A U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down the overall cap on federal election contributions is sending ripples across American politics, as states have begun backing away from their own restrictions on donations and lawyers are forecasting a new wave of challenges to campaign finance laws nationwide. The court’s 5-4 ruling on Wednesday was unsettling for many Washington fundraisers, donors and lobbyists who were comfortable with federal rules that had limited total donations to candidates and party groups to $123,200 in the 2014 election cycle. Now, thanks to the court’s decision in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, donors who are able to give millions of dollars to candidates and their parties will see their influence expanded – much as it was by a 2010 ruling that inspired the creation of independent “Super PACs” and other groups that could receive unlimited donations.
Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the Democratic leader in the House, wasted little time on Thursday blasting the Supreme Court’s latest decision freeing donors to spend more money on campaigns. The founding fathers, Ms. Pelosi said at a news conference on Thursday morning, had fought for “a government of the many, not a government of the money.” Democrats, she said, will not “unilaterally disarm.” Indeed, her fund-raisers had already begun to exploit the new ruling. That morning, Ms. Pelosi’s political team began asking donors for tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of additional contributions permitted by the decision, while circulating a legal memorandum to donors who had questions about the new rules, according to Pelosi supporters.
Republican officials and their allies, reviewing Wednesday’s Supreme Court ruling on campaign finance, say they now have ammunition for additional challenges to restrictions on political contributions and may press to strike down all limits on donations to candidates and political parties. Motivated by the ruling in their favor, GOP lawyers and conservative advocates are discussing whether to bring lawsuits that would seek to permit companies and labor unions to donate directly to candidates for Congress and the White House; allow the Republican and Democratic parties to accept unlimited donations; and raise the current $10,000 cap on yearly donations to state political parties. “The political parties are going to take a hard look at some of the more extreme provisions of [the campaign-finance rules] to see if those provisions can withstand review” by the court, said Bobby Burchfield, a longtime GOP campaign-finance lawyer.
As Senator Mitch McConnell, an outspoken opponent of regulating campaign spending, has conceded, trying to put limits on political donations is not easy. In McConnell’s words, it’s “like putting a rock on Jell-O. It oozes out some other place.” But if it was difficult before the Supreme Court’s decision this week in McCutcheon v.FEC, it is likely to be impossible now. It was precisely to address the possibility that wealthy people might try to circumvent restrictions on political contributions that Congress not only limited how much money individuals can directly give to political candidates, but also capped the total amount they can donate to all candidates in any election cycle. The Court’s most recent decision, by invalidating all aggregate limits on donations, has vastly increased the amount of Jell-O that campaign finance laws now must contend with. And still more disturbingly, the decision’s rationale invites further challenges to Congressional limits on campaign spending. When this Court gets through, there may be no rock left at all—only Jell-O.
There is more than one way to demolish a wall, physical or legal. Go at it with a bulldozer, or weaken its foundations and await the collapse. When it comes to undermining the structure of modern campaign finance law, Chief Justice John Roberts has done it both ways. The 2010 ruling in the Citizens United case, which Roberts joined, was a judicial bulldozer, willy-nilly toppling precedents that had restricted corporate spending on elections. But the chief justice prefers a cannier jurisprudence, less in-your-face but perhaps just as destructive. Wednesday’s ruling in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, invalidating limits on the overall amount of donations an individual can give to federal candidates and committees, illustrated that insidiously effective approach.
Florida’s much-maligned elections are likely to run much better in 2014, but critics see problems for 2016 that could bring a repeat of the frustrating failures that marked the last two presidential elections. “We might not see the same type of problems in 2014 [that] we saw in 2012,” said Daniel Smith, a University of Florida political science professor who’s done extensive research on the way elections are run around the country. “With respect to 2016, I think we’re going to repeat the past.” In South Florida, the people in charge of running elections are far more optimistic. Not only will voting run smoothly in this year’s August primary and November general election, said Broward Elections Supervisor Brenda Snipes and Palm Beach County Elections Supervisor Susan Bucher, but people should have a much easier time voting in the next presidential election.
The distribution of absentee ballots for military voters began this week for the May 20 general election primary and non-partisan election. While paper ballots for military voters must be available for at least 45 days before an election, in-person early voting for the election won’t begin until April 28. Local elections officials will begin “logic and accuracy testing” on the absentee ballots on Monday. There are three weeks remaining to register to vote. And registering has been made easier with the launch of an online voter registration system. Georgians with a valid Georgia driver’s license will now be able to register to vote or change their address online.
June will be a big month for Idaho Secretary of State Ben Ysursa. He’ll celebrate his 65th birthday and mark 40 years in office – 28 as the closest aide to the late Secretary Pete Cenarrusa and a dozen as Cenarrusa’s successor and Idaho’s top election official. He’ll have put to bed the last of the 21 primaries. Just one contest will remain – the November election to decide who will be the first secretary since 1967 without roots in northern Spain. “It will obviously be a non-Basque,” Ysursa joked Tuesday as he announced his support for Republican Phil McGrane. “So it’s even more important to watch.” Kidding aside, Ysursa fought back emotion as he spoke of the office’s tradition of fairness. Just behind him, his wife, Penny, who worked for Cenarrusa and met her husband on the job in 1974, teared up as a Capitol crowd loudly applauded Ysursa.
Iowa: State Supreme Court will hear appeal in state Senate ballot case involving Des Moines race | Des Moines Register
allows a Democratic candidate to remain on the ballot for an Iowa Senate race in Des Moines is being appealed for a second time. Gary Dickey, a lawyer for former state Rep. Ned Chiodo, said the Iowa Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case at 9 a.m. Wednesday. Chiodo is challenging a decision by District Judge David Christensen, who ruled Wednesday that former state Sen. Tony Bisignano is eligible to run for office despite a conviction for second-offense drunken driving.
With less than two months to go before the June 2 filing deadline for Kansas candidates seeking statewide or national office, questions about the upcoming election cycle abound. A U.S. District Court in Wichita ruled last month that the U.S. Election Assistance Commission must act immediately to modify federal voter registration forms to accommodate proof-of-citizenship laws in Kansas and Arizona. That decision has been appealed to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals by more than a dozen voting rights groups, including the League of Women Voters of the United States, Common Cause, Project Vote and the Inter Tribal Council of Arizona. Those appealing the decision also asked the Wichita judge to stay his own order while their appeal is being considered.
The Green Party and Constitution Party may appear on the November ballot. But Libertarians are likely to be left out. The Senate State & Local Government Committee rejected a bill Tuesday that would have vastly reduced the number of signatures minor parties must collect to appear on the ballot in Tennessee. The legislation follows a series of lawsuits brought by minor parties challenging the state’s current requirement that they get about 40,000 signatures (2.5 percent of the total number of ballots cast in the most recent gubernatorial election) to be recognized. Senate Bill 1091 would have cut that number to 2,500. Senate Minority Leader Jim Kyle — whose party is in no danger of falling off the ballot, despite its recent performance — filed the bill and argued it was time to settle the matter.
Former World Bank executive Ashraf Ghani and opposition leader Abdullah Abdullah appeared to be the two front-runners in Afghanistan’s presidential election, sidelining a candidate viewed as President Hamid Karzai’s favorite, according to partial results tallied by news organizations and one candidate. A victory for Mr. Abdullah or Mr. Ghani could significantly reduce the influence of Mr. Karzai, who has ruled Afghanistan since the 2001 U.S. invasion. Both candidates say they will sign the bilateral security agreement, which is needed to maintain American aid and a limited U.S. military presence in Afghanistan once the international coalition’s current mandate expires in December. Mr. Karzai has infuriated Washington by refusing to complete the deal. The Wall Street Journal tallied partial election results from visits to roughly 100 polling stations, out of more than 20,000 nationwide, in the capital Kabul and the cities of Mazar-e-Sharif in the north, Kandahar in the south, and Gardez and Jalalabad in the east. At nearly all these stations, Messrs. Ghani and Abdullah were the clear leaders, according to counts posted by local poll supervisors. Mr. Karzai’s former foreign minister, Zalmai Rassoul, trailed far behind.
Millions of Afghans defied Taliban threats and rain on Saturday, underscoring their enormous expectations from an election that comes as the country’s wobbly government prepares to face down a ferocious insurgency largely on its own. With combat forces from the U.S.-led coalition winding down a 13-year presence and the mercurial Hamid Karzai stepping aside, the country’s new leader will find an altered landscape as he replaces the only president Afghans have known since the Taliban was ousted in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks. But for some, progress — particularly with women’s rights — the country’s situation is inauspicious, especially with its poor security and battered economy. Yet despite spiraling carnage and grave disappointments, Afghans by the millions crowded mosque courtyards and lined up at schools to vote, telling a war-weary world they want their voices heard. Nazia Azizi, a 40-year-old housewife, was first in line at a school in eastern Kabul. “I have suffered so much from the fighting, and I want prosperity and security in Afghanistan,” she said. “I hope that the votes that we are casting will be counted and that there will be no fraud in this election.”
“I am voting today to secure my grandchildren’s future,” said an octogenarian woman waiting in line at a polling station in the northern Afghan city of Mazar-i Sharif. Throughout the day, Afghan media continuously showed live footage of voters standing in long lines: Old men leaning on their canes, women of all ages, first-time young voters, people from all walks of life and hailing from all of Afghanistan’s ethnic groups. The 2014 presidential and provincial council elections opened at 7am on a cold and drizzling morning in Kabul, amid heavy security measures prompted by three deadly attacks the previous week and a Taliban threat to voters. Thousands of people had queued at polling stations at dawn, right after morning prayer. The air was filled with enthusiasm, hope and a kind of energy that I had only felt on Nowruz 2002, the first Afghan New Year’s Day after the fall of the Taliban. Twelve years later, however, there was an added aura of determination and defiance. My parents’ generation experienced this kind of euphoria in October 1964, when at the behest of the last Afghan king, Zahir Shah, a new Afghan Constitution had changed absolute monarchy to a constitutional one and had started what is known in contemporary Afghan history as the “decade of democracy”.
We use the Internet for just about everything these days. … The concept of e-voting — whether it be casting a ballot via the phone or Internet or using electronic vote-counters at a polling station — is hardly novel. Officials across Canada began experimenting with this kind of technology when computers still weighed 30 pounds and took up most of the space on your desk. But early and repeated failures have made many jurisdictions — including Quebec — wary of handing control of any part of the democratic process over to a machine. “We’re not anywhere near (introducing any form of e-voting) for the moment,” Elections Quebec spokesperson Stephanie Isabel told The Gazette on Friday. “There’s an internal committee here that is doing analysis and studying this, but there is no project envisioned.” The trepidation is perhaps understandable. Even as technology has improved in recent years, the foul-ups have continued. The most recent example came during the NDP’s national leadership convention in 2012, when the Internet-based voting process was marred by allegations of a possible denial-of-service attack, in which a hacker overwhelms a server with requests and causes it to crash.
Opposition candidate Luis Solis easily won Sunday’s presidential runoff in Costa Rica, an expected result given that his only rival had stopped campaigning a month earlier because he was so far behind in the polls. What gave Solis, a center-leftist, cause to celebrate was a solid voter turnout in an election considered a foregone conclusion. Experts had warned that a low turnout would undermine the legitimacy of his government. In the run-up to the vote, he had appealed to Costa Ricans to cast ballots and set a goal of getting more than 1 million votes. Late Sunday, Costa Rica’s Supreme Electoral Tribunal announced that with 93 percent of voting stations reporting Solis had 1,258,715 votes, or 77.9 percent support, easily beating ruling party candidate Johnny Araya at 22.1 percent. Araya remained on the ballot even though he suspended his campaign because the country’s constitution does not allow for a candidate to drop out.
Hungarians handed their maverick Prime Minister Viktor Orban another four years in power, election results showed on Monday, while one in every five voters backed a far-right opposition party accused of anti-Semitism. Orban has clashed repeatedly with the European Union and foreign investors over his unorthodox policies, and after Sunday’s win, big businesses were bracing for another term of unpredictable and, for some of them, hostile measures. But many Hungarians see Orban, a 50-year-old former dissident against Communist rule, as a champion of national interests. They also like the fact that under his government personal income tax and household power bills have fallen. After 96 percent of the ballots were counted from Sunday’s parliamentary vote, an official projection gave Orban’s Fidesz party 133 of the 199 seats, guaranteeing that it will form the next government.
India started the world’s largest election Monday, sealing international borders along its remote northeast while voters made their way past lush rice paddies and over rickety bamboo bridges and pot-holed dirt roads to reach the polls. The country’s 814 million electorate will vote in stages over the next five weeks — a staggered approach made necessary by India’s vast size — to choose representatives to its 543-seat lower house of parliament. The main Hindu nationalist opposition Bharatiya Janata Party led by prime ministerial hopeful Narendra Modi is seen as the biggest threat to the now-governing Congress Party and its allies. Results from all 935,000 polling stations are expected on May 16.
India: A Preview of India’s 2014 Election: How Will 800 Million People Choose Their Next Leader? | International Business Times
India will embark Monday on the biggest democratic election in global history with some 815 million eligible voters, more than all the people in the U.S., Russia, Japan and Nigeria combined, casting ballots in a six-week process to elect a prime minister. It’s a logistics tour de force: Voting will occur at 930,000 polling stations across India from April 7 to May 12. It’s also more complex than an election in a direct democracy. Rather, based on the British parliamentary system, Indians vote for 543 legislators who then appoint a prime minister from the party that amasses a majority of seats in the lower house of parliament, where each state in India has proportional representation, as in the U.S. House of Representatives. The independent Election Commission of India will count votes and announce results on May 16. If no one party has amassed a simple majority in parliament on that date, parties will have only a few weeks of frantic negotiations in which to form alliances and name a new prime minister.