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.

National: House Democrats ask DHS for details of voter fraud investigation takeover | The Hill

The co-chairs of the Congressional Task Force on Election Security want to know what the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) plans do now that President Trump has turned the work of his defunct voter fraud commission over to the agency. In a letter Tuesday, Reps. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) and Robert Brady (D-Pa.) asked DHS Secretary Kristjen Nielsen to clarify what the agency’s responsibilities are related to the Presidential Commission on Election Integrity Trump dissolved earlier this month. The commission, which Trump created to investigate his unfounded claims that millions of people voted illegally in the 2016 presidential election, was plagued by controversy and legal battles from its inception.

Editorials: Putting the Voters in Charge of Fair Voting | Tina Rosenberg/The New York Times

Katie Fahey is 28 and lives in a small village just outside Grand Rapids, Mich. She works as a program officer for the Michigan Recycling Coalition. In her spare time, she founded and leads a massive volunteer effort that could end partisan gerrymandering in Michigan. If you doubt that a private citizen can make a difference, meet Fahey. Like many others, Fahey anguished over America’s growing polarization. After the 2016 elections, she resolved to do something. “Nobody trusted the system — on the right, on the left, on the middle,” she said. “I was nervous to go to Thanksgiving dinner. I didn’t want another holiday to be ruined by divisiveness.”

Colorado: Groups sign on to proposals to revamp redistricting in Colorado | The Journal

A bipartisan organization pushing ballot measures to change the way Colorado draws its legislative and congressional boundaries announced the support Monday of a number of groups representing rural, minority, business and civic reform interests. Fair Districts Colorado, a group chaired by Kent Thiry, the CEO of kidney dialysis giant DaVita Inc., said it now has the backing of Progressive 15 and Action 22, associations representing 37 counties in northeastern and southeastern Colorado, respectively; the African Leadership Group, an advocacy organization for African immigrants; Clean Slate Now, a group devoted to campaign finance reform; and Colorado Concern, an association of some of the state’s top business executives.

New Mexico: Lawmaker pushes automatic voter registration | NM Politics

By the time the 2016 presidential election rolled around, New Mexico had one of the lowest rates of voting-age citizens registered to vote. Only two-thirds of the state’s eligible voters had signed up to cast a ballot, compared to at least 80 percent in Maine and the District of Columbia, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Perhaps unsurprisingly, New Mexico also had one of the lowest rates of election turnout among its voting-age population. One state lawmaker wants to make it easier for people to vote through an amendment to the New Mexico Constitution that would require the state to ensure every citizen who is eligible to vote is at least registered.

New York: State Lawmakers Again Pushing for Voting Reforms | Associated Press

It’s time New York state finally changed its antiquated voting rules and procedures that are perpetuating the state’s low voter turnout, Democratic lawmakers in the Legislature said Tuesday as they announced yet another election reform package. New York ranks among the bottom in terms of voter turnout, a situation Senate Democratic Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, of Yonkers, called “extremely embarrassing” during a news conference detailing some of the 13 voting rights bills aimed at making it easier for New Yorkers to cast ballots. Among the Democrats’ top priorities is allowing early voting, which already is in place in 34 states. 

Ohio: Fight ahead between two redistricting plans | The Toledo Blade

As the Ohio Senate rushes toward passage this week of a Republican proposal to overhaul how Ohio’s congressional districts are redrawn, an outside coalition pushing its own plan said Monday it would fight the lawmakers’ plan at the polls. “I think we have no choice,” said Sam Gresham, chairman of Common Cause Ohio and a member of Fair Districts Ohio. “We’ve been out here for years coming up with fair legislative districts. And we passed a proposal in 2015 [for state legislative districts]. We’re not going to give up simply because they’ve put a proposal forward.” Fair Districts is a coalition of government watchdog, labor, and voting-rights organizations. It would have to finance an opposition campaign to convince voters to reject the legislative proposal in May while circulating petitions for its own proposal for November. Should both pass, the second would supersede the first.

Texas: New law forces Texans who want to vote by mail to apply by mail first | Houston Chronicle

A small change took place during the state special legislative session last year, one that at least one local election administrator expects will make it harder for Texans to apply to vote by mail. Texans who want to apply to vote by mail in the state must now do so by mail. In the past, voters could also apply by email or fax. Those options still exist, but they must be supplemented with a mailed application, received by the early voting clerk after no more than four business days. The change, which was passed as part of SB 5, would “make it more challenging for voters to apply for that ballot,” Fort Bend County Election Administrator John Oldham wrote in a news release.

Texas: Dallas Democrats strike back at GOP lawsuit to remove 128 candidates from primary ballot | Dallas Morning News

Lawyers for 14 of the 128 Democratic candidates whom the Dallas County GOP is trying to have removed from the March primary ballot have asked a court to dismiss the case. According to a document filed late Monday on behalf of 14 candidates threatened with removal, the Dallas County Republican Party and its chairwoman, Missy Shorey, have no standing to bring the suit, since they are not candidates in the election. “The DCRP is clearly not a candidate and Shorey does not allege that she is a candidate for any office,” according to the filing from the lawyers. “As such, neither the DCRP nor Shorey have the necessary personal interest to have standing to seek the removal of any candidate from the ballot.”

Virginia: Some are Calling for an End to Split Precincts Following Voting Errors in Fredericksburg | WVTF

Confusion over split precincts led to a meltdown in Fredericksburg last year, when dozens of voters were given the wrong ballot. Now some lawmakers are hoping for a fix. When most voters walk into their home precincts, they are handed a ballot that has candidates for one House seat. But some precincts are split in a way where some voters are supposed to receive one ballot while others receive another. That led to massive confusion last year in Fredericksburg, which is why Delegate Vivian Watts wants to outlaw split precincts. “Four of my 20 precincts are split. One of them is particularly impossible to figure out where that line is. How in the world are the people going to hold me accountable as an elected official if they don’t even know who represents them?”

West Virginia: House passes single-member district bill; subcommittee reviews redistricting bill | Charleston Gazette-Mail

The West Virginia House of Delegates passed a bill Monday that could fundamentally alter the chamber’s political and electoral landscape. House Bill 4002 would nix the state’s reliance on multimember districts, where residents in certain areas vote for more than one delegate, yielding more than one winner. Following the decennial census, the bill would compel the Legislature to draw 100 single-member districts. In West Virginia’s 67 House districts, 11 of those districts have two members, six districts have three members, two districts have four members, and one district has five members. The vote passed 72-25. Of the 25 “no” votes, only three came from delegates who represent single-member districts: Phillip Diserio, D-Brooke; Ed Evans, D-McDowell; and Isaac Sponaugle, D-Pendleton. Fifty-three delegates serve in multimember districts.

Wisconsin: Republicans oust the state’s ethics and elections chiefs | Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Republican state senators Tuesday denied the confirmations of the directors of Wisconsin’s ethics and elections commissions — and the leader of the state Senate said he hoped to remove two civil servants at those agencies next. Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) said Republicans had lost faith in the Ethics Commission and Elections Commission because they continue to employ people who worked for the now-disbanded Government Accountability Board. The accountability board participated in a sweeping investigation of Republicans that was shut down in 2015 after the state Supreme Court concluded nothing illegal occurred.  “I wish they’d all resign,” Fitzgerald told reporters of former accountability board employees. 

Australia: Senate vote-counting-ware contract a complete shambles | The Register

The Australian Electoral Commission’s (AEC’s) handling of the nation’s 2016 election was deeply flawed, the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) has found. The auditor’s investigation was kicked off after the 2016 double-dissolution election, which introduced at short notice optional preferential voting for Australia’s Senate. The AEC anticipated a complex count, and in March 2016 had begun work on a system to automate the Senate count, but its timetable was foreshortened by the early election. That set off a chain of events that resulted in wasted money and security failures, the auditor has found.

Editorials: Are Czechs about to reelect the Trumpiest president in Europe? | Jakub Janda/The Washington Post

Voters in the Czech Republic are preparing for their most important election since 1989. On Jan. 26, they will begin heading to the polls to pick their next president. The winner of the first round of the two-stage election earlier this month was the incumbent Milos Zeman, who is facing a strong runoff challenge from Jiri Drahos, a pro-western centrist and the former head of the Academy of Sciences. As of now, the race is considered too close to call. For Czechs, Zeman needs little introduction. He has spent his first five-year term excoriating migrants and Muslims, whipping up fears of terrorism, and praising President Vladimir Putin of Russia. He is possibly the closest thing to President Trump that we have today in Central Europe – except Zeman took office long before Trump did.

Honduras: 2 Killed in Honduran Post-Presidential Election Protests | teleSUR

Honduran armed forces have been engaged in violent clashes with Nasralla supporters as the Opposition Alliance team called for fresh demonstrations. According to former presidential candidate Salvador Nasralla, two additional people were killed while protesting Honduras’ alleged fraudulent election results. Nasralla said in a tweet, “They just killed 2 more today 23/1/18 in SPS (San Pedro Sula) and another in Arizona, Atlantida. I can’t sit and dialogue with someone who kills my compatriots. I demand that as the winner of the election, according to the majority, that the killings stop and the country is demilitarized.”

Venezuela: Maduro eyes re-election as Venezuela fires starting gun for presidential vote | The Guardian

Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro has said that he is ready to seek another term in office after the pro-government constituent assembly declared that new presidential elections must be held by 30 April. Analysts described Tuesday’s announcement as an attempt by the ruling socialist party to exploit opposition disarray – and cement control before the country’s economic crisis becomes even more acute. The announcement comes after the European Union levied sanctions against seven high-ranking officials for their role in cracking down on democratic freedoms and for violently crushing anti-Maduro protests last year. “If the world wants to apply sanctions, we will apply elections,” said a defiant Diosdado Cabello, one of the sanctioned officials and vice-president of the assembly, a pro-Maduro body that has assumed extraordinary powers to run the country. “There will be revolution for a long time to come.”

National: Facebook says it can’t guarantee social media is good for democracy | Reuters

Facebook Inc (FB.O) warned on Monday that it could offer no assurance that social media was on balance good for democracy, but the company said it was trying what it could to stop alleged meddling in elections by Russia or anyone else. The sharing of false or misleading headlines on social media has become a global issue, after accusations that Russia tried to influence votes in the United States, Britain and France. Moscow denies the allegations. Facebook, the largest social network with more than 2 billion users, addressed social media’s role in democracy in blog posts from a Harvard University professor, Cass Sunstein, and from an employee working on the subject.

National: Alleged payment to porn star was illegal donation to Trump campaign, watchdog says | Politico

A watchdog group filed a pair of complaints on Monday alleging that a $130,000 payment reportedly made to a pornographic film actress who claims to have had an affair with Donald Trump violated campaign finance laws. In submissions to the Justice Department and the Federal Election Commission, Common Cause said the alleged payment to Stephanie Clifford — who uses the stage name Stormy Daniels — amounted to an in-kind donation to Trump’s presidential campaign that should have been publicly disclosed in its official reports. An attorney for Common Cause, Paul Ryan, said the payment appeared to be hush money.