Editorials: When Other Voices Are Drowned Out | NYTimes.com The Supreme Court’s 5-to-4 ruling in Citizens United in 2010 was shaped by an extreme view of the First Amendment: money equals speech, and independent spending by wealthy organizations and individuals poses no problem to the political system. The court cavalierly dismissed worries that those with…
The Supreme Court’s 5-to-4 ruling in Citizens United in 2010 was shaped by an extreme view of the First Amendment: money equals speech, and independent spending by wealthy organizations and individuals poses no problem to the political system. The court cavalierly dismissed worries that those with big bank accounts — and big megaphones — have an unfair advantage in exerting political power. It simply asserted that “the people have the ultimate influence over elected officials” — as if campaigns were not in the business of influencing and manipulating voters. The flood of money unleashed this election season is a direct consequence of this naïve, damaging view, which has allowed wealthy organizations and individuals to drown out other voices in the campaign. The decision created a controlling precedent for other legal decisions that made so-called super PACs the primary vehicles for unlimited spending from wealthy organizations and individuals. In theory, they operate independently of candidates. In reality, candidates are outsourcing their attack ads to PACs, so financing a PAC is equivalent to financing a campaign.
The time has come for a national conversation about guaranteeing the right to vote—based on one’s legal eligibility, and not the form of ID in their wallet. On March 14, Pennsylvania became the eighth state to toughen voter ID requirements in the past year, following Alabama, Kansas, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin. While these voter ID laws take many forms, the most restrictive require voters to obtain a government-issued photo ID to get a ballot on Election Day, which voting rights advocates say could deter several million people who lack birth certificates and other documentation from obtaining the ID and voting. To date, the conversation on voter ID has followed well-worn contours. Legislative advocates for these laws, almost all Republicans, claim that they uphold election “integrity” by curbing voter impersonation fraud. Opponents say the laws are policing a problem that barely exists and that current law enforcement aptly addresses. In addition, the laws intentionally place unfair requirements on specific demographic sectors that lean Democratic, which can ultimately lead to disenfranchisement.
Today is the 200th Anniversary of the first Gerrymander. The cartoon-map first appeared in the Boston Gazette on March 26, 1812 when Jeffersonian Republicans forced a bill through the Massachusetts legislature rearranging district lines to assure them an advantage in the upcoming senatorial elections. Although Governor Elbridge Gerry had only reluctantly signed the law, a Federalist editor is said to have exclaimed upon seeing the new district lines, “Salamander! Call it a Gerrymander.” So here we are in 2012. As noted by Professor Justin Levitt of Loyola School of Law in California, “every 10 years, redistricting litigation joins death and taxes as one of life’s certainties.” Although redistricting is nearly complete in almost every state, there is no shortage of controversy. Professor Levitt notes 113 cases impacting federal or statewide redistricting have been filed so far this cycle, in 31 different states — with 26 new cases in November and December alone.
Citizens United gets all of the attention: the protests, the whole being called the “Dred Scott of our generation” thing. But if you really think that super PACs are the root of all evil, then you ought to take your attention elsewhere. All Citizens United permitted was corporate or union independent expenditures. Under Citizens United, as long as it did not coordinate with any candidate or cause, MillerCoors can run ads, paid for from their general treasury, attacking President Obama for drinking a Bud Light at the much-vaunted 2009 White House Beer Summit. But nothing in the opinion asserts that Pete Coors could pour unlimited contributions into the coffers of, say, Americans for a Shiny America, an independent expenditure only committee that would run ads in favor of candidates who pledge to air Firefly re-runs on PBS.
Taking advantage of relaxed campaign finance laws, a cadre of deep-pocketed donors are spending gobs of money to bankroll super PACs, a phenomenon that is reshaping the modern election cycle. It is a select group. The top 100 individual super PAC donors make up just 3.7% of those who have contributed to the new money vehicles, but account for more than 80% of the total money raised, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics. And just the top 46 donors have given a total of $67 million, or two-thirds of the $112 million in individual gifts to super PACs this cycle. Membership in this select group requires a $500,000 minimum donation. So who are these folks?
Two Wellington residents – one of them the village’s first mayor – have filed a lawsuit to try to stop Tuesday’s swearing-in of candidates whom a March 19 recount determined were elected to the village council. A hearing will take place at 8:45 a.m. Monday in Palm Beach Circuit Court in front of Judge Robin Rosenberg. The lawsuit, filed by former mayor Kathy Foster and Gaye A. Scarpa, also seeks to stop the village canvassing board from certifying any election results other than those certified by county Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher on March 16.
Last year, Republicans introduced legislation in thirty-four states to mandate government-issued photo IDs to cast a ballot. Nine GOP states have passed voter ID laws since the 2010 election, including Pennsylvania earlier last month. Minnesota, another important battleground state, could be next. Last year, Minnesota Democratic Governor Mark Dayton vetoed a bill from the GOP legislature that would have given the state the strictest voter ID law in the nation, prohibiting passports, military IDs and student IDs as valid documentation. Now the legislature is bypassing the governor by approving a constitutional amendment for voter ID that will go on the November ballot. The House and Senate have each passed their own versions of the legislation; once agreed upon, the measure will go on the 2012 ballot. If approved by voters, the 2013 legislature will implement the particulars of the law.
Nebraska: Supreme Court dismisses Kerrey case, name will be on Nebraska primary ballot | Journal Star
The Nebraska Supreme Court on Monday dismissed the Republican Party’s case to remove Bob Kerrey’s name from the May 15 primary election ballot. The court ruled it has no authority to consider the GOP’s appeal of a Lancaster County District Court order that rejected the party’s effort to overturn a ruling by Secretary of State John Gale placing Kerrey’s name on the ballot as a Democratic Senate candidate. “In election cases, this court has no authority to grant relief where the Legislature has established by statute strict deadlines which must be met in order to guarantee that the state’s election process is safeguarded against uncertainty and disruption,” the court stated. The Republican Party has argued that Kerrey did not establish legal residency or qualify as a registered voter in Nebraska prior to his filing as a candidate a day before the March 1 deadline.
Voting Blogs: Appleton’s Doughnut Controversy: Even Little Things Get Big Scrutiny | Election Academy
Last week, the Appleton, WI city attorney ruled that doughnuts – at least those provided by candidates to poll workers – were pastries non grata in city elections:
City Attorney Jim Walsh ruled on the sticky situation last week. In February, a conservative civic group cried foul over the pastries that are traditionally delivered to election poll workers as a thank you from elected officials. “We determined that there was no illegal activity, and there was no unethical activity,” Walsh said Thursday. “But because the state Government Accountability Board recommends only the clerk provide food, we suggested to the council we don’t do this anymore.”
At first glance, this dispute appears good for a chuckle, but the issues behind it are (believe it or not!) very serious. Many states and localities have detailed statutes in place regarding rewarding anyone for participating in the voting process; the most obvious of these is vote-buying, but in recent years we have seen concerns related to offers of free ice cream, coffee or other rewards to anyone sporting an “I Voted” sticker.
Canada: Halifax Regional Municipality to review e-voting contract after cyber attack on NDP leadership election | Metro
The Halifax Regional Municipality will be reviewing a decision to award a Spanish e-voting company a contract for this October’s election. This in the wake of e-voting delays that plagued the federal NDP leadership convention in Toronto on Saturday. Scytl, the Spanish company that oversaw the convention’s e-voting, was awarded a contract in January to provide electronic voting for the upcoming HRM election. “With the events of the weekend … we certainly will be reviewing the situation with the company,” Mayor Peter Kelly said on Sunday. “(HRM will) determine whether or not this was an issue of just malfunction, or other factors as was indicated (by the NDP).”
New Democrats remained tight-lipped Sunday about the cyber-attack that kept the country waiting for hours at Saturday’s leadership convention. Party brass refused to disclose the source of two Internet Protocol addresses that they say perpetrated an attack meant to disrupt its online voting system, as they tried to manage Thomas Mulcair’s first day as head of the federal NDP. The party is investigating the attack, in tandem with its voting system provider, Scytl, auditors Price Waterhouse Cooper and a number of “experts,” party president Rebecca Blaikie said on Sunday. “At this point, there is not a single point person,” Blaikie said of the investigation. “We’re going to investigate what (the attack) is, where it came from. . . As soon as we know that, we’ll be able to decide what to do next.” Blaikie said neither police nor Elections Canada have been contacted. The NDP identified the IP addresses, essentially identification tags assigned to web-wired devices, as perpetrators of a denial-of-service (DNS) attack. While the party insists the results were not compromised, some are questioning the integrity of the final, fourth-round ballot, which propelled Thomas Mulcair to victory after more than 12 hours of voting.
Canada: NDP determined to find source of cyber attack on electronic voting system | Winnipeg Free Press
The NDP has not yet called in the police to investigate an orchestrated attempt to sabotage the electronic voting system the party used to choose a new leader.
But it’s not ruling out the possibility once it unmasks the hacker responsible for repeated cyber-attacks that caused lengthy delays in Saturday’s leadership vote. The party had hoped to crown their new leader in time for supper-hour newscasts, before television viewers could switch to the Saturday night hockey games. The cyber attacks frustrated those plans; it was after 9 p.m. ET before Thomas Mulcair was declared the winner. Party president Rebecca Blaikie said Sunday that party officials, vote auditors and Scytl — the high-tech Spanish company hired to secure the electronic voting system — are still working to determine who was responsible. “What we know is that there was an organized attempt to clog the site,” Blaikie said.
A university website offering ordinary Hong Kongers a chance to vote for their next leader ahead of tomorrow’s election is under “systematic attack” from hackers, organisers said. Thousands of people who do not have the right to vote in the election are expressing their views through the unofficial poll organised by the University of Hong Kong. “The system has been very busy,” Robert Chung, director of the university’s respected Public Opinion Program, said yesterday. “We suspect it is under systematic attack as there are more than one million clicks on our system every second.” Mr Chung did not indicate who could be responsible for the disruption, but his team of pollsters has a history of aggravating mainland authorities with surveys indicating public opinion that is at odds with Beijing’s official line.
Malaysia’s electoral reform group Bersih wants Prime Minister Najib Razak to hold off polls until all proposed reforms have been implemented. The coalition of 62 non-governmental organisations (NGOs) also vows to return to the streets, if the election commission fails to clean up the electoral roll. This comes after a government report showed thousands of cases of multiple voters being registered under the same addresses. Amid swirling rumours of a general election in June this year, Prime Minister Najib faces renewed pressure to deliver on his promise for electoral reform. This, especially after a state-run agency’s report revealed more than 11,000 cases where multiple voters were registered under the same address nationwide. Of these, 820 cases had more than 100 voters registered under a single address.
The government has insisted that it will not disclose details of private meetings between David Cameron and Conservative party donors in the wake of claims by the party’s treasurer that large cash payments could secure intimate dinners with the prime minister. Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office minister, said demands for lists of visitors to Cameron’s flat in Downing Street were unreasonable, but insisted the party had nothing to hide. The Commons Speaker, John Bercow, is likely to accede to Labour requests for an urgent government statement on the issue. The opposition has already demanded an independent investigation into the claims. Tony Blair’s former chief fundraiser, Lord Levy, who called for private meetings at Downing Street to be revealed, said he was not aware of any such meetings having taken place at No 10 or Chequers when Blair was prime minister.