Texas: Appeals court panel weighs Pasadena elections in voting rights case | Houston Chronicle

With May elections hanging in the balance, lawyers made their case before a three-judge appeals court panel in Houston Wednesday in an historic voting rights case that will determine how Pasadena elects its city council. The lawyers’ rapid-fire, back-and-forth discussion with the robed trio of judges perched above them drifted from esoteric — how do you properly measure voting power? — to downright gritty — was Pasadena’s mayor motivated by mounting racial tension when he brought a pistol to a city council meeting? The City of Pasadena asked for the expedited hearing before the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on a narrow issue – the structure of Pasadena’s City Council districts for the upcoming election.

National: Trump says its illegal to be registered to vote in two states. He’s wrong. | Chicago Tribune

It was a forceful condemnation — a vow to wipe out a serious crime. “I will be asking for a major investigation into VOTER FRAUD, including those registered to vote in two states,” President Trump boomed on Twitter last week. But Trump’s social media decree missed a crucial fact: It’s not illegal to be registered to vote in multiple states. It is, however, a felony to cast ballots in more than one state — yet it rarely happens. Trump’s tweet storm about voter registration — and his unfounded claim that millions of illegal votes were cast for Democratic rival Hillary Clinton in November — has cast a spotlight on voting procedures nationwide. That spotlight has revealed some ironies. Trump’s son-in-law and advisor, Jared Kushner, is registered in more than one state. The same is true for some of the president’s senior officials, including his pick to lead the Treasury Department, Steven Mnuchin, along with senior advisor Stephen K. Bannon and Press Secretary Sean Spicer. Even Gregg Phillips, creator of the app VoteStand — which helps Americans report perceived voter fraud — and who Trump has boasted is a guru on the issue, appears to be registered in Alabama, Mississippi and Texas, according to the Associated Press.

National: Who believes in voter fraud? Americans who are hostile to immigrants | The Washington Post

Donald Trump has prominently promoted the idea that there are widespread conspiracies to commit voter fraud, and has recently called for a major investigation. That’s despite the fact that peer-reviewed studies have convincingly shown that voter fraud is extremely rare and difficult to prove (here, here, here and here). So who is likely to believe him? The answer: Americans who are hostile toward nonwhite immigrants. That hostility strongly influences estimates of how frequently voter fraud occurs. In a national survey of 1,000 adult Americans through the 2015 Cooperative Congressional Election Study (CCES), we asked people to estimate how often voter fraud occurs. Like other researchers, we define voter fraud perceptions as how much people think that U.S. elections include noncitizen voting, voting more than once, and voting while pretending to be someone else.

Editorials: How ‘voter fraud’ crusades undermine voting rights | Jesse Rhodes/The Conversation

President Donald Trump has “voter fraud” on the brain. Bizarrely, after winning the 2016 presidential election, Trump has raised questions about the legitimacy of his own victory by claiming that the election was tainted by widespread voter fraud. Indeed, the president recently suggested that as many as 3,000,000 people voted illegally in the election. Reports suggest that Trump’s obsession with voter fraud is due to his outrage at losing the popular vote to Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton. As Trump himself alleged in a recent interview, “of those [illegal] votes cast, none of ‘em come to me. None of ‘em come to me. They would all be for the other side.” … Trump’s comments are extraordinary – and, at best, profoundly misinformed. I’ve studied voting rights politics for years and have recently finished writing a book on the political erosion of the Voting Rights Act. My book – and the research of many other social scientists outlined below – flatly contradicts Trump’s claims about the prevalence of fraud in American elections. Put bluntly, there is no evidence of widespread voter fraud by impersonation in the United States. “Impersonation” is what we call the deliberate misrepresentation of identity by individuals in order to manipulate election outcomes.

Florida: Beyonce, Tebow for prez? Invalid votes spiked in Florida | Associated Press

Beyonce, Tim Tebow or the Norse god Thor for prez? Those were some of Florida’s more unusual picks for president this past election. And the number of Florida voters who didn’t cast a vote for either Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton or any other valid contender spiked in 2016, apparently in protest over the ballot choices. A report released by state officials Wednesday showed more than 161,000 Florida voters who took part in the elections either at the polls or by mail didn’t cast a valid vote for president. The “non-valid votes” include those who wrote in such names as Mickey Mouse or Bernie Sanders and others who simply left the ballot blank. It also includes those who voted for more than one candidate. All told, the invalid ballots outnumbered Republican Trump’s margin of victory over Democrat Clinton of nearly 113,000 votes to clinch Florida’s 29 electoral votes. And the rate of invalid votes for president in 2016 — 1.69 percent overall — was more than double the rate it was in 2012 and 2008 when President Barack Obama won the state each time.

Georgia: Ruling upheld for third-party presidential candidates in Georgia | Atlanta Journal Constitution

The federal appeals court in Atlanta on Wednesday upheld a ruling issued last year that found a portion of Georgia’s ballot access laws violated the U.S. Constitution. The one-sentence ruling, by a unanimous three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, adopted the “well-reasoned opinion” issued last March by U.S. District Judge Richard Story in Atlanta. Story had significantly lowered the number of signatures required for third-party candidates to petition to get on Georgia’s presidential ballot — from tens of thousands to 7,500. The 11th Circuit’s ruling was notable in that it was issued less than a week after it heard arguments on the case – an exceptionally quick turnaround for a ruling by the busy court that oversees cases out of Georgia, Florida and Alabama.

Iowa: Secretary of State: No extra money for voter ID outreach | Associated Press

Iowa’s top election official doesn’t plan to ask the Legislature for extra money to educate the public about a voter identification requirement that could soon become law, a move that advocacy groups say could impact how many people find out about the change. Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate intends to use existing office funds to pay for voter education and outreach in connection to his proposal to require ID at voting polls. His office provided the details in response to a public records request by The Associated Press. “We are not asking for any additional funding for this, because educating and encouraging people to vote is part of the duties this office already conducts,” said Kevin Hall, a spokesman for Pate, in an email Wednesday.

Iowa: Son of State GOP chair wants to end political party checkoff on state tax forms | The Gazette

An Iowa House member isn’t doing any favors for his father. Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, R-Wilton, who succeeded his father in the Johnson-Cedar County legislative district, is proposing that the state stop collecting voluntary contributions to the state Democratic and Republican parties from Iowa income taxpayers. Kaufmann’s dad, Jeff Kaufmann, is the chairman of the Republican Party of Iowa. “My dad can raise his own money,” the younger Kaufmann said Wednesday after the House Ways and Means Committee approved his plan on a party-line vote. The income tax checkoff doesn’t raise a lot of money — $72,797 in 2016, but it allows Iowans, especially low-income Iowans, to make a contribution toward the political process, Rep. John Forbes, D-Des Moines, said in opposing the bill during the committee meeting.

Maryland: U.S. judge: Miller, Bush must testify, turn over documents in redistricting case | The Washington Post

A federal judge has ordered Maryland’s top two legislative leaders to testify and turn over records for a lawsuit challenging the 2011 redrawing of the state’s congressional districts, which effectively ensured Democratic control of seven out of eight U.S. House seats. Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) and House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) have fought efforts to examine their intentions during the redistricting process, claiming that “legislative privilege” protects them from records requests and litigation related to internal deliberations. But U.S. District Judge James K. Bredar ruled Tuesday that the ability to discover evidence “lies at the heart of this case” and that the legislature’s direct role in the redistricting process “supports overcoming the legislative privilege.” Bredar wrote that the protections Miller and Busch had claimed do not apply in certain types of federal lawsuits, particularly those that don’t involve financial liability.

Michigan: Democrats to challenge ‘partisan gerrymander’ in Michigan | The Detroit News

Former Michigan Democratic Party chairman and attorney Mark Brewer is preparing to sue state officials over what he alleges is an “unconstitutional partisan gerrymander” that has helped Republicans consolidate power but minimized the voice of Democratic voters he will represent. The pending lawsuit seeks to build on a recent federal court ruling in Wisconsin, where a three-judge panel ruled in a 2-1 decision that the state’s Republican-led Legislature crafted a plan for political district boundaries that “systematically dilutes the voting strength of Democratic voters statewide.” The U.S. District Court panel last week ordered Wisconsin to redraw its maps ahead of the 2018 election, but the state is expected to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. “Our clients believe that the current Michigan legislative and congressional redistricting plans are similarly flawed,” Brewer wrote this week in a letter he said he sent to roughly 60 state legislators, staffers and other officials involved in redrawing district boundaries following the 2010 U.S. Census.

Voting Blogs: Why Michigan should remove restrictions on who may cast an absentee ballot | State of Elections

Michigan voters are voting via absentee ballot in increasingly high numbers. In the November 2016 election, approximately one-fourth of Michigan voters used an absentee ballot to case their votes. In the August 2016 primary election, that number was even higher in many counties. In Kent County, 43 percent of votes were cast via absentee ballots; in Grand Rapids, 40 percent of votes were absentee; in Ottawa County, roughly one-third of voters voted via an absentee ballot. Though absentee voting in Michigan is increasingly more common, Michigan requires voters to check off on their absentee application and ballot a reason they cannot vote in person at a polling station on Election Day. According to Michigan Election Law §168.758 and the Michigan Secretary of State, a voter registered in Michigan may only vote via absentee ballot if the voter is: (1) sixty years old or older; (2) unable to vote without assistance at the polls; (3) expecting to be out of town on election day; (4) in jail awaiting arraignment or trial; (5) unable to attend the polls due to religious reasons; or (6) appointed to work as an election inspector in a precinct outside of his or her precinct.

Editorials: Bills in Minnesota Legislature are at odds with balanced redistricting | David Schultz/StarTribune

One of the chief causes of the partisan polarization and political gridlock across the country is the gerrymandering of congressional and state legislative districts. To prevent this gerrymandering, voters across the country are taking the power to redistrict away from legislators and entrusting it to nonpartisan commissions. Minnesota should follow this example, but there are bills in the Legislature right now that would prevent that from happening. Dating back to the 18th century, state legislatures had the job of drawing congressional and state legislative district lines after the decennial census. Unfortunately, this task has not always been done fairly, with incumbents and the party in control drawing lines to favor them or to disadvantage people of color or some geographic region. Until the 1960s, rural legislators drew lines to favor their constituents at the expense of the larger and growing urban populations. But the Supreme Court issued several decisions launching a reapportionment revolution demanding that district lines honor the “one person, one vote” standard with equal populations. These decisions helped but did not eliminate the partisan drawing of district lines.

Texas: House Speaker Straus calls for end to straight-ticket voting | Houston Chronicle

Texas House Speaker Joe Straus on Wednesday called on his fellow lawmakers to end straight-ticket voting. Straus, R-San Antonio, issued the call in a news release following a speech in which Texas State Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan Hecht said Texas should end the option for judicial elections. “I agree with Chief Justice Hecht that we should end straight ticket voting in judicial elections, but we shouldn’t stop there,” said Straus, noting that 40 other states do not have the option in any elections.

Virginia: House passes bill to require proof of citizenship to vote in state, local elections | Richmond Times-Dispatch

Legislation to require proof of U.S. citizenship before registering to vote in Virginia elections passed the Republican-controlled House of Delegates Wednesday on a 64-33 vote along party lines. Echoing President Donald Trump’s claim, made without evidence, that millions of people in the country illegally have made it onto the voter rolls, the GOP-sponsored bill would apply to state and local elections because citizenship tests are not allowed in federal elections. Citizenship could be proved with a birth certificate, passport, naturalization document or other record accepted under federal law. Anyone registered to vote as of Jan. 1, 2018, would not have to prove their citizenship. “You may be aware that there have been cases of non-citizens either inadvertently or intentionally registering to vote in the commonwealth,” Del. Mark L. Cole, R-Spotsylvania, the bill’s sponsor, said on the floor this week. “This was designed to prevent that.”

Virginia: Democrats call for vote on redistricting reforms | Capital News Service

Democratic delegates Tuesday called on Republican House Speaker William Howell to revive legislation that supporters say would help take politics out of redistricting. The Democrats tried to put pressure on Howell a day after a Republican-dominated subcommittee voted to kill five redistricting proposals in one swoop with little discussion. At its meeting Monday morning, the Constitutional Subcommittee of the House Privileges and Elections Committee ignored a request from a Democratic member to vote on the proposed constitutional amendments individually. The panel then tabled the redistricting measures on a single 4–3 vote. Republican Dels. Randy Minchew of Leesburg, Mark Cole of Spotsylvania, Tim Hugo of Centreville and Jackson Miller of Manassas all voted to table the resolutions. Opposing the motion were Republican Del. Jason Miyares of Virginia Beach and Democratic Dels. Joseph Lindsey of Norfolk and Marcia Price of Newport News.

Wisconsin: GOP to hire law firms to defend redistricting | Milwaukeen Journal Sentinel

Republicans in the Wisconsin Legislature plan to hire two law firms in hopes of overturning a ruling that found they must redraw legislative maps. Aides to Republican leaders declined to say Wednesday how much hiring the firms would cost taxpayers. A panel of three federal judges in the fall found maps Republicans drew in 2011 were so favorable to their party that they violated the voting rights of Democrats. Last month, the judges ordered them to establish new maps by November. Leadership committees in the Assembly and Senate are set to approve hiring the law firms on Thursday. The law firms will draft friend-of-the-court briefs to urge the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the decision, said Myranda Tanck, a spokeswoman for state Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau).

Bulgaria: Court Rules Voting Machines Must Be Installed in Every Polling Station, | Novinite

The Supreme Administrative Court has ruled Bulgarian authorities have to make sure electronic voting is enabled in every polling station in the country at the snap election scheduled for the end of March. The ruling, which cannot be appealed, delivers a blow to both the interim cabinet and the Central Election Commission (CEC), which earlier this year stated only 500 polling locations would be equipped with voting machines. Bulgaria needs 12 500 machines to carry through the vote successfully under the new legislation. How 12 000 more will be procured is not immediately clear as the government insists they cannot be secured on a short notice, less than two months before a general election.

Canada: Trudeau abandons electoral reform in reversal of Trudeau pledge | Reuters

Abandoning a major campaign promise, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government dropped plans on Wednesday to overhaul the country’s electoral system. The move, which prompted one opposition member of parliament to call Trudeau “a liar,” adds to pressure the Liberal Party prime minister is already facing for controversies surrounding cash-for-access fundraisers as well as an ethics probe into a vacation at a private island over the New Year’s holiday. Trudeau had promised during the 2015 election campaign that Canada would have a new voting system in place by the 2019 election, a reform expected to benefit smaller parties, such as the left-leaning Green Party, which holds only one seat in parliament.

Netherlands: Dutch will hand count ballots due to hacking fears | Reuters

All ballots in the Netherlands’ election next month will be counted by hand in order to preserve confidence in the electoral system after reports suggested its automated counting systems may be vulnerable to hacking, the government said. Intelligence agencies have warned that three crucial European elections this year, in the Netherlands, France and Germany, could be vulnerable to manipulation by outside actors, including Russia. “Reports in recent days about vulnerabilities in our systems raise the question of whether the results could be manipulated,” Interior Minister Ronald Plasterk said in a statement on Wednesday. “No shadow of doubt can be permitted.” He told broadcaster RTL that possible external actors included Russia. “Now there are indications that Russians could be interested, for the following elections we must fall back on good old pen and paper,” he said.

Netherlands: iPads ‘more secure than voting systems’ — claim | Computerworld

Dutch security researcher Sijmen Ruwhof has examined the software used at Dutch polling stations to send election results, and now claims “the average iPad is more secure than the Dutch voting system.” Local television station RTL asked the researcher to examine the security of Dutch voting systems after they heard they used weak SHA1 cryptography in certain parts of the system. Dutch elections have used paper-based voting since 2009, when the government banned electronic voting on security grounds. However, once the vote is cast, election officials will use electronic systems to send manually counted votes from each district. As the vote is counted data is transferred and shared on USB sticks, with the final tally going to the central Electoral Council in a digital file. This means that at multiple points during the result calculation, the data is shared electronically using systems that may not be so secure. The voting software can even be installed on personal devices, Windows XP, and non-current versions of web browsers, the researcher said. You can take a look at the accumulation of security weaknesses identified by the researcher here.

Nigeria: Electoral Commission constitutes diaspora voting, electoral constituencies committees | BusinessDay

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) says it has constituted a 10-member committee on the Review of Diaspora or Out-of-Country Voting. Also constituted, according to the commission’s daily bulletin issued on Tuesday in Abuja are eight-member committee for the Review of Electoral Constituencies and committee for Review of Polling Units and Registration Areas. It said that other committees set up included those on Review of the Suppressed Constituencies and Review of GIS Laboratory. The commission explained that the committees were constituted as part of its effort at improving the electoral process, adding that the committees were chaired by its National Commissioners.

Papua New Guinea: Disabled voters in Papua fight for access to polling stations | The Jakarta Post

Hundreds of voters with disabilities in Jayapura, Papua, are hoping they can cast their votes during the concurrent regional elections slated for Feb. 15. “As Indonesian citizens with civil and political rights equal to others, we hope we can exercise our right to vote, although we have limitations” Papua-chapter Indonesia Difable Foundation (PCI) secretary Robby Yong said in Jayapura on Tuesday. He said many people with disabilities did not have wheelchairs, while in several cases, those with severe disabilities could only lie on their beds despite the fact they had the right to vote.