The country’s increasingly lawless political system needs a traffic cop to set clear rules and rein in violators who think nothing of breaking the spending limits. That’s supposed to be the job of the Federal Election Commission, but the agency has made a travesty of its mission, encouraging bad behavior rather than stopping it. There are six members of the commission, three from each party, with four votes required to take any significant action. In 1975, the agency’s architects in Congress might have had reason to believe that equal division would encourage nonpartisan thinking. But in the current age of outright hostility between right and left, the commission is unable to get four votes for any issue of importance. As Nicholas Confessore reported last week in The Times, those deadlocks mean more than simple paralysis; Republican commissioners are telling violators that a tie vote actually gives them permission to push past the old limits on spending and disclosure.
The Florida Bar said it stands behind its position that judicial candidates should not personally solicit contributions, but that appellate courts across the country have taken differing positions. When Lanell Williams-Yulee began running for a Hillsborough County judgeship in 2009, she signed a letter to would-be supporters seeking contributions for her campaign. Now, five years later, Williams-Yulee’s letter could spur the U.S. Supreme Court to wade into a First Amendment debate about whether it is constitutional for Florida and other states to bar judicial candidates from personally soliciting campaign contributions. Williams-Yulee’s attorneys have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to take up the issue, after the Florida Supreme Court in May rejected arguments that the ban is unconstitutional and found that Williams-Yulee violated a code of conduct.
Republican and Democratic Party representatives, working with the Guam Election Commission, yesterday, found two more improperly printed ballots during their ongoing review of the ballots from Saturday’s Primary Election. The ballots are supposed to be double-sided, with Republican candidates on one side and Democratic candidates on the other. Voters in the open primary were allowed to choose either the Republican or Democratic side, but nearly two dozens ballots were missing one side. Democratic Party officials have said the Democratic sides are missing, but Election Commission officials have declined to identify which sides are missing.
Minnesota: Appeals court strikes down 101-year-old law that makes lying about ballot initiatives a crime | Star Tribune
The Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down a 101-year-old law Tuesday that makes it a crime to make false political statements about a ballot question. The court overturned a decision by U.S. District Judge Ann Montgomery, who dismissed the case, and the ruling could have wide implications. “It is a huge victory because ordinary citizens can now support or oppose ballot questions, including school bond levies, without fear of being subjected to expensive litigation regarding their campaign speech,” said Bill Mohrman, a Minneapolis attorney who brought the appeals court case.
Missouri: Votes From August Election On Right-To-Farm Measure To Be Recounted Statewide | Ste Genivieve Herald
Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander has ordered a statewide recount of the votes cast in the August 5 Primary Election on Constitutional Amendment 1. The announcement was made August 26, according to Kander’s website. Entitled “Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to ensure that the right of Missouri citizens to engage in agricultural production and ranching practices shall not be infringed,” Amendment 1, which passed by a simple majority vote, aims to make farming a right in Missouri, “similar in scope and protection to the speech, religion and gun rights already in Missouri’s constitution,” according to campaign materials authored by Attorney Brent Haden of the Haden & Byrne Law Firm of Columbia.
Montana voters will decide in November whether to end a nine-year practice of Election Day voter registration for future elections. If the referendum appearing on the ballot as LR-126 passes, the voter registration deadline would move to 5 p.m. on the Friday before Election Day. In 2013, the Republican-led Legislature voted to put the issue on this year’s ballot. Making it a referendum instead of a bill sidestepped a potential veto by Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock. “It’s something that directly affects the voters and the voting process, and I just thought it should be something the people should vote on,” said the measure’s main sponsor, Republican Sen. Alan Olson of Roundup. He said he introduced the legislation after hearing comments about “chaos” caused by Election-Day voter registration.
North Carolina: State: Overturning decision on voting law would cause problems in November’s election | Winston-Salem Journal
Scrapping much of the state’s new voting law, including a reduction in the number of days for early voting, at this late stage would cause havoc for the November general election, state attorneys argue in court papers filed Tuesday with the 4th Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals. The state NAACP and others are asking the 4th Circuit to overrule a federal judge’s decision to deny a preliminary injunction blocking many of the provisions of the state’s new voting law from taking effect for the Nov. 4 general election. Those provisions include reducing the number of days for early voting from 17 to 10, eliminating same-day voter registration and prohibiting county officials from counting ballots cast by voters in the correct county but wrong precinct. The law also gets rid of preregistration for 16- and 17-year-olds and increases the number of poll observers that each political party assigns during an election.
A group of conservative Ohio lawmakers thinks it’s time the legislature pass a bill under consideration that would require voters to show a valid driver’s license or state issued photo ID before they can cast a ballot. The leader of the Ohio Christian Alliance, Chris Long, is supporting lawmakers who have pulled a discharge petition to put an existing bill in the legislature up for vote. If the majority of lawmakers sign that petition, it could force the Ohio House and Senate leaders to let lawmakers in those chambers vote for it. The bill, which would require voters to show a driver’s license or government issued id before casting a ballot, has been stalled in a legislative committee and hasn’t been brought up for a vote by the general assembly. Long says the measure is needed to prevent voter fraud, even though Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted says there were only a little more than 2 thousandths of one percent of voter fraud cases in the 2012 election.
A challenge of the Texas voter ID kicked off in federal court Tuesday in Corpus Christi with opening statements and a first round of evidentiary testimony. The trial comes about two months before the November midterm elections, and opponents of the voter photo ID law are hoping for a quick resolution so the higher standard of voter identification is thrown out before election day. “We’ve made it no secret that this case is important and needs to be ruled on before the next election,” Chad Dunn, an attorney for the plaintiffs opposing the bill, told the Caller-Times after the first day of hearings. “Evidence out there shows that hundreds of thousands in this state don’t have the photo ID they need.”
Sammie Louise Bates moved to Texas from Illinois in 2011. She wanted to vote last year, but all she had was an Illinois identification card, and under Texas’s strict voter ID law, that wasn’t acceptable. To get a Texas ID, Bates needed a birth certificate from her native Mississippi, which cost $42. That was money that Bates, whose income is around $321 a month, didn’t have. “I had to put $42 where it would do the most good,” Bates, who is African-American, testified Tuesday, the first day of the trial over Texas’s ID law. “We couldn’t eat the birth certificate.” Another witness, Calvin Carrier, described the difficulties his father, a Korean War veteran, had in obtaining an acceptable ID, thanks to errors on his birth certificate. Myrna Perez, the deputy director of the Brennan Center for Justice, whose lawyers are among those arguing the case for the plaintiffs, said those witnesses were there to show that “there are real people out there who don’t have the ID that’s needed. When you are limited income, it can be very challenging to scrape up the money that you need for the underlying ID, and it requires a tremendous amount of hoops to go through.”
The Justice Department and the state of Texas are tangling in two separate court cases that could determine how much of the Voting Rights Act is still enforceable. Last year, the United States Supreme Court moved to narrow the scope of the historic act, passed in 1965 as a watershed moment in the civil rights movement. The Act in its original form guaranteed the voting rights of minorities under the 14th and 15th Amendments, including a provision called Section 5 that required states with a history of discrimination to get federal government approval before changing their election laws. In 2013, the Supreme Court decided in Shelby County v. Holder that the formula used to decide which states had historically discriminated against voters was unconstitutional, and it asked Congress to devise a new coverage formula. The ruling effectively allowed nine states (mostly in the South) to change their election laws without federal approval, since there was little expectation that Congress could agree on a new coverage formula in the near future. But the Obama administration and the Justice Department, under Attorney General Eric Holder, vowed to use other parts of the Voting Rights Act to press its case where it believed voter discrimination existed. In Texas, the Justice Department is pursuing two federal court actions: one in San Antonio and the other in Corpus Christi.
With just days to go in the Progressive Conservative leadership race, candidates are raising that the new online voting system may mean not everyone gets a chance to cast a ballot. The party is using an online system and verifying that voters are eligible to cast a ballot by cross-referencing members with the Elections Alberta voters’ list. Ric McIver said his team is working hard to fix issues where potential supporters didn’t align with the list. “We have had a lot of rejections for a whole variety of reasons and we have just been working through them one file at a time,” he said.
On Sunday the Standing Committee of China’s National People’s Congress issued restrictive guidelines for the election of Hong Kong’s next chief executive in 2017. Shorn of its technical details, the proposal in effect gives Beijing the means to control who could run for the top office in Hong Kong: Voters would get to cast a ballot, but only for one of just a handful of candidates pre-selected by the Chinese government. “By endorsing this framework,” Cheung Man-kwong, a veteran politician of Hong Kong’s Democratic Party, wrote, “China has in truth and in substance reneged on her promise to give Hong Kong universal suffrage.” Three decades ago, when Beijing and the British government, which was in charge of Hong Kong then, were negotiating the terms of the territory’s handover back to China, Mr. Cheung was among those who supported “reunification” on the understanding that Hong Kong would eventually acquire a fully democratic system.
For the first time in eight and a half years, nearly 600,000 Fijians are voting in a democracy-restoring general election. Early voting before the September 17 elections began today in venues around the archipelago, including army bases and prisons. But the long wait for democracy’s return coincides with the capture of 45 Fijian peacekeepers by an al Qaeda-linked group in civil war-racked Syria. They are all new soldiers without peacekeeping experience. The military says they have been affected by seeing people being beheaded near their base. Pre-poll voters are confronted with a big sheet of paper containing numbers beginning from 135 and up to 382. Each number relates to the 247 people running in the elections. Military strongman Frank Bainimarama, who ended democracy with a coup in 2006 and who devised the voting system, is No 279.
British expats have long campaigned against the rule which states that once they have lived abroad for longer than 15 years they lose their right to vote back in the UK. That has left many UK citizens disenfranchised as they are also denied the right to vote in most foreign countries, unless they seek citizenship. And this week it appears that at least one political party has answered their call. While the Liberal Democrats have said they will push for changes on expat voting rights, and there are suggestions some Labour MPs also support a possible scrapping of the current regime, David Cameron’s Tory party has now promised to abolish the rule – if they win the next general election, scheduled for May 2015. The Tories say they want to protect the rights of citizens overseas who have “contributed to Britain all their lives”, according to a Tory spokesman quoted in the Daily Telegraph.
National: Wealthy political donors seize on new latitude to give to unlimited candidates | The Washington Post
Andrew Sabin gave Republicans so much money in 2012 that he accidentally went over a limit on how much individuals could donate to federal candidates and party committees. So Sabin, who owns a New York-based precious-metals refining business, was delighted when the Supreme Court did away with the limit in April. Since then, he has been doling out contributions to congressional candidates across the country — in Colorado, Texas, Iowa and “even Alaska,” he said. Top Republicans have taken notice: Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.) and Florida Gov. Rick Scott have paid him personal visits this year, he noted proudly. “You have to realize, when you start contributing to all these guys, they give you access to meet them and talk about your issues,” said Sabin, who has given away more than $177,000. “They know that I’m a big supporter.”
Editorials: Don’t let Arizona and Kansas get away with potentially discriminatory voter registration rules | Los Angeles Times
Arizona, which has become infamous for its hostility toward immigrants who are in the country illegally, lost an important case in the U.S. Supreme Court last year when the justices ruled that the state couldn’t require proof of U.S. citizenship as part of the registration process for voting in elections for Congress. The 7-2 decision said that, where federal elections were concerned, the state had to “accept and use” a federal registration form on which an applicant states under penalty of perjury that he or she is a citizen without having to provide a passport or other documentation. Congress, which has the power under the Constitution to override state rules for congressional elections, clearly intended to make voting easier, not harder. The decision was good policy as well as good law because there is little evidence that immigrants who are in the country illegally are trying to register to vote in meaningful numbers. On the other hand, a requirement to supply documentation could keep many citizens — immigrants and otherwise — from exercising the franchise. Like efforts to require a photo ID at polling places, a requirement of proof of citizenship disproportionately affects minorities and the poor.
In the 2012 presidential election, over 125 million votes were cast for one of two presidential candidates. President Obama was reelected with 51% of the popular vote (a little over 65 million votes). And yet in that election, only 57.5 percent of eligible citizens cast a ballot. We should take a second to note that there are countries with so called “compulsory voting” where citizens are required vote. According to the Center for Voting and Democracy, an advocacy group for electoral reform, countries with mandatory voting, such as Australia, have achieved close to 90% voter turnout in recent years. If only 57.5 percent of eligible voters vote in a presidential election year, you can imagine what happens at the midterms (like the one we will have in November). For context, turnout for the last five midterm elections has hovered between 39 and 42 percent. So despite how crucially important our right to vote is in this country, somewhere between 42 percent and 61 percent of the eligible population decides not to vote in a given election year. The problem with this low voter turnout is that it can have a major impact on the types of candidates that succeed. We have talked before about the polarization of American politics into two more extreme parties unable that are unwilling to compromise. While voter turnout isn’t entirely to blame for this, you can see how if only the most enthusiastic (and usually extreme) voters turn out to vote for candidates, its more likely that those extreme candidates win primaries and general elections.
Democrat Quinton Ross has represented a pretty safe district in the Alabama state Senate since 2002, when 72% of its voting-age population was black. In his last two elections, he ran unopposed. When it came time to redraw the state’s political lines in 2012, however, Republicans who had won control of the state Legislature made it even safer for Ross, an African American. To replace voters who had moved away, they added 14,806 blacks and 36 whites to District 26, resulting in a 75% black majority. The Legislature’s artistry had the intended effect throughout the state, racially and politically. It solidified the ability of black voters to elect their favored candidates, as mandated by the Voting Rights Act of 1965. And it made adjacent suburban and rural districts even more white – and more friendly to Republicans. “The district was already at a point where you had quite a few blacks,” Ross says. “Sometimes, you can just go overboard.”
Peoria officials continue to examine their choices for conducting this year’s election for City Council representing the Mesquite District a week after a federal judge ordered ballot counting stopped. The ruling came after a pair of errors by Maricopa County elections officials and the county’s printing firm that left one of the candidate’s names off the ballot. U.S. District Judge David Campbell ordered city and county officials to come up with a voting plan for the sprawling, mostly undeveloped district — Peoria’s largest — after candidate Ken Krieger sought a temporary restraining order preventing the election from continuing. Krieger’s name was left off the original ballot due to an error by county Elections Director Karen Osborne and was omitted from a replacement ballot due to a mistake by the county’s election-ballot printing firm, Runbeck Election Services of Tempe.
Representatives of two counties in far Northern California petitioned state officials Thursday for the right to form a 51st state called Jefferson, formally asking state lawmakers to vote on their proposal. Modoc and Siskiyou counties, which share a border with Oregon and have a combined population of about 53,000, submitted petitions from their county governments to the secretaries of the state Assembly and Senate after filing a petition complaining about a lack of representation to the secretary of state. Organizer Mark Baird told a crowd of about 70 supporters at a rally outside the state Capitol that residents of as many as 10 counties “would be free to create a small state with limited government.” “We don’t need government from a state telling people in a county what to do with their resources and their children’s education. You are better equipped to educate your children than the state or federal government,” Baird said to applause.
A coalition of voting-rights organizations and individual voters wants the Florida Supreme Court take up the legal battle over the state’s congressional districts. In a notice of appeal filed Friday with the 1st District Court of Appeal, the groups—which include the League of Women Voters of Florida—also said they were giving up on having the lines changed in time for this year’s congressional elections. That had emerged as a major flashpoint in the battle between the Republican-led Legislature and the voting groups about whether congressional districts violated the anti-gerrymandering Fair Districts constitutional amendments approved by voters in 2010. In July, Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis found that a congressional map approved by lawmakers in 2012 violated the constitutional requirements. That led lawmakers to hold a special legislative session and redraw portions of the map. Lewis upheld the new map, despite arguments from the voting groups that it continued to violate the constitution.
Members of the Guam Election Commission spent nearly two hours yesterday scrutinizing the issues surrounding Saturday’s primary election, one of which was the discovery of misprinted ballots for the partisan election. The misprinted ballots were described as one-sided ballots on which voters could only choose candidates from one particular party. The other side of the misprinted ballots was blank. Correctly printed ballots were to have candidates of the Democratic Party on one side and Republican candidates on the other side. Voters were to vote only for candidates from one party. Joseph Mesa, GEC chairman, yesterday questioned the person in charge of printing the ballots in order to shed light on the issue. Program coordinator Joseph Eseke said that in producing the partisan ballots, the document ran four times in the printers. In setting up the printers, it was revealed that plates sometimes moved affecting the output. Eseke also mentioned the “sensitivity” of the printers in some elements in the ballot document such as the lines and ovals. He said GEC used one printer for the color and one printer for the text, which was black.
Editorials: Double voting? Not necessarily: Widespread voter fraud in Maryland is unlikely | Baltimore Sun
The recent report by Election Integrity Maryland that there may be as many as 164 individuals who voted in both Maryland and Virginia in the 2012 election hasn’t exactly caused the Maryland Board of Elections to press the panic button. There’s a reason for that: The numbers don’t prove fraud and more likely point to clerical error. That’s not to suggest the Fairfax County Electoral Board should not seek criminal investigation, as officials announced last week, into 17 possible cases of duplicate voting in that Northern Virginia county — such due diligence is entirely appropriate — but the chances that such incidents will result in fraud convictions are slim. If there’s one thing experience has taught, it’s that duplicate voter registration is almost always the result of nothing more nefarious than people moving from one state to another and registration rolls not being expunged in a timely manner. Trumped up horror stories about voting irregularities have fueled a Republican-led push to enact voter identification laws that are far more likely to discourage voting, particularly by young, elderly and minority voters who are less likely to have government-approved ID, than it is to uncover organized (or even disorganized) attempts to alter election outcomes. Voter fraud is not unknown, it’s simply uncommon.
Special Judge Hollis McGehee delivered what could be the final blow to Chris McDaniel’s election challenge in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate. McGehee sided with Thad Cochran in dismissing the court challenge, saying McDaniel missed a 20-day deadline to file his challenge with the Mississippi Republican Party. McDaniel has the option to appeal McGehee’s ruling to the Mississippi Supreme Court, a decision McDaniel is expected to announce Tuesday. If McDaniel appeals, we are left with two scenarios:
1. The state’s high court could overturn McGehee’s ruling, in which case the challenge would be returned to the circuit clerk and move forward.
2. Justices could uphold McGehee’s ruling, and that would be the end of this long ordeal.
It is seemingly illogical that McDaniel would choose to throw the towel in at this stage. To not appeal would be conceding defeat, something he has absolutely refused to do to this point. It would be ending the fight for what he has deemed “the integrity of Mississippi’s electoral system” when there are still one more avenue to explore.
Libertarians in Ohio cried foul Tuesday after learning a Republican consultant and appointee of Gov. John Kasich was responsible for hiring the law firm whose challenge pushed two of their candidates off the statewide ballot. Terry Casey worked for Kasich’s 2010 campaign and the governor has since appointed him to the $70,000-a-year job chairing the state personnel review board. Casey’s role hiring Zeiger, Tigges & Little emerged in a case in which Libertarians are asking federal Judge Michael Watson to restore governor candidate Charlie Earl and attorney general candidate Steven Linnabary to November’s ballot. In a new court filing, the party also says Bradley Smith, hired to oversee the disqualification hearing by Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted, didn’t disclose he was working for Ohio’s Republican attorney general, Mike DeWine, doing pro bono work at the time.
Several Republican lawmakers hope to force the House to vote on a bill requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls in the political swing state. Backers of the measure announced plans Tuesday to use a legislative maneuver to pull the bill from a committee, which hasn’t held hearings on it. The legislation was introduced almost a year ago. “What is the problem that we cannot have photo ID required for voting in Ohio?” state Rep. Matt Lynch said at a news conference in Columbus. “Frankly, there should be no problem because we can’t get on an airplane — we can barely get into a public building — if we don’t have such an ID.” Lynch, a Geauga County Republican, joined three GOP lawmakers in signing a discharge petition to get the bill out of committee. The petition requires 50 signatures from representatives to force it to the House floor for a vote.
The U.S. Department of Justice and other plaintiff’s attorneys began their challenge Tuesday in federal court to Texas’ stringent voter ID law, the first national test of such laws that have surfaced following a Supreme Court ruling that cleared the way for such measures. Six plaintiff’s attorneys made opening statements in the case, arguing that the law is designed to neutralize the voting power of Texas’ growing minority population. Lawyers from the Texas attorney general’s office countered that the plaintiffs have offered no proof that minority voters were being unfairly edged out of the voting process and that the law helps stamp out fraud. The trial over the law, which has been enforced through two elections since 2013, is expected to last two weeks before U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos makes a decision. Elizabeth Westfall of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, the first plaintiff’s attorney to make an opening statement, said that 787,000 Texas voters do not have acceptable photo identification to vote now. “And Hispanics and African-Americans make up a disproportionate share,” she added.
A U.S. court in Texas heard arguments on Tuesday in a case over a law requiring voters to present photo identification, a move the state’s Republican leaders say will prevent fraud while plaintiffs call it an attempt at suppressing minority turnout. The case is also part of a new strategy by the Obama administration to challenge voting laws it says discriminate by race in order to counter a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June that freed states from strict federal oversight. The trial that started on Tuesday at the U.S. District Court in Corpus Christi stems from a battle over stringent voter ID measures signed into law by Texas Governor Rick Perry, a Republican, in 2011. The law requires voters to present a photo ID such as a concealed handgun license or driver’s license, but it excludes student IDs as invalid. Plaintiffs argued in opening arguments the law will hit the elderly and poorer voters including racial minorities the hardest because they are less likely to have such IDs.
For students at Prairie View A&M, a historically black university about an hour’s drive from Houston, the right to vote has never come easy. In the early 1970s—soon after 18-, 19-, and 20-year-olds gained the franchise—the Waller County voting registrar began requiring that students answer questions about their employment status, property ownership, and other issues before they could be added to the rolls. He was stopped by a federal court, in a key ruling for student voting rights. A few years later, local officials tried to move school-board elections from April to August, making it harder for Prairie View students to vote—a scheme that was blocked by the Justice Department. Then in 2004, the local prosecutor sent a letter to election administrators saying Prairie View students weren’t automatically eligible to vote at their college address, and threatening the possibility of arrest, before backing down amid an outcry. That same year, the county tried to cut early voting hours on campus—again, it was stopped by the federal government. And in 2008, the county acknowledged in a settlement with the Bush Justice Department that it had rejected voter registration applications in violation of federal voting law, primarily affecting Prairie View students.