Pennsylvania: GOP activists claim district judge must resign to seek state Senate seat | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

In separate complaints, two Republican activists contend that District Judge Guy Reschenthaler is violating judicial ethics rules in seeking a Republican nomination for the state Senate. Mr. Reschenthaler dismisses the complaints as political sniping, noting that he had received an advisory opinion from a judicial ethics panel that his pursuit of the GOP nomination was appropriate. Mr. Reschenthaler of Jefferson Hills was elected district judge in 2013. The state Senate seat, covering Jefferson Hills and other southern and western suburbs, opened when former Sen. Matt Smith, a Democrat, resigned in midterm to become president of the Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce. That set the stage for a special election to fill the balance of the term, which will take place at the same time as the November general election.

Kentucky: Republican Gubernatorial Primary Goes Into Extra Innings: What Happens Next? | Election Law

83 votes. That’s all that separates Kentucky GOP gubernatorial hopefuls Matt Bevin and James Comer. What has already been an ugly campaign is about to become even uglier. Kentucky has three levels of post-election procedures: a recanvass, a recount, and an election contest. Comer, who is currently down in the vote count, has already indicated that he plans to invoke the first process and seek a recanvass; it is unclear if he will go further with a recount or election contest. Under Kentucky law, a candidate has a week from Election Day to file a request for recanvassing with the Secretary of State. Comer announced last night that he will file his request this morning. The recanvassing will occur on Thursday, May 28, during which county election boards will recheck each machine and report the figure back to the county clerk.

Wisconsin: Republicans eye rewrite of campaign finance laws, other election changes | Wisconsin State Journal

Republicans, in firm control of state government when they take office Monday, are poised to make the most sweeping revisions to state campaign finance law in decades. Many of those changes are already in effect after a series of federal court decisions made many current laws unenforceable. But a more comprehensive rewrite is in the works, and the overhaul is getting a thumbs up from the nonpartisan Government Accountability Board — a frequent target of GOP ire that is itself in line for a possible makeover. Among other things, lawmakers are considering increasing campaign contribution limits and clarifying the coordination restrictions at the heart of a recent John Doe investigation into Gov. Scott Walker’s recall campaign. Also on tap: changes to election procedures, including banning all cameras from polling places and testing poll workers on their knowledge of election law. Those changes would come on the heels of a slew of changes adopted last session, including a controversial voter ID law that the U.S. Supreme Court could take up this year.

Editorials: Los Angeles Seeks Increase in Voter Turnout | Dan Walters/Sacramento Bee

In the six weeks since the Nov. 4 election, much has been said about its extraordinarily low, record-shattering voter turnout. Scarcely 42 percent of California’s 17.8 million registered voters, and just 31 percent of its 24.3 million potentially eligible voters, actually cast ballots. It resulted, one could say, from the perfect calm – no hot statewide candidate races or blood-boiling ballot measures to spur voters into doing their civic duties. Nevertheless, it also continued a decades-long slide in California’s voter turnout, which is one of the nation’s lowest, and generated some political palaver about what might be done to raise it to more respectable levels. … Herb Wesson, a former speaker of the state Assembly who now is president of the Los Angeles City Council, has made raising local voter turnout a personal cause, saying it’s a civil rights matter.

Arkansas: Pulaski County election panel, county clerk sue state election board over absentee ballots | Associated Press

The Pulaski County Election Commission and County Clerk Larry Crane have filed a lawsuit against the Arkansas Board of Election Commissioners over rules on how county election commissioners should handle absentee ballots under the state’s new voter-identification law, alleging the board overstepped its authority. The lawsuit, filed Wednesday, asks that the rules passed Feb. 28 be declared invalid. The rules allow an absentee voter who does not provide a proper ID when voting until noon on the Monday after the election to provide an approved form of ID — such as a copy of a driver’s license. The rules also say those absentee voters should be notified via first class mail that they must submit approved forms of identification before their votes can be counted.

Editorials: Could Supreme Court’s Arizona Ruling Lead to Voting Messes Down the Road? | Garrett Epps/The Atlantic

On Monday, I wrote that the Court’s 7-2 decision in Arizona v. Arizona Inter Tribal Council gave a strong affirmation to Congress’s power to regulate state voter-registration processes” and “refused to narrow the scope of Congress’s power to supervise federal election procedures in the states.” That remains the general view. (See coverage herehere, and here.) Some commentators I respect find the decision more mixed as an affirmation of federal power over state voting procedures. At SCOTUSblog, Lyle Denistonconcluded that the opinion “assured states that they retain the ultimate power to decide who gets to vote. The apparent bottom line: states cannot now require voters to show proof that they are U.S. citizens, but the Court has given them a plan that could gain them that power.” Also in SCOTUSblog, Georgetown Law Professor Martin Lederman argues that “what appears at first to be a significant victory for the federal government might in fact be something much less than that — indeed, might establish important restrictions on Congress’s authority to determine eligibility for voting in federal elections, in a way that implicates current and potential future federal legislation.” And at the Daily Beast, election-law guru Richard Hasen warns that the decision “may give states new powers to resist federal government control over elections.” It’s hard to think of three smarter people. I continue to think that the decision is a big win for Congress’s power. The storm clouds these commentators discern may be threatening, but also may pass over easily.

Editorials: How Iranians Vote | Christopher Bollyn/Iran’s View

The Islamic Republic of Iran will have a presidential election on June 14, 2013. As an observer of elections in different countries I find that Iranian election procedures are very similar to those of the most democratic elections held in European nations, such as France. Iranians vote on paper ballots that are counted openly in each polling place in the presence of observers. The tally from each polling station is then verified openly and published by the government after the election. These are the most fundamental and essential elements of a transparent and democratic election, and these are exactly the elements that are sadly missing from elections in the United States. It may come as a surprise but Iranian elections are much more transparent that elections in the United States. The voting process and the counting of the votes in Iran are transparent processes, while most votes in the United States are cast and counted on electronic voting systems run by private companies. The use of computer voting systems in the United States has actually allowed our elections to be stolen because the citizenry has lost its oversight of the crucial vote-counting process entirely. Today, there is virtually no open counting of the votes in polling stations in the United States because nearly all voting “data” is processed in computerized systems – not counted by citizens.

Minnesota: DFLers contol Minnesota Capitol but election overhaul ideas need GOP support |

DFL Gov. Mark Dayton has given Republicans virtual veto power over changes to Minnesota’s election laws, which could doom Democratic proposals to advance early voting. Although Democrats control the Legislature and have offered support for early voting, the governor of their own party has pledged not to sign any election measure that lacks “broad bipartisan support.” So far, Republicans have been cool to the idea of letting voters go to polling places before Election Day. “Any changes in election laws need broad bipartisan support so, to be honest, I haven’t looked into the details of each of the proposals yet because I’m waiting to see if anything is going to move forward on that basis,” Dayton said this week. “If it has that bipartisan support, that’s a pretty good indicator that it is good for Minnesota, good for election participation and protects the integrity, both of which are laudable goals,” he said, explaining the standard he has held since he took office. That is an unusual dictum at a time when election procedures have become sharply partisan, bringing political parties repeatedly to courts around the country to fight out who, when and how people can vote.

Oregon: Ballot fraud allegations in Clackamas County could lead to changes in election procedures |

Allegations of ballot fraud by a Clackamas County election worker may lead to some immediate steps to make Oregon’s voting system more secure — as well as pressure for additional legislative changes. But, so far at least, the allegations don’t appear to cast a shadow over Oregon’s pioneering system of voting by mail. Local and national experts say this kind of fraud could occur in any state. Doug Lewis, executive director of the National Association of Election Officials, said that a rogue election worker could attempt the same kind of fraud in any jurisdiction that uses paper ballots – which at a minimum are used by absentee voters everywhere.

Editorials: Voting Rights: This Is What a Strong Party Platform Would Look Like | Andrew Cohen/The Atlantic

In tone and tenor, the Democratic and Republican voting-rights planks could not be more different. But there’s clearly room for a third way. The most elemental civil right, the one from which all other rights ultimately flow, is the right to vote. Can we all at least agree on that? This election year, to a degree unimaginable even in the wake of the Florida recount and Bush v. Gore, the issue of voting rights and election procedures is a key part of the political debate leading up to the first Tuesday in November. It’s as if some great lock has been turned, some vast door has been opened, and all the primal grievances from those furious days in November and December 2000 have come pouring out again. Add to the mix strident white fear about America’s changing demographics over the interceding decade, and you have a combustible brew indeed.

Virginia: Federal appeals court affirms right to access voter registration applications | Daily Record

A federal appeals court on Friday upheld a key provision of the Voting Rights Act, rejecting an Alabama county’s challenge to the landmark civil rights law. The provision requires state, county and local governments with a history of discrimination to obtain advance approval from the Justice Department, or from a federal court in Washington, for any changes to election procedures. It now applies to all or parts of 16 states. In a 2-1 decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit said that Congress developed extensive evidence of continuing racial discrimination just six years ago and reached a reasonable conclusion when it reauthorized section 5 of the law at that time. The appellate ruling could clear the way for the case to be appealed to the Supreme Court where Chief Justice John Roberts suggested in a 2009 opinion that the court’s conservative majority might be receptive to a challenge to section 5. Judge David Tatel wrote for the Court of Appeals majority that the court owes deference to Congress’ judgment on the matter.

Editorials: A step back on Colorado election rules | The Denver Post

It was perhaps inevitable that Gov. John Hickenlooper would sign a controversial bill governing public access to voted ballots that we and many concerned observers had urged him to veto. After all, the bill was vocally supported by elected county clerks. Not only do they understand the business of conducting elections better than anyone, they claimed the sky might fall if he didn’t sign the bill. The governor obviously had reservations about House Bill 1036, which he outlined in his signing message, but they unfortunately weren’t strong enough for him to defy the opinion of the expert Chicken Littles. Too bad. Colorado now has an election system with a privileged class of people — not only candidates but also political parties and representatives of issue committees that gave money to ballot measures — who may inspect voted ballots when everyone else, including the media, is excluded. Those of us in the non-privileged majority will not have access to voted ballots until after elections are certified — too late, citizen activists persuasively argue, for effective public oversight. Many of those activists, it should be noted, have followed election issues closely for years and know a thing or two about them, too.

Voting Blogs: Montana and Vote-By-Mail: Change Coming Slowly – but Coming Nonetheless | Election Academy

Friday’s Great Falls (MT) Tribune had a great piece on Montana’s slow evolution toward vote-by-mail. There isn’t necessarily a whole lot of news in the piece for someone who follows elections across the nation, but I thought the article was terrific in how well it captured the nature – and pace – of change in elections. Recent headlines have all been about struggles in states where legislatures have made significant and rapid changes to election procedures. As I’ve discussed here in many different posts, such change is a natural offshoot of the different policy views of the parties combined with change in legislative control due to elections.

Alaska: Anchorage election: Still not certified | Anchorage Press

Three weeks after an election marred by ballot shortages at precincts all over town, and a report that at least one ballot machine with a broken security seal was in use, the Anchorage Assembly has not hired an outside investigator to sort through the election mess. New Assembly Chairman Ernie Hall made a sobering announcement about the situation at the opening of Tuesday, April 24, Anchorage Assembly meeting. Hall had planned to—and he said, “hoped to”—announce two names that night. One would lead an investigation of election procedures and the other would provide a second legal opinion on whether election results can be certified. (Municipal Attorney Dennis Wheeler has previously advised the assembly to certify the results. Wheeler is a mayoral appointee whose boss just won re-election—just one of the sticky wickets assembly must navigate.)
“All I can do is ask for your continued patience and assure you that every effort is being made to get these individuals started absolutely as fast as we can,” Hall said. His announcement include a goal, to certify the election at a special assembly meeting Thursday, May 3, which he said also sets a deadline for an outside lawyer’s opinion on certification. “That is one [hire] I am particularly focused on,” Hall said.

Editorials: Impossible dance – Voting Rights Act conflicts with Alaska law and history | Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

The Alaska Supreme Court will hear arguments today in the lawsuit concerning the new election districts. There is much with which to sympathize in the petitions filed by both sides in the dispute. Some of the new boundaries are odd, but it was extremely difficult to avoid such oddities. One thing is clear — much of the dispute could have been avoided if Alaska were not subject to the Voting Rights Act, the federal law intended to prevent states from institutionalizing racial discrimination in their election procedures. The petitions before the court today are filled with arguments about whether the Voting Rights Act forced the Alaska Redistricting Board to draw the election boundaries in the fashion it did or, if not, then in some even less rational fashion.

Editorials: The Strange Career of Voter Suppression |

The 2012 general election campaign is likely to be a fight for every last vote, which means that it will also be a fight over who gets to cast one. Partisan skirmishing over election procedures has been going on in state legislatures across the country for several years. Republicans have called for cutbacks in early voting, an end to same-day registration, higher hurdles for ex-felons, the presentation of proof-of-citizenship documents and regulations discouraging registration drives. The centerpiece of this effort has been a national campaign to require voters to present particular photo ID documents at the polls. Characterized as innocuous reforms to preserve election integrity, beefed-up ID requirements have passed in more than a dozen states since 2005 and are still being considered in more than 20 others. Opponents of the laws, mostly Democrats, claim that they are intended to reduce the participation of the young, of the poor and of minorities, who are most likely to lack government-issued IDs — and also most likely to vote Democratic.

Bulgaria: Bulgarian NGO: Electoral Commission Info Reminds of X Files |

The protocols and the short-hand notes of Bulgaria’s Central Electoral Commission, CEK, are as secret as the X Files, according to the Bulgarian NGO Institute for Public Environment Development (IRPS). The Chair of IRPS, Antoaneta Tsoneva, says the analogy with the popular US TV series is more than obvious, pointing out the NGO, under the Access to Public Information Act, had requested from CEK the said protocols and notes because it wanted to use them to access the effect of the new Election Code.

CEK, however, sent a letter refusing to provide the documents, which, according to Tsoneva, is a mockery of IRPS and their work.

Canada: Q and A-How will Canada election work? What are the rules? | Reuters

Canada is holding a federal election on Monday. Here are the main points of how the country’s electoral system works: What exactly will happen on Monday? Canada has two houses of Parliament — the elected House of Commons and the unelected upper chamber, the Senate, where members are appointed by the government. Monday’s election is for…