National: Senate: No taxpayer cash for conventions | Politico.com A bipartisan push to eliminate millions of federal dollars earmarked to each party’s conventions was overwhelmingly approved by the Senate on Thursday, handing a win to critics who say taxpayer money shouldn’t be spent on orchestrated presidential nominating coronations at a time of severe budget constraints. By…
A bipartisan push to eliminate millions of federal dollars earmarked to each party’s conventions was overwhelmingly approved by the Senate on Thursday, handing a win to critics who say taxpayer money shouldn’t be spent on orchestrated presidential nominating coronations at a time of severe budget constraints. By a 95-4 vote, the bill was adopted by the Senate as an amendment to the farm bill, a rare show of bipartisanship on an issue involving campaign finance. The bill, proposed by Sens. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Mark Udall (D-Colo.), would prevent future conventions from receiving federal dollars through the Presidential Election Campaign Fund, a program that is bankrolled by about 33 million taxpayers who each year voluntarily check a box on their tax forms directing $3 to the fund.
The Supreme Court is expected Thursday to decide on a Montana case that could undercut or reaffirm the court’s controversial 2010 campaign finance decision — and don’t think Senate Democrats aren’t paying attention. Just four and a half months shy of national elections and against the backdrop of super PAC dominance, Democrats still see campaign finance as a winning issue, though admittedly not as important as jobs or the economy. The Supreme Court is considering American Tradition Partnership Inc. v. Bullock, a case in which the Montana high court ruled that the national Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling did not require the state to loosen its own campaign finance restrictions. And while a stay has been issued on that decision, most observers believe the Supreme Court will uphold its position that banning corporate political expenditures is a violation of the First Amendment’s free speech guarantee.
Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee today dropped an effort to defund a new Federal Communications Commission rule that will make political ad data available on the Internet. The FCC rule, which was OKed by the commission earlier this year and is expected to go into effect sometime this summer or fall, would require TV stations to put detailed records on political ad buys on a new Web site. The files are currently public but are kept on paper at stations. The broadcast industry has vigorously fought the rule. Earlier this month Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, R-Mo., chair of an appropriations subcommittee, added an amendment to a bill that would have blocked the FCC from using any funds to implement the transparency measure.
Alexi Giannoulias “can’t be trusted,” the 2010 election ad said. His family’s bank loaned money to mobsters, he accepted an illegal tax break and he even squandered money that families were saving for college. If the charges were true, the U.S. Senate candidate from Illinois must have been a real creep. But they were bogus. Giannoulias, the Democratic candidate, lost anyway. His accuser was not his opponent. It was an anonymously funded, pro-Republican nonprofit called Crossroads GPS, a “social welfare” organization that, thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens Uniteddecision, can accept unlimited donations from corporations, wealthy individuals and unions, and run attack ads. In short, it functions just like the better-known super PACs but with a major distinction — it is not required to disclose its donors, despite the high court’s consistent support for disclosure rules.
In the age of eight-figure checks to super PACs, is it time for a constitutional amendment that could end this dangerous farce? The notion of fiddling with the First Amendment should make anyone nervous — especially anyone who has spent a career benefiting from it. Then again, so should Sheldon Adelson’s $10 million check to Mitt Romney’s super PAC. A system that lets one individual pump so much money into supporting a favored candidate threatens to substitute oligarchy for democracy. Harvard Law School professor Laurence Tribe has long opposed such tinkering. But writing last week for Slate, Tribe proposed an amendment, since introduced by Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), that would allow “content-neutral limitations” on independent expenditures. Tribe told me he changed his mind because “there’s no serious prospect” that a majority of the Supreme Court “will see the light in our lifetimes.” Meanwhile, he said, the “distortive effects of Citizens United and its aftermath are becoming clearer every week.”
Challengers to Arizona’s eight-year-old mandate that voters must prove that they are U.S. citizens before they may register to go to the polls argued Monday that the state has not offered any evidence that the requirement is necessary to prevent fraud in elections. Urging the Supreme Court to leave undisturbed a Ninth Circuit Court decision striking down the citizenship rule, the opponents of Arizona’s “Proposition 200″ contended that a delay of that ruling will interfere with voting in this year’s elections and drive potential voters away from the polls. Two responses to Arizona’s plea for postponement can be read here and here. The state’s voters approved the citizenship mandate in 2004, and its enactment has led to a continuing courthouse battle that has been to the Supreme Court once before, and even led to an earlier Ninth Circuit ruling against the requirement by retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, sitting temporarily as a federal appeals court judge. Indeed, her name was invoked by the challengers as they sought to head off Arizona’s stay application (11A1189).
The Phoenix City Council voted on a final redistricting plan Tuesday afternoon, but the fight over where to redraw new lines for council districts may not be over. District 6 City Councilman Sal DiCiccio said he wants elected officials to reconsider an alternative council district map he introduced at the meeting that slightly modifies the map the council adopted 8-1. He said he’ll ask for a reconsideration of the city’s redistricting plan, and the City Council ordered staff to run an analysis on DiCiccio’s alternative map. DiCiccio’s map proposes his district retain or lose certain voting precincts on the edges of his district, which covers the Biltmore, Arcadia and Ahwatukee Foothills areas.
Denver officials and Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler are positioning for another fight over when the clerk’s office may mail ballots to inactive voters — a battle that could have ramifications for the November presidential election. Late last week, Gessler’s office proposed a new rule it says clarifies that clerks may not mail ballots to inactive voters in a “coordinated” election, or an election held simultaneously with another political entity. The issue took on new significance this week, when Denver Public Schools announced it could ask voters in November for a $500 million property tax increase. That would make Nov. 6 a coordinated election in Denver, reopening the debate over whether Clerk and Recorder Debra Johnson may mail ballots to inactive voters — who are overwhelmingly Democrats and unaffiliated.
When we buy a product, we try to make certain we are getting what we want. We like to think of ourselves as smart shoppers. We owe no less diligence when it comes to voting on a constitutional amendment — particularly one that dramatically changes the way we vote. The voting right is the crux of a democracy. Countless Americans gave their lives in order that we may have this remarkable gift. We in Minnesota lead the nation in voter turnout, and our elections are the most honest. We have recently gone through two very close elections and recounts without a single case of fraud. There is a reason why — our insistence that election laws be designed in a bipartisan fashion. That is key. No party should have an election advantage. Unfortunately, the voter ID constitutional amendment was passed by the Legislature on a strict party-line vote. Not one Democrat in either the House or the Senate voted for it. Not one.
Nevada: Candidates for Presidential Elector in Nevada File Lawsuit to Remove “None of the Above” from November 2012 Ballot | Ballot Access News
On June 8, two Republican nominees for presidential elector from Nevada filed a federal lawsuit, asking that “None of the Above” be removed from the November 2012 ballot and future years. The case is Townley v State of Nevada, 3:12-cv-00310. Here is the 16-page complaint. Besides the elector candidates, the complaint lists nine voter plaintiffs. Starting in 1976, Nevada has printed “none of the above” on primary and general election ballots, but only for statewide office. The lawsuit argues that because a vote for “None of the above” has no legal effect, the voters who vote for “None of the above” are being harmed, because their vote has no effect. The complaint says if a victory by “None of the above” had any legal consequences, then it would be constitutional.
New Hampshire’s Democratic governor vetoed a voting law passed by the state’s Republican-controlled legislature today, saying it “would put into place a photo identification system that is far more restrictive than necessary.” The law would have allowed various forms of ID to be used in this November’s election, including student ID. However, only driver’s licenses, state-issued non-driver’s identification cards, passports or military IDs would be allowed in later elections. Residents without photo ID would have been able to sign an affidavit and be photographed by an election official. “We need to encourage all New Hampshire citizens to vote and to participate fully in our democracy,” Gov. John Lynch said in a veto statement. “We also need to ensure that our election laws do not unfairly burden those voters that have recently established a domicile in New Hampshire and are qualified to vote in this state.”
New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch says a bill intended to strengthen the state’s voter registration process would only lead to confusion and could harm the ability of citizens to participate fully in democracy. Lynch on Wednesday vetoed a bill that would require people registering to vote to sign a statement saying that they declare New Hampshire as their domicile and are subject to state laws, including laws requiring drivers to register their vehicles.
The courtroom drama over South Carolina’s primaries is not over. A judge will wade into the state’s elections again Thursday during a hearing over whether there should be a runoff for the Democratic nomination in the new 7th Congressional District. The dispute is affecting the Republican primary for the seat because election officials have been barred from sending out absentee voter ballots until the case is resolved. The runoff is scheduled for Tuesday.
A painstaking recount began Wednesday in the recall election for a GOP state senator from Racine County, where witnesses and campaign officials watched as tabulators sifted through stacks of ballots and pored over poll records. State Sen. Van Wanggaard requested the recount earlier this month after an official canvass showed him trailing Democratic challenger John Lehman by 834 votes, or 1.2 percent of the nearly 72,000 ballots cast in the June 5 election. The state Senate currently has 16 Democrats and 16 Republicans, so the winner of the 21st District recall race will give his party majority control. However, the power balance could shift anew before the Legislature reconvenes in January, depending on the results of the November election.
More than half of Kuwait’s members of parliament have resigned in protest at a court’s decision to annul an election that had given the Islamist-led opposition a majority. The resignations deepen the political crisis in the major oil exporter which has so far avoided the widespread dissent that has ousted heads of state in some other Arab countries. Wednesday’s ruling effectively dissolved the parliament elected in February and reinstated its predecessor, but the resignations by many lawmakers who were in the previous parliament deprives the 50-seat assembly of more than half its members, making it difficult to function. The number of resigning lawmakers had risen by Thursday to at least 26, parliamentary sources said. “It does us no honour to be part of the 2009 assembly which was brought down by the nation,” said Jamaan al-Harbish after Wednesday’s ruling, speaking on behalf of several lawmakers. “We thus tender our resignations,” he added.
Only 12 years ago Mexican voters kicked out the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which had ruled for seven decades through a mixture of consent, co-option, corruption and coercion. Vicente Fox, a former Coca-Cola salesman who defeated the PRI, brought high hopes that his country would match the economic promise of the North American Free-Trade Agreement (NAFTA), between Mexico, the United States and Canada, with a correspondingly vibrant democracy. Yet unless the opinion polls are wildly wrong, Mexicans are about to vote the PRI back to power on July 1st, in the person of Enrique Peña Nieto. Aged 45, the telegenic Mr Peña cuts a seemingly fresh figure, with his team of bright technocrats from the world’s best universities. Yet he is a scion of the PRI’s most retrograde regional political machine. His allies include several old-fashioned caudillos, and his opponents say (though he denies) that he has engaged in old-fashioned practices, such as buying favourable television coverage (see article). Why is Mexico poised to take this apparently backward step? The answer starts with the disappointments of the past dozen years of rule by the conservative National Action Party (PAN), first under Mr Fox and then Felipe Calderón. Buffeted by Chinese competition and then by the American recession, the economy grew at an annual average rate of just 1.8% between 2000 and 2011. Poverty has edged up, not helped by the woes of the broader world economy. Lacking both a congressional majority and negotiating skills, neither president managed much in the way of structural reforms, leaving more or less intact the PRI’s legacy of public and private monopolies that stifle the economy and the education system. Mr Calderón chose to make security and battling powerful drug mafias the centrepiece of his presidency. Yet, with 60,000 dead, Mexicans are tiring of a “drug war” they at first supported.
Papua New Guinea goes to the polls on Saturday with almost 3,500 candidates battling for just over a hundred parliamentary seats and control of what will be an unprecedented boom in funds as projects to develop natural resources start coming on stream. Voters hope the two-week-long election will end a prolonged political crisis which has left the South Pacific archipelago with two competing prime ministers for much of the past year after parliament backed Peter O’Neill, defying the courts which supported elder statesman Michael Somare. Analysts say it is impossible to predict a winner in a country where more than half of sitting lawmakers lose their seats at each election and where power goes to the leader who can cobble a coalition in post-election negotiations. “There are really two elections,” Australian National University Papua New Guinea specialist Sinclair Dinnen told Reuters. “The first is where the people vote. Then after the elections, we see the process of coalition formulation.” Adding to the uncertainty are the record number of 3,435 candidates from 46 political parties, all vying for just 111 seats in parliament.