The IRS and Treasury Department announced proposed guidelines clarifying the definition of political activities for social welfare nonprofits Tuesday afternoon, a move that could restrict the spending of the dark money groups that dumped more than $254 million of anonymous money into the 2012 elections. Read the guidelines here. However, the guidelines, which finally define what constitutes “candidate-related political activity,” aren’t a done deal. They will take some time for public comment and debate, and more time to finalize. (The IRS asks that all comments and requests for a public hearing be submitted by Feb. 27.) Experts also cautioned that the real test of oversight on the political spending by nonprofits will be how these regulations are enforced, something that the IRS has been so far reticent to do.
The Alaska Republican primary ballot next year will be a tale of two Dan Sullivans. Former state Natural Resources Commissioner Dan Sullivan, a first-time candidate, announced a challenge last month to Democratic Sen. Mark Begich. Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan, the better-known of the two, is running for lieutenant governor. The presence of more than one Dan Sullivan is causing some confusion in polling on the two races, but it may not necessarily have negative repercussions for either candidate in the Aug. 26 primaries. While there will undoubtedly be plenty of advertising in this inexpensive state over the next nine months, any lingering confusion could conceivably provide the Senate candidate a few extra points of support. “From a strategy point of view, I think it’s to both parties’ interests — because both parties benefit from the other party’s advertising — to not dispel it until the primary is over,” said Marc Hellenthal, a veteran Republican pollster in the state whose client is the Anchorage mayor.
The latest election-related demand from Gov. Rick Scott’s secretary of state — a directive this week ordering officials to stop accepting voters’ absentee ballots at drop-off sites — didn’t go over well with elections supervisors or voting-rights activists. Then again, not much of what Secretary of State Ken Detzner has proposed to reform voting in Florida has gone over well with those groups. Particularly not with Volusia elections supervisor Ann McFall. “This is the bully pulpit that the supervisors have found themselves dealing with,” McFall said of Detzner’s new order — one she said her election workers might not even comply with. “I’d be willing to challenge it,” she added. “I feel that strongly about it.”
Once again Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner is carrying out Gov. Rick Scott’s mission to make it harder to vote. With little explanation, Detzner told the state’s election supervisors this week to eliminate all absentee ballot dropoff sites except for their offices. This is no more defensible than the administration’s continuing misguided effort to purge the voting roll of noncitizens, and election supervisors should ignore Detzner’s latest demand. The new restrictions regarding absentee ballots have gone over like a hanging chad among many of the state’s 67 election supervisors, all of whom are elected officials except in Miami-Dade County. They were not consulted about the change, and Detzner’s argument that restricting ballot dropoffs to supervisors’ offices ensures statewide uniformity in voting procedures is a weak rationale for making voting more inconvenient.
On January 1, 2013 a new law went into effect in Kansas. The law requires new voters to prove their U.S. citizenship in order to register. As a result of the new regulations, more than 17 thousand Kansans, including more than 3,900 potential voters in Sedgwick County, remain in “suspended” status for failing to provide a birth certificate or other qualifying document when registering. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach authored the Secure and Fair Elections Act. Kobach says most people don’t carry birth certificates around, the law was written in a very permissive way. It allows applicants to take their time to complete their registration. … Doug Bonney of the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas says the proof of citizenship document is unnecessary and that the problem does not really exist. “There just isn’t that type of fraud,” Bonney said. “People do not show up at the election authorities and try to register to vote when they’re not citizens, so there’s no need for this.”
Implementation of Mississippi’s new voting requirements will begin with months to spare before its next election, according to a state official. Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann told the Associated Press that Mississippi will soon start issuing free voter identification cards to eligible residents who lack a government-issued photo ID. Issuance of the cards is expected to begin in early 2014, months before the U.S. House and Senate primaries in June. Mississippi was among the handful of states that were able to proceed with new voting requirements without federal approval, following a summer Supreme Court ruling that invalidated part of the Voting Rights Act.
A political group that has gained notoriety for challenging campaign restrictions on corporations was fined $260,000 on Tuesday after a judge said it failed to disclose spending. The civil penalty levied against American Tradition Partnership, which is organized as a nonprofit corporation, demonstrated that new campaign freedoms extended to corporations don’t make them immune to state disclosure laws. District Judge Jeffrey Sherlock said in his order that the group has shown “complete disregard” for the laws of Montana, its courts, and the tradition of free and open elections. The case involves attack ads mailed by the group in 2008 denouncing candidates. Officials say it did not report the spending as political activity to the state commissioner of political practices. The group, which was headquartered in Montana then Colorado and the Washington, D.C., area, has challenged state campaign finance laws and targeted moderate Republican legislators and Democrats with harsh campaign ads.
North Carolina’s legislative attack on voting rights this year was quickly recognized for what it was — the most restrictive set of laws since the Voting Rights Act of the sixties was put into effect. A myriad of new rules for voters were put into place with the bill, which was then signed into law by Republican Governor Pat McCrory. Now, the governor, facing an uphill battle for reelection, is trying to do a little history rewriting when it comes to limiting voter’s rights. One key piece of North Carolina’s law would drastically cut back on early voting, which is seen by many to be a key factor in increasing voter turnout and ensuring democratic participation when it comes to electing candidates to office. The legislature voted to eliminate a full week off the early voting calendar, decreasing it from 17 to just 10 days. Facing harsh criticism over that move, Governor McCrory is claiming that they actually didn’t shorten the early voting calendar at all. No, he says, they just “compacted” it.
Just days after Utah Attorney General John Swallow announced his retirement the Utah Democratic Party is taking issue with the governor’s office. The Democrats are calling the process of finding a new attorney general unconstitutional. As it stands right now, the governor will appoint a new attorney general once Swallow is done next week, but the democrats instead want Swallow’s election thrown out and are calling for a special election. Can an elected official resign from an office that they never legally held? That is the question that the Utah state Democratic Party takes issue with in the case of Utah Attorney General John Swallow.
Virginia: Alexandria to Hand Count All Paper Ballots in Recount For Attorney General | Connection Newspapers
Alexandria election officials will be going back to the future in the next few weeks, pouring over thousands of paper ballots by hand as part of a recount effort in the hotly contested race for attorney general. Although other jurisdictions with paper ballots will be reprogramming their scanners for the recount, election officials say the Hart InterCivic machines currently in use in Alexandria and Charlottesville have some key limitations that prevent them from being reprogrammed. “It’s not like that would happen in a split second by feeding them through the machine,” said Deputy Registrar Anna Lieder. “So we are prepared to do a hand count if that’s what’s required.” Election officials say the Hart InterCivic machines have two problems that would lead to a hand recount of all paper ballots. One is that the scanners must be able to conduct a recount for the race in question without also doing a recount for all the other races on the ballot, one of the limitations of the brand purchased by city officials. Another problem is that the scanners must be able to separate ballots where the voter has written in a name and under vote ballots, where no vote was registered for the attorney general race. Election officials say the stack of undervote ballots are likely to include a number of ballots where a voter may have written the name of a candidate or marked it in a way that was not picked up by the electronic scanner. “All these scanning devices have benefits and drawbacks,” said Lieder. “These are much more precise and easier to mark in the initial voting process.”
Republican state Sen. Mark Obenshain, R-Harrisonburg, will seek a recount of the historically close Virginia attorney general’s race in which Democratic Sen. Mark Herring of Loudoun County was certified the winner by 165 votes out of more than 2.2 million votes cast. The recount request, announced by the Obenshain campaign late Tuesday afternoon, follows Monday’s certification of Herring as the winner by the State Board of Elections. Earlier in the day, Herring announced co-chairs for his inaugural committee. “It is within Senator Obenshain’s right to pursue electoral victory to an ultimate conclusion beyond the original count, canvass and certification,” Herring said in a news release. “His tactics, however, will not impede our efforts to build the finest team to serve all Virginians in the Office of Attorney General or prepare for the 2014 legislative session.”
Opponents of a ballot initiative that would raise the minimum wage for workers at some businesses in and around Seattle-Tacoma International Airport to $15 announced on Tuesday that they were calling for a recount in the narrowly decided and closely watched contest. The prospect of a recount and more legal hurdles hardly stopped supporters from celebrating their narrow victory in the three-week-long vote count by King County Elections. The initiative, SeaTac Proposition 1, which eked out a 77-vote victory, has garnered national attention as other cities, including Seattle, weigh the merits of upping their minimum wages. Supporters pointed to the measure’s potential for spurring wider action. The hot-button ballot measure continues to pit business owners, who say they can’t afford the 63 percent wage hike, against workers ,who say they can’t make ends meet. Proposition 1 is also facing legal challenges. Two small food businesses, Alaska Airlines and the Washington Restaurant Association have a case pending against the city of SeaTac, the city’s clerk and the Port of Seattle in King County Superior Court, contending the ballot measure violates state and federal laws.
The NSW Government will spend $3.6 million expanding its electronic voting system iVote for the 2015 state general election. iVote was first used in a limited capacity in the 2011 state general election. The NSW Government announced earlier this year it would expand the use of the system in the 2015 election, following hanges to relevant legislation. It today approached the market for a supplier to build and implement the new expanded voting system, and also revealed the state’s treasury had approved funding of $3.63 million for the project. Over 46,800 voters used the iVote service to cast their vote in the 2011 election – around 1 percent of total votes taken. The NSW Electoral Commission expects around 100,000 will use iVote during the 2015 state election.
Chanting “take to the streets” Monday, Honduran supporters of the country’s first major pro-left political party vigorously protested official presidential election results that showed their candidate losing. Backers of candidate Xiomara Castro accused electoral authorities of fraud, saying they were manipulating results to hand victory to her chief rival, an old-style politician from the conservative ruling party. Castro, wife of the president ousted in a 2009 coup, was trailing the top vote-getter, Juan Orlando Hernandez, by a margin of about 5 percentage points, according to the official tally with more than half of the ballots counted. “We do not accept the results,” Castro’s husband, the deposed former President Manuel Zelaya, said Monday. Hernandez’s disputed victory, which is gradually being recognized by other Latin American governments, threatens to plunge the violent, dysfunctional country into an even deeper period of instability.
The observer mission of the West African regional bloc ECOWAS has said Sunday’s legislative election in Mali met ‘globally-acceptable standards’. “The shortcomings observed did not in any significant way affect the conduct of the election in line with globally acceptable standards. Though not intended, the disenfranchisement of some young voters and some electorate in the insecure north, as well as the low turn-out in the elections, are regrettable,” the ECOWAS Election Observation Mission said in a preliminary declaration made available to PANA here Tuesday by the ECOWAS Commission. The 100-member mission, led by Prof. Amos Sawyer, former President of Liberia’s Government of National Unity, noted that the processes and conduct of stakeholders on Election Day showed “a marked improvement” over the Presidential elections of July/August, including the timely arrival of electoral officials, early delivery of essential materials and the orderly conduct of voters.
Mali’s three main political parties secured just 16 seats out of 147 available in the first round of a parliamentary election, provisional results showed on Wednesday. The election, which took place on Sunday amid low turnout and some voting abuses, was meant to complete the West African country’s transition back to democracy after a coup last year led to an Islamist takeover of the north. Militants were later driven out by a French-led invasion but pockets of resistance have remained.