National: Much Ado About McCutcheon: The Continuing Erosion of Campaign Contribution Limits | Pacific Standard

Shaun McCutcheon wants to make political donations to federal candidates. Allow me to clarify; McCutcheon wants to make a lot of political donations to federal candidates. The Republican National Committee, among others, wants him to be able to do so. So what’s the problem? Currently, McCutcheon can give $2,600 per election directly to a federal candidate, a total of $48,600 per election to all federal candidates, and $74,600 per election to federal political party committees and political action committees, or PACs, that give money to federal candidates. Put another away, McCutcheon (and other individuals) are subject to a $123,200 per election aggregate contribution limit with respect to candidates, political parties, and PACs. McCutcheon, an electrical engineer living in Alabama, would like to change that. The result is the latest and greatest campaign finance question to hit the high court since Citizens United. In the early 1970s, in the wake of the Watergate scandals that lead to the resignation of President Nixon, Congress implemented the nation’s first comprehensive campaign finance law. The law limited how much could be given to and spent by candidates, how much could be spent by independent groups and organizations, required that certain donations and expenditures be disclosed to the public, and created a system of public campaign financing for presidential candidates. The primary reason that McCutcheon’s argument may likely carry the day is that five of the nine justices on the Supreme Court are, to varying degrees, hostile to campaign finance legislation.

Editorials: How Close Will the Supreme Court Get to Ending Campaign-Finance Laws? | Garrett Epps/The Atlantic

“Chutzpah,” wrote the late Leo Rosten, “is that quality enshrined in a man who, having killed his mother and father, throws himself upon the mercy of the court because he is an orphan.” Here’s another example: Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court, three years ago, in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, this Court tore a gaping hole in the system of campaign-finance regulation designed by Congress over 30 years. The result has been disastrous: a flood of dark money that now dominates elections, drowning out ordinary citizens and even the candidates and parties themselves. The solution to this problem is simple: This Court should tear another gaping hole in what’s left of the system so that the rich can give more—maybe much more—directly to the candidates and parties. What could possibly go wrong? That, in essence, was the message delivered to the Court Tuesday by lawyers for Alabama businessman Sean McCutcheon and the Republican National Committee. His attorney argued that because Citizens United unleashed “independent expenditures” while allowing the government to limit the amount of money contributed directly to campaigns, rich people are giving to PACs rather than to candidates or party committees. Why not let us wet our beaks too?

Editorials: Poor Little Rich Guys: Supreme Court case to raise limits on campaign contributions | Dahlia Lithwick/Slate

The Supreme Court can hardly be faulted for having docketed McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission on the eighth day of a partial government shutdown that has all but crippled the national capital and separated hundreds of thousands of Americans from their jobs and paychecks. It’s unfair to blame the justices for the fact that Tuesday’s constitutional free-speech challenge comes to protect only the 1,219 wealthiest campaign donors, who in the 2012 election cycle reached or almost reached the limit on what they could contribute to federal candidates, parties, and political action committees in any two-year election cycle. This isn’t the 1 percent. It’s who the 1 percent dreams of becoming someday. The optics of having this particular fight this particular week are not terrific, an accident of scheduling that has Scrooge McDuck, Montgomery Burns, and Richie Rich ambling around the Supreme Court plaza on Tuesday, bemoaning the diminution of their voices in the national political conversation.

Editorials: The Long Shadow of Citizens United | Jesse Wegman/New York Times

Technically speaking, the Supreme Court’s controversial 2010 ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission was not up for reconsideration on Tuesday, when the court heard oral arguments in the first major case of its new term. But the shadow of that earlier decision lurked as the justices attempted to get to the heart of the current case, McCutcheon v. F.E.C., which is about whether overall political-contribution limits violate the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech. (At least some of the limits appear to be in trouble.) In Citizens United, the court held that the First Amendment permitted unlimited campaign-related spending by corporations and labor unions, and not just individuals. The 5-member majority rejected arguments by the government and others that opening the door to a massive influx of corporate cash would lead to political corruption. Tuesday’s case, by contrast, involved federal limits on direct contributions to candidates and party committees. Since 1976, the court has held that limits on such contributions are constitutional, but limits on outside spending are not. Shaun McCutcheon, an Alabama businessman, sued the federal government after he ran up against the limits — currently set at $123,200 — and wanted to give more.

Editorials: Million Dollar Contributions Corrupt Democracy | Spencer Overton/Huffington Post

I attended today’s U.S. Supreme Court oral argument in the case challenging contribution limits. If the Justices rewrite campaign finance law by striking down the contribution limits, checks of up to $2.95 million each from wealthy contributors will corrupt democracy. During the 2012 election, Alabama businessman Shaun McCutcheon gave a total of over $113,000 spread out to various candidates, party committees, and PACs. Federal law prohibits McCutcheon (or any individual) from contributing over $2600 to any one candidate (per election), or over $32,400 to any one party committee (e.g., the National Republican Senatorial Committee). Federal law also has an aggregate limit–individuals cannot contribute a total of over $123,200 to all federal candidates, parties, and PACs. In the case before the Supreme Court, McCutcheon argues that this aggregate $123,000 limit violates his First Amendment rights. The problem, however, is that striking down the $123,200 aggregate contribution limit would open the door to politicians soliciting checks of up to $2.95 million each. This would lead to massive quid pro quo corruption.

Arizona: Ballots could split federal, state races to enforce citizenship-to-vote law | Arizona Daily Star

Secretary of State Ken Bennett is directing election officials to separate their federal election ballots from state and local races to keep those who cannot prove citizenship from voting in the latter. Bennett’s order followed a formal opinion Monday by state Attorney General Tom Horne. He conceded that, for the time being, Arizona must allow people who use a special form designed by the federal Election Assistance Commission to register to vote, even though that form does not require proof of citizenship. Arizona voters mandated such proof in 2004. But the U.S. Supreme Court concluded Congress is entitled to require states to accept the federally designed registration form. Horne said Monday that he believes that directive applies only to elections for federal offices like the president and congressional races, which he believes frees Arizona to apply its proof-of-citizenship mandate for anyone who wants to vote for anything from governor on down the ballot.

Connecticut: Merrill praises decisions by two judges impacting third party candidates | Easton Courier

Secretary of the State Denise Merrill today issued the following statements praising decisions by two separate judges resolving the legal cases of third party candidates for municipal office in the towns of Easton in one case and East Hampton in the other. Bridgeport Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis today rejected a lawsuit filed by petitioning candidates under the Easton Coalition party designation seeking to be placed on the ballot for the Nov. 5, municipal election. The Easton Coalition candidates sued Secretary Merrill after their nominating petitions to get on the ballot were rejected by her office.  Secretary Merrill’s office rejected the petitions by Easton Coalition candidates because they lacked an accompanying letter of endorsement from the party, required by law to be filed with the secretary of the state by Sept. 4 of this year. “Although it is disappointing for voters in Easton that the Easton Coalition candidates won’t be on the ballot this fall, Judge Bellis made the right decision,” Secretary Merrill stated.  “It is a good reminder that all of us who serve the public are bound to uphold the law.  The Easton Coalition failed to file a legally required document with my office by the Sept. 4 deadline, so by law, I had to reject their petitions.

Florida: New voter purge, new questions | Sun Sentinel

Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner is bringing his mea-culpa roadshow to South Florida today, part of a five-city effort to convince county elections supervisors that in combing the voter rolls for people who shouldn’t be there, this time his office will get it right. Detzner has a lot to prove in reviving the state’s voter-roll purge. Last year his Division of Elections claimed to have identified 182,000 noncitizens who’d registered to vote. But after a steady stream of targeted Americans came forward to prove their citizenship, the number dramatically dropped to 198, at which point county elections supervisors threw up their hands and suspended the effort.

Wisconsin: Senate adopts election bills; poll workers of each party would do certain tasks | Journal Sentinel

The state Senate on Tuesday adopted four bills tweaking how elections are administered, including measures requiring that poll workers of opposite parties perform certain tasks. Sen. Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin), the author of the bills, said she advanced them to avoid what she considered irregularities and “sloppy” practices in the recount of the 2012 recall election for state senator in Racine County. Democrats contended Republicans were getting carried away in presuming poll workers are allied with political parties or prone to act corruptly. “Obviously, these bills are designed to do one thing — make it more difficult to vote, make it more difficult to be a clerk,” said Sen. Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay). All Republicans supported the measures and most Democrats opposed them. The measures now go to the Assembly, which like the Senate is controlled by Republicans.

Australia: Ballot challenges hamper Fairfax recount | ABC

A final election result for the seat of Fairfax is still undecided, with an extremely high number of challenges to ballot papers delaying the recount of the Sunshine Coast seat. Queensland businessman and Palmer United Party (PUP) leader Clive Palmer was ahead of the LNP’s Ted O’Brien by just seven votes in the initial count, automatically triggering a recount that started last week. AEC spokesperson Phil Diak told the ABC’s Karyn Wood that although it’s unknown when the recount will be finalised, the AEC is focused and wants to get the job done.

Guinea: President Dismisses Election Fraud Allegations | VoA News

Guinea’s president has dismissed accusations of fraud in last month’s legislative polls, calling them “political rhetoric.” President Alpha Conde also said he will not allow any group to destabilize the country. The president commented Tuesday through his spokesperson, Rachid Nadiye. Nadiye said in an interview with VOA that Conde had urged opposition leaders to seek legal action and have their election grievances addressed in court. The September 28 polling was intended to complete a political transition in Guinea that began with the democratic election of Conde in 2010.

Azerbaijan: President’s re-election declared a day before the vote; opposition cries foul | The Washington Post

Something funny happened the day before Azerbaijan’s presidential election: The election commission announced the winner. On Tuesday, the smartphone app of the Central Election Commission released the results of Wednesday’s vote, showing President Ilham Aliyev, whose family has been at the helm of this oil-rich Caspian Sea nation for four decades, winning 73 percent of the vote. The commission explained the gaffe by saying that a software developer had released the figures as a “test” at one polling station. It apologized for the “misunderstanding.” Official results on Thursday showed Aliyev winning nearly 85 percent of the vote. His closest challenger, main opposition candidate Jamil Hasanli, trailed with less than 6 percent, followed by eight fringe candidates, according to the commission.

Maldives: All political parties urged to accept new presidential election | The Washington Post

The Maldives government urged all political parties to accept a Supreme Court ruling throwing out the result of last month’s presidential election and vowed that balloting next week will be transparent. The government said it is seeking the support of other nations and international organizations in holding the new election, and encouraged “everyone concerned to respect and abide by the Supreme Court ruling.” The Elections Commission announced Tuesday that the revote will be held Oct. 19. On Monday, the court annulled the results of the first round of voting in the presidential election, agreeing with a losing candidate that the vote was flawed.

Maldives: Off their rockers | The Economist

Just why were the people of the Maldives asked to vote in a presidential election on September 7th? Campaigning and voting went perfectly well. The contest looked fair and free. Your correspondent, visiting both a remote atoll as well as the capital, Male, saw and heard of nothing untoward during the campaign. The independent Electoral Commission and local election observers concluded it had gone off perfectly. The thick flow of foreign ones agreed. (It is presumably easier for the Commonwealth, the European Commission and others to recruit poll monitors for the Maldives than for Afghanistan or elsewhere). The outcome, too, broadly matched earlier expectations. Mohamed Nasheed, a former president ousted in 2012 by what he said, reasonably, was a coup, romped home with 45% of the vote. Just short of winning outright, however, he was forced into a second round of voting scheduled for late September. Yet a handful of power-brokers evidently could not stand the prospect of Mr Nasheed actually coming to office if he had won the second round. First the courts compelled the army and police to stop the second round of voting. Then, whatever 45% of the population have already said, the Supreme Court found an excuse on October 7th to annul the first round of the election.

India: Supreme Court orders Election Commission to add ‘paper trail’ to e-voting machines | Computerworld

India’s Supreme Court has directed the country’s Election Commission to introduce a paper backup of votes cast through electronic voting machines, but allowed the commission to introduce it in stages during general elections next year. Political and civil rights groups in India have been demanding that the EVMs should be equipped with the facility to print the running record of the votes for the purpose of verification, particularly after some researchers claimed that the machines could be hacked. The court, overruling a decision by a lower court, described the paper backup or paper trail as an “indispensable requirement of free and fair elections.” As the commission has to handle 1 million polling booths during a general election, the court permitted it to introduce the facility “in gradual stages or geographical-wise” at voting booths of its choice. The commission submitted in the court that the machines could not be tampered with, but was still planning to introduce a Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail system, and had tested the systems in smaller elections.