A federal appeals court ruled Wednesday that free-spending political groups can lose the right to make unlimited expenditures in certain situations. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit ruled in Vermont Right to Life v. Sorrell that an anti-abortion, state-level super PAC was not “functionally distinct” enough from a sister committee that gives cash to political candidates and parties. As a result, the court found that the ostensibly separate group may not have been acting independently and can be subject to Vermont’s campaign finance caps. Vermont Right to Life Committee splits its political activities into two arms: the VRLC political committee and the VRLC fund for independent political expenditures.
Editorials: Gerrymandering Efficiency Gap: A Better Way to Measure Gerrymandering | Nicholas Stephanopoulos/New Republic
If insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result, then litigants who challenge gerrymandering must be mad. Last month, a federal court threw out the Texas Democratic Party’s claim that the state’s new congressional and state house districts are unlawful. This was the twelfth time in a row that this sort of claim has failed in the current cycle. Plaintiffs’ record of futility now spans at least three dozen cases over four decades. It doesn’t have to be this way. Litigants keep losing these lawsuits because they keep proposing standards the courts have already rejected (such as partisan intent). They’re failing to capitalize on encouraging comments by the Supreme Court, which show that it’s open to a test based on partisan symmetry—the idea that district plans should treat the parties equally. In a forthcoming law review article, Eric McGhee and I lay out just such a test. If plaintiffs were to use it in litigation, they’d have a fighting chance at winning. And if they were to win, then the whole landscape of redistricting in America would be transformed.
Delaware: Same day voter registration supporters criticize State Senate for failure to vote on bill | DPM
Local advocacy groups are expressing their disappointment over Delaware’s State Senate failing to consider same day voter registration as the 147th General Assembly drew to a close Monday. The Same Day Registration Coalition, an assembly of more than a dozen organizations including ACLU Delaware and Common Cause Delaware, called on lawmakers to take up the issue again in 2015. Apryl Walker, a spokesperson for the group, says lawmakers worried about keeping their seats in an election year was just one factor contributing to HB 105 not getting a vote before the close of the legislative session on Monday.
Conservatives backing Mississippi tea partier Chris McDaniel have filed a lawsuit against the Republican Party of Mississippi and the Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann claiming that voters who supported Sen. Thad Cochran in his come-from-behind runoff victory last week broke the law by also voting in the Democratic primary. McDaniel, a state senator who eked out a victory over Cochran in the June 3 Republican primary, has refused to concede after losing the June 24 runoff by a 6,700-vote margin. He alleges that Cochran’s successful effort to expand his voter base to include Democrats resulted in “thousands or irregularities in the voting process.” The lawsuit, filed by the conservative group True the Vote, names 13 voters who it says “double-voted” — cast ballots in Mississippi’s Democratic primary and then in the Republican runoff.
With absentee voting already under way for the August election, a Missouri judge is considering whether to strike down the ballot summaries prepared for voters on proposed constitutional amendments addressing gun rights and transportation taxes. Cole County Circuit Judge Jon Beetem heard arguments on lawsuits claiming that the summaries prepared by the Republican-led Legislature are insufficient because they don’t mention some aspects of the measures. The lawsuit against the transportation sales tax also challenges the official financial summary, which states that it would generate $480 million annually for the state and $54 million for local governments. If Beetem rejects the ballot summaries, he could write new ones, which could invalidate any votes already cast under the current summaries.
North Carolina: Elimination of voter preregistration program creates confusion for DMV and elections officials | Charlotte Observer
The General Assembly’s decision to do away with voter pre-registration in 2013 has created confusion in state driver’s license offices, where 50,000 teenagers a year had been signed up in a program that automatically added their names to voter rolls when they turned 18. Since September, when part of the sweeping elections overhaul bill took effect, state Division of Motor Vehicles officials have had difficulty figuring out at what age newly licensed drivers should be allowed to register to vote. This issue is one of many expected to be raised next week in federal court by lawyers representing the U.S. Justice Department, the NAACP and others challenging the 2013 elections overhaul bill. The parties are scheduled to appear before U.S. District Judge Thomas D. Schroeder on Monday in a Winston-Salem federal courtroom.
The Ohio Conference of the NAACP is asking a federal judge to expand early voting by restoring “ golden week” and allowing in-person ballots to be cast on more Sundays and during evening hours. Meanwhile, a coalition led by the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus said yesterday that it will continue its signature-gathering efforts to get an Ohio Voter Bill of Rights before voters, but it will not make the 2014 ballot. The NAACP lawsuit was filed with the same federal judge who two weeks ago required Secretary of State Jon Husted to implement early voting on the three days before Election Day. But the lawsuit filed this week with U.S. District Judge Peter C. Economus says that does not go far enough to ensure access to the ballot.
Adrian Heath was recently sentenced to three years in prison and slapped with a $10,000 fine, and he has become an unlikely face for voter fraud in Texas. His sentencing in a Montgomery County court capped a four-year journey that began with Heath’s plan to bring more oversight to a special utility district and ended with Heath a convicted felon. Heath’s interest was in The Woodlands Road Utility District, a 2,400-acre taxing body that weaves through the suburb. The district was collecting taxes to pay off bond debt and Heath wanted a say. He argued that even though his home wasn’t exactly in the district — few residences were — it imposed taxes indirectly on him because he did much of his shopping and dining there. “We learned there was an election pending,” Heath said. “Three seats open. So we said, ‘Why don’t we just get some people to run for those seats?'” In May 2010, Heath, along with a handful of his neighbors booked rooms at a Residence Inn inside the Road Utility District.
Preliminary results from Afghanistan’s presidential election, due to be announced on Wednesday, have been delayed, an election official said, amid accusations of fraud that threaten to split the fragile country along ethnic lines. Votes from around 2,000 polling stations in the June 14 run-off are to be reviewed and recounted, said Sharifa Zurmati Wardak of the Independent Election Commission (IEC). The contest pitted former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah against former World Bank economist Ashraf Ghani. “This will take nearly a week and the final result won’t be announced on time,” Wardak told Reuters.
Hong Kong and Chinese officials and lawmakers are considering how to deal with a new political reality in which almost 800,000 Hong Kong residents made an unprecedented show of support for greater democracy by participating in an unofficial referendum. Occupy Central With Love and Peace, a movement of Hong Kong pro-democracy activists who organized the 10-day referendum that ended Sunday, said 792,000 citizens cast valid ballots. The vast majority of them used Internet and mobile phone, though several thousand cast paper ballots at polling stations. Hong Kong had approximately 3.5 million regisered voters in 2012, according to The Guardian.
The Constitutional Court has warned that based on recent legislative election cases it has handled, most election violations were committed during the vote counting process. “Our evaluation shows that violations mostly occurred during vote counting, or the recapitulation process at the village, ward and subdistrict level. That’s where opportunities for violations are high. The MK [Constitutional Court] trial did not find many violations committed at the district level,” Chief Justice Hamdan Zoelva said in Jakarta on Tuesday. Although he did not provide statistics, Hamdan maintained that few violations were committed during the voting process as opposed to the vote counting process. Hamdan expressed his hope that the General Elections Commission (KPU) and Elections Supervisory Body (Bawaslu) would take note of the problems especially now that the presidential election is near. “Surely the polling committees need to take note of this,” Hamdan said.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s prime minister for the last 11 years and an increasingly authoritarian and polarising figure, will, as expected, run in the country’s first direct election for the presidency on 10 August. No one expects him to lose, least of all Erdogan himself. His Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP) has won the last six general and local elections. He faces a term limit as prime minister next year. Erdogan will run against Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, the former head of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, who is the joint candidate of the two biggest opposition parties, the centre-left Republican Peoples Party (CHP), established by Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Republic of Turkey in 1923, and the right-wing National Action Party (MHP), and Selahattin Demirtas, a pro-Kurdish politician. By uniting under one candidate, the CHP and the MHP, which represent the secularist elite, hope to narrow the distance with the AKP.
The American Civil Liberties Union asked a Kansas judge Friday to prevent Secretary of State Kris Kobach from starting a “dual” voting system to help the conservative Republican enforce a proof-of-citizenship requirement for new voters that he championed. The ACLU filed a request for a temporary injunction with Shawnee County District Judge Franklin Theis in a lawsuit that the group filed last year on behalf of two voters and Equality Kansas, the state’s leading gay-rights group. Theis already had scheduled a hearing for July 11, and the ACLU wants its request considered then, ahead of the state’s Aug. 5 primary.
Mississippi: McDaniel still not conceding; fight over poll books continues | Mississippi Business Journal
State Sen. Chris McDaniel has presented no evidence to support his claim that voter fraud pushed Senate incumbent Thad Cochran to victory in Mississippi’s GOP runoff. And without evidence, the tea party-backed hopeful is going to have a tough time overturning Cochran’s nearly 6,800-vote win. But a week after the balloting, McDaniel isn’t giving up. McDaniel spokesman Noel Fritsch said yesterday that the campaign continues to examine poll books for possible examples of crossover voting that is prohibited by state law — people who voted in both the Democratic primary June 3 and the Republican runoff June 24. “We haven’t determined our specific legal recourse,” Fritsch said. “We’re kind of in a holding pattern, to a certain degree, while we’re collecting evidence.” Mississippi voters don’t register by party. State law says the only people banned from voting in the June 24 Republican runoff were those who voted in the June 3 Democratic primary.
Oregon: Website breach: State officials failed to patch ‘high risk’ software problem | OregonLive.com
The hackers who breached the Oregon Secretary of State’s website in February probably exploited software that cybersecurity websites had identified as vulnerable but that state IT officials had not patched, documents and information obtained by The Oregonian show. On Friday, agency spokesman Tony Green said the hackers first gained access to the site Jan. 21. That’s one week earlier than previously disclosed and two weeks before the breach was detected Feb. 4. The attack, possibly from China or North Korea, prompted officials to take the state’s campaign finance and business registry databases offline for about three weeks. State officials also closed international access to the entire website for weeks, and this week declined to say what controls on foreign traffic remain.