National: A Case for Math, Not ‘Gobbledygook,’ in Judging Partisan Voting Maps | The New York Times

In October, when the Supreme Court heard arguments in a case that could reshape American politics, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. registered an objection. There was math in the case, he said, and it was complicated. “It may be simply my educational background,” the chief justice said, presumably referring to his Harvard degrees in history and law. But he said that statistical evidence said to show that Wisconsin’s voting districts had been warped by political gerrymandering struck him as “sociological gobbledygook.” Last week, Judge James A. Wynn Jr. came to the defense of math. “It makes no sense for courts to close their eyes to new scientific or statistical methods,” he wrote in a decision striking down North Carolina’s congressional map as an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander.

Editorials: Our elections are in danger. Congress must defend them. | Marco Rubio and Chris Van Hollen/The Washington Post

While the 2016 election may have left our country divided on many issues, it exposed one critical problem that should unite all Americans: Our democratic process is vulnerable to attacks by hostile foreign powers. As our intelligence community unanimously assessed, Russia used social media channels to influence and mislead voters. It also hacked political campaign committees and local elections boards in a brazen attempt to undermine and subvert our elections. There is no reason to think this meddling will be an isolated incident. In fact, we expect the threat will grow in future years. The United States must do everything possible to prevent these attacks in the future — and lay out the consequences well in advance of our next elections. Today, we are introducing bipartisan legislation to do just that.

Alabama: NAACP Legal Defense Fund ‘disappointed,’ appealing judge’s dismissal of Alabama voter ID lawsuit |

Officials with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund on Friday filed a notice in court saying they are appealing Wednesday’s dismissal of the group’s lawsuit challenging Alabama’s voter ID laws. U.S. District Judge L. Scott Coogler ordered the lawsuit filed by Greater Birmingham Ministries, Alabama NAACP and individual plaintiffs against the State of Alabama be dismissed. “We are deeply disappointed by the judge’s ruling dismissing our case before trial,” said LDF President and Director-Counsel Sherrilyn Ifill. “Over the course of two years, we have developed a sound case demonstrating that Alabama’s voter ID law is racially discriminatory. We had hoped to present our full case at trial next month.” The group filed the notice of appeal on Friday. 

Illinois: State elections board says Kansas-based voter database not up to task | The Rock River Times

The Illinois State Board of Elections this week said it would not be sending voter data for entry into a Kansas-based registry supported by the Trump administration, citing security concerns. The Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program, designed by Kansas election officials, supposedly collects and parses information on voter rolls around the country. Driven by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a top figure in President Donald Trump’s recently disbanded “Voter Fraud Commission,” Crosscheck has come under fire for potentially exposing the personal data of more than 100 million voters. ISBE officials cited a lack of security measures in the Crosscheck system in declining to take part in the program. The board had originally indicated that it would begin sending data in January.

Massachusetts: Scheduling state primary turns into major political headache | Associated Press

What should have been a fairly routine administrative exercise — setting a date for this year’s primary election in Massachusetts — is turning into a major political headache for state Secretary William Galvin. The primary is normally held seven weeks before the November general election, which would be Sept. 18. But this year, that day also marks the start of Yom Kippur. Setting the primary for that date would clash with a state law requiring the primary to be moved when it conflicts with a religious holiday. Backing up a week to Sept. 11 doesn’t help, either, because that would fall on Rosh Hashanah. That presented Galvin, who oversees state elections, with a potentially dicey decision. The longtime Democratic officeholder decided to crowdsource the decision by making a public appeal for suggestions from voters, candidates or anyone else with an interest.

North Carolina: State Democrats set to introduce voter registration bill | WCTI

North Carolina Senate Democrats are slated to introduce a new bill Tuesday that would impact how many people might be registered to vote in time for the next election. Senate Bill 704, known as the Universal Senate Voter Registration Bill, is aimed at getting more people registered to vote. The bill proposes automatic voter registration at driver’s license offices, public agencies, community colleges and state universities. It also requires the bi-partisan state Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement to implement an outreach campaign informing citizens of automatic voter registration. Sen. Paul Lowe Jr. said the bill will make registration easier and in turn increase voter turnout.

Texas: Supreme Court adds Texas election case to those in Wisconsin, Maryland | USA Today

The way state legislatures draw election districts for political gain is coming to dominate the Supreme Court’s docket. The justices agreed Friday to hear two cases challenging congressional and state legislative districts in Texas, adding them to ones already pending from Wisconsin and Maryland. Other cases are brewing in North Carolina and Pennsylvania. The Texas lawsuits involve more traditional challenges to the use of race in drawing district lines, something the high court deals with perennially from states with a history of violating the 1968 Voting Rights Act. By contrast, the Wisconsin and Maryland cases allege excessive political gerrymandering — designing districts to benefit one party over the other.

Washington: Legislators consider expanding voting rights | Snoqualmie Valley Record

Voting rights legislation proposed by Democratic lawmakers aims to boost election turnout for young and low-income voters and enhance representation in communities often left out in political affairs. One bill would allow local governments to change their local election processes without going through court; the other would extend the voter registration period and allow same-day in-person registration. Both bills have versions in the Senate and the House of Representatives. The two bills in the House were heard on Tuesday, Jan. 9 and the two bills in the Senate were heard on Wednesday Jan. 10.

West Virginia: Judiciary committee passes single-member redistricting plan to House floor | Charleston Gazette Mail

The West Virginia House Judiciary Committee sent a bill to the chamber floor Monday designed to reorganize the state into 100, single-member House districts during the decennial redistricting process. During the debate, the committee also voted down an amendment to the bill that would have compelled the Legislature to appoint an independent, nonpartisan committee to handle the redistricting, which is typically executed by legislators themselves. The bill passed on a party-line vote of 16 to 8, with Democrats in the minority. Delegate John Overington, R-Berkeley, sponsored the single-member redistricting plan, House Bill 4002, which would fundamentally change the electioneering mechanics of several House districts, especially those in urban pockets of the state, starting in 2022.

Wisconsin: Heads of ethics, elections commissions fight for their jobs | Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Brian Bell removed roadside bombs in Iraq and Afghanistan, so the efforts now to force him out of his job as the head of the state Ethics Commission are mild by comparison. “No one’s — at least not yet — trying to shoot at me or blow me up,” Bell said in a recent interview down the street from the Capitol. But the risks for Bell — as well as Michael Haas, the director of the state Elections Commission — are real. Republicans who control the state Senate say they plan to vote Jan. 23 to deny their confirmations as a way to push them out of their jobs.

Iraq: Critical May Elections Set As Prime Minister Leads New Party | AFP

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced plans Sunday to run for re-election in May at the head of a new coalition separate from key rival and Dawa party co-member Nuri al-Maliki. Abadi said in a statement he set up the “Victory Alliance” coalition as a “cross-sectarian” list aimed at overcoming divisions and battling inequalities in the country. The coalition, the 65-year-old premier said, would strive to “protect the victory and the sacrifices” of the Iraqi people and to “fight against corruption… (and for) the unity of Iraq”.

New Caledonia: Worries as New Caledonia’s independence vote approaches | The Interpreter

Last month, a year before the deadline for the referendum on independence from France, French Prime Minister Édouard Philippe visited the semi-autonomous territory of New Caledonia. Philippe is anxious about potential unrest. In October, a special delegation of New Caledonians expressed their concerns to the UN decolonisation committee in New York. According to them, the Noumea Accord (the territory’s roadmap leading to the 2018 referendum) is not being applied correctly. How this situation unfolds will be of significant interest to the region.

Spain: Madrid to maintain direct rule if self-exiled Catalan separatist reelected: Prime Minister | Reuters

Spain rejected as absurd suggestions that Catalan separatist Carles Puigdemont could lead the region from exile if elected president by the new Catalan parliament, and said if he were chosen Madrid would maintain direct central rule. Puigdemont fled to Brussels in October after Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy fired him as Catalonia’s leader for declaring an independent republic following an illegal referendum. He faces arrest and possibly decades in jail if he returns to Spain. With only days before Catalonia’s parliament convenes to elect a new regional government, separatists said Puigdemont was their candidate to lead the region again. They are exploring the possibility he could do so by video link from Brussels.

Switzerland: Does a minority rule Switzerland? | SWI

Switzerland is often regarded internationally as a model of functioning democracy. But a closer look shows that Swiss democracy is far from perfect. The “rule of all” turns out to be the “rule of some”. It is September 24, 2017, a “voting Sunday” as we say here in Switzerland. Voters have the final say on a crucial reform of the old age pension system. This is a topic that will concern everyone, sooner or later. Over the course of the day it becomes apparent that the proposed reform isn’t getting a majority of votes and is going down to defeat. But the real letdown begins to be felt late in the evening, when the last municipalities send in their tallies to the election authorities.