The Voting News Daily: No Easy Solutions for Big Money in Politics, County Officials Still Wield Great Influence Over Elections

Editorials: No Easy Solutions for Big Money in Politics | chicagotribune.com Citizens United and super PACs have had an ugly effect on this election, but they may be the evil of two lessers. Big money is having a powerfully different effect on this year’s national election campaign. We’ve seen it in the extraordinary oscillations of the…

Editorials: No Easy Solutions for Big Money in Politics | chicagotribune.com

Citizens United and super PACs have had an ugly effect on this election, but they may be the evil of two lessers. Big money is having a powerfully different effect on this year’s national election campaign. We’ve seen it in the extraordinary oscillations of the Republican primaries, largely brought about by millions of dollars of television attack ads, financed not by the opposing campaigns so much as by groups outside the parties that can say whatever they want without the candidates or the parties being called to account. These are the super PACs, political action committees on steroids. Their muscle–and some think their menace–comes from two federal court rulings in 2010, notably the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United,that allow them to raise as much as they can from anyone and spend as much as they like, provided–and it was regarded as a key proviso–that they are independent. For a super PAC to make contributions directly to parties or candidates, or do anything in collusion with candidates, is illegal.

Voting Blogs: Rock, Paper, Local: County Officials Still Wield Great Influence Over Elections | Election Academy

Lately, the news has been full of debates and discussions about the impact on election administration of decisions made by federal and state government. These are, to be sure, important questions but two recent stories have reinforced the enduring power of local government – and in particular, local election officials. In Waukesha County, Wisconsin, embattled county clerk Kathy Nickolaus (who figured prominently in last fall’s hotly-contested campaign for the state Supreme Court) agreed to relinquish her election dutiesafter encountering difficulties with tallying the returns from the state’s April 3 primary.

Colorado: Fighting over voters who don’t always vote | 9news.com

Some people don’t vote in every election, preferring to cast a ballot only in presidential election years. In Colorado, those voters are purged when they miss a midterm election, with their status changed to “inactive voters.” Inactive voters are still eligible to vote, but they won’t receive a mail-in ballot even if they signed up to be permanent mail-in voters. Democrats are fighting especially hard to change that just in time for the 2012 presidential election. Republicans have a much smaller share of Colorado’s inactive voters, and political watchers say the Democrats don’t want to lose any votes from President Obama’s 2008 supporters. Democrats say they’re not only concerned with “bandwagon” voters. “There are all kinds of reasons that people don’t vote once, and we’re going to basically take them off the rolls because they failed to vote once? That doesn’t make any sense to me at all,” Sen. Rollie Heath (D-Boulder) said. Health is concerned about people who miss an election due to military service or illness.

District of Columbia: James O’Keefe tries to defend voter ID laws by filming D.C. election workers | The Washington Post

Conservative activist James O’Keefe’s latest project aims to lampoon the mostly Democratic opposition to “voter ID” laws, and does so by focusing hidden cameras on last week’s D.C. primary elections. In the first of several promised clips, an O’Keefe associate tries to see if he can vote as Eric H. Holder, attorney general of the United States and longtime Spring Valley resident. Why Holder? Under his leadership, the Justice Department has objected to laws requiring voters to present identification in states subject to preclearance under the Voting Rights Act of 1965. People like O’Keefe think voter ID laws are a common sense way to prevent voter fraud; people like Holder say they address a problem that doesn’t exist, and the laws would give officials new pretext to keep legitimate voters from casting ballots.

Minnesota: Governor Dayton vetoes Voter ID bill, but it goes on November ballot anyway | MinnPost

It was a ceremonial gesture only, but this morning Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed the Voter ID bill approved last week by the Republican-led Legislature. The bill calls for a statewide vote in November on a proposed constitutional amendment that, if approved, will require all voters to show state-approved photo IDs. But the measure will be on the November ballot anyway. The governor’s veto can’t keep amendments passed by the Legislature off the ballot, which is why the Republican majority went that route.

Minnesota: Lawsuits likely before and after Voter ID balloting | MPRN

Only days after the Legislature approved a proposed constitutional amendment that will ask voters this November to require that Minnesotans show photo identification at the polls, groups that oppose the measure vowed to fight it in court. “This question is deceptive and misleading to voters and the court should strike it down and reject it,” Mike Dean, executive director of Minnesota Common Cause, said Monday. Dean said his group and the Minnesota chapter of the America Civil Liberties Union are preparing a lawsuit to stop the amendment from getting on the ballot.

Mississippi: Lawmakers close to redistricting votes | SunHerald.com

Mississippi lawmakers soon will be asked to vote on new configurations for their own House and Senate districts. It’s a politically sensitive task that could shape their own re-election prospects — and the prospects of their colleagues and their political parties — for the coming decade. The redistricting chairmen, Sen. Merle Flowers of Southaven and Rep. Bill Denny of Jackson, told The Associated Press that proposed new maps will be released within the next two weeks and should quickly come up for a vote in each chamber. Flowers and Denny, both Republicans, said they’ve been meeting privately the past couple of months with demographers, attorneys and other lawmakers, both individually and in groups, to try to draw districts that would make most lawmakers happy.

Mississippi: After fiery debate, Voter ID bill clears Mississippi Senate | The Clarion-Ledger

A bill to implement Mississippi’s Voter Identification Law passed in the Senate 34-14 today, but not without a lengthy and sometimes fierce debate. House Bill 921 would require voter identification for all elections. The measure heads back to the House for more work. Mississippi voters passed a voter ID initiative by a 62-38 percent margin last November. Justice Department officials have said they are waiting for enabling legislation before determining whether the law complies with the Voting Rights Act. Sens. David Jordan, D-Greenwood, Kenneth Wayne Jones, D-Canton and Derrick Simmons, D-Greenville, members of the Legislative Black Caucus, spoke against the bill, saying the measure echoes the Jim Crow era. “Jim Crow laws are coming back again dressed up pretty. I don’t understand how we can do something to suppress some Mississippians,” Jordan said. “All of you are my friends, and I don’t understand how anyone can trust God and do wrongful things to their own brothers.”

Missouri: Ballot proposals, lawsuits swamp election officials | The Columbia Daily Tribune

Missouri voters could get a say this fall on a bevy of big issues. Should the state’s income tax be replaced with a higher sales tax? Should the tobacco tax be hiked? Should the minimum wage be raised? Should payday loan rates be limited? Should St. Louis gain control over its police force? Supporters have been gathering petition signatures in hopes of qualifying each item for the November ballot. But with the deadline to submit those signatures just one month away, it is not certain whether any of those hundreds of thousands of signatures even will matter. That’s because all the prospective ballot initiatives remain tied up in court, with the potential of getting tossed out. Regardless of who wins or loses come November, one of the most significant aspects of Missouri’s 2012 election season might be the sheer proliferation of potential ballot initiatives and an accompanying rise in litigation.

New York: Redistricting Process Continues in Legal Purgatory | WNYC

Like a sequel to a horror movie most people never saw in the first place, New York’s redistricting saga continues to play out in court rooms and administrative offices from Washington, DC and Albany. Even before Governor Andrew Cuomo signed off on a compromised redistricting agreement with state legislators—which was ultimately a reversal on his promise to veto maps drawn by said legislators—legal activity surrounding the contentious redrawing of the state’s political boundaries has kept the compromise signed into law by the Governor from being the final word. The redistricting afterlife, it turns out, consists of three levels of political purgatory.

Oklahoma: Recount to begin Wednesday in special election for seat in Oklahoma House of Representatives | The Republic

A recount will be held in a special election for an Oklahoma House seat that unofficial returns show the Democratic candidate winning by three votes, officials said Tuesday. Hand-counting of ballots is set to begin at 9 a.m. Wednesday in Tulsa County District Court and was requested by Republican candidate Katie Henke. Unofficial returns from the April 3 election showed Democrat Dan Arthrell beating Henke by three votes in the race for the seat from House District 71, which runs along the Arkansas River in central Tulsa. “Mostly I’ll be sitting and watching, really there’s not a large role for me,” Arthrell, the public policy director for the nonprofit Community Service Council in Tulsa, said Tuesday. Henke, a school teacher, did not immediately return a phone call for comment.

South Carolina: Justice Department: South Carolina voter ID law violates Voting Rights Act | USAToday.com

South Carolina’s voter ID law violates the Voting Rights Act and discriminates against minorities despite the state’s assertions to the contrary, the Obama administration says in new court papers. The U.S. Justice Department’s comments came in a 12-page document filed Monday with a District of Columbia court in response to South Carolina’s Feb. 7 voter ID lawsuit. Justice lawyers urged the judges to reject the state’s request for a declaratory judgment, which is a speedy decision by judges without a trial. The administration rejects South Carolina’s claim that the voter ID law “will not have the effect of denying or abridging the right to vote on account of race, color or membership in a language minority group,” Justice Department lawyers wrote in their legal brief. South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson’s office provided a copy of the brief Tuesday.

Washington: Details from political dust-up over “costs” of special election to replace Jay Inslee | News Tribune

Why would it cost $1 million to have a special election to fill the final six weeks of Jay Inslee‘s term in Congress? The answer may be that it doesn’t. But that wasn’t the first question asked today. That designation went to Washington State Republicans who held a press event at the likely Democratic gubernatorial nominee’s Seattle campaign headquarters. In an event titled “Send Inslee the Invoice,” state GOP chairman Kirby Wilbur wants to know why Inslee won’t pay for the election he caused. Wilbur is trying to help the governor campaign of Republican Rob McKenna. Inslee triggered the issue when he resigned his seat in Congress to devote his time to the campaign for governor. The assumption was that the seat would go unfilled for the final eight months of the year and be filled by one of the people running to replace him in Congress. But Inslee resigned late enough so as not to trigger a stand-alone special election for his unexpired term. instead, whichever candidate won the full, two-year term would have taken office early to fill out Inslee’s unexpired term.

Editorials: Egypt’s presidency: The revolution within the Ikhwan | Al Jazeera

Regardless of the widespread cacophony, the decision by Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood (EMB) to contest the presidency is calculated to stop a “quiet coup” by the country’s top brass. The revolution within the EMB is no less important than the January 25 uprising that ousted Mubarak. Despite wide criticism, the EMB along with its political arm – the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) – ups the ante on the presidential elections. By settling on an EMB presidential nominee, the Ikhwan have not only raised political stakes, but also the value of contestation, even if the nomination of Khairat al-Shater may not be devoid of risks. What is the crux of this new dynamic and what is the significance of al-Shater’s nomination?

France: Expatriates Courted in Campaign as Their Number Doubles | Bloomberg

On March 15, President Nicolas Sarkozy’s campaign office rushed out a two-minute video message to French overseas voters, seeking to end a kerfuffle over his proposal to tax citizens living abroad. The message from Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, Sarkozy’s campaign spokeswoman, sought to assure them that the new levy he’d announced three days earlier would only affect a small number of tax exiles. “Expatriates don’t have to worry,” she said. “You represent France abroad and the fruits of your labor won’t be affected.” Sarkozy isn’t the only one courting the 2.5 million French living overseas. Socialist contender Francois Hollande campaigned Feb. 29 in London, whose 300,000 French inhabitants would make it France’s sixth-largest city. Hollande followed in the footsteps of Sarkozy, who visited “Paris-on-Thames” in the 2007 campaign. The number of overseas French has doubled in the past decade, forcing candidates to pay them greater attention.

Jordan: House votes to refer elections draft to legal panel | Jordan News Agency

The Lower House on Tuesday referred the 2012 elections draft law to its legal committee despite protests by some lawmakers who had demanded the bill be repealed, saying it does not answer to reform requirements or help to build a modern civil state. But the legislature turned down Senate amendments to the divisive civil retirement bill, changes that would block any pensions for retired MPs who had served in public office for less than ten years. A majority voted for the election document’s referral to the panel during a session held under Speaker Abdul Karim Dughmi and attended by Prime Minister Awn Khasawneh and cabinet ministers.

Lesotho: King Announces May Election | allAfrica.com

The King of Lesotho has set 26 May as the date for eagerly awaited general elections following a successful dialogue that ended the deadlock among the main political players. Agreement was reached one year ago after lengthy negotiations mediated by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) aimed at finding a lasting solution to the political challenges in the country. “King Letsie III, in accordance with section 37 (1) of the 2011 National Assembly Election Act, and acting in accordance with the advice of the Council of State, proclaims that May 26 will be Election Day,” said a statement released by Prime Minister Mosisili Pakalitha in March. King Letsie III dissolved the Lesotho Parliament on 15 March to pave way for campaigning by the country’s 10 political parties. Post-electoral dissatisfaction emerged in Lesotho after the 2007 elections as the opposition party refused to accept the results, plunging the country into a crisis.

South Korea: Illegal campaign activities, legal actions mar South Korea general elections | Korea Herald

Illegal election campaign activities continued to plague the run up to Wednesday’s general election. According to the National Election Commission, the number of Public Official Election Act violations stood at 1,239 on Tuesday. Although the figure was lower than during the 2008 general election, the number of more serious offences such as slander increased significantly. The election watchdog’s figures show that the number of cases of slander and spreading falsehoods increased 31 percent from four years ago. Areas with tight races between candidates such as South Gyeongsang Province saw increases in illegal campaign activities. According to the election commission for the region, 110 violations were filed as of midday Tuesday. In comparison, the figure came in at 85 in 2008. Incheon also suffered from a spike in irregular campaign activities.

South Korea: Voting continues in crucial parliamentary elections | Yonhap News

Voters flocked to polling stations Wednesday in tightly contested general elections that could strip President Lee Myung-bak’s ruling party of its control of parliament and set a crucial tone for December’s vote to pick his successor. The quadrennial poll is to elect a new 300-member National Assembly, but it takes on extra significance as the results are likely to affect the presidential election just eight months away. It is the first time in 20 years the two big elections take place in the same year. The National Assembly will be comprised of 246 directly contested seats and 56 proportional representation seats to be allocated to parties according to the total numbers of votes they receive. Each voter is asked to cast two ballots, one for a candidate and the other for a party.

South Korea: High squid prices test South Korea’s politicians | Financial Times

As he sells his squid at the Jagalchi fish market in the southern port of Busan, Chang Ho-bin is happy to explain why he will be voting against South Korea’s ruling party in Wednesday’s parliamentary elections. The 33-year-old fishmonger says the government has promoted policies that have helped big companies such as Samsung but driven up living costs for ordinary consumers who cannot afford to buy his squid, which costs Won45,000 ($40) a box, more than double its price from two years ago. “President Lee Myung-bak and the ruling conservatives did not manage the economy properly,” he grumbles as a woman nearby returns an escaping red octopus to its bucket. “They supported big conglomerates but forgot small business. Prices have got too high for people on lower incomes.”