Does the 1st Amendment allow states to make it a criminal offense to disseminate false statements about a political candidate? Should citizens who fear that their free speech will be chilled by such a law be permitted to challenge it even if they aren’t in danger of imminent prosecution? Only the second question will be argued before the Supreme Court on Tuesday, but it is inextricably linked to the first one. If the court rules that the Susan B. Anthony List, an antiabortion group, may not challenge Ohio’s criminalization of false political speech, that law and similar ones in other states will remain on the books. Ohio’s law prohibits false statements about a candidate if they are made knowingly or with reckless disregard of whether they might be false. If the Ohio Elections Commission decides the law was violated, it “shall refer” the matter to prosecutors.
Campaign finance reformers are worried about the future. They contend that two Supreme Court rulings — the McCutcheon decision in March and the 2010 Citizens United decision — will magnify inequality in U.S. politics. In both cases, the court majority relaxed constraints on how money can be spent on or donated to political campaigns. By allowing more private money to flow to campaigns, the critics maintain, the court has allowed the rich an unfair advantage in shaping political outcomes and made “one dollar, one vote” (in one formulation) the measure of our corrupted democracy. This argument misses the mark for at least four reasons. First, the money spent on federal campaigns is not excessive; quite the contrary. Second, elections — and politics in general — are inherently unequal for many reasons other than money. Third, incumbency is by far the greatest source of this inequality, and the limits on contributions — and thus on most candidates’ spending — that reformers want to retain would only worsen it. Finally, the claim that generous donors and big independent spenders in effect buy federal elections and policies is contradicted by the empirical evidence.
A bill allowing Kentucky GOP Sen. Rand Paul to simultaneously run for the presidency and re-election to his U.S. Senate seat in 2016 died earlier this week when the Kentucky legislature adjourned for the year. The bill had passed the Republican-controlled state Senate, but stalled in the Democratic-controlled state House of Representatives. “In Kentucky, you ought to run for one office at a time,” Brian Wilkerson, a spokesman for Kentucky House Speaker Greg Stumbo, told CNN on Thursday. “The speaker’s thoughts haven’t changed on that.” The state’s Democratic governor, Steve Beshear, is highly unlikely to call the legislature into special session to consider the measure. And that means if Paul’s allies in the state legislature want to try again, they’re going to have to wait until the legislature reconvenes next January. By that time, a number of 2016 White House contenders may already be officially in the race.
Ohio: Case before U.S. Supreme Court could decide whether states can criminalize campaign lies | Cleveland Plain Dealer
The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday will hear arguments on an Ohio law that criminalizes deliberate lies about political candidates in a high-profile case that could overturn campaign speech restrictions around the nation. The controversy over whether Ohio’s law violates free speech has forged unlikely allies of the abortion-rights American Civil Liberties Union and the anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony List. It has also pitted Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine against himself as he defends the law in his official capacity while criticizing the law in a separate court filing. Even political satirist P. J. O’Rourke has weighed in with a U.S. Supreme Court brief that claims “the law at issue undermines the First Amendment’s protection of the serious business of making politics funny. Laws like Ohio’s here, which criminalize ‘false’ speech, do not replace truthiness, satire and snark with high-minded ideas and ‘just the facts,’ ” it continues. “Instead, they chill speech such that spin becomes silence.” Violations of Ohio’s law against political lies are considered a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable by a penalty of up to six months in jail and a $5,000 fine.
Secretary of State Jon Husted should enforce a controversial rule that limits election spending by companies, nonprofits and unions, Democrats said Thursday. The regulation requires companies, unions and nonprofits to disclose when they pay for election ads. It also prohibits companies from spending money to influence elections for a year after they receive state or federal money, such as through a contract or a grant to promote job creation. Ohio House Republicans drew attention to the rule last week by passing legislation that would void it, saying limiting corporate election spending was a violation of free speech. But a spokesman for Husted, a Republican, said he couldn’t enforce the regulation anyway, since its provisions, and consequences for not following them, aren’t found anywhere in law. That doesn’t matter, Democrats told reporters Thursday.
Editorials: Legislature puts stumbling blocks in the way of voters | Catherine Turcer/Cleveland Plain Dealer
For Ohioans concerned about strengthening our democracy — which should be all of us — this legislative session has been extremely disappointing. While Secretary of State Jon A. Husted and voter advocates have been urging the passage of cost-saving legislation to improve voter access and the voter registration database, the Ohio General Assembly instead focused on reducing early voting (Senate Bill 238) and making voting more difficult (Senate Bills 205 and 216). Two bills have been introduced to implement online voter registration: one sponsored by a Democratic House member (House Bill 78) and one by a Republican Senator (Senate Bill 175). Online registration is more convenient for potential voters and more efficient for election administrators because it reduces data entry errors based on scrawled signatures and basic human error. This means a more accurate voter database that actually saves money. Husted’s office estimates that online voter registration between 2010 and 2012 would have saved county boards of elections up to $3 million.
The U.S. Department of Justice and Texas have locked horns over discovery in a prominent voting rights challenge. Lawyers from the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division asked a panel of judges Wednesday to compel Texas to turn over legislative documents that “may shed light on the Texas Legislature’s motivation” for enacting the 2011 congressional redistricting plans. Specifically, the department’s lawyer say they’ve asked Texas to supplement its responses to similar document requests in other litigation in the state over alleged violations of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. This time, Texas said no, according to the Justice Department.
Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced today that he will shrink the time violent felons must wait to seek reinstatement of their voting rights and will remove some offenses from that list. The policy slated to take effect April 21 comes on top of years of work to streamline the process, and aims to make the system easier to understand and to allow more felons to petition the state more quickly. In a series of changes to the state’s restoration of rights process, McAuliffe wants to collapse the application waiting period from five to three years for people convicted of violent felonies and others that require a waiting period, and to remove drug offenses from that list. In Virginia, only the governor can restore civil rights to felons, and attempts over the years to change the Virginia Constitution to allow for automatic restoration have failed.
For poll worker Larry Nelson, Election Day’s most irritating hour — or hours — arrives after the polls close, when the write-in votes are counted. “Here you are, on your feet after working 14 hours, and now you have to sort through the ballots looking for Mickey Mouse,” he explains. “It’s quite a bit of work for something that doesn’t mean a whole lot. Hopefully we can get the law changed before the next election.” Consider it done. On April 2, the day after this year’s spring election, Gov. Scott Walker quietly signed a bill lifting the requirement that all write-in votes must be counted.
Elections for the European Parliament, to be held later next month, will give EU citizens an opportunity to have an impact on EU policies in the next five years. Elections will be held in all 28 member-countries on May 22-25, and 751 MEPs will be elected for a term of five years.Croatian citizens will elect 11 MEPs, one less than has been the case so far because the number of MEPs will be reduced from 766 to 751. They will, however, elect them for the first time for a full, five-year term.In the May 22-25 elections, close to 400 million EU voters will for the first time elect indirectly, through the European Parliament, a new President of the European Commission. European political parties have for the first time nominated their candidates for EC President so as to attract voters and, by involving them more directly, strengthen the political legitimacy of the EP and the EC. When nominating candidates for the post of EC President, the European Council will for the first time have to take into account election results. MEPs will appoint the new EC President by an absolute majority vote based on the European Council’s nomination, EP Secretary-General Klaus Welle has said.
Former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah’s lead in the Afghan presidential race has widened, the latest official tally of votes released on Sunday showed, although half of the votes have yet to be counted. Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission said initial results based on almost 50 percent of the vote out of the total 34 provinces showed Abdullah in the lead with 44.4 percent, followed by ex-world bank official Ashraf Ghani with 33.2 percent of the votes it said were not fraudulent. “The lead we were expecting, it didn’t come as a surprise, but perhaps we were expecting a bigger lead,” Abdullah told Reuters in an interview at his home in Kabul. “We are still hoping the elections will be completed in the first round.”
On April 5, 2014, the Afghan nation voted to elect what is supposed to be the country’s first post-ISAF and post-Karzai government. This was the third time that presidential and provincial council elections were held in the country since the overthrow of the Taliban regime over a decade ago. The entire election process, however, is supposed to conclude with the third round of parliamentary elections which should be due sometime next year. This basically means that the April elections mark the beginning of a long-drawn complex process extending over a year. The whole exercise in due course will test the strength and credibility of the Afghan institutions and the resolve of the Afghan people to take the political process to its logical conclusion. It is not merely about change in leadership; it is about ushering the country into a ‘decade of transformation’ (2015-24) by further institutionalising a relatively inclusive political culture which could cater to the rising scepticism as well as aspirations among the Afghan people. It is about building a political order which is in tune with the changing socio-political realities, mindful of the several challenges ahead, the most important being, how to keep the international community engaged. Like the incumbent president, the next leadership in Kabul too will have to confront similar challenges: managing divergent perceptions and factional interests, competing patronage networks and parallel power structures at the sub-national level, seemingly irreconcilable ideological positions of the Pakistan-sponsored Haqqani-Taliban network and, most critically, sustaining the current constitutional framework to the extent possible.
Canada: Fair Elections Act: Vouching is ‘problematic,’ Conservative Senator Linda Frum says | CTV News
A Conservative senator on the committee recommending changes to the controversial Fair Elections Act says she is convinced that vouching is “problematic,” and that alternatives to proof of identification must be found. A Senate committee made up primarily of Conservative members earlier this week recommended nine changes to the Harper government’s Fair Elections Act — an electoral reform bill proposed by Minister of State for Democratic Reform Pierre Poilievre. But the committee did not recommend changes to one of Bill C-23’s most-controversial provisions, which would eliminate the practice of vouching — where one person can vouch for another if they don’t have proper ID — and the use of voter cards as a way for voters to prove their identity. “In our Senate report, we didn’t touch those provisions; we stood by them, we agree,” Senator Linda Frum told CTV’s Question Period. Frum said it is “reasonable” to ask voters to produce identification and proof of residence. “I’ve heard all the statements about how that can be difficult in some instances, but frankly, I think for most Canadians, it’s not problematic.”
With fears that women’s rights are being eroded in Iraq, prospective female lawmakers are determined to push women’s issues to the fore of campaigning for this month’s elections. Despite a constitutional requirement that a quarter of all MPs be women, Iraq lags on key indicators such as female employment and literacy, and there is a bill before parliament that opponents say dramatically curtails women’s rights. Also at issue ahead of 30 April elections are high levels of violence against women, discrimination at the workplace and poor school attendance. “I did not expect that we will fight for women’s rights in this country,” said Inam Abdul Majed, a television news presenter and an election hopeful running in Baghdad. “I wanted to fight for better education, better services, better life conditions… But we are in this big trouble now, and it is a primary problem to be solved.”
The United Nations has sent a delegation to New Caledonia in the lead up to crucial municipal and provincial elections as supporters and opponents of independence joust over who should have the right to vote. The UN delegation arrived in New Caledonia in March in the midst of the electoral campaign for local town councils. The visit also coincided with the arrival of French judges charged with updating the electoral rolls for national elections to be held on 11 May. According to a UN statement, the objective of the visit is to monitor “New Caledonia’s provincial electoral process, especially the technical issues related to the electoral lists for the provincial elections in May, as well as to uphold the spirit and letter of the 1998 Noumea Accord in this process.” New Caledonia was relisted with the UN Special Committee on Decolonisation in 1986, and since that time the UN has maintained a watching brief over progress towards a referendum on self-determination in the French Pacific dependency.