Editorials: Federal Judge Strikes a Blow Against Dark Money — But Will It Hold? | Daniel I. Weiner/Brennan Center for Justice

On Tuesday, Judge Amy Berman Jackson of the federal district court in Washington, D.C. handed transparency advocates a victory, when she (again) struck down a deeply flawed Federal Election Commission (FEC) rule that has helped to fuel the explosion of “dark money” — political spending from unknown sources — in U.S. elections. Judge Jackson has the law and common sense on her side, but the ultimate impact of her ruling remains to be seen. The rule at issue governs “electioneering communications” (ECs) — broadcast, cable or satellite communications referring to a clearly identified federal candidate during the run-up to an election. Such ads do not explicitly advocate a candidate’s election or defeat, but the vast majority plainly are election-related. Voters deserve to know who is paying for this advocacy, and what they want from the government. Praise for a candidate from your regional chamber of commerce, for instance, merits different scrutiny than praise from a big oil company in another state. Criticism from a local veteran’s group is not the same as criticism from a faraway defense contractor.

Editorials: Studies Back Up That Few Elections Are Swung by Voter ID Laws | Nate Cohn/NYTimes.com

Last week, I wrote an article arguing that voter ID laws don’t swing many elections. This week, the Brennan Center for Justice says I have it “wrong” on voter ID. Yet, oddly, it’s hard to find a place we disagree. As the Brennan Center puts it in the second sentence of their article: “Yes, it is likely rare for an election to be close enough for voter ID laws to swing the outcome.” The Brennan Center instead disputes my contention that studies tend to “overstate the number of voters who truly lack identification.” My position on the matter, setting aside whether the laws are a cynical attempt to disenfranchise Democratic voters, is based on these facts: Many studies do not use robust matching techniques when comparing state voter registration and licensing databases (and robust matching, even when used, isn’t perfect); and many studies fail to match voter registration files with alternative forms of identification, like United States passports or military identification. The studies with the most sensational and widely publicized findings have generally failed to do these things. The most famous of these was a studyfinding that 758,000 of Pennsylvania’s registered voters lacked identification. It caused liberals to wonder whether voter ID laws could steal elections. The result was publicized by the Brennan Center, but more rigorous studies have since cut that figure nearly in half.

Arizona: Team Barber Gets Its Day in Court: Will Disqualified Ballots Get Back Into the Mix? | Tucson Weekly

Kevin Fink wants his vote counted. He dropped off his early ballot at a polling station on Election Day, just like plenty of other folks. But his ballot was disqualified because his modern-day signature didn’t match the one he put on a voter-registration card he filled out some dozen years ago. He remembers he got word from the Pima County Recorder’s Office: He had a day to get back to them or his vote wouldn’t be counted. He called a hotline number and left a message, but no one called him back. And then the deadline passed and his vote was tossed out. Fink is a partner and chef at the award-winning Zona 78, and while he’d love to say that the restaurant gets it right 100 percent of the time, he knows that mistakes get made. But given that the state is going to recount the ballots early next month, he wants to see his vote included in the mix. “I realize there are going to be problems, but when it’s so close like this, I thought it was really important to be able to sway the political situation here in Arizona,” Fink said. “The number one thing I hear from my generation is that it doesn’t really matter if you vote.”

California: Los Angeles voters won’t be offered cash prizes in March city election | Los Angeles Times

A controversial proposal to offer cash prizes to Los Angeles voters is dead — at least for next year’s city elections. Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson said this week that he wanted more time to consider the idea of using money or other gifts to lure voters to the polls. For now, he is looking to persuade voters on March 3 to move city elections from odd- to even-numbered years — when state and federal contests are held — beginning in 2020. “I don’t want to overload the public,” Wesson said. “So I think we’re just going to focus on” the change in election dates. Wesson and his colleagues have spent much of this year looking at different proposals for improving L.A.’s dismal voter turnout, which fell to 23% in last year’s mayoral runoff election. Three months ago, the Ethics Commission caused a small uproar by recommending that Wesson’s Rules, Elections and Intergovernmental Relations Committee look at a lottery — one with prizes of $25,000 or $50,000 — as a tool for enticing Angelenos to cast ballots.

Editorials: GOP operatives had outsized role in Florida redistricting | Aaron Deslatte/Orlando Sentinel

To hear Republican operative Pat Bainter tell it, he’s a victim of voters’ anti-gerrymandering zeal. When Florida in 2010 passed reforms barring the intentional re-crafting of legislative and congressional districts to help candidates or political parties, it theoretically benched highly paid brains such as himself behind politicians such as Mike Haridopolos and Daniel Webster. In the witness testimony from last summer’s redistricting trial, the Gainesville consultant whose firm banked $2.9 million in 2011-12, declares himself a “second-class” citizen, unable to openly participate in Florida’s historic and flawed first stab at carrying out the Fair Districts reform. “The amendments themselves created a second class of citizen, including myself,” Bainter said in court testimony previously sealed. “They basically made it impossible for someone like me, that was interested in the process, to participate in that process without fear of some retribution, such as this.”

Maine: Discovery Of ‘Phantom Ballots’ Has Maine Democrats Questioning State Senate Race Results | NHPR

The discovery of 21 so-called “phantom ballots” in Maine’s state Senate District 25 has Democrats crying foul. All 21 ballots were cast in Long Island for Republican Cathleen Manchester. Some Democratic officials are calling on Maine’s Secretary of State Matt Dunlap to intervene. But Dunlap says the outcome of the disputed election is up to the Maine Senate. Last week the voters of Senate District 21 were trying to figure out who they had elected as their new state senator. Comprised of so-called Gold Coast communities, such as Falmouth, Cumberland and Yarmouth, voters in those towns thought they had elected Democrat Catherine Breen, of Falmouth, who unofficially defeated Republican Cathleen Manchester of Gray by just 32 votes. The close election triggered a recount request that resulted in a reversal of fortune for Manchester, who now finds herself winning the race by 11 votes. But Kate Knox, an attorney for the Maine Democratic Party, had a chance to inspect the ballots from the District 25 town of Long Island. She says something doesn’t add up. “Then we went through and counted the number – the physical number of ballots,” she says. “That’s when we came up with,’Huh, this count appears to be 21 off.'”

Voting Blogs: ‘Phantom’ Ballots in Maine State Senate Recount Reverse Result From Democratic to Republican | BradBlog

An election fraud mystery has emerged in Maine’s tiny Town of Long Island. The strange case has not only changed the previously announced “winner” of the election, but the contested results affect the entire state Senate and are now the subject of an investigation demanded by the Maine Democratic Party. On Election Night this year, Democrat Catherine Breen reportedly won the race for state Senate by a very slim 32 votes in Maine’s Senate District 25, according to the then-unofficial tally. However, during a hand recount of the votes last week, 21 previously unaccounted-for ballots were discovered to be in the locked Long Island ballot box. All of the “new” ballots included votes for Cathleen Manchester, the Republican candidate who had requested the recount. Those 21 “new” ballots were above and beyond the 171 votes counted by hand on Election Night (which proved to be an otherwise perfect count) and the 171 voters listed as having voted on the “voter manifest” at Long Island’s only precinct. The “new” votes, combined with a few other adjustments to the tallies in the 25th District’s six other towns, were enough to reverse the results, giving an 11-vote victory to the Republican candidate after the recount, even as neither party is able to explain the appearance of the “phantom ballots” in Long Island.

North Carolina: Voting machine problems do not change election outcome | WRAL

Supreme Court Associate Justice Cheri Beasley won her re-election campaign against Forsyth County lawyer Mike Robinson despite vote tabulation errors discovered in several counties throughout the state. Beasley won by more than 5,000 votes in a race where more than 2.4 million votes were cast. Recount results, which the State Board of Elections certified during a teleconference meeting Tuesday, showed Robinson picked up a net of 17 votes across the state. Robinson has told State Board of Elections officials that he has conceded and will not seek a further recount. While the overall vote swing was not enough to make a meaningful dent in the election total, changes in Davidson, Lenoir and Wilson counties, all of which use touch-screen voting equipment, involved eye-catching totals of several hundred votes each. In Davidson County, Beasley picked up 520 votes and Robinson gained 884 votes since the time county elections officials originally canvassed votes. The problem, elections officials there say, was a faulty media card used to store and transfer votes from a touch-screen machine.  “It did not affect any of the outcomes of local races at all,” said Donna Zappala, who handles information technology issues for the Davidson County Board of Elections. The county was able to recover the votes from a backup system, she said.

North Carolina: Duke Mathematicians Investigate 2012 Election Results | WUNC

Back in 2012, more North Carolinians voted for Democrats than Republicans in North Carolina’s Congressional elections. But Republicans ended up winning nine out of the state’s 13 seats that year. Those numbers piqued the interest of researchers at Duke, who decided to seek a mathematical explanation for the discrepancy. They recently published a study with their results. It’s near the end of a long workday and math Professor Jonathan Mattingly is climbing a steep set of stairs to his office on Duke University’s campus. “We share this hall with the physics department, physics starts somewhere right down there,” Mattingly says. He opens the door to reveal an office that looks like it belongs to a math professor. There are books everywhere and a big chalkboard on one wall covered with half-erased equations. This is where Mattingly first got the idea to include one of his students, senior Christy Vaughn, in the mathematical conundrum of the 2012 U.S. Congressional Elections in North Carolina. “One day I kinda had this idea that we should look at gerrymandering. And so I called her and I said I got an idea,” says Mattingly. (Gerrymandering is the setting of electoral districts in an attempt to obtain political gain.) “Right away I was very interested in this project because it’s just such a stark result that so few seats were [awarded to Democrats] when the popular vote was so different,” chimes in Vaughn.

India: The dynamics of an unusual Jammu and Kashmir election | The Asian Age

The encouraging 71 per cent voter turnout in the first phase of the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly poll plus the violence-free atmosphere in which the election campaign is being conducted is a thumbs-up for Indian democracy. Whether the active engagement of voters with the democratic process was a result of widespread anti-incumbency will be known once the votes are counted on December 23. In the absence of opinion and exit polls, the analyst is obliged to rely on media reportage and anecdotal evidence. These indicate three broad developments. First, it is likely that the People’s Democratic Party led by Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and his feisty daughter Mehbooba Mufti will be the principal gainer in the 46 seats of Kashmir. It is entirely possible that the National Conference led by chief minister Omar Abdullah and his Congress ally may experience a total rout in the Valley. Second, it seems that the fear of an ascendant Bharatiya Janata Party and the possibility of a chief minister from the Jammu region have motivated many of those loosely associated with the parties of the Hurriyat Conference to break ranks and participate in the voting. Finally, it appears that the BJP has made huge inroads in the state where it won three of the six Lok Sabha seats in the general election. The BJP’s gain in Jammu will primarily be at the cost of the Congress and NC. In addition, the BJP has forcefully registered its presence in Ladakh and may even be in the running in six constituencies in the Kashmir Valley.

Namibia: Namibia prepares for Africa’s first e-vote | AFP

Namibia will vote in Africa’s first electronic ballot Friday, a general election that will usher in a new president and quotas to put more women in government. Opposition parties had launched an 11th-hour challenge to the use of the Indian-made e-voting machines, claiming the lack of a paper trail could open the door to vote rigging. But the Windhoek High Court dismissed the application on Wednesday, leaving the door open for the election to go ahead as planned. Namibians will choose 96 members of the national assembly and one of nine presidential candidates, ranging from the left-wing Economic Freedom Fighters to the white minority Republican Party. Around 1.2 million Namibians are eligible to cast their ballots at nearly 4,000 electronic voting stations across the vast desert nation. But there is only one likely winner. Current Prime Minister Hage Geingob of the ruling SWAPO party has run on a platform of “peace, stability and prosperity” and is sure to become the new president.

Poland: Opposition leader claims local election results ‘falsified’ | Polskie Radio

During an interview with Radio Maryja, an ultra-Catholic radio station, and then in Poland’s lower house of parliament, Kaczynski made his most forthright comments yet since the results were belatedly released on 22 November. “The elections were falsified,” the Law and Justive leader claimed. “One only needs to determine exactly to what extent, and who is directly responsible, because the beneficiary is clear enough to the naked eye,” he said. In parliament, he stressed the large amount of invalidated votes (17.93 percent), urging MPs to back draft legislation that would shorten the terms of those elected. Although Law and Justice won the most votes (26.85 percent), the party garnered 4 percent less than an exit poll had indicated. Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz’s Civic Platform party managed 26.36 percent of the vote, slightly less than the 27.3 percent given in the exit poll.

Taiwan: Taiwan vote tests waters for pro-China government ahead of presidential polls | Reuters

Taiwan goes to the polls on Saturday to choose city mayors and local councillors in a vote that will show how much support the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) has lost with its pro-China stance less than two years before a presidential election. The election will be the first chance for the island, which giant neighbor China views as a breakaway province, to make its views known since March when thousands of young people occupied parliament in an unprecedented protest against a planned trade pact calling for closer ties with Beijing. A record 11,130 seats are up for grabs in municipalities, counties, townships and villages, with the key battleground the capital, a KMT, or Nationalist Party, stronghold for nearly 20 years. Every Taiwan president was once the mayor of Taipei.

Taiwan: Wild, wooly, and partly a referendum on China | CSMonitor

Taiwan’s young democracy puts down deeper roots with every election cycle, and the island holds an important vote this weekend with 20,000 candidates for more than 10,000 offices. The most watched election is for mayor of Taipei, where candidate Ko Wen-je is causing panic in Taiwan’s ruling party and making Chinese leaders in Beijing nervous. A newcomer to politics, Mr. Ko has become a lighting rod for debates over national identity and traditional values in Taiwan. The independent candidate is receiving prominent media coverage, which he has been using to step outside mainstream politics and challenge the establishment. The quirky medical doctor has stayed comfortably on top of opinion polls while surviving a barrage of accusations and crude smears – such as charges that family loyalty to Japan several generations ago makes him unfit to be mayor — that have questioned his character and career as one of the island’s leading surgeons.

Tunisia: Tunisia Braces for Presidential Runoff | allAfrica.com

Tunisian presidential candidate Béji Caid Essebsi is six percentage points ahead of incumbent Moncef Marzouki, but the margin is not big enough to prevent a run-off election in a fortnight. The Nidaa Tounes party chief won about 1.3 million votes, or 39.4% in the landmark election Sunday, while the interim president took 1.1 million votes, or 33.4%, Tunisia’s Independent High Electoral Commission (ISIE) announced on Tuesday (November 25th). More than 3.18 million voters took part in the poll. “In case no other presidential candidate submits an appeal against the results, a run-off will be held between December 12th-14th,” ISIE member Nabil Boufon said. Popular Front candidate Hamma Hammami came in third in the Sunday ballot, with 7.2% of the vote. Other top contenders were Hachmi Haamdi of al-Aridha Chaabia, who won 5.75%, and the Free Patriotic Union’s Slim Riahi, who received 5.55 %.

Tunisia: One step closer to democracy in landmark presidential election | The National

Tunisia held its first free presidential election on Sunday, taking another step forward in its transition to democracy as voters hoped for greater stability and a better economy. Many Tunisians weighed security concerns against the freedoms brought by their revolution and by its democratic reforms, which have remained on track in sharp contrast to the upheavals brought by the Arab Spring elsewhere in the region, including the military coup in Egypt and the conflicts in Syria, Yemen and Libya. It has not been easy for Tunisia, however, and the nearly four years since the revolution have been marked by social unrest, terrorist attacks and high inflation that pushed voters into punishing the moderate Islamists in last month’s parliamentary elections. “The thing I’m worried most about for the future is terrorism. Right now, we don’t know who’s coming into the country, and this is a problem,” said Amira Judei, 21, who voted in the southern city of Kasserine, near the border with Algeria and a point of terrorist attacks. Tunisia’s revolution began in areas such as Kasserine in the impoverished south. Voting hours in the rural regions along the border were reduced to five hours due to security fears.