Voting Blogs: Deadlock and Ominous Uncertainty at the FEC | More Soft Money Hard Law

The FEC has once again deadlocked on an enforcement case and left an important question dangerously open. Months ago, the FEC could do nothing useful with a case about the use of LLCs to make contributions. Now it is inviting trouble, and not for the first time, with a case about how hard a corporation may press its employees to support the employer’s political program. In the recent case, the FEC was forced by the usual 3-3 division to dismiss a complaint that a company pressured employees to make political contributions to its PAC and favored candidates. The question before the agency was whether to investigate. There were reasons, including internal company documents. In one of them, the company advised managers that “we have been insulted by every salaried employee who does not support our efforts.” There was a press report recounting the experience of unnamed employees with coercive practices, and one employee put her complaint on the public record as part of a wrongful termination action.

Alaska: Lost in translation: The difficult but necessary process of creating indigenous language ballots | KTOO

The state’s Division of Elections is required to translate ballots and create an elections glossary in six dialects of Yup’ik and also Gwich’in. Those are the terms of a lawsuit settled last year by Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott. But that process isn’t easy. Think about these words — “candidates for elected office are running for a seat.” What image pops in your head? Retired Yup’ik professor Oscar Alexie says not a political event. “I’m thinking of people like Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump and all those guys at the race line waiting for someone to say ‘Go!’” And whoever gets to the chair first is the boss, Alexie said.

California: Bernie Sanders supporters sue to have California’s voter registration extended until election day | Los Angeles Times

A federal lawsuit alleging widespread confusion over California’s presidential primary rules asks that voter registration be extended past Monday’s deadline until the day of the state’s primary election on June 7. “Mistakes are being made,” said William Simpich, an Oakland civil rights attorney who filed the lawsuit Friday. At issue is whether voters understand the rules for the presidential primary, which differ from those governing other elections in California. Unlike statewide primaries — where voters now choose any candidate, no matter the political party — the presidential contests are controlled by the parties themselves. Democrats have opened up their primary between Hillary Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders to voters that have no political affiliation, known in California as having “no party preference.” But the lawsuit alleges elections officials in some of California’s 58 counties aren’t making that clear to these unaffiliated voters. “There’s mass confusion,” Simpich said in an interview on Saturday night. “This is a situation that really shouts out for some uniformity.”

Colorado: Denver, unlike the rest of the state, is able to verify signatures on ballot petitions | KMGH

Forged signatures that Denver7 uncovered on petitions for Republican U.S. Senate candidate Jon Keyser would have likely been caught by Denver election workers if he had been running for local office. The Secretary of State’s Office only verifies that the name and address on candidate petitions match the name and address on file with the voter’s registration. State law does not allow the Secretary of State to verify the actual signature. Denver’s charter requires Denver election workers to verify the cursive signature on a petition with the cursive signature on file on multiple databases.

Kansas: Kobach appeals order to register thousands of voters | The Kansas City Star

Secretary of State Kris Kobach asked a federal appeals court Friday to delay a judge’s order to add thousands of Kansas residents to voting rolls for federal elections after they didn’t provide proof of citizenship when registering at motor vehicle offices. Kobach, a Kansas Republican, told the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals that the process would be administratively burdensome and involve thousands of hours of work by election officials. He’s asking for a stay while he appeals the decision. The American Civil Liberties Union, which sued on behalf of Kansas voters, is opposing the delay. U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson issued the preliminary injunction Tuesday after finding more than 18,000 eligible voters would be disenfranchised in the upcoming federal elections under the Kansas law. She put her order on hold, but only until May 31, so the state could appeal.

Minnesota: State moves to presidential primary in 2020 | Pioneer Press

Minnesota will move from a presidential caucus to a presidential primary for the 2020 election. Gov. Mark Dayton signed the switch into law on Sunday. Under the new system, voters would make their February partisan presidential picks in an election run by the state, rather than in caucuses run by parties. Whether individual voters picked a Republican ballot or a Democratic one would become public, under the new law. But voters would not be bound in any way to their partisan picks in future elections nor would they have to register with any party in advance of the presidential primary.

Missouri: Nixon sets voter ID question for November ballot | St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Voters will decide the fate of a constitutional amendment requiring Missouri residents to show photo identification at the polls in the November election. In action Monday, Gov. Jay Nixon set the Nov. 8 general election as the date for the ballot measure that was approved by lawmakers during the recently completed legislative session. The move was expected after the Democratic chief executive told reporters on May 13 that he disagreed with the concept of placing additional requirements on Missourians to vote. But, he said, putting it on the general election ballot, rather than the August primary ballot, would give more voters a chance to weigh in.

North Carolina: State judge weighs whether to schedule voter ID trial | Associated Press

Another pending legal challenge to North Carolina’s voter identification requirement is still swimming around in state court, where a judge Friday heard arguments on whether a trial should be scheduled soon or more delays are the proper course. Three consolidated federal lawsuits seeking to overturn the photo ID mandate and other voting changes made by the General Assembly already have been tried, with all the provisions in the 2013 case upheld last month as legal and constitutional. That case is on the fast-track to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, with scheduled arguments for next month. The state lawsuit, initially filed in August 2013 by voters and voting-rights groups, focuses solely on the ID requirement as another qualification to vote beyond what the North Carolina Constitution demands and is unlawful. Wake County Superior Court Judge Michael Morgan put the proceedings on hold last fall until after photo ID was required for the first time during the March 15 primary.

Texas: US Appeals Court Revisits Texas Voter ID Law | Associated Press

A federal appeals court is set to take a second look at a strict Texas voter ID law that was found to be unconstitutional last year. Texas’ law requires residents to show one of seven forms of approved identification. The state and other supporters say it prevents fraud. Opponents, including the U.S. Justice Department, say it discriminates by requiring forms of ID that are more difficult to obtain for low-income, African-American and Latino voters. Arguments before the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals are set for Tuesday morning. The full court agreed to rehear the issue after a three-judge panel ruled last year that the law violates the Voting Rights Act. Lawyers for Texas argue that the state makes free IDs easy to obtain, that any inconveniences or costs involved in getting one do not substantially burden the right to vote, and that the Justice Department and other plaintiffs have failed to prove that the law has resulted in denying anyone the right to vote.

Texas: Why the Fifth Circuit’s Decision This Week Could Decide the Fate of Texas’ Voter ID Law | KUT

On Tuesday a federal appeals court will take a second look at Texas’ controversial voter ID law. It’s one of the biggest voting rights battles ahead of this year’s presidential election, and a ruling from this court could be a final say on whether the state’s law is in violation of the Voting Rights Act. This will be the second time the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals hears the case Veasey v. Abbott. This time, all 15 active judges on the court will weigh in. The case was brought by a coalition of Texas voters and civil rights groups who say a state law requiring photo ID at the polls is unconstitutional. “It’s the first major case that has gone up on appeal to challenge a voter ID law based on Section Two of the Voting Rights Act,” says UT law Professor Joseph Fishkin.“So, that’s a different kind of claim, and it’s a claim that’s specifically about whether the law hurts racial minorities to elect their candidates of choice.”

Virginia: GOP sues to strip new voting rights from 206,000 Virginia felons | The Washington Post

Leaders of Virginia’s House and Senate went straight to the state’s highest court on Monday in a bid to reverse Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s sweeping order to restore voting rights to 206,000 felons. Skipping lower courts, they filed a lawsuit directly with the Supreme Court of Virginia, contending that Mr. McAuliffe, a Democrat, exceeded his authority in April when he restored voting rights to felons en masse instead of individually. The lawsuit — bankrolled by private donations and political funds, Republicans noted, not taxpayer funds — presents a complex constitutional question with the urgency of presidential election-year politics. Republicans are seeking an expedited review so that reinstated ex-cons who have registered to vote can be stripped from the rolls ahead of November. Prior Virginia governors have taken up the cause of restoring felons’ voting rights, but none with anything close to Mr. McAuliffe’s scale and speed.

Virginia: Assembly Republicans sue McAuliffe over mass rights restoration order | Richmond Times-Dispatch

Republicans in the Virginia General Assembly filed a lawsuit Monday in the Supreme Court of Virginia challenging Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s authority to order a mass restoration of rights April 22, covering more than 200,000 felons who served their time. The lawsuit, led by Speaker of the House William J. Howell, R-Stafford, and Senate Majority Leader Thomas K. Norment Jr., R-James City, argues that McAuliffe exceeded his executive authority under the state constitution when he issued the order. “The Constitution of Virginia forbids this unprecedented assertion of executive authority,” the filing states. “Governor McAuliffe’s executive order defies the plain text of the Constitution, flouts the separation of powers, and has no precedent in the annals of Virginia history. The governor simply may not, with a stroke of the pen, unilaterally suspend and amend the Constitution.”

Wisconsin: In federal court, Wisconsin DMV administrator outlines challenges in issuing free voter IDs | The Capital Times

People who die waiting for a state-issued voter ID are recorded as a “customer-initiated cancellation” by the state Department of Motor Vehicles, a DMV official testified Thursday. On the fourth day of a trial challenging a series of voting changes implemented in Wisconsin since 2011, U.S. District Judge James Peterson heard testimony from a University of Wisconsin-Madison professor and Sun Prairie’s city clerk. But lawyers focused on Susan Schilz, a supervisor in the DMV’s compliance, audit and fraud unit, who was questioned for several hours. Schilz’s unit oversees the ID petition process, or IDPP — the system qualified voters use to obtain a free ID from the state. The lawsuit, filed about a year ago, argues the IDPP is ineffective and is failing minority groups in particular.

Austria: Far-right candidate narrowly defeated in Austrian presidential election | The Guardian

A leftwing, independent candidate has narrowly prevented Austria from becoming the first EU country to elect a far-right head of state after a knife-edge contest ended with his opponent conceding defeat. Alexander Van der Bellen, a retired economics professor backed by the Green party, defeated Norbert Hofer, of the anti-immigrant, Eurosceptic Freedom party, a day after polling closed and only when more than 700,000 postal ballots – about 10% of available votes – were taken into account. The Austrian presidency is a largely ceremonial role but the outcome became hugely symbolic. Mirroring the rise of populist parties across Europe, the Freedom party exploited anti-EU and anti-immigrant sentiment in the wake of the continent’s refugee crisis and, despite Hofer’s narrow defeat, the election has left a deep split over the direction Austria should now take.

Burkina Faso: First local elections held in Burkina Faso transition | AFP

Burkina Faso held local elections Sunday seen as a key step in the country’s transition to democracy from the authoritarian rule of ousted strongman Blaise Compaore. Some 24,000 police and troops were on duty for voting day, which had initially been scheduled for January 31 but was postponed following January 15 jihadist attacks that killed 30 people in Ouagadougou. Polls closed at 6:00 pm (1800 GMT) after an election which went off without incident and results are expected to be known by the end of the coming week. Some 5.5 million people were eligible to cast ballots to elect around 20,000 municipal councillors, who will then choose mayors for 368 towns. More than 80 parties put up candidates.

Cyprus: Vote puts far-right in parliament | Reuters

Cyprus’s ruling conservatives took the lead in Sunday’s general election, results showed, while a far-right party won its first seats in the legislature amid voter disillusionment after a 2013 financial meltdown. With the voting tally at 100 percent, and an unprecedentedly high abstention rate, the right-wing Democratic Rally party was ahead with 30.6 percent of the vote followed by Communist AKEL with 25.6 percent. Compared to the previous elections of 2011, those two main parties on the Cypriot political scene suffered setbacks. AKEL’s Communists lost up to seven percentage points while Democratic Rally lost 3.7 percentage points.

Kenya: Protests Against Electoral Commission Turn Deadly | VoA News

Protests against Kenya’s electoral commission took place in several cities Monday, with local media reporting at least three demonstrators were killed in western Kenya. In Nairobi, riot police formed a line around the commission headquarters, waiting much of the afternoon to deter the latest in what have become weekly protests. The protesters never reached the compound because police used tear gas and water cannon to disperse about 100 demonstrators before they could get close. Smaller groups of protesters were also tear gassed earlier in the day, including a group from Kibera, a large Nairobi slum. Authorities say the demonstrations were illegal.

Philippines: Is Smartmatic selling more than just VCMs? | The Manila Times

Whatever the outcome of Commission on Elections (Comelec)’s investigation on the unauthorized changes made by Smartmatic-Total Information Management Corp. (Smartmatic) in the transparency server used by the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV), it is undeniable that the Venezuelan-owned company committed a serious violation not only of its supply contract but also of the country’s electoral laws. If only to show that our laws and rules are not to be trifled with, the harshest penalty possible ought to be imposed on Smartmatic – perpetual disqualification from any Philippine elections. After all, there are many (and bigger) providers of electronic voting systems in the world other than Smartmatic. Comelec chairman Andy Bautista’s explanation (surprisingly echoing Smartmatic’s excuse for lack of a better alibi) that the correction of the computer script of the Comelec transparency server was merely a “cosmetic change” and did not affect the poll results, is at best ill-informed and speculative, and at worst misleading. Well-intentioned or not, the supposedly “minor” change does not justify Smartmatic tampering with the electronic canvassing system, more so while the bulk of the voting results were being transmitted to the Comelec servers.

Tajikistan: Tajikistan votes to allow president to rule indefinitely | The Guardian

Voters in Tajikistan have overwhelmingly endorsed changes to its constitution allowing the president, Emomali Rahmon, to run for an unlimited number of terms. In a statement, the central election commission said 94.5% of votes cast in Sunday’s referendum had backed the 40 constitutional changes, while only 3.3% were against. Turnout in the former Soviet central Asian country was 92%, or just over 4 million people, the CEC said. As well as lifting the term limit for Rahmon, the amendments also lower the minimum age for presidential candidates from 35 to 30, and ban the formation of parties based on religion.

Venezuela: Panel Clears the Way for a Process to Oust Nicolás Maduro | The New York Times

Venezuela’s electoral commission on Tuesday released documents that would allow opposition politicians to collect signatures and formally begin a process aimed at removing President Nicolás Maduro from office. The decision by the commission — which is controlled by Mr. Maduro’s Socialist government and previously resisted handing over the papers — lifted hopes of the opposition politicians, who control the National Assembly and have vowed to oust the president by the end of the year. It made Venezuela the second country in the region undergoing an effort to remove its leader. This month, Brazil’s lower house of Congress approved the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff over accusations that she misused state money.