National: Confusion and Staff Troubles Rife at I.R.S. Office in Ohio – Unprepared Office Seemed Unclear About the Rules | New York Times

During the summer of 2010, the dozen or so accountants and tax agents of Group 7822 of the Internal Revenue Service office in Cincinnati got a directive from their manager. A growing number of organizations identifying themselves as part of the Tea Party had begun applying for tax exemptions, the manager said, advising the workers to be on the lookout for them and other groups planning to get involved in elections. “I don’t believe there’s any such thing as rogue agents,” said Bonnie Esrig, a former senior manager in the I.R.S. office in Cincinnati. The specialists, hunched over laptops on the office’s fourth floor, rarely discussed politics, one former supervisor said. Low-level employees in what many in the I.R.S. consider a backwater, they processed thousands of applications a year, mostly from charities like private schools or hospitals.

National: IRS Probe Ignored Most Influential Groups | Associated Press

There’s an irony in the Internal Revenue Service’s crackdown on conservative groups. The nation’s tax agency has admitted to inappropriately scrutinizing smaller tea party organizations that applied for tax-exempt status, and senior Treasury Department officials were notified in the midst of the 2012 presidential election season that an internal investigation was underway. But the IRS largely maintained a hands-off policy with the much larger, big-budget organizations on the left and right that were most influential in the elections and are organized under a section of the tax code that allows them to hide their donors.

Editorials: IRS scandal is about donors, not tax | Roger Colinvaux/CNN

The outrage over the IRS’s conduct in targeting certain tax-exempt groups is based on a misunderstanding. Obviously, mistakes were made in how the IRS examined the groups, but what should not get lost amid the resulting hue and cry is that this is fundamentally about disclosure of donors, not tax-exempt status. First of all, the IRS is to a certain extent in the “targeting” business. The agency’s job — like it or not — is as an enforcer. It is supposed to go after tax scofflaws. It has to look for clues in tax returns and other materials to find the cheaters and dodgers. In the current scandal, the method of the “targeting” — searching returns for names like “tea party” as indicators of possible misfeasance — was a mistake. But it does not follow that the IRS should not have been looking at these and other groups as a class, without regard to political affiliation.

Voting Blogs: Theories of Corruption and the Separation of Powers | More Soft Money Hard Law

In a policy paper just published by the Cato Institute, John Samples takes up the constitutional amendments proposed in response to Citizens United and attempts to expose their dangers. Samples, a distinguished scholar of campaign finance, has much to offer here, regardless of where a reader stands on the feasibility of these proposals. It may be true, as Samples writes, that the constitutional amendments he criticizes “provide answers to constitutional questions, not a means for courts to reconsider those questions.” John Samples, Move to Defend: The Case against the Constitutional Amendments Seeking to Overturn Citizens United (April 2013) at 9. They do provide a means for others to reconsider those questions. And, in fact, Samples’ analysis leads him to return to first principles and to ask the question: what control should we entrust to the government in matters of campaign finance, and on what theory?

California: Counties seek election cost relief | Press-Enterprise

It’s been an expensive few months for counties holding special elections to fill legislative and congressional seats. And it’s not over yet. San Bernardino and Los Angeles counties have had two special ballots already to replace former state Sen. Gloria Negrete McLeod, D-Chino, after her election to Congress in November. Now both counties will have to hold at least one, and probably two, special elections to replace Assemblywoman Norma Torres, who will be sworn in today as Negrete McLeod’s successor, in the 52nd Assembly District. Riverside, San Diego and Imperial counties had to put on a special election to replace former state Sen. Juan Vargas in the 40th Senate District. Fortunately for the counties’ coffers, then-Assemblyman Ben Hueso, D-San Diego, won the March 12 ballot outright, avoiding the need for a runoff. There are more special elections in the offing in San Diego, Los Angeles and the Central Valley. With each ballot costing around $1 million, counties are rallying around legislation sponsored by San Bernardino County that calls for state reimbursement of special election costs in 2012 and 2013.

California: Elections officials debunk claims of voter fraud | Bakersfield Californian

An Election Day-eve accusation by a Republican organization of massive, sweeping voter fraud in the 16th Senate District race fizzled Monday after Kern County elections officials reviewed vote-by-mail ballots cast in the race. None of the 26 vote-by-mail ballots alleged to have been hijacked were used to cast a vote. In fact, the U.S. Postal Service had simply returned them, untouched, to the Kern County elections office as undeliverable. Luis Alvarado, chairman of the Republican National Hispanic Assembly of Los Angeles, had bombarded the media over the weekend with claims that his group had uncovered about 30 verified examples of voter fraud in Bakersfield. That, he said, meant that “hundreds, if not thousands, of votes were cast illegally” in the 16th District. The group’s attorney, Ashlee N. Titus, wrote in a statement to the Kern County elections office that the group was “working on a ‘get-out-the-vote’ campaign” to fill the state Senate seat when it discovered what it believed was voter fraud. Titus works for the Bell, McAndrews & Hiltachk firm, which also represents the California Republican Party.

Florida: North Miami mayoral candidates dispute ballot count | Miami Herald

Three days after the North Miami election, at least two mayoral candidates are calling into question the results, saying Miami-Dade’s Elections Department can’t account for some seven hundred absentee ballots that were cast. But the elections department said that was not true. All ballots have been counted, and the candidates are mistaken because of a clerical error, a spokesperson said. According to unofficial results, including absentee ballots and all precincts reporting, the mayoral race and two council seats are headed to a runoff between the top two vote-getters because no candidate received more than 50 percent of the vote to win outright. At a press conference Friday afternoon, Dr. Smith Joseph, who came in third place in the mayoral race, called into question the numbers provided to him by the elections department on May 6.

Florida: No. 1 in barring ex-prisoners from voting | Action News

Florida leads the nation by a wide margin in the number of felons who have served their sentences but cannot vote. One of only 11 states in the U.S. that does not automatically return civil rights to former inmates, Florida had not restored the rights of 1.3 million former inmates as of 2010, according to the Sentencing Project, a Washington-based nonprofit that favors alternatives to incarceration. The next closest state was Virginia at 351,943. A policy introduced by Gov. Rick Scott and Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi makes most former convicts wait years before they can apply to restore their rights, which include serving on a jury and holding public office. Critics say the policy disproportionately affects minorities — 60 percent of Florida’s prison population — and cost thousands the ability to vote in 2012. But Scott and Bondi say felons must demonstrate a crime-free life after prison before regaining their civil rights.

Illinois: Bill would allow 17-year-olds to vote during primaries | Quincy Herald-Whig

Legislation that would open primary elections to 17-year-olds in Illinois is on its way to Gov. Pat Quinn’s desk after the Senate overwhelmingly approved it earlier this week. The teens will be able to vote in spring primaries if they will turn 18 by the general election in November. Nineteen other states have enacted similar laws. The Senate voted 43-9 Wednesday to send House Bill 226 to the governor. The House approved the proposal in April by a 95-22 vote.

Nevada: Miller under attack as he pursues campaign finance reform | Las Vegas Sun

An out-of-state conservative group wants you to call Democratic Nevada Secretary of State Ross Miller and tell him that you’re “sick of his costly hypocrisy.” If you think this sounds like a campaign ad, that’s because it is. A group called the State Government Leadership Foundation has attacked Miller for sponsoring a transparency and good-governance bill at the Legislature while alleging that Miller hasn’t been ethical himself. Ironically, some of the “lavish gifts” Miller has received would be curtailed under his banner bill, which he calls the Aurora Act. Miller also defends the gifts, which include football games, theatrical performances and UFC fights. “I disclose absolutely everything,” he said, noting that the gifts are legal.

New Jersey: Defeated Passaic candidate vows to sue over election results |

Jose Sandoval, one of four defeated candidates in Tuesday’s mayoral race, said he plans to legally challenge the election’s results because the paperless machines on which voters cast their ballots cannot verify votes. Sandoval went to a county warehouse Friday morning accompanied by defeated candidate Pablo Plaza and Passaic County elections officials to retrieve a printout from each of the machines used in the election. Mayor Alex D. Blanco crushed Sandoval, his closest contender in the election, by a margin of 4,377 to 1,880. Plaza ended up with just hundreds of votes. The printouts collected by county officials on Friday seemed to confirm those election results, Sandoval said. “This does not prove those machines had not been tampered with,” Sandoval said about the voting printouts.

New York: Dutchess college students win voting rights suit with federal court settlement | Daily Freeman

Dutchess County’s Republican elections commissioner has agreed to stop demanding college students provide the name of their dorms and their room number in order to register to vote. That agreement, approved on May 13 by U.S. District Judge Kenneth Karas, settles a class action suit brought by four students attending colleges in Dutchess County who claimed they were illegally denied the right to vote in the 2012 election. Dutchess County Democratic Elections Commissioner Fran Knapp called the agreement “a great victory for student voting rights here in Dutchess County.”

Ohio: Legislators tout benefits of online registration | The Columbus Dispatch

A Columbus Democrat says it’s time for Ohio to join the 21st century and allow online voter registration. “We currently pay our bills online, manage our bank accounts online, and even file our tax returns online, yet we don’t let citizens register to vote online,” said Rep. Michael Stinziano, the former director of the Franklin County Board of Elections. His bill would require the secretary of state to create a paperless online voter-registration system that would allow qualified Ohio citizens to register to vote or change their voter-registration information online. Sen. Frank LaRose, R-Fairlawn, said he will soon introduce a similar measure, and Sen. Nina Turner, D-Cleveland, has already proposed online voter registration as part of a larger elections bill.

Iran: ‘Opposition? There is no such word here’ |

“I will vote,” says Arash, a university student who has just turned 18. “I don’t know any of the real candidates yet but I will vote, because I can. “We have to try to make changes,” he explains amid a birthday party in the middle-class Tehran neighbourhood of Gisha. “By not doing anything, nothing will happen.” He says those who fail to act are “living their lives like a herd of sheep by putting their fate in the hands of others. “For me, though, this is a chance to practise my democratic rights.” For many Iranians who have become eligible to vote since the last presidential election, in 2009, the awakening of political consciousness came with the emergence of the opposition Green Movement and its violent suppression over the months that followed.