National: IRS Office That Targeted Tea Party Also Disclosed Confidential Docs From Conservative Groups | ProPublica

The same IRS office that deliberatelytargeted conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status in the run-up to the 2012 election released nine pending confidential applications of conservative groups to ProPublica late last year. The IRS did not respond to requests Monday following up about that release, and whether it had determined how the applications were sent to ProPublica. In response to a request for the applications for 67 different nonprofits last November, the Cincinnati office of the IRS sent ProPublica applications or documentation for 31 groups. Nine of those applications had not yet been approved—meaning they were not supposed to be made public. (We made six of those public, after redacting their financial information, deeming that they were newsworthy.)

National: IRS officials in Washington were involved in targeting of conservative groups | Washington Post

Internal Revenue Service officials in Washington and at least two other offices were involved with investigating conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status, making clear that the effort reached well beyond the branch in Cincinnati that was initially blamed, according to documents obtained by The Washington Post. IRS officials at the agency’s Washington headquarters sent queries to conservative groups asking about their donors and other aspects of their operations, while officials in the El Monte and Laguna Niguel offices in California sent similar questionnaires to tea-party-affiliated groups, the documents show. IRS employees in Cincinnati told conservatives seeking the status of “social welfare” groups that a task force in Washington was overseeing their applications, according to interviews with the activists.

National: Senate Democrats demanded stricter IRS standards for tax-exempt groups | Washington Post

A group of Senate Democrats, led by Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), complained to the IRS commissioner in 2012 that political groups were improperly claiming tax-exempt status and possibly allowing donors to wrongly claim tax deductions for their contributions. The lawmakers promised legislation if the IRS failed to address the issues with specific measures, namely clarifying how much political activity is acceptable for tax-exempt groups, requiring the organizations to document how much of their work is dedicated to non-political purposes and demanding that they tell donors what percentage of their contributions can be claimed as deductions. “We urge the IRS to take these steps immediately to prevent abuse of the tax code by political groups focused on federal election activities,” the senators said.

Editorials: The I.R.S. Audits Are Condemned | New York Times

The Internal Revenue Service was absolutely correct to look into the abuse of the tax code by political organizations masquerading as “social welfare” groups over the last three years. The agency’s mistake — and it was a serious one — was focusing on groups with “Tea Party” in their name or those criticizing how the country is run. The I.R.S. should have used a neutral test to scrutinize every group seeking a tax exemption for “social welfare” activity — Democrat or Republican, conservative or liberal. Any group claiming tax-exempt status under Section 501(c)(4) of the internal revenue code can collect unlimited and undisclosed contributions, and many took in tens of millions. They are not supposed to spend the majority of their money on political activities, but the I.R.S. has rarely stopped the big ones from polluting the political system with unaccountable cash.

Editorials: There Is No Good Fix for the IRS Tea Party Problem | Josh Barro/Bloomberg

My colleagues Ezra Klein and Evan Soltas wrote about the Internal Revenue Service’s Tea Party scandal this morning:

The IRS does need some kind of test that helps them weed out political organizations attempting to register as tax-exempt 501(c)4 social welfare groups. But that test has to be studiously, unquestionably neutral.

That’s a nice thought. But is such a test even possible? The IRS didn’t make this mess because its employees are stupid or because they have a political vendetta. It’s because they’ve been given an impossible task: figure out which organizations have missions that are “primarily political” — and come up with definitions for “primarily” and “political” that are neither vague nor politically charged.

Arizona: Maricopa analysis: Early-voting plan would ax 20K voters from permanent absentee list |

Maricopa County officials said that about 20,000 registered voters would be removed from the permanent early-voting list under proposed legislation aimed at reducing the number of provisional ballots. No particular demographic group would be hit harder than another, according to an analysis by the Maricopa County Elections Department. Sen. Michele Reagan, R-Scottsdale, developed SB 1261 with input from county election officials. As approved by the Senate, it would remove people from permanent early- voting lists if they fail to vote in four consecutive federal elections and fail to respond to notice from the county elections office. “No other other state that I found who has a permanent early voting list has no ability to clean up their list,” Reagan said.

Colorado: New law redefines how Colorado elections are run |

On Friday, Governor John Hickenlooper signed a bill to overhaul Colorado’s elections system to include same-day voter registration and mailing ballots to all voters. It’s called the Colorado Voter Access and Modernized Elections Act, and it redefines how elections are run here in Colorado. The elections overhaul allows same-day voter registration, and it allows registered voters to receive ballots by mail. But people can still vote in person, drop off their ballot or mail it in. The law also eliminates the category of “inactive” voters, or those who skip even one election. Another key component of the bill is that voters can now vote at any of the voting centers established in the measure, instead of following the current system that designates precinct polling places.

Colorado: Following National Trend, Colorado Passes Law Expanding Voting Access | IVN

Last week, the Colorado Senate voted in favor of an important election reform bill, making the state the latest example of a nationwide trend to expand voting access. In 2011 and 2012, a number of state legislatures passed laws implementing new restrictions on voter access, including requiring voter IDs, shortening early voting periods, or making it harder to register to vote. These initiatives, often led by Republican-controlled legislatures, were more or less successful as some were prevented from taking effect by court decisions. In 2013, the new trend nationwide seems to be undoing the effects of these restrictive laws. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, at least 204 bills expanding voting access have been introduced in 45 states. In comparison, at least 82 restrictive bills have been introduced in 31 states.

Hawaii: Lawmakers Balk At Bills Targeting 2012 Hawaii Election Flubs | Honolulu Civil Beat

Hundreds of Hawaii voters were likely disenfranchised in the 2012 elections after dozens of polling places ran out of ballots due to mismanagement and mishaps statewide. This is the same state that recorded the nation’s lowest voter turnout with a lousy 44 percent of registered voters bothering to elect their leaders. Then there was the debate over whether some candidates actually belonged to the political party they claimed or lived in the district they wanted to represent. Not to mention accusations of voter intimidation with candidates watching as voters filled out absentee ballots at home. And so Hawaii entered 2013 amid lawsuits, investigations and a blitz of bills to fix the flaws. What’s happened? Pretty much nothing. This year’s legislative session wrapped up May 2 with only one significant election-reform bill passing.

Ohio: State bill matches election standards to technology | The Medina County Gazette

The Ohio Senate on Wednesday approved a bill aimed at streamlining the administration of elections. Senate Bill 109, sponsored by Sen. Larry Obhof, R-Montville Township, would standardize the use of electronic pollbooks to sign voters in at polling places. Obhof said using electronic pollbooks is faster for voters and enables boards of elections to easily update registration rolls between the early voting period and election day, saving money. He said electronic pollbooks also would reduce voting errors by providing poll workers with instant, up-to-date information about voters’ proper polling locations. “These common-sense changes will help our elections to run smoothly and ensure the continued integrity of our electoral process,” Obhof said.

Bulgaria: Elections competitive and well run, but trust in process is lacking, international observers say | Panorama

Bulgaria’s early parliamentary elections on 12 May were held in a competitive environment, fundamental freedoms were respected, and the administration of elections was well managed, although the campaign was overshadowed by a number of incidents that diminished trust in state institutions and the process was negatively affected by pervasive allegations of vote-buying, international observers said in a statement today, according to the OSCE PA. The campaign was competitive and generally free of violence, and the caretaker government undertook several measures to hold genuine elections. Cases of pre-election wiretapping and concerns over last-minute incidents related to ballot security, however, weakened public confidence in the process. The campaign was at times negative, with some parties using inflammatory and xenophobic rhetoric. Allegations of vote-buying continued, negatively affecting the campaign environment, the international observers noted.

Canada: Is first past the post the best voting system for B.C.? University to study alternatives from Tuesday’s outcome | The Province

University researchers have launched a study to determine if an alternative voting system would have an impact on the results of Tuesday’s provincial election. B.C. currently employs the first past the post (FPTP) system where the candidate with the most votes is declared the winner. The Votes BC study, involving researchers from the University of B.C. and Laval University, will look at how voting patterns may change under two different electoral systems: proportional representation (PR) and single transferable vote (STV).

Iran: Ahmadinejad could face 74 lashes over election ‘violation’ | Alarabiya

After accompanying his former chief of staff to register for June’s presidential vote, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may face punishment if charged with breaking electoral rules. On Sunday, the country’s electoral watchdog attracted worldwide media attention after pointing out Ahmadinejad may face a punishment of “74 lashes” for accompanying and appearing to endorse election entrant Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie. Iranian electoral law bans individuals from supporting candidates in an official capacity, while the use of state resources on behalf of or against any candidate is also banned. A conviction could bring a maximum punishment of six months in jail or 74 lashes, according to Iranian press reports. But analysts have brushed off “hyped” claims that Ahmadinejad would be penalized, and even if he were to be lashed or imprisoned, it may not be anytime soon.

Pakistan: Vote Gets Stamp of Approval | Wall Street Journal

International election observers on Monday said Pakistan’s elections were a success and a step forward for the country, despite accusations by losing politicians of vote-rigging in many areas. The preliminary findings by the two largest observer missions—the European Union Election Observation Mission and the joint mission of the National Democratic Institute in the U.S. and the Asian Network for Free Elections—also applauded the high voter turnout, despite high levels of violence. Some 64 people were killed on election day Saturday. Michael Gahler, chief observer of the EU mission, described the election, which was won by the conservative Pakistan Muslim League-N of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, as “competitive and improved despite militant violence.”

Philippines: Voting machine glitches mar Philippines poll | Oman Tribune

The Philippines held elections on Monday seen as crucial for President Benigno Aquino’s bold reform agenda, as deadly violence and graft-tainted candidates underlined the nation’s deep-rooted problems. Glitches marred the start of voting when at least 100 machines malfunctioned in various polling precincts throughout the country including Metro Manila, the Philippines chief election officer reported. But lawyer Sixto Brilliantes, the chairman of the Commission on Elections (Comelec), insisted the glitches had no major adverse impact on the political exercise as to declare a “failure of elections.” Brilliantes explained they projected that a maximum of 200 voting equipment, known as the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines, would malfunction or would not start when polling precincts opened their doors to about 52 million qualified Filipinos at 7am on Monday.

Philippines: Glitches, violence mar vote | Business World

Malfunctioning precinct count optical scanners (PCOS) yesterday compounded the usual concerns of missing voter names, ballot switching, vote buying and violent incidents on election day. Officials of the Commission on Elections (Comelec), however, agreed that the conduct of elections in the Visayas yesterday was generally peaceful. In Western Visayas, PCOS machines in some precincts in at least 10 areas in Negros Occidental malfunctioned and delayed the voting process, said provincial elections supervisor Wil Arceño. In precincts where the machines were inoperable, the Board of Election Inspectors kept the ballots in a secured envelope to be counted by another machine. Affected were the towns of Pulupandan, Manapla, Ilog, Isabela, and La Castellana as well as the cities of Kabankalan, Cadiz, Silay, Bago and Bacolod. The machines either had defective memory cards or LCD (liquid crystal display) screens. Some did not accept the ballots and others overheated, said Mr. Arceño.