China: Strengthen your staffing to prevent vote-rigging, Hong Kong’s election watchdog told | South China Morning Post

Political parties and a scholar have called on the election watchdog to beef up its checks on “problematic” voter registration by significantly expanding its staff after more than 1,000 voter-related complaints were filed with the office ahead of the district council elections in November. They said it was the only way to prevent vote-rigging which could drastically hamper the fairness of the elections, given a tiny number of votes could alter poll results because the number of voters in each constituency is small. Over the past week, the city’s courts have processed around 1,500 complaints – many from political parties – about problematic registrations. Some cases pointed to residents of homes for the elderly being registered without their consent.

Russia: Crackdown on Moscow Election Monitors | Newsweek

Russian authorities on July 7 searched the Moscow office of the Golos Association, the country’s leading election-monitoring organization, and the homes of four Golos members, Human Rights Watch reports. The searches appeared to be part of a broader government crackdown on the independent monitoring group. Criminal investigators searched the apartments of Grigory Melkonyants and Roman Udot, co-chairs of Golos; Tatyana Troinova, the executive director; and Valentina Denisenko, a former staff member. Later that day, investigators searched the Moscow office.

Russia: Police raids homes, offices of election monitors: lawyer | AFP

Russian police on Tuesday raided the offices of election watchdog Golos as well as the homes of its employees, a lawyer for the group said, amid an ever-increasing crackdown on independent voices in the country. The searches, which came ahead of regional elections this autumn, coincided with an unveiling by Russian authorities of the first 12 American and other groups to be likely put on the list of “undesirable” organisations. On Tuesday, police raided the homes of several Golos employees, including the apartment of senior executive Grigory Melkonyants and confiscated equipment including computers. “They are searching the offices as we speak,” a Golos lawyer, Olga Gnezdilova, told AFP.

Philippines: Comelec signs precinct count optical scan contract with Smartmatic | Rappler

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has finalized the contract with technology provider Smartmatic for the diagnostics of the voting machines to be reused in the 2016 national elections. On Monday, February 2, his last day with the poll body, Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr announced that he signed the contract on Friday despite the criticisms and attacks against it. Brillantes said the contract price has been lowered to P240 million from P300 million. The poll body was also able to negotiate an expanded scope of work to be done on the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines. “It will not cover only diagnostics. It will not cover only minor repairs, but it will also cover all forms of repairs. It will also involve replacement of destroyed machines, which was not in the original proposal of Smartmatic,” he said. Due to this, Smartmatic’s proposed second stage worth P900 million may not push through anymore given the new scope of work, Brillantes added. He also said Smartmatic is preparing to start on the diagnostics this week.

Sri Lanka: Election chief agrees new measures for vote counting | Lanka Business Online

Sri Lanka’s election commissioner has agreed to a set of proposals aimed at holding a transparent vote counting process, the bar association of Sri Lanka said. The proposals for the upcoming presidential election include, polls monitors to be informed of the results of the counting centers before making it officially announced. “All the proposals forwarded by us on vote counting have already been accepted”, the association president Attorney-at-Law Upul Jayasuriya told LBO. The proposals had been made in consultation with the election watchdogs including PAFFREL and CaFFE.

Kansas: Electronic voting machines may soon phase out, but not in Sedgwick Co. | KSN-TV

New national data released Monday indicates that nearly 70 percent of American voters will cast their ballots Tuesday by hand, using paper ballots. According to Verified Voting, an election watchdog, the growing trend of return to paper ballots is due to a “deterioration of voting machines.” KSN News reached out to Sedgwick Co. elections officials to learn more about the use of electronic voting machines locally, as well as in counties across the state, to find out why a majority of counties across the nation are turning back the clock and opting for paper ballots instead. In the 2012 general election, voters in Sedgwick Co. experienced their fair share of blunders at the ballot box. “We do have one polling place that their ballots would not read and this one precinct they would not read on our machines, as well,” said Tabitha Lehman, the Sedgwick Co. Elections Commissioner, in 2012.

Afghanistan: Abdullah Abdullah Campaign Claims Inflated Turnout in Rival’s Power Base | Wall Street Journal

Indications of vote fraud during Afghanistan’s presidential election Monday threatened to ignite a political crisis and endanger the first democratic transition in the nation’s history. The nation’s election commission had said that more than seven million people voted in Saturday’s runoff—well above the 6.6 million who took part in the election’s first round in April—but that figure has come under scrutiny. Candidate Abdullah Abdullah, a former foreign minister, called the turnout claim “uncorroborated,” and on Monday members of Mr. Abdullah’s campaign team said that between one million and two million ballots were fraudulent, stuffed for his rival, former finance minister Ashraf Ghani. Naeem Ayubzada, head of the Transparent Election Foundation of Afghanistan, an independent group that dispatched some 8,000 observers Saturday, also disputed the official figure. He estimated 5 million voters as a more realistic turnout number.

Russia: Key election watchdog struggles to get past Kremlin shutdown before polls |

Less than three weeks before Russians go to the polls to elect hundreds of local and regional governments, the country’s biggest independent election monitoring group, Golos, is struggling to reinvent itself after being effectively destroyed by a new law that requires non-governmental groups that receive funding from abroad to register as “foreign agents.” The outcome of Golos’ efforts will probably settle any debate over the intentions of Russian authorities when they framed the controversial NGO law, which requires all groups that receive any degree of foreign funding and engage in any kind of public outreach authorities deem political to register and self-identify in all their materials as “foreign agents” – a term that connotes “spy” in Russia. Russian authorities insist the law is just about reining in foreign influence and ensuring transparency in the NGO sector. Critics have argued from the start that the law is part of a battery of legislation that aims to straitjacket civil society, clamp down on free speech and, specifically, to prevent any repetition of the mass exposure of alleged electoral fraud in December 2011 Duma elections made possible by 50,000 trained citizen polling station monitors fielded by Golos.

North Carolina: Senate’s voter ID proposal tougher than House version | Salisbury Post

The North Carolina Senate on Thursday rolled out its voter identification bill, scaling back the number of acceptable photo IDs to cast a ballot in person starting in 2016 and could make it more difficult for young people to vote. The bill sets out seven qualifying forms of photo ID. But they do not include university-issued IDs, like the House allowed for University of North Carolina system and community college students when it passed a bill three months ago. The Senate also removed from its list those cards issued by local governments, for police, firefighters and other first responders, and for people receiving government assistance. Someone who doesn’t present an approved ID could cast a provisional ballot, but would have to return to an elections office with an ID for the vote to count. “We have tweaked it, tightened (it) up some with the particular IDs that will be accepted,” said Sen. Tom Apodaca, R-Henderson and chairman of the Senate Rules Committee, which neither debated nor voted on the measure Thursday.

Russia: Election watchdog group must register as ‘foreign agent’ |

Election monitoring group Golos must register as a “foreign agent” even though it says it does not get any foreign funds, Russian officials said Friday. The independent organization says it has not received money from outside Russia since November 2012, when a new law went into effect governing non-governmental organizations such as Golos, RIA Novosti reported.

Russia: Election watchdog Golos fined | BBC

Election watchdog Golos has become the first non-governmental organisation (NGO) to be fined in Russia under a controversial new law. A Moscow court ruled Golos had failed to declare itself as a “foreign agent” after receiving funds from abroad after the law took effect in November. It was fined the sum of 300,000 roubles (£6,200; $9,500; 6,300 euros). The NGO said it had returned the money – a prize for its human rights work – as soon as it entered its account. It also denied being involved in political activity. It says it will appeal against the verdict. Golos, which received assistance in the past from the US government development agency USAID, insists it no longer accepts foreign funding. Now in its 13th year, the NGO did much to expose fraud at the 2011 parliamentary election, when it charted abuses across Russia, notably through its online “map of violations”.

Russia: Authorities pursue election watchdog Golos under anti-NGO law | BBC

Russian authorities have filed a legal case against an election watchdog, accusing it of failing to declare itself a “foreign agent”. The group, Golos, is the first non-governmental organisation targeted under a new law requiring such groups that receive financial aid from abroad to register as foreign agents. The law was passed after mass protests against President Vladimir Putin. Golos said it would fight to prove its innocence. In recent weeks, more than 100 civil society and human rights groups across Russia have been subjected to inspections by prosecutors and tax officials in connection with the law.

Russia: Election Observers Condemn Local Vote | The Moscow Times

In a stinging rebuke to the authorities and United Russia, election observers said Monday that weekend municipal elections in a provincial town had been too tarnished by fraud to be considered legitimate. The Ryazan region town of Kasimov had turned into a key battleground for the political opposition ahead of Sunday’s vote for the municipal legislature, and activists had hoped to ensure a fair election in this corner of the country following disputed national elections in December and March. According to preliminary results, United Russia won nearly 50 percent of Sunday’s vote, matching its local result in State Duma elections in December, and secured 13 seats in the 20-seat legislature. But monitors said they witnessed numerous offenses, including ballot stuffing, at the town’s 22 polling stations. “There were nearly two serious violations at every station. … The number of violations per voter was unprecedented,” said Sofia Ivanova, regional coordinator of the election watchdog Golos. Pro-United Russia ballot stuffers were caught in the act in at least two polling stations, and observers discovered stacks of votes for the ruling party at several others, she said by telephone.

National: Left girds for voting rights battle |

Democrats, labor unions and civil rights groups are convinced Republicans are scheming to steal the election from President Barack Obama by suppressing the liberal vote, and they’re girding for battle. Groups on the left are spending more than they have in any previous election to lawyer up, get voters registered early and flood polling locations with trained poll workers and election watchdogs. “We’re not going to be fooled again,” said Michael Podhorzer, political director of the AFL-CIO, which recently launched a new campaign focused on voter protection and registration in battleground states. For the left, he said, “a potentially naive mistake in 2000 was not understanding the implications of election administration and the extent to which Republican election officials can tilt things their way.”

South Korea: Illegal campaign activities, legal actions mar South Korea general elections | Korea Herald

Illegal election campaign activities continued to plague the run up to Wednesday’s general election. According to the National Election Commission, the number of Public Official Election Act violations stood at 1,239 on Tuesday. Although the figure was lower than during the 2008 general election, the number of more serious offences such as slander increased significantly. The election watchdog’s figures show that the number of cases of slander and spreading falsehoods increased 31 percent from four years ago. Areas with tight races between candidates such as South Gyeongsang Province saw increases in illegal campaign activities. According to the election commission for the region, 110 violations were filed as of midday Tuesday. In comparison, the figure came in at 85 in 2008. Incheon also suffered from a spike in irregular campaign activities.

United Kingdom: Election watchdog’s concern over Scottish referendum | Channel 4 News

The concerns emerge in the minutes of private meetings held by the commission, which have been released to Channel 4 News under the Freedom of Information Act. They show the watchdog does not believe the Scottish government is proposing to give it the power to have proper oversight of the referendum. The documents also reveal the electoral commission “does not favour” holding the poll on a Saturday and that it believes it would “not be acceptable” for the Scottish government to test the fairness of the referendum question itself.

Iowa: Did Rick Santorum Win the Iowa Caucuses, Not Mitt Romney? | The Daily Beast

Did Rick Santorum win the Iowa caucus? That’s what it looks like if numbers from a caucus in the town of Moulton, Appanoose County, are correctly counted when the official certification begins Wednesday night. This not only would rewrite the election history of 2012 to date—it would invalidate the oft-repeated line that Mitt Romney is the only candidate to win both Iowa and New Hampshire. It would stop the inevitability narrative in its tracks. This possibility has the Iowa state GOP under new scrutiny as they begin the official certification process, which they have promised to complete by the end of the week. The national media to date has largely dismissed this story—which was first reported by local Des Moines station KCCI—apparently choosing to trust the state GOP’s initial off-the-record assurances that the story had zero credibility.

Indonesia: Election watchdogs call to revoke election bodies’ selection team | The Jakarta Post

A group of election watchdogs has called on President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to revoke the newly established election team designated to select general election bodies’ members for not representing the public. “The president should revise his decree No. 33/2011 on the establishment of the election bodies’ selection team and remove two ministers from the selection team,” Indonesian Civilized Circle director (LIMA) Ray Rangkuti said in a statement released on Tuesday.

The president inaugurates the selection team designated to select the General Elections Commission (KPU) and General Elections Monitoring body (Bawaslu) members earlier this month. Girindra Sandino, a research coordinator from the Independent Elections Monitoring Committee (KIPP) said that the two ministers who act as the team’s chairman and deputy would only represent the ruling party and current presidential regime.

Russia: Kremlin accused of silencing Russia’s independent election watchdog | Telegraph

State prosecutors paid a surprise visit to the Moscow office of Golos (‘Voice’), a Western-sponsored but operationally independent election watchdog, on Thursday and served it with legal papers accusing it of breaking the country’s election law. Demanding that its representatives appear in a Moscow courtroom on Friday morning, prosecutors accused the group of consistently painting a negative picture of an unnamed political party, an overt reference to Mr Putin’s United Russia party.

“It is obvious that the people who organised this campaign against us are the same people who are committing electoral fraud across the country,” GrigoryMelkonyants, Golos’ executive director, told The Daily Telegraph. “It is an act of administrative (government pressure). It is a special operation designed to put us out of action and to destroy the only independent election watchdog in Russia.”