If you support Democratic Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick’s bid for reelection, stay away from annkirkpatrick.com. The site might greet visitors with a welcoming photo of the Arizona congresswoman and a screaming “Kirkpatrick for Congress” logo, but that design belies its true agenda. Funded and created by the Republican Party’s congressional campaign wing, the site’s true aim is in the fine print: to defeat Kirkpatrick, described as “a huge embarrassment to Arizona.” The National Republican Congressional Campaign bought up hundreds of URLs ahead of the 2014 election cycle and has created nearly 20 websites appearing to support Democratic candidates in all but the small print, a spokesman for the campaign confirmed Thursday. The NRCC rolled out the first such site in August, targeting Sean Eldridge, who is facing a tough race in New York’s 19th district. Since then, the organization has created mock campaign sites for 17 other candidates, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) and Alex Sink, a candidate for Florida’s 13th district.
If you’re concerned about “dark money” in politics and the tsunami of cash from the super-wealthy and corporations pouring into the political system, or if you were outraged by the recent “scandal” involving the IRS’s clumsy assessment of 501(c)(4) groups, your ears probably perked up when you heard that the Internal Revenue Service has issued draft regulations to “provide clarity” to the rules that govern so-called “social welfare” organizations. Yet the new regs will do almost nothing to fix the things you think are broken and may, in fact, do some real damage to the ability of everyday Americans to have an impact on the political process. The proposed rules cover 501(c)(4) groups, named for the section of the tax code that governs them. Although this is the segment of the nonprofit world best known for notorious organizations like Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS, it is actually made up of over 86,000 mostly small organizations nationwide, some of which are almost certainly active participants in your own community’s civic life. They weren’t invented in the last election cycle; they’ve been around for generations. Their purpose isn’t to hide donors but to advance policies. The big, famous guys and the shady newcomers get all the attention, but they aren’t typical of the sector, any more than Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber reflect the experience of the bulk of the people making a living in the music industry.
The District’s April primary ballot will not include the city’s first attorney general election, in accordance with a Superior Court ruling issued Friday. Washingtonians in 2010 approved a charter amendment to make attorney general an elected, rather than appointed, position in 2014, but the D.C. Council has since attempted to cancel, then delay, such a vote. Superior Court Judge Laura A. Cordero on Friday afternoon denied a motion for injunction, after granting an emergency hearing for attorney general hopeful Paul Zukerberg on Thursday, just two days before the primary ballots headed to the printer.
Election supervisors and the League of Women Voters have a new complaint with Gov. Rick Scott and the Legislature over early voting. After years of complaints by supervisors who struggled with historically long lines at the polls in 2012, lawmakers last year expanded the list of early voting sites to include fairgronds, civic centers, courthouses, county commission buildings, stadiums, convention centers and government-owned community centers. But when the city of Gainesville — which is heavily Democratic — asked if it could use the University of Florida student union for early voting in next month’s municipal elections, the state said no. “The Reitz Union is a structure designed for, and affiliated with, a specific educational institution,” says an advisory opinion from Maria Matthews, director of the state Division of Elections, which is run by a Scott appointee, Secretary of State Ken Detzner. “The terms ‘convention center’ and ‘government-owned community center’ cannot be construed so broadly as to include the Reitz Union.”
A Ramsey County District Court clock has been ticking since mid-December on a lawsuit filed by a handful of Republican officials challenging DFL Secretary of State Mark Ritchie’s authority to institute online voter registration, which he did in September. The Legislature ought to beat Judge John Guthmann to the punch. Soon after they reconvene on Feb. 25, legislators ought to give Ritchie the legal green light he may or may not have had last fall. Voters, election administrators and taxpayers benefit from the convenience, accuracy and cost-saving efficiency of online registration. Ritchie, who plans to leave office at the end of this year, maintains that he has always had the law on his side. He cites a law enacted in 2000 allowing government agencies to switch to electronic records and to allow for electronic signatures on forms and documents. His application of that law to voter registration caught legislators by surprise and was met with bipartisan skepticism and the lawsuit.
New Jersey: Push on for reform, as elected officials continue to use campaign fund for trips, gas, bills | NJ.com
Last year, Morris County Republican Sen. Anthony Bucco charged his re-election campaign $5,984 to go to Puerto Rico for a legislative conference and golf outing. Sen. Nicholas Scutari (D-Union) used his campaign account to fill up his car enough times to drive across the country, but never said where he was going. So did Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr. (R-Union), who spent $1,707 of his campaign funds to fill up his Ford Escape Hybrid. And Sen. Diane Allen (R-Burlington) used her campaign account to pay off $21,723 in American Express credit card bills, without any explanation as to what she purchased. Candidates in New Jersey have a lot of leeway in how they spend money raised from contributors, as long as they do not use it for personal needs. But an examination by The Star-Ledger of campaign finance reports in the wake of the resignation last week of U.S. Rep. Rob Andrews —; currently under investigation for misuse of federal campaign funds — illustrates just how vague the rules are in New Jersey.
Ohio: Voters Bill of Rights aims to end partisan interference with voting rights | Cleveland Plain Dealer
If proponents can gather the required 385,247 voter signatures, Ohioans this fall may be asked to add an Ohio Voters Bill of Rights to the state constitution. The amendment’s centerpiece is a declaration that voting is a fundamental right in Ohio. Legalese aside, that statement would make it much tougher for Statehouse partisans to try to mess with voting rights, especially the voting rights of black Ohioans, something some (not all) General Assembly Republicans have repeatedly tried to do. Procedurally, the wording of the proposal is now awaiting clearance from Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine. Then, after state Ballot Board review, the official committee calling for the measure, which includes two Greater Clevelanders, the Rev. Otis Moss Jr. and Rep. Vernon Sykes, an Akron Democrat, can begin seeking petition signatures from Ohio voters.
Vermont: Secretary of State: Primary election date must be moved to the first Tuesday in August | Brattleboro Reformer
The Vermont Secretary of State wants the Legislature to move the primary election date to the first week of August. Jim Condos says the state must move the primary date up this year in order to comply with federal law. The Department of Justice sued the state in 2012 when a recount in the governor’s race led to a delay in the mailing of General Election ballots to overseas voters, including military personnel. It’s not the first time Condos has come to lawmakers asking for an earlier primary. Last year, the Senate resoundingly voted down his proposal, 29-0. The defeat was an embarrassment for Condos, but nevertheless, he has brought the provision back, this time to the House Government Operations Committee as the omnibus elections bill, S. 86, goes through round two in the Vermont Legislature. Part of the problem politically is that the primary election date, which for many years was held in mid-September, was changed just a few years ago and lawmakers are loath to move it again. The election is currently held the fourth Tuesday in August. Last session senators said if anything they’d like to move the primary date back to mid-September. But Condos says if lawmakers don’t change the date, the Department of Justice will do it for them.
Virginia’s General Assembly – especially the Republican-controlled House of Delegates – has been slow to embrace the idea of electronic voting. But it appears a small window may be opening up for one class of citizens to vote by email: military service members who are deployed overseas. Under current law, they must follow the same procedure as anyone else who is absent on Election Day: Obtain an absentee ballot, fill it out and send it in by snail mail. That can be difficult, if not impossible, for service members in active combat zones.
The government’s proposed overhaul of the Elections Act includes elements that constitute an affront to democracy, according to Canada’s Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand. In an interview airing Saturday on CBC Radio’s The House, Mayrand said “my reading of the act is that I can no longer speak about democracy in this country.” “I’m not aware of any electoral bodies around the world who can not talk about democracy,” Mayrand told host Evan Solomon. Under the proposed bill, the only role of the chief electoral officer would be to inform the public of when, where, and how to vote. Elections Canada would be forbidden from launching ad campaigns encouraging Canadians to vote. Surveys and research would be forbidden under the new bill, Mayrand said. “Most of the research will no longer be published because these are communications to the public.” The chief electoral officer and the commissioner of Canada elections would also no longer be allowed to publish their reports, Mayrand said. “These reports will no longer be available. In fact, not only not available. I don’t think it will be done at all.”
A day after a record snowfall in Japan’s capital, Tokyoites took to the heavily frosted streets to cast their ballots for a new governor. Inevitably, the heaviest snow in two decades — according to the weather agency — was affecting voter turnout. As of 11 a.m. (0200 GMT) Sunday, turnout at 1,869 polling stations was an estimated 4.10%, according to the Tokyo Metropolitan Electoral Management Committee. That was around 7 percentage points lower than at the same time during the previous gubernatorial election, in December 2012. “Turnout is quite low; it’s because of the snow,” said an official with the committee.
Eurosceptic anti-immigrant movements across Europe received a boost on Sunday when Switzerland voted by the slimmest of margins to impose quotas on newcomers to the country, thrusting its relations with the EU into uncertainty. In a referendum mobilised by far-right populists demanding caps on immigration in a country where almost one in four of the population are immigrants, 50.4% of voters supported the measure, in a relatively high turnout of 56%. The vote split Switzerland east to west, with the francophone west voting against the quotas and the German-speaking east backing the clampdown.
The 2 February general election passed without serious violence; most of the valid votes cast were almost certainly for the governing Pheu Thai party. That was the good news for the government. The bad news was that the election was sufficiently disrupted to end with a lower-than-usual turnout, and millions of voters blocked from voting by the anti-government PDRC movement. These elections will have to be run again to fill the minimum of 95% of seats in parliament required by the constitution before a new government can be formed. That includes polling stations where advanced voting was obstructed on 26 January, and the 28 constituencies where protesters blocked any candidates from registering. The re-runs could take many weeks, and will surely be obstructed again. It is a finishing line Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s party is battling to cross, with her opponents determined to stop her; a war of attrition being waged on several fronts.
Many of the voting machines purchased through the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002 are nearing the end of their life cycles and there is little prospect of more Federal funding to replace them. In a proof-of-citizenship case brought by Arizona and Kansas a Federal judge has agreed with the U.S. Election Assistance Commission in limiting his review to the existing administrative record, rather than hold an evidentiary hearing in the case. In spite of controversy surrounding his use of HAVA funds for a voter fraud investigation, Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz has requested further funding from the State to continue the investigation. Verified Voting Advisory Board members have expressed concerns over the privacy and security of Maryland’s online ballot marking wizard. Projections of the impact of Texas’s voter ID requirement differ along party lines. A Virginia legislative panel has tabled legislation that would have required localities to use paper ballot systems this November and created a fund to cover half of the cost of new tabulators. Conservative legislators in Canada have introduced a sweeping election reform bill and Thailand has been left in legal limbo after widespread disruption of parliamentary elections.