National: Stephen Colbert’s Super PAC: Testing the Limits of Citizens United |

Stephen Colbert is laughing at the U.S. Supreme Court. He started Thursday night, on his show, when Colbert transferred control of his super PAC to his mentor, business partner and friend, Jon Stewart. It’s a great set piece of comedic theater underscored by a serious argument: Justice Anthony Kennedy, joined by a majority on the Supreme Court, issued a ruling in 2010 rewriting the nation’s campaign finance rules that is, on its face, pretty absurd. The argument is actually worth exploring in some detail. Since the 1970s, many lawyers and judges have argued quite reasonably that the the First Amendment’s right to free speech should permit anyone–an individual, a corporation or a union–to spend as much money as they want to influence elections. This argument posits that this sacred right to self-expression around elections simply trumps the danger that the large sums of money could corrupt the political process. It is a balancing test–the First Amendment on one side, the public interest in avoiding corruption on the other side–and reasonable people can reach different conclusions about where the fulcrum should be placed.

National: GOP makes run at corporate cash |

“Campaign finance law has made a mockery of our political campaign season,” Romney told MSNBC morning host Joe Scarborough last month. “We really ought to let campaigns raise the money they need and just get rid of these super PACs.” To be sure, Romney has benefitted from millions of dollars in brutal ads from a supportive super PAC targeting his rival Newt Gingrich. And he supported the most significant of the 2010 federal court decisions that paved the way for the emergence of super PACs, in a case called Citizens United vs. FEC.

National: Views on Implementing Federal Elections on a Weekend | U.S. GAO Report

Read the GAO Report

For the 2010 general election, 35 states and the District provided voters at least one alternative to casting their ballot on Election Day through in-person early voting, no-excuse absentee voting, or voting by mail. Specifically, 33 states and the District provided in-person early voting, 29 states and the District provided no-excuse absentee voting, and 2 states provided voting by mail to all or most voters. Of the 9 states and the District where GAO conducted interviews, all but 2 states provided voters the option of in-person early voting in the 2010 general election, and 5 states and the District offered both early voting and no-excuse absentee voting. Implementation and characteristics of in-person early voting varied among the 7 states and, in some cases, among the jurisdictions within a state. For example, 5 states and the District required local jurisdictions to include at least one Saturday, and 2 states allowed for some jurisdiction discretion to include weekend days.

National: Vote on the weekend? Government study inconclusive | CBS News

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has released the first major U.S. report on the costs and benefits associated with holding elections on weekends – though it said it could not “draw valid conclusions” about what impact moving elections to weekends would have on voter turnout. Under federal law passed in 1845, elections are held on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. Lawmakers chose Tuesday in order to give voters one travel day after the Sunday day of rest to get from their farms into town to vote. Critics say the practice of voting on Tuesdays is outdated and depresses turnout.

Editorials: Back to the Robber Barons |

With federal campaigns already knee-deep in a new era of laissez-faire money, the Republican National Committee has brazenly proposed the ultimate step — that the 105-year-old ban on direct corporation contributions to candidates and parties be scrapped as unconstitutional. The Supreme Court’s misguided Citizens United decision did damage enough to fair elections by freeing corporations to make unlimited donations to supposedly independent campaign expenditure groups. But the court said nothing about the basic 1907 reform law — enacted after the robber baron scandals — that bans corporate donors from wooing candidates directly with largess.

Kentucky: Activists pushing for automatic voting right restoration for felons | The Richmond Register

More than 186,000 Kentuckians cannot participate in one of the most fundamental expressions of speech — the right to vote, according to a report by the League of Women Voters of Kentucky (LWVK). Kentucky is one of the two states that permanently disenfranchise all persons with felony convictions after they have completed their full sentence, except through executive pardon, the report says. “The right to vote is a foundation of citizenship,” social justice group Kentuckians for the Commonwealth stated on its website. “We require ex-felons to pay taxes and comply with the laws enacted by their legislators when they return to their communities. The right to vote, a hallmark of our democracy, should follow.”

Editorials: Montana Spurns U.S. Supreme Court Ruling, Upholds Ban on Corporate Electioneering | AMIBA

On December 30, the Montana Supreme Court issued a stunning ruling, rejecting arguments that the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Citizens United vs. FEC applied to Montana’s century-old ban on direct corporate election spending. The 5-2 ruling overturned a lower court and reinstated Montana’s Corrupt Practices Act, a citizen initiative passed to confront some of the most overt corporate corruption in American history. While the Montana ruling detailed several ways in which the Corrupt Practices Act differed from the federal statute struck down in Citizens United, the justices clearly rejected much of the U.S. Supreme Court’s rationale. Citizens United struck down a federal law that prohibited corporations from directly spending company funds to advocate for or against political candidates.

Nebraska: Voter ID bill, LB 239, taken off legislative agenda | Daily Nebraskan

Nebraska’s proposed voter ID bill, LB 239, has been removed from the legislature’s agenda, according to Associated Press reports Thursday evening.
The bill would have required voters to present a valid, current photo ID, or qualify for one of several exceptions, before receiving a ballot on election day. It had been introduced last session by State Sen. Charlie Janssen of Fremont and carried over to the session that began this month. The bill was one of dozens around the country that have recently been introduced or enacted, mostly by Republican controlled state legislatures.

South Carolina: New report of potential “dead voters” in South Carolina … and it’s not even Halloween | Election Law Blog

In the wake of James O’Keefe’s latest videos about fictitious “dead voters,” now comes a new investigation in South Carolina, looking for “actual” “dead voters.”  In reviewing the state’s motor vehicle records and its voting rolls, there is apparently evidence indicating that 900 people listed as deceased are also listed as voting in subsequent elections  (I’m not sure what time period is involved). With South Carolina filing a preclearance lawsuit over the new photo ID law that earned an objection from DOJ, and with the general media hubbub around the state’s upcoming presidential primary, expect this to get an awful lot of attention … along with an awful lot of misinformation.

Texas: Voter ID Still Languishing at the Department of Justice | The Texas Tribune

Two weeks after Texas’ voter ID law was scheduled to go into effect, the measure is back in the U.S. Department of Justice’s hands. The Texas secretary of state’s office on Thursday submitted its latest batch of data in hopes of satisfying the federal government’s request for proof that the law, SB 14 by state Sen. Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay, will not disenfranchise minority or lower-income voters. The law, passed during the 82nd Texas Legislature, would require voters to furnish a state-issued ID before casting a ballot.

Texas: GOP files advisory with SCOTUS, says primary cannot be moved | Texas Redistricting

The Republican Party of Texas took the unusual step today of sending a post-argument letter to the Supreme Court to tell the court in no uncertain terms that the date of the party’s state convention could not be moved. In the letter, sent on behalf of RPT chair Steve Munisteri, the party told the high court “for numerous legal, logistical, and practical reasons, moving the Texas primary to any date after mid-April 2012 would wreak havoc with the state’s electoral process and present insurmountable difficulties.”

Utah: Navajos sue San Juan County over voter rights | The Salt Lake Tribune

The Navajo Nation has filed suit in U.S. District Court for Utah, alleging that San Juan County is attempting to keep Navajos from capturing a second seat on the county’s three-member commission by failing to redraw voting districts to reflect the 2010 U.S. Census. The suit, filed Thursday in Salt Lake City, alleges that San Juan County is in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment and in violation of the 1973 Voting Rights Act by ensuring that non-Indian voters hold majorities in two of the county’s three voting districts.

Virginia: Judge rejects Perry, GOP hopefuls for Virginia ballot | USAToday

A federal judge today rejected Rick Perry’s lawsuit challenging Virginia’s ballot requirements, meaning Mitt Romney and Ron Paul will be the only major GOP candidates on the ballot. U.S. District Judge John Gibney said in his ruling that Perry — along with GOP candidates Newt Gingrich, Jon Huntsman and Rick Santorum who joined in the Texas governor’s lawsuit — waited too long to file the complaint against the state’s ballot requirements. “They knew the rules in Virginia many months ago … In essence, they played the game, lost, and then complained that the rules were unfair,” Gibney wrote.

Virginia: U.S. judge rules against presidential primary ballot challenge | Richmond Times-Dispatch

U.S. District Judge John A. Gibney Jr. said Friday that he agreed the residency requirement is unconstitutional and felt they would prevail on that question if they pursued their case. He also said he believed an injunction the candidates sought to gain access to the ballot was in the public interest. However, he said, they should have gone to court back when it would have done them some good. “Had the plaintiffs filed a timely suit, the court would likely have granted preliminary relief,” said Gibney.

Congo: Congolese Have Lost Confidence in the Electoral Commission, Catholic Bishops Say | Congo Planet

The National Conference of Catholic Bishops has called for the members of the Independent National Electoral Commission to change their practices or resign following the mismanagement of last year’s presidential and parliamentary elections. In a declaration released on Thursday after a three-day meeting in Kinshasa, the bishops said that they “believe the electoral process was marred by serious flaws that call into question the credibility of the results published” by the electoral commission.

Kenya: Kenya high court delays elections to March 2013 | Reuters

Kenya’s High Court ruled on Friday that the next presidential and parliamentary elections should be held in March 2013 and not this August, unless the ruling coalition collapsed, forcing an earlier poll. The east African country’s next election will come under intense scrutiny because it will be the first under a new constitution, and the first since the 2007 poll that gave rise to fighting in which more than 1,220 people were killed. The government had proposed amending the constitution to delay the vote to December because of logistical problems, prompting petitioners to ask the High Court for a ruling.

Mexico: Few in US Register to Vote for Mexico Presidential Elections | Fox News

Despite relaxing regulations, Mexico authorities say they expect just a fraction of the 10.8 million voting-age Mexicans living in the U.S. to register to vote in time for the 2012 Mexican presidential elections. Mexico’s Federal Electoral Institute, or IFE, reported it had received 24,154 registrations as of Jan. 6—the latest count available. Voter registration for Mexican nationals abroad ends Sunday, Jan. 15. There are 11.7 million foreign-born Mexicans living in the United States, according to the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, 92.3 percent of whom are of voting age.

Russia: Duma to question Election Commission head on vote rigging | RT

The head of the Election Commission is to explain himself in parliament over allegations of vote rigging. Vladimir Churov is not the only one called to account in investigations into the December vote. Among other officials held responsible for mass violations are the prosecutor general, Yury Chaika, the minister of the interior, Rashid Nurgaliev, and the chairman of the Investigation Committee, Alexander Bastrykin.

Senegal: Does Youssou N’Dour change the stakes in Senegal’s election? | Reuters

Although N’Dour has only an outside chance of winning, the  answer is yes he does – for at least two reasons. As N’Dour himself points out, his entry into the Feb. 26 race will guarantee a degree of international media exposure that the election otherwise would not have had. That may in turn mean there will be closer scrutiny of the kind of irregularities in voting procedures that have been a feature of recent African elections. Put simply, it will be harder for anyone to rig the poll.

Taiwan: Taiwan readies for tight presidential vote | Al Jazeera

Taiwan’s presidential candidates have wound up a packed last day of campaigning in an attempt to lure voters who will decide the outcome of a tight race watched intensely in Beijing and Washington. The choice in Saturday’s vote is essentially between the incumbent Ma Ying-jeou, who has overseen four years of improved ties with China, and his main challenger Tsai Ing-wen, a skeptic on closer mainland relations. Amid swirling campaign banners and cheering crowds, Ma and Tsai, of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), crisscrossed the island ahead of a contest that pits Ma’s experience against Tsai’s populism.

Taiwan: Taiwan goes to the polls as China, U.S. look on | Reuters

Taiwanese voted on Saturday for their next president and parliament, an election being closely monitored by China and the United States as they look for stability in the region at a time of political transition for both superpowers. Opinion polls suggest the presidential race will be tight. But a slight advantage is seen for incumbent Nationalist Ma Ying-jeou, 61, who has fostered warmer ties with China, over Tsai Ing-wen of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

Turkmenistan: Elections: Opponents Float Proposals President Might Like |

The Turkmen presidential campaign has produced no surprises yet. The cookie-cutter candidates running in opposition to President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov all come from state controlled organizations or industries and are not straying from the incumbent’s program. Perhaps their purpose is to get a tiny bit out in front of the Turkmen leader so as to test which ideas are more feasible. For example, Rejep Bazarov, deputy head of the government in Dashoguz velayat (province) proposed that Turkmenistan curtail the practice of hand-picking cotton, and mechanize the harvest. He also wanted to increase manufacturing of products for export in the provinces.

United Kingdom: Electoral musical chairs comes to Wales – will voters and politicians lose out? | Toby James Blog

Electoral law is in the news again in the UK, and this time it’sWales’ turn. Radical plans to reduce the number of constituencies in Wales were published by the Boundary Commission this week. But what do they mean for Wales? One of the first Bills introduced to the UK Parliament by the coalition government formed in May 2010 involved reducing the number of MPS from 650 to 600. The Coalition justified this on the basis that it would save the country money. The reputation of MPs was low at the time on the back of the expenses scandal so it was popular policy. However, partisan calculations were not doubt present as well.