Pennsylvania: How Pennsylvania could improve voting and elections, according to advocates and experts | Jonathan Lai/Philadelphia Inquirer

Pennsylvania is implementing the biggest changes to its electoral system in decades, including an expansion of absentee ballot access, easier voter registration, the elimination of straight-party voting, and tens of millions of dollars for new voting machines. But when it comes to ballot access, those changes, part of a bipartisan deal enacted in October, will only move the state from the back of the U.S. pack to the middle. “It’s clear improvement on the whole to the process — sort of maybe revolutionary only by Pennsylvania standards,” said David Thornburgh, head of the Philadelphia-based good-government group Committee of Seventy. “On the Richter scale of change, it’s not a nine.” So, voting rights advocates and experts, while applauding the changes, want lawmakers and Gov. Tom Wolf to go further. The Inquirer asked for their wish lists. They offered dozens of ideas about voting rights, election security and integrity, and political representation. Some would likely garner support only on partisan lines; others could have bipartisan backing. Some are bolstered by research and proven track records elsewhere, while others are newer ideas. All came from a sense that Pennsylvania can do better, and that election modernization and voting reform should not end with this year’s law.

Pennsylvania: Election reform subject of many bills in Harrisburg | Reading Eagle

There are plenty of ideas for election reform floating around the state, including making it easier to vote, registering more voters and redefining who draws district lines. Pennsylvania lawmakers plan to introduce more than 20 bills this session to reshape the state’s election rules. Sen. Lawrence M. Farnese Jr., a Philadelphia Democrat, plans to offer a bill that would allow 16- and 17-year-olds to preregister to vote. When preregistered, an individual would be automatically registered to vote in the first election after he or she turns 18. Farnese’s memo on the bill says 22 states already allow for preregistration before age 18. … Republican Sen. Pat Stefano of Fayette County aims to develop a secure online system for military and overseas voters to return their absentee ballots electronically with a bill he plans to reintroduce.

Pakistan: From law to action: election reforms in Pakistan | Daily Times

“We have all the necessary and good laws in Pakistan, but we fail to implement them!” This is a common lamentation in Pakistan. Whatever the subject is — politicians, civil society, lawyers, journalists and governmental officials make this claim. But is this true? In one area that has attracted much public controversy, this was not the case: The election laws lacked many provisions needed for credible, transparent and inclusive elections. The controversies in the 2013 elections were not simply ‘losers crying sour grapes’. Genuine shortcomings in the election laws, which undermined Pakistani elections for many years were repeatedly pointed out by civil society, observers and eventually also confirmed in the inquiry commission setup to investigate the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) accusations of systemic rigging in 2013 general elections. The Commission found no systematic rigging but pointed to many systemic problems.

Togo: Opposition unconvinced by reform bill proposal | AFP

Togo opposition leaders on Sunday said they were not hopeful of political change, as parliament prepared to discuss potential constitutional reform after days of huge anti-government protests. Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets this week calling for presidential term limits and denouncing President Faure Gnassingbe and his family’s half-century in power. Gnassingbe took over as leader in 2005 after the death of his father, Gnassingbe Eyadema, who had come to power in 1967 after a military coup.

Editorials: Let’s change how we elect the House of Representatives | Don Beyer/The Washington Post

Democracy is in crisis. Even as the country is deeply divided along class and ideological lines, it seems to be unified in its frustration with our current brand of politics. Polls show that less than 20 percent of the country approves of the way Congress is doing its job. The time has come to consider a transformative idea that reflects the American electorate’s desire for moderation and fairness and that encourages the reemergence of bridge builders and candidates with an eye for compromise. That idea involves changing the way we elect members of the House of Representatives. This week I introduced the Fair Representation Act, which would make two fundamental changes in how voters elect their representative in the U.S. House.

Lebanon: Hariri sees new vote law by Wednesday despite hurdles | Zawya

Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced Monday that Lebanon would have a new vote law by Wednesday despite remaining obstacles that could unravel the agreement reached by the country’s top leaders to avert a parliamentary vacuum and clear the way for holding the first elections since 2009. He also said that neither he nor the Future Movement would run the elections under the disputed 1960 majoritarian law used in the last parliamentary elections.

Moldova: Plan to change vote rules ‘inappropriate’ – rights body experts | Reuters

A plan by Moldova to change the way it conducts elections is “inappropriate”, European rights experts commissioned to study the proposal have concluded, dealing a blow to the ex-Soviet state’s pro-European ruling coalition. The speaker of the Moldovan parliament, an ally of Prime Minister Pavel Filip, said the ruling coalition would take on board some of the technical findings, but took issue with others, saying the experts had overstepped their remit. The prime minister and his allies had been seeking to change the voting system in time for a parliamentary election next year, when his party will be in a tough fight with pro-Moscow rivals, led by President Igor Dodon, who reject closer integration with Europe.

Canada: First-past-the-post electoral system advances ‘democratic values,’ says rookie Democratic Institutions Minister Gould | The Hill Times

A week after the Trudeau government scrapped its promise to change Canada’s first-past-the-post electoral system in time for the next federal election, the new Minister of Democratic Institutions Karina Gould defended the current voting system before the House Affairs Committee Tuesday, saying it “advances a number of democratic values. The first-past-the-post system may not be perfect, but no electoral system is. But it has served this country for 150 years and advances a number of democratic values Canadians hold dear, such as strong local representation, stability, and accountability,” said Ms. Gould (Burlington, Ont.) whose new mandate letter states that “changing the electoral system will not be in your mandate.”

Canada: Trudeau abandons pledge to reform Canada’s elections | Toronto Star

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau abandoned his promise to reform Canada’s electoral system on Wednesday, claiming no consensus has been found on an alternative system. Only two months after recommitting to electoral reform, Trudeau told newly appointed Democratic Institutions Minister Karina Gould that replacing the first-past-the-post system was no longer on the table. Trudeau’s decision shelves months of work by a special House of Commons committee, two separate public engagement and consultation exercises, numerous MP town hall meetings and one cross-country ministerial tour.

Editorials: Turkey′s crucial referendum on the horizon | Deutsche Welle

While the world was focused on the United States and the new president taking office, on the other side of the Atlantic, big changes were underway in an allied country. The Turkish parliament managed to pass controversial constitutional amendments. The two-round voting on the changes agreed to by the ruling AKP and nationalist MHP parties earned enough votes to carry the decision to the final stage: a vote by the people. The second round of voting lasted until after midnight and into the early hours of the morning. Even though the government refuses to say this vote will change Turkey, it will. The amendments give all the power to one person, with almost no accountability. The Turkish-style presidency, as the AKP likes to market it, would be a malfunctioning structure that is going to remove whatever is left of the instruments of democracy. The two-round voting took less than two weeks. The extremely technical and radical changes were barely mentioned in public. Besides some populist statements, citizens had little insight into what was being discussed in parliament and how this would influence their lives in the long run. The fact that the constitutional change has been brought before parliament during a state of emergency also raises questions as to why the government is so eager to make such quick changes. Should it not focus all its energy and attention on lifting the state of emergency and eliminating the instability and terror in the country? Instead, the AKP and MHP are busy changing structures that require thorough discussion and examination.

Turkey: Erdogan buoyed by vote for powerful presidency | Associated Press

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday began campaigning for constitutional reforms that would greatly expand the powers of his office, only hours after a vote in parliament cleared the way for a national referendum on the issue. Speaking in Istanbul, he hailed the assembly’s early-morning decision saying a more powerful presidency will catapult Turkey to a position of strength. “God willing the people will give the true decision, the final decision,” Erdogan said. After an all-night session capping almost two weeks of acrimonious debate, Turkish lawmakers passed the controversial set of 18 articles. The measures still need to be approved in a national plebiscite slated for April. The bill would abolish the role of the prime minister and introduce a presidential system that critics fear lacks effective checks and balances. A change to the presidential system would be a crowning achievement for Erdogan, who has outmaneuvered and crushed all his major foes. The reforms would potentially allow him to remain in power until 2029.

Turkey: Parliament nears approval of presidential system | Reuters

Turkey edged closer to adopting a constitutional bill extending President Tayyip Erdogan’s powers overnight, with parliament approving four more articles of a reform which opponents see as a step towards an authoritarian state. Erdogan, who could rule the European Union candidate country until 2029 if the legislation is passed, says it will provide stability at a time of turmoil and prevent a return to the fragile coalitions of the past. During the evening debate an independent lawmaker, Aylin Nazliaka, handcuffed herself to the podium in protest against the stronger presidency, triggering a scuffle between MPs of the ruling AK Party and opposition parties. The reform would enable the president to issue decrees, declare emergency rule, appoint ministers and top state officials and dissolve parliament – powers that the two main opposition parties say strip away balances to Erdogan’s power.

New Hampshire: Forty bills in New Hampshire Legislature target voting | Union Leader

As many as 40 bills to change New Hampshire election law will soon be working their way through the Legislature, but only a few are likely to find their way to the desk of a newly elected governor who has made election reform a top priority. Many election-related bills have been proposed by State Rep. David Bates, R-Windham. “Most of my changes focus on facilitating better enforcement of our existing voter requirements and do not add any new requirement in order for people to vote,” he said. Bates will be among those attending a private meeting at the State House scheduled for today with House Speaker Shawn Jasper, other legislative leaders and key committee chairs to craft a coordinated strategy for the election law agenda.

Poland: Opposition slams ruling party’s electoral reform plan | Associated Press

Changes to an electoral law proposed by Poland’s conservative ruling party are aimed at helping it win local elections next year, opposition leaders said Tuesday. The head of the ruling Law and Justice party, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, who is Poland’s most powerful politician, says he wants new regulations to limit to two the number of terms served by city and town mayors as well as local community heads. He argues it would give opportunities to new candidates and says some local leaders have been in office for decades. “That helps neither democracy nor the good social relations in the given country or town,” Kaczynski has said. “In brief — there is need for change.” But the leaders of two liberal opposition parties said the proposal aims to help Law and Justice take control of local governments, on top of controlling the parliament, the national government and the presidency.

Turkey: Parliament approves more constitutional reform articles | Reuters

Turkey’s parliament approved the first seven articles in a second round of voting overnight on a constitutional bill that will extend President Tayyip Erdogan’s powers, keeping the reform on course for a spring referendum. The two largest opposition parties in parliament say the 18-article bill, which could enable Erdogan to rule until 2029, will fuel authoritarianism in the NATO member and European Union candidate country. The ruling AK Party, backed by the nationalist MHP, says it will bring the strong executive leadership needed to prevent a return to the fragile coalition governments of the past.

Turkey: Parliament votes in favour of constitutional reform in first round | Reuters

Turkey’s parliament has voted in favour in a first round ballot on a constitutional bill that will extend President Tayyip Erdogan’s powers, which opposition politicians say could put the country at risk of growing authoritarianism. The assembly approved the final 18th article of the package late on Sunday and according to parliament regulations will now take a two-day break from the talks before a second round of voting during which any changes to the articles will be debated.

Canada: Trudeau taking heat for walking back electoral reform | iPolitics

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appears to have opened the door to maintaining Canada’s first-past-the-post voting system, despite having promised the 2015 federal election would be the last to use it. In an interview with Le Devoir Ottawa correspondent Marie Vastel to mark the end of his government’s first year, Trudeau said he no longer sees the same appetite for electoral reform he did when the Conservatives were in power. “Under Stephen Harper, there were so many people unhappy with the government and their approach that people were saying, ‘It will take electoral reform to no longer have a government we don’t like’. But under the current system, they now have a government they’re more satisfied with and the motivation to change the electoral system is less compelling,” he said.

Canada: Electoral reform committee wraps up cross-Canada tour in Iqaluit Monday | CBC

The special committee on electoral reform has spent the last several months gathering expert testimony and hearing opinions from voters across the country, but all that will come to an end this Monday. A dozen members of Parliament are set to attend the meeting in Iqaluit, Nunavut, where voter turnout in the last Federal election spiked sharply but still fell far short of the national average. “We’re very interested in how to ensure a higher voter turnout rate,” said Liberal MP Francis Scarpaleggia, who chairs the committee. In particular, Scarpaleggia says he wants to hear what voters in Nunavut would think of a proportional representation system, where every vote would “count.”

Armenia: Election Deal Collapses | RFE/RL

The Armenian authorities officially confirmed on Monday that they will not implement a recent agreement with the opposition that was supposed to ensure the proper conduct of next year’s parliamentary elections. The Central Election Commission (CEC) attributed the deal’s collapse to logistical problems related to the introduction of a biometric registry of voters meant to prevent multiple voting by government loyalists. The compromise agreement reached with three parliamentary opposition parties in June committed the authorities to installing electronic machines that would check voters’ identity through plastic ID cards containing their fingerprints. The landmark deal, which took the form of amendments to Armenia’s new Electoral Code, also envisaged live online broadcasts of voting and ballot counting from all 2,000 or so polling stations across the country.

Canada: Elections P.E.I. working on electoral reform education campaign | The Guardian Charlottetown

The plebiscite countdown is on. Prince Edward Islanders will be going to the polls in just three months to vote on whether they would like to change P.E.I.’s voting system, and Elections P.E.I. has been touring the province to educate Islanders about the upcoming plebiscite on electoral reform. After all, there will be many new elements in this vote that many Islanders may never have experienced, including online and telephone voting as well as a ranked ballot. Paul Allen, director of communications for Elections P.E.I., says some Islanders have told him they had no idea a vote on electoral reform was scheduled for this fall. That’s why Elections P.E.I. was tasked with mounting an education campaign – to try to help Islanders understand the five different options they will be asked to choose from on the plebiscite ballot.

Editorials: Why Make It So Hard to Vote, New York? | The New York Times

In the last few years, many states have tried to make it easier for people to vote. New York is not one of them. As a result, millions of New Yorkers fail to make it to the polls on Election Day. In 2014, barely more than one in four eligible voters actually voted — the fourth-lowest rate in the country. Voters did a little better in this year’s presidential primary, but the numbers were still abysmal. Here are some of the ways New York’s lawmakers make it harder than necessary to cast a ballot. In New York, there is no early voting in person — elections are held on one workday, usually a Tuesday, and that’s it. Absentee ballots are a pain — voters have to claim they will be out of town or unable to appear “because of illness or physical disability.” The boards that run elections have barely acknowledged the arrival of the computer, let alone the internet. Anyone who votes in New York City, for example, must first sign a large paper ledger that looks like something from the Smithsonian archives. Attempts to move to computerized voting lists — like other efforts to modernize the system — have too often stalled in Albany because incumbents want to preserve the system that got them elected.

Canada: Opposition parties offered control of electoral reform committee | CBC

The Liberal government has offered to give two opposition parties control over a legislative committee that will study overhauling the province’s electoral system. The Liberals say they’re willing to give up their majority on the committee to persuade the opposition Progressive Conservatives to join the consultations on new voting systems, a lower voting age, online voting, and other possible changes. Premier Brian Gallant said in question period “We’re not even seeking a majority of the composition” of the eight-member committee, the first time the Liberals have made that concession.

Canada: Dates and rules set for electoral reform vote in P.E.I. | The Charlottetown Guardian

For the first time ever, Prince Edward Islanders will have the option to vote online, by telephone or by traditional paper ballot in the upcoming plebiscite on electoral reform. The dates and rules for the plebiscite have been set and approved by executive council. Voting will be held over a 10-day period, from noon on Saturday, Oct. 29 until 7 p.m. Monday Nov. 7. Those who choose to vote online or by telephone can do so within this voting period. Every eligible voter will be issued a PIN (personal identification number) to use for Internet or telephone ballots.

Canada: Liberals agree to give majority to Opposition on electoral reform committee | The Globe and Mail

The Liberals have backed down from their plan to hold the reins on a committee to study electoral reform in Canada, handing over the balance of power to the opposition and agreeing to give the Bloc Québécois and the Green Party a voice at the table. It is a major reversal from the government, which pledged to change the first-past-the-post voting system before the next federal election, but faced increasing criticism that it was trying to rig the system in the Liberal Party’s favour. Democratic Institutions Minister Maryam Monsef told the House of Commons on Thursday the government will support an NDP motion to give opposition members more say on the special committee – yet to be struck – to study voting systems and propose changes for Canada.

South Dakota: State trying to improve electoral processes | Rapid City Journal

The State Board of Elections adopted 45 pages of rules changes Monday in order to to keep up with South Dakota’s changing politics. The proposals covered establishing governments for new cities, adopting armed sentinel programs in school districts, filling city and school board vacancies after resignations, conducting random samples of petition signatures for statewide candidates and on statewide ballot measures, and many more. Pennington County Auditor Julie Pearson was the only person who testified and wasn’t a board member. She pointed out several times how the rules might be better written.

Canada: Trudeau government creating committee to study electoral reform and replace first-past-the-post system | National Post

The Trudeau government is creating a long-awaited special parliamentary committee on electoral reform and proposing to hold town halls in every riding to discuss the issue. “We deserve broad, representative politics, a stable government and an opportunity to shape our democracy,” Democratic Institutions Minister Maryam Monsef said in announcing the plan. “That’s why our government is determined to meet our commitment that 2015 was the last election to use a first-past-the-post system.” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised during last fall’s election campaign to create a committee to examine electoral alternatives and report back with recommendations within 18 months.

Australia: High Court hears Bob Day’s constitutional challenge to senate voting reforms | Sydney Morning Herald

Senator Bob Day says he remains confident in his high-stakes challenge to new Senate voting laws, as the High Court begins deliberations on a case that could disrupt the Turnbull government’s plans for a July election. The Family First senator is arguing the new laws, passed after a marathon sitting of parliament in March, are unconstitutional, and will effectively disenfranchise millions of voters who don’t want to support major parties. The new voting system threatens to wipe out micro-parties, like Senator Day’s, which have traditionally relied on preferences to get them into the upper house, despite attracting only a fraction of the primary vote. The High Court challenge wrapped up just before midday on Tuesday, and the judges are expected to hand down a decision in coming weeks. The case comes at a critical time. If Senator Day manages to successfully argue new system is unconstitutional, it could jeopardise Malcolm Turnbull’s plans for a July 2 election.

Mississippi: Major updates to election law lost at end of session | WDAM

Many major updates to Mississippi’s election law were lost on the last day of 2016 legislative session when the Mississippi House of Representatives killed House Bill 797. “There’s no reasonable excuse to me,” Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann said. “We are disappointed and dismayed in the Mississippi legislature failing to do that. No real excuse for that to me. I’ve asked Governor to put it on his special session when he calls it in June. Bring it back up.” Hattiesburg Rep. Toby Barker said the election code changes were lost because they were in the same bill that would stop lawmakers from spending campaign dollars on personal items. “Out of a 291 page conference report, only 10 of those actually dealt with campaign finance reform, so the rest of it was trying to bring Mississippi up to date with technology, trying to clarify some things to prevent past election mishaps from happening,” Barker said. “So to lose the whole bill at the very end of session was very unfortunate.” Barker worked as a member of Hosemann’s bipartisan election reform committee, which was created in 2014 to help draft the election code changes.

Bulgaria: Six-Point Referendum on Electoral System to be Held in Bulgaria in Summer | Novinite

A referendum featuring six questions on the political system will be held in Bulgaria in the summer. This became clear after the parliament adopted amendments to the Electoral Code on Thursday, which revoked a previous provision that had stipulated that if a referendum and elections are scheduled to take place within the same year, these should be held simultaneously. A total of 115 MPs voted in favour of the amendment, eleven lawmakers were against, while twelve abstained. … Thus, the referendum will not be held together with the forthcoming presidential elections in the autumn, but instead will take place between the middle of July and the middle of August.

Australia: High court challenge to Senate voting reforms set for budget week | The Guardian

Family First senator Bob Day has cleared the first hurdle in his challenge to Senate voting reforms after the chief justice of the high court referred the case to the full bench, for hearing during the budget week. Speaking outside the court on Friday, Day said the orders were issued by chief justice Robert French for the full bench to hear the case on 2 and 3 May – as Malcolm Turnbull brings down his first budget and his last before the next election. Day immediately claimed the development as a win for voters’ rights although constitutional lawyers have been sceptical about the merits of the case. “I have always believed there’s merit but clearly the chief justice believes those also otherwise we wouldn’t be on this trajectory,” Day said. “I think today was a really important win in the battle for voters’ rights and let’s be clear what happened last month in the parliament, that voters’ rights were taken away.”