National: When is a campaign donation a bribe? Supreme Court may decide |

Former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman was charged with bribery and sent to prison because, prosecutors said, a wealthy hospital executive gave him $500,000 in exchange for appointing him to a state hospital planning board. But this half-million-dollar “bribe” did not enrich Siegelman. Instead, the disputed money was a contribution to help fund a statewide referendum on whether Alabama should have a state lottery to support education, a pet cause of the governor’s. The Supreme Court is set to decide as soon as Monday whether to hear Siegelman’s final appeal, which raises a far-reaching question: Is a campaign contribution a bribe if a politician agrees to do something in return, or is it to be expected that politicians will do favors for their biggest supporters?

California: State to Test Nonpartisan Primaries |

When new redistricting maps changed the boundaries of this Congressional district to give Democrats a slight edge for the first time in decades, party loyalists were elated. But now it seems possible that come November there will not even be a Democrat on the ballot. On Tuesday, for the first time, California voters will participate in a nonpartisan primary. Instead of the top candidate from each party advancing to the general election, the two candidates with the most votes will be placed on the November ballot, regardless of party affiliation. This year will be the first test of a new kind of election aimed at breaking the partisan gridlock that has seized Congress and state legislatures all over the country. When the change was presented to California voters by a ballot initiative in 2010, advocates said it would usher in a new era that embraced politicians who would be more pragmatic than ideological. “The elected officials in Sacramento are often on the far left and far right and certainly not reflective of the majority of people in the state,” said Aaron McLear, who worked on the change as an aide to Arnold Schwarzenegger, then the governor, and is now a political consultant. “What we wanted is a lot more candidates coming in even if they are not anointed by the party. It may take a few cycles to manifest itself, but you will have wild cards who can make some real change in the Capitol.”

Colorado: Veto pressure mounts as Hickenlooper reviews open-records elections bill | The Colorado Independent

In the weeks since the Colorado legislative session ended, calls for Gov. John Hickenlooper toveto House Bill 1036 have come from the political left, right and center, from government watchdog organizations, citizen rights and tax reform activists and from representatives of the sovereign Ute Mountain Ute tribe in southwest Colorado. Whatever happens by next Friday, when the deadline to sign the bill arrives, wrangling over its contents and legitimacy will continue indefinitely. “Litigation will follow a signature from the governor. It’s a certainty,” Jennifer Weddle, attorney for the Ute Mountain Ute, told the Colorado Independent. She said the tribe is deeply concerned the bill would limit protection against the kind of voter suppression efforts that have plagued Indian voters in the United States for decades. “Whether a suit is filed by the [tribe], by an individual member of the tribe or by a Colorado citizen, the process by which the bill was passed was so broken that litigation is certain.”

Florida: Voter purge gets pushback from elections supervisors, U.S. Justice | Palm Beach Post

Florida elections supervisors said Friday they will discontinue a state-directed effort to remove names from county voter rolls because they believe the state data is flawed and because the U.S. Department of Justice has said the process violates federal voting laws. Late Thursday, the Department of Justice sent Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner a letter telling him that an effort launched by Republican Gov. Rick Scott’s administration last year to remove the names of people believed to be non-citizens from voter rolls appears to violate at least two federal voting laws. The federal agency gave Detzner until Wednesday to respond. The Justice Department letter and mistakes that the 67 county elections supervisors have found in the state list make the scrub undoable, said Martin County Elections Supervisor Vicki Davis, president of the Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections. “There are just too many variables with this entire process at this time for supervisors to continue,” Davis said.

Voting Blogs: Florida’s Voter Purge … and The Federalist Papers | Ned Foley/Election Law Blog

“If men were angels, no government would be necessary.”  So said Madison famously, in Federalist 51.  He continued with a more significant observation: “If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.”  Underlying this observation was his recognition that political science could not count on politicians always acting virtuously. Yet Madison also knew that if politicians lacked virtue altogether, democracy (or what he would have called “republicanism”) would be impossible.  Here’s how he put this important counterpoint in Federalist 55:

“Were the pictures which have been drawn by the political jealousy of some among us, faithful likenesses of the human character, the inference would be that there is not sufficient virtue among men for self-government; and nothing less than the chains of despotism can restrain them from destroying and devouring one another.”

Thus, Madison saw the challenge of successful constitutional design for a democracy as economizing upon an existent but finite supply of virtue among otherwise self-interested politicians.  To this end, he gave us the architectural principles of federalism and separation of powers.  “Ambition must be made to counteract ambition”—so that no single institution of government, even in a democracy, can exercise too much power over the lives of the citizenry. Yet, as I read recent news reports of efforts in Florida to purge the state’s voter rolls of noncitizens, I wonder if Madison’s principles of constitutional design are adequate to the task of election administration in the twenty-first century.  Or perhaps the better question is whether the current institutional arrangements we use in the United States for election administration are adequately in accord with Madison’s fundamental principles of constitutional design.

Michigan: GOP Rep. McCotter ends write-in campaign | The Hill

GOP Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (Mich.) announced Saturday that he would end his write-in bid for reelection and would finish his term in Congress. “I have ended my write-in campaign in Michigan’s 11th Congressional District,” announced McCotter, in a statement.  His decision comes after news last week that the five-term lawmaker had failed to collect enough signatures to appear on the ballot in his bid for reelection to the House. McCotter was quick to acknowledge the misstep saying that the “buck stops with me” and had begun efforts to wage a write-in campaign. However, despite signals for GOP leaders that they would support his bid, he reversed course on Saturday.

Montana: Judge indicates campaign law on judicial races may fall | The Billings Gazette

A federal judge Friday indicated he may strike down a long-standing Montana campaign law that bans political parties from spending money on or endorsing nonpartisan judicial candidates. But U.S. District Judge Charles Lovell of Helena declined to suspend the law before Montana’s primary election next Tuesday, saying the issue needs a wider hearing before taking such action. “I think this is a very serious issue and the plaintiffs have a sound and authoritative basis for their position,” Lovell said. “But I do agree that further hearings are going to be required.” Lovell set a hearing for June 11 on whether the ban should be suspended while he considers a request from the Sanders County Republican Central Committee to declare the law unconstitutional. The local Republican Party committee sued Tuesday to overturn the law, saying it wants to endorse candidates running for the Montana Supreme Court and a local state district judgeship. Its lawsuit said the ban clearly violates the committee’s right to free speech, under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The Republican Party group also said “left-leaning judges” are making “increasing intrusions” into state policy, and that it wants to endorse candidates that “share its ideological views.”

Tennessee: Shelby County Election Commission reclassifies 180,000 voters | The Commercial Appeal

In the 2008 presidential election, when Shelby County counted a record 401,081 votes cast on the Nov. 4 ballot, the final turnout of 66.9 percent was considered strong but still meant some 33 percent of the nearly 600,000 people on the county’s voter rolls chose not to participate. Was it apathy? Or, as recent aggressive moves by the county Election Commission suggest, was it something more simple — absence. A spring cleaning of the county’s voter rolls, based on identifying names of people who had not cast ballots in any federal election since 2006, has resulted in voting rolls that as recently as March showed 611,937 voters now listing just 431,054 names. The commission says there is a simple explanation for how some 180,000 names vanished from the publicly available voting rolls. The most substantial change involved moving 151,826 people who have not voted in any of the two most recent federal election cycles to “inactive” status. Those voters remain eligible to vote, but since they have not voted in any federal election over a four-year stretch, they are no longer considered “active” voters, and the commission, under the control of county Republicans since 2010, has decided to include only the “active” voters on its registered voting statistics.

Wisconsin: Second statewide recount may decide Tuesday’s Wisconsin recall election | GazetteXtra

It’s the other “R” word in this historic year of Wisconsin politics: Recount. If recall election vote totals between Republican Gov. Scott Walker and Democrat Tom Barrett are within a 0.5 percent margin, a free recount can be requested. The apparent loser can ask for a statewide recount, or recounts only in specific counties. Most polls give Walker margins-of-error leads over Barrett, whose supporters say their own surveys show the race is tied. With only 2 percent or 3 percent of poll respondents saying they are undecided, a recount is possible. We’ve seen this recount movie before. Only 13 months ago.

Wisconsin: Report: Recall election most expensive race in Wisconsin history | The Hill

The Wisconsin recall election for GOP Gov. Scott Walker has become the most expensive contest in state history, a non-profit watchdog group said Sunday. The Center for Public Integrity (CPI) said more than $63.5 million had been spent by Walker, his Democratic challenger Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and outside groups ahead of Tuesday’s vote. The tally which includes funds spent since November 2011 topped the 2010 gubernatorial contest, which held the previous record of $37.4 million. Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz said the vote would be a “dry run” for Democrats ahead of November. Polls show Walker with a slight edge on Barrett, but Democrats are making a strong push this weekend to close the gap. Former President Bill Clinton visited the state on Friday to stump with Barrett.

Cambodia: Prime Minister Hun Sen’s party expected to win Cambodia elections | The Brunei Times

Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ruling party was expected to win Cambodia’s local elections yesterday in a vote that monitors say is tainted by vote buying and other irregularities. The elections for local governing councils across the country are viewed as the key indicator of public opinion ahead of general elections in 2013. Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party has ruled Cambodia for nearly three decades. It has strong rural support and overwhelmingly won both previous local elections in 2002 and 2007. Preliminary results from Sunday’s vote were expected by Monday.

Egypt: Mubarak verdict adds to tension before Egypt vote amid calls for more mass protests | Al-Arabiya

Egyptian activists called for mass demonstrations on Tuesday to protest against verdicts handed down in the strongman’s murder trial. The pro-democracy April 6 movement, the Coalition of Revolution Youth and the Maspero Youth Union among others called for a mass protest at 1500 GMT on Tuesday. Thousands of protesters gathered in Cairo’s iconic al-Tahrir Square late Sunday to protest the acquittals given to nine defendants in the major trial that sent former president Hosni Mubarak and his interior minister Habib al-Adly to jail for life. Demonstrators demanded the formation of a civilian presidential council including defeated candidates Abdul Moniem Abul Fotouh and Hamdeen Sabbahi united under the Muslim Brotherhood candidate, who is running in the elections run-off, Mohammed Mursi, Egypt’s daily al-Masry al-Youm reported. Protesters also called for the retrial of all defendants in the case and called for the Political Isolation Law to be applied to Ahmed Shafiq, who is competing against Mursi in the election run-off on June 16 and 17.

Editorials: Greeks approach election feeling angry, helpless and betrayed | The Irish Times

The Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times”, might have been coined with the Greek people in mind. Not since the fall of the military junta in 1974 has there been such turmoil and uncertainty. It’s not physical turmoil (although there have been mild fisticuffs in my local bar) but conceptual, as voters prepare for the next elections on June 17th, following the totally inconclusive ballot last month. There is a series of dichotomies (after all, the Greeks invented the word). On one hand, in the bigger picture, is the right of the Greeks to self-determination; on the other are Greece’s international obligations, as members of the EU and debtors to the IMF. On one hand, many politicians and technocrats are saying Greece must be changed completely, while on the other Greek people want to go on being Greek. The greatest dilemma is the fact that Syriza (Radical Left) may well top the polls, having pushed Pasok into third place last month. Current predictions have Syriza at 27-30 per cent, with New Democracy (ND) on 23-27 per cent and Pasok limping badly on 12-15 per cent. Topping the poll on 30 per cent would give Syriza 90 seats, plus a bonus of 50 – a total of 140, just 11 seats short of an overall majority. Syriza’s leader, Alexis Tsipras, the new kid on the block, wants to repudiate Greece’s debts, reverse the austerity measures and nationalise the banks, yet – and here’s another dichotomy – he wants to stay in the euro, which might be fiscally impossible.

Mexico: The ghosts of Mexico’s past | The Independent

For seven decades, the Institutional Revolutionary Party ruled Mexico by hook or by crook, stuffing ballot boxes, massacring democracy protesters and bribing journalists into providing sycophantic coverage. When it finally lost a presidential election for the first time, in 2000, the atmosphere was reminiscent of the fall of the Berlin wall. But now the party, universally known in Mexico as PRI, its Spanish initials, is on the brink of a triumphant comeback, with its youthful candidate for July’s presidential polls, Enrique Peña Nieto, enjoying a consistent lead of around 20 points over his nearest challenger. In the race for congress, the PRI, buoyed by its alliance with Mexico’s controversial, death penalty-supporting Green party, is close to winning 50 per cent of the lower house. That would be the chamber’s first outright majority in some 15 years, giving Mr Peña Nieto, a 45-year-old former governor of the massive state of Mexico, which includes much of Mexico City, more power than any president has had since the early 1990s.