National: Post-Citizens United Money May Swamp Congressional Candidates | Huffington Post

Political spending by deep-pocketed donors and cash-rich corporations threatens to sow chaos in this year’s congressional races, political consultants warn. A billionaire or corporation writing a check for $1 million — or even $10 million — isn’t enough to swing a presidential election. But when it comes to congressional campaigns, it could be plenty. “You can work for months and years to develop a fundraising advantage over your opponent of $2 million, $5 million or $10 million. And all that can be wiped out in seconds by a few people giving to a super PAC,” said Democratic pollster Mark Mellman.  While Republican and Democratic candidates are, in theory, equally susceptible to that kind of unlimited outside money, it’s the Democrats who sound much more alarmed.  “No one is safe, and everyone’s got to protect themselves,” said Democratic strategist Hank Sheinkopf. “Super PACs can strike at any time they want.”

Colorado: Secretary of State Gessler asks Homeland Security to ID noncitizens on Colorado voter rolls | The Denver Post

Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler has asked the Department of Homeland Security to provide his office with the citizenship status of about 4,500 registered voters — his latest tactic in an ongoing effort to remove noncitizens from the state’s voter rolls. “It is imperative to the integrity of Colorado elections that we ensure only U.S. citizens are registered to vote and voting in our elections,” Gessler wrote in the March 8 letter to Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano. Critics of the move agreed only U.S. citizens should vote but said Gessler is going to extremes during a crucial election year — in a key battleground state — to address a problem that his office so far has been unable to quantify.

Minnesota: Court fight inevitable for Minnesota voter ID |

Even if the Legislature approves the measure as a constitutional amendment, opponents vow to try and keep it off November ballot. The turmoil and contention surrounding voting rights and election integrity does not cease when a state adopts the type of photo ID requirement Minnesota is moving toward. It just moves into the courtrooms. Two Wisconsin district court judges blocked the state’s strict, new ID requirement this month, after just a single election. One judge said a government that limits the right to vote “imperils its legitimacy.” The state is appealing. In Texas and South Carolina, concerns dating back to the Civil Rights era have caused the federal government to block ID laws, fearing minority voters will be disenfranchised. Those states are appealing. Even Indiana and Georgia, two states with the longest history of using strict photo ID requirements, had to battle multiple legal challenges, culminating in a 2008 U.S. Supreme Court decision that upheld the Indiana law as being in “the interest in deterring and detecting voter fraud.”

Missouri: Contention, confusion mar Missouri caucuses |

Contention and confusion marred various Republican caucuses in Missouri on Saturday, and one meeting was abruptly shut down, as impassioned supporters of Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney and Ron Paul battled for an edge in the state’s complicated delegate selection process. A caucus at a school near St. Louis where roughly 2,500 Republicans had gathered was adjourned before a vote could take place because it got so rowdy that extra police were summoned and two people were arrested for trespassing. Elsewhere, political tensions and divisions led to recounts not only on votes over which candidates should be supported, but even which people should preside over the caucuses. “It looks like a chaotic day around Missouri,” said former senator Jim Talent, a Romney campaign adviser who participated in one of the more politically divided caucuses in St. Louis County.

National: 2012: Year Of The Caucus Meltdown | TPM

With wild lead changes and candidates crashing spectacularly only to come back from the dead, nobody would call the GOP presidential race a smooth ride to the nomination. But it’s been almost as turbulent behind the scenes, where the actual process of coordinating and carrying out certain contests has hit snag after snag. Republicans around the country are struggling with an array of problems in states that use a caucus to determine their delegates this year, battling problems from low turnout to mysteriously missing votes. Caucuses, which require citizens to actively participate in a mini-convention with their neighbors in which supporters of each candidate make the case for their vote, are hailed by supporters as a way to energize the grassroots with a more involved approach than primaries. But they’re more time-consuming and complicated than simply dropping off a ballot, setting up more barriers to participation and creating more potential for things to go awry.

Editorials: How Voter ID Laws Are Being Used to Disenfranchise Minorities and the Poor | Andrew Cohen/The Atlantic

First, let’s call it what it is. The burgeoning battles over state redistricting and voter ID laws — and the larger fight over a key part of the Voting Rights Act itself — are all cynical expressions of the concerns many conservatives (of both parties) have about the future of the American electorate. The Republican lawmakers who are leading the fight for the restrictive legislation say they are doing so in the name of stopping election fraud — and, really, who’s in favor of election fraud? But the larger purpose and effect of the laws is to disenfranchise Hispanic voters, other minorities, and the poor — most of whom, let’s also be clear, vote for Democrats. Jonathan Chait, in a smart recent New York magazine piece titled “2012 or Never,” offered some numbers supporting the theory. “Every year,” Chait wrote, “the nonwhite proportion of the electorate grows by about half a percentage point — meaning that in every presidential election, the minority share of the vote increases by 2 percent, a huge amount in a closely divided country.” This explains, for example, why Colorado, Nevada, and Arizona are turning purple instead of staying red. “By 2020,” Chait writes, “nonwhite voters should rise from a quarter of the 2008 electorate to one third. In 30 years, “nonwhites will outnumber whites.”

Voting Blogs: Voter Fraud Claims, Voter Suppression Claims and False Equivalence in the Voter ID Debate | Rick Hasen/Election Law Blog

I have been getting a lot of pushback from Democrats and those on the left recently about some recent posts, my book chapter, and a recent oped of mine on the subject of voter identification laws.  The essence of the complaint is that I’ve drawn a false equivalence between spurious Republican claims of voter fraud offered to justify new strict voter identification laws and exaggerated Democratic claims of the extent to which such laws are likely to actually deter Democratic voters from voting.  One prominent Democrat accused me of a false evenhandedness as a “media strategy” for my upcoming book.  Another Democrat writes that there is a problem with my writing because it implies a parallel in which engaging in voter suppression and fighting voter suppression are seen as morally equivalent acts, and that I’ve just thrown up my hands and lamented how both sides are acting in a ridiculous way.

Editorials: The Supreme Court and Citizens United, Take 2 |

The Supreme Court has an opportunity to reconsider its disastrous Citizens United decision. The justices should take it. The damaging effects of unlimited spending by corporations and unions on elections — honestly examined — should cause the court to overturn or, at the very least, limit that ruling. On Friday, the justices granted a stay of a Montana state court ruling that upheld a state anticorruption campaign finance law. The stay gives the parties in the Montana case time to file papers to seek Supreme Court review. In supporting the stay, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote, “Montana’s experience, and experience elsewhere since this court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission make it exceedingly difficult to maintain that independent expenditures by corporations ‘do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.’ ” She was quoting Justice Anthony Kennedy’s majority opinion in Citizens United, in which he claimed that expenditures might result in “influence over or access to elected officials” but would not “corrupt” them.

Alaska: High court orders new Alaska election map | Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

The Alaska Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered the state’s new political boundaries be redrawn with greater deference to the Alaska Constitution. The decision comes just one day after the court heard arguments in the case. The court, in its decision, commends the Alaska Redistricting Board for its work, saying the record shows the board tried to weigh competing constitutional and statutory provisions. But it pointed to an earlier case, in which the court found that while compliance with a federal voting rights law takes precedence over compliance with the state constitution, the voting law need not be elevated in such a way that the requirements of the constitution are unnecessarily compromised.

Indiana: Gov. Mitch Daniels picks Connie Lawson as new Indiana Secretary of State | Indianapolis Star

Connie Lawson, who has served in the state senate since 1996, is Indiana’s new secretary of state. Gov. Mitch Daniels named her as his pick to replace Charlie White this morning, and she was sworn-in by Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman in a brief ceremony in his Statehouse office. Daniels called Lawson — who has been Senate Republican floor leader, chairwoman of the Senate local government committee, a member of the elections committee and a former Hendricks County clerk — the “obvious” choice to take over as the state’s chief elections official. “I don’t know when I’ve felt so good or confident about a decision as the appointment this morning of Senator Connie Lawson as Indiana’s new secretary of state. I doubt the state has ever been served by someone better prepared for her duties than Connie will be.”

Indiana: Senator Lugar Can’t Vote in Indiana Precinct, Board Says | Businessweek

Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana has been ruled ineligible to vote back home, a blow for the six- term Republican facing a Tea Party-backed primary challenger who says the senator is out of touch with his state. The Marion County Election Board voted 2-1 along party lines today, with two Democratic members finding Lugar and his wife ineligible to vote in his home precinct. Lugar, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is registered to vote with an Indianapolis address of a home he sold in 1977. He now lives in northern Virginia. The board ruled there is “substantial reason” to believe a non-criminal election violation occurred because the Lugars “abandoned” their Indiana residence, losing their right to vote there.

Kansas: Secretary of State Kobach says group trying to discredit voter ID law |

A voter advocacy group claimed Thursday that Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s 2011-2012 office calendar contains gaps and inconsistencies, suggesting that he spends too much time working on issues unrelated to his office.But Kobach, a Republican, defended his work ethic and said the critics were simply misreading his schedule. “My calendar principally just includes my appointments and scheduled interviews,” he said. “The time that’s not scheduled is the time like right now when I’m working on documents, reading court cases …. The claim they are making is completely unsupported by the calendar.”

Pennsylvania: Not Penn. pals – Even if he wins his home state, Santorum could walk away without delegates | The Daily

As Rick Santorum desperately tries to make a dent in Mitt Romney’s formidable delegate lead, he faces an unlikely obstacle on the primary calendar: his home state of Pennsylvania. Yes, Santorum is currently favored — though hardly a lock — to win the popular vote in the state he represented in Congress for 16 years. But Pennsylvania’s non-binding primary rules for distributing delegates raise the prospect that Santorum, who has said he’ll win the vast majority of the state’s delegates, could actually come away from next month’s primary empty-handed at a time when he can ill-afford it. Which means the April 24 primary could represent yet another chance for Romney — who kicked off his Pennsylvania campaign this week by trotting out supportive Republican leaders — to finally deal Santorum a knockout blow.

Texas: Voter ID: ‘good’ elections or a mugging? |

Gov. Rick Perry defended the state’s controversial Voter ID law Friday during on a Fox news interview when he complained about interference from the federal government. The Justice Department on Monday rejected the state’s Voter ID law because state officials failed to demonstrate the election changes would not make it harder for minorities to vote. Because of historic discrimination against minority voters, federal law requires Texas to prove its case before making any election changes. Texas is suing to overturn the 1965 law. “Here we are in 2012 and the idea that somehow or another a southern state, Texas in particular, a state that is a majority minority in our public schools now, is somehow or another being discriminatory toward minorities, I think, is a vestige of fear tactics that have been used through the years, and frankly, don’t hold water anymore,” Perry said in the interview. “This is not a Democratic or Republican issue,” the governor added. … The vote to pass the bill into law, however, reflected a strong partisan perspective.

Virginia: Cuccinelli says Virginia’s voter ID bill has ‘50-50’ chance surviving federal review | The Washington Post

Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R) says Virginia’s voter identification bills, passed last week by the General Assembly, have a “50-50” chance of surviving a review by the U.S. Justice Department. The federal government has already moved to block voter ID laws in Texas and South Carolina, saying they would disproportionately harm minority voters. “Given what they’re doing with the others states, I don’t know,’’ Cuccinelli told C-SPAN. “I’d give about a 50 50 shot.’’ Republican legislatures nationwide have been adopting stricter identification standards since the 2000 presidential election, saying they are needed to combat voter fraud.

Wisconsin: GOP Loses Senate Majority, After Recall-Targeted Senator Resigns | TPM

Wisconsin state Sen. Pam Galloway (R) is resigning from the chamber today, citing a family health situation. Galloway was one of the targeted incumbents in upcoming recall elections. This also means that as of now, the Republicans have officially lost their Senate majority, leaving the chamber split 16-16. The recall elections to come will determine who takes the majority. … The recall for her seat, however, is still going ahead as scheduled, though Republicans will have to find a new candidate in what is now the special election for an open seat. The recall rules do provide, however, that her name will not be on the ballot if she resigns this soon.

Belize: OAS highlights Belize election concerns: Barrow responds | Belize News

Ambassador Frank Almaguer, chief of the Organization of American States’ (OAS’s) Elections Observer Mission, said Thursday that Belize’s dual (municipal and general) elections of Wednesday, March 7, 2012, were “a peaceful exercise of [the voting] franchise,” and the general elections was “a historically close election and certainly highly competitive.” However, in a report to Belize media Thursday, Almaguer pointed to a number of key election issues, such as the use of government assets for electioneering, the lack of female inclusion on the ballot, the lack of campaign finance legislation, and electioneering very close to the polls on election day.

East Timor: UN forces ready as back-up in East Timor election | Bangkok Post

More than 1,200 UN forces are ready to intervene in East Timor’s presidential election this weekend if there is an outbreak of major violence, according to the top UN official in the country. UN vehicle escorted by local and UN police force unload ballot boxes at a polling center in Dili, on March 16, in preparation for the presidential election. A decade after winning formal independence from Indonesia, East Timor will hold its second presidential election as a free state. East Timor, which gained formal independence from Indonesia a decade ago, will hold its second presidential poll as a free country Saturday with a line-up that includes the incumbent Jose Ramos-Horta, a Nobel laureate. Ameerah Haq, the UN secretary-general’s special representative for East Timor, told AFP that the campaign period had gone “remarkably well”. The peaceful run-up to the election stands in stark contrast to the rioting and factional fighting that erupted in 2006 ahead of elections the following year, which left at least 37 dead and pushed the country to the brink of civil war.

Moldova: Pro-European judge Timofti elected president, ending 3 years of political deadlock | The Washington Post

Moldova’s Parliament elected a judge with a European outlook as president Friday, ending nearly three years of political deadlock in the former Soviet republic. Lawmakers approved the election of Nicolae Timofti, 65, who is chairman of the Superior Council of Magistrates. The opposition Communists, who disapprove of the government’s pro-European policies, boycotted the vote. Thousands of their supporters later protested the election in the capital’s streets. But Communist leader and former President Vladimir Voronin later said his party has decided to suspend its protests, even though it opposes Timofti’s election. Moldova had been without a president since 2009 because the country’s largest party, which has 58 seats in the 101-seat legislature, could not muster the 61 votes required.

Russia: Putin’s Russia: What I saw as an election observer |

Moscow-based journalist Anna Arutunyan was a volunteer election observer for Russia’s March 4 presidential election. This is her account of the events at a polling station in the town of Nizhneye Myachkovo. It was past midnight on election night in a snow-covered village polling station 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) southeast of Moscow, and five local officials were trying to ignore the protests of five election observers as the officials tallied up the ballots for Russia’s paramount leader of 12 years, Vladimir Putin. The complaint was minor: The officials weren’t letting the observers see each ballot they counted. But combined with the other violations noticed at this polling station, the process left observers with a sense that the very legitimacy of the vote had been compromised. Anton Dugin, a tall, young local official who was in charge of the polling station, called for a vote among the poll workers: Should they change the way they were counting the ballots at the observers’ insistence they follow the law?

Yemen: Rashad Union, Yemen’s first-ever Salafi political party, forms | GlobalPost

Yemen’s Salafis on Wednesday formed their first political party, mirroring a move made by their Egyptian counterparts with great success in recent elections there, reported Reuters.  Egypt’s Salafi al-Nour party recently took the second highest number of seats in the nation’s first democratically-elected parliament in years. Yemen’s new Islamist party, Rashad Union — Rashad a name based on the Arabic for “good judgement” –  on Wednesday issued a statement outlining their political priorities, among them the implementation of Islamic law throughout the country.