Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal in a letter to Bautista. Larrazabal pointed out that the Comelec failed to comply with the three basic requirements set by the Omnibus Election Code (OEC) before some clustered precincts can be legally transferred to shopping malls.

Serbia: Mock group becomes surprise election success in Serbian town | Associated Press

A young man poses as a sleazy, bejeweled politician in a white suit, sitting atop a white horse surrounded by hordes of bodyguards while promising jobs and prosperity to the voters. Luka Maksimovic and his friends started out to have fun, but the young pranksters have become a sensation — and have been elected to office — after finishing second in a local vote in a run-down industrial town in central Serbia. The success of the rookie citizens’ group at last weekend’s election in Mladenovac, outside Belgrade, seems to reflect widespread disillusionment with politicians in crisis-stricken Serbia and the desire for new, young faces still untouched by the corruption that has plagued all aspects of the Balkan country’s political scene.

Serbia: Rightists Threaten Protests Over Election Results | Balkan Insight

The right-wing Dveri-DSS coalition has accused Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic and his ruling Serbian Progressive Party, SNS, of pressuring the Election Commission, RIK, to declare that the coalition did not meet the threshold needed to enter parliament – and has warned of street protests. Bosko Obradovic, the president of Dveri, told BIRN that Vucic will try to use RIK’s decision to hold repeat votes in 164 polling stations to manipulate votes and leave DSS-Dveri out of parliament. “If that happens, we will definitely organize street protests,” Obradovic told BIRN. According to the RIK, seven lists crossed the threshold needed to enter the parliament after Sunday’s elections.

Editorials: Voting rights in Switzerland can’t be free | Renat Kuenzi/SWI

Foreigners account for a quarter of the Swiss population, but they can’t vote in elections or referendums. Is this acceptable in a fully-fledged direct democracy? Swiss and German politicians are divided in their opinions.
“Swiss living abroad are also foreigners in their countries of residency. They often have a firm view of what’s happening in Switzerland, and at the same time they take part in political life in their adopted countries,” Walter Leimgruber, President of the Federal Migration Commission, pointed out at a recent event. Leimgruber’s conclusion is that the Swiss living abroad are citizens of two states, and living proof that political engagement is possible in two societies. In his view, they’re a good example of how foreigners can enjoy political participation wherever they live, regardless of nationality. Economic interdependence caused by globalisation, and the fact that 50% of marriages in Switzerland are bi-national, mean “political rights will have to be redefined,” argues Leimgruber, a professor of cultural studies at Basel University.

National: Why We Still Use Paper Ballots on Election Day | MeriTalk

The vast majority of tech-savvy voters heading to the polls today across Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island, are in for the shock of their lives: paper ballots. They’re not the kind of paper ballot that you fold in half and slip through a hole in a ballot box, but a semi-high-tech optical scan ballot that is first marked by the voter and then processed by the optical scanner to tabulate the votes. All of the states holding primaries Tuesday, with the exception of Delaware, use paper ballots or a combination of paper and electronic systems. This is the new reality facing elections in the United States. The most connected country in the world has connected so many devices that securing all of them—including the once highly touted electronic voting machine—is a near impossibility. Add to the security concerns real questions about transparency, reliability, and the ability to conduct fair and accurate recounts, and you have the makings for a mass move back to paper ballots. “Based on what I’m seeing and how slowly technology evolves in the elections world, we will still be on paper over the next five to 10 years,” said Matthew Davis, the chief information officer for the Virginia Department of Elections. Davis spoke to MeriTalk at the 2016 Akamai Government Forum in Washington, D.C.

National: Selfies in the Voting Booth? Snapchat Fights for the Right. | The New York Times

Step 1: Participate in the political process, choose your future leaders, live out your democratic right as an American that countless men and women have literally died for. Step 2: Selfie. To many, there’s no better celebration of democracy than a voting booth photograph. It’s the moment political talk turns to political action, one younger voters are especially eager to record and share with friends. But in several states, the right of free speech has clashed with the question of whether allowing photographs in the voting booth, a typically private space, could compromise elections. Some states, like Pennsylvania, have banned the practice. Last year, a federal court in New Hampshire overturned a ban on such photos, a decision still being appealed.

Editorials: Demi Moore, George Wallace and Americans’ abused voting rights | David Horsey/Los Angeles Times

Back in 2012, prior to that year’s South Carolina presidential primary, I found myself in Charleston at a big rally for Mitt Romney. Sandwiched among voters waiting for their candidate to show up, I eavesdropped on an animated conversation between two vocally conservative men. One of them was happily detailing how various Republican-controlled legislatures were passing new voting restrictions that would hurt Democrats. The other man was trying to sound equally enthusiastic, but it was clear he felt some ambivalence. He wondered out loud if it was a good idea for government to be subverting the most fundamental right in a democracy. Then, realizing he was straying uncomfortably from the party line, he quickly dropped this errant thought and agreed with his friend that GOP legislators were right to stick it to the other team. It is a sad reflection on the state of our republic that the man in Charleston is far from alone in abandoning a sacred principle. Sometimes by nefarious design, sometimes through tired tradition and sometimes because of incompetence, political parties and state governments set up roadblocks to casting ballots instead of engaging as many people as possible in the political process.

Editorials: Bernie Sanders is right: poor people don’t vote and it’s a problem | Lucia Graves/The Guardian

Bernie Sanders said something he wasn’t supposed to say: that poor people don’t vote. Although it’s true that voter turnout is inversely correlated with income, all anyone wanted to comment on was that Sanders looked defensive and deflated on Meet the Press, where he made the statement on Sunday. Lost was the fact that this is a truth we should be struck by, ashamed of even, and should do more about. The impolitic remark came in response to a question about why the candidate had been losing so much in the places he should have been winning (he’s lost 16 of the 17 states with the highest levels of income inequality). The most straightforward thing for him to say would be to acknowledge that he hasn’t performed well with minority voters who tend to be less affluent. But he didn’t want to say that on television. Instead, he decided to talk about something else that’s actually more important than where he, personally, is up or down. He said: “Poor people don’t vote. I mean, that’s just a fact. That’s a sad reality of American society”. He also noted that “80% of poor people did not vote” in the 2014 election. On the airwaves he was chided for acting like an analyst rather than a candidate and for bringing his campaign down to reality in all the wrong ways. Fact-checkers immediately aimed to set the record straight only to discover that Sanders claim was “mostly true” or even, looked at comprehensively, totally correct.

Arizona: Botched Maricopa ballots will cost taxpayers $400,000 | KPNX

Maricopa County taxpayers will have to fork over almost $400,000 to make up for a misprint on 2 million ballots in a May special election. Half of the money will come from the county recorder’s office budget, and the remainder will have to be approved by the County Board, recorder’s office spokeswoman Elizabeth Bartholomew told 12 News Monday. The botched ballots come in the wake of a presidential primary fiasco last month that saw hours-long waits in line. County Recorder Helen Purcell admited she “screwed up” by cutting the number of polling places by 70 percent from four years ago. The U.S. Department of Justice is investigating what happened. Separate lawsuits have been filed in county and federal courts, alleging citizens were deprived of their right to vote.

Florida: Rep. Corrine Brown appeals to U.S. Supreme Court | News Service of Florida

When the Florida Supreme Court considered a dramatic change to the shape of Democratic Congresswoman Corrine Brown’s district last year, she promised to “go all the way to the United States Supreme Court” if necessary to preserve her electoral territory. Brown has made good on her promise. On Monday, the 12-term congresswoman appealed to the nation’s highest court in an effort to unwind a plan to rotate her district from a north-south orientation that includes her power bases of Jacksonville and Orlando to an east-west seat that stretches from Jacksonville to Gadsden County, carving up Tallahassee along the way.

Georgia: Secretary of State ends 90-day “black-out” period for voter registration | Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The Georgia Secretary of State’s Office for years did not process voter forms submitted in the 90 days after a registration deadline, a practice meant to ensure that ineligible voters did not cast a ballot in an election. No more. The office is ending the practice immediately, saying the 90-day black-out period is no longer needed. The policy began in an era when voters registered only on paper, and was a way to prevent accidental voting by anyone who missed the deadline. But in an age of electronic record-keeping, the office says its current online system will prevent accidental voting from happening.

Illinois: DuPage looking to consolidate election commission, clerk’s office | Daily Herald

More than four decades after election oversight was stripped from the DuPage County clerk’s office to create the DuPage Election Commission, officials are working to develop plans to consolidate both offices to increase efficiency and reduce costs. “We are working toward consolidation of the election commission and the county clerk’s office, which will create a new hybrid providing our voters the most efficient, the most effective model for elections in DuPage County,” county board Chairman Dan Cronin announced during Tuesday’s county board meeting. Election commission officials have adopted a series of cost-saving measures since Cronin launched the DuPage Accountability, Consolidation and Transparency Initiative in May 2012. The initiative called on the commission and 23 other agencies to make structural and operational reforms.

Minnesota: Senators make new voting push for freed felons | Minnesota Public Radio News

Minnesota senators again went on record Tuesday in favor of restoring voting rights more quickly to felons no longer incarcerated, a plan that faces stiff opposition in the Republican-led House. Currently, felons must complete their parole and probation before regaining voting rights. Some 47,000 people would be affected by the proposal, supporters said. Voting by ex-inmates has been a prominent issue nationally, with Virginia’s governor using an executive order last week restoring voting rights for more than 200,000 felons in his state. Given resistance among House leadership, chances remain slim that the legislation will reach DFL Gov. Mark Dayton in the form the Senate approved it. Similar legislation won Senate approval last year but didn’t go any further.

North Carolina: How North Carolina became the epicenter of the voting rights battle | The Washington Post

Civil rights groups appealed a federal judge’s ruling in North Carolina upholding what they call a “monster voter suppression law,” while election experts said Tuesday that the closely watched case will have legal ramifications for voting across the country this presidential election year. North Carolina, a battleground state, is considered an epicenter for the nationwide battle over voting rights because its controversial 2013 election law is one of the strictest in the nation. “If North Carolina can get away with this kind of rollback, I suspect we will see other rollbacks in other states,” said Richard L. Hasen, an election-law expert at the University of California at Irvine and the author of “The Voting Wars: From Florida 2000 to the Next Election Meltdown.” After two trials, the voting law was upheld late Monday by federal judge Thomas D. Schroeder of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina. His decision was praised by North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R), who said in a statement that “this ruling further affirms that requiring a photo ID in order to vote is not only common-sense, it’s constitutional.”

North Carolina: Elections law ruling to be appealed | The Charlotte Observer

While still poring over a federal judge’s 485-page ruling upholding North Carolina’s recent election law overhaul on Tuesday, attorneys for the voters and civil rights organizations challenging the changes quickly filed notice of plans to appeal. Judge Thomas Schroeder’s opinion – one of the first to come down since the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated a key provision of the Voting Rights Act – is being scrutinized by many as a test of what obligations states have to make sure their citizens have access to the ballot box. Schroeder’s ruling, which was released to the public Monday evening, upheld sweeping voting changes – requiring North Carolina voters to have one of six forms of photo identification, curbing the number of days for early voting, prohibiting voters from registering and casting a ballot the same day, and banning out-of-precinct voting. North Carolina Republicans, who shepherded the changes through the 2013 legislative session, describe the cutbacks, new prohibitions and ID provision as common sense measures designed to prevent voter fraud. There are few documented cases of voter fraud. Challengers of the law described the measures as designed and adopted to disenfranchise African-American, Latino and college-age voters – constituencies more likely to vote Democratic than Republican.

Editorials: Why a Judge Ruled North Carolina’s Voter-ID Law Constitutional | David Graham/The Atlantic

A judge in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, ruled Monday night that the state’s strict new voting law is constitutional, delivering a major win for conservatives who have sought to tighten laws across the country, and dealing a blow to efforts to stop those laws. Judge Thomas Schroeder’s opinion—included in a massive, 485-page ruling—upheld the full swath of HB 589. Passed by the Republican-dominated General Assembly in 2013, the law changed a slew of North Carolina’s voting rules, including reducing early voting, eliminating same-day registration, banning out-of-precinct voting, and ending pre-registration for 16-year-olds. Perhaps most prominently, the bill instituted a requirement that voters show photo ID to cast a ballot.