A clash between the public’s right to know and fears of political persecution will play out when the Federal Election Commission on Thursday takes up a request from a leading tea party group that it be exempt from disclosure laws to protect its financial supporters from harassment. The FEC is set to vote on whether to exempt the Tea Party Leadership Fund (TPLF) from campaign disclosure laws in light of the group’s claims that its donors have faced “sustained harassment and severe hostility” and should have the right to give anonymously. The TPLF, which operates both a traditional political action committee and a “super PAC” for independent political expenditures, is arguing that its donors have been subject to harsh criticism from the federal government and the general public and that having to reveal their identity would only open them to further harassment.
U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) joined with Senate colleagues today to introduce The Safeguarding Elections for our Nation’s Troops through Reforms and Improvements (SENTRI) Act, S.1728. The bill will expand access to voting for military voters and improve voting assistance opportunities. “It is unacceptable that our service members and their families are facing hurdles when attempting to exercise one of the most fundamental rights they fight and sacrifice to protect—the right to vote.
Bitcoin, the virtual currency that exists as alphanumeric strings online, is on the verge of getting into politics. The Federal Election Commission is expected to vote Thursday on a proposal to allow bitcoin contributions to political action committees — even as skeptics say that bitcoins could undermine the disclosure standards of federal law. The FEC is acting as other federal agencies are also exploring the uses, and dangers, of digital currency. At a Senate hearing on Monday, federal law enforcement officials cited Silk Road, an online illegal marketplace that used bitcoin before it was shut down. Edward Lowery III, chief of the Secret Service Criminal Investigative Division, told the panel: “While digital currencies may provide potential benefits, they present real risks through their use by the criminal and terrorist organizations trying to conceal their illicit activity.” Still, no one at the Senate hearing wanted to stifle virtual currency, and neither does the FEC. The commission was brought into the issue by the Conservative Action Fund, a political action committee that is seeking approval to accept bitcoins as contributions.
U.S. Rep. Trey Radel, R-Fla., caused a commotion after word got out that he had been arrested in Washington, D.C., at the end of October for possession of cocaine. Radel was charged with misdemeanor possession of cocaine in D.C. Superior Court on Tuesday. He pleaded guilty on Wednesday and was sentenced to one year of probation. Radel could have faced a maximum of 180 days in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. Shortly after news of his arrest hit, Radel issued a statement apologizing for his actions. … Although Radel said he needed help, he did not mention resigning from the House in his statement. But his arrest could ultimately prove problematic for Radel, who has been in office for less than a year.
The House voted 141-10 Wednesday to approve legislation authorizing early voting in presidential elections and online registration in Massachusetts, major changes that supporters claimed will broaden voter engagement. House Election Laws Committee Rep. James Murphy (D-Weymouth) said the panel had heard “loud and clear” the call for reforms to expand access to voting. The bill also calls for municipal clerk training and creates task forces on implementation of election audits and to study early voting following its implementation in the 2016 election. “It is an important moment in the history of election laws and for voting here in the Commonwealth,” said Murphy, who predicted early voting and online registration would lead to shorter lines at the polls on Election Day. Rep. Linda Campbell (D-Methuen) called the bill’s passage a “long time coming” and predicted the changes, if enacted into law, would prove particularly useful to individuals with disabilities, senior citizens and people who travel abroad for business. Election reform advocates say 19 states allow online voter registration and early voting is available in 32 states.
North Carolina: Pat McCrory: We Didn’t ‘Shorten Early Voting,’ We ‘Compacted The Calendar’ | Huffington Post
On Aug. 13, North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) signed into law a voter ID bill that was widely denounced by civil rights advocates. Not only did it mandate government-issued photo IDs at the polls, but it reduced the state’s early voting period from 17 to 10 days. According to McCrory, however, he didn’t actually shorten the voting. “First of all, we didn’t shorten early voting, we compacted the calendar,” said McCrory in an interview with MSNBC’s Chuck Todd on Wednesday. “But we’re going to have the same hours in which polls are open in early voting, and we’re going to have more polls available. So it’s going to be almost identical. It’s just the schedule has changed. The critics are kind of using that line when in fact, the legislation does not shorten the hours for early voting.”
In the Wasatch County town of Wallsburg, the city employee responsible for oversight of elections brought new meaning to the job description by overlooking the election altogether. The new recorder in the town of about 275 just east of Deer Creek Reservoir forgot to announce the opening of the filing period or arrange to hold an election Nov. 5, when voters across the state cast their ballots in municipal elections. By the time the oversight was caught shortly before Election Day, it was too late to field candidates and hold the balloting on the fly. “Wallsburg never advertised or prepared for an election this year, so no one signed up,” said Wasatch County Clerk Brent Titcomb. “They’re going to have to appoint the current mayor and council for two more years and they’ll advertise and have people elected [in 2015].”
Voting Blogs: Virginia Attorney General Election: About That 500+ Vote Republican Pickup in Bedford County | BradBlog
Sometimes it’s a good idea to get a full explanation before these things become fodder in a contentious partisan legal election contest. So that’s what we’ve tried to do. Happily, the General Registrar of Bedford County, VA was more than willing to help. … The contest is, for now, in the hands of the State Board of Elections which will issue its own official official certification of results on November 25th, after which the candidate declared the “loser” is almost certain to ask for a “recount” and potentially file an election contest thereafter, depending on the outcome. During the week-long roller coaster canvass by jurisdictions across Virginia following the November 5th election, there were a number of minor adjustments to local tallies as county and city election officials checked and double-checked results printed by touch-screen and paper ballot optical-scan tabulation computers from Election Night and then adjudicated provisional ballots for tally and inclusion in the final results. While most of the adjustments made during the week following the election were relatively small, each was of great significance in a race this tight. But there were three rather large changes to the results during the post-election canvass process — two were in the Democratic strongholds of Fairfax County and the city of Richmond, and one was in heavily Republican Bedford County. All of the large tabulation adjustments were said to have been caused by various combinations of computer tabulator and human error.
A legal challenge to Wisconsin’s restrictive voter ID law – the first trial challenging a voter ID law under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, since the June 2013 Supreme Court decision in Shelby County v. Holder – concluded on Friday, November 15. During the two-week trial, attorneys from Advancement Project and pro bono counsel Arnold & Porter showed that Wisconsin’s photo ID law would exclude hundreds of thousands of eligible Wisconsin voters who do not have state-issued photo ID from voting, and that African-American and Latino voters disproportionately lack the ID needed to vote under the law. “The bedrock of our case is the statistical disparity in who has access to the kinds of ID voters need to vote under the Wisconsin law,” said James Eichner, Managing Director for Programs at the Advancement Project. “Statewide, African Americans are 40 percent more likely to lack an ID, and Latinos are 230 percent more likely not to have ID.” Voter ID laws have been introduced in 24 states across the country this year, despite the fact that people of color, seniors, young people and low-income communities are less likely to have government-issued photo ID. In many cases, obtaining an ID can be difficult, costly and sometimes impossible. In order to get a state-issued ID, for example, most voters must present a birth certificate or, for those born outside Wisconsin, contact government agencies in other states.
With Afghanistan’s next presidential election just five months away, authorities say they are facing a possible repeat of the abuses that have discredited the country’s efforts to build a democracy. Election officials say they can only estimate how many voters are really on the rolls. Added to the confusion are millions of additional registration cards from the elections of the past. Taliban threats cast a further damper. “This is the reality of this country. We are conducting elections in a difficult situation, with poor security, but we must conduct elections,” said Noor Mohammed Noor, the head of the Independent Election Commission. “It is the only way for our country to succeed.” A credible election would do much for the West’s efforts to foster democracy in Afghanistan after allegations of fraud marred the 2009 vote that handed President Hamid Karzai a second term. He is banned by the constitution from running for a third.
Malta: Bill to allow voting for 16-year olds in local elections approved in first reading | Gozo News
A bill to lower the voting age to 16 for the local council elections was approved on Wednesday evening following its first reading in the House of Representatives. It was presented by Parliamentary Secretary Jose’ Herrera and seconded by David Agius, the shadow minister for local councils. Dr Herrera commented “that this was a historic milestone and had been reached on the 20th anniversary of the founding of the councils.” Earlier in the evening discussion were held in the Tapestry Chamber where it was presided by the Speaker, Anglu Farrugia. Dr Herrera, Mr Agius, MP’s, mayors and young people (known as Ambassadors) representing the various councils, were present for the discussions. From there they moved to the Chamber of Parliament to follow the moving of the Bill for its First Reading.
Officials began counting votes on Wednesday that were cast during election for a new constituent assembly to draw up a long-delayed constitution and pick a new Nepal government. Election Commission official Bir Bahadur Rai said the counting started in several districts and that boxes filled with ballot papers had reached counting centers in at least 20 districts. In the capital, Katmandu, election officials opened ballot boxes collected from all 10 constituencies at the International Convention Center and began counting the thousands of ballot papers. Mr. Rai said arrangements were being made to fly ballot boxes from some mountain areas by helicopter because snow had blocked roads. Nepal has 75 districts of which most of them are mountainous. More than 70% of the 12 million eligible voters cast their votes during Tuesday’s election in Nepal to choose the 601-member Constituent Assembly that would double as the parliament. First results are expected by late Wednesday and final results are going to take at least a week.
United Kingdom: Conservatives clash over European court ruling on prisoner voting rights | The Guardian
The justice secretary, Chris Grayling, was accused by former justice minister Crispin Blunt of “setting up a crisis” over human rights in Europe when the two clashed in a Westminster committee over prisoners being allowed to vote. The public clash between two prominent Conservatives over enforcing the controversial ruling by Strasbourg judges that prisoners should be allowed to vote highlights mounting political tension within the party over the UK’s fraught relationship with Europe. In response to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) decision, first announced in 2005, that a blanket ban on inmates being allowed to participate in elections was illegal, the government has published a multiple choice bill with three options – one of which proposes retaining the ban and defying Strasbourg. Earlier this month, Thorbjørn Jagland, secretary-general of the Council of Europe, which oversees the ECHR, warned that if the UK, a founder member of the human rights system, refused to enforce the judgment it would weaken and deprive it of any meaning.
Colorado: The Gessler 155: Zero prosecutions of people secretary of state says voted illegally | GJSentinel.com
Since taking over the Secretary of State’s Office in 2011, Scott Gessler has loudly and repeatedly claimed that non-citizens were illegally voting in Colorado elections. The Republican, who has long called for a new law requiring people to show proof of citizenship before voting, made national news when he went before Congress that year making a blockbuster statement that 16,270 non-citizens were registered to vote in Colorado and 5,000 of them actually had cast ballots in the 2010 state elections, when Democrat Michael Bennet narrowly defeated Republican Ken Buck for the U.S. Senate. But since making those claims, Gessler’s office said it has been able to identify only 80 non-citizens statewide who were on the voter rolls over the past nine elections, representing 0.0008 percent of the more than 10 million ballots that have been cast in those general elections, and those ballots don’t include primary races or local elections that were held during that time.
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach was sued Thursday by people seeking to block him from imposing a dual voter registration policy as part of the state’s proof-of-citizenship law. But Kobach said that while his office has done some planning for such a system, he’s trying to avoid creating it. The American Civil Liberties Union filed the lawsuit in Shawnee County District Court on behalf of Equality Kansas, the state’s leading gay rights group, and prospective voters Aaron Belenky of Overland Park and Scott Jones of Lawrence. It seeks to prevent Kobach from creating a registration system in which some voters are eligible to cast ballots only in presidential, U.S. Senate and congressional races, while others can cast ballots in all races. The different treatment would be based on whether the prospective voter uses a national registration form _ which requires only that someone sign a statement that he or she is a U.S. citizen _ without complying with the state’s additional requirement to present a birth certificate, passport or other citizenship papers. People using a Kansas form could vote in all races, but only if they complied with the proof-of-citizenship requirement, which took effect in January.
A state election audit revealed Thursday that Richland County officials failed to count 1,114 absentee ballots when finalizing results of the Nov. 5 city and county elections. Howard Jackson, county election director, said the electronic ballots came from a single voting machine used by absentee voters at the election office. This was the first countywide election since Richland County’s botched 2012 general election, considered one of the worst in state history. At that time, precincts across the county did not have enough voting machines, leaving some voters in line for up to seven hours, and hundreds of ballots turned up uncounted days later.