Seychelles: Supreme Court Dismisses Electoral Commission’s Petition to Re-Open Register to Fix Anomalies – Presidential Contenders Agree Supplementary Voters List |

The Seychelles Electoral Commission has indicated that a supplementary list of voters will be prepared for the upcoming elections to be held from December 3 to 5, 2015, so as not to disenfranchise 44 Seychellois voters due to some anomalies found on the certified Register of Voters that will be used for the elections. The Chairman of the Electoral Commission, Hendrick Gappy said this during a press interview late this evening after meeting with members of the political parties; the presidential candidates themselves or their representatives to discuss the matter. The urgent meeting to discuss the preparation of a supplementary list came after the Seychelles Supreme Court dismissed a case brought by the Electoral Commission asking for the voters register to be re-opened to accommodate “clerical errors and oversights” discovered after the closure of the register.

Wisconsin: Senate GOP reaches deal on campaign finance, elections oversight | Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

Making an apparent breakthrough, Republicans in the state Senate plan to modify legislation Friday that would overhaul campaign finance laws and the agency that runs elections. That sets the stage for the measures to get to GOP Gov. Scott Walker by next week. One Republican lawmaker who has been briefed on the changes said one would require a new ethics commission to include two former judges. Myranda Tanck, a spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau), on Tuesday announced the plans to meet Friday, but declined to say what changes to the legislation could be in store. She said details may not be available until Thursday, a day before the Senate is to vote. “I can say that we believe we have come up with changes that address the concerns of the caucus and get us to versions of both bills that will have the votes to pass,” Tanck said by email.

Australia: Electoral Commission warned over failure to enrol 1.2m voters | The Guardian

Australia’s auditor general has warned the Australian Electoral Commission it failed to take “meaningful action” and follow a series of recommendations to more securely count votes in the lead-up to the 2013 election. On Wednesday the Australian National Audit Office released its third follow-up audit of the AEC after the 2013 federal election, in which 1,370 Western Australian Senate ballot papers were lost. The Senate election was required to be held again after a high court challenge and the AEC faced heavy criticism at the time. The latest audit found two years on the AEC has still not established procedures to fix a series of failings. The audit disclosed there are now 1.2 million Australians who are eligible to vote but have not been enrolled, and raised concerns over the AEC’s response to the electoral gaps. The report said “some useful work had been undertaken” to manage the electoral role, but there were “significant gaps in implementation action”.

Editorials: Dismantling the Government Accountability Board weakens government | Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

It appears the state Assembly will take up this week the bill aimed at wreaking Republican revenge on the Government Accountability Board, replacing it with a system that doesn’t work particularly well on the federal level and hasn’t worked well in Wisconsin in the past. This attack on the nonpartisan watchdog agency that supervises state elections and conducts investigations into ethics violations reeks of payback partisanship. Under it, and other measures, legislators would like to set themselves up as the sole arbiters of transparency and accountability. That’s not how our system of government is supposed to work. It is similar to the underhanded attempt to gut the state’s open records law on the Fourth of July weekend by this same crew of legislators led by Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald. And it deserves the same kind of fate: an overwhelming demand from angry citizens to kill the bill.

Florida: Embattled Florida elections chief goes on the defense | Tampa Bay Times

Under fire once again for lapses in oversight of Florida’s voter database and lax communication, Gov. Rick Scott’s top elections official says he’ll “over-communicate” in the future. For embattled Secretary of State Ken Detzner, it’s an all-too-familiar refrain as he tries to improve his strained relationships with county election supervisors, who depend on a reliable database as they tabulate votes in Florida elections. In a conference call with the executive committee of the supervisors association Thursday, Detzner spoke from a prepared script and said the addition of new database hardware is ahead of schedule and that he would soon make site visits to counties. “I recognize the need to over-communicate our planning at the department,” Detzner told them, according to a three-page script of his remarks.

National: Get ready for a lot more ‘dark money’ in politics | The Washington Post

Over the weekend, the New York Times published a sobering interview with the head of the Federal Election Commission, who confirmed that she had largely given up on the agency playing a meaningful role in restraining fundraising and spending abuses in the 2016 campaign. The commissioners are deadlocked, FEC chair Ann Ravel said, because Republican members of the commission think the FEC should exercise less robust oversight, meaning the agency has become “worse than dysfunctional” at a time when outside money is poised to play an even larger role than it did in the last two cycles.

New Jersey: Election commission wants Super PACs to disclose more | Press of Atlantic City

It might seem strange that the state commission monitoring money in politics wants to let contractors give more money to candidates. But this is the era of the Super Political Action Committee. And the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission can’t track Super PAC cash. Super PACs, which can receive unlimited amounts of money without disclosing their contributors, were called “active players” in New Jersey campaigns in ELEC’s 2014 annual report. The report included 12 legislative recommendations to increase oversight and transparency of campaigns. At the top of that list were recommendations dealing with Super PACs.

Hawaii: Senate passes bill for chief elections officer evaluations | Associated Press

The state’s chief elections officer would have to undergo a performance evaluation after each general election under a plan approved by the state Senate. The bill, SB 622, requires the Elections Commission to provide the written performance evaluation to the Legislature. It was introduced after problems during the 2014 elections that included 800 ballots that were missing in Maui and voters in storm-damaged parts of the Big Island who couldn’t get to the polls. The Senate approved the bill Thursday. It now goes to the House. Democratic Sen. Russell Ruderman, who represents some of the Big Island voters, called the bill a “baby step when a giant step is needed. I think we have serious problems in the way the Election Commission does nothing in the face of election problems,” Ruderman said. “I watched them do it before my eyes. I watched them do nothing in the face of a disaster in my community.”

National: New evidence shows election officials are biased against Latino voters | The Washington Post

Voter identification laws are cropping up around the country: 31 states had a voter identification requirement in the 2014 midterms, up from 14 states in 2000. These laws vary widely in the types of identification they accept, even in whether identification is required or merely requested. And many people don’t know whether they need identification to vote, or what type of identification to bring. Opponents argue that these laws disproportionately impact minority voters, who are less likely to have required identification. Our new research in this month’s American Political Science Review shows that minorities face another hurdle: bias in the bureaucracy that implements these laws. Roughly 8,000 local officials – county or municipal clerks and election boards – manage the nation’s election system. These officials train local poll workers, provide information, and interact with constituents with little immediate oversight from state officials.

South Dakota: Proposed election law changes move forward at Capitol | Times Union

South Dakota lawmakers are moving quickly on an election law package to expand state and citizen oversight of candidates’ petitions to secure a spot on the ballot. Two state Senate panels on Wednesday approved parts of the package put forward by Secretary of State Shantel Krebs and the bipartisan state Board of Elections. The Senate Local Government Committee approved a measure allowing the Secretary of State’s office to audit a random sample of voter signatures from statewide candidates’ petitions.

Connecticut: Report Cites Numerous Failures By Hartford Registrars | Hartford Courant

City council members are considering what changes to make to the registrars of voters’ office — including removing one or more of the registrars — following a report Friday that highlighted numerous failures by the office during and after Election Day. A committee formed to investigate mishaps that caused polls to open late on Nov. 4 issued a report of its findings, which include a failure of elections officials to provide the secretary of the state with information about polling place moderators; a failure to file final registry books with the town and city clerk by Oct. 29; a failure to prepare and deliver final registry books to moderators by 8 p.m. the night before the election, as required by state law; and a failure to correct discrepancies in the vote tallies. A committee formed to investigate mishaps that caused polls to open late on Nov. 4 issued a report of its findings, which include a failure of elections officials to provide the secretary of the state with information about polling place moderators; a failure to file final registry books with the town and city clerk by Oct. 29; a failure to prepare and deliver final registry books to moderators by 8 p.m. the night before the election, as required by state law; and a failure to correct discrepancies in the vote tallies reported by the head moderator. Council President Shawn Wooden called the situation “outrageous.”

PDF: Committee’s Report On Election Day In Hartford

National: Inquiry Into I.R.S. Lapses Shows No Links to White House | New York Times

An 18-month congressional investigation into the Internal Revenue Service’s mistreatment of conservative political groups seeking tax exemptions failed to show coordination between agency officials and political operatives in the White House, according to a report released on Tuesday. The I.R.S. has admitted that before the 2012 election it inappropriately delayed approval of tax exemption applications by groups affiliated with the Tea Party movement, but the I.R.S. and its parent agency, the Treasury Department, have said that the errors were not motivated by partisanship. Republican lawmakers, dismissing the Obama administration’s denials, have suggested that the delays were not only politically motivated but also orchestrated by the White House. Some of the most strident comments have come from Representative Darrell Issa, Republican of California and the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, which has issued subpoenas to compel testimony from administration officials and held a series of tumultuous hearings on the I.R.S. scandal.

National: Party fundraising provision, crafted in secret, could shift money flow in politics | The Washington Post

A massive expansion of party fundraising slipped into a congressional budget deal this week would fundamentally alter how money flows into political campaigns, providing parties with new muscle to try to wrest power back from independent groups. The provision — one of the most significant changes to the campaign finance system since the landmark McCain-Feingold measure — was written behind closed doors with no public debate. Instead, it surfaced at the last minute in the final pages of a 1,603-page spending bill, which Congress is rushing to pass to keep government operations from shutting down. Under the language in the bill, a couple could give as much as $3.1 million to a party’s various national committees in one election cycle — more than triple the current limit.

Arizona: Judge tosses key campaign finance law | The Arizona Republic

What started as a Fountain Hills woman’s attempt to protest a local bond issue could lead to the demise of Arizona’s oversight of campaign finances. A federal judge has tossed out the key component of the state’s campaign-finance law, opening the prospect of future elections in which there is no disclosure of who is raising and spending money to influence voters. The state Attorney General’s Office said Monday that it plans to seek a stay of U.S. District Judge James Teilborg’s ruling while state officials contemplate an appeal. Teilborg on Friday ruled that Arizona’s definition of a political committee is unconstitutional because it is vague and overly broad. The definition, which runs 183 words, has resulted in conflicting interpretations from various attorneys and election regulators.

Illinois: Officials rethink vote-counting after Attorney General decree | Associated PRess

With less than two weeks until Illinois’ high-stakes elections, an attorney general opinion has some officials rethinking vote-counting procedures in ways that they say could cause big delays in announcing results. Elections officials across the state Thursday were weighing a recent ruling from Attorney General Lisa Madigan, who wrote that state law prohibits vote-counting before the 7 p.m. close of polls Nov. 4, including simple tabulating to facilitate prompt reporting of results later. Depending on how strictly the ruling is interpreted, it could be the wee hours of Nov. 5 before results are reported, including in the up-for-grabs race between Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn and Republican challenger Bruce Rauner. Separately Thursday, in Rock Island County, Republicans filed a lawsuit against the Democratic county clerk alleging that mail-in votes are being opened early and that poll-watchers are prohibited from observing early voting.

South Carolina: Potential election law fix returned to Senate | Associated Press

The House has taken a new approach to passing a bill designed to prevent South Carolina’s elections from being thrown into chaos again. The proposal sent Friday to the Senate would both create a statewide model for county election boards, to hopefully remove the threat of chaos, and give the State Election Commission oversight over those 46 boards. That new authority could improve elections and ensure everyone’s vote is counted, state elections spokesman Chris Whitmire said Friday. Currently, if a county isn’t following the law or voluntarily complying with policy, the agency can only inform local officials and legislators of a potential problem. “They are their own entity. We can’t compel them to do anything,” Whitmire said. A panel of House and Senate members had been working on a compromise over different versions of a bill on the governance of county election boards. But that tentative compromise required a two-thirds vote in each chamber, a difficult proposition in the Senate. So the House instead attached the compromise to a separate election-related bill and, after a unanimous vote Thursday, returned that amended measure to the Senate. A simple majority approval in that chamber would send it to the governor’s desk.

National: Efforts to revive Voting Rights Act provision stall in Congress | Dallas Morning News

Ten months after the Supreme Court struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act, efforts have stalled in Congress to restore federal scrutiny of states with a history of racial bias. Freed from the need for Justice Department approval before changing election rules, even minor ones, states moved quickly to impose tight voter ID laws. But changes are also playing out quietly at the local level. In Jasper, an East Texas town with a history of racial tension, the City Council is deciding whether to annex mostly white subdivisions. In Galveston, Texas, some court districts have been eliminated. Civil rights advocates complain that these moves dilute minority populations, unfairly reducing the influence of non-white voters. Before last summer’s court ruling, such changes in nine states could not take effect without pre-approval from Washington. Defenders of the decades-old system say the oversight served as a deterrent, prompting state and local officials to think twice before imposing burdensome or even unconstitutional measures.

South Carolina: Legislators working on election law fix | Associated Press

Both the House and Senate have passed a bill designed to prevent a lawsuit from throwing South Carolina’s elections into chaos again. But their versions differ. A six-member panel appointed this week will try to reach a compromise on the legislation, which is aimed at creating a statewide model for county election boards. Senate Judiciary Chairman Larry Martin has urged his colleagues to act quickly, noting a verdict on a lawsuit filed in March could jeopardize the June primaries. The South Carolina Public Interest Foundation has asked a judge to throw out a 2008 state law on how county election offices are constructed. Martin had warned such a lawsuit was likely, citing advice from the attorney general’s office that the law is unconstitutional. If a court affirms the top prosecutor’s opinion, there could be no one left locally to conduct elections, he said. Lawmakers also fear the potential of a verdict overturning upcoming elections. Legislators don’t want to take that chance two years after a lawsuit against a single candidate resulted in about 250 people being kicked off primary ballots statewide.

National: Voting rights advocates push for federal oversight | Bay State Banner

When the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a key part of the Voting Rights Act last June, justices left it to Congress to decide how to fix the law. But while Congress deliberates, activists are turning again to the courts: At least 10 lawsuits have the potential to bring states and some local jurisdictions back under federal oversight — essentially doing an end-run around the Supreme Court’s ruling. A quick refresher: The Voting Rights Act outlaws racial discrimination against voters. But the law’s real strength comes from its “preclearance” provision, which forces jurisdictions with a history of racial discrimination to submit new voting measures to the federal government for approval. In last summer’s “Shelby County v. Holder” ruling, the Supreme Court threw out the part of the law that spelled out when states were automatically subject to federal oversight. States that have been released from preclearance have already passed a rash of new restrictive voting measures.

New York: NYC Department Of Investigation Chief: Board Of Elections “Hostile” To Reform Recommendations | New York Daily News

The new head of the city Department of Investigation testIfied Friday that his staff has encountered “outright hostility” at the highest levels of the Board of Elections while trying to get the embattled agency to clean up its act. The Board has not been “anywhere near as cooperative” as necessary in responding to a 2013 DOI investigation that detailed nepotism, incompetence, inefficiency — and even possible crimes, DOI Commissioner Mark Peters (pictured center) told a joint hearing of the City Council Government Operations and Oversight and Investigations Committees.

National: Congress, FEC meet about security breakdowns | Center for Public Integrity

Federal Election Commission staff today traveled to Capitol Hill and briefed congressional officials investigating the beleaguered agency on how it intends to address recent computer security and staffing problems, officials from both government bodies confirmed. The FEC’s contingent was led by Alec Palmer, who doubles as the agency’s staff and information technology director. It wasn’t immediately clear how many congressional officials participated in the meetings, although a spokesman for Rep. Robert Brady, D-Pa., confirmed to the Center for Public Integrity that his office participated. Brady, along with Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., last week called for separate inquiries into the FEC’s recent woes, which include an October infiltrationinto its computer systems by Chinese hackers. Brady is the ranking member on the Committee on House Administration, which has FEC oversight powers.

Bulgaria: Parliament Starts Work on New Election Code | Novinite

Bulgaria’s parliament ad-hoc committee tasked with drafting the new Election Code will hold its first meeting on Monday. The committee was set up in the middle of December, when the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) submitted to Parliament a draft Election Code. Back then Deputy Parliament Speaker and socialist MP Maya Manolova explained that the draft Election Code of BSP included provisions on introducing machine voting, on the method of distributing mandates, on electing professional election administration, etc. She said that the new election legislation included many of the proposals put forth by civic organizations.

South Carolina: State lawmakers eye changes to election oversight | Rock Hill Herald

Richland County’s state lawmakers have pre-filed legislation to shift oversight of elections to the counties that pay for them. The bills come as Richland County’s lawmakers work to address problems that led to the 2012 election debacle, where mismanagement and long lines at the polls produced one of the biggest voting disasters in state history. Now, Richland County’s legislative delegation names the board members who oversee elections and voter registration, said state Rep. James Smith, D-Richland, a sponsor of the legislation in the House. The counties that pay for elections should have that authority if they want it, he said. “The people of Richland County would be best served by a level of government that regularly meets and provides oversight and funding (of elections),” Smith said. “It’s a solid stab at good government, better government, to devolve these responsibilities to County Council,” he said.

National: The IRS Moves to Limit Dark Money – But Enforcement Still a Question | ProPublica

The IRS and Treasury Department announced proposed guidelines clarifying the definition of political activities for social welfare nonprofits Tuesday afternoon, a move that could restrict the spending of the dark money groups that dumped more than $254 million of anonymous money into the 2012 elections. Read the guidelines here. However, the guidelines, which finally define what constitutes “candidate-related political activity,” aren’t a done deal. They will take some time for public comment and debate, and more time to finalize. (The IRS asks that all comments and requests for a public hearing be submitted by Feb. 27.) Experts also cautioned that the real test of oversight on the political spending by nonprofits will be how these regulations are enforced, something that the IRS has been so far reticent to do.

Utah: Town forgets to hold election — again | The Salt Lake Tribune

In the Wasatch County town of Wallsburg, the city employee responsible for oversight of elections brought new meaning to the job description by overlooking the election altogether. The new recorder in the town of about 275 just east of Deer Creek Reservoir forgot to announce the opening of the filing period or arrange to hold an election Nov. 5, when voters across the state cast their ballots in municipal elections. By the time the oversight was caught shortly before Election Day, it was too late to field candidates and hold the balloting on the fly. “Wallsburg never advertised or prepared for an election this year, so no one signed up,” said Wasatch County Clerk Brent Titcomb. “They’re going to have to appoint the current mayor and council for two more years and they’ll advertise and have people elected [in 2015].”

Alaska: Language of Voting | State of Elections

Proper oversight of voting policy and procedure is being questioned in Alaska’s elections due to the lack of language assistance for Yup’ik speakers. The federal lawsuit, Toyukuk v. Treadwell, filed by the Native American Rights Fund (NARF), claims that Alaskan officials have violated the Voting Rights Act, as well as the 14th and 15th Amendments, by failing to provide appropriate language assistance to native Yup’ik speakers. The suit claims this lack of assistance has  prevented them from fully participating in the election process and suppressed voter turnout. According to a case update on the NARF website,  Natalie Landreth, Senior Staff Attorney with NARF, “Without complete, accurate, and uniform translations, the right to register and to vote is rendered meaningless to many Native voters.” Precedence on this issue is found in similar lawsuits (such as Nick et al. v. Bethel et al settled in 2010) that have questioned the implementation of language assistance mandated by the Voting Rights Act of 1965. According to the Alaska Division of Elections, the state of Alaska is covered under section 203 of the Act which has led to specific implementation strategies. The Alaska Division of Elections website states “In addition to on-call translators available on Election Day, the Division of Elections provides oral language assistance through the use of bilingual registrars, outreach workers, bilingual poll workers, and translators in communities where there is a need.”

Indiana: Lawson announces testing on ePollBooks | Greensburg Daily News

Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson announced today the Voting Systems Technical Oversight Program (VSTOP) at Ball State University’s Bowen Center will begin testing electronic poll book systems commonly referred to as ePollBooks. Secretary Lawson approved the Bowen Center’s ePollBook testing standards, clearing the way for testing to begin. “The Secretary of State’s office has always been a leader in using technology to modernize the way we do business as a state,” said Secretary Lawson. “Today, we continue that tradition by modernizing the electoral process. Indiana is now the first state in the nation to have ePollBook certification standards. “We took the first leadership step by giving every county in the state the option to deploy ePollBooks. Now we take the next step in protecting Hoosier voters as they sign-in to vote by ensuring only the best quality ePollBooks are used in Indiana.”

Editorials: The Aftermath of Shelby County v. Holder: Will Voting Rights Be Diminished? | CityLand

The United States Supreme Court’s June 25, 2013 decision, Shelby County v. Holder, struck down Section 4 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, eliminating a “preclearance” coverage formula that had subjected numerous jurisdictions with checkered voting rights histories to the U.S. Department of Justice’s oversight.  Although the decision allows Congress to create a new coverage formula, in today’s political climate that appears unlikely.   While the preclearance system was often associated with deep Southern states like Alabama and Mississippi, in 1971 three New York City counties – Bronx, Kings and New York – were added as covered jurisdictions, and since then the DOJ has blocked New York voting laws on several occasions to protect the rights of minority voters.  This article examines Shelby County v. Holder, its consequences for minority voting rights across the country, particularly in New York, and possible local remedies in the event of Congressional inaction.

Alaska: Native Alaskans sue over election translations | Juneau Empire

Two elderly Yup’ik speakers and two tribal organizations have filed a federal lawsuit against Alaska, saying state election officials have failed to provide language assistance at the polls as required by law. The lawsuit was filed Friday, naming Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell, the state’s top election official, as a defendant, along with his director of elections, Gail Fenumiai. Regional election officials in Fairbanks and Nome were also sued, The Anchorage Daily News reported. The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court by the Anchorage office of the Native American Rights Fund, says the state is violating the federal Voting Rights Act by not providing ballots and voting instructions for speakers of Yup’ik and its dialect in Hooper Bay, Cup’ik.

National: IRS Employees Showed No Politics, Lawmakers’ Memo Shows | Bloomberg

Interviews with 15 U.S. Internal Revenue Service employees show no political motivation or White House involvement in targeting groups applying for tax-exempt status, House Democrats said in a memo. The 36-page memo released by Democrats on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee includes excerpts from several employee interviews with congressional investigators that haven’t been distributed publicly until today. The IRS has apologized for the delays and selective scrutiny given to Tea Party groups applying for nonprofit status. Democrats in Congress have resisted Republican arguments that IRS employees used their positions to harm Republican-leaning groups. Instead, they maintain that Tea Party groups were the victims of inadequate rules and inadvertent bungling.