The Bright Lines Project is a production of experienced tax law specialists seeking a clearer, more predictable test for “political intervention by 501(c)(4) organizations. In a detailed Drafting Committee Explanation, the team (including my partner Ezra Reese) lays out its proposed test and the rationale for it, and additional explanation of their goal appears in an op-ed written by Gary Bass and Beth Kingsley. The Bright Lines Project: Clarifying IRS Rules on Political Intervention (Interim Draft, May 23, 2013). What the Project authors have come up with is constructive and interesting, but this is the key question: does its utility lie in a fruitful application to the tasks the IRS faces, or in showing that even well-reasoned, thoughtful tests will bog the agency down in the political analysis—and therefore political resistance and controversy—that it is or should be trying to escape?
It appears someone registered to vote in Alaska and another state cast ballots in both states during the November election, an Alaska elections official said Thursday. Division of Elections Director Gail Fenumiai said the matter was sent to the criminal division of the Department of Law for review earlier this month. “At this point in time, it appears to be the same person,” Fenumiai told The Associated Press. “Signatures look the same. Other information matches. And I believe it’s the same person.” She declined to identify the other state.
Governor Rick Scott has signed Florida’s new elections reform bill into law, but will that solve the problems that arose during last year’s Presidential election? Some say yes, but others say there’s more work to do stop long lines at the polls and protect the state from further embarrassment. Last year, Florida encountered a lot of problems during the 2012 presidential election from counting delays to long lines at the polls. “You shouldn’t have to wait four or five days after the election to know who won the electoral votes from the state of Florida. We shouldn’t be yellow when everyone else is red or blue. We should be able to get that right. You shouldn’t have to wait for six hours to vote,” said House Speaker Will Weatherford following a Work Plan Tour in Tampa.
Minnesota: Some Council members getting cold feet over proposed Minneapolis ranked-choice changes | MinnPost
Changes to election laws are almost always explained by saying the new rules will give voters more opportunities to participate. The flip side of the new rules, especially those made by a group of candidates during an election year, might be seen as giving those running for office a few extra opportunities of their own. That’s the crux of the discussion involving the Minneapolis City Council, where some of the members want to give voters the chance to rank more than three candidates for each office in the fall election. And several council members are questioning the ethics of candidates making changes to the election laws. “I think it’s almost to the point of making me feel uncomfortable, and it’s distasteful that we are voting on a ballot we are going to be on,” said Council Member Lisa Goodman at Thursday’s meeting.
The Nevada Senate has approved extending voter registration deadlines on a party-line vote. Senators late Thursday passed AB440 on a vote of 11-10. It now goes back to the Assembly for a technical adjustment before heading to the governor and an uncertain fate. The bill extends voter registration through the end of early voting, now the Friday before an election. People who register in person during early voting would be allowed to cast a ballot immediately.
New York City’s Board of Elections has complained for weeks that the electronic voting machines first used in 2010 cannot handle the city’s tight primary elections schedule. But one solution, endorsed by the board and under consideration in Albany, seems absurd. The board and the State Legislature are talking about scrapping the new machines and replacing them with the old metal clunkers, with their creaky levers, that went out of production more than 30 years ago. The issue arises because the primary elections are set for Sept. 10. State law requires a runoff two weeks later if no one receives more than 40 percent of the vote in citywide races, which seems likely with at least five competitive candidates in the Democratic mayoral race. But the board claims it needs more than two weeks to reset the electronic machines and print new ballots.
Twenty years after the National Voter Registration Act was enacted, Ohio appears ready to comply with a key provision of the federal law. This month, the secretary of state’s office began distributing change of address information from driving records to county boards of elections at least twice a week. That information can then be used by the county boards to update addresses for registered voters. Effectively sharing that data is a component of the voter registration act. Despite being law since 1993, Ohio was not in compliance with that requirement. Efforts to comply with another component of the federal law that also deals with voter addresses, meanwhile, drew new criticism last week from Democrats who question whether voters will be improperly purged from the rolls. Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted says that in his view, his office is properly following the federal law.
After leaving it on the backburner for their regular session, lawmakers are going into overtime to consider one of the most contentious issues in politics: redistricting. The goal of Republican leaders appears to be to quickly adopt the court-ordered boundaries for congressional and legislative districts that a court put in place last year. That would set a ceiling for how well Democrats can do in next year’s elections and beyond. Most analysts expect the Legislature to ram though the maps in a matter of days, though the session could last longer if Gov. Rick Perry adds other matters. The districts, while not what Republicans had hoped for when the once-a-decade process started in 2011, are more palatable than what minorities and Democrats might score in the legal arena. Courts found “intentional discrimination” against minority voters in the Legislature’s original maps, and minority groups and Democrats say the interim maps, which have never been pre-cleared by the Justice Department, contain similar problems.
Virginia: Panel announces findings on restoring voting rights of former felons | The Washington Post
A Virginia committee announced options Tuesday for streamlining the restoration of former felons’ voting rights, including actions the governor and legislature could take now to advance the process. The possibilities, the committee said, include recruiting ex-felons who have not applied for restoration, partnering with private groups to expedite applications and creating a state agency to speed up the review and approval process. Under the Virginia Constitution, the only way for felons to regain their voting rights is to seek restoration, in writing, from the governor. Attempts to amend the constitution to make the process automatic have proved unsuccessful for more than 30 years. Voting rights and civil rights advocates have called on Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) and other governors to restore the rights of some former felons automatically through executive order.
Virginia: Cuccinelli says McDonnell can’t use executive order to restore voting rights | Daily Press
Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli said Tuesday that the governor cannot automatically restore voting rights to felons who have completed their sentences by issuing an executive order, but there are ways to streamline the process. Cuccinelli released a report from an advisory committee he set up in March to look at the issue. He created the committee following the defeat of measures in the General Assembly last session designed to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot that would automatically restore the voting rights of nonviolent felons. Both Gov. Bob McDonnell and Cuccinelli, who is the Republican candidate for governor, threw their support behind a constitutional amendment to automatically restore voting rights to nonviolent felons this year. Following the defeat of those measures, advocates for rights restoration called on McDonnell to issue an executive order to deal with the problem.
A Republican lawmaker is proposing numerous changes to the state’s voting, election and campaign finance laws, including reinstating the requirement that voters show a photo ID to cast a ballot and shortening the time for in-person absentee voting. The voter ID requirement, passed in 2011, has been tied up in the courts and currently is not in effect. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, has repeatedly called on the Legislature to reinstate photo ID, which surveys have shown is supported by a majority of Wisconsin residents. Opponents of photo ID have argued that many voters — including the poor, elderly and disabled — are disenfranchised because they lack driver’s licenses or the ability to get photo identification. Two Dane County judges have found the provision to be an unconstitutional impairment of the right to vote. The state is appealing those rulings.
Wisconsin: GOP lawmaker pushes new voter ID legislation to address court concerns | Green Bay Press Gazette
One of the chief authors of Wisconsin’s voter photo identification plan is shopping around a new bill designed to allay legal concerns that the requirements are too burdensome by letting poor people opt out. Republican lawmakers passed voter photo ID requirements two years ago, saying the move was needed to combat election fraud. But a pair of Dane County judges struck the requirements down in separate lawsuits last year. One ruled the requirements were unconstitutional because some people entitled to vote might lack the resources to obtain an ID. The other said the law substantially impairs the right to vote for poor people, noting birth certificates are required to obtain the IDs and voters who lack them must pay for them. The state Justice Department has appealed both decisions. Two federal lawsuits challenging the requirements are still pending.
Voters in the isolated Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan will begin electing their second ever government this week, five years after the country’s Buddhist “dragon kings” gave way to democracy. The electorate of less than 400,000 people will choose from four parties on Friday when the primary round of voting for the lower house of parliament, the National Assembly, commences. The two most popular parties will then contest a run-off round on July 13 to form the next government. Bhutan, which is landlocked by Asian giants India to the south and China to the north, held its first election in 2008 after the monarchy ceded absolute power and actively led the move to a parliamentary democracy. In the 2008 vote, the centre-right Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT), drawn from the country’s traditional elite, won a huge landslide and secured 45 of 47 seats available against the People’s Democratic Party. This time two new centre-left parties, both led by women, are joining the contest, but the well-established DPT is generally expected to win by a small margin — although opinion polls are banned.
Editorials: Choosing Our Oil Over Their Democracy: Elections as Farce in Equatorial Guinea | David Shook/Huffington Post
An Equatorial Guinean friend sends me a message on Facebook. Abrazo. A hug. He’s upset, because to walk to work he’s had to pass through Malabo’s Plaza de la Mujer, which is currently occupied by a large contingent of riot police and K-9 units, not unlike the Ukrainian mercenaries that searched my luggage on the tarmac of the Bata airport in 2011, on a short domestic flight from Equatorial Guinea’s island capital Malabo. This Sunday, May 26, 2013, was the latest Parliamentary Election under President Teodoro Obiang Nguema, now the longest serving African head of state, following the 2011 overthrow of Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi. Obiang, who overthrew his despotic uncle Francisco Macías in late 1979, has since held five presidential elections, though he ran as the only candidate in the first three and de facto sole candidate in the last two, when most opposition parties called for boycotts. Rightfully so — in 2002 one Guinean precinct registered 103 percent of the vote in Obiang’s favor. Tutu Alicante, Executive Director of the nonprofit EG Justice, which presses for human rights and the rule of law in Equatorial Guinea, said, “The sad truth is that Equatoguineans have never experienced a free and fair election.”
France: One thing for sure in race for Paris mayor: A woman will lead the city for first time | The Washington Post
One thing is certain in the race to lead France’s cultural and political center: A woman will be mayor of Paris for the first time in the city’s 2,000-year history. The outcome of the conservative primary that begins May 31 is all but decided — Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, or NKM as she is often known, is widely considered the only candidate with a realistic chance. Her Socialist opponent in the March 2014 election will be Anne Hidalgo, the current mayor’s designated heir. The two have already begun to spar indirectly, notably over security and tourism in Paris, where ugly riots erupted earlier this month during a celebration to honor the French soccer club Paris Saint-Germain. But they have distinctly different visions of how Paris should serve its 2.3 million residents and the 29 million people who visit each year. The race also includes other female candidates from smaller parties who are considered unlikely to win.
Iranian opposition figures with various political allegiances have set aside differences and united to condemn the 14 June presidential election as a charade, saying the exclusion of candidates showed it lacks legitimacy. Exiled Iranians from different political groups including republicans, leftists, constitutional monarchists and the green movement gathered for a two-day conference in Stockholm at the weekend, organised by the umbrella group United for Democracy in Iran (UDI) to scrutinise the vote. Iran’s constitutional body last week disqualified a large number of candidates from standing in the election and only allowed eight candidates. Former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the leading opposition-backed candidate, was among those blocked from standing in the race.