Three-quarters of the money spent on behalf of Chris McDaniel’s failed bid for the Republican nomination for Senate in Mississippi came from outside political action committees (PACs). That money, from groups like the Club for Growth and FreedomWorks, accounted for 36 percent of the funds spent by both sides combined. We’re obviously a few miles down the road from the days when candidates for elected office stood on wooden platforms. But we are perhaps further than you might think. In fact, there is nothing in federal law that would prevent a super PAC or group of PACs from picking out a candidate and taking care of his or her entire campaign. And we’re starting to get a glimpse of what such a campaign might look like. In order to win an election, you, first, need a candidate. You need to let people know about your candidate, so you need TV ads and radio ads and ads on Facebook. You need direct mail, and you need people to knock on doors and talk to voters. But, really, that’s it. With the right combination of those things, you can win pretty much any political race in the country.
The Voting News
This week, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) will become Majority Leader of the House of Representatives. Taking the mantle in the middle of an election year, McCarthy does not want for front-burner issues to navigate on behalf of his caucus. There is one issue on which McCarthy undoubtedly must lead, and that is restoring voting rights protections in the wake of last year’s Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby County v. Holder. The Court struck down a key section of the Voting Rights Act, the “coverage formula” which determines which states and jurisdictions with records of voting discrimination must preclear voting changes before they can be implemented. While acknowledging that voting discrimination still exists, the Court found that the formula did not address “current conditions” in voting. Since then, it has been an open season on access to voting in jurisdictions throughout the country. Restrictions on early voting, closed polling places, and the elimination of seats held by African-American and Latino incumbents in local districts have all been stepped up since the Shelby County decision. The mood is best understood by the exhilarated statement of the Florida Secretary of State days after the Supreme Court’s decision — “We’re free and clear now.”
The New York Times this morning reports on political spending in this election cycle, but it also wishes to explain to readers the meaning of all these dollars. So the article this morning about the money going into Senate and House races links the cash to “consequences [that] are already becoming apparent”: candidate loss of control over their messaging and a sharply negative tone. The grounds for these conclusions are not drawn from the the numbers. They are added on. Note that a contradiction is now entering into the discussion of Super PACs and outside independent activity. One of two things can be true but not both: either the “shadow parties” or candidate-affiliated organizations are synchronizing their messages with the candidates’, or they are operating independently and crowding out the candidate’s communications. The Times puts both explanations into its story.
Editorials: Keeping elections on track the best choice in Florida redistricting mess | The Tampa Tribune
Circuit Judge Terry Lewis is skeptical he can redraw the boundaries of the state’s congressional districts in time for the primary and general elections this year. He has good reason for skepticism. Military ballots have already been mailed overseas, and local supervisors of elections are mailing ballots to voters in their counties and preparing early-voting sites in advance of the Aug. 26 primary election. To put the brakes on that process and disrupt or delay the primary and general elections would be foolish. Although the legality of the district boundaries is clearly in question, it’s simply too late to pull back now. He should allow the elections to proceed with the existing maps. If he does, we hope the parties that successfully challenged the maps will consider the chaos an immediate appeal will cause and accept that it’s too late. Holding the elections as scheduled will also allow time to redraw the lines, and to determine whether Lewis, the Legislature, an appointed third party, or the state’s highest court have that authority. After they are redrawn, perhaps special elections can be held in the affected districts.
The city’s Election Commission met Friday morning to discuss continued issues stemming from a misprint on 392 absentee ballots, and to test tabulation equipment for Wards 2 and 3. This is the third meeting the Commission has held on the issue, which began when it was discovered June 27 that Ward 3 City Council candidate Bob Dascola had been left off the first wave of absentee ballots issued by the city. The state’s Bureau of Elections initially instructed the city to not count Ward 3 votes on the original, incorrect ballot but reversed its position over the next few days, instead instructing the city to count Ward 3 votes on the incorrect ballots over concerns of voter disenfranchisement, which prompted Dascola to file a motion against the city on July 7.
Mississippi: Guns OK inside Mississippi polling places, attorney general says | Mississippi Business Journal
The trend among gun fanatics of openly carrying assault weapons and other firearms into stores and restaurants could spread to polling places around Mississippi in November. The key here is that gun owners must wear the weapon so it is visible to everyone, says Attorney General Jim Hood, who this week replied in the affirmative to a query on guns in the voting booth. “The Legislature has given no authority to counties or municipalities by any statute to restrict open carrying of weapons into polling places,” Hood said. He emphasized, however, that gun owners may have to ask permission of the property owner if the polling place is on private property such as a church. High security government buildings may also be off limits to gun toters.
The United States has a rich history of third parties. In 1856, Millard Fillmore made a strong run for president on the Whig-American ticket. Fifty-six years later, Theodore Roosevelt captured 27 percent of the popular vote as the Progressive Party’s candidate. Ross Perot made his mark in 1992 and again, although to a lesser extent, in 1996 with the Reform Party. But the number of votes won don’t tell the whole story. In local and national races, third-party candidates often contribute to an election by pushing the Republican and Democratic candidates on issues they might otherwise avoid. If they do it effectively, as Perot did in 1992, the system benefits. Last week, it became a little harder for third parties to play that role in New Hampshire. On Monday, the New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Libertarian Party of New Hampshire over a change to state law that makes it more difficult for third parties to collect the signatures needed for inclusion on election ballots.
Determining election results in two races could be more tedious next month with two write-in candidates seeking office. Zillah Republican Curtis E. Vangstad announced that he’s a write-in candidate for Yakima County Commissioner, seeking Republican Rand Elliot’s seat for District 3. And Yakima attorney Michael “Scott” Brumback is making a write-in bid as a conservative Republican for a 14th Legislative District seat held by Rep. Norm Johnson, R-Yakima. Having two write-in candidates at once is rare in Yakima County, and could create additional work for election officials, Yakima County Auditor Corky Holloway said Friday. Election officials hand-type every name voters write on ballots and record the results. “It is tedious, but that’s their job,” Holloway said. “It’s timely, but it’s doable.”
Early voting begins Monday in city clerks’ offices across Wisconsin. Voters who can’t make it to the polls on Election Day will be able to cast ballots during the two weeks prior to the August 12 primary. It’s the first election since Republicans who control the state legislature put limits on the process. Under the changes, in-person absentee voting can only be conducted during the two business weeks prior to an election. Voting is limited to 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, with no weekend hours allowed. Supporters say the changes create a uniform process, while opponents argued the limits pose a challenge in large cities such as Milwaukee. … [S]everal activist groups remain upset about the changes to early voting, and are weighing whether to take action. Scot Ross, Executive Director of One Wisconsin Now, believes the changes amount to a deliberate attempt to disenfranchise certain voters.
Future federal elections should use electronic vote counting to improve the accuracy of results, the ACT Electoral Commission has said. A joint parliamentary committee has been considering election methods after almost 1,400 votes went missing in Western Australia during the federal election. The problems led to a fresh Senate poll being held in WA and the resignation of Australian electoral commissioner Ed Killesteyn. ACT electoral commissioner Phil Green told the committee there were miscounts in every division in Western Australia. ”Hand counting and hand sorting by using humans alone is an error-prone thing,” he said. ”I think if you look at the result of the recount in Western Australia you can see that hand counting even a single first preference on a ballot paper is something that human beings aren’t very good at, but computers are very good at it.”