Kansas and Arizona have asked a federal appeals court panel to revisit its decision allowing residents of those states to register to vote using a federal form without having to provide proof of citizenship. The states submitted a petition late Monday asking the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals panel to rehear the case, saying they believe the court overlooked certain legal issues when it ruled against them in November. The appeals court ruled that Kansas and Arizona cannot demand federal election officials help them enforce their state laws requiring new voters to submit a birth certificate, passport or other papers documenting U.S. citizenship. The panel overturned a March ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Eric Melgren that required the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to tailor its federal voter registration form for those states to require those proof-of-citizenship documents.
With the 2014 election in the rearview mirror, the legislature’s Government Administration and Elections Committee in the coming session will look to address some of the issues raised during this year’s campaigns and at the polls. The 2014 election was the first test of Connecticut’s campaign finance laws as they were modified by the legislature in 2013, when lawmakers reacted to the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision by easing limitations on the amount of money political parties could raise and contribute to candidates using the public financing system. Rep. Ed Jutila, one of the committee’s co-chairman, said he was wary of those changes to begin with. “Now, looking back after an election cycle with those changes, I think we need to revisit them. I think we may have over-reacted,” he said. The new rules allowed the state Democratic Party to spend $207,000 on senator-elect Ted Kennedy Jr.’s public-financed campaign.
It’s a tie. Candidates for the Kent County Recorder of Deeds position are at a dead heat after a court-ordered hand recount of absentee ballots Monday afternoon. Both Republican challenger La Mar Gunn and Democrat incumbent Betty Lou McKenna are deadlocked with 19,248 votes each in a race that has already seen three recounts prior to Monday. The tie – unprecedented in recent history – has yet to be certified. Gunn could still mount a legal challenge over one absentee ballot that he and the GOP contend was unclear as to what the voter’s intent was.
One of every three Iowans — 37 percent — voted a straight-party ticket in the 2014 general election, statistics the Iowa secretary of state’s office compiled for the first time revealed. Expect those results to be part of another bid in the 2015 Iowa Legislature to eliminate straight-ticket voting, the practice that allows voters to fill one oval on the ballot for all of the candidates in one political party. Rep. Peter Cownie, R-West Des Moines, said this week he has filed another attempt to pass the straight-ticket ban in the upcoming session. “This is one area where, if we can just take a little bit of partisanship out of the process, I think it serves all Iowans better,” Cownie said.
The Virginia Board of Elections is under fire for alleged racial gerrymandering during a 2011 voter redistricting plan for the House of Delegates. In a lawsuit filed in the Richmond, Va. Federal Court, a dozen voters say the committee violated electoral rights by packing black voters into fragmented and irregularly shaped district lines — targeting a 55 percent threshold and significantly decreasing compactness in these areas. “As a result, African-American voters were illegally packed into the Challenged Districts, thereby diminishing their influence in the surrounding districts,” the complaint says. “The General Assembly adopted the 55% racial threshold without justification, including any determination that the threshold was reasonably necessary to avoid retrogression in each of the Challenged Districts or otherwise comply with the Voting Rights Act of 1965.”
If Gov. Terry McAuliffe has his way, there will be new voting machines across the commonwealth in time for the 2015 November elections. McAuliffe announced in a news release last week that his proposed budget includes $28 million to replace the variety of voting machines in the state with a single type of machine that will use paper ballots that get scanned into an electronic format. The switch will remove touch-screen voting machines that proved to be a problem in the 2014 election, during which 49 localities reported voting equipment issues with no paper trail to fall back on, McAuliffe said. “[W]e cannot expect Virginians to come to the polls on Election Day if we cannot ensure that their votes will be counted correctly and in a timely manner,” McAuliffe said in the release. “The problems Virginians encountered on Election Day this year were unacceptable, which is why I have taken unprecedented steps to replace all legacy voting equipment in the commonwealth with state-of-the-art machines that have paper trails and will update our Department of Elections website. The money will cover new voting machines for 2,166 precincts in the state as well as reimburse 401 precincts that have already purchased the approved machines.
Greece: Greece plunged into crisis as failure to elect president sets up snap election | The Guardian
Fears were growing on Monday night of a fresh crisis in the eurozone after Greece failed to elect a head of state, triggering a snap election that is tipped to bring radical, anti-austerity leftists to power. The Athens stock exchange slumped by more than 10% at one point as concerns mounted over the political turmoil likely to hit the twice bailed-out country. The effective interest rate on the nation’s three-year debt soared to more than 12% – signalling investor fears that Greece will not be able to repay its loans in the short term. Elections were called for 25 January after the government failed to find enough votes to elect its preferred candidate for president, the former European commissioner Stavros Dimas. With the vehemently anti-cuts Syriza opposition ahead in the polls, the campaign will now revive the debate about austerity policies across the eurozone and raise questions over the harsh terms attached to Greece’s €240bn (£188bn) bailouts.
The outgoing Liberian Senate Pro Tempore said that while there were some flaws in the December 20 special senatorial election, Liberians must respect and improve on their electoral process. Senator Gbehzongar Findley of Grand Bassa County lost his seat to Jonathan Kaipay of the opposition Liberty Party. Elections Commission Chair Jerome Korkoya announced the final results Saturday. It appears the ruling Unity Party will have won seven or eight Senate seats when the legislative body reconvenes next month.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has conveyed his “strong expectation” that the Government of Sri Lanka will ensure “the peaceful and credible conduct” of its upcoming Presidential election. The Secretary-General spoke on the phone with Sri Lanka’s Minister of External Affairs Prof. GL Peiris on 24 December and reaffirmed the UN’s continuous support for reconciliation, political dialogue and accountability as the country heads towards the election on 8 January 2015.
A Securities and Exchange Commission rule designed to limit conflicts of interest in state contracting is becoming less effective amid the rise of super PACs and should be broadened, groups that track campaign finance say. The SEC’s so-called pay-to-play rule, which applies to state officials including governors, could become a prominent factor in the 2016 presidential election given that four or more Republican governors who would be in office during the campaign have said they may run or are thought to be considering a candidacy. The rule effectively prohibits certain employees of financial-services companies that do—or might do—business with state agencies from contributing to the officials who oversee those agencies. The rule, adopted in 2010, was intended to prevent political contributions from influencing state contracting decisions.