In a season of rough campaign attack ads, the one aimed at a North Carolina judge was among the roughest. “Justice Robin Hudson sided with the predators,” viewers were told. “Justice Robin Hudson — not tough on child molesters, not fair to victims.” Hudson, a Democrat on the North Carolina Supreme Court, was one of the state-level judges targeted this year by the Republican State Leadership Committee, which spent $4 million nationwide on an effort to tilt state courts in a conservative direction. Though Republicans took control of the Senate and many governors mansions in the midterm election, the committee’s courthouse campaigns fell short of unseating Hudson and judges it targeted in Montana, Tennessee and Missouri. Judicial campaigns once were typically sedate affairs, little noticed outside of bar association dinners, but that is changing rapidly under a new wave of campaign spending driven by outside political groups and unlimited donations. Court campaigns in several states set spending records, according to a study that counted about $14 million in television advertising in state Supreme Court races — about $2 million more than in 2010.
Fresh off an election marked by polling places that opened late and long wait times, both Democrats and Republicans appear willing to consider changes to Connecticut’s elections system when lawmakers return to the state Capitol in January. Members of both parties agree the state needs to do something to professionalize a bifurcated system in which locally elected registrars of voters run the elections and the Secretary of the State’s Office interprets state election law. “For the entirety of time, the election has been on the same day. And yet, inevitably we get to Election Day and it’s ‘Who doesn’t have any ballots?’ and ‘There are ballots from four years ago.’ These seems like basic things to me,” said Rep. Themis Klarides, R-Derby, the incoming House minority leader. “I would hope that we can straighten that stuff out because it’s unacceptable in this day and age.
Florida: Emails show GOP consultants’ ‘almost paranoid’ mission to circumvent gerrymandering ban | Miami Herald
The Republican consultants had to be hush-hush — “almost paranoid” in the words of one — because of their high-stakes mission: Get go-betweens to help circumvent a Florida Constitutional ban on gerrymandering. The plot was spelled out in a newly released batch of once-secret emails that show how the consultants surreptitiously drew congressional and state legislative maps. They then recruited seemingly independent citizens to submit them in an effort to strengthen the hand of Florida Republicans when the GOP-led Legislature redrew lawmaker districts in 2011. The year before, Florida voters overwhelmingly amended the state’s constitution to prohibit legislators from drawing legislative and congressional districts that favor or disfavor incumbents or political parties. Citing the new amendments, a coalition of voting-rights and liberal groups called the Fair Districts Coalition sued the Legislature over its maps. The emails, under court seal until this weekend, played a key role in a recent court victory to force the Legislature to redraw some of Florida’s congressional districts. The correspondence will take center stage in a related case challenging the state Senate maps.
Residents of Carrollwood, Citrus Park, Oldsmar and Safety Harbor won’t have a representative in the Florida House — for now. State lawmakers voted Tuesday to throw out the results of the House District 64 election, creating a vacancy in the Tampa Bay area. Gov. Rick Scott is expected to call a special election. Lawmakers admitted that Tuesday’s vote was unusual. Although incumbent state Rep. Jamie Grant was recently declared winner of the contest, an appeals court ruled that a write-in candidate was wrongly withdrawn from the race. “There was a conflict between the 1st District Court of Appeal and the secretary of state, and we felt just based on that alone, that we would work to try to actually speed (up) the process by having a special election,” said House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island.
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach said Friday that next year he’ll revive a proposal to give his office the power to prosecute election fraud cases, although he could face bipartisan skepticism from legislators. Kobach had pushed the idea after taking office in 2011, and his efforts to win legislative approval of the idea fell just short of passage two years later, even though fellow Republicans controlled the Legislature. Kobach won a second four-year term in this month’s elections with 59 percent of the vote. He persuaded legislators to enact a 2012 law requiring all voters to show photo identification at the polls and a 2013 statute requiring new voters to provide proof of their U.S. citizenship to register. But the secretary of state’s office can’t initiate election fraud prosecutions on its own, and such decisions are left to county or federal prosecutors.
In a recent lawsuit, the New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union challenged a law that prohibits the posting of photos of marked ballots on social media. TheNHCLU states, “there is no more potent way to communicate one’s support for a candidate than to voluntarily display a photograph of one’s marked ballot depicting one’s vote for that candidate.” NH RSA 659:35(I) bans a person from displaying a photograph of a market ballot, including on the internet through social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. A willful violation of this statute may be punishable by a fine up to $1,000. House Bill 366, which took effect September 1, 2014, was meant to update a century-old law against vote rigging. According to Deputy Secretary of State David Scanlan, the original law dates back to the 1880s when vote-buying was rampant and votes were bought with money, liquor, and other enticements. According to Scanlan, digital technology is opening the door again for vote buying and voter coercion, and HB 366 attempts to ensure that door remains shut.
A race for redistricting reform appears to be on for Senate and House Republicans, leaving one to question whether legislators will be able to come together and make good on a promise to pass reform by year’s end. Redistricting discussion ramped up this past week as testimony began on a pair of joint resolutions by Rep. Matt Huffman, R-Lima, that would change the district mapmaking process for state and federal legislators. As voter advocates blasted Huffman’s plan, saying it would be the worst redistricting process in the country, the Senate began moving on a redistricting plan that’s effectively been on hold since it was voted out of committee in June 2013.
Oregon: GMO labeling measure heads into recount range as opposition margin narrows dramatically | Oregonian
The battle over a measure to require labeling of genetically altered food appeared headed to a recount Thursday as new totals showed it losing by fewer than 1,500 votes. Measure 92 moved into range of an automatic recount after Multnomah County released results that included a final batch of nearly 7,200 ballots that leaned heavily in favor of the initiative. Sandeep Kaushik, a spokesman for the Measure 92 campaign, was encouraged by the prospect of a recount, but he acknowledged that “the math is daunting” because recounts don’t usually turn around a race unless the margin is less than a few hundred votes. Pat McCormick, a spokesman for the opposition campaign, said by email that despite the latest results, “We are confident Measure 92 has been defeated.” In part, the race tightened more than some analysts — including at The Oregonian — expected because supporters took advantage of a new Oregon law publicly identifying voters who cast what are known as challenge ballots. Those are ballots in which the signature of the voter doesn’t match the signature on file or in which the voter neglected to sign the ballot.
A legendary Tennessee lawyer whose push for voting rights dated back to the civil rights movement died last summer, not long before a new federal report found evidence that he might have had a point about that state’s voter identification law. Now many of those who worked closely with him say they intend to keep the cause alive. George Barrett died in August, two months before a new report by the Government Accountability Office found that states — including Tennessee — which toughened their voter ID laws saw steeper drops in election turnout than those that did not. While there were few reports of voting problems in Tennessee following the Nov. 4 general election, voter advocates say the report justifies the need to examine the effects of the voter ID law in Tennessee, one of 33 states to enact laws obligating voters to show a photo ID at the polls. In doing so they hope to rekindle the efforts of Barrett, a one-man crusader whose courtroom advocacy dated back to the lunch-counter sit-ins of the early 1960s, when it was rare for a white attorney to take up the cause of black college students.
Editorials: Gerrymandering is a Texas tradition whose time has come and gone | Micahel Li/San Antonio Express-News
Texas gets a new set of statewide elected officials next year — but one thing that won’t have changed is that the state will find itself embroiled in complicated and expensive redistricting litigation, just as it has in each of the last four decades. In fact, it is very likely that sometime next year, the Supreme Court will take up yet another major Texas redistricting case. In some ways, Texas’ penchant for breaking ground in redistricting law isn’t surprising. Texas long has been among the nation’s fast-growing states — one with a complicated ethnic mix, and lots of jockeying and jostling for power and representation. The fights over district lines often have been no-holds-barred, with the leaders of the day, be they Democrats or Republicans, pressing for maximum advantage and letting the courts decide if they went too far. The result has been frequent, head-spinning map changes.
The fed-up, frustrated mood of Ohio voters in this year’s elections can be traced in large part to an issue that voters themselves have traditionally ignored: gerrymandering. It’s largely why all 16 of Ohio’s U.S. representatives were easily re-elected earlier this month despite near-record-low approval ratings of 14 percent for a body frozen by gridlock. The 15 who had an opponent won with an average of 66 percent of the vote. While Republicans have seemingly benefited the most from districts last drawn in 2011 – holding three-quarters of U.S. House seats and a super-majority of General Assembly seats in a politically balanced state – they realize change is needed. “Gerrymandering is the leading cause of dysfunction in both state and federal legislatures,” state Sen. Frank LaRose, an Akron-area Republican, told The Enquirer. “Reforming this is one of the most impactful things we can do for the future of our democracy.” We agree, and there’s no question that change is needed before district lines are redrawn in 2021.
Bahraini people will go to the polls for a second time next week as the fate of only six out of forty seats of the country’s parliament has been decided in the legislative election recently held in the Persian Gulf kingdom. Bahrain’s official electoral commission said on Sunday that only six candidates, five Sunnis and one Shia, managed to secure seats at the parliament as a result of the vote, which was held despite widespread opposition on Saturday. “Around 260 candidates will contest the remaining 34 seats on November 29,” Bahrain’s Minister of Justice Khalid bin Ali Al Khalifa said. Some 350,000 eligible Bahrainis had been called to choose 40 legislators from among 266 mostly Sunni candidates.
Poland’s largest opposition party said on Sunday the result of last week’s local elections, which gave the ruling Civic Platform (PO) party the highest number of provincial assembly seats, was “dishonest.” “We believe the results announced by the PKW are untrue, dishonest, not to simply say falsified,” Jaroslaw Kaczynski, leader of the Law and Justice (PiS) party, told a news conference, adding his party would appeal the vote in courts. Official results of the Nov. 16 election were announced by the state election commission PKW on Saturday following technical glitches that delayed the vote count. PO’s victory defied an exit poll which showed PiS ahead of PO by a wide margin. Such an outcome would have given the party its first nationwide victory in nine years.
Polish Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz rejected what she said were “irresponsible” calls by opposition parties to rerun a local ballot after police ejected protesters from election offices and vote-counting resumed. “I absolutely rule out new elections,” Kopacz said today in an interview on Radio Zet. “The State Electoral Commission wasn’t up to its task, but let’s not confuse institutional failure with election fraud.” Twelve people were detained early today and charged with illegally occupying the electoral commission in Warsaw, police spokeswoman Edyta Adamus said by phone. Another eight protesters may face the same charge, which carries a maximum penalty of one year in prison, Adamus said.
Namibia’s election commission says preparations for next week’s national elections are going well as the country becomes the first in Africa to use electronic voting machines. “We will deploy 2080 teams to the 121 constitutions in the 14 regions of the country to operate 1255 fixed and 2711 mobile polling stations,” electoral body chair Notemba Tjipueja told reporters on Thursday. There are 1 241 194 eligible voters on the final voter’s roll. Namibia has a population of 2.1 million. Parliamentary and presidential elections will take place on Friday, 28 November. It will be the first time the country votes in one single day. During the previous five elections two days were set aside for voting, which opposition parties criticised.
The Swiss National Bank (SNB) on Sunday repeated its opposition to a proposal that would force the central bank to boost its gold reserves, with just a week to go until Switzerland votes on the issue. The Nov. 30 vote, called by the right-wing Swiss People’s Party (SVP), is aimed at preventing the SNB from offloading its gold holdings. It would also require the central bank to bring back gold parked abroad and to hold at least 20 percent of its assets in gold, compared with 7.8 percent last month. Higher gold holdings would escalate costs for the SNB and impair its ability to intervene freely in the currency market. The chairman of the SNB, which has stepped up its campaign against the proposal in the weeks leading up to the vote, warned of the consequences of a ‘yes’ vote. “The initiative is dangerous because it would weaken the SNB,” Thomas Jordan said in remarks prepared for a public speech at a church in Uster, near Zurich.
In this city where the Arab Spring was born, an undercurrent of anxiety accompanied the country’s first democratic presidential election on Sunday. Outside the cosmopolitan coastal capital of Tunis, front-runner Beji Caid Essebsi, an 87-year-old politician who served under two autocratic regimes, is viewed with suspicion. He is seen as an unsettling relic of the autocratic regimes that ruled Tunisia from its independence from France in 1956 until the 2010 uprising. “You can’t be stung by the same scorpion twice,” said Najib Issaoui, a 27-year-old fruit vendor in a small market in the center of Sidi Bouzid. “The revolution is in progress. But it isn’t finished.”
Tunisians turned out in steady, orderly lines on Sunday to vote in their first free and democratic presidential election, voicing confidence that they were turning the page on the often-fractious transition after the revolution of 2011. Exit polls suggested that neither of the two leading candidates — the interim president, Moncef Marzouki, and the former prime minister, Beji Caid Essebsi — was likely to win an outright majority and that a runoff between them would be necessary. Official results were not expected for one or two days. Mr. Essebsi, 87, leads the secular party Nidaa Tounes and has been ahead in polls for months; his party won the largest bloc of seats in parliamentary elections in October. He appeared to be winning between 42 percent and 47 percent of the vote on Sunday, according to the results of two private exit polls that were announced on Tunisian television channels.