Republicans and outside groups used anonymous Twitter accounts to share internal polling data ahead of the midterm elections, CNN has learned, a practice that raises questions about whether they violated campaign finance laws that prohibit coordination. The Twitter accounts were hidden in plain sight. The profiles were publicly available but meaningless without knowledge of how to find them and decode the information, according to a source with knowledge of the activities. The practice is the latest effort in the quest by political operatives to exploit the murky world of campaign finance laws at a time when limits on spending in politics are eroding and regulators are being defanged. The law says that outside groups, such as super PACs and non-profits, can spend freely on political causes as long as they don’t coordinate their plans with campaigns. Sharing costly internal polls in private, for instance, could signal to the campaign committees where to focus precious time and resources. The groups behind the operation had a sense of humor about what they were doing. One Twitter account was named after Bruno Gianelli, a fictional character in The West Wing who pressed his colleagues to use ethically questionable “soft money” to fund campaigns. A typical tweet read: “CA-40/43-44/49-44/44-50/36-44/49-10/16/14-52–>49/476-10s.” The source said posts like that — which would look like gibberish to most people — represented polling data for various House races. Posting the information on Twitter, which is technically public, could provide a convenient loophole to the law — or could run afoul of it.
Race and voting once again appeared to badly divide the U.S. Supreme Court as it struggled on Wednesday over what to do with an Alabama legislative redistricting plan challenged as an unconstitutional racial gerrymander. The justices heard expanded arguments in two consolidated cases in which the Alabama Legislative Black Caucus and the Alabama Democratic Conference contend that the Republican-led Legislature packed black voters into districts in which minority voters already comprised a majority to make other districts more white and Republican. Under Supreme Court voting rights decisions, state lawmakers cross a constitutional line if race is the predominant motive in their redistricting plans. And the Voting Rights Act of 1965 — before a high court ruling last year — prohibited so-called covered states, including Alabama, from drawing plans that impede minority voters’ ability to elect candidates of their choice. The combination of both directives, Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. said, requires legislatures to “hit the sweet spot” between using some race in redistricting but not too much. Some justices appeared sympathetic to Alabama’s argument that it was attempting to comply with the Voting Rights Act and other requirements for drawing constitutional lines. Others said the number of black voters shifted into majority-black districts told a very different story. And some suggested the case ought to be sent back to the district court to determine the motive behind each legislative district.
A novel unity ticket featuring independent Bill Walker and Democrat Byron Mallott has defeated Republican Gov. Sean Parnell of Alaska in an election so excruciatingly close that its outcome was not known until 10 days after the polls closed. As of late Friday, Alaska elections officials said Walker and Mallott’s ticket received 47.9% of the vote to 46% for the incumbent Parnell. That amounted to a margin of less than 4,700 votes out of almost 270,000 cast. The Associated Press called the race late Friday. The campaign itself was unusual: Mallott had won the Democratic nomination earlier this year, but he and Walker deduced that a three-person race would be won by Parnell, so the two formed a unity ticket.
The fact that politics may have been involved in drawing new legislative district lines is no reason to declare them illegal, the attorney for the Independent Redistricting Commission told the U.S. Supreme Court. In legal arguments to the court, Mary O’Grady does not dispute that two federal judges found that some of the commissioners altered the boundaries of at least one district to make it more politically competitive, a move that would give Democratic candidates a better chance of getting elected. And O’Grady conceded the final map for the 30 districts had a population differential of 8.8 percent between the largest and smallest, despite requirements for equal population. But she said the full commission approved the plan not out of partisan motives but because the panel believed it would provide the best chance of complying with the federal Voting Rights Act. That law generally prohibits political changes that dilute minority voting strength. And that, she told the justices, justifies the changes, as well as the population differential. The effort by challengers to void the map is more than a debate about legal niceties.
Connecticut: Panel Studying Hartford Elections Begins Seeking Documents, Witnesses | Hartford Courant
A committee formed to investigate problems that delayed voting at some city polls on Election Day is seeking records and will conduct interviews in an effort to learn what went wrong. The committee, composed of six council members — five voting and one non-voting — held its first meeting Monday. It pledged to review documents, conduct “informal” interviews and schedule formal proceedings, though members did not say when each would occur. Attorney Ross Garber, one of two lawyers helping the panel on a voluntary basis, said he and others are “in the process getting documents now.” He declined to specify what the committee has requested, though the probe is expected to focus on the Hartford voter registrars office. Garber said the panel would conduct an “expeditious investigation.” “We intend to be thorough and fair and follow the facts,” he said.
Illinois: Treasurer race, less than 400 votes apart, could lead to recount | The State Journal-Register
The race for state treasurer remains undecided nearly two weeks after Election Day, with both campaigns agreeing fewer than 400 votes now separate the candidates in what could be the closest statewide race in Illinois in at least a century. The remarkably slim margin seems to point to a recount under an untested law put in place after the previously close-contest champ, the 1982 battle for governor. The match is rife with charges of “voting irregularities and ballot mishandling” in Chicago, prompting Illinois’ Republican U.S. senator call for an investigation Monday. Election officials have until Tuesday to finish counting ballots from the Nov. 4 election, including in the treasurer’s race between Republican Tom Cross and Democrat Mike Frerichs. Neither side was talking about recounts Monday, saying they’re waiting for all the votes to be counted.
A plan to change the way Michigan awards its electoral votes for president got largely panned at a state House hearing on Monday. The legislation would award up to seven of the state’s 16 Electoral College votes to the presidential runner-up in Michigan. The number of votes they get would depend on how close the popular vote is. Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat who directs the nonpartisan Michigan Center for Election Law, admits the current winner-take-all electoral system is not ideal. “So reform is needed, but not this reform,” she told the state House Elections and Ethics Committee.
The Hinds County supervisors are calling on the local district attorney and the state attorney general to sanction the county election commission for failure to order the number of ballots state law requires for the Nov. 4 general election. Despite only one-third of the county’s 156,000 registered voters going to the polls for the mid-term election, some precincts did have unexpectedly high turnout. Some of those polling places ran out of ballots late in the evening, which touched off a mad scramble to print more. Agitated by the long waits, some voters left without casting their ballots. Later, Connie Cochran—the chairwoman of the Hinds County Election Commission—admitted that the commission failed to follow a state law mandating that enough ballots be printed for 75 percent of registered voters. Cochran took responsibility for making the call to save the county money.
Ohio: Redistricting proposal would give majority party more power, critics say | Cleveland Plain Dealer
Critics say new proposals intended to make Ohio’s process for drawing congressional and legislative district lines less partisan would actually make gerrymandering worse. Rep. Matt Huffman, a Lima Republican, introduced a pair of resolutions last week intended to amplify minority party members’ voices on the panels that draw the lines. Dan Tokaji, a law professor at OSU’s Moritz College of Law, said the proposals also remove safeguards that allow Ohio citizens and public officials to challenge newly drawn district maps. Tokaji said the resolutions don’t allow a citizen-initiated referendum or a governor’s veto of the congressional map approved by state lawmakers. “This will ensure the majority party can ram through the plan they want without any votes from the minority party and any realistic plan of it being reversed,” Tokaji told reporters Monday.
The Minnehaha County Commission pushed off until Nov. 18 a review of the general election, marked by ballot counting that did not conclude until the next morning and questions about why some voters received incorrect ballots. Three people didn’t want to wait. They used the public comment portion of a commission meeting Wednesday to voice complaints and observations about the election. Commissioners listened to the testimony but did not comment. Lori Stacey, head of South Dakota’s Constitution Party, brought a broadly focused indictment of the election to commissioners’ attention. She claimed two of her party’s candidates, Curtis Strong, who planned to run for governor and Charles Haan who was going to run for the U.S. House, were incorrectly denied a place on the ballot. Having faced no primary opposition, they should have automatically been on the general election ballot, Stacey said. Instead, Secretary of State Jason Gant and Attorney General Marty Jackley ruled those candidates did not meet the threshold of petition signatures necessary to get on the ballot.
With the certification of the 2014 General Election accomplished in both districts on Saturday, the V.I. Elections System received the final numbers in each of last week’s races, which will require a runoff election in the gubernatorial race that has been scheduled for Tuesday. Voters across the territory went to the polls Nov. 4 and cast votes for senators, delegate to Congress and members of their district boards of elections, and they also were tasked with selecting from among five candidate teams who they wanted as the next governor and lieutenant governor of the territory. By the end of the tabulations Saturday, the ticket of Kenneth Mapp and Osbert Potter had garnered more of the popular votes. However, they still had not received the 50 percent of the votes plus one that would make them an outright winner under local law.
The Election Commission of Pakistan told the parliamentary committee on electoral reforms on Monday that in the absence of a permanent Chief Election Commissioner it cannot give a final opinion on whether the electronic voting machines (EVMs) should be used or not to make the electoral process transparent in future. Briefing reporters after a meeting of the sub-committee of the parliamentary committee on electoral reforms, its convener Minister for Science and Technology Zahid Hamid said the meeting had been informed that the use of EVMs would not alone ensure a perfect and transparent election. He said about 270,000 EVMs would be required for a general election and each would cost between Rs60,000 and Rs70,000.
The unexpected victory of the opposition candidate Klaus Johannis in Romania’s presidential election yesterday is an important development — not just for Romania, but for the European Union as a whole. Migration within the union, which has led to the rise of anti-EU political groups in some wealthier nations, including the U.K., is paying off: It is helping nations on the periphery such as Romania adopt the best practices of the older, core democracies. In the first round of the vote, Prime Minister Victor Ponta beat Johannis, the center-right mayor of the Transylvanian town of Sibiu. Johannis, an ethnic German, didn’t appear likely to prevail in the run-off. He is Lutheran, and not Orthodox Christian like most Romanians, and he ran a rather boring campaign. The election, however, was marred by complaints from Romanians abroad who had trouble casting their ballots. There were long lines at polling stations in Italy and Spain, where Romanians are the biggest immigrant group, as well as in France and the U.K., which also have large Romanian populations.
Campaign posters and banners for next week’s presidential elections have covered the walls of Tunisia’s cities and towns, papering over the flaking posters from the parliamentary elections just three weeks ago. The presidential campaign, featuring 25 competitors, kicked off in early November. If no candidate wins a majority on Nov. 23, there will be a runoff between the top two vote-getters on Dec. 28. The favorite to win is Beji Caid Essebsi, an 87-year-old veteran politician who served under Ben Ali and his predecessor Habib Bourguiba, and whose party won the most seats in parliament — 39 percent — in the October elections. After 3 1/2 years of a stormy transition marked by high unemployment and terrorist attacks, Tunisians voted for Essebsi’s party Nida Tunis (Tunisia’s Call) hoping to bring back stability and prosperity. Essebsi started his campaign in Bourguiba’s coastal home town of Monastir and evoked nostalgia for this towering figure of Tunisia’s history who won independence from France and created a modern state defined by a well-educated middle class — albeit with little room for dissent. The possibility of an old-regime politician and his party controlling both the presidency and parliament has raised some concern.