We know little about President Barack Obama’s new Commission on Election Administration except for its structure, as outlined in the executive order that explains its task is to improve voting in America, and the names of its two appointed co-chairs: Obama’s former counsel Bob Bauer and Republican attorney Ben Ginsberg, who worked for Mitt Romney. But while it has yet to explain its methodology or get together a full staff (the executive order directs that no more than nine members are to be appointed) the commission—an idea born on election night 2012 when Obama declared we “have to fix” long lines at the polls—is about to get to work. Steve Croley, deputy White House counsel, told Yahoo News the White House is gearing up to announce the committee’s full roster next month and set the group to work. The committee, he said, will be a mix of individuals including “several people who basically run elections for a living” at the state, county or local levels, in addition to those working on the private side. No other details were offered about commissioners.
President Obama’s once-broad ambitions to clamp down on the influence of special interests have been largely abandoned since his reelection, dismaying longtime allies in the campaign-finance reform movement. The predicament will be on full display Tuesday, when all five members of the Federal Election Commission will be serving past the formal expiration of their terms. The panel’s sixth seat remains vacant. The president has not made a nomination to the FEC, which enforces the nation’s campaign finance laws, in more than three years.
National: Wyden and Murkowski have a bill to fight super PACs. Does it go far enough? | Washington Post
As Ezra noted in his profile of Oregon’s senior Senator, Ron Wyden’s staff have a funny-cos-it’s-true joke about their boss. “You got a problem?” they say to one another. “Ron Wyden has a comprehensive, bipartisan solution to fix it.” Well, independent campaign spending by super-PACs is, arguably, a problem. And Wyden now has a comprehensive, bipartisan solution to fix it. It’s called the Follow the Money Act of 2013, and with Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) signed on as a co-sponsor, it’s the first bipartisan piece of Senate legislation to address the growth of super-PACs in the 2010 and 2012 elections.
Almost all polling places had an accessible voting system during the 2008 elections, according to a new report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO). That’s the good news. The bad news: At nearly half of the polling places with an accessible voting system, voters with disabilities still faced barriers to voting independently and privately. For example, some accessible voting systems were set up at voting stations inaccessible to wheelchairs; others lacked headsets for blind and visually impaired voters to hear the audio; and some accessible voting systems were on site but not placed into use.
Now she tells us. More than 12 years after the fact, retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor said it was probably a mistake for the Supreme Court to hear Bush v. Gore and anoint George W. Bush as president of the United States. “It took the case and decided it at a time when it was still a big election issue,” Justice O’Connor told the Chicago Tribune editorial board on Friday. “Maybe the court should have said, ‘We’re not going to take it, goodbye.’” She continued: “Obviously the court did reach a decision and thought it had to reach a decision. It turned out the election authorities in Florida hadn’t done a real good job there and kind of messed it up. And probably the Supreme Court added to the problem at the end of the day.”
As the 2012 election approached, Republican governors and legislators in battleground states across the country rushed to enact restrictive Voter ID laws, to eliminate election-day registration and to limit early voting. Those were just some of the initiatives that the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People identified as “an onslaught of restrictive measures across the country designed to stem electoral strength among communities of color.” Why did so much energy go into the effort? John Payton, the president and director-counsel of the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund, explained, “These block the vote efforts are a carefully targeted response to the remarkable growth of the minority electorate, and threaten to disproportionally diminish the voting strength of African-Americans and Latinos.” Civil rights groups pushed back, working with the League of Women Voters, Common Cause and other organizations to mount legal and legislative challenges. But the most dramatic pushback may well have been the determined voter registration and mobilization drives organized on the ground in Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and other battleground states.
Secretary of State Scott Gessler has won the latest but perhaps not the last battle over whether ballots should be mailed to inactive voters. Denver District Court Judge Michael Martinez sided with Gessler, who adopted a rule last year blocking clerks from automatically sending mail ballots to inactive voters in city and school board elections in a suit brought by Denver Clerk and Recorder Debra Johnson. Martinez said Denver’s status as a home-rule county did not exempt it from following state election rules. “I think it’s fundamentally an equal-treatment issue,” Gessler said. “The rules and provisions El Paso County uses needs to be the same ones that Denver uses. … You can’t have one county, for instance, that wants to leave the polls open for an hour and another that leaves them open for 20.”
Crunch time! Only one week left in the session and legislators must pass a budget, expand Medicaid or develop some kind of statewide alternative on the fly, and while they’re at it, fix the election law that caused a mess in 2012. And that’s just the top of the to-do list. The Senate passed an election reform bill Thursday and the House must vote on it next week or try again next year. The bill’s supporters say it would prevent a repeat of the last presidential election — the long lines, the long vote count and the long ballot.
One would think that if you’re a U.S. Congressman who insulted your state’s largest minority population and threatened bodily injury to their Tribally-elected leaders while in the process of verbally assaulting a Native American woman at a very public state coalition meeting for Abused Women’s Services that you would apologize. That would be the smart, decent thing to do, right? Apparently North Dakota Congressman Kevin Cramer doesn’t think so. On March 26, 2013, he spent nearly half an hour laying into Melissa Merrick, the Director of the Spirit Lake Victim Assistance Program. She’s also a tribal member who happens to be a survivor of child sexual abuse. During that time, Cramer reportedly stated in front of a roomful of domestic violence advocates that he wanted to “wring the Spirit Lake tribal council’s necks and slam them against the wall.” He also called tribal governments dysfunctional, and went on a tirade against provisions in the Violence Against Women Act that are meant to protect Native American women. His tantrum was so disturbing that attendees at the meeting got up and left. By the time the dust settled, another Native American woman present was in tears.
A Republican budget amendment could cost Ohio University up to $12 million in lost out-of-state tuition, or otherwise make it more difficult for some college students to vote in Athens. The proposal pits these two interests against each other in the Ohio House’s substitute budget bill that has passed the Republican-controlled state House of Representatives chamber and is now under consideration by the state Senate. The provision mandates that an institution of higher learning must charge in-state tuition to any student to whom it provides a letter or utility bill that can be shown to prove residency and vote in Ohio.