At today’s public meeting, the Federal Election Commission deadlocked on two advisory opinion requests and approved a third. Both deadlocked votes split along party lines between the Democratic- and Republican-selected Commissioners. The Commission first considered a request from the Conservative Action Fund PAC that was held over from last week’s meeting. The request asked whether and how political committees may accept contributions in the form of Bitcoins. While the Commissioners all agreed that committees may accept Bitcoin contributions, they were divided on whether committees could spend Bitcoins, and what steps must be taken to receive and report them. The three Republican-selected Commissioners all voted for a draft opinion that would have allowed political committees not only to accept Bitcoins as in-kind contributions, but also to use them to purchase goods and services and make contributions to other committees. However, the three Democratic-selected Commissioners argued that the Commission should take more time to understand the technology of Bitcoin and issue guidance through a policy statement or interpretive rule. All six Commissioners seemed open to considering such a rule in the future.
Arizonans may not get a chance to vote Green at the next election. Secretary of State Ken Bennett announced Wednesday that the number of people who selected to register as party members has dropped below the legal minimum. That leaves just four official parties: Republican, Democrat, Libertarian and Americans Elect. And that last party also is in trouble: Bennett said its registration also does not have sufficient registrants. But he said that, by virtue of being a new party in Arizona in 2011, is entitled to keep its ballot status through the 2014 election. Bennett said that state law requires a political party to have at least 5 percent of the total number of votes cast for governor or president at the most recent election.
More than half of the 165 cities and towns in Connecticut that held local elections on Nov. 5 failed to report how many people took advantage of same-day voter registration, making it difficult for the state to gauge the success of the program on its debut. A Hearst Connecticut Newspapers analysis found that 88 municipalities failed to report the number of walk-ups, which, Av Harris, a spokesman for Secretary of the State Denise Merrill, said, is compulsory. “It is the law. They’re supposed to comply with it,” Harris said. Harris acknowledged there is frustration on the part of state election officials, who he said have the power to fine municipalities $50 for non-compliance. “Nobody wants to be cited for incomplete reporting of election returns,” Harris said.
A concept that originated in 2010 with discussion that Shelby County officials could save approximately $26,000 by changing how people voted has been given a no vote. It was discussed at that time and then later this year to move Shelby County to voting centers. Voting centers are polling places connected through secure Internet connections, where eligible voters in the county may vote anywhere through an electronic poll book that is updated immediately. Shelby County Clerk Vicki Franklin confirmed this week the Election Board voted to not move toward vote centers at this time but do a consolidation of polling locations.
The number of voter registrations on hold in Kansas because of the state’s proof-of-citizenship requirement is rising again. Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s office said Wednesday that almost 17,700 registrations were on hold because new voters hadn’t provided a birth certificate, passport or other papers documenting their U.S. citizenship to election officials. The figure peaked at about 18,500 in October but dropped to fewer than 17,200.
The American Civil Liberties Union is suing Kansas over the state’s refusal to allow residents to vote in state elections without showing proof of citizenship. Under a new law, Kansas requires new voters to provide proof of citizenship when they register to vote. A Supreme Court ruling in June, however, requires that states accept federal standards for voter registration: Voters must swear they are U.S. citizens but aren’t required to show a document. As a result, nearly 18,000 voters in Kansas who registered to vote for the first time this year can vote in federal elections but not in state or local contests because they have not submitted documents proving citizenship. The ACLU says that the two-tier system denies some Kansas voters equal protection under the state constitution. “There is now a class of voters who can vote for president but not vote for secretary of State,” said Julie Ebenstein, a staff attorney for the ACLU. The new Kansas law also requires voters to show identification at polling places. That aspect of the law is also being challenged in a separate court case.
On August 16, 2013, Pennsylvania Judge Bernard McGinley issued a preliminary injunction to block Pennsylvania’s Voter ID Law from affecting Pennsylvania elections in November. This preliminary injunction was the result of a lawsuit, Applewhite v. Commonwealth. Though the trial concluded on July 31, 2013, the judge is still deliberating on whether a permanent injunction is appropriate. However, the preliminary injunction made it clear that Pennsylvania voters will not be required to show poll workers photo identification in order to vote in the 2013 November general election. The injunction also restricted the voter ID law’s “soft rollout” features. These features would have required poll workers to inform voters that they would need photo ID to vote in the next election. The judge’s recent preliminary injunction does away with this requirement. Poll workers may still ask to see photo ID, but the voters still do not have to produce it in order to vote.
The recount of ballots cast Nov. 5 in Comal County proceeded Thursday evening under the watchful eyes of staffers from the Texas Secretary of State’s Office. “We’re going to finish today,” County Clerk Joy Streater, the recount supervisor, predicted from the elections office where the recount of 16,000 ballots had commenced at 8:30 a.m. Schertz Mayor Michael Carpenter later said he’d heard it might be 11 p.m. or later before results would be released for city council races there and for state constitutional amendments and contests in the Comal Independent School District and the Cibolo Creek Municipal Authority.
A federal court in Corpus Christi will decide this week whether or not to postpone the trial date for a case challenging the constitutionality of the Texas voter ID law. About a week ago, Federal District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos set the trial date for Sept. 2, 2014, about two months before the 2014 State General Election. Attorney General Greg Abbott’s office filed a request this week asking for the trial to be pushed back to March 2015.
Chesterfield County Registrar Larry Haake is in a legal battle after refusing to purge thousands of voter names. Before this year’s election, he and other registrars were told to erase the names of people who weren’t legally allowed to vote in Virginia. The Chesterfield County Registrar refused until after the election, claiming the list was full of errors. Two groups are now threatening legal action, and demanding he clean up the rolls. True the vote is an organization that says its goal is to protect the rights of legitimate voters and when they heard that the Chesterfield County Registrar has not complied with the State Board of Elections by purging thousands of voters from the rolls, they threatened legal action. But the Registrar says he’s the one who is protecting the voters.
All the votes from the November 5 election have been tabulated, and the Virginia attorney general race is as close as they come. Democrat Mark Herring holds a slim 164-vote lead over his Republican opponent, Mark Obenshain. The close count has teed up a likely recount for next month, and the Republican candidate has hinted at an unusual legal strategy: basing a lawsuit on Bush v. Gore, the controversial Supreme Court decision that ended the 2000 presidential election in George W. Bush’s favor. The Supreme Court usually prides itself on respecting the past while keeping an eye toward future legal precedent. But the court trod lightly when it intervened in 2000. The five conservative justices may have handed the election to Bush, but they tried to ensure that their decision would lack wider ramifications. “Our consideration is limited to the present circumstances,” read the majority opinion in Bush v. Gore, “for the problem of equal protection in election processes generally presents many complexities.” The conservative majority wanted to put a stop to the Florida recount, but they hoped their ruling—which extended the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause to argue that different standards cannot be used to count votes from different counties—wouldn’t set precedent in future cases. For a time the justices got their wish. But the supposed one-time logic of the controversial decision has begun to gain acceptance in the legal community—particularly among campaign lawyers in contentious elections.
The most violent nation in the world is Honduras, with more murders per capita (92 per 100,000) than even Iraq or Afghanistan and twenty times more than the United States. It is now getting worse, as a wave of brutal killings sweep over the nation in the run-up to the country’s elections on November 24. The left-leaning opposition Partido Libertad y Refundación (Liberty and Refoundation, or LIBRE) has emerged as the target of choice in the majority of attacks. Honduras’ recent troubles grow directly out of the events of June 2009, when a military coup removed democratically elected president Manuel Zelaya (2006-2009). Honduras, one of the last Latin American nations to move toward authentic democracy, had been slowly constructing democratic political institutions until the coup. But with this one stroke, Honduras’ nascent democratization suffered a damaging blow from which it has yet to recover. Honduras, a Tennessee-sized country of 8.4 million people, is in many respects Latin America’s most unreconstructed nation. It only began the process of democratization in the 1980s and its economy is still built around unprocessed agricultural exports—chiefly coffee and bananas—produced on latifundio plantations and the beginnings of a maquila industry. The nation’s GDP per capita is under $4,000 USD PPP (purchasing parity power), ranking near the bottom of all Latin American nations.
Mauritania, a predominately Arab country that straddles North and West Africa, will hold legislative and local government elections on November 23 (first round) and December 7 (second round), which will be the country’s first full elections since 2006. These elections will replace officials of the national assembly and local governments (i.e. communes) who have continued to carry out their duties even though their elected terms ended, constitutionally, in 2012. Since gaining independence from France, Mauritania has had a turbulent history: the country’s first president and university graduate, Moktar Ould Daddah, who assumed power in 1960, was ousted by a military coup in 1978. Subsequently, Mauritania was rocked by several additional coups: in 1979, 1980, and 1984. In 1984, a general-cum-president — Maaouya Sid’ Ahmed Ould Taya — asserted control and constructed a dominant regime party, le Parti Républicain Démocratique et Social (PRDS). Akin to Egypt’s National Democratic Party, the PRDS dominated Mauritanian politics for the next 21 years until 2005, when Taya was deposed in a putsch led by two of his closest military advisors, Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz and Ely Ould Mohamed Vall.
Mozambicans will cast their ballots in local elections on Wednesday, amid concerns that an upsurge in political violence will mar voting. Opposition party Renamo have denied allegations they plan to disrupt the vote after months of deadly clashes between supporters and government forces. “Renamo is not a party of violence. We as Renamo party never sat down to plan any kind of violence,” a spokesperson for the party, Fernando Mazanga told AFP on the eve of the vote. Since late October guerrillas from Renamo’s military wing have been fighting a low-level insurgency against government forces in the central province of Sofala.
The Mauritanian legislative and municipal elections are being held at a moment of national disunity. A number of challenges have caused the vote to be postponed several times in the past. Finally the government has decided to go ahead with it, despite a vote boycott by some of the major opposition parties. The results could be ominous to national unity. Mauritania is one of the least developed nations in the Sahel region of Africa. It has not yet emerged from years of political instability after a series of military coups and failed democratic processes, the result of which is extreme polarization within the political class. Hundreds of small parties are crowding the arena and vying for dominance. None of them has a clear programme or a distinct ideology. They keep switching sides between the ruling party and the main opposition bloc, thereby creating unstable and unreliable alliances. Moreover, there is a deep and long standing mistrust between the ruling party, the Union for the Republic (UPR) and the hardline opposition party, Coordination of the Democratic Opposition (COD). In 2009 the two sides engaged in an unsuccessful political dialogue in the Senegalese capital, Dakar, following the 2008 military coup which led to the ousting of a democratically elected president.
In the face of an apparent electoral drubbing, the leader of Nepal’s largest Maoist party demanded a halt to the nation’s vote counting on Thursday because of what he called widespread vote fraud. “Serious national and international forces are behind this, and we demand a suspension to vote counting,” said the Maoist leader, Pushpa Kamal Dahal, the head of the United Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist). Mr. Dahal said that election workers had smashed ballot boxes and accepted false ballots. He called for an independent investigation and warned that his party might rejoin hard-line Maoists and refuse to participate in the Constituent Assembly if his demands were not met. “We will not join” the assembly, he declared, as Maoist party members marched outside the party’s headquarters, shouting, “We are ready to fight!”
Here’s an idea for how to end corporate greed and reverse the trend of growing income inequality worldwide: impose a new rule that would limit the pay of top executives to just 12 times that of the lowest-paid employees at the same firm. In other words, prevent CEOs from earning more in one month than the lowliest shop-floor worker earns in a year. This proposal might sound like something cooked up by Occupy Wall Street or another radical protest movement, but in fact it comes from the heartland of a nation not usually known for its disdain of money-making: Switzerland. On Nov. 24, the Swiss will vote in a referendum on whether to enshrine the 1:12 pay ratio — in their national constitution, no less. The initiative is backed by an assortment of mainstream political groups, including the Social Democratic Party and the Greens, who argue that CEO pay in Switzerland has gotten out of control and needs to be reined in. They quote a raft of figures to show that the ratio of top to bottom earners in Swiss firms has grown from about 1 to 6 in 1984, to 1 to 43 today. And that’s just the average. In some companies, especially banks, the gap is much wider, with top executives such as Brady Dougan, the American CEO of Credit Suisse, and Andrea Orcel, head of investment banking at UBS, earning hundreds of times as much as their juniors.