The Voting News Daily: Citizens: Speech, no consequences, Edwards case may have little effect on campaign finance

Editorials: Citizens: Speech, no consequences | Richard L. Hasen/ You’ve got to feel bad for the rich and powerful in America. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and a variety of big business groups say if Congress goes back to letting the American people know who is behind campaign attack ads, businesses will face the “palpable” threat of “retaliation” and “reprisals.” Former Federal…

Editorials: Citizens: Speech, no consequences | Richard L. Hasen/

You’ve got to feel bad for the rich and powerful in America. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and a variety of big business groups say if Congress goes back to letting the American people know who is behind campaign attack ads, businesses will face the “palpable” threat of “retaliation” and “reprisals.” Former Federal Election Commission Chairman Bradley Smith warns in The Wall Street Journal that boycotts based on political beliefs — made possible by the public disclosure of campaign finance data — “endanger the very commerce that enriches us all.” Even the chief justice of the United States, John Roberts, apparently is being “intimidated” (Kathleen Parker), “pressured” (George Will) and “threatened” (Rick Garnett) by that most powerful force in America (law professor and New Republic legal editor) Jeffrey Rosen. On the right these days, the rhetoric is all about a liberal siege. Despite Republicans’ majority in the House, its filibuster power in the Senate, a sympathetic Supreme Court and the great power of business groups — the language of threats is pervasive. But look beyond the rhetoric and you can see what’s really going on: Those with power want to wield it without being accountable for their actions.

National: Edwards case may have little effect on campaign finance | The Charlotte Observer

Edwards case complained that he was prosecuted under a “novel” view of campaign-finance law. Apparently, it was so new jurors couldn’t agree on what it was and whether Edwards broke it. Now the murky conclusion of the jury’s deliberations – acquittal on one count, no unanimous agreement on the remaining five – leaves it equally unclear whether the case will change how campaign contributions and expenses are defined and reported going forward. Edwards was accused of receiving excessive contributions from two benefactors to hide his mistress, and failing to report the money as campaign contributions. At least some jurors accepted his defense that the monies were gifts to help with a personal situation and were not campaign contributions. Experts in campaign-finance law are divided about whether the trial will stand as an isolated event or one that will widen the definition of a campaign contribution.

National: Buddy Roemer quits 2012 race |

Former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer announced in a statement this morning that his quixotic independent campaign for president has come to an end. After failing to get access to the GOP primary debates last year, Roemer had decided to run as an independent and seek the Reform Party and Americans Elect nominations. Then, Americans Elect folded earlier this month, while Roemer continued to struggle to draw attention and interest to his campaign. In his statement, Roemer said he would create a new organization — details TBD — focused on his core issue of getting corporate and special interest money out of politics.

California: Riverside County’s voting machines being used for spare parts | The Desert Sun

The roughly 3,700 electronic voting machines owned by Riverside County are locked in a warehouse, being scavenged for parts, with no plans to sell the multimillion-dollar equipment that was rendered idle by the stroke of a pen more than five years ago, a county official confirmed Wednesday. In August 2007, California Secretary of State Debra Bowen decertified e-voting units in use in counties throughout the state following a series of security tests that revealed vulnerabilities in the machines that could leave them open to computer hack attacks. At the time, Riverside County’s Sequoia AVC Edge voting machines had been used in elections going back to 2000. County supervisors universally lauded e-voting, calling the practice a great time-saver with less risk for the type of errors that came to light in Florida following the 2000 presidential election. Members of election integrity group Save-R-Vote of Temecula Valley, a staunch opponent of e-voting, forecasted Bowen’s decision, with the head of the organization, Tom Courbat, recommending that the county sell its Sequoia units for pennies on the dollar to cut its losses. He was ignored.

Florida: DOJ eyes Florida voter roll purge of non-U.S. citizens |

A top lawyer for the Justice Department’s civil rights division wants Florida officials to explain why they’ve unilaterally decided to purge the state’s voter rolls of non-U.S. citizens just months before a key primary in the 2012 elections — an apparent violation of provisions in the landmark Voting Rights Act. In a two-page letter, T. Christian Herren, chief lawyer for Justice’s Voting Rights division, told Florida’s secretary of state that officials’ decision to comb the rolls for foreign nationals was launched without consulting Attorney General Eric Holder or asking permission from a federal court, long-standing requirements under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.  Further, Herren writes, the state hasn’t officially justified why it launched the scrub, which activists say is haphazard, subjective and disproportionately hurts minority voters. At the same time, the practice is happening less than 90 days before an upcoming statewide election, which “appears to violate the National Voter Registration Act,” Herren said.  “Please advise whether the state intends to cease the practice … so the [Justice Department] can determine what further action, if any, is necessary.”

Florida: Justice Department Demands Florida Stop Purging Voter Rolls | TPM

The Justice Department sent a letter to Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner Thursday evening demanding the state cease purging its voting rolls because the process it is using has not been cleared under the Voting Rights Act. DOJ also said that Florida’s voter roll purge violated the National Voter Registration Act, which stipulates that voter roll maintenance should have ceased 90 days before an election, which given Florida’s August 14 primary, meant May 16. Five of Florida’s counties are subject to the Voting Rights Act, but the state never sought permission from either the Justice Department or a federal court to implement its voter roll maintenance program. Florida officials said they were trying to remove non-citizens from the voting rolls, but a flawed process led to several U.S. citizens being asked to prove their citizenship status or be kicked off the rolls.

Florida: Limits on voter registration drives blocked |

A federal judge on Thursday temporarily blocked parts of Florida’s new election law that places restrictions on voter registration drives, saying the provisions were harsh and impractical and imposed requirements that served little — if any — purpose. U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle ruled the League of Women Voters of Florida and other two groups challenging the provisions are likely to prevail in arguing the restrictions violate constitutional voting rights. One of the blocked provisions requires groups or individuals signing up voters to submit their registration forms to election officials within 48 hours of collecting them. The previous law allowed up to 10 days. Others impose what the judge called “burdensome record-keeping and reporting requirements.” “Allowing responsible organizations to conduct voter-registration drives — thus making it easier for citizens to register and vote — promotes democracy,” Hinkle wrote. Deirdre Macnab, the president of the League of Women Voters of Florida, said the group wants to study the ruling before deciding whether to resume registration efforts. The ruling did not block other parts of the third-party voter registration section.

Florida: Victory for voting rights groups as judge blocks key sections of new Florida law |

Voting rights groups are celebrating a significant victory against what they claim is the pernicious spread of anti-democratic legislation across America after a federal judge in Florida blocked key sections of a new state law that discourages voter registration drives. Judge Robert Hinkle slapped down two of the most hotly contested elements of the new law, HB 1355, which he condemned in scathing terms (pdf). He said that a requirement to deliver voter registration applications to a state office within 48 hours was “harsh and impractical”. Hinkle also heavily criticised Florida’s imposition of a new form that warns volunteers seeking to register new voters that they face five years in prison if they submit applications including any false information. The judge pointed out that the warning was legally incorrect and concluded that it could only be an attempt on the part of the state of Florida to “discourage voluntary participation in legitimate, indeed constitutionally protected, activities”.

Kansas: Judges will now draw Kansas political districts |

Now it’s federal judges who are racing the clock. With the Aug. 7 primary election looming, a panel of federal judges will try to do in a few weeks what the Kansas Legislature couldn’t in three months: draw new election districts. The three judges — Kathryn Vratil, Mary Beck Briscoe and John Lungstrom of U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Kan., — on Wednesday concluded a two-day hearing that examined the Legislature’s unsuccessful efforts to redraw election districts for Congress, the state House and Senate, and the Board of Education. The Legislature met for 99 days and couldn’t come up with district maps to account for population shifts reflected in the latest census. As a result, the court is doing the job.

Maryland: Civil penalty adds to fallout from Maryland robo-call case | The Washington Post

If criminal convictions were not enough, add $1 million in civil penalties to the list of reasons Maryland politicos may think twice about ordering another election-night robo-call that could be viewed as trying to suppress voter turnout. A federal judge on Tuesday sided with Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler and ordered that a consultant to former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) should pay for each of 112,000 automated phone calls that failed to identify Ehrlich’s campaign as the one that paid for the messages. The calls were placed to homes of tens of thousands of African American Democrats in Prince George’s County and Baltimore on Election Day 2010. They told listeners to “relax” and to not worry about going to the polls, because the incumbent, Gov. Martin O’Malley (D), and President Obama had already been “successful” in the day’s voting.

Minnesota: Lawsuit may halt November Voter ID vote | KMSP FOX 9

Many Minnesotans have been deciding whether they are for or against the Voter ID amendment when they head to the polls in November — but a new lawsuit over the language in the amendment may take the question off the ballot. Several local organizations — including the American Civil Liberties Union and the League of Women Voters Minnesota — came forward on Wednesday with a lawsuit that says the language is misleading and inaccurate. They hope the Minnesota Supreme Court will intercede. The exact wording reads as follows: “Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to require all voters to present valid photo identification to vote and to require the state to provide free identification to eligible voters, effective July 1, 2013?”

New Hampshire: Voter ID Clears Major Hurdle | Salem, NH Patch

House and Senate negotiators came to an agreement today on a voter ID bill that if passed will go into effect in 15 months. According to chief House negotiator Rep. David Bates, R-Windham, concessions were made by both sides before a compromise was reached. The result, said Bates, was essentially the passing of both versions of the bill. “What’s going to happen now – in order for there to be at least in the Senate’s mind an orderly, trouble-free process – (we’re) going to use the provision of the Senate bill that accepts many, many more forms of identification,” he said. That wide identification acceptance will be used during what Bates called a “transitionary period,” which he said is really just a process to get voters used to the new requirements.  Discretion will also be given to the election official, such as during instances when they know the person voting. “(Voters) will be asked for an ID, but wont be required to have one in order to vote,” Bates said in regard to the upcoming elections.

Ireland: In test for Europe, Ireland votes on fiscal treaty | The Washington Post

Linked by a common currency but not a common economy, the crisis-battered euro-zone nations are facing a pivotal choice: Either move more closely together or risk their currency union breaking apart. But are European voters — some in nations divided by centuries of rivalries — willing to take that leap toward closer integration? The fiercely independent Irish are about to offer a window into the answer. Euro-zone leaders aim to get control of debt crisis: Amid protests throughout the continent against strict austerity measures, European leaders are working on plans to save the euro. From the emerald hills of Donegal to the shores of Cork, the Irish go to the polls Thursday in a referendum on a regionwide fiscal treaty inked in January that would impose strict limits on budget deficits and debt. European governments that ratify the treaty will effectively surrender a measure of sovereignty over two of their most sacred economic rights — how much they can borrow and how much they can spend — to the bureaucrats in the region’s administrative capital of Brussels.

Ireland: Referendum turnout low as voting comes to an end | The Irish Times

Voting to decide if Ireland will ratify the fiscal treaty ended at 10pm with turnout reported as low across the State. With over 3.1 million people entitled to vote in the referendum indications are that only half the electorate chose to go to the polls. The counting of votes will begin at 9am tomorrow and a result is expected by early evening. In the last comparable referendum, the Lisbon treaty in October 2009, the national turnout was 59 per cent but early figures from returning officers today show it will struggle to reach the 50 per cent mark in many areas. With rain across much of the country earlier turnout was standing below 20 per cent at lunchtime in most constituencies however, there was a boost to the figures as people voted after work.

Lesotho: Tom Thabane’s ABC ‘to form coalition’ | BBC

Lesotho’s opposition parties say they have formed a coalition government after Sunday’s inconclusive election. The leader of the All Basotho Convention, Tom Thabane told the BBC that he had reached an agreement with the Lesotho Congress for Democracy and two smaller parties. “We are going to have a vast majority in parliament,” Mr Thabane said. Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili failed to win an absolute majority in the weekend parliamentary election.

Mexico: The media and Mexico’s election: The battle of the airwaves | The Economist

With a month to go until the presidential election, Mexicans switching on their televisions and radios can hardly avoid the candidates vying to win their votes on July 1st. In a country with more televisions than refrigerators, dominating the airwaves is crucial to being elected. But ownership of the broadcast media is highly concentrated. Most people get their news through free-to-air television, a duopoly shared by Televisa and TV Azteca. Televisa, with about 70% of the audience, is forever associated in the public mind with the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which ruled Mexico for seven decades until 2000. In 1990 the network’s chief commented that it was “a soldier of the PRI”. Many suspect that the media are still for hire: Reforma, a newspaper, published receipts last month suggesting that Enrique Peña Nieto, the PRI’s presidential candidate, during his six years as governor of Mexico state spent about $3m for journalistic “mentions” as well as $90m on public information. Mr Peña says the payments were all for legitimate publicity.

Papua New Guinea: PNG Braces For Violent Elections | Epoch Times

Australian and New Zealand troops have been sent to Papua New Guinea as the country prepares for volatile general elections. Both countries have stated they are merely assisting the elections, but reports from Post Moresby suggest they are preparing in the event of a breakdown in social order. “Australian troops are holed up in hotels around Port Moresby Airport,” Denis Reinhardt a former adviser to the Papua New Guinea (PNG) government, said in an email. “In any emergency, the two sites, which would be secured in POM (Port Moresby) would be the Australian High Commission and Jacksons Airport, for evacuations.”

United Kingdom: Politicians fail to attend electronic vote count demonstration in Belfast | BBC

Northern Ireland’s chief electoral officer has said he is disappointed that more politicians did not turn up for a demonstration of how electronic vote counting works. Only two MPs, a few local councillors and not a single MLA attended the event at Belfast City Hall on Thursday. Politicians were critical of counting times in the assembly and local government elections last May. Consultations with the parties on the new system are currently underway. But only two MPs, a handful of local councillors and not a single MLA were at Belfast City Hall for an e-counting demonstration – even though several indicated they would be there.