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The Voting News Weekly: The Voting News Weekly for August 25-31 2014

afghanistan260The Federal Election Commission has deadlocked along party lines more than 200 times in the past six years that the commission has split votes, but instead of paralyzing the commission, the 3-to-3 votes have created a rapidly expanding universe of unofficial law, where Republican commissioners have loosened restrictions on candidates and outside groups. Marc Ambinder considered the dangers of the electronic transmission of voted ballots and Dan Tokaji weighed the arguments in the Tenth Circuit Court hearing involving Arizona, Kansas and the Election Assistance Commission. Testimony was heard in a Maryland case concerning the security of a proposed online ballot marking tool. A special circuit court in Mississippi dismissed Chris McDaniel’s lawsuit challenging his primary runoff defeat. Wisconsin’s Governor and Attorney General have asked a federal court to reinstate Wisconsin’s voter ID law. Both Afghan Presidential candidates have pulled their observers out of a ballot audit meant to determine the winner of a June runoff and Ukraine’s newly inaugurated president dissolved the parliament and set early elections for Oct. 26 in a move that will probably put further pressure on the country’s east-west divide.

Voting Blogs: The Iowa Case and the Question of Paid Political Endorsements | More Soft Money Hard Law

Mr. Kent Sorenson was indicted and now has pled guilty in a matter involving falsified campaign finance reports. One campaign paid him to switch his support from another, and the compensation was routed through other vendors to the campaign to conceal money paid for his changed candidate preference. His guilty plea covers the federal reporting violation and the obstruction of justice committed when he denied publicly that he had been paid for his switch in allegiance and asserted that anybody who doubted him could simply consult the campaign’s reports where they would not find any such compensation. As a straightforward reporting offense, Mr. Sorenson’s case is of limited interest. But another question, presented squarely by the comments of the senior FBI official, is whether the criminal laws reach compensated political endorsements that are openly disclosed. Is it true, as this official suggests, that it is a crime to “exploit the political process for personal gain” in this way? Or that it should be?

Full Article: The Iowa Case and the Question of Paid Political Endorsements -.

National: Federal Election Commission Enacts Policies by Not Acting | New York Times

The three Republican and three Democratic appointees of the Federal Election Commission had reached yet another deadlock: They would issue no advisory opinion on whether the Conservative Action Fund could accept contributions of Bitcoin, the online currency created to be untraceable. But a ruling of sorts emerged nonetheless in the hearing, held late last year, when one of the Republican commissioners, Lee E. Goodman, suggested that the group could essentially do as it pleased. The fund “has a clear statutory right to give and receive in-kind contributions regardless of what we say here today,” Mr. Goodman said. The case was just one of the more than 200 times in the past six years that the commission has split votes, reflecting a deep ideological divide over how aggressively to regulate money in politics that mirrors the partisan gridlock in Congress. But instead of paralyzing the commission, the 3-to-3 votes have created a rapidly expanding universe of unofficial law, where Republican commissioners have loosened restrictions on candidates and outside groups simply by signaling what standards they are willing to enforce.

Full Article: Election Panel Enacts Policies by Not Acting - NYTimes.com.

Editorials: Why internet voting is a very dangerous idea | Marc Ambinder/The Week

Unless you’re one of those ornery folks who believe that only politically engaged Americans should vote, there aren’t many good reasons to oppose efforts to expand access to the ballot. Voter fraud is quite rare, and voting fraud — an organized effort to illegally disrupt elections — is hard to organize. So you might think that any restriction on the way someone can vote will unfairly marginalize potentially legitimate voters. That’s true, with one big exception: internet voting. No doubt — nationwide internet voting has an intuitive appeal. It would decrease the costs of elections. It would dramatically increase turn-out. It would allow marginalized communities to avoid harassment at polling sites. It would speed the vote count. A majority of voters regularly endorse the idea. There are two main reasons, though, why internet voting is, at best, a dream best realized 20 years in the future — if ever. The internet is not secure. It does not matter whether results are sent to an air-gapped system, because there’s plenty of technologies that jump air-gaps, and we know that big governments (like ours) use them to spy.

Full Article: Why internet voting is a very dangerous idea - The Week.

Voting Blogs: What’s the Matter with Kobach? | Dan Tokaji/Election Law Blog

By “Kobach,” I mean the Kobach v. EAC case in which the Tenth Circuit heard oral argument Monday – rather than its lead plaintiff, Kansas’ controversial Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who argued the position of his state and the State of Arizona. This post discusses what’s at issue in the case, where the district court went wrong, and what the Tenth Circuit should do. Kobach involves a narrow but important issue, left unresolved after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last year in Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council of Arizona. That case involved Arizona’s attempt to impose a proof-of-citizenship requirement for voter registration, an issue that has been percolating for many years. Arizona law requires would-be voters to provide documents proving their citizenship when they register, documents that some eligible citizens don’t have. But the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) requires states to “accept and use” the national voter registration form, commonly known as the “federal form.” And that form’s instructions don’t require documentary proof of citizenship.  In Arizona, the Supreme Court said that states must register voters who used the federal form, even without these documents. But the Court allowed Arizona to ask the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) to add the state’s proof-of-citizenship requirement to the federal form. That’s exactly what Arizona, along with Kansas, sought to do. But there’s a problem. The EAC had no sitting commissioners – hasn’t had any for years, in fact, due to gridlock in Congress. With no Commissioners to vote on the states’ requests, they went to federal court to force the commissioner-less EAC to incorporate their proof-of-citizenship requirements on the federal form’s instructions.

Full Article: What’s the Matter with Kobach? | Election Law Blog.

National: How Candidates Communicate, Legally, With Super PACs | Bloomberg

When Republican Representative Cory Gardner of Colorado announced in March that he would run for the U.S. Senate, he knew he could count on backing from national Republican groups, including so-called super PACs. But he wasn’t allowed to talk to them directly. Federal election law prohibits campaigns from having contact with the super PACs and advocacy organizations that have come to dominate political spending since the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision. Those rules were intended to put a wall between candidates, whose fundraising is constrained by federal limits, and special interest groups allowed to spend unlimited amounts of money promoting candidates and issues. In practice, campaigns have found ways to talk to super PACs while staying on the right side of the law. Gardner’s race illustrates how the system works. Within weeks of his declaring his Senate run, Americans for Prosperity, backed by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, told the Washington Post it would spend $970,000 on three weeks of television, radio, and online ads attacking incumbent Democratic Senator Mark Udall. That news was a signal that Gardner, who was unopposed in the primary, could hang back and focus on raising money—even as Democratic groups began running their own ads attacking him.

Full Article: How Candidates Communicate, Legally, With Super PACs - Businessweek.

National: Study: Citizens United elected more Republicans | The Washington Post

The 2010 Supreme Court decision that helped usher in a new era of political spending gave Republicans a measurable advantage on Election Day, according to a new study. The advantage isn’t large, but it is statistically significant: The researchers found the ruling, in Citizens United v. FEC, was associated with a six percentage-point increase in the likelihood that a Republican candidate would win a state legislative race. And in six of the most affected states — Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, North Carolina, Ohio and Tennessee — the probability that a Republican would be elected to a state legislative seat increased by 10 percentage points or more. In five other states — Colorado, Iowa, Texas, Wisconsin and Wyoming — Republican candidates were seven percentage points more likely to win.

Full Article: Study: Citizens United elected more Republicans - The Washington Post.

Editorials: What if Alabama elected multiple congressmen per district? A radical reform proposal | Brendan Kirby/AL.com

No one would dispute that Alabama is a Republican-leaning state, but an electoral reform group contends the current voting system distorts GOP dominance. Presently, six of seven members of the U.S. House of Representatives are Republican. But the state is not 85 percent Republican. The Maryland-based Center for Voting and Democracy, in an analysis of the upcoming 2014 election issued last month, puts the Republican percentage at 63 percent. In “Monopoly Politics 2014 and the Fair Voting Solution,” the center details how gerrymandered districts and winner-take-all elections have reduced the number of competitive districts across the country to a handful. The group also argues that the system encourages polarization and increases the number of voters with virtually no chance of electing representatives of their choice. “In contrast, fair representation voting systems provide nearly everyone with a real chance to elect a preferred candidate in every election and make it likely that large groups of like-minded voters (those who vote for similar candidates) will win seats in proportion to their share of the vote,” the report states.

Full Article: What if Alabama elected multiple congressmen per district? A radical reform proposal | AL.com.

Arizona: Flawed Cochise County election returns recounted | Tucson Sentinel

Primary election tallies from Cochise County have been updated, after being temporarily pulled from statewide totals because incorrect results were reported Tuesday night. “We’re still trying to figure out what exactly happened,” an election official said. The results uploaded Tuesday showed “unusually high” turnout in Cochise primaries, alerting county officials that something was wrong, said Jim Vlahovich, a deputy county administrator. The data showed “more than 60 percent of the total number of registered voters had turned in ballots,” he said Wednesday. The preliminary results were pulled down early Wednesday morning, he said. “We’re still trying to figure out what exactly happened,” he said Thursday.

Full Article: Flawed Cochise County election returns recounted.

Hawaii: State Supreme Court Dismisses ACLU Election Challenge | Honolulu Civil Beat

The Hawaii Supreme Court sided with the state today and dismissed an election challenge launched by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of Big Island voters who were unable to cast ballots on Aug. 9 due to Tropical Storm Iselle. According to the Thursday ruling, the high court said it did not have jurisdiction over the constitutional questions raised by the ACLU. The dismissal also noted that the ACLU’s lawsuit, filed Aug. 21, was admittedly ““not a typical ‘election contest.’”

Full Article: Hawaii Supreme Court Dismisses ACLU Election Challenge - Civil Beat.

Editorials: The skulduggery of ousting Illinois candidates | Chicago Tribune

We know, we know: Politics ain’t beanbag. But politics doesn’t have to be rotten and nefarious either. Yet oodles of people who run for office in this state will tell you of strong-arm tactics they endured, sometimes from their own party, to get their names on an Illinois ballot. It’s shameful. Sincere candidates who believe in public service spend months walking door-to-door collecting signatures — one of the purest elements of democratic elections — only to get kicked off the ballot through dishonest means. The latest allegation of skulduggery accuses Republican Party leaders of trying to remove Libertarian Party candidates from the Nov. 4 ballot, ostensibly to protect GOP candidate for governor Bruce Rauner. Rauner would compete more easily in a one-on-one race with Gov. Pat Quinn with no Libertarian candidate siphoning off votes. Rauner says he knew nothing of the alleged intimidation.

Full Article: The skulduggery of ousting Illinois candidates | Chicago Tribune.

Kansas: Confusion over voter ID Law continues | KWCH

She’s voted in every election for nearly 70 years, until this year. “As far as I knew I needed to re-register and I needed a Kansas driver’s license,” said Elizabeth Gray of Winfield. “That’s what I thought.” Gray says confusion over the state’s Voter ID Law and problems with the DMV not accepting her paperwork kept her at home during the August primaries. From those who simply don’t have a birth certificate because they were born before it was common to issue one to others who misunderstand what kind of identification they need to vote, some say there’s still confusion about Kansas’s Voter ID Law.  “I’ve always voted,” said Gray. She’s lived all over the country but says she’s never had this much trouble making her voice heard at the polls. “And it really upset me,” she laughed. “I believe it’s our duty to vote. We can’t, we don’t have any right to complain if we don’t vote.”

Full Article: Confusion over voter ID Law in Kansas continues | Local News - Home.

Kansas: Family Bible saves voting day for 92-year-old woman | KFVS

Evelyn Howard, 92, has voted in 18 presidential elections. But her vote in the 2014 November elections was in jeopardy because of Kansas’ voter registration law. A family Bible saved the day. The Kansas Election Board has approved the voter registration for Evelyn Howard of Shawnee. This came after Howard and her daughter presented copies of U.S.  Census records and a page from a battered family Bible to prove she was born in the U.S. Howard had to do all of that because she didn’t have a birth certificate. Daughter Marilyn Hopkins said she was born in a midwife’s home in Minnesota in February 1922. Starting in 2013, Kansas requires new voters to provide a birth certificate or other proof of their citizenship when registering. Howard moved to Kansas from Missouri in 2013 and sought to register as a Republican voter earlier this month.

Full Article: Family Bible saves voting day for 92-year-old woman - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff.

Kentucky: State Republicans question Libertarian U.S. Senate candidate’s ballot signatures | Lexington Herald-Leader

The Republican Party of Kentucky has asked the state’s county clerks to review and verify the signatures that Libertarian U.S. Senate candidate David Patterson filed to get on the ballot. State GOP chairman Steve Robertson told the Herald-Leader on Thursday that Republicans found “clearly fictitious and fabricated names,” citing an example of a signature belonging to a purported voter named “Ben Dover” who listed his address as an obscene phrase. In a letter to county clerks, Robertson asked the clerks to verify the names and addresses of people who signed a petition in favor of Patterson getting on the ballot with Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes and Republican incumbent Mitch McConnell.

Full Article: State Republicans question Libertarian U.S. Senate candidate's ballot signatures | U.S. Senate Election | Kentucky.com.

Mississippi: Judge mulls request to toss out election challenge | WAPT

Mississippi judge said he will carefully consider whether to dismiss a lawsuit that seeks to overturn a Republican primary victory by Sen. Thad Cochran. Attorneys for challenger Chris McDaniel want all of the election records from 47-counties shipped to Jones County by Friday. Judge Hollis McGehee heard arguments for more than an hour Thursday at the Jones County Courthouse. He said he could rule on dismissal as soon as Friday. Attorneys for state Sen. Chris McDaniel said current state law does not set a timetable for a candidate such as McDaniel to challenge an election loss. However, attorneys for Cochran said the Mississippi Supreme Court ruled in 1959 that a challenge for a multicounty election should be filed no later than 20 days after election results are certified. Election results were certified July 7 and McDaniel started his challenge nearly a month later with the state Republican Party.

Full Article: Judge mulls request to toss out election challenge | Politics - WAPT Home.

Missouri: Protest turns to voter registration | St. Louis American

If Ferguson residents want a diverse police force that reflects the community, they need to elect someone who makes inclusion a priority, said Michael McMillan, president and CEO of the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis. In Ferguson – where an unarmed black teenager was fatally shot by a white police officer on Aug. 9 – the police department has three black officers and 50 white officers. The town’s population is 67 percent African-American, yet Ferguson has a white mayor and five of the six-member city council members are also white. As the Post-Dispatch illustrated with a startling graphic on the front page of the Sunday paper, Ferguson is typical among county municipalities for its lack of representation of blacks in police and government. Several local leaders are encouraging protesters fighting for justice in the Michael Brown case to keep marching, but also register to vote. The Urban League, NAACP, ministers and politicians have all organized volunteers to educate residents on the voting process and register especially African-American voters. In 2013, only about six percent of the eligible black voters cast their ballot in Ferguson’s municipal election, compared to 17 percent of white voters. “The need for voter registration education and mobility has always been a cornerstone of the Civil Rights Movement,” McMillan said.

Full Article: Protest turns to voter registration - St. Louis American: Local News.

Kansas: Federal appeals court questions Kansas’ proof-of-citizenship rules | The Wichita Eagle

A federal appeals court on Monday expressed skepticism over Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s contention that a federal commission must make voters who register using a federal form provide proof-of-citizenship documents required under state law. Kansas and Arizona are trying to force the federal government to add their requirements to federal voter registration forms mandated by the National Voter Registration Act, also known as the motor voter law. Arguing the case before the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, Kobach said the Election Assistance Commission is required to add the state-specific instructions to the federal form. But Judge Jerome A. Holmes interrupted: “Oh whoa whoa whoa, there’s a big jump there.” Holmes said when the U.S. Supreme Court decided a similar case from Arizona last year, it said states could “request” that the commission add state-specific requirements to the federal form.

Full Article: Federal appeals court questions Kansas’ proof-of-citizenship rules | The Wichita Eagle.

South Dakota: Judge rules against Libertarian in ballot lawsuit | Associated Press

A federal judge ruled Thursday against the South Dakota Libertarian Party in an attempt to add its Public Utilities Commission candidate to the November general election ballot. U.S. District Judge Lawrence Piersol heard arguments and concluded Secretary of State Jason Gant followed state law last week in declaring Ryan Gaddy, of Sioux Falls, ineligible to run for the office because he didn’t change his party affiliation from Republican in time to be nominated at the Libertarian convention. “It seems to the court Secretary Gant had no alternative other than to deny the application,” Piersol said. He also deemed constitutional a state law requiring candidates to be members of the party that nominates them.

Full Article: Judge rules against Libertarian in ballot lawsuit - Capital Journal: News.

Virginia: Fairfax officials say some people may have crossed Va.-Md. line to vote twice in 2012 | The Washington Post

Tens of thousands of voters were registered to cast ballots in both Virginia and Maryland during the 2012 presidential election — and more than 150 appear to have voted twice, an advocacy group claims. Seventeen of those alleged instances were in Fairfax County, where election officials found the evidence so compelling that they have turned the information over to law enforcement. The situation sparked a strong reaction among some political leaders in Virginia, coming in the midst of a heated national debate over whether voter fraud is rampant or mere rhetoric.

Full Article: Fairfax officials say some people may have crossed Va.-Md. line to vote twice in 2012 - The Washington Post.

Washington: Yakima may appeal voting rights ruling | Yakima Herald Republic

The Yakima City Council may yet appeal a federal court ruling that the city’s current election system violates the federal Voting Rights Act, but not for now. The council met in executive session for an hour Thursday morning with attorneys to discuss the city’s options. The city can either appeal the ruling, offer its own plan for a new elections system, or work with the American Civil Liberties Union, which filed the lawsuit, to attempt a compromise plan. After the closed-door meeting, which is allowed under state law to discuss legal action, Yakima Mayor Micah Cawley announced before gaveling the meeting to a close that the city would comply with the judge’s order. Cawley’s phrasing brought a stunned reaction from the small audience in attendance, who took it to mean the city would not appeal. Cawley later clarified that the city is still leaving its options open. “We’re not giving up any of our rights,” Cawley said after the meeting. “We’re going to comply with the judge’s order.”

Full Article: Yakima Herald Republic | Yakima may appeal voting rights ruling.