The Voting News Daily: Looking Ahead to the End of this New Year, Montana Supreme Court, Citizens United: Can Montana get away with defying the Supreme Court?

Editorials: Looking Ahead to the End of this New Year | Edward B. Foley/ElectionLaw@Moritz Will the rules, particularly recent changes in the rules, governing elections make a difference in the outcomes next November? Possibilities include the effect of changes in campaign finance laws or the laws governing voter identification and other aspects of the vote-casting…

Editorials: Montana Supreme Court, Citizens United: Can Montana get away with defying the Supreme Court? | Slate Magazine

On the rare occasions when the world talks to you in stereo, it’s a good idea to set aside your knitting and listen. This week, Americans got their first good look at what super PACs—political organizations that can receive unlimited corporate contributions and make unlimited expenditures for federal candidates—have wrought in Iowa. At the same time, the Montana Supreme Court issued a stunning opinion last Friday, upholding the state’s law limiting corporate election spending. Think of the two as a sort of woofer and tweeter for life in a post-Citizens United world.

The impact of the so-called super PAC on the Iowa election has been profound. Just ask Newt Gingrich, who was clobbered by almost a third of the more than $14 million in super-PAC ad money spent in the weeks before the caucus. When the court handed down that decision in 2010, it assumed both that these expenditures would be independent of the candidate’s official campaigns (they’re not; one is financed by Jon Huntsman’s dad) and that disclosure rules would ensure that Americans knew who was buying and selling their elections (we don’t).

Ruth Marcus has a great piece explaining all the ways in which the super PACs are both coordinating with campaigns and evading federal disclosure requirements. She notes that this was the inevitable consequence of both the Citizens United decision and subsequent lower-court rulings. Whether he meant to or not, she writes, Justice Anthony Kennedy, with his majority opinion in that case, managed to “clear the path for independent expenditure committees backing a particular candidate—and bankrolled by the candidate’s father or run by his former top aides.”

Editorials: Looking Ahead to the End of this New Year | Edward B. Foley/ElectionLaw@Moritz

Will the rules, particularly recent changes in the rules, governing elections make a difference in the outcomes next November? Possibilities include the effect of changes in campaign finance laws or the laws governing voter identification and other aspects of the vote-casting process. But something entirely unexpected may upend the best efforts to predict what will happen in this potentially momentous presidential election year.

At this season’s holiday parties friends would say, referring to the upcoming presidential election, “2012 is going to be a big year.” I would agree politely, as undoubtedly 2012 will be an interesting and important year politically. It cannot help but be, given the pressing economic issues facing the nation, and stalemate in Washington, with each side hoping that the electoral verdict in November will somehow break the deadlock in its favor.

But will 2012 be a big year legally, meaning will election law feature prominently in assessments of the significance of political developments at the end of 2012? In other words, next New Year’s Eve will we look back and say that this or that aspect of the legal regime for conducting our elections affected which candidate or party won an important electoral victory?

California: Secretary of State’s creaky computer system working again | San Jose Mercury News

Candidates, journalists and civic-minded busybodies weary of pestering state staffers to submit or examine campaign disclosure forms will be relieved to know that the state’s creaky electronic filing system is back online after its second prolonged outage.

Nicole Winger, spokeswoman for California Secretary of State Debra Bowen, said the 12-year-old computer system known as Cal-Access was back up shortly before 6 p.m. Friday after being down for most of December.

Hawaii: Republican Party changes caucuses in hopes of gaining more members | KHON2

Republican voters here in Hawaii will begin choosing their Presidential nominees in March. The Hawaii Republican Party made changes to this year’s Caucuses, hoping to attract more people to vote GOP. It’ll be very similar to the Democratic Caucuses in 2008, which as you may recall had a record turnout.

The Hawaii Republican Party will hold its Presidential Caucuses on Tuesday, March 13th from 6pm to 8pm. “Everyone goes, votes. At 8pm they’ll close, count the ballots and the votes will be allocated to a proportional method to each of the Presidential candidates they vote for,” said David Chang, Hawaii Republican Party Chair.

Indiana: Charlie White Can Stay In Office During Appeal, Judge Rules | WRTV Indianapolis

Marion Circuit Court Judge Louis Rosenberg ruled Wednesday that Indiana Secretary of State Charlie White can remain in office while he appeals an order removing him from the statewide post.

Rosenberg said he reached the decision because he felt “the negative consequences would be great and irreparable” if he did not grant the stay. Rosenberg had issued an order Dec. 22 ousting White because he was improperly registered as a candidate when he ran for office in 2010.
But he stayed that order pending a hearing Tuesday requested by White, who has filed a notice of appeal.

Iowa: Despite Close Finish, No Recount in Iowa | NYTimes.com

It was, perhaps, the closest finish ever between two candidates in a presidential caucus. At just before 3 a.m. Eastern time on Wednesday, the chairman of the Iowa Republican Party went on television to announce the official result: Mitt Romney had beaten Rick Santorum by eight votes out of 60,022 cast for the two men.

So why no recount?

There is no legal provision for a recount in the Iowa caucuses, and, in fact, no legal need. The Iowa caucus, despite its position at the center of the political universe every four years, is nothing more than a nonbinding preference poll that does not legally determine who gets the state’s 25 delegates to the Republican nominating convention.

Voting Blogs: Western Populism and Corporate Electioneering: The Montana Supreme Court | Election Law Blog

One of the historical oddities about today’s debates over corporate money and elections is that the issue maps so directly onto partisan political differences, at least among national political players.  As I’ve noted before, the deeper, long-term pattern historically has been quite different.  Starting at least in the Jacksonian era, with Andrew Jackson’s war on the Bank of the United States — in significant part, because of allegations that the Bank was playing a role in partisan political contests — there have been longstanding alliances against corporate money in politics that united more conservative populists in the west and midwest with more liberal progressives in the east and that transcended conventional partisan divisions.

Arizona’s John McCain, of course, was a principal architect of the restrictions on corporate electioneering the Supreme Court struck down in Citizens United.  And within the US Supreme Court, manifestations of that deep historical pattern can be seen in the fact that several Justices from the western United States who otherwise were considered conservatives or moderates strongly endorsed the power of government to limit the role of corporate money in elections — Justice O’Connor (from Arizona), Justice White (from Colorado), and Justice Rehnquist (sixteen years in private practice in Arizona). But there is no one on the Court now who appears to reflect that western-style populist resistance to corporate electioneering.

Nebraska: Proposed Nebraska Voter ID Bill Meets Opposition | WOWT.com

It’s one of the most important rights we have in a democracy, the right to vote. To help protect that right, a Nebraska state senator wants to set up what he believes is a simple process, but opponents of a voter ID bill are already up in arms.

The bill’s language is simple. Anyone who wants to vote must provide a state or government issued ID that shows a current address. A group of community members, elected officials and representative from area organizations met Wednesday morning in Omaha. They said not only is the idea unnecessary, it would create a burden for anyone without an ID or who would need to update their old ID at a cost of $26.50.

“It unfairly targets citizens with low income, seniors, youth and citizens with disabilities,” said Linda Duckworth with the League of Women Voters of Nebraska. “It points us in a direction that Nebraskans should be ashamed to take.”

New Mexico: Lawmakers to consider voter ID requirement | The Santa Fe New Mexican

Legislation to repeal the law that allows illegal immigrants to get driver’s licenses often is cited as the most divisive issue the Legislature likely will deal with during the upcoming session. But another highly controversial and highly partisan issue also will be debated at the Roundhouse during the 30-day session.

The issue is a perennial one in New Mexico — “voter ID,” which is political shorthand for requiring voters to show photo identification before voting. The chief of staff for Secretary of State Dianna Duran confirmed Tuesday that Duran will push for such legislation in the session. And a spokesman for Gov. Susana Martinez said Tuesday that the governor would grant a message for the bill to allow it to be addressed in the upcoming session.

In this state, as in other states across the country, Republicans support the voter ID idea, saying it’s needed to protect against vote fraud — such as people using someone else’s name to vote. However, Democrats counter that there’s no evidence that massive voter fraud actually exists and claim that the whole idea is a Republican scheme to repress voter turnout among the elderly, young voters and minorities. Those groups are the most likely not to have voter identification. And, historically, these groups tend to vote for Democrats.

Texas: Primaries Await U.S. Supreme Court Ruling | The Texas Tribune

If Texas is going to hold primary elections on April 3, the federal courts will have to pick up the pace. A panel of federal judges in Washington, D.C., is deciding whether congressional and legislative district maps drawn by the Legislature last year give proper protection to minority voters under the federal Voting Rights Act.

At the same time, the U.S. Supreme Court is deciding whether an interim map drawn by federal judges in San Antonio is legal. In the meanwhile, there are no maps in place for the impending Texas elections.

Virginia: Judge allows GOP presidential hopefuls to join Perry’s ballot suit | The Washington Post

A federal judge in Richmond agreed Wednesday to let three Republican presidential candidates join the lawsuit Texas Gov. Rick Perry brought after failing to qualify for Virginia’s GOP primary ballot. U.S. District Judge John A. Gibney Jr. granted a motion to intervene brought by former senator Rick Santorum (Pa.), former House speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.) and former Utah governor Jon Huntsman. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), who also had sought to join the suit, was not included in the order. She dropped out of the race Wednesday after a last-place finish in the Iowa caucuses.

The ruling means the case against Virginia’s GOP chairman and members of the State Board of Elections would go forward even if Perry, who had a poor showing in Iowa, dropped out of the race, said Carl Tobias, a professor at the University of Richmond School of Law. “They would keep it alive,” he said. “Once they’re parties, they step into the shoes of the plaintiff.”

West Virginia: West Virginia Legislature Told to Act Promptly On Redistricting | Wheeling News-Register

Federal judges have told West Virginia legislators they have just two weeks to overhaul a congressional redistricting plan that required months of work and controversy to be approved initially. That isn’t much time, but lawmakers have no choice but to make it happen.

Every 10 years, states are required to redraw boundaries of districts used to elect members of the U.S. House of Representatives. The process is meant to take into account population shifts during the preceding decade. But parties in Jefferson and Kanawha counties objected to the way legislators changed the boundaries earlier this year. They filed a lawsuit in federal court.

On Tuesday, a three-judge panel announced its ruling. The order, issued on a 2-1 vote (Judge John Bailey dissented), was that a new congressional district map must be prepared. The two judges who objected to the existing plan said it does not come close enough to equalizing populations within West Virginia’s three congressional districts.

Wisconsin: New photo ID voting law another hurdle for homeless | Green Bay Press Gazette

New state rules that require photo identification to vote could make it harder for the homeless to cast ballots, and local advocates are trying to help. JOSHUA, an interfaith social justice organization, has made it a priority to help the homeless and others in need navigate the new voting laws before heading to the polls.

The legislation, in part, requires people to show photo ID when voting. That can be challenging for a person who doesn’t have a place to call home or transportation to visit a state Division of Motor Vehicles office to obtain the proper ID. Election specialists from the state Government Accountability Board told a group of advocates Tuesday at the Brown County Central Library the law doesn’t make exceptions for the homeless.

Egypt: Security heightened for elections amid reports of violence | Al-Masry Al-Youm

Security forces stepped up their presence outside polling stations Wednesday for the third round of People’s Assembly elections, after monitors said supporters of various candidates seemed likely to clash. Monitors said the increase in security presence began last night and continued into Wednesday.

Polling stations in nine governorates opened at 8 am for the second day in the final round of voting. The nine governorates included in this round are Qalyubiya, Gharbiya, Daqahlia, North Sinai, South Sinai, Minya, Matrouh, Qena and New Valley.

Police and military officials made several statements about the heightened security measures taken after fighting and bickering took place outside polling stations in Daqahlia and Qena governorates. Security forces also prevented clashes between Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) and Nour Party supporters at polling stations in Daqahlia.

Latvia: Latvian Vote on language issue set Feb. 18 | LatviansOnline

A national referendum on whether Russian should become Latvia’s second official language is set for Feb. 18, the Central Election Commission announced Jan. 3 in Rīga.

The referendum will decide whether proposed legislation to amend the constitution will be adopted. The legislation would change five sections in the constitution, including Paragraph 4, which sets Latvian as the sole official language. At least half of all eligible voters, or nearly 772,000 citizens, would need to vote in favor of the referendum question for it to pass, according to Latvian law.