President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign has been fined $375,000 by the Federal Election Commission for reporting violations related to a set of donations received during the final days of the campaign. The fines are among the largest ever levied on a presidential campaign by the FEC and stem from a series of missing notices for nearly 1,200 contributions totaling nearly $1.9 million. Campaigns are required to file reports within 48 hours on donations of $1,000 or more received during the final 20 days of the campaign. The fine was detailed in a conciliation agreement sent to Sean Cairncross, chief counsel for the Republican National Committee.
President Barack Obama is already taking heat over the first promise he made after winning reelection — and he may not be able to deliver on it at all. Obama’s thank yous on election night included a special nod to the voters who “waited in line for a very long time” — some as many as seven hours in Florida, Ohio and Virginia. Then he stopped his speech to make a point: “By the way, we have to fix that.” “Fix that” has become a rallying cry for lawmakers and election reform advocates who’ve long been looking to tackle problems with voting machines, long ballots and under-prepared poll workers. And though Obama has almost no direct power to bring about changes — the mechanics of elections are largely determined by state and local governments — they’re frustrated that he hasn’t used his bully pulpit to force a conversation past election night.
The Democrat-authored campaign finance transparency bill known as the DISCLOSE Act failed to win approval in either the 111th or the 112th Congresses, but its backers have set out to try again in this session. Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., reintroduced the legislation on Thursday, calling the bill “a first step to clean up the secret money in politics.” The bill is unchanged from last year’s version; it would require all corporations, unions and super PACs to report campaign expenditures of $10,000 or more. The bill also covers financial transfers to groups that use the money for election-related activity. At the outset of the 113th Congress, the legislation’s prospects appear no better than they were previously.
Here’s a safe prediction for 2013: few people will pine for the Presidential campaign of 2012. Even Barack Obama’s most ardent supporters acknowledge that his victory provided little of the euphoria of four years ago. Not many Republicans have longed to hear from Mitt Romney since his swift journey to political oblivion. Anyone miss the barrage of Super pac ads? (Those, alas, will probably be back in four years.) The pseudo-candidacy of Donald Trump? (Ditto.) But in last year’s spirited competition for the nadir of our political life the lowest blow may have been the Republicans’ systematic attempts to disenfranchise Democrats. To review: after the 2010 midterm elections, nineteen states passed laws that put up barriers to voting, including new photo-I.D. and proof-of-citizenship requirements, and restrictions on early and absentee voting. In most of those states, Republicans controlled the governorship and the legislature. The purported justification for the changes was to limit in-person voter fraud, but that claim was fraudulent itself, since voter fraud is essentially nonexistent. Mike Turzai, the Republican leader of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, revealed the true intent behind most of the laws last June, when, after the House passed such a measure, he boasted, in a rare moment of candor, “Voter I.D., which is going to allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania: Done.” Turzai’s prediction was wrong, but that doesn’t mean that the Pennsylvania law and others like it weren’t pernicious. Obama won in Florida, too, but a recent study by Theodore Allen, an associate professor at Ohio State University, found that, in central Florida alone, long lines, exacerbated by a law that reduced the number of days for early voting, discouraged about fifty thousand people, most of them Democrats, from casting ballots.
National: Obama’s re-election official: 332 electoral votes, 51.1 percent of popular vote | Pentagraph
President Barack Obama was declared the winner of the 2012 presidential election Friday in a special joint session of Congress, finally closing the book on the tumultuous and expensive campaign. Vice President Joe Biden, serving as president of the Senate, presided over the counting of Electoral College votes from the 50 states and the District of Columbia in the sparsely attended session. The vote count lacked the history of 2009, when Obama became the first black president, or the controversies of 2001 and 2005, when some lawmakers protested contested votes in Florida and Ohio, respectively. As expected, the Obama-Biden ticket received 332 votes for president and vice president, well in excess of the 270 needed to win. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Rep. Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., received 206 votes. There were no “faithless electors,” or members of the Electoral College who cast votes for a different candidate than the one who had won in his or her state.
Cynthia Bauerly, one of six commissioners at the Federal Election Commission, handed in her resignation on Friday and will officially leave the body that oversees campaign finance regulation in February. “It has been my honor and privilege to serve on the Federal Election Commission since 2008,” Bauerly, one of the three Democrats on the commission, wrote in the resignation letter obtained by The Huffington Post. “I am grateful to have had the opportunity to serve the country in this role and I will step down on February 1, 2013.”
Montana: Judge throws book at American Tradition Partnership again; finds that it violated multiple state laws on disclosure | Helenair
The conservative “dark money” political group fighting state efforts to force disclosure of its finances lost another key court decision Friday, as a state judge ruled that it violated multiple state campaign-finance and election laws. District Judge Jeff Sherlock, of Helena, citing American Tradition Partnership’s continued failure to produce records requested by the state and the court, adopted the state’s proposed findings that ATP acted as political committee in 2008 and therefore must report its spending and donors. Sherlock ruled that members and officers of ATP used its corporate, nonprofit status “as a subterfuge to avoid compliance with state disclosure and disclaimer laws during the 2008 Montana election cycle.”
When the Republican Party takes control of the Governor’s Mansion in addition to both chambers of the legislature after inauguration this month, a fresh run at the previously attempted “Voter ID” law should no longer face the political roadblocks of past sessions. In fact, according to Oak Island Republican Rep. Frank Iler, it will be the first thing on the menu for lawmakers when they reconvene on January 30.
It cost South Carolina $3.5 million to sue the federal government over the state’s voter ID law – but the federal government will have to pay some of that bill. Late Friday, a court ruled that because South Carolina was the “prevailing party,” the federal government had to pay some of South Carolina’s expenses. A spokesman for S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson said he did not know how much money the federal government would pay South Carolina. The state has until Jan. 11 to file a revised bill with the court.
West Virginia is preparing for debate on its own voter identification bill this year, amid a changing political climate in the state and circumstances that differ from election fights in Pennsylvania. On Nov. 6, Republican lawmakers in the state capital saw the biggest surge in their ranks since the 1920s, with the addition of 11 new members to the state House and the ouster of the incumbent Democratic attorney general. Party leaders are hoping that momentum, when mixed with the notorious history of political mischief in the state, could lead to adopting a voter ID bill similar to one approved by the GOP-controlled Pennsylvania Legislature last year.
Electronic voting isn’t likely to replace voting at the ballot box anytime soon, according to identity and security experts, despite progress in NSW and Victoria and renewed interest in Queensland. A discussion paper [pdf] on electoral reform released last week by the Queensland Government asked whether electronically assisted voting (conducted online or by phone) should be introduced for all voters in the state. While Queensland Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie said the government must review rules and processes governing the electoral system to ensure they are “right for modern times”, experts say there is a lot standing in the way of electronic voting. “It’s easy to see the appeal and convenience of online voting, without being aware that the capacity for votes to be manipulated is much higher than with older or more clunky methods,” said Vanessa Teague, electronic voting researcher and honorary fellow in the department of computing and information systems at University of Melbourne. “It’s very difficult to construct valid mechanisms for proving that each person’s vote has been handled in the way they intended,” Teague said.
Australia: Abolishing compulsory voting would take Queensland back to Joh era, says Wayne Swan | The Australian
Julia Gillard and Wayne Swan have taken aim at Queensland for considering scrapping compulsory voting, with the Treasurer comparing the Newman government to the conservative Tea Party in the United States. The Queensland government released a discussion paper today on electoral reforms which questions whether the century-old practice should be dumped at a state level. It lists the pros and cons of compulsory voting and highlights other possible reforms, including allowing the return of big money donations, forcing unions to allow members a vote on political donations, and introducing truth in political advertising legislation.
Cyprus: Efforts to reduce polling expenses in Presidential elections, Chief Returning Officer says | Famagusta Gazette
A number of 1.100 polling stations will operate in the Republic of Cyprus during the upcoming Presidential elections, scheduled for February 17, while another 40 stations will be operating in 26 countries abroad, Chief Returning Officer Andreas Assiotis has said. Assiotis also said that efforts are underway to reduce expenses, in light of the financial crisis. “Everything is proceeding smoothly”, concerning preparations for the election day, the Chief Returning Officer said. According to Assiotis, savings will incure from the full employment of embassy personnel in the polling procedure, to reduce spending from the dispatch of personnel in polling stations abroad.