The Federal Election Commission impermissibly narrowed disclosure requirements for corporations and labor organizations that finance electioneering communications, the political ads that run close to an election, a federal judge ruled Tuesday. In setting aside an FEC regulation, U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson said the commission initiated a rulemaking in response to a Supreme Court decision, but that nothing in the Supreme Court case amounted to a basis for the FEC to narrow the disclosure rules Congress had enacted. She said the FEC regulation was arbitrary, capricious and contrary to law.
The Voting News
Secretary of State Jim Bennett said today that Alabama’s new photo voter ID law caused only a few inquiries to his office during the Nov. 4 election. The general election was the biggest test yet of the law, with 1.2 million people voting. It was in effect for the first time during the primaries in June. ”We feel very good about the results of the implementation of that program,” Bennett said. The Republican-led Legislature passed the law in 2011, saying it would help prevent voter fraud. Voters were already required to show an ID, but could use those with no photo, like a Social Security card or utility bill. Many Democrats opposed the law, saying it was intended to suppress the vote by making it harder on the elderly and people with no driver’s license. Opponents also said there was little evidence of voter impersonation fraud.
Long before the first public maps were released, critics say Florida Republican political operatives were creating an “illusion” of non-partisanship over the once-a-decade redistricting process with a “wink and a nudge toward their collaborators in the Legislature.” That illusion was outed Tuesday when the Florida Supreme Court released thousands of pages of emails, testimony and sealed court records related to the GOP political consulting firm Data Targeting, which was at the center of the two-year legal fight over lawmakers’ attempts to implement anti-gerrymandering reforms passed by voters. The Gainesville-based company’s president, Pat Bainter, has been fighting to block the release of over 500 pages of emails, maps and other records from 2011 and 2012. The records provide some insight into the lengths to which the political operatives went to influence the 2012 redistricting process in which the Legislature had been tasked for the first time with drawing new legislative and congressional maps without partisan intent.
Florida: Redistricting records unsealed; revealing apparent scheme to funnel maps through members of the public to conceal the origins | Florida Times-Union
Previously secret testimony and documents about the 2012 redistricting process, released Tuesday by the Florida Supreme Court, provide the most detailed information yet about an alleged plan by Republican political consultants to funnel maps through members of the public to conceal the origins. The effort itself is not a surprise; revelations at a redistricting trial about a map submitted under the name of former Florida State University student Alex Posada had already indicated some maps submitted through the Legislature’s system to gather public ideas were not drawn by the people whose names were attached to them. But the records and testimony released Tuesday provide the clearest view yet of the breadth of the scheme and how the consultants tried to explain it away. “The documents that these political operatives worked so hard to hide from the public, along with their testimony given in closed proceedings, reveal in great detail how they manipulated the public process to achieve their partisan objectives,” said David King, a lawyer for voting-rights organizations challenging the state’s congressional districts.
Louisiana: Early voting days will not be extended after judge denies state representative’s motion | The Times-Picayune
Early voting will not be extended after 19th Judicial District Court judge Todd Hernandez denied part of motion by state Rep. Marcus Hunter, D-Monroe, filed earlier Tuesday. Early voting will be closed Thursday for Thanksgiving and Friday for Acadian Day. Hunter asked for a temporary restraining order to keep Sec. of State Tom Schedler from closing registrar offices Friday so that the early voting period would be open longer. Hernandez denied that motion, but he did set a hearing date for Dec. 4 to hear the merits of the original motion. By then, the early voting period would have closed. The general election is just two days later on Saturday, Dec. 6.
New voting restrictions and poll workers’ unpreparedness and confusion kept somewhere between 30,000 and 50,000 eligible North Carolinians from voting in this fall’s general election. That’s the conclusion of a new report from Democracy North Carolina. The voting rights watchdog analyzed 500 reports from poll monitors in 38 counties and 1,400 calls to a voter assistance hotline to come up with its estimate, which does not include the thousands of people who might have voted before Election Day if the law had not cut the early voting period by a full week. The report found that most of the problems were due to three changes made by the law passed last year by the Republican-controlled legislature and signed by Gov. Pat McCrory: the repeal of same-day registration, which allowed qualified citizens to register and vote during the early voting period; the repeal of out-of-precinct voting, which allowed people to cast a valid provisional ballot at different polling sites in their county on Election Day; and the repeal of straight-party voting, which created backlogs at polling places and led to long waits for many. (Read the full report, which includes examples of specific challenges faced by voters, online here.)
Supreme Court Associate Justice Cheri Beasley won her re-election campaign against Forsyth County lawyer Mike Robinson despite vote tabulation errors discovered in several counties throughout the state. Beasley won by more than 5,000 votes in a race where more than 2.4 million votes were cast. Recount results, which the State Board of Elections certified during a teleconference meeting Tuesday, showed Robinson picked up a net of 17 votes across the state. Robinson has told State Board of Elections officials that he has conceded and will not seek a further recount. While the overall vote swing was not enough to make a meaningful dent in the election total, changes in Davidson, Lenoir and Wilson counties, all of which use touch-screen voting equipment, involved eye-catching totals of several hundred votes each. In Davidson County, Beasley picked up 520 votes and Robinson gained 884 votes since the time county elections officials originally canvassed votes. The problem, elections officials there say, was a faulty media card used to store and transfer votes from a touch-screen machine.
The North Dakota Secretary of State’s Office and Grand Forks Democratic lawmakers are drafting separate bills to tweak the state’s voter identification law. The proposed legislation comes after reports of people being turned away from the polls on Election Day due to identification problems. This year marked the first major election since North Dakota passed a law in 2013 that removed the option to sign an affidavit, allowing voters who didn’t have proper ID to swear under the penalty of law that they are eligible to vote. Jim Silrum, deputy secretary of state, said Friday a proposed bill would allow someone with an acceptable North Dakota ID that doesn’t have an up-to-date address to use things like a bank statement, bill or U.S. Postal Service change of address form dated 30 days prior to the election to show a current address. “The legislation being drafted is trying to provide an option for those individuals that have not (updated their identification), that they can fall back on something else,” Secretary of State Al Jaeger said. “This is what we heard (and) this is how we’re trying to respond to address those situations.”
Ohio: Conservative and liberal groups agree Ohio’s redistricting process is ‘badly broken’ | Cleveland Plain Dealer
A conservative think tank and liberal advocacy group usually at odds with each other are on the same page on one issue — redistricting reform. State legislators are considering proposals to change how Ohio draws its congressional and legislative boundaries, a process that has become bitterly hyperpartisan as the party in power draws lines favoring their incumbents. Opportunity Ohio CEO Matt Mayer and ProgressOhio Executive Director Sandy Theis released a joint statement Tuesday calling on Ohio lawmakers to adopt “meaningful redistricting reform” by June 2015. ”This reform must eliminate the gerrymandering of congressional and state legislative districts, which is more about empowering political parties and less about empowering voters,” Mayer and Theis said.
The final vote tally on an Oregon ballot measure that would require labeling of foods made with genetically modified ingredients was so close that state officials are doing a recount, a spokesman for the state said on Tuesday. Final results show the Oregon measure losing by 812 votes out of a total of more than 1.5 million votes, according to the Oregon Secretary of State’s Office. ”State law says that if the margin is no more than one-fifth of 1 percent of the total votes cast in that election…then there shall be an automatic hand recount,” said Tony Green, spokesman for the secretary of state’s office. The recount is to take place Dec. 2-12, he said.