The Voting News Daily: Corporations Donate to Groups on Both Sides of Voter-ID Debate, Money Rules in Washington Politics

National: Corporations Donate to Groups on Both Sides of Voter-ID Debate | Businessweek Companies giving at least $2 million to the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation — nearly half of its reported 2010 donations — also backed an organization championing voter identification laws that caucus members say “suppress” minorities’ right to vote. The group, the American Legislative…

National: Corporations Donate to Groups on Both Sides of Voter-ID | Businessweek

Companies giving at least $2 million to the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation — nearly half of its reported 2010 donations — also backed an organization championing voter identification laws that caucus members say “suppress” minorities’ right to vote. The group, the American Legislative Exchange Council, lists 22 corporate and trade association members on its private enterprise board. Thirteen of those firms also contributed to the black caucus foundation in 2010, according to Internal Revenue Service records and the latest available data on the websites of both organizations. The dual support puts companies, including Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT) (WMT), AT&T Inc. and Johnson & Johnson, in the position of financing both sides in a political dispute over state laws that the U.S. Justice Department said in some cases are biased against minority voters. “Corporations should be conscious of how their advocacy money is being spent by organizations that they contribute to,” said U.S. Representative Hank Johnson, a Georgia Democrat and a member of the black caucus. “This is a wakeup call for corporate interests to be more responsible for how they spend their money.” A spokeswoman for the black caucus foundation, Traci Hughes, didn’t respond to phone calls and e-mails seeking comment.

Editorials: Money Rules in Washington Politics |

There’s one key that always fits Washington’s locks: a big campaign check. President Obama boasts about the many small donors who propelled him to office, but it’s the biggest givers who find the White House doors smoothly swinging open. Mitt Romney has tried to appeal to those in the middle class, but they’re not invited to the retreats with those who give him $50,000. And, despite decades of money abuses and scandal, neither presidential candidate has shown any interest in reforming the system. As Mike McIntire and Michael Luo reported in The Times on Sunday, big donors to Mr. Obama and the Democratic Party are far more likely to be welcomed at the White House than those who gave smaller gifts. Two-thirds of the president’s biggest fund-raisers in 2008 visited the White House at least once, as did three-fourths of those who gave $100,000 or more. Reinforcing the appearance that money is being traded for access, many donors made their contributions in close proximity to their visits. Joe Kiani, the chairman and chief executive of the Masimo Corporation, a medical device company, gave the maximum of $35,800 to the Obama Victory Fund, which benefits the president’s campaign and the Democratic Party, just as he was attending a series of meetings with White House officials. At the time, his industry was lobbying to repeal a tax on medical devices.

Editorials: The Business of Ending a Presidential Campaign | Businessweek

Hours after dropping out of the presidential race this month, Rick Santorum fired off an e-mail to supporters asking for “one more” contribution: “I am planning to do everything in my power to bring a change about in the White House,” he wrote. “But our campaign has debt, and I cannot be free to focus on helping defeat [Barack Obama] with this burden.” Santorum maintains his campaign is less than $1 million in debt, and his adviser John Brabender says, “We feel good that in short order we’ll be able to wrap things up.” Yet if history is any indication, the candidate may be living with the financial legacy of his failed candidacy for a long time. Running for president is exhausting and all-consuming. Putting an end to a presidential campaign can be a nightmare that lasts years. There are employees, consultants, lawyers, and ad makers clamoring to be paid, ad buys to cancel, contracts and legal disputes to settle, office space, computers, phones, and furniture around the country to unload, and a staggering pile of disclosure forms and other paperwork to complete before the Federal Election Commission will certify that a campaign is officially over. “I would often say to people: Imagine starting a $100 million business from zero, building it up, running it, and then bringing it back down to zero all within nine months or a year’s time,” says Joe Stoltz, the FEC’s former director of auditing. “You don’t see many businesses come and go that quickly. It’s not easy.”

Alaska: Assembly Appoints New Leaders Amid Ballot Scandal |

The Anchorage Assembly heard emotional public testimony at their regular meeting Tuesday evening. Representatives of the Anchorage chapters of the NAACP and the ACLU, as well as 17 voters called on the body to appoint an independent investigator to look into possible voter disenfranchisement during the April 3 Municipal Election. Instead, the Assembly went about business as usual. With a shadow still hanging over the Municipal Election, the Anchorage Assembly decided to stick to their agenda, appointing a new chair and vice chair. The body voted Ernie Hall in as chair, replacing Debbie Ossiander, and Jennifer Johnston replaced Hall as Vice Chair. Chair Hall said the Assembly’s hands are tied because they’re waiting on a report from the Election Commission. “We would have loved to have had that report tonight, but we think it is much more important that we give them the time to do their job right,” Hall said.

Alaska: Anchorage Assembly Doesn’t Certify Election; Ballots Still to be Counted | KTVA CBS

It’s been two weeks since one of the city’s most chaotic elections. With ballots still being counted and the election still not certified, the question remains if there will be an independent investigation. The Anchorage Assembly did not take up that topic in a short meeting Tuesday night, but that didn’t stop Anchorage residents from voicing their concerns over the controversy. As the close to 14,000 questioned and absentee ballots begin to be counted, it’s what happened two weeks ago that’s leaving people frustrated. With precincts running out of ballots and voters being turned away, the assembly got an earful from a variety of people who said what happened on election day needs to be investigated. “Never has there been so many glaring levels of incompetence,” said Anchorage resident Colleen Murphy.

Voting Blogs: Arizona Case is a Vivid Reminder of Lasting Power of Motor Voter | Election Academy

Earlier this week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit handed down an opinion in Gonzalez v. Arizona, a long-running case involving a challenge to Arizona’s proof of citizenship and ID requirement – two provisions enacted by Arizona voters as part of Proposition 200 in 2004. I have been following this case for several years, yet I will readily admit that I had completely forgotten about it in the wake of all the other challenges and controversies across the nation recently. The last “big news” on this case was a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2006 vacating an injunction and sending the case back to the lower courts for further disposition.

California: Independent candidates to highlight California’a new top-two election system |

Some of California’s newly minted political independents are gathering in San Diego on Thursday to tout the state’s new open primary system and the growing importance of voters who are not affiliated with a state-recognized party. The ranks of so-called “decline to state” voters have grown quickly in recent years and they now make up about 21% of the state’s registration. (Democrats account for almost 44% and Republicans about 30%.) Independent voters have the opportunity for additional clout in the June 5 primary, in which every voter gets the same ballot listing all the candidates and from which the top two finishers, regardless of party affiliation, will advance to the November general election.

Connecticut: Constitutional Amendment on No Excuse Absentee Ballots Goes To Voters Now |

The Senate on Wednesday approved a rare Constitutional amendment that would make it much easier to vote by absentee ballot, requiring no reason or excuse at all. The measure, if passed by voters in a statewide referendum in November 2014, would remove all restrictions on obtaining absentee ballots, which are currently granted under certain circumstances such as being away at college or being disabled. The House has already approved the measure. The Senate voted 21-14 in favor of the amendment on a party-line vote. One Democratic senator, Edith Prague of Columbia, was absent.  Sen. Gayle Slossberg, a Milford Democrat who co-chairs the legislative committee that oversees elections, said the move would open up voting for more citizens who arrive home too late to cast a ballot by the time the polls close at 8 p.m. “This is important to commuters,” Slossberg said.

Florida: Arguments begin over redistricting Florida’s congressional districts |

With the election clock ticking, a Florida circuit court judge said Wednesday he will decide quickly on whether to throw out the Legislature’s congressional redistricting map, develop a new map in a matter of weeks or leave it alone. “I am very much aware of the logistical problem we have,’’ said Judge Terry Lewis of the Second Judicial Circuit, referring to the prospect of invalidating all or part of the congressional map and creating a new one in time for candidates to qualify to run in June. Lewis must not only consider the impact of revising the districts in the midst of election season, but must navigate complex and conflicting arguments over racial politics in Florida. Faced with an unprecedented assignment for a Florida circuit court judge, Lewis asked lawyers about the redistricting software he might use, the kinds of data that would be available and suggested that there is a downside to conducting an expedited trial that results in the court taking control of the Legislature’s work product. But after six hours of hearings in which lawyers for opponents asked him to reject the map and lawyers for legislators urged him approve it, he announced: “I’m going to treat it seriously. I’m going to do the best I can as quick as I can and I’m going to address everybody’s arguments.”

Iowa: GOP Examines What Went Wrong With Caucuses | ABC News

After a late night of vote counting, the Iowa GOP announced Mitt Romney as the caucuses’ tentative winner, having staved off Rick Santorum by a mere eight votes. “The good news is we were able to verify the vote reports tonight,” then-chairman Matt Strawn said at a news conference, noting that Iowa’s 1,774 precincts would have two weeks to certify their vote tallies. Two weeks later, the Iowa GOP announced that Santorum had won by 34 votes.  Eight precincts, meanwhile, could not be certified, and a party official made it clear that the votes would never be counted. A week and a half later, Strawn resigned as party chairman. The Iowa GOP has now set itself to the task of figuring out what happened and how to fix it next time, having formed an Iowa Caucus Review Committee comprised of 17 party members including county chairs, former state-party officials, party activists, volunteers and supporters of multiple presidential campaigns. Next Thursday, the committee will convene its first meeting, where it will hear the first round of reports from subcommittees on vote tabulation, public information and volunteer training.

New Jersey: Hudson County elections chief vows to fix “egregious” errors that frustrated voters on Tuesday |

The Hudson County Board of Elections will “absolutely” implement some changes to address “egregious” mistakes that were made during Tuesday’s school board election in Jersey City, an official said yesterday. Some Downtown voters said poll workers ordered them to distant polling places and were unhelpful to voters who wanted to vote with provisional ballots. In some cases, including at the Booker T. Washington public housing complex and a senior facility on Pacific Avenue, voters who live in buildings that contain polling places were told to go elsewhere to cast their ballots.

Pennsylvania: Counties get ready to give voter ID test run | electionlineWeekly

With less than a week to go until the April 24 primary, elections officials throughout the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania are busy getting ready. They are testing voting machines, making sure that ballots are the right size and that they have enough on hand and making sure the voter registration rolls are ready to go. But this year, in addition to all the traditional primary preparations, Pennsylvania elections officials and poll workers are preparing to ask voters to show a photo ID before casting a ballot on Tuesday. On March 14, both houses of the Pennsylvania General Assembly approved House Bill 934, requiring voters in the Commonwealth to show a photo ID in order to cast a ballot. Gov. Tom Corbett signed the bill into law that night. The law, which officially goes into effect on November 6, requires voters to show a photo ID with an expiration date. Acceptable forms of ID include driver’s license, non-driver’s ID, passport, military ID, college IDs issued by a public or private school in Pennsylvania, employee IDs from county, state, local and federal governments and ID cards issued by a state care facility. County election officials are using the April 24 primary as a test run of the new law for poll workers and voters alike.

South Dakota: Election chief says it’s too late to put congressional candidate on June primary ballot | AP/The Republic

South Dakota’s top elections official said Wednesday that he sees no way for a Rapid City woman to be added to the Republican primary ballot against U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem, even though a hearing is set for next month to hear the woman’s case. Secretary of State Jason Gant said he cannot put Stephanie Strong on the statewide June 5 primary ballot because South Dakota law requires that ballots had to have been given to county auditors by Wednesday so absentee voting can start Friday, also set by law. A federal law requires that absentee ballots be provided to military personnel and other overseas voters beginning Saturday, he said. Another primary race cannot be added to the ballot after people have already started voting absentee, Gant said. Once people have cast absentee ballots that do not include any GOP congressional primary race, those ballots cannot be pulled back, he said. Noem is expected to run uncontested, so the GOP congressional race won’t be included on the ballot. “I absolutely do not see any possibility on how we could add someone to the ballot after today,” Gant said Wednesday.

Virginia: McDonnell weighs veto of voter ID bill | Washington Examiner

The future of a controversial voter ID bill is in serious doubt after a bipartisan group of Virginia lawmakers rejected Gov. Bob McDonnell‘s proposed changes, daring McDonnell to accept their version of the legislation or veto it. In its current form, the bill requires anyone who forgets to bring proper identification to the polls to fill out a provisional ballot, which would not be counted unless the voter returns with proper ID or sends an electronic copy. McDonnell sought to weaken the bill by allowing election officials to compare the signature on the provisional ballot with a voter registration card on file. But both the House and Senate shot down McDonnell’s amendment during Wednesday’s veto session, leaving the Republican governor with a bill that creates an “unduly burden and barriers to your vote,” he said. McDonnell must now weigh whether to veto or sign a bill he considers “unreasonable.”

Wisconsin: Voter ID case won’t be resolved for Walker, senate recall elections | The Oshkosh Northwestern

A lawsuit challenging Wisconsin’s voter identification law won’t be resolved before this spring’s recall elections. Dane County Circuit Judge David Flanagan set a briefing schedule Thursday that will extend the case at least several weeks beyond the general recall election on June 5, saying the matter is complex and he wants to give attorneys ample time to document their arguments. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and immigrant advocacy group Voces de la Frontera filed a lawsuit in Madison in December alleging the ID requirements create an unreasonable burden on voters. But state attorneys argue that few people lack photo IDs and that concerns about obtaining IDs are overblown.

France: Last day of campaigning for France election | BBC News

Candidates in the French presidential election are on their last day of campaigning before voters head to the polls on Sunday. No campaigning is allowed the day before the election. Front-runner Francois Hollande has already held a final rally in Bordeaux, while President Nicolas Sarkozy will hold his last campaign event in Nice. Polls show the two men neck-and-neck, but Socialist candidate Mr Hollande is expected to win a run-off vote. The far-right candidate Marine le Pen could take around 17% of the vote, while left-wing candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon has come from behind to see poll ratings at 14-15%. Centrist Francois Bayrou is likely to come in fifth place.

Voting Blogs: The French Presidency Is a Bargain | Sophie Meunier/Huffington Post

Ten candidates — that’s the field of presidential hopefuls competing for votes in the first round of the French presidential election on Sunday, April 22. Some of them are household names, like incumbent president Nicolas Sarkozy and his main challenger, the socialist Francois Hollande. Others are still relatively unknown, even to French voters, such as the candidate representing the Trotskyist party, Lutte Ouvrière, or the head of the LaRouche movement in France (both currently polling at 0 percent). The multitude of candidates stems in part from a two-round electoral system, whereby everyone competes in the first round but only the two candidates with the highest number of votes face off in the second round (on May 6). What also enables so many candidates to run is that French electoral campaigns are cheap. As long as you can gather 500 signatures of support from about 47,000 elected representatives throughout France, you can stand for election to the presidency. Money is a good thing to have in a French electoral campaign, to be sure, but there is not that much money can buy: a good Web team; campaign posters; computers; t-shirts and gadgets; airfares; tolls and fuel for the cars of the party operatives who criss-cross the country; and the organization of campaign rallies — some small, some massive — such as Sarkozy’s recent meeting on the Place de la Concorde and Hollande’s big rally in Vincennes. That’s about it.  By law, campaign expenses are subjected to a maximum ceiling, and spending in excess of that is illegal. The state also subsidizes candidates. It gives about eight million euros, half of the maximum amount of expenses allowed in the first round, to those who obtain more than 5% of the votes in the first round and about 800,000 euros to those who do not make the 5% cut. In 2007, Sarkozy spent 21 million euros to win the presidential contest, while his main opponent, the socialist Ségolène Royal, spent 20 million euros. French politicians are, therefore, not enslaved to special interests or Super-PACs as they are in the U.S. Televised political ads are banned — only a small number of “statements” by each candidate, following strict rules on time and editing, can be broadcast on television and only during the five-week period of the “official” campaign as defined by law.

Editorials: How An Election In Greece Could Cause Europe To Crumble | Yannis Palaiologos/The New Republic

Anyone anxiously waiting for the European Union’s death knell could do worse than circle May 6 on his calendar. That’s when Greece, a nation brought to its knees by an unprecedented economic crisis, is scheduled to hold what promises to be a turbulent parliamentary election. It’s an open question whether Europe’s fragile political balance—and Greece’s tenuous hold on membership in the Eurozone—will survive the subsequent aftershocks. What’s already clear is that life in Greece will never quite be the same. To gauge the extent of the tumult engulfing Greek politics, consider this: Since 1981, when the socialist party PASOK first won power, its combined share of the vote in national elections with the conservative Nea Demokratia, its main rival, has never fallen below 77 percent, and it often exceeded 85 percent. Recent polls for the coming contest give the two parties a joint percentage that lies between 33 and 40 percent. After the last general election, in October 2009, the two parties controlled between them 251 out of the 300 seats in parliament. Now, if the polls are to be believed, they may struggle to get to the 151 seats needed to form a viable coalition government.

Kosovo: Serbs divided over Kosovo local elections | New Europe

Serbian authorities will not organise local elections in Kosovo according to the Serbian minister for Kosovo Goran Bogdanović. He explained that Belgrade received a negative answer from the UN administration in Pristina – UNMIK – which is administrating Kosovo in accordance with UN Security Council resolution 1244. “We do not intend to break UNSC Resolution 1244 in any way and endanger Serbs living south from the Ibar river,” Bogdanović stressed, reminding that according to the Resolution, UNMIK is in charge of organising local elections in Kosovo. He added that this situation does not imply closure of Serbian institutions in Kosovo, pointing out that elections were not held in 1999 or 2008. Bogdanović rejected announcements of two Serbian municipalities in northern Kosovo who stated they will hold local elections regardless of the UNMIK stance. He reiterated that no one has the right to break the UNSC Resolution 1244.

United Kingdom: ‘Laziness’ not grounds for MP recall, says Nick Clegg | BBC News

MPs should not be stripped of their seats for political reasons or “laziness” under plans for “recall” elections, Nick Clegg has said. MPs accused of serious wrongdoing could be forced to stand down and face a by-election if enough voters demand it. But the deputy PM said “recall” must be “a backstop sanction rather than something that would be used – or abused – for political purposes”. He told a committee of MPs he did not want it to become a “kangaroo court”. Proposals to introduce recall elections were drawn up by all three main parties at Westminster in the wake of the the 2009 expenses scandal. But political and constitutional reform committee chairman, Labour MP Graham Allen, said the idea, contained in a draft bill, was unpopular with MPs who believed Mr Clegg was “fighting yesterday’s battle”.