National: Supreme Court ruling sets off race for bigger donations | USAToday

Political parties, election lawyers and some donors are racing to capitalize on the Supreme Court’s recent decision striking down the overall limits on what wealthy contributors can give to candidates, parties and political action committees. National Republican officials recently launched the Republican Victory Fund, a new campaign vehicle that will allow a single donor to contribute nearly $100,000 to be split among the Republican National Committee and the two GOP campaign committees working on House and Senate races. The goal of the joint fundraising plan is to “maximize our donations to help candidates win in November,” Kirsten Kukowski, a Republican National Committee spokeswoman, said in an e-mail. The Supreme Court’s decision maintained limits on how much an individual can give to one party or candidate but tossed out the aggregate caps that barred a single donor from giving more than $48,600 to all federal candidates and $74,600 to political parties and PACs in the current election cycle.

Editorials: Democrats finally make voting rights a top priority | Zachary Roth/MSNBC

For years, voting-rights advocates have been quietly urging Democrats and the Obama administration to fully embrace the fight over access to the ballot as a defining civil-rights issue of our day. This was the week when it finally happened. The heightened rhetoric, which came from President Obama and other heavyweights in his party, is the latest sign that voting rights are likely to be a front-burner issue when Americans go to the polls this fall—at least  if Democrats have their way. In a speech at the National Action Network convention in New York City Friday afternoon, Obama used his most forceful language yet on the subject to condemn Republican efforts to make voting harder. “The right to vote is threatened today in a way that it has not been since the Voting Rights Act became law nearly five decades ago,” the president said. “Across the country, Republicans have led efforts to pass laws making it harder, not easier, for people to vote.”

Editorials: Has Roberts court placed landmark 1964 civil rights law on a hit list? | CNN

It took the assassination of a president, a ferocious legislative battle and a bloodied army of protesters filling the streets of America to get the Civil Rights Act of 1964 passed.
A half-century later, defenders of the landmark law say it faces a new threat: Five votes on the U.S. Supreme Court and an indifferent public. As the nation celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, it’s tempting to believe the battle over the law is over. But people are still clashing over it — what it means, how long should it last and whether it discriminates against whites. Now some supporters of the law fear the battle has shifted to new terrain. They warn that the conservative majority on the court, headed by Chief Justice John Roberts Jr., will do to the law what it did last year to the Voting Rights Act — gut the parts that make it work while leaving its façade still standing. “I think Roberts is very smart and takes the long view,” says Kent Greenfield, a columnist and professor at Boston College Law School. “The Roberts court won’t say this law cannot stand.”

Colorado: Scott Gessler’s emergency election rule shot down by Colorado Supreme Court | Denver Westword

Secretary of State Scott Gessler overstepped his bounds when he issued an emergency rule on election night in November 2013 declaring that votes cast for ineligible candidates are invalid and shouldn’t be counted, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled this week. In a legal challenge brought by eight voters in the Adams 12 Five Star School District, the high court sided with the voters, finding that Gessler’s rule conflicts with a state law that says such votes “are to be counted and recorded.” The story behind the legal fight begins with Amy Speers, a nurse who decided to run for the school board against incumbent Rico Figueroa. Both wanted to represent District 4, which includes parts of Northglenn and Thornton. Speers’s campaign was going well, but a week before the election, Adams 12 officials discovered that she lives outside District 4. The boundaries for school board members had been redrawn in 2012, though Speers didn’t realize it when she signed up to run.

Iowa: State finds 12 votes were wrongly rejected in 2012 | Associated Press

At least 12 Iowa residents wrongly had their ballots rejected in the 2012 presidential election because of inaccuracies in the state’s list of ineligible felons, a review found Friday. Secretary of State Matt Schultz announced that nine additional cases of improper disenfranchisement were found during a review launched after it was reported in January that three voters were disenfranchised because of bureaucratic mistakes. The new cases include people who weren’t felons but were wrongly included on the list and former offenders who had their voting rights restored and should have been removed.

Massachusetts: GOP, Fisher spar in court over ballot access | Worcester Telegram & Gazette

A lawyer for the Massachusetts Republican Party argued in Superior Court Friday morning that a judge should not get involved with GOP delegates’ disputed vote for governor because doing so would invite an open-door policy for every losing candidate. Rather than protecting the rights of a disappointed candidate to run, he argued, the judge should consider the rights of the delegates who voted at the convention and whose constitutional rights could be overruled by judicial interference. “There are strict rules that are in place and there are obligations to comply with those rules,” said MassGOP lawyer Louis M. Ciavarra. “The rough and tumble world of conventions and backroom politics and how it really happens in the real world is not the place for judicial interference,” Mr. Ciavarra added. But Suffolk Superior Court Judge Douglas Wilkins questioned Ciavarra’s interpretation, noting, “This case is framed as an alleged violation of the party’s own rules.”

Missouri: Competing voting plans could appear on Missouri ballot | Associated Press

An early voting initiative petition is prompting a Missouri lawmaker to propose another version that could lead to voters deciding between competing plans. A House committee last week endorsed a constitutional amendment and companion legislation that would establish an early voting period. That comes as the Missouri Early Voting Fund is using professional petition circulators and volunteers to gather thousands of required signatures from registered voters in hopes of getting its proposal on this year’s ballot. The campaign treasurer for the initiative campaign is a former chief of staff for Attorney General Chris Koster. The initiative petition would allow early voting for six weeks and require that officials accommodate early voting on Saturday and Sunday for the final 21 days before federal or state elections. The proposal in the legislature calls for nine days of early voting and depends upon lawmakers to approve funding.

Wyoming: Committee studies restoring voting rights to felons | Star-Tribune

Wyoming lawmakers are going to study between now and the next legislative session the Wyoming Parole Board’s duties to restore convicted felons’ voting rights. On Wednesday, the Management Council, a committee of Wyoming House and Senate leadership, asked the Judiciary Interim Committee to study the issue. That followed an April 3 letter from the Parole Board sent to Senate President Tony Ross, R-Cheyenne, asking for an interim study. Parole Board member Douglas Chamberlain, a former House speaker and Torrington resident, doesn’t think restoring voting rights to felons has anything to do with the board’s duties. “I suggested we have that issue revisited by the Legislature if they would because I think it’s a contradiction within the law,” he said.

Afghanistan: Early Results Suggest Abdullah-Ghani Runoff for President | Bloomberg

With 10 percent of votes counted in the April 5 election, Abdullah leads with 42 percent, compared with 38 percent for Ghani, according to the Independent Election Commission of Afghanistan in Kabul. A runoff will take place between the two top candidates if no single candidate obtains more than 50 percent of the vote. “The results will change,” Ahmad Yusuf Nuristani, the election commission chairman, told reporters in Kabul yesterday. “It is possible that one candidate is the front-runner in today’s press conference, and there will be another front-runner in the next press conference.” The Afghan government said voter turnout doubled from the previous presidential election in a show of defiance against Taliban insurgents who have sought to disrupt the poll. The vote paves the way for the first democratic transfer of power since the U.S. ousted the group in 2001.

Canada: Senate panel sets up confrontation with Harper on Elections Act | The Globe and Mail

In a rare exercise of power, a Senate committee is pushing back against Stephen Harper’s Conservative government by unanimously recommending changes to the Fair Elections Act, an overhaul of electoral law that is fiercely opposed by other parties. The Senate report, which will be made public this week, amounts to a warning shot from the embattled Senate. The move is not binding, but it raises the threat of the Senate changing the bill itself if the House of Commons ignores its recommendations before passing Bill C-23. The Senate committee, two-thirds of whose members are Conservatives appointed by Mr. Harper, heard from a broad range of experts last week, the vast majority of whom called for substantial changes to the deeply divisive bill. Now the senators are set to recommend, unanimously, specific amendments.

Guinea-Bissau: Guinea-Bissau counts votes after big turnout in crucial poll | Reuters

Vote counting began in Guinea-Bissau after a heavy turnout in Sunday’s legislative and presidential elections meant to bring stability to the West African state after years of coups and political infighting. No major incidents were reported by the close of polls and monitors said they expected a record turnout. The electoral commission said turnout had reached 60 percent by 1430 GMT (10.30 a.m. EDT) but did not give more detailed numbers. At sunset, officials in Pefine, a neighborhood in the crumbling capital Bissau, sat under a mango tree tallying ballots under the watchful eyes of residents and election observers. Results are due by Friday. If no candidate wins an outright majority, a second round will be held between the top two.

Hungary: Legal But Not Fair | New York Times

Viktor Orbán and his Fidesz party coasted to a clear victory in last weekend’s Hungarian election, as expected. The governing party got 45% of the vote, but the new “rules of the game” turned this plurality vote into two thirds of the seats in the parliament. A continuing two-thirds parliamentary majority allows Orbán to govern without constraint because he can change the constitution at will. But this constitution-making majority hangs by a thread. Orbán’s mandate to govern is clear because his party got more votes than any other single political bloc. What is not legitimate, however, is his two-thirds supermajority. Orbán was certainly not supported by two-thirds of Hungarians – nowhere close. In fact, a majority gave their votes to other parties. Orbán’s two-thirds victory was achieved through legal smoke and mirrors. Legal. But smoke and mirrors.

Macedonia: Presidential election set for second vote | GlobalPost

Macedonia’s presidential election looks set for a run-off vote later this month after preliminary results from Sunday’s first round seemed to show the incumbent falling short of outright victory. President Gjorge Ivanov, candidate for the ruling conservative VMRO-DPMNE party, heads the race with 51.8 percent of the votes cast, electoral officials said. His main rival, Social Democrat Stevo Pendarovski, won 36.3 percent, unofficial results showed, based on just over 70 percent of the vote counted so far. However, a president can only be elected on the first round of votes in Macedonia if a candidate gathers the support of more than 50 percent of all 1.7 million registered voters, around 870,000 votes. But with turnout at just over 50 percent, according to figures from the country’s electoral commission, Ivanov has secured the backing of around 450,000 voters, taking the race between with Pendarovski to a run-off on April 27, along with early general elections in the country.