Four years after the Supreme Court deregulated independent campaign spending in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the high court is poised to yet again turn American elections upside down. The court is expected to rule any day now on McCutcheon v. FEC, another potentially landmark constitutional challenge that could shake up campaign financing as dramatically as Citizens United did in 2010. While no one can predict how the court will rule, oral arguments in October suggest that conservatives in the majority remain as eager as ever to dismantle money limits. At issue in McCutcheon is the constitutionality of existing overall limits on how much a contributor may give to candidates and political parties in a single election cycle. Alabama businessman Shaun McCutcheon, who brought the challenge, argues that the $123,200 cap on total contributions per cycle violates his First Amendment rights.
A Los Angeles jury on Tuesday convicted state Sen. Roderick D. Wright on all eight counts in his perjury and voter fraud trial. The Inglewood Democrat was indicted by a Los Angeles County grand jury in September 2010. He had pleaded not guilty and said he thought he had been following the law in 2007 when he took steps to run for the seat he has held since late 2008. In a trial that began Jan. 8, prosecutors accused Wright of faking a move to a rental property he owned in Inglewood so he could run in what was then the 25th Senate District. They accused him of lying on voter registration and candidacy documents and of casting ballots in five elections he was not entitled to vote in from the Inglewood address. Prosecutors said Wright actually lived in a more spacious single-family home in upscale Baldwin Hills. He bought the house in 2000, but it was in another district.
Democratic and Republican lawmakers agree that online voter registration is a good idea — if it is done right. At least, that consensus emerged Tuesday during a House Elections Committee hearing on a bill that would authorize online registration and absentee ballot applications. Registering online is “user friendly, cheaper and more reliable” than filling out paper applications, said Rep. Steve Simon, DFL-Hopkins, the committee chairman and bill sponsor. Minnesota voters already can register electronically. Secretary of State Mark Ritchie started accepting online registrations in September. So far, about 2,500 voters have registered on the new website.
The nationwide fight over voter ID laws is heading next to the Show Me State. Missouri Republicans are working to amend their state’s constitution as part of an aggressive push to require photo identification at the polls. The GOP-controlled legislature held a hearing Monday on two voter ID bills. One would place a proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot this November, which, if approved by voters, would allow for a voter ID law. The second bill, to go into effect only if the amendment passes, would impose voter ID. The two-pronged approach is needed because of a 2006 state Supreme Court ruling which found that voter ID laws violate the state constitution’s guarantee of a right to vote. A Pennsylvania judge this month struck down that state’s ID law on similar grounds.
A plan to accept Mercy Health-Mount Airy Hospital as a gift and convert it into the Hamilton County crime lab is in limbo after a tie vote by the county’s Board of Elections, which under a county plan would move there, too. Republicans want to move the Board of Elections to Mount Airy, saying it would be more efficient than the current operation, is closer to more county voters and has better parking. Democrats want at the least to keep early voting Downtown, near the public transportation hub. In the 2012 presidential election, more than 24,000 people voted early, in-person, at the Downtown location. The four-member board Monday twice voted 2-2 along party lines, first on whether to move board offices and early voting to the former hospital in Mount Airy, the second time to move the office but keep early voting Downtown. Ohio law calls for Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted to break the tie – if he wants to. Husted, who is running for re-election in November, could determine the issue is local and stay out of it. A spokesman said Husted is encouraging the board to “take another look at it.”
Editorials: In Ohio, The Subtle – And Not-So-Subtle – Strategies of Voter Suppression | P.G. Sittenfeld/Huffington Post
As everyone knows, Presidential elections can swing on the outcome in Ohio. Voters – and votes – in the Buckeye State are courted, coveted, and counted with care. In recent days, an alarming episode has been on unfolding in Hamilton County, where I serve as a Cincinnati City Councilman. Cloaked in the guise of an administrative relocation is a Republican move aimed at voter suppression. It started innocuously enough when the Hamilton County Coroner requested a bigger space for the County’s crime lab. A large hospital network offered one of its former facilities to the County for a dollar. In addition to relocating the crime lab to the new site, it was also proposed to move the Board of Elections – and, with it, the site of early voting. Sound routine and innocent? Guess again. The proposed relocation would place in-person early voting at a site far removed from downtown with severely less access by public transportation.
Pennsylvania: Corbett’s administration signals it will keep fighting for Pennsylvania’s Voter ID law | PennLive.com
The Corbett Administration signaled its intent Monday to keep fighting for a strong voter identification law in Pennsylvania by asking Commonwealth Court to reconsider a judge’s decision striking the law down. The 2012 law – considered one of the more stringent of its type in the nation and requiring nearly all voters to show photo identification when they went to the polling place – was struck down by Commonwealth Court Judge Bernard L. McGinley earlier this month. McGinley said the mandatory photo requirement placed an unreasonable burden on the fundamental right to vote. He also asserted the state had not been able to prove that it was necessary. Because McGinley’s decision followed a trial last summer on complaints brought by voters, Corbett’s first move was to file post-trial motions raising appellate issues before the full court. Under Pennsylvania’s rules, a trial court must have the chance to review its decision before an appeal could be taken to a higher court.
The state Senate unanimously approved two sets of important reforms for South Dakota elections Tuesday. One would allow members of the armed forces to vote with digital technology rather than by U.S. mail. The other would establish a backup system for spring elections interrupted by bad weather or some other emergency. The two measures, SB 34 and SB 35, now go to the House of Representatives for consideration. They are proposed by the state Board of Elections, including Secretary of State Jason Gant.
College students in Tennessee could be barred from casting a ballot in upcoming elections under the state’s new voter ID law. That is, unless they own a gun. Last week, the Tennessee Senate State & Local Government Committee rejected a bill that would have allowed valid photo IDs issued by any public institution of higher education to be used at the polls. The vote on Tuesday was 7-2, with all Republicans opposing and both Democrats voting in favor. No Republicans on the committee offered testimony against the bill, other than Sen. Mark Norris (R) who noted that the courts had upheld the voter ID law in its current form and said he did “not think it was a good idea” to change it to include university IDs.
The fate of the Western Australian Senate election will hang in the balance today when the Court of Disputed Returns sits in Melbourne. The court has been asked by the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) to find the poll void, so it can mount a rerun. The case comes after the embarrassment to the AEC over the loss of 1,370 ballot papers after last year’s September election. The votes were discovered to be missing when a recount was ordered, after a challenge by two of the candidates, the Green’s Scott Ludlam and the Sporting Party’s Wayne Dropulich. The dispute is over the fifth and sixth Senate positions.
Egypt’s military-backed government reversed field, saying it would conduct presidential elections before a parliamentary vote, officials said. The next leader looks increasingly likely to be the military’s chief, Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi who was promoted to field marshal Monday and has indicated he was mulling a bid, several media outlets reported. The decision Sunday to flip the elections and parliamentary vote changes the electoral schedule set by the military after it ousted President Mohammed Morsi in July, putting the nation’s next leader in a position to sway voters toward parliamentary candidates he supports, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Serbia’s coalition government asked President Tomislav Nikolic on Tuesday to call an early election with the dominant center-right SNS party looking to accelerate reforms by cashing in on a surge in its popularity. Nikolic was expected on Wednesday to schedule the parliamentary election for March 16, just under two years since the people of the western Balkan state last voted. The SNS (Serbian Progressive Party), the strongest party in the ruling alliance, is well ahead in opinion polls, putting party leader Aleksandar Vucic in pole position to take over from Socialist Prime Minister Ivica Dacic. Once an ultranationalist disciple of the “Greater Serbia” ideology that fuelled the wars of federal Yugoslavia’s bloody disintegration in the 1990s, Vucic has since rebranded himself as a pro-European modernizer. As deputy prime minister, Vucic has advocated a painful overhaul of Serbia’s bloated public sector, the pension system and rigid labor market.
A controversial election in Thailand will proceed as scheduled Sunday despite threats of continued violence from antigovernment protesters and fear that the result will only deepen the country’s eight-year political crisis. Thai election officials initially called for the parliamentary elections to be postponed six months because of the unrest. But the election commission relented after meeting Tuesday with beleaguered Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, who has pushed for the vote to proceed because she believes that it will strengthen her slipping grip on power. Protesters who have called for Yingluck to give up power disrupted advance voting that began Sunday, shutting down 19 of 50 polling stations in Bangkok and many more in the southern provinces. One prominent protest leader, Suthin Tharathin, was shot and killed near a Bangkok polling station. Another leading protester has vowed to block all voting places in the capital on election day. Underscoring the threat of violence, about 500 anti-government protesters gathered Tuesday outside a military facility, advancing toward a police barricade as election commissioners held talks with Yingluck inside. On the street nearby, at least two people were injured by gunfire, news agencies reported.