A secret court ruling in the “John Doe” probe into campaign finance violations during Wisconsin’s 2011 and 2012 recall elections could have implications well beyond the investigation – if news reports from anonymous sources are accurate. Earlier this month, the Wall Street Journal editorial board reported that Wisconsin Judge Gregory Peterson had quashed subpoenas issued to Wisconsin Club for Growth and Citizens for a Strong America in the closed-door John Doe criminal investigation (which operates like a grand jury except in front of a judge), on grounds that it was not illegal for these supposedly independent groups to coordinate with the Walker campaign — since their ads supporting Walker’s reelection did not expressly tell viewers to “vote for” Walker or “vote against” his opponent. Wisconsin Club for Growth spent at least $9.1 million on these “issue ads” supporting Walker and legislative Republicans during the 2011 and 2012 recall elections, and in turn shuffled millions more to Citizens for a Strong America, which funnelled the money to other groups that spent on election “issue ads.”
Editorials: Colorado’s terrible election law has real-world consequences | Jon Caldara/Greeley Tribune
I’m not going to jail, at least not for voting. That means good news for me, and a chance to keep Coloradans’ trust in our election results, but only if the new General Assembly is willing to act on the terrible election law passed last year. While anti-gun legislation dominated the media during the last Colorado legislative session, the most dangerous bill passed was a revamp of our voting laws. Thanks to House Bill 1303, Colorado is now the poster child for sloppy election law. Not only does a cable TV or phone bill serve as a valid form of voter identification, but we’re also the only state in the country that has both all mail-in ballots and same-day voter registration. Under the new law our ballots, including yours, are flung through the mail like grocery-store coupons, whether you want them delivered that way to you or not. As the news site CompleteColorado.com reported, ballots in the last election were readily found in trash cans and apartment mail rooms, just ready to be harvested.
After recalls suddenly grabbed hold of the nation’s attention in 2012, anyone could have been excused for thinking they might have gone back to being little used, frequently ignored weapons this year. But 2013 proved such expectations wrong. Despite a sharp drop in their total number, recall elections once again managed to place themselves on centerstage in American politics. Unlike in Wisconsin in 2012, the most prominent recalls of 2013 did not appear to be stark Democrat versus Republican fights. Instead, it was a hot button political issue — the fight over gun control — that allowed recalls to push their way into the spotlight. Colorado, for instance, saw some of its most expensive state legislative elections in history: Two Democratic state senators — including the State Senate president — were kicked out and a third resigned, over the state’s new gun control laws.
Colorado: No charges against activist who voted in recall to point out flaws in Colorado law | The Gazette
The Attorney General’s Office will not charge Jon Caldara for voting in the September recall election of Sen. John Morse, despite what investigators deemed extremely suspect behavior. Caldara, a longtime Boulder resident and a Republican, used a new same-day registration law to register to vote in El Paso County and cast a ballot in the recall election. Caldara told the media that he was voting to prove a point: that the Democrats’ new election law was flawed and allowed voters to move from district to district and vote in close elections with little recourse. ”It’s not a big surprise. I wasn’t worried about it,” Caldara said of the decision. “This law was created to legalize voter mischief. It was created so that voters could be moved around into districts where their vote was most needed at the very last moment of the campaign. All I did was to make public what happens privately.”
A bipartisan agreement (AB-225) at the state Capitol would update Wisconsin’s campaign finance laws and modernize the elections process. The bill, in part, would double existing campaign contribution limits in the state so that individuals can donate more money to candidates. Bill sponsors say steering more cash directly to the candidates would reduce special interest influence; however, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign’s Mike McCabe says this theory has already been tested and “it just doesn’t hold water.” “When we had the recall elections and there were no campaign contribution limits whatsoever, and a single individual gave as much as $510,000 to a candidate, the outside interest groups still outspent the candidates by close to $15 million.”
State Sen. Evie Hudak resigned her seat Wednesday, ending a recall effort being waged against her days before gun-rights activists were to turn in petitions to try to oust the Democrat from office. In her resignation letter, Hudak said her decision would spare Jefferson County residents from having to shell out more than $200,000 for a special election, especially after the county has cut programs for seniors and mental health. She praised the gun laws Democrats passed in the 2013 session that sparked recall efforts against her and two fellow senators, Senate President John Morse of Colorado Springs and Sen. Angela Giron of Pueblo. Several Democratic lawmakers conceded that a recall election would have served as a distraction during the 2014 session for them and for Gov. John Hickenlooper, who is up for re-election. And if voters in Hudak’s district had voted to oust her and replaced her with a Republican, the GOP would have gained control of the Senate by one seat. Democrats now have only an 18-17 majority over Republicans, thanks to the successful recalls of Morse and Giron, who were replaced by Republicans. Under Colorado law, Hudak’s successor will be a member of her own party.
Three unnamed people have asked the Wisconsin Court of Appeals to temporarily halt a secret investigation of campaign fundraising and spending during Wisconsin’s recent recall elections. Madison attorney Dean Strang filed the five motions Thursday, according to online court records. The filings name special prosecutor Francis Schmitz and initially named retired Kenosha County Circuit Judge Barbara Kluka, who was originally in charge of the investigation. The filings were amended this week to reflect that the investigation is now being overseen by retired Appeals Court Judge Gregory Peterson. Kluka has not said why she recused herself. Copies of the court records were not available because Strang has filed motions to seal the petitions and related records. The filings, called petitions for supervisory writs, are requests that higher courts review how the investigation is being conducted.
Wisconsin: Assembly Republicans push through recall, photo ID, absentee voting measures | Associated Press
Assembly Republicans used the final regular session day of the year Thursday to push their proposals that would make it more difficult to remove public officials from office, require photo identification at the polls and limit hours of in-person absentee voting. Democrats, who opposed all the measures but didn’t have the votes to stop them, argued against the changes as an infringement on voter rights and attempt to quash Democratic supporters. Republican leaders defended the proposals, saying they would protect the integrity of the election process by allowing recalls only when those targeted have committed a serious crime, combat fraud by requiring photo identification and install a more uniform system for in-person absentee voting hours statewide. The Assembly isn’t the last stop for any of the hot-button elections issues. All would also have to pass the Republican-controlled Senate, and the change to the recall law for statewide officials would be put to a statewide vote. The soonest that could happen is 2015. The recall measure passed 53-39 with all Democrats opposed.
Recalling the governor and others from office in Wisconsin would be more difficult, in-person absentee voting hours would be restricted and photo identification would be required to cast a ballot under a flurry of divisive measures the state Assembly plans to pass Thursday. The elections bills aren’t the only hot-button issues the Republican-controlled chamber plans to approve on its final session day of the year. Also slated for passage are proposals limiting the public’s access to a proposed iron ore site in northern Wisconsin and undoing the 124-year-old practice of having the most senior member of the state Supreme Court serve as chief justice. Democrats oppose the proposals and plan to push debate into the early morning hours Friday, but they don’t have the votes to stop the bills. Instead, Democrats plan to use the opportunity to argue that Republicans’ priorities are misplaced. Democrats say Republicans should respond to the call from government watchdog groups, newspaper editorial boards and others to hold public hearings on ways to improve the process of redistricting, the process by which political boundaries are drawn.
The Colorado Election Law, HB13-1303 Voter Access and Modernized Elections Act of 2013, passed in haste last legislative session on a straight party-line vote (the Senate sponsors of the bill, Angela Giron and John Morse, were subsequently removed from office in Colorado’s first legislative recall elections in state history) has once again been challenged in court. The Libertarian Party of Colorado, joined by several individual plaintiffs, filed suit in Denver District Court (Saturday, 2 November 2013) seeking to ensure that voters in this year’s coordinated (nonpartisan) municipal and special-district (including school board) elections were able to vote – and only able to vote – on those races for which they were eligible under state statute and the provisions of the Colorado Constitution.