The Voting News Daily: Attorneys General urge Congress to check corporate spending on elections, Super PACs can be thwarted, even with ‘Citizens United’

National: Attorneys General urge Congress to check corporate spending on elections | Concerned about unlimited contributions by corporations for political advertising, Attorney General Martha Coakley has submitted a formal letter to Congress urging an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to reverse the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. The…

National: Attorneys General urge Congress to check corporate spending on elections |

Concerned about unlimited contributions by corporations for political advertising, Attorney General Martha Coakley has submitted a formal letter to Congress urging an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to reverse the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. The letter sent today to Congressional leadership was signed by AG Coakley and 10 other state Attorneys General.

Editorials: Super PACs can be thwarted, even with ‘Citizens United’ | The Washington Post

Here is the only good news about the super PACs flooding the 2012 presidential race with negative ads funded by huge contributions from the super rich: These vehicles for corruption can be eliminated. Congress can pass legislation to end these candidate-specific super PACs that is well within the bounds of Citizens United. The Supreme Court’s decision in the 2010 case Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission paved the way for the creation of super PACs — federally registered political action committees that raise unlimited contributions and use these funds to make expenditures in federal elections. To legally spend these funds, the court said, outside groups must operate independently of the candidates they are supporting. The 2012 presidential campaign has brought us a particularly virulent form of these groups: the candidate-specific super PAC. If not made illegal, they will spread to congressional races as well.

Editorials: The Virtues of the Super PAC |

With the Republican primary season winding down, it’s time to celebrate two heroes of participatory democracy, two champions of the ordinary voter, two men who did everything in their power to make the ballot box matter as much as the fundraising circuit. I speak, of course, of Sheldon Adelson and Foster Friess. Adelson is the casino billionaire whose super PAC donations enabled Newt Gingrich to upset Mitt Romney in South Carolina and give him a scare in Florida. Friess is the investment manager whose super PAC donations enabled Rick Santorum to prolong the race through February and March. Both men are controversial; both have been cited as prime examples of the corrupting influence of great wealth on our politics. But both did more than anyone else to prevent the Republican primary from turning into a straightforward “money talks” affair.

Voting Blogs: Provisional Ballots: Information Can Help Rescue “Lost” Voters | Election Academy

This week’s Pew Dispatch looks at provisional ballot data from the 2011 election in Ohio. Here’s what the analysis found:

Provisional ballot use increased in 72 counties, remained the same in seven counties, and decreased in nine counties. While the number of overall provisional ballots grew in 2011, the proportion of provisional ballots counted decreased. The study found that most of the provisional ballots were rejected for one of three reasons:

  • + 40.2 percent were rejected because the voter was not listed as registered to vote in Ohio;
  • + 21.2 percent were rejected for voting at the wrong precinct and wrong polling place; and
  • + 16.2 percent were rejected for voting at the wrong precinct within the correct polling place [often called the “right church, wrong pew” problem – ed.].

Alabama: Republican Party still reviewing primary ballots as one presidential delegate hangs in the balance |

Jefferson County Presiding Court Judge Scott Vowell on Tuesday ordered Jefferson County to retabulate the votes from the March 13 Republican presidential primary in precincts that are split between two congressional districts, a review that could change how the state GOP awards one of its delegates. Vowell also ordered the Alabama Republican Party to pay for the review if the state does not reimburse Jefferson County. The order came after a lawsuit was filed Friday by the Alabama Republican Party arguing that votes in 48 split precincts in Jefferson and six other counties failed to identify which congressional district the presidential vote came from. The issue is significant because some of the party’s presidential delegates are awarded based on how each candidate fared within the congressional districts. Alabama Republican Party Executive Director T.J. Maloney, testifying Tuesday, said 16 of the split precincts are in Jefferson County.

Florida: Dominion says Elections Office should have known how to use the election software, avoiding errors in Wellington election |

Palm Beach County elections officials could have averted a software glitch that erroneously awarded two Wellington Village Council seats to losing candidates if they had followed the instruction manual, the manufacturer has told state election officials. Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher vehemently denied the claim. “I read the reference guide three times yesterday,” she said. “Nowhere does it tell you to check for this, ever.” Even as the question of who is to blame grew murkier, a clearer picture of the error itself emerged Monday, with the company, Dominion Voting Systems, sending out a national advisory warning election officials how to avoid a similar mistake. In the advisory, Dominion also suggests that the mistake could have been caught before the election had one key test been performed differently. The so-called “synchronization” error was caused when Bucher’s central vote-counting software was lined up to accept races in a different order than they appeared on the Wellington ballot. As a result, election-night totals on Wellington’s three races were shifted in a circle – with village council Seat 4 votes going to the mayor’s race, votes for mayor going to council Seat 1, and votes for Seat 1 going to Seat 4. On Monday, Bucher said the error occurred when her staff entered the titles on the ballot of each position, such as “Seat 1.”

Florida: Report: Florida one of the ‘five worst states for voting rights in 2011′ | Florida Independent

The Center for American Progress released a report today on voter suppression efforts carried out by Republican-led state legislatures around the country, listing Florida as one of “five worst states for voting rights in 2011.” As we at The Florida Independent have been reporting, Florida lawmakers passed a new voting law last year that has drawn fire from federal officials, legislators, advocacy groups and voting rights experts from all over the country. The many critics of the law have said the law is a concerted effort to keep minorities, young people, the elderly and the poor from the polls on Election Day. Florida’s contentious law places prohibitive rules and restrictions on third-party voter registration groups, creates a shortened “shelf life” for signatures collected for ballot initiatives, places new restrictions on voters changing their registered addresses on election day, and reduces the number of early voting days — among many other provisions.

Minnesota: Voter ID amendment is now up to voters |

Minnesota’s historic battle over photo ID and the future of the state’s voting system moved from the Capitol to the voters themselves on Wednesday. The House and Senate, with Republicans supplying all the “yes” votes, gave final approval to a proposed constitutional amendment that would require voters to show a photo ID, create a new system of “provisional” balloting and end election day “vouching” for voters without proof of residence. It passed the House on a 72-57 vote shortly after midnight and was approved by the Senate Wednesday afternoon on a 35-29 vote. The decision puts Minnesota squarely in the center of a national debate over election security vs. ballot access. Five states have strict photo ID requirements in law. Wisconsin and several other states are battling the issue in court or in their legislatures. Minnesota now joins Mississippi and Missouri as states that have sought to impose the changes via constitutional amendments. Minnesota’s amendment will likely face court challenges of its own before it goes to voters.

Minnesota: Other states offer clues on how voter ID would work in Minnesota | MPRN

It’s nearly certain that Minnesotans will decide this November whether they want to change the state’s Constitution to require voters to show photo identification at the polls. The Legislature is nearing final approval of the proposed voter ID amendment, which would place the question on the November ballot. What’s less certain is how a voter ID law would play out in future elections in Minnesota. By design, the wording of the constitutional amendment is sparse on details; if approved by the voters, lawmakers wouldn’t lay out exactly how the new system would work until the 2013 legislative session. In the meantime, election officials, voters and advocates on both sides of the issue are scratching their heads over what the proposed voter ID requirement will mean for Minnesota’s future elections.

Missouri: St. Louis County voting snafu on ES&S iVotronics led to uncounted ballots |

When the votes were counted in Tuesday’s election in St. Louis County, hundreds were missing. Poll workers did not properly close out several voting machines. NewsChannel5 learned there were 595 votes that weren’t counted Tuesday night when election board workers went home around midnight. Election officials say those votes are now in, and part of the current unofficial totals. Rita Heard Days is the county’s director of elections and says five electronic voting machines were not properly closed out by poll workers Tuesday night. “This morning we went out and got the machines that had the questionable closures and brought them in and captured those votes,” said Days. … Days says all the missed votes were added to the unofficial election totals Wednesday.

Texas: Feds, AG duel over who must testify in Texas voter ID case | San Antonio Express-News

U.S. Justice Department lawyers told a federal three-judge panel Tuesday that Texas legislators should not be shielded from testifying in a voter ID case. But lawyers for state Attorney General Greg Abbott said deposing statehouse Republicans to determine legislative intent of the new photo ID requirement amounted to a “fishing expedition” by Justice Department attorneys. The panel — Circuit Judge David Tatel, District Judge Robert Wilkins and District Judge Rosemary Collyer — is expected to rule soon on motions to expedite proceedings. A tentative trial date of July 30 is being considered, which would allow the photo ID law to be implemented for the November general election.

Wisconsin: More election night problems in Waukesha | JSOnline

Another election, another controversy over the performance of Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus. Nickolaus may have done her re-election campaign no favors Tuesday night when her plans to post timely election results online and update them periodically for the public failed. Citizens checking for results online were left in the dark for hours after voting ended, while reporters and data collectors for election reporting services resorted to tabulating contested races from yards of paper tapes hanging on walls around a meeting room. The process was akin to reading a long grocery receipt where, in some cases, the tape stretched down the wall and onto the floor in a heap. Problems with Nickolaus’ reporting system were evident soon after the earliest municipal clerks delivered, in person as she required, the voting machine memory packs and paper tapes showing vote totals. When Nickolaus’ staff tried to upload results from the memory cards into the county clerk’s reporting program, it wouldn’t work. “We were shocked,” she said Wednesday, noting that she and her staff had tested the reporting program “many times.”

Voting Blogs: Voted Ballots ‘Remade’ by Election Workers in Wisconsin After Being Printed Too Wide for Optical-Scanners | BradBlog

During yesterday’s Wisconsin primary election, a number of paper ballots were sent out in several counties that were reportedly too wide to be tabulated by the computerized optical-scan systems used to tally ballots in the state. The same exact thing happened just two weeks ago during the Illinois primary sending election officials into a panic and causing delays for some voters. Then, as now, the problem has been chalked up to a paper-cutting error by the printers. Perhaps that’s true, perhaps it’s not. We’ll take them at their word, barring evidence to the contrary. Innocent errors can and do happen. But whether that’s an accurate explanation or not, one way in which the failure was dealt with in both Illinois and Wisconsin continues to be extremely troubling and, frankly, offense: the practice of election workers manually “remaking” the ballots of voters after the election, in ostensible secret, and before they are tabulated.

Wisconsin: 87-year-old voter thwarted in Waukesha for lack of ID | JSOnline

It took persistence – and a second trip to her Waukesha polling place – by a 63-year-old Waukesha woman to vote Tuesday. But she said her 87-year-old mother who couldn’t make the trip back was disenfranchised by a poll worker who asked to see a photo ID. Wisconsin’s new voter ID law was in place for the February primary but not for Tuesday’s general election after a judge ruled it was unconstitutional. The photo ID requirement is on hold while the matter is appealed. The woman, who asked not to be identified because she and her mother were embarrassed, said she ended up calling the Government Accountability Board for help. Kevin Kennedy, executive director of the board, confirmed Tuesday that the incident happened. The woman said she and her mother had moved to Waukesha last May and registered to vote at Waukesha City Hall in January. They went to their Waukesha West High School poll Tuesday but were asked to show identification – which her mother hadn’t brought with her. Her own driver’s license had an out-of-date address on it, she said. “We were listed on their friggin’ poll list,” she said, “and yet we had our names highlighted.” The poll worker said maybe they didn’t register in time, though they clearly had. Kennedy added: “I can’t think of any reason ID would have been required.”

Wisconsin: Lt. Governor: Recall message is national |

“We’re a harbinger. We’re a canary in a coal mine,” Kleefisch said on Fox News. “Because what happens in Wisconsin has potential to affect every state in this nation whether Wisconsin voters choose to go forward or backward, back to the failed policies of the past that got us in the budget crunch that we fixed in the first place.” Kleefisch argued that the Walker administration had come into office facing a $3.6 billion budget deficit and had made the difficult but necessary decision to fix the budget crisis without raising taxes. “We asked our public sector employees to contribute 12.6 percent toward their health care, about the national average, 5.8 percent toward their pension, which is about half the national average, and we made some changes to collective bargaining, which was [a] financial [issue] to us,” she said.

New Zealand: The future of Mixed Member Proportional Electoral System | NZ Herald News

Today is the deadline for those who wish to appear in person before the Electoral Commission to send in their submissions on its review of the Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) Electoral System. If you do not wish to appear in person, then you can still send in a written submission up until the end of May. The recommendations the Electoral Commission makes to the Government may or may not be adopted, but they will at a minimum ensure a debate on their recommendations. Some of the issues they will consider could have a significant impact on what Parliament and Governments will look like in the future.

Serbia: President Boris Tadic resigns setting up early elections |

Serbian pro-Western President Boris Tadic said Wednesday he is resigning, paving the way for an early presidential election where he will face a strong challenge from a nationalist candidate. Serbia’s parliament speaker is expected to call the vote for May 6, the same day when parliamentary and local elections are already scheduled. In the presidential vote, Tadic will be challenged by nationalist candidate Tomislav Nikolic who has received tacit support from Russia. Several other candidates are also expected to run, but without real chances of winning.

Sudan: Ruling party denies early elections plan | Sudan Tribune

Sudan’s ruling National Congress Party (NCP) denied Tuesday calling for early elections in the country and reiterated that it is sticking to maintaining the president of the republic and the parliament until the end of the term of their mandate in 2015. The NCP was reacting to statements made by presidential advisor and former Sudanese foreign minister Mustafa Osman Ismail who stated last week that his party is willing to hold new elections if opposition parties accepted the proposal. The Sudanese opposition have already rejected the idea saying basic rights and freedoms should be restored before such elections, saying that the purpose of the early poll would be to reinstall the NCP for more five years and renew its legitimacy.