A New Jersey appeals court is mulling the merits of a last-minute legal challenge to Gov. Chris Christie’s call for a U.S. Senate special election this October, even as the race for the seat last held by the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg has quickly taken shape. A three-judge panel is expected to decide soon how to proceed with a legal filing that asks for the interim senator to be selected during the state’s regular election on Nov. 5, rather than by holding a special election on Oct. 16, as requested by Mr. Christie. Both sides in the case concluded filing briefs Wednesday. The Appellate Division has yet to announce whether it will hold oral arguments for the case. The governor said he wants the special election to be held to allow voters to fill the seat as soon as possible. In November, all state lawmakers are up for election, including Mr. Christie. The Republican is seeking re-election against Democratic state Sen. Barbara Buono. Marguerite Schaffer, chairwoman of the Somerset County Democratic Party—and a Buono supporter—filed the case pro bono on Friday, arguing that the special election would confuse voters unaccustomed to voting on a Wednesday or just before a statewide election.
State supreme court justices are favoring the corporate interests that finance their election campaigns, a comprehensive new study concludes. With more judicial elections now awash in dollars, the study of several thousand court decisions found a relationship between business-affiliated contributions and how justices voted. The more business money a supreme court justice has received, the more likely she or he is to support business litigants, according to the yearlong study by the American Constitution Society, a liberal advocacy group. “We have reason to be worried,” study author Joanna Shepherd said Tuesday. “Business groups tend to spend far more on judicial elections than any other interest group.”
The Alaska Redistricting Board announced Friday it intends to begin work on redrawing the state’s voting districts, a week after a Fairbanks Superior Court judge chastised the agency for sitting idle despite a state Supreme Court order to start the process. The board plans to begin the process on Wednesday, the The Associated Press reports, and will shoot for producing a final plan by July 12. Every 10 years, Alaska’s voting lines are ordered redrawn according to the latest U.S. Census data. The redrawing of the state’s voting districts in 2012 sent state elections into a frenzy, with 59 of the 60 seats in the Alaska Legislature up for re-election, and allegations by Democrats that Republicans on the board had reconfigured the state’s voting districts to their advantage. Critics also complained that the new map disenfranchised Alaska Native voters living in rural Alaska.
Senate President John Morse remains adamant he will charge forward into what could be the first recall election of a state lawmaker in Colorado history, though organizers in support of the Colorado Springs lawmaker are weighing all their options — including the possibility of Morse stepping down — before any election date is set. “Decisions are happening nonstop in a recall,” said Kjersten Forseth, a consultant to A Whole Lot of People for John Morse, who notes that resignation is an option, though it’s not a focus at this point. “As a team, we’re always re-evaluating where we are on a daily basis. It’s not something you can map out like in a normal campaign.” Organizers vying to oust Morse because of his leadership in the passage of tougher gun-control laws submitted 16,199 signatures to the secretary of state’s office last week, and of that total, 7,178 are needed to spark a recall election. Verification of those signatures could come as early as this week, and Morse backers note that they plan to contest every signature submitted if enough are verified to move forward with a recall election.
Shawnika Gill won’t get a chance to vote in the State of Kentucky unless the governor says she can. That’s because Kentucky has one of the most restrictive laws in the country for felons who want their right to vote restored and is one of only four states that requires the governor to sign off on the person’s application. But a group of political activists and those who work with felons have pushed in recent years for a change in the law and hope to gain traction with the new Senate leadership this year. Gill, 37, of Covington said a felony burglary conviction in 1996 at the age of 20 has kept her from the ballot box in Kentucky, even 10 years after she got out of prison. She said she feels she did her time. “I feel like I pay my taxes like everybody else and want to speak on things that are going on, especially gay marriage and things,” Gill said. “I want to marry my mate. I want to be able to put her on my income tax.”
Running as a clean elections candidate wouldn’t be an option for hopefuls in next year’s gubernatorial contest under a budget compromise crafted last week by Republican and Democratic legislators. But while public campaign financing would be off the table in the race for the Blaine House, it would still be an option for legislative candidates, who would be able to qualify for 20 percent more funding than they received during last year’s elections. Under the budget provision, the clean elections program would receive $2.8 million from the state’s general fund over the next two years. That’s $2.8 million more than the fund would have received under Gov. Paul LePage’s original budget proposal, which would have eliminated funding for the program, but $1.2 million less than the program normally receives every two years. LePage also proposed eliminating public campaign financing two years ago in his first budget proposal before taking that proposal off the table.
New Jersey: Christie defends special election to fill Lautenberg’s vacant U.S. Senate seat | The Political State | NorthJersey.com
Governor Christie stood by his decision to hold a special election to fill Frank Lautenberg’s U.S. Senate seat and said he doesn’t think the abbreviated election cycle benefits any one candidate. “If people want to sue, let them go to the courts, that’s what the courts are there for,” Christie said during a State House news conference. “And we’ll rise or fall on that basis, but I certainly have no second thoughts about it.” Peg Shaffer, the chairwoman of the Somerset County Democratic Committee, filed a legal challenge to the special election date Monday. The state Attorney General has until Tuesday to file a response with the Appellate Division. Holding a separate special election will cost about $12 million. In addition, Christie’s opponent in the November election, state Sen. Barbara Buono, D-Middlesex, is circulating a petition demanding Christie move the special election to November.
Lake County officials are optimistic a provision of state law that would force the county to purchase 54 additional voting machines this year will be removed as part of the state’s budget bill. A state law enacted in 2006 would require each county starting in 2013 to have one voting machine per 175 registered voters. The county has 152,878 registered voters and 864 electronic voting machines, so 54 additional machines would need to be purchased at a cost ranging from $100,000 to $200,000 — depending on if the equipment was new or used. Commissioner Daniel P. Troy said during a commissioners meeting Tuesday that a repeal of that ratio was included in the version of the state budget bill passed last week by the Ohio Senate.
If we want to understand the importance of Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell’s recent voting rights reform, we need to look back all the way to the 1901-1902 Virginia Constitutional Convention. The setting was Richmond, Virginia, June 1901. The Virginia Democratic Party had decided that African-Americans were gaining too much political clout after the Civil War. They forced a constitutional convention to reset the balance of power. Virginia Delegate Carter Glass, a newspaper magnate and future United States senator, took to the podium to promote his plan for the new constitution. It was a classic example of the Jim Crow black codes, and it included a “felony disenfranchisement” law that barred people convicted of a felony from voting in the state. Delegate Glass’s words that day still echo one hundred years later: “This plan will eliminate the darkey as a political factor in this State in less than 5 years, so that in no single county…will there be the least concern felt for the complete supremacy of the white race in the affairs of government.” That plan eventually became part of Virginia’s Constitution and systematically disenfranchised voters of color for over a century. Until last week, the law still impacted more than 350,000 Virginians who were no longer incarcerated, including 190,000 black would-be voters.
Campaign donors could contribute twice as much to their favorite candidates and voters could register online under a dramatically reworked election reform bill the state Assembly’s election committee approved Monday. In a rare compromise, Republicans and minority Democrats removed language designed to reinstate voter photo identification requirements. They also dropped provisions banning in-person absentee voting on weekends and limiting local recall elections. The elections committee approved the changes 8-1, setting up a vote in the full Assembly on Wednesday. Democrats on the panel still called the bill troubling, but they thanked Republicans for changing it. The committee’s chairwoman, Rep. Kathleen Bernier, R-Chippewa Falls, still signaled the GOP plans to return to voter ID this fall. “(The compromise bill) doesn’t mean we’re not going to address other things in the future,” she told the committee.
State politicians could receive twice as much money from each donor and Wisconsin residents could register to vote online under a bill that won bipartisan support Monday. The Assembly Campaigns and Elections Committee approved the bill 8-1, clearing the way for the Assembly to vote on it Wednesday. The lone dissenter was Rep. David Craig (R-Town of Vernon). The bill started as a plan to make it more difficult to recall local officials, adjust the state’s stalled voter ID law and put new restrictions on when voters can cast ballots in clerks’ offices in the weeks before an election. Democrats considered all those provisions onerous and Republicans dropped them Friday — at least for now — and incorporated the changes allowing online voter registration and the doubling of campaign contributions.
Canada: Toronto Council votes to explore ranked balloting, voting for permanent residents | Globalnews.ca
Toronto’s city council voted to explore ranked balloting and let permanent residents vote during a council debate Tuesday. The votes were part of a larger motion on electoral reform that included suggestions to establish weekend elections and internet voting. Changes to municipal elections would require legislative changes by the Ontario government. The Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing issued a short statement Tuesday evening saying the Ontario government “will take the time to give careful consideration” to the proposal and appreciates the city’s “efforts to look at ways to increase voter engagement.”
The Egyptian Shura Council’s Sunday decision to delay the voting rights of police and military personnel has stirred up debates and controversy in the dispute-stricken country. The upper house of parliament made the decision only a few days after the Supreme Constitutional Court ruled that security personnel should vote in elections since the new constitution says “all citizens have the right to vote.” Based on a request by Assistant Defense Minister for Constitutional and Legal Affairs Mamdouh Shahin, the Shura Council on Sunday agreed in principle to prepare the voting database of police and military personnel in a number of distant stages.
Guinean President Alpha Conde said he could delay this month’s legislative elections if authorities found technical problems, a possible concession to opposition groups who have demonstrated against alleged flaws in the vote. More than 50 people have been killed in three months of rallies by activists who accuse Conde of preparing to rig the poll, scheduled for June 30, in the world’s largest bauxite exporter. Protesters want the elections postponed until their complaints are met, Reuters reports. “For me, the date is the right one but I have informed the CENI (the national electoral commission) that these elections must be completely without technical problems,” Conde told France’s TV5.
Showing his distrust in the institutions of judiciary and Election Commission, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf has threatened to launch a protest campaign after Eid if its reservations about the election results are not removed. “We’ll take to the streets after Eid if poll rigging is not investigated in a transparent manner,” Imran Khan said at a press conference on Monday. The PTI chief, who has yet to take oath as MNA, said he would raise the issue in his maiden speech in the National Assembly. He said it was baffling that the PML-N, which had obtained only 6.8 million votes when it was at the peak of its popularity (in 1997), managed to secure 10.4 million votes in the May 11 elections.
International election observation mission to Somaliland’s local council elections, assembled by Progressio, University College London and Somaliland Focus (UK), launches final report highlighting the “swerves on the road” as Somaliland continues to drive its developing democracy forward. The 50-strong team from 20 countries was invited by Somaliland’s National Electoral Commission (NEC) to observe voting on and before polling day, November 28th 2012. Six months on, the public release of the mission report notes that once again, Somalilanders displayed their dedication to the unique democratic spirit they have crafted from their challenging history.
Zimbabwe began registering new voters on Monday in a push to meet a Constitutional Court order to hold elections by July 31, even though one of the two main parties wants a delay to allow for reform of the media and security forces. President Robert Mugabe has said he will comply with the court order to hold the presidential and parliamentary elections, angering the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) of his chief rival, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai. To help ensure a fair vote, the MDC wants first to open up broadcast media to all parties and to agree a code to stop army and police meddling in politics. But the court ruling leaves little time for such reforms and the state media, still firmly in the camp of Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party, have stepped up attacks on Tsvangirai and the MDC in the last month. Senior police and army officers have openly campaigned for Mugabe, labelling Tsvangirai a Western puppet.
The Iowa State Auditor said her office will review Secretary of State Matt Schultz’s use of federal grant money to pay for a special state agent to conduct voter fraud investigations. In a letter dated May 31 to state Sen. Tom Courtney, D-Burlington, Republican Auditor Mary Mosiman wrote she will review the appropriateness of Schultz’s use of Help America Vote Act money to hire an Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation officer to root out voter fraud. Courtney had asked for such an investigation from Mosiman’s predecessor, David Vaudt, who left his state post for a national job as chairman of the Governmental Accounting Standards Board. In her letter, which was released today by the Senate Democratic caucus staff, Mosiman wrote the investigation would be conducted by her chief deputy because of a potential conflict of interest. Mosiman worked in Schultz’s office as an elections deputy before she was appointed to Vaudt’s post by Gov. Terry Branstad last month.
New York City voters should be prepared to cast their ballots once again this fall on voting machines invented in the 19th century. State legislators were apparently close to a deal on Wednesday afternoon to allow New York City’s clueless board of elections to use the old mechanical machines for the city’s September 10 primary. This is happening because New York City officials can’t figure out how to use newfangled machines with paper ballots and scanners — a system used with success across the country.