Georgia: Paper Ballot Push Gets Boost With Support Of Georgia Lt. Governor | WABE

The effort to retire Georgia’s aging, electronic voting machines got a boost Wednesday from Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, leader of the state Senate, who said the legislature must act “in haste” to setup a new paper ballot system. “I think it is important that we have a paper ballot trail that ensures that accuracy is there, and that there are no games that potentially could be played,” Cagle, a Republican candidate for governor, said in an interview with WABE. Georgia is one of just a few states that exclusively use voting machines without a paper trail. Cybersecurity experts agree it exposes the system to potential doubt, hacks and glitches. “I’m super excited to have Lt. Gov. Cagle on board,” said Republican Rep. Scot Turner, the lead sponsor of a bi-partisan bill in the House that would require the state move to a paper ballot system, which could be audited.

National: The Courts Take Aim at Partisan Gerrymandering | The New Yorker

Donald Trump so dominates the media landscape that he crowds out other news. So what may be the most important political development of our time—the death of partisan gerrymandering—may not be receiving the attention it deserves. Following the 2010 census, and the Republican landslides in the midterm elections of that year, G.O.P. leaders at the state level created remarkably cynical legislative maps for both state offices and the U.S. House of Representatives. They drew district lines that gave Republicans many more seats than were justified by their over-all statewide numbers. In Pennsylvania, for instance, Republicans received only about half the statewide votes, but they now control thirteen of the eighteen seats in the House. Yet the Republicans may have overreached. A series of court decisions in recent weeks—in North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and at the United States Supreme Court—have demonstrated that the judicial branch of government is mobilizing to end this shameful and destructive legislative practice.

National: Democrats draft own ‘memo’ in partisan spat over Trump-Russia probe | Reuters

U.S. House Intelligence Committee Democrats have drafted their own “memo” about the investigation of Russia and the 2016 U.S. election, after calls for the release of a Republican memo critical of a special counsel’s criminal probe, the panel’s ranking Democrat said on Wednesday. Amid growing partisan rancor over the investigation of possible collusion between President Donald Trump’s campaign and Moscow, many of Trump’s fellow Republicans have been clamoring for the release of a classified memorandum commissioned by Republicans, which they say shows anti-Trump bias at the U.S. Department of Justice. Democrats have criticized that memo as “highly misleading” talking points intended to undermine the investigation led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller into Trump and his associates. They accused Republicans of inappropriately releasing classified information by allowing every House of Representatives member to read it.

Florida: Amendment to restore felons’ voting rights on Florida 2018 ballot | News Service of Florida

More than 1.5 million Floridians now unable to participate in elections would automatically have their voting rights restored, under a proposed constitutional amendment that will go before voters in November. The “Voting Restoration Amendment,” which was approved Tuesday to appear on the ballot as Amendment 4, would automatically restore voting rights to felons who have served their sentences, completed parole or probation and paid restitution. Murderers and sex offenders would be excluded. Floridians for a Fair Democracy, the political committee behind the petition drive, this week surpassed the requisite 766,200 signatures to put the proposed amendment on the November ballot.

Arizona: How all-mail elections impact homeless and disabled voters | AZ Central

Tempe’s upcoming election will be an all mail-in election, but some worry that as cities and school districts increasingly move to postal voting, homeless people and those with certain disabilities could be disenfranchised. All Maricopa County school districts opted to have voters cast ballots by mail last fall. Cities including Tempe, Fountain Hills, Queen Creek and Surprise are pursuing mail-in ballots this year. Renaldo Fowler of the Arizona Center for Disability Law, along with the Arizona Clean Elections Commission, are among those working to ensure voting by mail doesn’t leave some people out. They’ve been working to educate Arizona’s homeless population on how they can still vote without a home address. And to educate voters with visual impairments and other disabilities that special ballots can be requested, such as large print or braille.

Indiana: Redistricting reform moving forward | Journal Review

State legislative redistricting in Indiana took an important step forward Tuesday morning when the Senate Elections Committee, chaired by Republican Sen. Greg Walker, voted unanimously in support of SB326 to create a set of redistricting standards. The bill will now move to the full Senate. The committee met in the Senate chambers with a crowd of more than 200 from all parts of Indiana in the balcony. Redistricting has been a top priority of the League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan organization dedicated to supporting democracy, voter rights and voter projection. The LWV has co-sponsored with Common Cause Indiana a coalition for independent redistricting which has been educating and advocating for redistricting reform.

North Carolina: Judge Hears Arguments on Restoring Halted Judicial Primary | Associated Press

A North Carolina law canceling this year’s judicial primaries came Wednesday before a federal judge who will decide whether the law should be implemented after hearing arguments about the right of political parties to back candidates and the General Assembly’s authority to set election parameters. The state Democratic Party and several county Democratic parties sued last month over an October law that eliminated partisan primaries for trial and appellate court judgeships for this year only. They said it violated their constitutional right to associate as a party and choose in an election people they believe best represents their party for the general elections.

Ohio: Vote delayed on GOP remap plan | The Toledo Blade

Senate Republicans on Wednesday delayed a vote on changes to the inherently political process by which Ohio redraws congressional districts. Talks are under way with those pushing a competing reform plan in hopes of reaching a compromise that could mean voters would be presented with one less ballot question on the subject this year. “If I wasn’t optimistic of the chances of that happening, I wouldn’t have started down this path to begin with,” Senate President Larry Obhof (R., Medina) said. But he said it is unlikely Senate Republicans would agree with a plan in which the General Assembly would entirely relinquish control of the process to an outside entity.

Ohio: Congressional Redistricting Advocates Move Forward Undeterred | WOSU

Supporters of a redistricting plan that might be on the November ballot are critical of a Republican bill being considered by Ohio lawmakers that would let them retain control over the process of drawing Congressional district lines. The Ohio NAACP, Common Cause Ohio and the League of Women Voters of Ohio have been gathering signatures to put a proposed redistricting plan before voters this fall. The League of Women Voter’s Ann Henkener says the lawmakers’ alternative plan would not stop the gerrymandering that’s part of the current process. “The whole idea of it passing is not something my brain can comprehend,” Henkener says.

Pennsylvania: Lawmakers push toward amendment to shrink Pennsylvania legislature | WHYY

This could be the year Pennsylvanians vote whether to amend the constitution and shrink the state House of Representatives by a quarter. The process started last session; this year, the same exact bill must pass the legislature again. If it moves fast enough, it could go out to voters as a referendum as soon as November. It has already passed the House State Government Committee on near-party lines — with most Republicans in favor and Democrats opposed. However, it’s getting somewhat tangled up in ongoing disputes about legislative redistricting.

Virginia: Lawmakers propose runoff elections, not bowls and film canisters, as new way to break ties | Richmond Times-Dispatch

When Dawnn Wallace learned that the election in her Newport News House of Delegates district would be decided by drawing a name from a bowl, she was “flabbergasted” to learn that was the state’s process for breaking ties. Wallace said she was among the 23,216 people who voted in the 94th House District race last year, only to see the outcome decided by pure luck when a recount showed Republican Del. David Yancey and Democrat Shelly Simonds both finishing with 11,608 votes. “I can tell you that nobody would want a football game decided by a coin flip. Or a basketball game decided by a jump ball. Or a hockey game decided by which team had the most teeth knocked out at the end of the game,” Wallace said. “If the game is tied at the end of regulation, it goes into overtime.” Wallace joined Del. Marcia S. Price, D-Newport News, Wednesday at the Capitol as Price announced she’ll push to change state law so that elections are decided via the political equivalent of overtime: runoff elections.

Voting Blogs: West Virginia’s Relentless March to Expand Voter Registration | State of Elections

West Virginia is undergoing what appears to be a voter registration revolution as the state legislature continues to make strides to simplify access to the ballot box.  The following post aims to discuss these advancements in an effort to summarize the current state of voter registration in the Mountain State. In 2013, former-Governor Earl Ray Tomblin, signed into law SB 477, which amended the state constitution to allow for online voter registration (OVR).  The state was not quick to implement the OVR system, as the Secretary of State’s Office did not unveil an official program until the latter half of 2015.  In essence, the now-implemented OVR application requires a registrant to supply the same information required on the paper registration cards: full name, birthdate, location, citizenship status, last four digits of the registrant’s social security number, and the registrant’s driver’s license/state-issued ID number.  If a registrant does not have a state-issued ID or driver’s license, they must instead complete and submit a standard paper form.  As a result,  while OVR streamlines the process for certain registrants, it does so only for those who would likely have already taken advantage of the “motor voter” provisions of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 or the state’s newer electronic voter registration system at the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Wisconsin: Elections panel retains embattled administrator | Associated Press

A divided Wisconsin Elections Commission voted Wednesday to retain its embattled leader through early spring, thumbing its nose at state Senate Republicans who a day earlier refused to confirm him. One Republican commissioner joined with three Democratic commissioners to retain Michael Haas as interim administrator through April 30. The 4-2 vote sets up a likely legal fight over whether Haas legally holds the position and whether any decisions he makes are legitimate. “You are creating chaos,” said Dean Knudson, one of the two Republican commissioners who voted against retaining Haas. “What is best for the state is not to reappoint Michael Haas.” Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and other Republicans have said they can’t trust either of them because both previously worked for the state Government Accountability Board. The now-defunct agency investigated whether Gov. Scott Walker and others in the GOP violated state campaign laws.

Canada: Government stands by its campaign finance law | Toronto Star

The Liberal government is standing by its campaign finance law, which the Working Families coalition of unions is challenging in court as unconstitutional. As first disclosed by the Star, the unions feel the spending limits on election advertising are a violation of “the fundamental right to free expression guaranteed under section 2(b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.” But Attorney General Yasir Naqvi is confident the law that passed unanimously a little more than a year ago can survive a constitutional challenge. “We believe our rules have achieved that balance and comply with the Charter,” said Naqvi’s press secretary Andrew Rudyk.

Czech Republic: Presidential election on a knife-edge as challenger cries foul | The Guardian

Miloš Zeman, the populist Czech president, faces a fight for his political life in an election run-off against a pro-western liberal rival who claims he has been the victim of dirty tricks. With the outcome on a knife-edge, Zeman’s challenger, Jiří Drahoš, a former head of the Czech Academy of Sciences who is campaigning to cement the Czech Republic’s place in the EU and Nato, says he has been smeared as a paedophile, communist collaborator and pro-immigrant elitist with ties to Angela Merkel. The accusations could have a decisive effect, with opinion polls showing Drahoš has a slight edge over Zeman heading into the ballot, to be held on Friday and Saturday.

Egypt: Egypt’s Undemocratic Election | Sara Khorshid/Foreign Policy

If there was any doubt that Egypt’s upcoming presidential election will be neither free nor fair, the arrest of former military chief of staff Sami Anan shortly after announcing that he would run for president has made it crystal clear. The March vote will in no way confirm President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s popularity among the Egyptian people. This election campaign is merely an extension of the internal power struggle among the military and the regime’s security services, and it has nothing to do with democratic mechanisms worthy of the name. In the early hours of Saturday morning, Anan returned to the political scene. In a video announcement that was released on his Facebook page after midnight, the Hosni Mubarak-era general declared his intention to run in the upcoming presidential election.

Finland: Finns, with wary eye to Russia, set to re-elect cautious Niinisto president | Reuters

Finns are expected to re-elect moderate Sauli Niinisto for a second six-year term in elections on Sunday, counting on his skill and caution to ensure a close relationship with NATO without antagonizing neighboring Russia. Niinisto, 69, is credited with helping Finland perform a delicate balancing act between the Kremlin and the U.S.-led military alliance, of which it is not a member but with which it developed closer ties after Moscow annexed Crimea in 2014. Latest opinion polls by Alma Media and Helsingin Sanomat show support of 58-68 percent for Niinisto, who is originally from conservative National Coalition Party (NCP) – a member of Helsinki’s ruling coalition – but campaigns as an independent.

Germany: Social Democrat plan cutoff date for new members | Associated Press

Germany’s Social Democrats plan to establish a cutoff date after which new members won’t be able to participate in a crucial upcoming vote on whether to join a new government, party officials said Wednesday. The move reflect growing annoyance among the party leadership about efforts by its youth wing to recruit new, short-term members in a bid to scuttle a coalition with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Union bloc. The Young Socialists and the left wing of the party launched the campaign Monday offering two months’ membership for 10 euros ($12.25) and expressly urged new recruits to oppose a possible renewal of the “grand coalition.”

Pakistan: NADRA to develop internet voting system for expats: report | Pakistan Today

With the Supreme Court’s approval, the country’s biggest database manager has started working on the development of an integrated internet voting system aimed at extending the right of franchise to over seven million Pakistanis living abroad in time for the next general elections, according to a report by a private media outlet. According to a presentation given by the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) to the apex court on Wednesday, a three-tier electronic mechanism – named the Internet Voting System for Overseas Pakistanis – will be developed at a cost of Rs150 million and within a period of four months. The ECP would provide the required funds for the project.

Russia: Russia’s Election: New Faces, but No Real News | The National Interest

Another round of Putin’s reelection (as Russians have come to call presidential elections) is scheduled for March 18, 2018. While little may be surprising about who will actually win, the Kremlin is trying its very best to inject some interest and entertainment value into the election. Russia’s authorities have learned from the experience of the 2011–12 election, when public dissatisfaction with lack of change led to a series of countrywide mass rallies. For a start, the authorities have introduced some liberalization to Russia’s formal electoral rules. Among other things, they permitted an increase in the official number of candidates. Legislative amendments allowed more parties to form; in the 2017 parliamentary election, fourteen parties were formally allowed to compete, as opposed to only seven parties in the prior election in 2011. Since parties can nominate their own presidential candidates, the 2018 presidential field is also expected to widen in comparison with the previous presidential election, in which only five candidates were officially registered to participate.