The Voting News Daily: The Third Party Fantasy, Is Campaign Disclosure Heading Back to the Supreme Court?

Editorials: The Third Party Fantasy | NYTimes.com “Third parties are like bees,” the intellectual historian Richard Hofstadter wrote in 1955. “Once they have stung, they die.” It’s an aphorism that aptly describes the anti-slavery and anti-immigrant parties of the mid-nineteenth century, the Populists and Progressives who ushered out the Gilded Age, as well as more…

Editorials: The Third Party Fantasy | NYTimes.com

“Third parties are like bees,” the intellectual historian Richard Hofstadter wrote in 1955. “Once they have stung, they die.” It’s an aphorism that aptly describes the anti-slavery and anti-immigrant parties of the mid-nineteenth century, the Populists and Progressives who ushered out the Gilded Age, as well as more recent third-party standard bearers, from George Wallace to Ross Perot. All of these movements and figures influenced American politics dramatically, before fading away and leaving the basic two-party duopoly intact. Of late, though, our potential third parties have been skipping the stinging part and going straight to the dying. This was true of Unity ’08, the much-ballyhooed attempt by former Democratic and Republican politicos to put up an independent alternative to Barack Obama and John McCain. Despite enjoying a wave of free publicity and boasting Sam Waterston of “Law & Order” as their spokesman, the Unityers never even came close to conjuring up a plausible candidate or platform, and their movement fizzled out amid attempts to entice an unwilling Michael Bloomberg into the lists.

Editorials: Is Campaign Disclosure Heading Back to the Supreme Court? – Don’t expect to see Karl Rove’s Rolodex just yet | Rick Hasen/Slate Magazine

The news this week that a federal appeals court has refused to block a lower court ruling requiring the disclosure of more funders of campaign ads has campaign finance reformers tasting their first victory in a long time. “It’s the first major breakthrough in overcoming the massive amounts of secret contributions that are flowing into federal elections,” Fred Wertheimer of Democracy 21 told the Los Angeles Times. But don’t expect to see Karl Rove’s Rolodex just yet. Crossroads GPS and other groups have found that raising money from donors who don’t want to be disclosed is good for business, and they’ve got a few ways to keep the unlimited money poured into campaigns secret yet. And before you get too excited it’s worth considering that the Supreme Court could well help them keep their secrets in 2012, even though the court has so far been a big supporter of disclosure laws.

Since 1974, federal campaign finance law has required the disclosure of campaign donors and spenders. Opponents of disclosure have long argued that at least some disclosure is unconstitutional under the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech and association, because compelling someone to reveal the names of those funding political speech will chill vigorous participation in politics. As I’ve explained, the Supreme Court rejected that constitutional challenge in the 1976 campaign finance case, Buckley v. Valeo. Confronted in that instance with a law that required disclosure of even very small contributions, the court held that the disclosure laws were justified by three important government interests: First, disclosure laws can prevent corruption and the appearance of corruption. Second, disclosure laws provide valuable information to voters. (A busy public relies on disclosure information more than ever.) Third, disclosure laws help enforce other campaign finance laws, like the ban on foreign money in elections. But the court has repeatedly said that if someone could demonstrate a real threat of harassment, they could be exempt from the disclosure laws.

National: Court Supports Electioneering Ad Disclosures | Roll Call

Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) has won another victory in his legal battle to force the Federal Election Commission to write stricter disclosure rules for certain types of political ads. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit rejected a request by two conservative groups that it stay a March federal district court ruling that sided with Van Hollen. Van Hollen sued the FEC last year, arguing that its disclosure regulations for “electioneering communications” were too narrow and contrary to the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act. The appeals court ruling, which came late on Monday, raises the prospect that politically active trade associations and nonprofits will have to more fully report who funds the ads they run on the eve of an election.

National: Sen. McCain huddles with Democrats on campaign finance reform | TheHill.com

Sen. John McCain is talking with Democrats about a joint effort to require outside groups that have spent millions of dollars on this year’s elections to disclose their donors. McCain (R-Ariz.), once Congress’s leading champion of campaign finance reform, has kept a low profile on the issue in recent years.  He raised the ire of many Republicans a decade ago for pushing comprehensive reform, and many Republicans still held it against him during his 2008 presidential campaign.  Good-government advocates who worked with McCain in the 1990s and early 2000s had begun to think he’d given up on the issue. But McCain said Tuesday he could join Democrats once again to form a bipartisan coalition, even though it would annoy the Republican leadership. “I’ve been having discussions with Sen. [Sheldon] Whitehouse [D-R.I.] and a couple others on the issue,” McCain told The Hill.

Editorials: Americans Elect meets reality: third-party effort may be viable — just not now | Doyle McManus/latimes.com

What happens if you start a political party and nobody comes? Six months ago, a newfangled third party burst onto the scene, full of hope and promise. It was called Americans Elect, and it sought to give voters a choice many said they were looking for: “centrist” candidates who could break the partisan gridlock paralyzing Washington. In its founders’ heads danced visions of middle-of-the-road candidates who could transform American politics: Hillary Rodham Clinton, Colin Powell, Michael Bloomberg, Jon Huntsman Jr. Wealthy donors invested millions in a fancy website for an Internet primary, signed up 420,000 would-be “delegates” and got on the ballot in 29 states. Newspaper columnists, including me, pondered what effect it might have on the election. Then the grand idea collided with reality.

Editorials: Voter ID Laws: Silencing the American People | John W. Whitehead/Huffington Post

“There has never been in my lifetime, since we got rid of the poll tax and all the Jim Crow burdens on voting, the determined effort to limit the franchise that we see today. Why should we disenfranchise people forever once they’ve paid their price?” — Bill Clinton

Despite the propaganda being advanced by the government, the purpose of voter ID laws is not to eliminate voter fraud and protect the integrity of elections. Rather, their aim is to silence and suppress as many American voters as possible and increase the already widening chasm between the electorate and our government representatives. In fact, voter ID laws are the icing on the cake when it comes to public officials shutting Americans out of the decision-making process, silencing dissent, and making sure that those in power stay in power and have the last word on government policy. In other words, voter ID laws are the final step in securing the American corporate oligarchy, the unchallenged rule by the privileged and few.

Arizona: New state law could alter future election dates in city, county | Mohave Daily News

A bill signed by the Arizona governor that would consolidate elections could impact city and county elections in Mohave County. Gov. Jan Brewer signed into law House bill HB-2826 that would consolidate elections effective in 2014. The goal of the bill was to increase voter turnout and to reduce the cost of an election. Bullhead City will hold elections for four council members with the primary in March 2013 and the runoff election in May 2013. The new council members will serve 31⁄2-year terms with the next primary and general elections for those seats to be held in August and November 2016. After the 2013 election, Bullhead City as well as Kingman and Lake Havasu City will hold elections in the fall along with state and national elections, Bullhead City Clerk Sue Stein said.

California: FEC says Feinstein can’t go back to donors after embezzlement | San Jose Mercury News

The Federal Election Commission ruled Tuesday that U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, whose campaign lost millions to embezzlement by treasurer Kinde Durkee, can try to go back and collect new contributions from donors whose checks were never cashed. But the FEC ruled that Feinstein, D-Calif., can’t take new contributions from donors whose money Durkee pocketed. Overall, Feinstein campaign consultant Bill Carrick said Wednesday, that leaves the senator with almost no recourse. First California Bank hasn’t released records from the Durkee-managed accounts, he said, so the campaign has no “capacity to figure out right now what money was deposited and what money wasn’t deposited.” Congresswoman Linda Sanchez, D-Lakewood; Loretta Sanchez, D-Anaheim, and Susan Davis, D-San Diego — also Durkee clients — are in the same boat, Carrick said.

Colorado: Groups urge veto of limits on voted-ballot inspections | The Denver Post

A growing coalition is asking Gov. John Hickenlooper to veto a bill that creates rules for public inspection of voted ballots, saying it is “an unprecedented step” to block the public’s right to ensure fair elections that was “ramrodded” through the legislature in its final days. Among those who have contacted Hickenlooper or plan to do so are members of the Colorado Lawyers Committee Election Task Force, the chairman of the Ute Mountain Ute tribe, Colorado Common Cause, Colorado Ethics Watch and two election-integrity groups. “The reality of this legislation is that at the most critical time, when the public has an interest in clerks’ management of elections, it creates an unprecedented exemption from (the Colorado Open Records Act),” said John Zakhem, a prominent elections attorney.

Florida: Republican-backed voting laws blamed for drop in new voter registrations | ABC

81,000 fewer new voters. That’s what one researcher says is the difference from four years ago, before new, restrictive voter registration laws went into effect in Florida.   It’s just what opponents of the laws feared would happen. When Governor Rick Scott signed the law that requires volunteers registering voters in Florida to register with the state last year, the reaction was swift and angry. It was called voter suppression and “Jim Crowesque.” Even the non-partisan League of Women Voters refused to go by the new rules that gave them only 48 hours to submit registration forms to the state. “The law is vague and cumbersome and it would put our volunteers at personal risk of fines, so we decided instead to challenge it in court,” said Mickey Castor of the League of Women Voters.

Florida: Timing of scrubbing noncitizens from voters rolls worry election supervisors | Tampa Bay Times

In February, county election supervisors got some news from the state motor vehicle agency: A database audit in April 2011 had identified more than 20,000 potential non-U.S. citizens on voter rolls. But the Florida Department of State, which knew of the audit, didn’t begin forwarding a portion of those names to county election supervisors until recently — just six months from the presidential election in November. That yearlong delay has frustrated many election supervisors, who worry database scrubbing could be tainted by accusations of politics this close to an election. Hispanic, Democratic and independent-minded voters are the most likely to be targeted in the review, an analysis by the Miami Herald found.

Michigan: The Best Courts Money Can Buy – Supreme Court Elections: Expensive and Partisan | NYTimes.com

Republicans often rail against “unelected judges” who issue decisions they don’t like. That sneering phrase, often used in complement with “judicial activism,” is meant to conjure the image of elitist liberals eager to meddle with legislation. The putdown also implies that judges lack legitimacy if they ascend to the bench without voter input. By that logic, judicial elections are preferable to merit selection—which is exactly backwards. Elections are the worst way to select judges. The process leaves judges beholden to party bosses, wealthy donors, and the whims of the very, very few people who actually bother to vote. Consider the state of Supreme Court elections in Michigan. On Monday, Justice Marilyn Kelly of the Michigan Supreme Court and Judge James L. Ryan of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit wrote in an article for the Detroit Free Press that “since the turn of the century, Michigan has gained a reputation for Supreme Court election campaigns that are among the most expensive, least transparent and most partisan in the country. Our campaign ads have been among the most offensive.”

New York: Hamburg Voting Machine Malfunction Problem Solved | wgrz.com

Voters in Hamburg Central School will soon know their school budget vote results now that the problem with a malfunctioning ballot machine has been solved. Erie County Board of Elections Michael Agostino told 2 On Your Side a malfunctioning USB stick drive could not read the final results Tuesday night. The machine was sealed and taken away. Agostino said voting officials took all the paper ballots inserted into the machine Wednesday morning, and re-inserted them into a different machine and used a new stick drive to tally up the results. He went on to say sometimes technology will work well one minute and fail the next.

Ohio: Governor signs law to repeal voting law changes | CNBC

Ohio’s Republican Governor John Kasich signed a bill on Tuesday reversing a contentious voting law that Democrats have called a blatant attempt at voter repression, in a move aimed at pre-empting a threatened repeal referendum. The bill rolled back a law passed last year barring counties from mailing unsolicited absentee ballots to voters and removing a requirement that poll workers assist voters they knew were voting in the wrong location. But the measure stopped short of reversing a related measure that eliminated in-person voting on the three days immediately preceding an election, as Democrats want.

Ohio: Kasich’s signing of election law ‘repeal’ doesn’t end debate | Cincinnati.com

Ohio’s march toward what’s expected to be a nationally watched 2012 election took an apparently unprecedented step Tuesday, one that could put election officials into court before a ballot is cast. The potential scenario emerged Tuesday when Gov. John Kasich signed a law that repeals a controversial election bill passed in 2011 by the GOP-dominated General Assembly. The 2011 bill, which created voting restrictions that Democrats and some good-government groups decried, was to go before voters in November. The gambit, apparently the first time that Ohio legislators have ever effectively killed a referendum destined for voters, sets up a possible lawsuit over a question that could impact this fall’s election: May state legislators repeal a bill that has not yet taken effect and that is up for referendum? Democrats argue the answer is no.

US Virgin Islands: 6 Elections Board members file lawsuit against Adelbert Bryan, V.I. Action Group | Virgin Islands Daily News

Six of the seven members of the St. Croix Board of Elections filed suit in V.I. Superior Court against members of the V.I. Action Group, fellow board member Adelbert Bryan and others who the board members say are trying to ruin their reputations. In the 16-page complaint, plaintiffs Rupert Ross Jr., Lisa Harris Moorhead, Dodson James, Anita Davila, Carmen Golden and Raymond Williams charge that the defendants created a scandal and produced and published false, misleading and offensive material about them to recall them as duly elected members of the V.I. Board of Elections.

Texas: Still No Answers in Voter ID Case | Texas Weekly

Whether or not the state’s voter ID bill will be in place for the November general election is still a mystery. That’s because the U.S. Department of Justice — which is being sued by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott’s office after it declined to approve the measure — is accusing the state of stalling the delivery of key data the federal government says is necessary for the trial. Late last month, DOJ asked the district court in Washington D.C. that will hear the care to postpone the trial, which is scheduled to commence July 9. The feds have argued that Abbott’s office is reluctant to turn over information because it knows it will hurt its case. Abbott has argued that the request is nothing more than political theater.

Virginia: New Concerns Over Voter ID Bill as Signing Deadline Looms | NBC29

The clock is ticking for Governor Bob McDonnell to make a decision on a controversial voter ID bill.  He has until Friday to sign House Bill 9, which would change how voters without proper ID cast their ballots.  Proponents of the bill say it would reduce fraud, but critics call it a way to keep elderly and young voters home on Election Day. “I’m looking now at whether or not I should sign it,” Governor McDonnell said.  “I want to make sure we have fair and honest elections. I don’t want to have anybody unduly burdened with the bill.”        However, Charlottesville Registrar Sheri Iachetta says it’s electoral boards like hers that will see a burden.

Virginia: ACLU program encourages restoration of voting rights for former felons in Virginia | Luray Page Free Press

Taking advantage of recent announcements from the governor that he will expedite restoration applications to enable former felons to vote in the November elections, the ACLU of Virginia has launched a program to encourage and assist individuals with the restoration of their voting rights. The program begins with advertisements in today’s Voice newspaper in the Richmond area, and tomorrow’s Voice newspaper in Hampton Roads. Tomorrow’s Richmond Free Press will run a large format version of the ad. The ads say the governor has indicated he will be able to process all fully completed applications from non-violent felons submitted by June 29 in time for the registration deadline of October 15. Also, because the governor’s office has a general goal of processing such applications within 60 days, the ACLU is encouraging those who miss the June 29 deadline to try to submit applications by mid-August.

Greece: Greeks set election date amid possibility of bank panic | CNN.com

Greece will hold new elections on June 17, state media reported Wednesday, amid a political and economic crisis that could have effects far beyond the country’s borders. News of the election date came as Greeks pulled hundreds of millions of euros out of the banking system amid fears that the country will not be able to stay in the European Union’s single currency. Just 10 days ago, Greeks voters punished the major parties for harsh budget cuts, leaving no party able to form a government. A caretaker administration led by a senior judge will run the country until the new vote.
Interim Prime Minister Panagiotis Pikrammenos was sworn in Wednesday. The president’s office said Cabinet ministers will take their oaths of office Thursday morning. The political deadlock is leading to fears that Greece will not have a government in place when it needs to make critical debt payments, which could in turn jeopardize its place in the eurozone, the group of 17 European Union countries that use the euro currency. And a Greek crisis could spread, one analyst warned.

Lesotho: Lesotho Independent Electoral Commission distributes ballot papers | Public Eye Daily

The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) in Maseru will start distributing ballot papers starting on Wednesday in preparation for the Advanced voting on Saturday. This has been confirmed by the District Electoral Officer (DEO) in Maseru, Mr. Motlohi Sekoala in an interview on Tuesday. Mr. Sekoala said the ballot papers will be distributed under heavy police guard to ensure maximum safety during the exercise. He said there are about 970 advanced voters in 18 Maseru constituencies who are expected to cast their votes after applying as advanced electors.

Indonesia: Jakarta Elections Commission to lay out campaign rules | The Jakarta Post

The Jakarta General Elections Commission (KPU Jakarta) is planning to hold a meeting on Wednesday on campaign mechanisms for the upcoming gubernatorial election. KPU Jakarta will meet with representatives of the campaign teams of all six candidate pairs at its office on Jl. Budi Kemuliaan in Central Jakarta. Suhartono, the poll-body head for campaigning affairs, said on Tuesday that the meeting aimed to ensure that each campaign team understood the campaign regulations and to prevent clashes between the teams on illegal campaigning or smear tactics. “We want them to understand what can be done and when to do it, and also what they cannot do,” Suhartono said. The meeting would also discuss campaign schedules during the two-week campaign period, which will start on June 24. “We will set dates so that each candidate pairs get an equal amount of time. Places for campaign activities involving large crowds will also be scheduled to maintain security and public order.”