The Republican National Committee filed a lawsuit against the Federal Election Commission on Friday seeking the ability to raise unlimited donations from individuals, the latest attempt by the GOP to reverse a seminal 2002 campaign finance overhaul. In its suit, the party committee argues that it has a First Amendment right to raise the kind of massive contributions that now fuel super PACs and other independent groups. Currently, individuals can only give $32,400 a year to party committees. Overturning that limit would knock out a major plank of the McCain-Feingold Act, which banned parties from accepting soft money. “I believe it is my job as the leader of the Republican Party to do everything in my power to help our candidates and get out our message of economic growth and opportunity,” RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said in a statement. “The patchwork of limits on political speech undermines the First Amendment and puts high transparency, full-disclosure groups like the RNC on an unequal footing with other political entities. We are asking that political parties be treated equally under the law.”
Two dozen ballots weren’t counted in Arkansas’ most populous county after voters who didn’t show identification at the polls in last week’s primary failed to return by a Tuesday deadline to present ID under a new state law, election officials said. Officials in several counties reported only a handful of voters who returned to the polls by the deadline under Arkansas’ voter ID law, which was enforced for the first time statewide in the primary. The secretary of state’s office and the state Board of Election Commissioners said they weren’t tracking the number of ballots that were tossed out because of the law.
It cost Lake County roughly $10 for each ballot cast in May’s primary election, where voter turnout was just 12.38 percent, the lowest turnout in years. Michelle Fajman, director of the Lake County Board of Elections and Voters Registration, said it costs about $500,000 to conduct a county-wide election, be it a primary or general election, regardless how many voters exercise their right to vote. Before the year is over, the county will spend close to $1 million on the primary and general election cycle. “It basically costs the same whether we have a huge turnout or not,” Fajman said. Costs are relatively static for elections and cannot be reduced just because a low voter turnout is expected. It cost close to $500,000 for the last presidential primary election in 2012 where voter turnout was 60.59 percent. That translates to roughly $2.40 per ballot cast.
New Mexico: Reports: Motor Vehicle Department has voting registration problems | New Mexico Telegram
Reports say the state is having problems with voter registration at Motor Vehicle Department offices around the state. The state is required, by federal law “to provide individuals with the opportunity to register to vote at the same time that they apply for a driver’s license or seek to renew a driver’s license, and requires the State to forward the completed application to the appropriate state of local election official.” Oriana Sandoval, the policy director of the Center for Civic Policy*, told KOAT that she was unable to register to vote at an MVD office recently when she went to renew her driver’s license. Sandoval told Action 7 News last week she tried to renew her voter registration at a downtown MVD. Rather than having it done simultaneously with the license renewal, she was handed a piece of paper with directions on how to sign up to vote online, on a home or work computer. “I would’ve used a kiosk at the MVD, but there wasn’t one available at the downtown office,” Sandoval said.
The House has taken a new approach to passing a bill designed to prevent South Carolina’s elections from being thrown into chaos again. The proposal sent Friday to the Senate would both create a statewide model for county election boards, to hopefully remove the threat of chaos, and give the State Election Commission oversight over those 46 boards. That new authority could improve elections and ensure everyone’s vote is counted, state elections spokesman Chris Whitmire said Friday. Currently, if a county isn’t following the law or voluntarily complying with policy, the agency can only inform local officials and legislators of a potential problem. “They are their own entity. We can’t compel them to do anything,” Whitmire said. A panel of House and Senate members had been working on a compromise over different versions of a bill on the governance of county election boards. But that tentative compromise required a two-thirds vote in each chamber, a difficult proposition in the Senate. So the House instead attached the compromise to a separate election-related bill and, after a unanimous vote Thursday, returned that amended measure to the Senate. A simple majority approval in that chamber would send it to the governor’s desk.
A piece of third-party software that hadn’t been updated might have been the vulnerable point invaded by hackers of the Oregon secretary of state’s website, a state report found. The February breach took election and business records offline for nearly three weeks, delaying disclosure of campaign-finance information and forcing staff to handle many functions by hand. Citing security concerns, officials wouldn’t name the suspect software but described it as an application development tool commonly used by governments and private-sector organizations. They say the software has now been patched, and they’re working to have future security updates installed automatically.
Washington: The Seattle Prof Who Is Changing the Conversation – and Law—Surrounding Voter I.D. | Seattle News Weekly
The debate over state voter-ID laws in the lead-up to November’s elections may have gained a national audience, but the legal action has played out largely in Midwest and Southern courtrooms to this point. That’s not to say Seattle hasn’t been well-represented. University of Washington political science professor Matt Barreto has been in the middle of most of it. Or at least his research has. The 37-year-old professor has lately been a man in demand. The research he and his colleague, New Mexico professor Gabriel Sanchez, are becoming known for has become part of the standard playbook for lawyers challenging voter-ID laws. Using statistically sound large-swath surveys on a state-by-state basis, Barreto’s findings have demonstrated that not only are blacks, Latinos, and minorities less likely to possess valid photo ID, they’re also less likely to have the documents necessary to obtain such ID.
Australia Post has said it could be more heavily involved in the federal elections process within Australia, particularly in the digitisation of the voting process. The self-funding state-owned company told a Parliamentary inquiry into the 2013 federal elections that its existing role as a communications platform could be usefully expanded, particularly as Australians progress towards a “digital society”. Australia Post submitted evidence to the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters to underline its experience, public trust and other credentials to support new directions and innovations in the nation’s electoral process. Its suggestions included providing voter ID authentication, managing the electoral roll and public access to it, and supporting the move towards secure electronic voting. “We are driven by the desire to evolve our role as the nation’s most trusted intermediary – to continue to be relevant to the social, commercial and civic fabric of Australia,” the company said.
Cypriots who ran for MEP in Sunday’s vote have said they will take to the courts to challenge the legitimacy of the elections, after many eligible Turkish Cypriot voters were prevented from participating due to a bureaucratic cock-up. Under an amendment to the election law, passed last March, some 90,000 Turkish Cypriots aged 18 and above holding a Republic of Cyprus ID card and residing in the occupied areas would be automatically granted voting rights, with no need to register in the electoral roll. In contrast, Turkish Cypriots aged 18 and above with a Republic of Cyprus ID card but residing in areas controlled by the government of Cyprus needed to register in order to be eligible to vote The amendment thus made automatic eligibility conditional on one’s residential address. With the new law, 58,637 Turkish Cypriots automatically gained the right to vote in the European elections – those who had their address of residence in the north recorded by the authorities. All citizens of the Republic have the right to vote, but have to apply to be included in the electoral roll on reaching the age of 18.
Egypt’s presidential election was extended to a third day on Tuesday night, in the latest of a series of attempts to encourage more people to vote. The announcement followed a last-minute decision to turn Tuesday into an impromptu public holiday – the first sign that officials were concerned about low turnout. Egypt’s interim president, Adly Mansour, has said the state is neutral in the race. But critics portrayed the moves as an attempt to boost the credibility of the former army chief Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, who is expected to win the poll easily. A low turnout would undermine the argument often made by Sisi’s backers that he has the backing of an overwhelming majority of Egyptians.
Final results for Malawi’s election may take up to two months. The electoral commission has admitted flaws during the vote and ordered a recount in some areas. “We envisage that the vote audit may take us not more than two months to conclude,” Chimkwita Phiri from Malawi’s electoral commission announced. The commission ordered a recount of the votes after admitting that there had been irregularities in the counting process. “There are cases being discovered where the total number of votes cast is more than the total registered voters for the centre,” read a statement by the chairman of the Malawi Electoral Commission, Maxon Mbendera. He told members of the press that his staff would nevertheless complete the current vote counting, but that the results would not be announced until the electoral commission comes to a final conclusion.
Malawi’s main opposition Democratic People’s Party (DPP) says it is strongly against the recount of all ballots from the May 20 election saying the country’s High Court has the sole responsibility to order an election recount. Both local and international poll observers including United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon described Malawi’s presidential, legislative and local elections as credible and transparent before the electoral commission’s decision to order a recount of the vote citing voter irregularities in parts of the country. DPP spokesman Nicholas Dausi says the decision by Justice Maxon Mbendera, chairman of the electoral body, to order a vote recount was illegal. “It is extremely illegal for the Malawi Electoral Commission to order for the recount of the ballot boxes,” said Dausi. “They don’t have the power. That power of a recount can only be done after the Malawi Electoral commission has announced the final results and they give seven days for any complainant to do that, and that power lies with the Malawi High Court.”
European election monitors and EU officials have endorsed Ukraine’s new, pro-Western leader, but doubts remain on Russia’s next move. “According to our observers, in 98 percent of the polling stations we observed, the voting was assessed positively,” Tana de Zulueta, a former Italian MP who led the monitoring team, told press in Kiev on Monday (26 May). “We received no reports of any misuse of administrative resources,” she added. Asked by EUobserver if this means a clear thumbs up on Sunday’s election, she said her job is to “observe if voting meets national and international legal standards … overall, we were able to report that this election did meet those standards.” De Zulueta’s election watchdog, the Warsaw-based Odihr, sent 1,200 monitors from 49 countries in its largest ever mission and its first in a country at war. She said she was “shocked” by what pro-Russia gunmen did to stop people voting in eastern Ukraine.
A bug in an e-voting application halted the release of European, federal and regional election results in Belgium, the country’s interior ministry said Monday. On Sunday, problems occurred when counting votes made on older voting machines in around 20 of the country’s 209 cantons, the ministry said. The voting machines in question are x86 PCs from the DOS era, with two serial ports, a parallel port, a paltry 1 megabyte of RAM and a 3.5-inch disk drive used to load the voting software from a bootable DOS disk. A bug in the voting software used at canton headquarters where the votes are counted caused “incoherent” election results when it tried to add up preferential votes from those machines, ministry spokesman Peter Grouwels said. The application counted the results in different ways that should always get the same outcome but that wasn’t the case, he said, adding that the release of the results was immediately stopped when this was discovered. The fault appeared in the system despite the fact that the application was especially developed for these elections, was “tested thousands of times” and was certified by PriceWaterhouseCoopers, he said.
The Malawi High Court is expected to rule Friday whether the results of the May 20th presidential election should be announced or a recount should be held. With about a third of the votes counted, opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) candidate Peter Mutharika is leading with 42 percent of the unofficial tally. But Malawi Congress Party presidential candidate Lazarus Chakwera, who is in second place, has gone to court along with third place candidate President Joyce Banda to demand a recount. Meanwhile, Malawi’s Electoral Commission Chair Maxon Mbendera said late Thursday that despite some irregularities, over 95 percent of voting was free, fair, transparent and credible. He said he will announce the final results Friday barring any court intervention.
Nearly one year after the US Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act’s core provision and six months before a crucial midterm election, a bill to restore many of the VRA’s key protections remains stalled in Congress. The primary roadblock is House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), who has yet to hold a hearing on the measure. Reports indicate Goodlatte and other GOP leaders have claimed restoring Section 5 — which required jurisdictions with a history of discrimination to obtain certification that a proposed voting change would not hurt minorities — is unnecessary because the VRA’s Section 2 provides adequate protection, MSNBC reported. Advocates contend Section 2 is not enough for a number of reasons, including that challenges must be done on a case-by-case basis, which is inefficient, costly and will allow some discriminatory changes to fall through the cracks.
National: Republican Party Sues to End Fundraising Limits on Political Parties | Wall Street Journal
The Republican Party and a leading conservative lawyer filed a federal lawsuit Friday seeking to allow political parties to raise unlimited funds from donors to spend on elections. The court challenge, if successful, could level the playing field between the national political parties and a burgeoning roster of outside political entities that are raising and spending millions of dollars on elections. The lawsuit against the Federal Election Commission seeks to undo a key provision in a 2002 campaign-finance law that bans unlimited donations to political parties. The law, based on legislation from Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.) and former Sen. Russ Feingold (R., Wis.), is the cornerstone of the modern campaign-finance system.
A federal judge threw U.S. Rep. John Conyers a political lifeline Friday, ordering the Detroit Democrat onto the Aug. 5 primary ballot because his lawsuit to overturn a Michigan election law is likely to succeed. Judge Matthew Leitman’s ruling allowing Conyers to join challenger Horace Sheffield on the primary ballot capped a whirlwind day for the longest-serving African-American in Congress, as he seeks a 26th term in office. A report released earlier Friday by Secretary of State Ruth Johnson agreed with Wayne County Clerk Cathy Garrett that Conyers was ineligible to run and found he fell more than 540 signatures short of the 1,000 needed to qualify for the ballot. But Leitman, in a 22-page ruling, said Conyers and two petition circulators whose signatures were disqualified have a “substantial likelihood of success” in showing Michigan’s requirement for circulators to be registered voters law is unconstitutional and ordered Conyers on the ballot “because time is of the essence.”
South Carolina: Richland County elections officials, pollworkers say they’re ready for June 10 primaries | The State
The addition of precincts, equipment and pollworkers should add up to trouble-free June 10 primaries in Richland County, election officials say. “I feel good. I think it’s going to run well,” said Patrick Nolan, a retired USC professor who runs a Forest Acres precinct. He concurred with the assessment of fellow pollworkers that they are well-prepared for voting in two weeks. Officials at the elections office – still smarting from the fiasco of November 2012, when voters were outraged by long lines, misplaced ballots and a lack of accountability – say they’ve put new safeguards in place. “We have just buckled down and tried to look back – 2012, 2013 – and tried to find those things that did not play so well,” said Samuel Selph, who became Richland County’s interim elections director in February. “So what we’re doing is trying not to repeat the past.”
West Virginia: Clerical Error Leaves Unopposed Candidate Off Ballot and Puts Another Person Who Was Not Running On | Associated Press
With no opposition for his city council seat in a small town on West Virginia’s Northern Panhandle, Curtis Mele figured his ticket to a third consecutive term was secure. Instead, a clerical error left his name off the ballot, and another councilman was listed as the candidate in his district in Benwood. Now, officials in the town of 1,600 are scrambling for a solution, and Mele has hired an attorney to contest the election. “It might be an honest mistake,” Mele said Thursday. “But that’s a mistake that should never happen.” Mele, whose name didn’t appear anywhere on the May 13 ballot, was one of four unopposed council members. The responsibility for Benwood’s ballot information falls on the office of City Clerk Judy Hunt. “She dropped the ball, which is now costing me,” Mele said.
If there was one bright spot for mainstream political parties in the elections for the European Parliament, it came, to the surprise of many, in Italy, where Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and his Democratic Party received more than 40 percent of votes cast, a level no party has reached in any Italian election since 1958. Mr. Renzi, who ran on a pro-Europe, anti-austerity platform, easily beat his principal opponents, receiving roughly double the votes cast for the anti-establishment party of Beppe Grillo or for the party of former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who campaigned assiduously despite the restrictions imposed by a one-year sentence he is serving under house arrest. The vote strengthened Mr. Renzi’s resolve — and his clout — to push through a contested agenda in Italy. Analysts said it also seemed to show that voters were willing to reward established parties that initiate changes themselves, without the prodding of the political extremes.
Lithuanians are voting in a presidential runoff election, with Dalia Grybauskaite set to retain her post after pledging to reinforce the country’s defenses as Russian expansionism rattles the Baltic region. Grybauskaite, 58, garnered more than three times as many votes as her rival, former Finance Minister Zigmantas Balcytis, in the May 11 first round. Voting ends at 8 p.m. in the capital, Vilnius, with early results due about two hours later. Turnout was 7.4 percent as of 10 a.m., in addition to 6.6 percent in early voting, according to the election commission. Grybauskaite, a former European Union budget commissioner, used the campaign to focus on her defense credentials while accusing the government, led by allies of Balcytis, of inaction. The Baltic states are seeking permanent NATO bases to counter what they say is Russia’s military buildup in the region. The alliance has added air patrols and land troops in the region after Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine, which also holds a presidential election today.
Malawi’s High Court on Saturday issued an injunction stopping President Joyce Banda from interfering in the electoral process, making her earlier decision to annul national elections invalid and raising the risk of post-election violence in the southern African country. The Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) suspended the country’s election announcement and ordered a re-count of votes, commissioner Chimkwita Phiri said at the national tally center in Blantyre. “There’s need for a physical check by opening the actual ballot boxes,” he said, adding that the number of ballots counted exceeded the number of voters registered. Banda earlier on Saturday ordered the cancellation of Malawi’s elections, citing fraud and “rampant irregularities” in a decision that triggered protests and was challenged by the national electoral authority and a political rival. Banda, who had been standing for re-election, ordered a new vote within 90 days but said she would no longer be a candidate to guarantee a credible outcome.
Malawi’s electoral authorities said on Sunday that they will re-open ballot boxes after finding evidence of irregularities, as the country faced a constitutional crisis over the disputed poll. “In the course of vote tallying, there are cases being discovered where the total number of votes cast is more than the total registered voters for the centre,” said Malawi Electoral Commission chairman Maxon Mbendera. “It has been agreed with political parties that this can be resolved by opening the ballot boxes and doing a physical audit,” he said. The recount could start this week after an implementation plan was thrashed out with political parties on Sunday. On Saturday, Malawian President Joyce Banda declared the election “null and void”, claiming there were “serious irregularities” with the poll. She issued a decree that vote counting stop and called for fresh elections in 90 days.
Ukraine’s Security Service claims that it has removed a virus at the Central Election Commission’s server, designed to delete the results of the presidential vote. According to the interior minister the cyber-attack may force a ‘manual vote count.’ “The virus has been eliminated, software is replaced. So, we now have the confidence that the Central Election Commission’s server is safe,” Valentin Nalivaychenko, SBU head, is cited by UNN news agency. He is cited as saying that the virus was meant to destroy the results of presidential election on May 25. However the CEC programmers may not be able to fix the system in time for the elections, coup-installed Interior Minister Arsen Avakov announced on his website. “On May 22 unknown intruders destroyed the ‘Elections’ information-analytical system of the Central Elections Commission, including those of the regional election commissions.”