National: Supreme Court case could give wealthy donors more latitude in elections | The Washington Post

The very wealthy could play a much greater role in funding federal candidates and political parties if the Supreme Court rules that a key campaign finance restriction adopted after Watergate is unconstitutional. Under Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., the court already has junked a number of election spending limits as improper restrictions on political expression — perhaps most dramatically with its 2010 Citizens United decision, which wiped out the ban on corporate election spending. A bold and broad decision by the court in one of its first cases of the new term, Shaun McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, which the justices are to hear Tuesday, could overturn decades of precedent about the remaining power the government has to limit contributions to candidates and parties.

National: The next ‘Citizens United’ is coming your way | Los Angeles Times

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments in a campaign finance case that could be even bigger than the last one, the infamous Citizens United case of 2010. The new case, McCutcheon vs. FEC, challenges the aggregate spending rules that limit any one campaign contributor to $123,000 in total spending to political candidates and election committees during any two-year federal election cycle. The aggregate limit long has been a check on the flow of cold hard cash into the electoral system. As a three-judge panel of federal district court in Washington, D.C., observed last year, the per-candidate contribution limits in federal law — including $2,500 per election to any given candidate, $30,800 per year to each political party — would allow an individual to spread up to $3.5 million around. That’s a lot of bunce. The $123,000 ceiling effectively limits that donor to backing no more than 18 individual candidates in any cycle, the D.C. court noted.

National: Supreme Court weighs limits on campaign donations | USAToday

Alabama businessman Shaun McCutcheon says he doesn’t want to give gobs of money to a single politician. Instead, he hopes to spread smaller contributions to as many candidates as possible. If he has his way in a case headed to the Supreme Court on Tuesday, however, a single donor could contribute more than $3 million to a political party, its state and federal chapters and all of its federal candidates to shape next year’s midterm elections for Congress, campaign-finance watchdogs warn. His case, McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, is the latest round in the bitter national battle over the role of money in American politics and the biggest challenge to campaign-finance rules since the court’s bombshell 2010 Citizens United decision ended restrictions on independent political spending by corporations and unions. The new legal fight targets a cornerstone of election rules: the ability of the government to regulate the amount of money individuals can give to presidential and congressional candidates and political parties.

National: Government Shutdown May Mean No Disclosure Of Campaign Finance Before Special Elections | ThinkProgress

As the government shutdown continues to prevent all “non-essential” federal employees from doing their jobs, the Federal Election Commission’s operations have been particularly hard hit. With all but four of the agency’s employees furloughed until the shutdown’s end, voters in Alabama, Louisiana, Massachusetts, and New Jersey may not have any opportunity to see who is contributing to and running ads in support of the candidates. According to a Center for Public Integrity report, only the four currently-serving FEC Commissioners are considered essential. While parts of the agency’s electronic campaign finance disclosure system are automated, FEC Chairwoman Ellen Weintraub noted that no one will be around to resolve any glitches, computer crashes, or other parts of the disclosure process that require human action. “I don’t know how to personally post the reports — I’m a little out of my league there,” she noted, adding, “The public will have to go without disclosures until we open back up.”

National: Study: Curbing Voting Rights Act could reverse black voters’ gains | Al Jazeera

The Supreme Court’s decision to restrict the Voting Rights Act, the 1965 legislation that prohibits discrimination against voters on the basis of race or color, could harm African-American political representation at the city council level, a new study says. The study found that municipalities with the strongest gains in black political representation were those protected by a provision of the Voting Rights Act that was invalidated by the Supreme Court in June. Some experts say the new study shows that the Court’s decision could reverse the gains that black voters have made as a result of the act, or at least impede further progress. The study, to be published this month in the upcoming issue of The Journal of Politics, is among the first on the act’s effectiveness on black political representation, according to researchers at Rice University, Ohio University and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Its conclusion is clear: The Voting Rights Act explains much of the electoral success of black candidates in city elections – and those gains could be at risk.

National: Campaign Contributions Go Into the Shadows During Shutdown | National Journal

There are four people working at the Federal Election Commission during the shutdown. There are usually 339. This is the agency that’s meant to shine a light on campaign contributions and expenditures, to let the people know who is paying for the attack ads flooding their television screens as Election Day approaches. Campaign contributions are going into the dark. Campaigns can still file electronically, but if the system breaks, there will be no one around to fix the problem. “And it is possible that technological problems may arise that would prevent filers from filing on time,” FEC’s website states.

National: Mitch McConnell Will Ask Supreme Court To Scrap Campaign Contribution Limits Entirely | Huffington Post

On Oct. 8, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) will argue to the Supreme Court that all campaign contribution limits should be eliminated and that candidates should be able to accept unlimited donations. Although McConnell is not a party in the case of McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, the Supreme Court has granted the Senate minority leader time during oral argument to present his views: that campaign contribution limits are an unconstitutional burden on free speech and that the court should give contribution limits a higher level of scrutiny than it has in the past. McConnell will be represented by lawyer Bobby Burchfield. McCutcheon v. FEC challenges the aggregate limit on donations to federal candidates, political parties and political action committees, which bars an individual donor from giving more than $123,200 in total during the 2014 election cycle. McConnell wants to go much further by forcing courts to treat all campaign contribution limits as they treat campaign expenditure limits, which were found to be an unconstitutional burden on First Amendment rights in the 1976 Buckley v. Valeo decision.

Editorials: Quit Blaming Gerrymandering for the Shutdown | Nate Cohn/New Republic

You don’t have to look far to find people diagnosing gerrymandering as the source of all of our nation’s woes, including (but surely not limited to) the shutdown. From this perspective, Republicans are gerrymandered into districts so conservative that the GOP is held hostage by ultraconservative primary electorates. Even President Obama has blamed the GOP “fever” on gerrymandering. These concerns are not totally misplaced. Gerrymandering is undemocratic, and it did help consolidate the GOP’s House majority in 2012. But, as I’ve written before, the significance of gerrymandering is exaggerated. Republicans are in safe districts for an incredibly simple reason: Most of the country just isn’t competitive. Take Texas, a famously gerrymandered state. If you want to create competitive districts, you don’t have many great options. Of the state’s 254 counties, 244 were won by either Obama or Romney by at least 10 points. That’s not how it used to be: Back in 1996, 92 counties were within 10 points. Perhaps unsurprisingly, these non-competitive counties tend to be extremely Republican. A whopping 176 of Texas’ 254 counties voted for Romney by more than a 40 point margin (at least 70-30). 81 of those counties voted for Romney by at least 60 points (ie 80-20). So, even a fair map would create plenty of incredibly red, safe, ultraconservative districts.

Editorials: Time for corporations to disclose political donations | Lisa Gilbert/The Hill

Say you owned a business, and found out one of your employees was taking money out of the cash register and spending it on questionable ventures without telling you. You’d fire him, right? It’s a pretty clear-cut case of right and wrong. Now imagine that you aren’t allowed to know whether that employee is taking money out of your profits, or where the money is going. Sound unfair – and like a bad way to run a business? Sadly, that’s the case for shareholders – owners of the largest corporations in America – who’d like to know how their profits are being spent on political causes.  Now Sens. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) are holding a briefing to explain why shareholders’ need this information in their hands.

Editorials: Connecticut judge keeps candidates on ballot who had been thrown for a filing technicality | Hartford Courant

A judge’s decision to keep candidates of “Save Westport Now,” a minor party, on the November ballot rings the bell for democracy, giving that town’s voters greater choice. Stamford Superior Court Judge Kenneth Povodator’s ruling is a welcome precedent for at least a dozen other Connecticut cities and towns where third-party candidates have been thrown off municipal election ballots because of a filing technicality. Those candidates should be restored to the ballot, too. In East Hampton, for example, the Chatham Party’s 16 candidates — including four incumbents who make up the town council majority — have been disqualified and are forced to run write-in campaigns. That’s a travesty.

Florida: Democrats say Scott’s latest voter purge driven by politics | Miami Herald

Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Florida Democratic Party Chair Allison Tant said it was pure politics that was driving Gov. Rick Scott to push for a second purge of non-citizens from voter rolls. “What I say to Rick Scott is if your victory depends on a voter purge, then you’re not fit to govern and you don’t deserve a second term,” Wasserman Schultz said. “This is all about suppressing minority voters and shows how out of touch he is,” Tant said. The comments were made during a Thursday morning conference call with reporters about two hours before Scott’s Secretary of State, Ken Detzner, held the first of five public meetings with supervisors of elections and voters from around the state to discuss how the next purge will be conducted. A first attempt to remove non-citizens last year was impaired by faulty data that disqualified some eligible voters while identifying few actual non-citizens. The state’s list of suspected non-citizens shrank from 182,000 to 198 before supervisors suspended their searches, blaming shoddy data.

Virginia: Democrats Sue Governor, Cuccinelli; Claim Voter-Roll Purge | NBC4

In the wake of a lawsuit filed by Democrats over the purging of names from Virginia voter registries, a Loudoun County registrar has been ordered to purge names from her county’s list by the end of the week. Virginia Democrats filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday against Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, accusing them of purging — possibly in error — thousands of voters from registration lists. The Democratic Party of Virginia is accusing election officials, including Cuccinelli, of pressing forward with a plan to potentially purge up to 57,000 registered voters because an interstate database shows them registered in multiple states. The voter list was sent out from the State Board of Elections in late August, developed using a data exchange with some other states. The 57,000 names are those of voters who are registered in more than one state. Fairfax County immediately started to purge based on the list, and of the 7,934 names they were given, 7,106 were purged.

Australia: Greens Senator Scott Ludlam appeals WA Senate recount refusal | Sydney Morning Herald

Ousted Greens Senator Scott Ludlam has not given up hope of winning back his West Australian seat, confirming he has appealed the Australian Electoral Commission’s decision to refuse his requests for a recount. “I think there’s a question of natural justice here,” Senator Ludlam told ABC radio on Friday. “The AEC should automatically support a recount as they do in the House [when fewer than 100 votes separate candidates].” On Friday morning, the AEC decided to postpone the declaration of the WA Senate poll until further notice, in light of Senator Ludlam’s appeal. The declaration had been due to take place at 1.30pm AEST on Friday. A senate result recount, which hasn’t occurred since the 1980 federal election, is estimated to cost $1 million.

El Salvador: Candidates Begin Presidential Campaign in El Salvador | Prensa Latina

Presidential candidates for the 2014 elections in El Salvador started their campaigns and set the tones of their proposals and messages to the population. The race for the citizen vote started with diverse activities organized by the parties, two of them out of the capital city. In San Salvador, Sánchez Cerén y Oscar Ortiz, presidential and vice-presidential candidates of the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN), walked around important avenues of the city, surrounded by thousands of supporters. “We will have a respectful campaign and we ask the other candidates to respect us”, said Vice president Sánchez Cerén.

Guinea: Opposition quits electoral commission, rejecting early vote count | Reuters

Guinea’s opposition parties pulled their delegates out of the national electoral commission on Thursday after rejecting some provisional results from Sunday’s parliamentary election, meant to cap a transition to democracy. The National Electoral Commission (CENI) began announcing election results on Wednesday, with President Alpha Conde’s ruling RPG party taking an early lead in several districts. But the opposition said it had won the Dubreka district, about 50 km (30 miles) from the capital Conakry. “We won Dubreka and categorically reject the results announced by the CENI yesterday,” said former prime minister Sidya Toure, leader of the opposition UFR party. He said the opposition was withdrawing its observers from the center where votes were slowly being tallied, saying their presence was serving no purpose. “They were not even allowed to speak,” Toure said.