National: Election decision may force disclosure of secret donors |

Advocacy groups spending millions of dollars to influence the 2012 election now face the prospect of having to reveal their secret donors, after a federal appellate court panel refused to block a lower-court order requiring the disclosure. In a 2-to-1 decision issued Monday evening, a U.S. Court of Appeals panel here declined to stay a ruling by a federal judge requiring tax-exempt organizations that run election-related television ads to disclose their donors. The panel’s decision was a significant victory for campaign finance reform advocates who have been fighting against the deluge of money — much of it from undisclosed donors — that has flooded the political landscape in the wake of several Supreme Court decisions, including the 2010 Citizens United case.

Editorials: 5 Voting Laws That Make People Angry | Huffington Post

A wave of Republican-sponsored laws restricting who can and cannot vote may mean that fewer Democrats, especially those who are low-income or minorities, vote in the 2012 presidential election. Since the beginning of 2011, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Wisconsin, and West Virginia have passed, or have plans to pass, restrictive voting laws. More than 70 percent of the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency will come from these states, the Brennan Center reported in March. Republican lawmakers argue that the laws are necessary to prevent voter fraud, but fewer than 100 people have been charged with voter fraud in the past five years, according to the Washington Post. In 2011, former President Bill Clinton condemned the laws for disenfranchising Democrats, describing them as “the disciplined, passionate, determined effort of Republican governors and legislators to keep most of you from voting next time.There has never been in my lifetime, since we got rid of the poll tax and all the other Jim Crow burdens on voting, the determined effort to limit the franchise that we see today,” he said.

National: Campaign Finance Disclosure Decision Means Rove, Others Could Suddenly Have To Disclose Donors | Huffington Post

One of the most consequential campaign finance loopholes affecting the 2012 race — the one allowing big-money donors to secretly funnel millions into campaign ads — is now closed, after an appellate court ruling on Monday. In April, a district court judge struck down a Federal Election Commission regulation that allowed donors to certain nonprofit groups — including those created by Karl Rove and the Koch brothers — to evade normal disclosure requirements. And on Monday, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit turned down a request to stay that ruling on a 2 to 1 vote. “This case represents the first major breakthrough in the effort to restore for the public the disclosure of contributors who are secretly providing massive amounts to influence federal elections,” said Democracy 21 President Fred Wertheimer, one of the lawyers who filed the original lawsuit that led to the April decision, in a statement. The office of House Administration Committee ranking Democrat Robert A. Brady issued a statement Tuesday saying, “As of today, any entity creating electioneering communications will have to disclose the identity of their top donors.”

Voting Blogs: Sen. Alexander’s Solution: Throw Gas on the Fire | Campaign Legal Center

Recently, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) proposed eliminating limits on contributions to political candidates as the solution to the current campaign finance mess. He says unlimited contributions to candidates won’t further empower the wealthy; they will just create more political speech. And he said this with a straight face! Sen. Alexander said that if Congress eliminated the limits on contributions to candidates, there would be no need to worry about large contributions to outside groups taking over our elections and as they would become minor players in our elections. The Supreme Court has recognized that large contributions to candidates and parties can corrupt and create the appearance of corruption. Because they can reduce public confidence in our democratic process, the Court said Congress can limit the size of such contributions. By contrast, the Court naively proclaimed in Citizens United that unlimited money spent “independently” of candidates does not corrupt candidates. Senator Alexander points to that same unlimited outside spending to justify elimination of limits that undoubtedly prevent corruption.

Alaska: Anchorage Municipal Election Recount Heads Into Home Stretch |

The hand recount of votes cast in 15 of the precincts that voted in the April 3 Anchorage Municipal Election is heading into the home stretch. The initial recount is done, but workers are recounting seven races and one full precinct again. The Anchorage Municipal Clerk’s Office has completed their initial hand recount of ballots cast in the messy Municipal Election. Barbara Gruenstein is the Municipal Clerk. She’s supervising the hand recount. She says her team finished the count Friday, but found that 7 of the 15 precincts they looked at did not match up, so they are recounting those races again.

California: Broad test for California’s “top two” primary |

In the first broad test of California’s new “top-two” election system, many candidates in heated races for Congress and the state Legislature have been campaigning earlier, spending more money and downplaying their party affiliation as they try to widen their appeal. Gone are the party primaries, except in the presidential race. Now all state candidates appear on a single ballot. Only those who come in first or second on June 5 will move on to the November general election, in which no write-in or other added candidates will be allowed. The new rules, approved by California voters in 2010, further empower voters who don’t belong to a political party _ already the fastest-growing category in California, accounting for more than 21 percent of the state’s registration.

Florida: Noncitizen voter database has flaws, local elections officials say | Tampa Bay Times

Florida election supervisors, at their annual convention in Tampa this week, find themselves focusing once again on a familiar and troubling issue: the accuracy and reliability of the state voter registration database. It’s not a problem of their making, and that only adds to their frustration. As the elections officials convene, they are simultaneously seeking to verify the legal status of about 2,700 voters who were red-flagged by the state motor vehicle agency as non-U.S. citizens and thus ineligible to vote. Problem is, some people on that list can legally vote. One of the people on the list is Manoly Castro-Williamson, 48, of Wesley Chapel, a U.S. citizen and a registered Republican who has voted in every election in Florida since 2004. She was one of 13 potential noncitizen voters forwarded to Pasco County by state elections officials.

Idaho: Some Idahoans feel they can’t vote in Tuesday’s primary election |

Randy Smith and Mike Wetherell used to parry political ideas when they chaired the Idaho Republican and Democratic parties in the early 1990s. Smith and Wetherell now wear judges’ robes — Smith in the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and Wetherell in Idaho’s 4th District Court. Today, they’re breaking a lifetime habit together. “I do not believe that I should declare what I am,” said Smith, 62. “I’m not supposed to be partisan. So I’m not voting. I’ve never not voted. It’s going to be sad.” The 67-year-old Wether-ell said: “For the first time since I became of voting age, I will not be taking part in the primary election. I meant it when I said that in this job I would be nonpartisan.” Nobody told Wetherell and Smith that they can’t vote. They decided that their own ethics and reading of judicial canons prevent partisan affiliation.

Massachusetts: Citizen and Community Groups Sue Commonwealth for Failing to Provide Voter Registration Opportunities | ProjectVote

Citing clear evidence that the Secretary of the Commonwealth and the Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) have violated their federally-mandated responsibilities to offer tens of thousands of public assistance clients opportunities to register to vote, a Massachusetts citizen and two community groups filed suit today for violations of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA). Congress passed the NVRA to boost democratic participation by ensuring that all eligible citizens have ample opportunities to register to vote.  Section 7 of the law requires state agencies that provide public assistance, including those that administer federal assistance programs such as food stamps, Medicaid, TANF, and WIC, to assist their applicants and clients in registering to vote.

Michigan: Audit finds votes by deceased people, prisoners; clerical errors blamed | The Detroit News

An audit of state voting records released Tuesday uncovered evidence suggesting dead people and prisoners may have voted in Michigan elections during the past three years. Auditor General Thomas McTavish’s office compared the state’s registered voter files with death records and found 1,375 deceased individuals cast 1,381 ballots between 2008 and 2011. Ninety percent of the ballots were cast by absentee voters and 10 percent voted at the polls, according to audit report. In response to the audit, Secretary of State Ruth Johnson’s office said no voter fraud was at play, and instead attributed instances where records show incarcerated or deceased individuals voting as an error by local election clerks. Some of the individuals may have legally cast an absentee ballot and died before the election, election officials said.

Nebraska: Super PAC cash plays big role in Nebraska Senate race | iWatch

For the second time in two weeks, super PACs will play a major role in determining the outcome of a U.S. Senate primary contest. Republican Jon Bruning, Nebraska’s attorney general, was expected to win in a cakewalk for the seat, soon to be vacated by retiring Sen. Ben Nelson, a Democrat. Instead, two underfunded insurgent candidates — Don Stenberg and Deb Fischer — are giving him a run for his money, thanks in large part to a handful of outside groups. Bruning has the fundraising advantage, having raised more than $3.6 million for his campaign. Stenberg has raised about $750,000, while Fischer has raised less than $440,000 for the race, including $35,000 of her own money. But heading into today’s primary, conservative outside groups have spent more than $2 million on advertising, according to Federal Election Commission records, with nearly $1 million going toward ads attacking Bruning. The ads appear to have been effective — Bruning’s numbers have slipped, according to recent polls.

New Jersey: Bill to make recall efforts easier is proposed following Hamilton Mayor Bencivengo corruption charges |

Legislation scheduled to be introduced today by Assemblyman Wayne DeAngelo would make it easier to recall a mayor or other elected official, currently a long and formidable process. DeAngelo’s bill would allow residents to recall a mayor or any other elected official earlier in the official’s term than is currently allowed. More important, the bill would lower the number of petition signatures needed to force a special election that could boot an official from office. The assemblyman called current recall procedures “daunting” and said residents shouldn’t face nearly impossible hurdles to remove a politician they feel isn’t worthy of the job.

Wisconsin: Verify the Recall was overly aggressive in reviewing petitions, elections officials say | JSOnline

A tea party review of recall petitions did not use the proper standards for judging signatures, an attorney for the state’s election agency reported Tuesday. “The methodology they used just would not have worked for us and would have not been valid or legal under the law and administrative code that governs recall petitions,” attorney Mike Haas told the Government Accountability Board.  The agency in March found recalls were warranted against Gov. Scott Walker, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and four of their fellow Republicans in the state Senate. The elections are scheduled for June 5.  While the agency spent months reviewing more than 1 million signatures against the six officials, tea party groups banded together for a project they called Verify the Recall. They had volunteers type information from hand-written petitions into online databases and then used software to determine how many signatures were valid.

Greece: Caretaker government will take Greece to risky repeat vote | Reuters

Greek political leaders meet on Wednesday to form a caretaker government that will lead the country into its second election in just over a month, with Greece’s euro membership at stake in a mounting crisis rocking world markets. Parties deeply divided over an unpopular EU-IMF rescue plan threw in the towel on Tuesday after nine days of failed attempts to put together a coalition, hitting heavyweight financial stocks as investors worried at the prospect that the euro zone weakling would remain in limbo for at least another month. Opinion polls show that voters enraged with five years of recession, record unemployment and steep wage cuts are likely to elect a parliament as fragmented as the one they chose on May 6. But the vote, probably in mid-June, may well tip the balance of power toward leftist parties opposed to the bailout conditions.

Greece: After talks collapse Greece to head to polls again | KGWN

Greece headed into a month of political uncertainty after power-sharing talks collapsed Tuesday, triggering new elections that could determine whether the country retains its tenuous position in Europe’s currency. Nine tortured days of fruitless talks to build a coalition government fueled increasing doubt that Greece can make enough reforms to prevent the world’s largest currency union from fracturing. “We expect the euro to remain under pressure as a result of this, and pressure on the borrowing costs, the bond yields, of countries like Spain and Italy to persist,” said John Bowler, director of the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Country Risk Service. No date has been set for the elections, but they will have to be held by mid-June – the month in which Greece must make more spending cuts to ensure it meets the terms of its international bailout. A caretaker government will be appointed until then.

Lesotho: Former Malawian President Bakili Muluzi to Lead Commonwealth Observers to Lesotho Elections |

Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma announced on 14 May 2012 that former Malawian President Dr Bakili Muluzi will lead the Commonwealth Observer Group to the Lesotho Parliamentary Elections, to be held on 26 May 2012. Mr Sharma said he was delighted that Dr Muluzi had accepted the invitation to lead the Group. “I am grateful to President Muluzi and other members of the Group for accepting to serve on this important undertaking. The Commonwealth attaches great importance to conducting credible elections as a means of strengthening democracy and giving citizens the opportunity to choose their leaders,” he said. “Lesotho is a valued member of the Commonwealth family, and we are delighted at having been invited to observe these elections. Credible and peaceful elections are a litmus test of how healthily the democratic culture in a country is taking root,” he added.

Maldives: President Rules Out Early Elections |

The president of the Maldives ruled out early elections during an official visit to India on Monday, citing the constitution, and declared that the soonest that a vote could take place was July 2013. Mohamed Waheed Hassan replaced Mohamed Nasheed, the first democratically elected president of the Maldives, in February after Mr. Nasheed resigned, but the former president has said that he was forced to step down in what he called a coup. “I am all for free and fair elections in the Maldives as early as the constitution of the Maldives allows,” said Mr. Hassan at a news conference following official meetings in New Delhi. “There is no provision in the Maldives constitution to hold elections earlier than July next year.”