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National: Blue-ribbon group pushes for 2016 debate changes | Politico

Top officials from past presidential campaigns have quietly formed a group to push for major changes in the general election debates, with recommendations expected by late spring. The working group is questioning the debates’ format, moderator-selection process and location: Might a TV studio make more sense than a college town? Members said a major goal is to make more allowance for changing technology and the rise of social media. A likely recommendation is an earlier start for the debates, in response to the increase in absentee voting. Members include the longtime lead debate negotiator for each party: Bob Bauer for Democratic nominees and Ben Ginsberg for the Republicans. So the Annenberg Working Group on Presidential General Election Debates could have a profound effect on the signature fall events of the race for the White House. The group’s co-chairs were top debate-prep advisers to each of the 2012 nominees: Anita Dunn for President Obama, and Beth Myers for Mitt Romney. Read More

National: Experts: ‘Dark money’ here to stay | The Hill

A new administration proposal to limit the political activity of tax-exempt groups could fall short of forcing “dark money” out of campaigns, experts say. The new Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service proposals, which are expected to spark extensive debate, would bar so-called 501(c)(4) organizations from counting certain political activity as part of their social welfare work. But the IRS and Treasury are still going to accept recommendations on how much political activity a group can engage in while still receiving the prized 501(c)(4) status — and their decision is crucial to lawmakers and outside groups trying to ensure that big-time political contributors are public knowledge. But no matter how the decision comes down, campaign finance experts predict lawyers will eventually be able to find a way to help donors avoid public disclosure. “One thing we’ve learned is that very few fixes in this area of the law are permanent, and it requires a consistent regulatory response since lawyers can find their way around these rules,” said Rick Hasen, an election law expert at the University of California, Irvine. According to the current law, groups classified as 501(c)(4), which can accept unlimited amounts of donations, are to be exclusively engaged in promoting social welfare. Read More

National: Young Black voters pay higher ‘time tax’ at the polls | Daytona Times

As the American electorate becomes more diverse, new voting laws threaten to disenfranchise young Black and Latino voters in what a new report called “the largest wave of voter suppression since the enactment of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.” The report by OurTime.org and Advancement Project, titled “The Time Tax,” details disparities in the excessive wait times that millennials (18-29 years-old), especially millennials of color, endured to cast votes during the 2012 November elections. According to the report, millennials are expected to account for 40 percent of the electorate in less than eight years including a higher proportion of young minority voters. During the 2012 November elections, millennial voters (18-29 years-old) accounted for 19 percent of the electorate. While turnout for Latinos, Asians and the youngest voters decreased (18-24 years-old), voter turnout for Blacks increased. Yet, Blacks “waited an average of 23 minutes to vote, compared to only 12 minutes for Whites,” stated the report. Read More

Editorials: Special elections not best for lawmaker vacancies in California | San Francisco Chronicle

Under California law, the governor is allowed to choose a replacement for a statewide-elected official who vacates her post midterm. He chooses a replacement for county supervisor when one of those positions is unexpectedly vacated as well. It’s an easy and painless process that doesn’t attract much controversy or concern from voters. So why can’t the governor do the same thing with state legislators? This isn’t an idle question – in fact, it’s an expensive one. There have been 10 legislative desertions in the past year alone. In accordance with state law, each of these vacancies requires a special election at an average cost of $1 million. Can’t California always use a spare $10 million?  Read More

Colorado: Evie Hudak resigns: Colorado state senator avoids recall election | The Denver Post

State Sen. Evie Hudak resigned her seat Wednesday, ending a recall effort being waged against her days before gun-rights activists were to turn in petitions to try to oust the Democrat from office. In her resignation letter, Hudak said her decision would spare Jefferson County residents from having to shell out more than $200,000 for a special election, especially after the county has cut programs for seniors and mental health. She praised the gun laws Democrats passed in the 2013 session that sparked recall efforts against her and two fellow senators, Senate President John Morse of Colorado Springs and Sen. Angela Giron of Pueblo. Several Democratic lawmakers conceded that a recall election would have served as a distraction during the 2014 session for them and for Gov. John Hickenlooper, who is up for re-election. And if voters in Hudak’s district had voted to oust her and replaced her with a Republican, the GOP would have gained control of the Senate by one seat. Democrats now have only an 18-17 majority over Republicans, thanks to the successful recalls of Morse and Giron, who were replaced by Republicans. Under Colorado law, Hudak’s successor will be a member of her own party. Read More

Editorials: Florida elections officials should stop meddling | Tampa Tribune

Here we go again. The state’s top elections officer is attempting to dictate another policy that local elections supervisors say is unnecessary and an impediment to thousands of voters. This time, Secretary of State Ken Detzner is telling the state’s supervisors to eliminate any remote sites — such as libraries or other public buildings — where voters could drop off an absentee ballot during early-voting hours. Detzner says his directive is meant to clarify a state law that stipulates the return of absentee ballots be restricted to the office of the supervisor of elections. But it’s only his interpretation of the law, and state elections supervisors should challenge that interpretation before agreeing to eliminate the popular remote sites. If Detzner’s interpretation is upheld, state lawmakers should change the statute to allow for the remote sites. The supervisors this week were once again caught by surprise by Detzner and left to wonder why they are being told to eliminate a practice that makes it easier to vote. Read More

Pennsylvania: Judge weighs options in name-missing-from-ballot case | Meadville Tribune

Bruce M. Peterson, the Democratic Party nominee for a six-year term on the Wayne Township Board of Supervisors whose name was omitted from the November ballot, will have to wait a bit longer for word on the next step. A hearing on Peterson’s request for a special election to decide the winner of the race took place Wednesday morning in Crawford County Court of Common Pleas before President Judge Anthony J. Vardaro. While Vardaro expressed optimism during the hearing that his decision-making would be complete before the close of business Wednesday, in the end, his ruling was not handed down before the courthouse closed. Peterson won the Democratic nod in the May 21 primary while incumbent Lee Singleton won the Republican Party nomination for the same seat. Both names qualified to appear on the township ballot for the Nov. 5 election, but the only name to appear was Singleton’s. Diane Putney Adsit, chairwoman of the Crawford County Democratic Committee and Peterson’s attorney, described the omission of Peterson’s name as “an error.” Read More

Virginia: Timing of special elections key to control of State Senate | Richmond Times-Dispatch

The election of state Sen. Ralph S. Northam, D-Norfolk, as Virginia’s next lieutenant governor gave Democrats reason to cheer by providing what is potentially a critical tie-breaking vote in an evenly divided Virginia Senate. But the apparent election of Sen. Mark Herring, D-Loudoun, as attorney general — and the time involved in a recount challenging his razor-thin victory over Sen. Mark Obenshain, R-Harrisonburg — raises the distinct possibility that winning the statewide offices could put Senate Democrats at a numerical disadvantage when the General Assembly convenes on Jan. 8. Currently the Virginia Senate has 20 Democrats and 20 Republicans. Ties on most issues are broken by the vote of the lieutenant governor, who presides over the chamber. For the past eight years, that has been the prerogative of Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, a Republican. Read More

Virginia: Republican seeks recount in close Virginia attorney general race | Reuters

Lawyers for the losing Republican candidate in a tight race for Virginia attorney general filed a petition in Richmond Circuit Court on Wednesday for a recount of the votes. In results certified on Monday by the Virginia State Board of Elections, out of 2.2 million votes cast in the November 5 election, only 165 separated Republican Mark Obenshain from Democrat Mark Herring, who has declared victory. Overseeing the recount will be a three-judge panel consisting of the chief judge of the Richmond Circuit Court and two other judges named by the chief judge of the Virginia Supreme Court. … Obenshain’s team seems to be particularly interested in examining what are called “under votes,” in which a person votes for a lesser number of candidates than he is entitled to vote for on the ballot. Read More

Germany: Unintended Consequences: The Implications Of The German Coalition Agreement For Europe | Social Europe Journal

German coalition agreement – Commentators have been poring over the 185-page coalition agreement between the German CDU/CSU and the SPD. Germany is the largest economy in the EU and has played a decisive role in recent years in crafting the policies that have sought, to date unsuccessfully, to resolve the economic and financial crisis. What then can Europe hope for from Germany’s next government, based on the text of the coalition agreement? (I skip over the “detail” that the Grand Coalition has to be approved in a vote by all SPD members. There will be considerable opposition, but I cannot see the grassroots rebelling against the party leadership.) Judging only by the sections that explicitly deal with European issues, the short answer is nothing good. Fortunately a number of measures motivated purely by domestic concerns will have favourable knock-on effects on the rest of Europe. Overall, then, the impact ought to be a small positive. The section on Europe bears the title “Strong Europe” and opens with a section on “Germany’s responsibility for Europe” (all translations are mine). Both headings are highly misleading. The policies envisaged will help ensure that Europe will remain enfeebled and Germany’s “responsibility” for Europe limited. Behind the pious language the nine pages can be summarised as saying that the previous and future Chancellor Merkel and her Finance Minister Schäuble will continue to hold the reigns of German policy on Europe firmly in their hands. Read More