Voters in Burma go to the polls shortly for by-elections that promise to be the most open contests in decades, with Aung San Suu Kyi among those standing. Her National League for Democracy (NLD) is contesting all 45 seats, vacated when politicians joined the new, military-backed civilian government. It is the first time Ms Suu Kyi is standing in an election herself. It is also the first time international observers have been allowed to monitor elections in modern Burma. The European Union looks set to ease some sanctions on the country if Sunday’s elections go smoothly.Full Article: BBC News - Burma and Aung San Suu Kyi set for key elections.
Warnings about the dangers of Internet voting have been growing as the 2012 election nears, and an especially noteworthy one came Thursday from a top cybersecurity official at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Bruce McConnell told a group of election officials, academics and advocacy groups meeting in Santa Fe, N.M., that he believes, “it’s premature to deploy Internet voting in real elections at this time.” McConnell said voting systems are vulnerable and, “when you connect them to the Internet that vulnerability increases.” He called security around Internet voting “immature and under-resourced.” McConnell’s comments echo those of a number of computer scientists who say there’s no way to protect votes cast over the Internet from outside manipulation. But right now a growing number of states are allowing overseas and military voters to return their marked ballots by digital fax or email, which experts say raises the same threat. It’s part of a recent push to make voting easier for millions of Americans overseas, who often are prevented from voting because of slow ballot delivery and missed deadlines.Full Article: Online Voting 'Premature' Warns Government Cybersecurity Expert | WBUR & NPR.
National: Federal judge rules Federal Election Commission overstepped authority in shielding ad donors | The Washington Post
The Federal Election Commission overstepped its bounds in allowing groups that fund certain election ads to keep their financiers anonymous, a federal judge ruled Friday. U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson’s ruling could pave the way to requiring groups that spend money on electioneering communications — ads that don’t expressly advocate for or against a candidate running for federal office — to disclose their donors. The FEC ruled in 2007 that corporations and nonprofits did not have to reveal the identities of those who financed such ads. That regulation came in response to a Supreme Court ruling that gave more latitude to nonprofit groups — like the Karl Rove-backed Crossroads GPS and the President Barack Obama-leaning Priorities USA — on pre-election ads. Campaign-finance regulations have received new scrutiny this election cycle, following a handful of federal court rulings that stripped away long-established limits on how much individuals and organizations may contribute to groups favoring certain candidates.Full Article: Federal judge rules Federal Election Commission overstepped authority in shielding ad donors - The Washington Post.
The grip of the super PAC on the Republican primary season has been well-documented. They are wrecking balls operating outside the candidates’ direct control, fueled by massive influxes of cash from a handful of wealthy patrons. The millions spent by the pro-Santorum Red, White and Blue Fund and the pro-Gingrich super PAC, Winning Our Future, have prolonged their respective candidates’ rivalry with the front-runner, Mitt Romney, whose own Restore Our Future has bludgeoned the competition from Iowa to Florida to Michigan. And that’s just the start. In the general election, super PACs will evolve into full-blown shadow campaigns. This transition is already underway, with the super PACs supporting Republican candidates beginning to take on voter persuasion operations — like sending direct mail and making phone calls — that have traditionally been reserved for a campaign operation or party committee.Full Article: Suppress the Vote! - NYTimes.com.
National: Koch Brothers, Chamber of Commerce Face Possible Campaign Donation Disclosure After Ruling | Huffington Post
On Friday evening, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia issued a ruling that could begin the process of revealing the identities of secret donors to groups connected to Karl Rove and the Koch brothers. The court ruled in Van Hollen v. Federal Election Commission that the FEC rules that restricted campaign donor disclosureare not valid and must be changed to provide for disclosure. “We are very happy to see the judge got it right,” says Paul Ryan, a lawyer for the Campaign Legal Center, a campaign finance watchdog that was a part of the team challenging the FEC rules. Those rules state that donors to groups spending money on “electioneering communications,” or advertisements that do not specifically call to elect or defeat a candidate, must only be disclosed if they specifically earmarked their donation to that particular expenditure. Since few, if any, donors to these groups ever earmark their donation for a specific election expense there was no disclosure.Full Article: Koch Brothers, Chamber of Commerce Face Possible Campaign Donation Disclosure After Ruling.
Editorials: Crankocracy In America – Who Really Benefitted From Citizens United? | Timothy Noah/The New Republic
In 2009, Ralph Nader published a fantasia titled Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us!, in which he imagined a group of maverick billionaires banding together to defeat corporate power in America. Declaring themselves “the Meliorists,” these enlightened oligarchs force Walmart to unionize, elect Warren Beatty governor of California, establish single-payer health insurance, raise the minimum wage to a livable salary, and in general breathe life back into liberalism. In 2012, something like Nader’s utopian scenario has begun to take shape, but with a radically different ideology. Super-rich, hard-right tycoons like Foster Friess (mutual funds), Harold Simmons (chemicals and metals), Bob Perry (home-building), and Sheldon Adelson (casinos) are, through the new vehicle called the super PAC, leveraging their fortunes to seize hold of the political process. Super PACs have made it so easy for millionaires and billionaires to spend unlimited sums on behalf of a particular candidate that these groups are now routinely outspending Republican presidential primary campaigns. Indeed, to a remarkable extent, these oligarch-controlled super PACs are the primary campaign. And, while both parties can create super PACs, so far GOP super PACs are burying their Democratic counterparts. Of the top ten individuals funding super PACs, only one—Jeffrey Katzenberg—is a Democrat.Full Article: Timothy Noah: Who Really Benefitted From Citizens United? | The New Republic.
Colorado: Bar codes allow ballots to be traced back to voters in dozens of Colorado counties | The Colorado Independent
The challenges mounting on Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler’s desk go beyond whether to mail ballots to residents who haven’t voted in a while. He has another predicament: bar codes. Unique identifying numbers, or bar codes, that can trace citizens to how they voted appear on ballots in dozens of counties in Colorado — a revelation that is not only troublesome but possibly illegal. Ballots are not allowed to have “distinguishing marks,” according to state law. A coalition of Colorado voters is suing Gessler (pdf) and a half dozen county clerks in a Denver federal court, contending the officials are presiding over unconstitutional elections. The litigation stems from a separate dispute over whether cast ballots should be made public so that elections can be verified by someone outside of government. When clerks argued ballots could not be seen by members of the public because it was theoretically possible to figure out how specific people voted in certain elections, the bar code problem became apparent. “We didn’t think the clerks were serious. We thought they were pulling our leg, putting up a smokescreen,” said Aspen-based election activist Marilyn Marks. “We didn’t think it was true, but it is.”Full Article: Bar codes allow ballots to be traced back to voters in dozens of Colorado counties | The Colorado Independent.
House Republicans on Wednesday killed a bill on voter registration from one of their own members, Rep. Don Coram, R-Montrose. The bill was a reaction to Republican Secretary of State Scott Gessler’s effort to prevent county clerks from mailing ballots to people unless they voted in the last major election. After the vote, Democratic leaders were so angry they called for Gessler’s removal as the state’s top elections official. The House Local Government Committee killed Coram’s bill on a party-line, 6-5 vote. It had passed the Senate 24-10.Full Article: The Durango Herald 03/30/2012 | Republicans kill voter-registration measure.
Florida: Wellington election: Judge approves request for hand recount for disputed election | OrlandoSentinel.com
Several dozen pairs of eyeballs will examine ballots from Wellington’s disputed election when a hand count begins at 8 a.m. Saturday in the county elections office, the finale — or so many hope — to a string of lawsuits and weeks of confusion over the voters’ choices for three village council seats. “Just get it done,” candidate Al Paglia said. “The sooner, the better.” On Wednesday, within a half-day of the village’s canvassing board deciding that a manual recount was the only way to swear in winners indisputably, seven Wellington residents filed a complaint in Palm Beach County Circuit Court asking for just that. Judge Robin Rosenberg on Thursday ordered a manual recount of the March 13 races, which yielded incorrect winners because of an apparent software error.Full Article: Wellington election: Judge approves request for hand recount for disputed election. - OrlandoSentinel.com.
Just before sunset on a recent evening, scores of lawyers in dark suits and polished loafers streamed into the swanky 18th-floor ballroom of a downtown high-rise here. They sipped chardonnay and nursed Heinekens, munched on cheese cubes and made small talk. The invitation to the event had asked for a “suggested contribution” of $500 to each of three candidates, who were now mingling sheepishly among the crowd. They were no ordinary politicians. In fact, they weren’t politicians at all, but rather Florida Supreme Court justices. Each has been in office since the 1990s, each retained by voters overwhelmingly in previous elections, and each now reluctantly campaigning — for the first time. While deep-pocketed super PACs and ultra-wealthy donors have attracted plenty of attention in the presidential contest this year, they are also making waves further down the political food chain. The mere possibility that a rich benefactor or interest group with endless amounts of money could swoop in, write massive checks and remake an entire court for ideological reasons has prompted judges here in Florida and elsewhere to prepare for battles they never expected to fight.Full Article: Super PACs, donors turn sights on judicial branch - The Washington Post.
Minnesota’s intense struggle over voting rights and election security is moving into close quarters. The battleground has shifted to the precise wording of a proposed photo ID constitutional amendment to be written by a legislative committee. The two sides read the same language in different ways but agree that the stakes are high for this final revision. What words are chosen, and how they are interpreted, could change the way Minnesotans vote. DFL Secretary of State Mark Ritchie reads the language and sees a bombshell for Minnesota’s elections — an end to the popular system of same-day registration and creation of a parallel bureaucracy of provisional ballots that could delay reporting of election results. Photo ID sponsor Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer, R-Big Lake, sees the text of the Republican-backed bills as flexible enough to allow Minnesota’s current voting system to continue but with improved security.Full Article: Photo ID battle turns into a war over the wording | StarTribune.com.
The Minnesota Legislature is poised to vote on a proposed Constitutional amendment that would replace same-day voter registration with a new election system called provisional voting. Not only would this new system cost local governments tens of millions in new tax dollars, it would delay the reporting of election results while we all waited for 500,000-600,000 provisional ballots to be processed. Since one-third of all provisional ballots nationwide are never counted, this could reduce our overall vote count by up to 200,000, knocking us out of our position as the state with the highest voter turnout in the nation. Given that over half-million Minnesotans normally use same-day registration in big election years, this kind of radical change should not be taken lightly.Full Article: Swift action needed to save same-day registration | MinnPost.
After a heated debate, the Ohio Senate yesterday voted to repeal House Bill 194, the election-law overhaul passed last year that Democrats and progressive groups are challenging on the November ballot. Democrats objected to the repeal after unsuccessfully trying to amend the bill so that in-person early voting could take place on the weekend and Monday before Election Day. Democrats and some voter-rights groups have argued that voting should be allowed in the days leading up to the election because that follows the law that was in place before the passage of House Bill 194. But Republicans passed a similar early-voting provision in a separate bill, House Bill 224, last year after passing House Bill 194. They have argued that even if House Bill 194 was repealed by voters in November, early voting would still be banned on those three days before the election. Sen. Michael Skindell, D-Lakewood, disagreed, saying that if House Bill 194 went down, the early-voting provision of House Bill 224 also would fall.Full Article: Senate repeals election law despite ballot issue | The Columbus Dispatch.
While the national media attention has been focused on the upcoming GOP primary in Wisconsin, there’s another political battle gearing up in the Badger State, and it involves both Democrats and Republicans. On Friday, the Government Accountability Board of Wisconsin is expected to certify the 1 million petitions turned in in January to recall Republican Gov. Scott Walker. With a special gubernatorial election pending, Democrats and Republicans in the state are bracing for a tight race ahead. A special election is tentatively scheduled for June 5, with a Democratic primary to take place four weeks earlier, on May 8. (Those dates will be made official after the recall is certified.) Three Democrats have declared their candidacies – former Dane County executive Kathleen Falk, Wisconsin secretary of state Doug LaFollette and state senator Kathleen Vinehout.Full Article: Wisconsin Preps for Heated Recall Election of Gov. Scott Walker - ABC News.
Voting Blogs: Stuck in the Middle: Wisconsin ID Fight Making Life Difficult for Election Officials, Voters | Election Academy
This week’s issue of electionlineWeekly features another terrific story by my colleague Mindy Moretti, who writes about the impact of Wisconsin’s ongoing voter ID fight on next Tuesday’s April 3 primary. The new law has currently been halted by two separate trial courts, and the appeals courts have certified both cases to the state Supreme Court who could, in theory, rule on the challenge before polls open on Tuesday. I’ve already written before (“Deltaphobia“) about the effect of change on election administration, and this current situation puts those concerns front and center. Specifically, notwithstanding the efforts of the state Government Accountability Board to keep clerks apprised of the latest developments in the ID fight, the uncertainty (which Moretti calls the “on-again, off again voter ID law”) is creating problems for election officials and voters:Full Article: Stuck in the Middle: Wisconsin ID Fight Making Life Difficult for Election Officials, Voters - Election Academy.
Two Wisconsin Courts of Appeals asked the Wisconsin Supreme Court Wednesday to take up two separate lawsuits against the voter ID law approved last year for a final ruling on whether the law should be enforced. One of the lawsuits was filed jointly by immigrant rights group Voces de la Frontera and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, while the other lawsuit was filed by the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin. Although recent injunctions in Circuit Courts have halted enforcement of the photo ID requirement in the April 3 elections, the groups still claim the law disenfranchises voters in the state. The decision to ask the Supreme Court to take up the cases falls less than a week before the April 3 elections, which include the Republican presidential primary along with a number of local elections.Full Article: The Badger Herald: Voter ID filed with Supreme Court.
Officials with the state Republican Party said that they plans to run candidates in the Democratic primaries in four upcoming recall elections targeting GOP state senators. GOP executive director Stephan Thompson said the move will guarantee that a Democratic primary has to be held. He said that ensures one clear date for the primary and a separate one for the general election, thereby limiting any scheduling control the Democratic Party might try to assert.
With a high turnout expected on April 1 and the government and election commission promising a free, fair and transparent poll, experts have urged voters to take greater care when casting their vote than in 2010, when large numbers were declared invalid. The number of lost or cancelled ballots ranged from 6.43pc for Amyotha Hluttaw constituencies to 7.4pc for State or Region Hluttaw constituencies, according to official figures. This was significantly lower than in 1990, when 12.3pc of votes were declared ineligible, but varied widely between constituencies; in the Pyithu Hluttaw seat of Hpakant, for example, 13,255 of 70,297 votes were invalid. “People are more interested in the April 1 by-elections than the previous election because NLD will be contesting most constituencies,” said Ko Nay Zaw Than, a businessman from Lanmadaw township who closely follows politics. “But it is important when voting that people fill out their forms correctly and also choose the best person to represent them, instead of focusing on a personality or party.”Full Article: Will invalid votes be a factor in election results?.
George Galloway, who was expelled from the U.K. Labour Party under Prime Minister Tony Blair over his opposition to the Iraq War, was unexpectedly re-elected to the House of Commons in a special election in northern England. Galloway, running for the Respect Party, took 56 percent of the vote in yesterday’s election in the Bradford West district. He beat Labour, the main opposition party in the Commons, which previously held the seat, into second place. Labour’s candidate, Imran Hussain, took 25 percent. Jackie Whiteley of Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservatives came third with 8.4 percent. Bradford West had the third highest proportion of Muslim residents of any electoral district at the time of the 2001 census, at 37.6 percent. Galloway, who was expelled from Labour in 2003, took Bethnal Green and Bow in east London, the second most Muslim constituency, from the party on an anti-war ticket in 2005. He failed to win a seat in the Commons in 2010.Full Article: Galloway Beats Labour in U.K. Parliament Election Upset - Businessweek.
National: Santorum: ‘The Only Reason You Don’t Have A Voter ID Is You Want To Continue To Perpetrate Fraud’ | ThinkProgress
To Rick Santorum, the more than 23 million American voters who don’t have a government-issued photo ID aren’t potential victims of disenfranchisement. The presidential hopeful uses a different name: perpetrators of fraud. ThinkProgress spoke with the Republican presidential hopeful about voter ID laws — which require that citizens present a certain form of photo identification or they are barred from voting — during a campaign stop in Milwaukee last weekend. Santorum said that he supports such laws because, as he states it, “the only reason you don’t have a voter ID is you want to continue to perpetrate fraud.” He went on to dismiss the notion that anyone might not have access to a voter ID, saying that “it’s not a problem.” Santorum’s claim falls somewhere in the murky world between audacity and lunacy. More than one in ten Americans lack a government-issued photo ID. These people are not committing voter fraud — indeed, voter fraud is rarer than getting struck by lightning — they are potentially having their right to vote stripped away. Santorum appears to have confused the disenfranchisees with the disenfranchisers.Full Article: Santorum To ThinkProgress: 'The Only Reason You Don't Have A Voter ID Is You Want To Continue To Perpetrate Fraud' | ThinkProgress.