Michigan: Labor unions sue state of Michigan over election law | Detroit Free Press

A coalition of labor unions sued the State of Michigan in U.S. District Court in Detroit on Friday over a law that allows corporations, but not unions, to use payroll deductions for contributions to political action committees. The sweeping law was one of the final ones passed in last year’s legislative session, after it transformed from an innocuous bill on campaign finance law into a 53-page wholesale revision of campaign finance law. One of the provisions allows corporations to use payroll deductions for employees to make contributions to the business’ political action committee. But it also prohibits unions from having the companies where their members work make payroll deductions for the union’s PAC.

New York: Comptroller slams city’s ‘broken voting system’ | New York Post

Comptroller Scott Stringer vowed Sunday to “take a sledgehammer” to the city’s voting system following the disappearance of 126,000 Brooklyn Democrats from election rolls that came to light during last Tuesday’s primary. “We have a broken voting system,” Stringer told NY1. “We’ve got to take a sledgehammer to this. We have to stop pretending this is a democracy.” His office is planning to audit the Board of Elections, but Stringer said the agency shouldn’t wait for his report. “The Board of Elections has to get their act together. First, they have to admit they have a problem,” he said.

Editorials: After New York’s Disastrous Primary, It’s Time to Demand Better Voting Laws | The Nation

During this year’s presidential primary, New Yorkers across the state discovered something that voting-rights advocates have been saying for years: Despite the state’s progressive reputation, New York’s elections are a mess. Approximately 120,000 people were inexplicably purged from the voting rolls in Kings County. Others had their party affiliation switched without their knowledge—leaving them unable to vote in New York’s closed primary. Polling places didn’t open on time or closed early. And millions didn’t get to vote because they did not register with the Republican or Democratic Party—a decision they would have had to make by October 9, 2015, 193 days before the primary. All of this led to an embarrassingly low turnout: As Ari Berman pointed out at The Nation, with 19.7 percent of eligible voters casting a ballot, New York had the second-lowest turnout this primary season, second only to Louisiana.

Tennessee: Federal judge orders recount of 2014 abortion ballot vote | The Tennesean

A federal judge has ordered a recount of Tennessee’s controversial 2014 abortion measure Amendment 1. U.S. District Judge Kevin Sharp on Friday declared the method the state used to count votes for the amendment “fundamentally unfair” and in violation of due process and equal protection rights for voters under the U.S. Constitution. The “no” votes of the eight plaintiffs “were not accorded the same weight” as those who voted in favor of the amendment, the judge concluded. “As a remedy, the Court will order a recount of the 2014 Election solely in relation to Amendment 1, but defer ruling on the question of whether the election on Amendment 1 should be voided,” the 52-page ruling said. The ruling does not apply to three other amendments on the ballot in 2014.

Virginia: Governor Restores Voting Rights to Thousands of Felons | Wall Street Journal

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed an order Friday to restore the voting rights of more than 200,000 felons, a sweeping move that could benefit his fellow Democrats in a critical swing state in the November presidential election. Under the order, convicted felons who have served their sentences and completed parole and probation will immediately regain the right to vote. The order applies to nonviolent and violent offenders, including people convicted of murder and rape. To cover individuals who complete their sentences in the future, Mr. McAuliffe directed the secretary of the commonwealth to prepare a similar order each month. “It is time to cast off Virginia’s troubled history of injustice and embrace an honest, clean process for restoring the rights of these men and women,” said Mr. McAuliffe.

Editorials: Virginia Bucks the Trend on Voting Rights | The New York Times

In a major executive order, Gov. Terry McAuliffe of Virginia on Friday restored voting rights to more than 200,000 people who have completed their sentences for felony convictions. Virginia was one of four states, along with Iowa, Kentucky and Florida, that placed a lifetime bar on voting for anyone convicted of a felony. All other states except Maine and Vermont impose lesser restrictions on voting by people with felony convictions. To people who have served their time and finished parole, Mr. McAuliffe said in a statement: “I want you back in society. I want you feeling good about yourself. I want you voting, getting a job, paying taxes.” It is the largest restoration of voting rights by a governor, ever. Felon disenfranchisement laws, which currently block nearly six million Americans from voting, were enacted during the Reconstruction era in a racist effort to make it harder for newly freed African-Americans to vote — a reality Mr. McAuliffe acknowledged on Friday. “There’s no question that we’ve had a horrible history in voting rights as relates to African-Americans — we should remedy it,” he said. In Virginia, one in five blacks have until now been unable to vote because of a felony conviction.

Austria: Voters Deal Blow to Mainstream Parties in Election | Wall Street Journal

Voters in Austria’s presidential election Sunday sent a stern warning to the established parties that have ruled the country since World War II, making a populist, anti-immigrant candidate the front-runner. Preliminary results published by the Austrian interior ministry, which didn’t include mail-in ballots, showed that Norbert Hofer, from the anti-immigrant Freedom Party, which is known by its German initials FPÖ, with 36.4% of the vote. Alexander Van der Bellen, a 72-year-old economist and former spokesman for the Greens who took a pro-refugee stance during the campaign, secured nearly 20.4% of the vote, according to the ministry. Mr. Van der Bellen, himself a child of refugee parents, is opposed to all restrictions on asylum seekers.

Equatorial Guinea: Election expected to extend president’s 37-year rule | Reuters

Equatorial Guinea President Teodoro Obiang is expected to extend his 37-year rule after elections on Sunday which he says will give him more than 90 percent of the vote. Obiang, Africa’s longest-serving leader, has ruled the former Spanish colony since 1979 when he ousted his uncle in a military coup. Opponents say elections in the small West African oil producer have been consistently rigged and some have called for a boycott. Voting went ahead peacefully and without incident on Sunday, observers said, although in some regions there appeared to be a low turnout. Casting his ballot, 73-year-old Obiang said that those voting for him “were voting for the continued development of Equatorial Guinea”.

Editorials: Insufficient electoral reform | The Japan Times

The plan put forward by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling coalition to reform the Lower House electoral system is only a partial step that shelves the fundamental overhaul needed to close the sharp disparity of votes across electoral districts, as proposed by a panel of experts advising the speaker of the chamber, for several more years. The bill to amend the Public Offices Election Law to cut 10 Lower House seats and redraw some electoral districts will likely clear the Diet during its current session on the strength of the Liberal Democratic Party-Komeito alliance. But the administration and the coalition still need to explain why voters have to wait longer for the more fundamental reform.

Mexico: Mexico’s Entire Voter Database Was Leaked to the Internet | Gizmodo

Every modern presidential election is at least in part defined by the cool new media breakthrough of its moment. In 2000, there was email, and by golly was that a big change from the fax. The campaigns could get their messages in front of print and cable news reporters — who could still dominate the campaign narrative — at will, reducing what had been a 24-hour news cycle to an hourly one. The 2004 campaign was the year of the “Web log,” or blog, when mainstream reporters and campaigns officially began losing any control they may have had over political news. Anyone with a computer could weigh in with commentary, news and, often, searing criticism of mainstream reporters and politicians — “Media Gatekeepers be damned!” Then 2008: Facebook made it that much easier for campaigns to reach millions of people directly, further reducing the influence of newspaper, magazine and television journalists. In 2012, Twitter shrank the political news cycle to minutes if not seconds, exponentially adding to the churn of campaign news.

Serbia: Prime minister wins election in endorsement of pro-EU policy | The Guardian

Serbia’s pro-western prime minister, Aleksandar Vučić, won a resounding endorsement in Sunday’s general election for his policy of pursuing European Union membership, securing four more years in power with a parliamentary majority. But he will have to contend with a resurgent ultra-nationalist opposition that rejects integration with the EU and demands closer ties with Russia. Vučić went to the polls two years early, saying he wanted a clear mandate from Serbia’s 6.7 million voters for reforms to keep EU membership talks launched in December on track for completion by 2019. Even though Vučić presided over a period of austerity, partly forced on him by the terms of a 1.2bn euro ($1.35bn) loan agreement with the International Monetary Fund, voters again strongly backed the 46-year-old, himself a former hardline nationalist. His conservative Progressive party is set to win just under 50% of the vote, up from 48% two years ago, a projection by pollsters Cesid, the Centre for Free Elections and Democracy, said.

The Voting News Weekly: The Voting New Weekly for April 18-24 2016

voter_id_260A Republican National Committee panel has rejected an effort to make preliminary changes to the rules governing the party’s convention this summer, batting away a move to make it more difficult for party leaders to draft a “white knight” candidate into the race. Andrew Gumbel considered the potential impact of new Voter ID laws on the November election. The Supreme Court upheld Arizona state legislative districts drawn by an independent commission, rejecting claims by Republican voters that slight population deviations favoring Democrats violated the Constitution. A panel of federal judges rejected an effort by U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown to throw out the current district boundaries. New York’s presidential primary generated by than 1,000 complaints from voters statewide to State Attorney Eric Schneiderman. One month after the Utah presidential caucuses, the state Republican party still has not published its final results as evidence amasses of a breakdown in the party’s new online voting system as well as email and other communication failures. Citing concerns about security and voter privacy, New Zealand has cancelled plans for online voting trials this Fall and the British High Court will hear a legal challenge against the government brought by several Britons living in Europe who claim they have been wrongly disenfranchised in the planned EU vote because they have lived outside Britain for 15 years, meaning they are ineligible to vote.

National: Republicans Reject Effort to Alter Rules on Allowing New Candidate at Convention | The New York Times

A Republican National Committee panel on Thursday overwhelmingly rejected an effort to make preliminary changes to the rules governing the party’s convention this summer, batting away a move to make it more difficult for party leaders to draft a “white knight” candidate into the race. On a voice vote, the R.N.C.’s rules committee turned back a bid to switch the rules of the convention from those used by the House of Representatives to Robert’s Rules of Order. The committee member who proposed the change, Solomon Yue of Oregon, said in the days leading up to the party’s spring meeting here that he wanted to alter the rules to prevent the establishment-aligned Republicans running the convention from being able to place in nomination the name of a candidate not already in the race. The House Rules can be interpreted as allowing the chairman of the convention, Speaker Paul D. Ryan, to reopen presidential nominations, while Robert’s Rule would require a majority vote of the conservative-leaning delegates to do so.

Editorials: Are voter ID laws the next hanging chads? | Andrew Gumbel/Los Angeles Times

Molly McGrath is laser-focused on a job no advanced democratic society ought to require: Making sure properly registered voters do not lose their right to cast a ballot on election day because of new, stringent ID requirements they may not even know exist. McGrath is the national campaign coordinator for VoteRiders, a nonprofit founded by two Los Angeles attorneys that devotes itself to ensuring citizens are not tripped up by the voter ID laws, many of which are being introduced this year. Since last summer, McGrath and her team have been visiting food pantries, churches, university centers and high-end condo complexes in Wisconsin, one of the states with the strictest requirements. Some of the people the team helps are transient, poor or elderly; they not only may have no driver’s license or state-issued photo ID, but they also may have difficulty getting their hands on the underlying documentation required to get one.

Arizona: Supreme Court Upholds Arizona Voting Districts Drawn by Independent Panel | Wall Street Journal

The Supreme Court Wednesday upheld Arizona state legislative districts drawn by an independent commission, rejecting claims by Republican voters that slight population deviations favoring Democrats violated the Constitution. The Constitution “does not demand mathematical perfection” when states equalize population among legislative districts, Justice Stephen Breyer wrote for a unanimous court. Republican voters claimed that the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, created by a 2000 voter initiative to reduce partisan influence over political representation, overpopulated GOP-leaning districts and underpopulated Democrat-leaning ones, effectively increasing Democratic voting strength.

Florida: Court rejects bid to throw out Florida congressional map | Associated Press

Florida’s long, twisted legal drama over its congressional districts may finally be reaching its end after a panel on federal judges on Monday rejected a push by U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown to throw out the current district boundaries.n Brown, a veteran member of Congress, argued that the current map, which dramatically altered her Jacksonville district, violates federal voting laws because it diluted the voting rights of minorities. But the panel of three judges disagreed sharply and said that Brown and her attorneys had not produced evidence to prove her case. Brown, who had previously vowed to keep up the fight as long as she could, said in a brief statement that she was “extremely disappointed” and is reviewing the ruling with her attorneys. Any appeal, however, would go directly to the U.S. Supreme Court since a three-judge panel handled the initial decision. The decision could have immediate reverberations because the new map upends the state’s political landscape and could lead to the defeat of several incumbents. The current map was approved by the state Supreme Court in December after a lengthy battle.

New York: State Attorney Schneiderman’s office receives more than 1,000 primary day complaints | Times Union

State Attorney Eric Schneiderman said Wednesday that his office fielded more than 1,000 complaints from voters statewide during Tuesday’s presidential primaries. “By most accounts, voters cast their ballots smoothly and successfully,” Schneiderman said in a statement. “However, I am deeply troubled by the volume and consistency of voting irregularities, both in public reports and direct complaints to my office’s voter hotline, which received more than one thousand complaints in the course of the day yesterday.” Schneiderman said his office has opened an investigation into “alleged improprieties” in Tuesday’s voting by the New York City Board of Elections, which has been rebuked by officials after some 125,000 Democratic voters were purged from the rolls in Brooklyn.

New Zealand: Online voting trial canned | IT Brief NZ

The online voting trial for this year’s local body elections are not going ahead, the Government has announced. Associate Local Government Minister Louise Upston says there is more work to be done to ensure a trial of online voting meets public and government expectations. “Public confidence in local elections is fundamentally important. Given real concerns about security and vote integrity, it is too early for a trial,” says Upston. “Due to timing restrictions, preparations for the proposed trial have not yet met the legislative requirements and cannot guarantee public confidence in the election results,” she explains.

United Kingdom: High Court hears expat challenge to Brexit vote | Financial Times

A legal challenge aimed at giving “substantial” numbers of Britons living in Europe the right to vote in the forthcoming EU referendum could throw into doubt the June 23 date of the vote if it succeeds, a court heard. The High Court in London is hearing a legal challenge against the government brought by several Britons living in Europe who claim they have been wrongly disenfranchised in the planned EU vote because they have lived outside Britain for 15 years, meaning they are ineligible to vote. The case is significant because there are between 1m to 2m Britons living in Europe — some of whom cannot vote as they have lived outside the UK for more than 15 years. The government claimed in written arguments on Wednesday that if the legal challenge succeeded, it could call into question the date of the referendum on June 23 as the case has been brought “late”.

National: Is Electronic Voting Coming to the GOP Convention? | Roll Call

Recognizing the possibility of a contested convention in Cleveland this summer, Republicans are considering an electronic system to capture votes on what could be a contentious set of procedural motions leading up to nominating a presidential candidate. The Republican National Committee agreed Thursday not to change the rules of the convention at this point, but is exploring changes to the way that delegate votes are recorded. The idea of electronic voting is gaining steam now because in a disputed floor fight, voice votes may not cut it. “With advancements in technology, we are taking steps to see if electronic voting can be successfully implemented for procedural votes at the convention,” a spokeswoman, Kirsten Kukowski, said in a statement provided to CQ Roll Call on Thursday. “If we can answer several questions ranging from the technology itself to security and be sure application will be successful, we will consider using electronic voting for procedural votes.”

Arizona: Supreme Court Upholds Arizona’s Redrawn Legislative Map | The New York Times

The Supreme Court on Wednesday unanimously upheld an Arizona state legislative map drawn by an independent redistricting commission, rejecting a challenge from Republicans who said the map was too favorable to Democrats. The court last year upheld the commission’s role in drawing congressional maps, ruling that Arizona’s voters were entitled to try to make the process of drawing district lines less partisan by creating an independent redistricting commission. Wednesday’s decision in Harris v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, No 14-232, concerned a challenge from voters who said the state map the commission drew after the 2010 census violated the principle of “one person one vote” and was infected by unconstitutional partisanship.

California: State’s voter registration forms don’t make sense — it’s time for the state to change them | Los Angeles Times

About 400,000 Californians who might be planning to vote in the state’s pivotal Democratic presidential primary June 7 could be in for a shock. They’ll be told, “Sorry, your vote’s no good here.” They’re getting rooked, although they primarily rooked themselves. The state also is to blame, however. It sat back, not giving a hoot, and allowed this to happen. It should have been protecting the voters. These are the Californians who carelessly signed up with the late George Wallace’s obsolete, inconsequential, far-right American Independent Party, apparently believing they were registering as an independent — small “i” — nonpartisan voter. They’ll find that the only so-called presidential candidates they can vote for in the primary are some obscure AIP members who probably couldn’t be elected local crossing guard captain

California: San Francisco examines lowering voting age and other methods to boost turnout | The Examiner

The Board of Supervisors will hold its first ever joint meeting with the Youth Commission next month to decide whether to seek voter support for lowering San Francisco’s voting age to 16 in local elections. Such a change would require an amendment to The City’s charter, which must be approved by voters. The May 3 meeting is significant for several reasons. Not only are the supervisors expected to have youth commission members sitting next to them during the meeting, but the proposal is part of a broader discussion in San Francisco about new methods to boost voter turnout, and support of the Vote16SF measure could signal a willingness to try other ideas. The City is already exploring switching to an open-source voting system, and a new city report examines other methods.

Colorado: Groups may take aim at Denver campaign finance, ethics rules | The Denver Post

Colorado Common Cause and several other local groups say they soon may unveil a proposed ballot initiative aimed at reining in big-donor campaign contributions and creating a public financing system for Denver city elections. “We’re at a historic point now in terms of both low faith in government and its accessibility to regular people,” says Peg Perl, senior counsel to Colorado Ethics Watch, which is among the groups working on the potential measure for city voters in November. Add to that the flood of money in last year’s municipal elections, when Mayor Michael Hancock raised more than $1.3 million and total contributions to city candidates surpassed $4 million, and Perl says the result for many voters is disillusionment.

Connecticut: U.S. Justice Department Investigating Connecticut Motor Voter Program | Hartford Courant

The U.S. Department of Justice has informed state officials that it is investigating Connecticut’s “motor voter” program — under which citizens can sign up to vote at the Department of Motor Vehicles — and has found “widespread noncompliance” with federal laws. “This is to notify you that I have authorized a lawsuit against the state of Connecticut and appropriate state officials to enforce compliance with Section 5 of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993,” which applies to local ‘motor voter’ programs in the states,” Vanita Gupta, a deputy assistant U.S. attorney general, wrote April 15 to Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen.

District of Columbia: Kasich on D.C. voting rights: ‘That’s just more votes in the Democratic Party.’ | The Washington Post

When asked his position on D.C. voting rights, Republican presidential contender John Kasich didn’t pretend to draw on any constitutional clause or existing law to explain his stance against it. Instead, the Ohio governor stated the political reason that many already perceive as the biggest obstacle standing between D.C. and congressional voting representation: Giving D.C. voting representatives in Congress would mean more Democrats in Congress. “What it really gets down to if you want to be honest is because they know that’s just more votes in the Democratic Party,” Kasich said Wednesday during an interview with The Washington Post editorial board.

Illinois: Senate approves redistricting amendment | Quad City Times

The Illinois Senate has approved a proposed amendment to the state Constitution that would change the way legislative and congressional districts are drawn but rejected one that would have eliminated the lieutenant governor’s office. Sen. Kwame Raoul, D-Chicago, sponsored the redistricting amendment, which is similar to one the Senate approved in 2010 that failed to win approval in the House. Unlike a current proposal from House Democrats and another backed by the group Independent Maps, Raoul’s measure would leave the task of redrawing boundaries largely in the hands of state lawmakers. “Here in the state of Illinois, we are fortunate to have a state with a diverse population,” Raoul said, arguing that his measure would do the most to protect influence of minority voters.

Mississippi: House turns back limit on taking campaign cash | Associated Press

With longtime members rebelling against changes, the Mississippi House voted down a bill that would have restricted personal use of campaign money. The unrecorded voice vote on House Bill 797 came Tuesday after several House members complained about proposed restrictions, including ending the ability to take money for personal use to repay undocumented campaign expenses. The campaign finance changes had been attached to a broader rewrite of state election law, and could return in modified form in the closing days of the Legislature. The proposal came after The Associated Press and The Clarion-Ledger questioned campaign spending. Some officials took leftover money from accounts when they retired, or spent it on things like cars, clothing and personal travel. Experts say the practice makes campaign contributions perilously close to bribes. Mississippi is one of only five states that still allow elected officials to pocket campaign money for personal use during or after their careers.

New Mexico: Duran case ruling could cost taxpayers $90K | Albuquerque Journal

Taxpayers are on the hook for nearly $90,000 – and more – in legal fees and costs owed to the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico in its successful public records fight to compel then-Secretary of State Dianna Duran to provide the proof behind her claims of voter fraud by foreign nationals, the state Court of Appeals has ruled. An appeals panel found the legal tab was “reasonable” after a lawsuit filed by ACLU turned up public documents that Duran’s office had improperly withheld after the group filed requests under the state Inspection of Public Records Act. In the end, no actual “voter fraud” list was produced.