National: Voting Rights Advocates Gear Up For 2012 Election | TPM

Two blocks from the White House, in a conference room on the fourth floor of a nondescript office building, voting rights advocates are fighting on the front line of the voting wars. Welcome to the headquarters of Election Protection, a program run by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and a multitude of civil rights organizations that seeks to combat the wave of restrictive voting laws that have swept state legislatures in the past few years. “I was here in 2000 when the debacle happened in Florida. That really led to civil rights groups coming together and saying we have to have a paradigm shift in the way that we view elections,” Barbara R. Arnwine, President & Executive Director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law told TPM in an interview at their office, which doubles as headquarters for the Election Protection’s hotline number.

National: Exploring the Financing of Campaign Advertising | PBS

Is a low-budget online video that names political candidates, states campaign issues and includes language that could sway opinion in an election, a political advertisement subject to donor disclosure laws, or is it an expression of free speech protected by the First Amendment? That depends on who you ask. If it aims to influence federal elections, it should be subject to federal regulation, Paul S. Ryan, senior counsel for the Washington, D.C.-based Campaign Legal Center told NewsHour correspondent Kwame Holman in a recent interview about campaign ad financing, non-profits and the 2012 elections. In the first presidential election since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the First Amendment protects the right of corporations, unions and non-profits to spend unlimited dollars on content that expresses their political views, a whole new landscape in campaign ad financing is emerging. In addition to emergence of advertisements from super PACs, groups that can spend unlimited dollars on campaign messaging, more groups have been asking the Federal Election Commission for permission not to disclose their donors, Ryan said.

National: Swing-State Aid Agencies Denying Voter Signups Draw Suits | Bloomberg

Pennsylvania, a presidential battleground, is joining at least 15 other states that have agreed to make it easier for welfare recipients to register to vote in agency offices. The Keystone State agreed yesterday to settle a lawsuit over the so-called Motor Voter law, a 19-year-old statute that says public-assistance agencies must offer clients the chance to sign up to vote. Ohio, Michigan, Colorado and Virginia also have changed their ways after either being sued or told by advocacy groups how they could improve compliance. The changes stem from pressure by activists whose drive may aid Democrats in November. About 1.5 million people have registered since 2004 because of the drive, according to New York-based Demos, a nonprofit group involved in the Pennsylvania case. The state was sued as the presidential campaigns scrounge for every vote, making ballot access a key front as Democrats challenge restrictive steps taken by Republican-led states.

Colorado: Colorado elections chief withholds names of suspected non-citizens; cites investigation | AP

Citing an ongoing investigation, Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler said Tuesday he would not allow public inspection of the list of nearly 4,000 registered voters he suspects are ineligible to vote because they’re not citizens. Gessler was responding to an open record request from The Associated Press seeking to review the list to determine who the secretary mailed letters to last week, asking them to verify their citizenship or voluntarily withdraw from the rolls. “Obviously our intent is to improve the integrity of the voting rolls. It’s not to draw attention to specific individuals,” Gessler spokesman Rich Coolidge said. Coolidge said Gessler doesn’t want people who voluntarily withdraw from the voter rolls to be prosecuted. But it’s unclear what will happen to people who don’t withdraw from the list if they’re ineligible to vote. “We’re still trying to identify a path forward with that,” Coolidge said.

Florida: Election official pushes back against early-voting change | Reuters

A fight over early voting in Florida deepened on Wednesday as an election official who will oversee voting in the Florida Keys in November’s presidential election refused to reduce the number of early-voting days despite a warning from the state’s governor. Harry Sawyer, the supervisor of elections in Monroe County, which includes the Keys, told Reuters he plans to allow 12 days of voting ahead of the election even though a 2011 Florida law cut the number to eight. Florida is among a handful of states that could determine the outcome of the race between Democratic President Barack Obama and Republican candidate Mitt Romney. The issue of early-voting restrictions has also played out in Ohio, another prized swing state, where the Obama campaign filed a lawsuit to legally challenge moves by state officials to reduce the number of early-voting days. Democrats claim early voting restrictions are designed to limit Democratic voter turnout, particularly among working-class voters, who are more likely to work jobs with less flexibility to take time off to vote. Republicans argue the measures are intended to reduce voter fraud.

Florida: Scott appears to threaten Monroe County supervisor of elections | The News-Press

Gov. Rick Scott issued a statement Tuesday that some read as a veiled threat to the Monroe County supervisor of elections, escalating a conflict over early-voting days in the run-up to the November elections. Harry Sawyer, the Republican supervisor in Monroe, said Monday he didn’t support an effort by Secretary of State Ken Detzner to get federal approval for Monroe and four other counties to reduce the number of early-voting days from as many as 14 to eight. Because of a history of racial or language discrimination, those counties must get “preclearance” from the U.S. Department of Justice or a federal court for any changes to voting policies. The Legislature in 2011 passed a law that included reducing the number of early-voting days statewide, but a three-judge federal court last week rejected that change in the preclearance counties. The panel, however, said it could likely approve a reduction in the number of voting days if all five counties agreed to keep offices open for 12 hours on each of the eight days, which would maintain the same number of hours for voting.

Florida: Campaign vendors say Republican Congressman David Rivera funded Democrat’s failed primary bid |

Fueled with $43,000 in secret money, Republican Rep. David Rivera helped run a shadow campaign that might have broken federal laws in last week’s Democratic primary against his political nemesis Joe Garcia, according to campaign sources and finance records. As part of the effort, a political unknown named Justin Lamar Sternad campaigned against Garcia by running a sophisticated mail campaign that Rivera helped orchestrate and fund, campaign vendors said. Among the revelations: The mailers were often paid in envelopes stuffed with crisp hundred-dollar bills. Rivera and Sternad have denied working together in his campaign, which ended Aug. 14. But Hugh Cochran, president of Campaign Data, told The Herald this week that Rivera contacted him in July and requested he create a list of voters who were ultimately targeted in the 11 mailers sent by Sternad’s campaign. “David hired me to run the data,” said Cochran, who is a retired FBI agent.

Hawaii: Council accepts clerk’s report detailing Primary Election | Hawaii 24/7

After more than four hours of public testimony, a report from the County Clerk and discussion, the County Council simply closed the file at a special meeting Monday in Hilo. The council didn’t have any actionable items on the special meeting agenda, so could not vote on motions or resolutions other than to accept a report on the Primary Election. Council Chairman Dominic Yagong called the meeting to receive a report from County Clerk Jamae Kawauchi, who as the county’s chief elections official oversaw the problem-plagued Primary Election. Her report largely blamed the state Office of Elections, which she said did not clear up problems she identified last year — mostly involving planning, communication and listening to input — and has taken no responsibility for “serious mishaps” on election day.

Missouri: An Akin exit could cost GOP significant $$$ | The Washington Post

National Republicans said Tuesday that they won’t spend a dime to help elect Rep. Todd Akin to the U.S. Senate. But if they can persuade him to drop out, they might have to pony up some significant cash. The deadline passed Tuesday for Akin to easily and instantly drop out of the Senate race in Missouri. Republicans still have more than a month during which they can prevail upon him to step down, but he would have to seek a court order. But if it goes on for a while, it could get expensive. Missouri state law says that, through Sept. 25, Akin can still remove himself from the ballot by court order, which “shall be freely given.” That’s not a problem, apparently, unless someone has a good reason to object.

Nevada: Federal judge strikes down Nevada’s “none of the above” voting option | The Washington Post

A quirky Nevada law that Republicans feared could siphon votes from a disgruntled electorate and sway the outcome of close presidential and U.S. Senate races in the state was struck down Wednesday by a federal judge. U.S. District Judge Robert Jones said the state’s decades-old ballot alternative of “none of the above” was unconstitutional because votes for “none” don’t count in the final tallies that determine winners. The ruling came at the end of a lively hearing where the judge challenged both sides in the legal arguments with hypothetical questions and ramifications of possible rulings he was considering. In the end, he struck the option down altogether for both federal and statewide races, and refused to grant a stay while his decision is appealed to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Secretary of State Ross Miller said his office would pursue “an immediate and expedited appeal to protect the long-standing public interest of the ‘none of these candidates’ option.”

North Carolina: Wake County Reaches Maintenance Contract Agreement with ES&S | Raleigh Public Record

After months of negotiations, the Wake County Board of Elections has worked out a deal with its voting machine vendor that will save the county about $140,000 a year. A 2006 change in state law requires counties to maintain the hardware and software of their voting machines. Until July, the county had been using Help America Vote Act funds to pay for the upgrades and maintenance for its 248 voting machines. The county will now have to foot the bill. Earlier this year, ES&S, the county’s voting machine vendor proposed $193,000 per year for a three-year contract. Wake County Board of Elections Director Cherie Poucher also wanted to train two of the county’s own technicians to inspect, fix and maintain the machines, rather than having ES&S do it as it has since 2006. But certification would cost the county $30,000 per employee. The county was able to secure a shared maintenance agreement.

Voting Blogs: Pennsylvania Refuses to Comply with U.S. Dept. of Justice Photo ID Document Request | Brad Blog

Pennsylvania has refused to turn over documents that the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) had sought in order to determine whether the state’s new polling place Photo ID restriction law is in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) and other federal laws. As previously reported by The BRAD BLOG, on July 23, Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez submitted afour-page letter [PDF] to Carol Aichele, the Acting Secretary of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (coincidentally, the wife of Gov. Tom Corbett’s Chief of Staff), requesting information in electronic format for 16 broad categories of documents that the DoJ felt were needed to evaluate whether the Keystone State’s Photo ID law complied with federal laws barring discriminatory election laws. In an Aug. 17 letter [PDF], the Commonwealth’s General Counsel, James D. Schultz, responded to Perez, by telling him that PA would not comply with what Schultz described as an “unprecedented attempt to compel [PA], a state not within the purview Section 5 of the VRA, to present information concerning compliance with Section 2 of the VRA.”

South Carolina: Lawsuit could lead to another wave of 2012 primaries in South Carolina |

A disqualified Charleston County Council candidate has asked a judge to order a new Republican primary in his district – a request that, if it succeeds, could lead to another wave of election lawsuits across the state. Brian Moody, a Republican, was disqualified along with more than 250 other candidates after the state Supreme Court ruled they did not file their financial paperwork properly. Subsequently, candidates across the state have tried, mostly in vain, to get back on the ballot. But, last week, when a state judge disqualified Paul Thurmond from a state Senate race for similar reasons, the judge ordered the GOP to hold a new primary, giving Thurmond a way back onto the ballot. The next day, Moody filed a lawsuit asking for the same thing. “It’s probably a ‘hail Mary,’ but if you’re already going to have a primary with my good friend Mr. Thurmond, why not have one for us?” Moody said.

Belarus: Opposition leader banned from election | Kyiv Post

Election officials in authoritarian Belarus have banned a prominent opposition leader from running in the upcoming parliamentary elections. A district election commission in the Belarusian capital, Minsk, alleged Wednesday that 15 percent of supporters’ signatures Alexander Milinkevich submitted to get on the ballot were forged. Milinkevich said the decision was triggered by the “fear” of President Alexander Lukashenko, who has ruled the nation of 10 million since 1994.

Venezuela: Carter Centre absent as observer from Venezuelan October presidential election | MercoPress

The Carter Centre was among the organizations that sent observer missions to monitor Venezuela’s last presidential vote in 2006, along with the European Union and the Organization of American States. Venezuelan electoral authorities have since stopped inviting full international observer missions and have instead asked some foreign individuals to witness voting in smaller-scale “accompaniment” visits. The Carter Centre said in a statement that the council invited it to “form an intermediate option” and send a small group of experts to join in pre-election audits and be present on voting day.