The Voting News

National: Supreme Court suspicious of Ohio law that criminalizes false speech about candidates | The Washington Post

Supreme Court justices across the ideological spectrum seemed deeply suspicious Tuesday of an Ohio law that criminalizes the spreading of false information about a political candidate during a campaign. Now they have to find a way for someone to bring them the proper challenge. Technically, the court was reviewing a decision by a lower court that an antiabortion group did not have the legal standing to challenge the constitutionality of Ohio’s law, which is similar to ones in more than a dozen other states. But the justices couldn’t resist giving a preview of their skepticism about what Michael A. Carvin, the Washington lawyer representing the group Susan B. Anthony List, called Ohio’s “ministry of truth” during oral arguments. Read More

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National: Supreme Court hears challenge to Ohio law that bars campaign lies | Cleveland Plain Dealer

U.S. Supreme Court justices of all ideological stripes expressed free speech concerns about an Ohio law that makes it a crime to lie about politicians during an election, making it appear likely they will back a challenge to the law launched by an anti-abortion group. The anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony List told the court Tuesday that the law – which allows citizens to file complaints about untruthful statements with Ohio’s Elections Commission – chills free speech when it’s most needed – immediately before an election. Attorney Michael A. Carvin said complaints filed before the commission typically can’t be resolved before an election because of the time it takes to process them. He urged the Supreme Court to reject a lower court’s decision that his group lacks standing to challenge the law because it was never found guilty of a violation. ”We’re facing a credible threat,” said Carvin. “We ask the Court to lift this yoke so that we can become full participants in the next election cycle.” Read More

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Editorials: Why Care About McCutcheon? | Mark Bittman/New York Times

In the food world, change from the ground up is all well and good. We desperately need cooks, gardeners, farmers and teachers. But we also need legislation. The recently passed and almost uniformly abysmal Farm Bill is a lesson in how legislation affects those of us working to change the chaotic so-called food “system.” Pittances were tossed at supporters of local and organic food, fortunes’ worth of agribusiness subsidies were maintained, and much-needed support for the country’s least well-off was slashed. That’s a Republican-led Congress at work, but when it comes to supporting Big Ag and Big Food, most of the Democratic representatives from states where farm income matters most are not much better: While the majority of Big Ag’s financial support for candidates goes to Republicans, Democrats are close behind. For big-time change on a national scale, we need representatives who put the needs of a sustainable food system and all that goes with it ahead of those of the chemical and processed food manufacturers who are currently running the show. Read More

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Editorials: Campaign finance reform would be a wasted effort | Ahmed Teleb/openDemocracy

The still fresh McCutcheon v FEC Supreme Court decision, like the January 2010 Citizens United, has again set off the rage of activists and reformers—who call it nothing less than the privatization of government or the end of the republic! Indeed, removing aggregate contribution limits does for individual donors what Citizens United did for corporations years earlier, make it easier to influence elections. Yet, the apocalyptic cries, however comprehensible, are largely misdirected anger and misguided strategy. Since Citizens United, there have been fervent movements to “get money out of politics” from Movement to Amend (to overrule the case by Constitutional Amendment) to Lawrence Lessig’s Rootstrikers petition (to enact tough campaign finance laws and promote a government-funded option). The idea, remove large campaign donations and see saner policies and better government follow, seems plausible enough. But let’s parse the obvious. Citizens United did not cause the predominance of money in American politics; it is but a symptom of it. Read More

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Voting Blogs: Ohio before the Supreme Court, Defending the Power to Police Political Speech: Is the End Near, or Now? | More Soft Money Hard Law

The State of Ohio is playing for time in its defense of its “false campaign statements” statute. It wants the case now before the Supreme Court decided on ripeness, win or lose; it wants to hold off a decision on the constitutionality of its law.  Some, Rick Hasen among them, believe that this might work.  But then again, it might not, and the law could well be put out to pasture without further ado.  The petitioner has argued in clear terms that the law is unconstitutional and that, on this point, the recent decision inUnited States v. Alvarez is dispositive.  Petition for Writ of Certiorari at 6-7, Susan B. Anthony List v. Driehaus, 134 S.Ct. 895 (2014) (No. 13-193).  And the Court could agree, motivated as well to spare the petitioner another expensive, time-consuming tour through the courts to win the victory that it is virtually guaranteed. Read More

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Arkansas: Preliminary Injunction Sought In Voter ID Case | The Times Record

The plaintiffs in a lawsuit challenging Arkansas’ voter ID law said in a court filing Wednesday that they, and all Arkansas voters, will be irreparably harmed if a judge does not bar enforcement of the law before the May 20 primary and nonpartisan election. The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas and the Arkansas Law Center filed the suit in Pulaski County Circuit Court last week on behalf of four Arkansas voters. The suit alleges that Act 595 of 2013, which requires voters to show photo ID at the polls, violates the Arkansas Constitution by imposing restrictions on voting that go beyond the restrictions provided in the constitution and by impairing the rights of Arkansans to vote. Read More

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Minnesota: Campaign Finance Lawsuits In Minnesota And Other States Take Aim At Contribution Limits | Twin Cities Business

Minnesota is the latest front in what has developed into a national fight over federal and state campaign finance laws whose ultimate target may be the laws restricting how much individuals can give to political campaigns. Last week, a group of citizens and lawmakers filed suit [PDF] against one of Minnesota’s campaign finance laws limiting the number of big-dollar donations candidates can receive from so-called “special sources”—political action committees, lobbyists and donors willing to make the biggest legally permissible contributions to campaigns. The law applies only to state elections, as do many of the other campaign finance lawsuits in the works or on the way (federal candidates are regulated by federal law). The lawsuit came just a few weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the overall limit on how much donors can give to federal candidates in an election cycle. Read More

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Nebraska: State Enacts Progressive Reform To Expand Voting Rights | ThinkProgress

Nobody would mistake Nebraska for a politically moderate state. It was the first state in the country to enact a 20-week abortion ban. They passed legislation restricting scientists’ ability to study climate change. Approximately 60 percent of voters cast a ballot for Mitt Romney in 2012, the ninth highest percentage of any state. So it was perhaps surprising when Gov. Dave Heineman (R) signed LB565 last week, a bill that enacts a form of same-day voter registration, one of the most progressive voting reforms in the country. The bill was passed by the nominally-nonpartisan-but-functionally-Republican unicameral legislature 37-3, with nine lawmakers abstaining. The new law allows citizens to register to vote at the polls during the early voting period and cast their ballot on the same day. Same-day registration will be available until the second Friday before Election Day. Read More

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West Virginia: Voters getting misleading info from group, Tennant says | The Charleston Gazette

Voters in at least eight West Virginia counties have been mailed “misleading and confusing” material that may make them incorrectly believe they aren’t eligible to vote in next month’s election, Secretary of State Natalie Tennant said Tuesday. The leaflets — mailed by the Americans for Prosperity Foundation — warn voters that if they do not update their voter registration, they may lose their right to vote in the upcoming primary election on May 13. The mailings included voter registration cards and prepaid return envelopes addressed to county clerks. Tuesday was the last day to register to vote for the May 13 primary, and a Tennant spokesman said the mailing could convince people whose voter registrations are perfectly valid that they aren’t allowed to vote. Read More

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Wisconsin: State to Allow Online Voter Registration? | MacIver Institute

The Assembly Committee on Campaigns and Elections held an informational hearing on the subject of online voter registration on Tuesday. The hearing did not focus on a specific bill, but legislators and speakers discussed how an online voter registration system has been implemented in other states. Currently, 18 states offer online voter registration, and four other states have passed legislation allowing it. Arizona was the first to allow online registration in 2002. Kevin Kennedy, Director and General Counsel of the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, spoke for informational purposes only but highlighted many of the benefits of online voter registration. ”Legislation that enables online voter registration would make a tremendous leap forward in the administration of elections in Wisconsin,” Kennedy said. “The basic voter registration data will be more accurate if it is entered online by the voter. Online registration eliminates data entry errors resulting from difficult to decipher paper forms.” Kennedy also said that online registration would reduce issues caused by large voter registration drives conducted by third-party organizations. Read More

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