National: Super PAC donors may keep opening wallets, but public may not see it | CNN

When the super PAC backing Mitt Romney, Restore Our Future, files its June donation report on Friday with the Federal Election Commission, it is expected to show a six-figure contribution from Wyoming businessman Foster Friess, his first to the group. But an unwelcome scrutiny came to Friess, Nevada billionaire Sheldon Adelson and some of the other wealthy donors to these super PACs, and some are planning for much of their future generosity to be behind a cloak of anonymity. Friess said he has decided his financial donations in the future will mostly be to groups that do not have to disclose their donors. He said he is planning on contributing to five or six so-called 501(c)(4) groups named after the section of the tax code they are organized under. These are nonprofit organizations that can advocate on behalf of social welfare causes or to further the community. He refused to discuss which groups, but did say one recipient could be an affiliate of American Crossroads, the group founded by Karl Rove.

Editorials: Tougher Voter ID Laws Set Off Court Battles |

Four years ago as Viviette Applewhite, now 93, was making her way through her local Acme supermarket, her pocketbook hanging from her shoulder, a thief sliced the bag from its straps. A former hotel housekeeper, Ms. Applewhite, who never had a driver’s license, was suddenly without a Social Security card. Adopted and twice married, she had several name changes over the years, so obtaining new documents was complicated. As a result, with Pennsylvania now requiring a state-approved form of photo identification to vote, Ms. Applewhite, a supporter of President Obama, may be forced to sit out November’s election for the first time in decades. Incensed, and spurred on by liberal groups, Ms. Applewhite and others like her are suing the state in a closely watched case, one of a number of voter-identification suits across the country that could affect the participation of millions of voters in the presidential election.

Editorials: Campaign finance after Citizens United is worse than Watergate | Rick Hasen/Slate Magazine

How does the brave new world of campaign financing created by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision stack up against Watergate? The short answer is: Things are even worse now than they were then. The 1974 scandal that brought down President Richard Nixon was all about illegal money secretly flowing to politicians. That’s still a danger, but these days, the biggest weakness of our campaign finance system is not what’s illegal, but what’s legal. As Dan Eggen of theWashington Post put it, “there’s little need for furtive fundraising or secret handoffs of cash.” The rules increasing allow people and corporations with great wealth to skew public policy toward their interests—without risking a jail time, or a fine, or any penalty at all. It’s an influence free-for-all. The Washington Post reminds us what the country faced in the time of Watergate: “Money ran wild in American politics. One man, W. Clement Stone, gave more than $2 million to President Richard M. Nixon’s 1972 reelection campaign. The Watergate break-in was financed with secret campaign contributions. Fat cats plunked down cash for ambassadorships, and corporations for special treatment.” Fred Wertheimer, who has been pushing for campaign finance reform for decades, recounts that the corruption of old got results: “The dairy industry gave $2 million to the Nixon campaign and soon got the increase in dairy price supports they were seeking. Nixon overrode his Agriculture Department’s objection to put these supports in place.”

Colorado: Judge clarifies ballot secrecy stance | Pueblo Chieftain

A judge stated Monday a contested order he issued doesn’t bar a citizens group from seeking records from election officials in Chaffee County and five other counties embroiled in a ballots lawsuit. The order, instead, bars the group from circumventing limits on how much information each side can seek from the other side to be used to bolster their positions on the lawsuit, U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael Watanabe stated. The elections-activist group Citizen Center had asked Watanabe to rescind a restriction in the order, contending it infringed on rights of the group and its members to use the Colorado Open Records Act.

Colorado: Aspen City Council forecasts complicated process in viewing voted ballots | Aspen Daily News

Before the public can look at voted ballots from recent city elections, officials will have to go through each one and decide on a case-by-case basis if stray markings could be enough to identify a voter, under procedures being drafted by the City Clerk’s office.  In the case that a ballot is marked up enough that it may not be anonymous, City Clerk Kathryn Koch said she will recommend that the person’s votes be copied onto a duplicate ballot without the stray markings. Koch will present her proposed procedure for viewing ballots to the city’s Election Commission, in a meeting tentatively scheduled for late next week. The state Supreme Court ruled in June that it would not hear the city’s appeal in the case of Marks v. Koch, brought by citizen activist Marilyn Marks. She sued the city after it denied her request in 2009 to see ballots from that year’s municipal election. The Supreme Court this week declined the city’s request to reconsider aspects of the case. Marks prevailed at the appellate court level in September 2011 after a local district court judge ruled in the city’s favor. The city fought Marks’ open records request on the grounds that releasing the ballots would violate a state constitutional provision guaranteeing a secret ballot.

Florida: Scott, Election Officials Spar Over Ineligible Voters | CBS Miami

Gov. Rick Scott and Florida’s 67 election supervisors are at odds over removing ineligible voters from registration rolls. After winning access to a U.S. Department of Homeland Security database of those ineligible voters, Gov. Scott doesn’t understand why the election supervisors don’t want to get back to removing those voters from the rolls. “You know, it’s very reliable data, so I can’t imagine they’re not going to go forward and make sure,” Scott told CNN on Monday. “‘Cause I don’t know anybody – any supervisor of elections or anybody in our state – that thinks non-U.S. citizens ought to be voting in our races.” Many of the election supervisors resisted the voter database purge, so it is no surprise that supervisors are hesitant to trust the new lists. Supervisors like Volusia County Supervisor of Elections Ann McFall insist on reviewing the lists first – especially given elections are less than four months away. “My worst nightmare is we get close to a presidential election, and someone challenges maybe 100,000 possible non-citizens at the polls on Election Day,” said McFall. “If that happens, we won’t get our results for weeks.”

Minnesota: Voter ID amendment supporters sue over ballot question title change |

As expected, supporters of the proposed voter ID constitutional amendment have filed a petition with the state Supreme Court to overturn a new title for their proposal that they say is unauthorized and misleading. The move follows similar action by supporters of the other proposed amendment on this fall’s ballot — related to the definition of marriage — after the title of that measure was also changed by Secretary of State Mark Ritchie. Amendment proponents in both cases argue Ritchie has no authority to interfere with titles selected by the Legislature for questions it presents to voters and that the titles Ritchie picked tend to discourage support for the measures. Both constitutional amendments — one of which would require voters to show photo ID at the polling place and the other of which would define marriage as an opposite-sex union — were placed on the ballot by the Republican-led Legislature. Both are opposed by Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton.

New York: NYC Board Of Elections, Meet The 21st Century | New York Daily News

After the hullaballoo over reporting primary-night results in the NY-13 race, the board commissioners voted today to have the flash drives (aka “memory sticks”) that capture results from electronic voting machines transported to police precincts and downloaded directly into BOE laptops. The change will, it’s hoped, avoid the lost in addition/transfer problems that led state Sen. Adriano Espaillat to prematurely concede to incumbent Rep. Charlie Rangel the night of the June 26 Democratic contest. Bronx GOP Commissioner J.C. Polanco, who lobbied heavily for a change from the old cut-and-add system, called it “a good day. “I think New Yorkers are going to appreciate having accurate tallies at the end of the night. I think that working closely with the NYPD, we’ll be able to get it done and make sure that the numbers that are reflected in the unofficial results are close to the results on the scanner,” Polanco, who’s presumably still waiting for that apology from Espaillat, told The Daily Politics. Under the new plan, cops will take the memory sticks back to precincts, where BOE staffers (under bipartisan supervision) will dump the results into the computers. The change will cost about $300,000 in new laptops. “The good thing about this proposal is that it eliminates the potential for human error that is present when we have our co-workers tallying results at the end of the night and doing data entry back at the precincts,” Polanco said. “That’s why I’m excited about it and that’s why I’m happy it passed unanimously.”

Ohio: Husted asks feds for immigration database for voters’ citizenship verification |

Ohio has requested access to a massive federal immigration database so election officials can verify voters’ citizenship. Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted acknowledged the sensitivity of immigration issues but said the information, which he requested, would be valuable in unique situations when a voter’s citizenship is called into question. The database would not be used on a widespread basis to purge Ohio’s voter rolls of non-citizens, he said. “I feel like I have an obligation to pursue this to make sure we have all the tools necessary to make sure the integrity of the election system is upheld,” Husted said. Husted’s request comes at a volatile time. The hotly contested presidential election has put a spotlight on voting rights issues across the country, and there already have been accusations in Ohio of voter suppression tactics by GOP lawmakers aimed at poor and minority voters. Just this week, President Barack Obama’s re-election team sued Husted to allow in-person voting the three days before Election Day. Voting rights advocates cautioned Husted to use the information carefully.

Pennsylvania: Schmidt says fraud, Singer says stunt over report on Philadelphia voting irregularities | Philadelphia City Paper

City Commissioner Al Schmidt released a report today claiming widespread voting “irregularities” and potential “voter fraud,” in Philadelphia. The report is almost sure to attract at least some attention from the national GOP, which has used the specter of voting fraud as a justification for a slew of voter ID laws around the country, even though very few instances of voter fraud have been uncovered nationally.  This spring, both Schmidt, a Republican, and City Commissioners Chairwoman Stephanie discussed findings of voting irregularities, holding a joint press conference to announce that some machines had reported more votes than were recorded in poll logs, and promising to conduct an investigation. But today’s report was produced by solely by Schmidt and his office; minutes before his press conference, Singer told this reporter that her office had just seen the report for the first time. We’ll have more on this soon, but Schmidt essentially reported having found 7 types of voting “irregularities” in Philadelphia’s 2012 primary election. Of those, three or four — notably, “voter impersonation,” “individuals voting more than once,” might, he said, constitute fraud. It’s worth noting here that Schmidt’s investigation found very few instances of these alleged crimes. Schmidt reports one (1) case of voter impersonation, which dates back to 2007 and which has already been reported. The reports cites one (1) example of someone allegedly voting twice. The report also found 7 voters who voted in the last ten years and were subsequently rejected from the rolls because they were not U.S. citizens. It’s also worth noting that recently-passed voter ID laws wouldn’t stop most of the problems (and the most numerous) identified in the report.

Texas: State wants access to federal database of immigrants to check voter rolls | The Dallas Morning News

Texas officials plan to join a growing number of states across the country seeking access to a massive immigration database to check voter rolls for possible non-citizens, officials confirmed Wednesday. Texas Secretary of State officials were drafting a letter Wednesday formally requesting access to the Department of Homeland Security database, which contains more than 100 million immigration records, said Rich Parsons, an agency spokesman. Texas Secretary of State Esperanza “Hope” Andrade, an appointee of Republican Texas Gov. Rick Perry, is the latest GOP elections leader to request access to the database since Homeland Security officials last week granted Florida permission to use the database. The Obama administration initially opposed granting Florida access, but relented after a judge ruled in the state’s favor on a separate issue related to its efforts to purge non-citizens from its voting rolls. Since then, election leaders in nearly a dozen states have expressed interest in gaining access to the DHS database. But opponents of the move argue the database was never designed to be used as tool to purge voter rolls.

Wisconsin: Waukesha County to spend $256,000 to tackle voting problems | Wisconsin Radio Network

Waukesha County will spend more than $256,000 to fix problems with election procedures. A committee unanimously approved the spending Tuesday, which is expected to receive a vote before the Waukesha County Board next week. The decision comes after a consultant’s report identified several factors behind problems with last year’s State Supreme Court election and the presidential primary earlier this year. The consultant said there was no back-up process for reconciling Election Night totals in the Supreme Court election, which was why Clerk Kathy Nickolaus failed to include 14,000 votes from Brookfield in her countywide totals. That mistake led to a statewide recount in a close contest.

Congo: President’s party posts strong poll result | AFP

The Congolese Labour Party (PCT) of President Denis Sassou Nguesso reaffirmed its dominance in the first round of legislative elections in results announced Friday by the interior ministry. The PCT took 57 out of the 69 seats that were won outright in last Sunday’s first-round vote. Another 10 were won by the parties allied to the PCT; just one was taken by the opposition, while another went to an independent candidate. The other places in the 135-seat parliament will be decided in a second round scheduled for August 5.

Libya: Elections Give Women a 17% Starting Point | Forbes

Thirty-three women have been elected to serve in Libya’s General National Congress in the first free elections since a NATO-backed revolt last year toppled the regime and the death of Moammar Gadhafi. Libya’s electoral commission unveiled results on Tuesday, ten days after the vote. The last time Libyans went to the polls was almost half a century ago under the late-monarch King Idriss, who Gadhafi toppled in a bloodless coup in 1969. The North African nation held parliamentary elections in 1964 and then again in 1965 but parties were banned. “This is a very good starting point: 32 women elected with the parties and one independent,” said Samira Massoud, acting president of the Libyan Women’s Union, a growing national organization with membership in the thousands. The tally gives women 16.5 percent representation in the 200-member transitional authority.

Mexico: Parties join to demand campaign probe | AP

The conservative National Action Party joined Mexico’s main leftist party Thursday in accusing the winner of the country’s July 1 presidential election of campaign wrongdoing, saying it has “strong and conclusive” evidence of the use of illicit funds. National Action leader Gustavo Madero said his party is demanding that electoral authorities investigate the purported use of pre-paid debit cards by apparent winner Enrique Pena Nieto’s campaign to disburse an estimated 108 million pesos ($8.2 million) in funds. That alone would be about a third of all the money the candidate was legally allowed to use in the race. Pena Nieto of the old ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, won the election with about a 6.6 percentage-point lead over the second-place finisher, leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. National Action and the Lopez Obrador’s Democratic Revolution Party normally don’t agree on much, so Thursday’s joint news conference between Madero and Democratic Revolution leader Jesus Zambrano was a rare occurrence.

Montenegro: Ruling Party Plans Early General Election | Balkan Insight

The Presidency of the ruling Democratic Party of Socialists, DPS, on Monday said it had decided to initiate a shortening of parliament’s term in order to pave the way for early elections. The party had also reached a broad agreement with its Social Democrat coalition partners on their joint participation in the election, it added. Caslav Vesovic, DPS spokesperson, said early elections were needed for the next steps in the EU accession process, which must be dealt with by a new government over a full term in office. Montenegro started membership talks with the EU at the end of June.