Ask any party operative and they’ll tell you that a ground game wins or loses elections. But new voter ID laws and expansive targeting technology have made get-out-the-vote efforts even more complicated and crucial for this year’s midterms and the next presidential election for both parties. After Republicans faced devastating losses in 2012, the GOP is investing heavily in its ground game to prevent a similar outcome in the 2016 presidential year, when Democrats will have the advantage. But Democrats are more immediately worried about 2014. After historic losses in the 2010 elections, when crucial voting blocs stayed home, the party is gearing up for another tough midterm fight by investing tens of millions of dollars in turnout operations in competitive Senate states to translate their presidential ground-game advantage to the midterms. Jeremy Bird, the architect of Obama’s revolutionary data operation, is now involved in that effort with his consulting firm, 270 Strategies. Bird said while many of the same tactics apply, Democrats have to grapple with a different universe of voters in the midterm elections. “We’re not trying to recreate the presidential electorate but trying to create a winning midterm electorate. We’re trying to figure out who are those drop-off voters. Who are the voters likely to vote in presidential elections and likely to vote in midterms if you engage them, educate them and turn them out?” he said.
Bitcoin and politics. They may soon go hand-in-hand. Financially speaking, of course. The Federal Election Commission will reportedly consider a request on Wednesday to officially allow political campaigns to accept bitcoin donations in the mid-term elections coming up. The news comes as bitcoin continues its rapid growth and more organizations are embracing the digital currency, which allows for easy transactions less hefty fees charged by traditional card processors. A non-partisan political group by the name of Make Your Laws made the request, which they’re hoping will be approved. Make Your Laws is launching soon, and seeks to use technology to empower citizens when it comes to elections and democracy.
Sen. Rand Paul thinks the GOP might be over-hyping instances of voter fraud, and that Republicans shouldn’t scrap early voting. “There is still some fraud, and so we should stop that,” the Kentucky senator, considered a leading potential contender for the GOP’s 2016 presidential nomination, told former Obama adviser David Axelrod during a sit-down Tuesday at the University of Chicago. “Although the incidence of fraud is relatively small,” Axelrod said. “It probably is, and I think Republicans may have over-emphasized this. I don’t know,” replied Paul, who made clear that, like most of his party, he supports voter ID requirements.
A judge on Wednesday scheduled a May 2 hearing to consider motions in a lawsuit challenging a state law requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls. Wednesday also was the final day for attorneys to file briefs in a separate lawsuit over how absentee ballots should be handled under the law. Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox scheduled a hearing in a lawsuit alleging that Act 595 of 2013, which took effect Jan. 1, unconstitutionally burdens voters by subjecting them to requirements that go beyond the requirements set forth in the Arkansas Constitution. The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas and the Arkansas Law Center filed the suit in Pulaski County Circuit Court last week on behalf of four Arkansas voters. This week, the plaintiffs filed a motion for a preliminary injunction to bar enforcement of the law before the May 20 primary and nonpartisan election.
Alarmed by the cost of holding special elections whenever a vacancy occurs in the Legislature, a state panel on Tuesday endorsed putting a measure before voters that would allow the governor to appoint people to fill empty seats. Los Angeles County has held 20 special elections since 2008 at a cost of $27 million, County Clerk Dean Logan told the Senate Elections and Constitutional Amendments Committee. Turnout in many special elections is as low as 12%.
It might not be on the top of everyone’s calendar, but there’s another election coming up. The state primary election is June 3 and the last day to register for that election in May 19. In an effort to raise voter participation in the state, California’s Secretary of State has just added eight more languages to its online voting site. Now eligible voters in California can register to vote in English, Spanish, Chinese, Hindi, Japanese, Khmer, Korean, Tagalog, Thai and Vietnamese. It’s also made the site more accessible to people with disabilities.
Connecticut: Democratic Governors Association Files Complaint Against Election Regulators | CT News Junkie
The Democratic Governors Association filed a lawsuit in federal court Wednesday alleging that Connecticut’s campaign laws infringe on their First Amendment rights to spend money on behalf of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy. Malloy, who is seeking reelection this year, has been a fundraiser for the DGA and member since winning his election in 2010. The 32-page lawsuit says Connecticut’s campaign laws have “forced” the DGA into “a constitutionally untenable choice: it can avoid protected speech in which it seeks to engage; it can forego the support and participation of Connecticut’s citizens in raising the funds that it needs to maintain a robust national program; or it can entertain very real threats of investigation, fines, and criminal prosecution.” It fears what will happen if it makes an expenditure on behalf of Malloy or against one of his opponents. “If DGA engages in its desired course of conduct, it runs a serious risk of being prosecuted for violating the Challenged Provisions and Rulings. DGA faces an even greater risk of protracted and costly investigation for engaging in what is lawful, First Amendment-protected conduct,” the complaint states.
More and more Nebraskans are choosing the convenience of filling out a ballot in the comfort of their own homes. Two weeks into early voting, ballot requests statewide are up more than 50 percent from the 2010 primary. “Once people do it, they really like it,” said Douglas County Election Commissioner Dave Phipps. “And I think that number will just continue to keep growing.” Along with the growing popularity of early voting, election officials say campaigns and the state Democratic Party are sending mailers to encourage people to request early ballots.
New Mexico: Court upholds dismissal of corruption case against ex-secretary of state | Associated Press
A New Mexico prosecutor who lost a legal challenge seeking to revive a public corruption case against former Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron said Tuesday he is considering taking it to the state’s highest court. The state Court of Appeals ruled last week that charges against Vigil-Giron were properly dismissed in November 2012 because delays in the case violated her constitutional right to a speedy trial. Vigil-Giron, a Democrat, was secretary of state from 1999 to 2006. She was indicted in 2009 on charges of fraud, money laundering and embezzlement in misuse of federal money in a voter education campaign.
Afghanistan: Election commission delays release of full results to allow recounts, audits | Associated Press
Afghanistan’s election commission delayed a planned release of full results from the April 5 presidential election to allow for recounts and audits, officials said Wednesday, a development that adds to the confusion surrounding the balloting to replace President Hamid Karzai. The results were expected on Thursday, but Independent Election Commission director Ziaulhaq Amarkhil said in a statement they would be postponed until at least Saturday to ensure they are not tainted by fraud. “The commission is responsible to the Afghan electorate,” said Amarkhil. The winner will replace Karzai, who is ineligible for a third term, and oversee a tumultuous period as the U.S. and NATO are expected to withdraw most of their troops from the country by the end of this year, leaving Afghan forces to fight the fierce Taliban insurgency on their own.
President Michelle Bachelet is determined to make Chile’s democracy more representative, and for the first time in a quarter century, there may be just enough votes in Congress to achieve it. Bachelet wants to end an electoral system that has squeezed out independent candidates and guaranteed an outsized presence in Congress for the center-right coalition ever since the end of the 17-year dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet in 1990. The system distorts the vote by giving half the seats in each district to the trailing coalition as long as it gets at least a third of the votes. In practice, that has meant many elections are decided behind closed doors, with the center-left and center-right blocs hand-picking candidates to ensure neither side will get its way in Congress. Pinochet also did away with proportional districts, which denied equal representation for people living in Chile’s biggest cities. “Let’s call things what they are: The binomial system is a thorn pounded into the center of our democracy. It’s a system that owes its life to the dictatorship and that has perpetuated itself through exclusion,” Bachelet said Wednesday as she signed the proposal, which now will be debated in Congress.
Fiji’s Labour Party remains unconvinced about the Electoral Commission’s independence calling for their resignation if they are not able to carry out their duties independently. Labour Party president Lavinia Padarath said the commission appear “to be accepting objectionable provisions of the Electoral Decree that could undermine the conduct of free and fair elections. This is totally unacceptable,” Padarath said. “The commission should be left alone to act independently. If it is not allowed to do so, then the proper course for its members would be to resign because it is now a question of their integrity and credibility.”
The midday sun was blazing when Biswajit Roy, a middle-aged Indian high-school teacher, gingerly pulled himself, and two voting machines, into a modified dugout canoe. His mission: Traverse crocodile-infested mangrove swamps, cross a stretch of open sea and then hike through a jungle to the remote village of Hanspuri so its 261 voters could cast ballots in India’s national elections. “When I got my orders, I was thunderstruck,” said Mr. Roy, 41 years old, an election officer in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. India is the world’s largest democracy, with 814.5 million registered voters. When election time rolls around, the government and its foot soldiers go to extraordinary lengths to make sure that citizens in this largely rural and infrastructure-challenged country can participate. Put another way, the national elections trigger the world’s biggest obstacle course for some Indian election officials.
United Kingdom: Scottish referendum groups officially confirmed by Electoral Commission | The Guardian
The Electoral Commission has officially designated the two main referendum groups Yes Scotland, which is fighting for a yes vote, and the pro-UK group Better Together as the official lead campaigns in the contest. The two groups will be allowed to spend up to £1.5m during the official 16 week campaign, which begins on 30 May, and be allowed free delivery of millions of campaign leaflets and free airtime for campaign broadcasts before the vote on 18 September. The widely anticipated confirmation came with a plea from John McCormick, the election commissioner for Scotland, for numerous smaller campaign groups expected to take an active role in the referendum to register themselves quickly.