Editorials: Why Campaign Finance Laws Make Things Worse | Jonathan Bernstein/Bloomberg

Yesterday’s fascinating New York Times deep dive into partisan money networks, state legislative elections, and the resulting policy outcomes really underlines the sometimes-complex relationship between campaign finance regulations and effective disclosure: “Not unlike a political version of Cayman Islands banks, the networks allow political strategists to sidestep regulations and obscure the source of funds. Campaign contributions that would be banned or restricted in one state can be sent to a state where the rules allow money to flow more freely, often scrubbed of the identity of the original donor. Some groups work behind the scenes to orchestrate ‘money bombs’ of smaller contributions from hundreds of different donors, allowing the groups to provide candidates with large doses of cash — fingerprint-free — even in states with low contribution limits.” Under current constitutional doctrine — and, really, this has been true since the 1970s, well before Citizens United and other recent court cases — regulations are generally incapable of preventing big money from ending up wherever it wants to go. What regulations can do is disrupt the way money is raised by candidates and parties, forcing political actors to innovate to gain access to funds.

Voting Blogs: Campaign Finance, Polarization and the Case of the Lost Car Keys | More Soft Money Hard Law

The American Political Science Association Task Force report on political polarization,Negotiating Agreement in Politics (2013) includes a discussion of the role of campaign spending. The co-authors of this analysis, Michael Barber and Nolan McCarty, write that the role is small. But they suggest that there is more work to be done, raising the question of whether some spur to polarization might come from the rising importance to candidates of ideologically motivated individual donors. Before turning to that question, it is worth noting what else the co-authors have to say about the impact of money. They refer to the research that shows the “weak connection” between contributions and roll call votes, and between campaign spending and election outcomes. One would not know this from standard media coverage of the issue. This is not to say, of course, that money in politics does not present important public policy issues. But one is reminded once again that much of what passes for a telling critique of campaign finance in America is weakly or inconsistently supported by social science research.

Illinois: New law gives vote to some 17 year olds | The Edwardsville Intelligencer

A state law that went into effect Jan. 1 allows 17 year olds to vote in the March 18 primary if they turn 18 on or before the November general election. So far the only person to sign up has been a male student from Granite City High School whose birthday fell during the summer. “He was here on Jan. 2 at 8:30 a.m. He was ready!” County Clerk Debbie Ming-Mendoza said Monday at her office at the Administration Building. “He was very excited about the idea of being able to vote in the primary and not having to wait until November. It was a big topic in the social studies and government classes. He said he was going to try to encourage his classmates.” Ming-Mendoza declined to name the student.

Kentucky: House panel approves bill to give most ex-felons in Kentucky the right to vote | Kentucky.com

Nearly 180,000 ex-felons in Kentucky who have fully served their sentences would regain their right to vote under a proposed constitutional amendment that a state House committee approved Tuesday. House Bill 70, sponsored by Rep. Jesse Crenshaw, D-Lexington, would not apply to ex-felons who committed intentional murder, rape, sodomy or a sex offense with a minor. The legislation has sailed through the Democratic-controlled House in past sessions but has stalled in the Republican-controlled Senate. Some Republicans say the measure would benefit Democratic candidates, but House Minority Leader Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, told the House Committee on Elections, Constitutional Amendments and Intergovernmental Affairs on Tuesday that he doesn’t buy that argument. The legislation is needed because it “is a matter of fairness,” he said. “We are a forgiving society.”

Montana: Officials ask high court to review party endorsements in judicial races | The Missoulian

The state’s attorney general and political practices commissioner have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review a 2012 federal appeals court decision that struck down Montana’s ban on political party endorsement of candidates in the state’s nonpartisan judicial races. The case involves an attempt by the Sanders County Republican Central Committee in 2012 to endorse candidates for an open Montana Supreme Court race and in a contested race for district judge in the district that includes Lake and Sanders counties.

Nevada: US Supreme Court won’t hear Nevada ballot case | The Washington Post

Nevada’s unique “none of the above” voting option for statewide races will remain an election spoiler for the foreseeable future after the U.S. Supreme Court declined Monday to consider an appeal by national Republicans. The decision came after Republicans sued in 2012 to get the option, appearing as “none of these candidates,” stricken from the ballot, fearing it could siphon votes from a disgruntled electorate and sway the outcome of close presidential races and Nevada U.S. Senate contests. The option has been on the ballot since 1976. It applies only to statewide races and was enacted by the Legislature to try to curb voter apathy in the wake of the Watergate scandal that brought down President Richard Nixon. The intent was to give voters a way to voice their displeasure with candidates and elected officials at the ballot box.

New York: The dead can vote in New York City | New York Post

Death doesn’t necessarily disqualify you from voting in New York City. Investigators posing as dead voters were allowed to cast ballots for this year’s primary and general elections, thanks to antiquated Board of Election registration records and lax oversight by poll workers, authorities said. The election board’s susceptibility to voter fraud by people impersonating the departed was uncovered during a massive probe of the agency by the Department of Investigation. The probe uncovered 63 instances when voters’ names should have been stricken from the rolls, but weren’t — even though some of them had died years before. “The majority of those 63 individuals remained on the rolls nearly two years — and some as long as four years — since a death, felony conviction, or move outside of New York City,” said DOI Commissioner Rose Gill Hearn.

Ohio: Husted, voting rights groups settle on ‘Motor Voter’ Act case | cleveland.com

The state of Ohio agreed to a settlement Monday with voting awareness groups Judicial Watch and True the Vote, effectively ending a lawsuit that lasted almost a year and a half. The case dates to August 2012, when the groups claimed Secretary of State Jon Husted hadn’t taken reasonable steps to keep ineligible voters out of polling places. Monday’s settlement, which involves no money, established nine criteria for Husted’s office to follow, ensuring compliance with the National Voter Registration Act, known widely as the “Motor Voter” Act.

Tennessee: Dueling Election Databases Make Tracking Difficult | Memphis Daily News

If ever the political axiom of needing a scorecard to keep up with the players applied to an election cycle, it would be the set of three elections in 2014 across Shelby County. The middle election of the three – the August ballot of county general elections and state and federal primary elections – is expected to be one of the longest in the county’s political history, if not the longest. But the two “scorecards” kept electronically by the Shelby County Election Commission don’t match up, making it hard to know who has a qualifying petition out and who has filed their petition, and even more difficult to know some of the basic information like a candidate’s address on their qualifying petition.

Tennessee: Third parties seek easing of state ballot rules | The Tennessean

Minor political parties fighting to get on the ballot in Tennessee were given a chance to air their views Monday, but they left the Capitol disappointed. In a meeting held on the eve of the start of the 2014 legislative session, representatives for the Libertarian, Constitution and Green parties presented plans that would have slashed the number of signatures needed for minor parties to be recognized by state election officials. But state lawmakers would agree only to a nonbinding recommendation to lower the requirement for local and statehouse races. The decision frustrated representatives for third parties, which have sued state officials over rules that they say have been designed to thwart them.

Virginia: Recount looms as Democrat certified winner of Senate special election by nine votes | The Washington Post

The State Board of Elections voted Friday to certify Del. Lynwood W. Lewis Jr. (D-Accomack) as the winner of a Senate special election by just nine votes, and his Republican foe made clear he would ask for a recount. Lewis and Wayne Coleman (R), the owner of a Norfolk shipping company, squared off Tuesday in the contest to fill the Hampton Roads-based seat of Lt. Gov-elect Ralph Northam. The outcome of the race, and the Jan. 21 special election to succeed Attorney General-elect Mark Herring (D), will determine which party controls a Senate that had been split 20-20. Lewis’s edge of nine votes — .04 percent — entitles Coleman to ask for a government-funded recount.

Wisconsin: Milwaukee County municipalities to study voting machine purchase | Journal Sentinel

A group of municipal officials from Milwaukee County tiptoed Monday into the issue of consolidating the purchase and programming of voting machines. The Intergovernmental Cooperation Council will name a work group to study the idea, which came out as the top shared-service idea in a survey of 14 municipal officials done by the nonpartisan Public Policy Forum. Interest in the idea was prompted in part by an unsuccessful attempt last fall by County Supervisor John Weishan Jr. to have the county finance the cost of buying 375 voting machines to supply the City of Milwaukee and every other municipality. The idea failed to win County Board approval as an amendment to the county’s 2014 budget on a 9-9 tie vote.

Thailand: Prime Minister calls meeting on whether to postpone the election | Bangkok Post

Caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has called an urgent meeting to discuss the Election Commission’s proposal that government postpone the election from Feb 2, PM’s secretary-general Suranand Vejjajiva said on Monday. The premier has instructed Deputy Prime Minister Pongthep Thepkanchana to coordinate the meeting to take place this Wednesday, Jan 15. Mr Suranand said Ms Yingluck will preside over the meeting herself if all relevant parties agree to discuss the proposal to postpone the polls. He said the government is calling the meeting because it sincerely wants all concerned with the issue to come together for talks.

United Kingdom: Voter ID proposals could put elderly off going to polls | This Is Wiltshire

Linda Petherick, South West regional organiser of the National Federation of Occupational Pensioners, said that proposals from The Electoral Commission, which would require voters to show some sort of ID at polling stations before voting, could stop the older generation from using their vote. NFOP is concerned that these proposals could create a number of potential problems, especially for older people. Mrs Petherick said: “There needs to be some clarification on how this is going to work, including what sort of ID will be accepted, as many older people do not have a photo driver ID or even a relevant passport.