Three days after conceding the loss of his U.S. Senate seat, Alaska Democrat Mark Begich may have hit on just the trick to make him the most popular lame duck ever. On Nov. 20, the soon-to-be ex-senator introduced a bill that would allow voters to block robocalls from certain political organizations by adding super PACs and dark money groups (politically active non-profits that do not disclose donors) to the “Do Not Call Registry” maintained by theFederal Trade Commission. The “Do Not Disturb Act of 2014” comes a little late for this year’s voters, including many in Begich’s state. But an analysis of data — including filings due at the Federal Elections Commission at midnight — using Sunlight’s Real-Time Federal Campaign Finance tracker suggests that such a measure could put a serious crimp in the nation’s gross political product. Outside expenditure filings show that outside groups spent nearly $8 million dialing voters across the nation last year. Because of vagaries in how these calls are described in filings to the FEC, it’s hard to say exactly how many of them were the types Begich would ban: automated “robocalls” or the “push-polls” (faux surveys that attempt to create favorable or — more typically — unfavorable impressions of candidates by the way questions are phrased). Still, we found more than $1 million worth of calls that were explicitly identified as “automated” or “robocalls.”
What started as a Fountain Hills woman’s attempt to protest a local bond issue could lead to the demise of Arizona’s oversight of campaign finances. A federal judge has tossed out the key component of the state’s campaign-finance law, opening the prospect of future elections in which there is no disclosure of who is raising and spending money to influence voters. The state Attorney General’s Office said Monday that it plans to seek a stay of U.S. District Judge James Teilborg’s ruling while state officials contemplate an appeal. Teilborg on Friday ruled that Arizona’s definition of a political committee is unconstitutional because it is vague and overly broad. The definition, which runs 183 words, has resulted in conflicting interpretations from various attorneys and election regulators.
Arizona: Groups no longer required to disclose money sources to Secretary of State’s Office | Arizona Capitol Times
A federal judge late Friday voided state laws requiring groups to register before spending money on campaigns – and with it, the reports they’re supposed to file on who is behind all that cash. Judge James Teilborg accepted arguments by challengers that the statute dictating who must register is “vague, overbroad, and consequently unconstitutional in violation of the First Amendment.” Teilborg said that means it cannot be enforced.
Deputy Secretary of State Jim Drake said his office will ask Teilborg to delay the effect of the ruling to provide a chance for an appeal. If nothing else, Drake said his office needs time to figure out how badly this undermines years of laws designed to give the public a better idea of who is contributing to political campaigns. But Drake said he’s not optimistic. “It does kind of turn campaign finance on its head,” he said. At the very least, Drake said Teilborg’s order eliminates the requirements for disclosure of funding by groups pushing or opposing ballot measures. It is not unusual for these campaigns to cost millions of dollars. But attorney Paul Avelar of the Institute for Justice said he reads the ruling to apply to all the independent groups pushing to elect or defeat candidates.
A bipartisan committee has been appointed by the Board of Selectmen to review the recent election process, which was marred by long delays in reporting results, incorrect ballots and a vote-scanner breakdown. The review, First Selectman Michael Tetreau said at last week’s board meeting, “is not a witch hunt. This is about the process.” The registrars of voters, Republican Roger Autuori and Democrat Matthew Waggner, who by state law oversee elections in town, have been at odds for several years and work in separate offices in old Town Hall. Autuori was charged with breach of peace after the two had a dispute while preparing for the 2013 election, and Waggner told police Autuori had slapped him. Later, Autuori reported Waggner to police for ripping down signs directing the public to Autuori’s new second-floor office. “This is not a witch hunt,” agreed Selectman Kevin Kiley. “We’re just trying to raise awareness and maintain the integrity” of the election process.
Florida: With Senate redistricting lawsuit pending, court releases disputed documents | Tampa Bay Times
The Florida Supreme Court on Monday thrust into the limelight yet another secret email that reveals the role of political consultants in the redistricting process that could have bearing on the pending lawsuit over Senate redistricting. Tom Hofeller of the Republican National Committee wrote to Rich Heffley, a consultant to the Republican Party of Florida, which appeared to underscore the consultants’ role in the redistricting process. “Congratulations on guiding the Senate through the thicket,” Hofeller wrote on April 27, 2012, after the Senate maps were complete. “Looks as if, so far, the Democrats have not realized the gains they think were [sic] going to get. Tom.” While the email won’t affect the congressional districts, which the Legislature revised and the courts have upheld, it could play a role in the lawsuit over Senate redistricting. Heffley responded: “Thanks. Big win.” He then correctly predicted the Senate composition after the 2012 elections: “Worse case minus 2. 26-14.”
Maine: Election workers, recount volunteers and state police officers headed to Augusta for recount investigation | Bangor Daily News
More than 30 witnesses will travel to the State House on Tuesday to testify in a special Senate committee’s investigation into the disputed Falmouth-area state Senate election that Democrats argue is still undecided. By day’s end Tuesday, the committee intends to rely on that testimony to compile a timeline that starts with the delivery of blank ballots to the community of Long Island and goes through every instance in which those ballots have been handled since Election Day, Nov. 4. Republican Sen. Roger Katz of Augusta and Democratic Sen. Dawn Hill of Cape Neddick, who lead the seven-person Senate Electoral Committee, both acknowledged Monday that the prospect of completing the investigation on Tuesday may be a tall order given the number of witnesses — some of them residents of Long Island — for whom an impending winter storm might cause complications. “We’re in uncharted waters here. We’re trying to see if we can re-create the events of that day and understand what one would have actually seen had one actually been there,” said Katz, who was appointed by Senate President Mike Thibodeau, R-Winterport, to lead the committee. “Our goal is to complete this in a long day, but the most important thing is that we get it right.”
Attorneys for the state and incumbent New Mexico State Land Commissioner Ray Powell negotiated through Monday evening in an unsuccessful effort to resolve issues on how a recount of votes in the closely contested election for land commissioner should be conducted. A state Supreme Court hearing that was scheduled for Monday afternoon to hear motions filed by Powell regarding the recount process was postponed until 9 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 10, while the two sides try to hammer out an agreement. Powell has challenged the method the State Canvassing Board approved in late November for calibrating vote tabulating machines and reviewing ballots during the recount, among other issues.
Just weeks after the availability of completed absentee ballots on the public email server came to light, questions are being raised about access to login information for the state’s election database system. The email server makes available to the public correspondence between officials in New Hanover County, including emails to and from elections director Marvin McFadyen. Since the ballots issue came to light last month, the county removed McFadyen’s email from the public server. According to a news release in late November from the Derrick Hickey Campaign, it found a “stockpile” of voted absentee ballots.
Lawmakers may actually be nearing a long elusive bipartisan compromise to change the highly partisan way Ohio redraws state legislative districts every 10 years. But don’t look for a solution anytime soon on how legislators redraw congressional districts as the newly strengthened Republican majority in Washington has frowned on changing a system that has worked to its advantage. The Ohio House on Thursday overwhelmingly approved a proposed constitutional amendment to increase minority input into maps for 99 state House and 33 state Senate districts and improve the chances that races will be more competitive. The Senate president has introduced his own plan in the upper chamber that is also in position for a potential vote this week, likely the last before lawmakers wrap up the two-year session and head for the Statehouse doors for the holidays.
Supporters of a measure to label genetically modified food in Oregon filed a lawsuit Monday claiming 4,600 valid votes were rejected during the statewide recount that’s underway. Nine voters have asked a judge for a restraining order to stop certification of the recount results until those 4,600 votes are counted, said Keven Glenn, spokesman for the Yes on 92 campaign. “We have said from the beginning of the recount that all valid votes should be counted, but unfortunately that is not happening currently,” said Paige Richardson, spokeswoman for the Yes on 92 campaign. The 4,600 voters were among about 13,000 who completed, signed and submitted their ballots on time, but whose votes were not counted because their signatures did not match the signature on file. They were notified and given until Nov. 18 to fix the problem. But many of those voters’ signatures changed because of illness or disability, the lawsuit claims. Some were never notified their vote was being challenged. Others tried to correct their signature with elections officials, but still find their vote is not being counted.
Greece’s conservative-led government on Monday called for a key vote in parliament for the country’s new president late this month – in a surprise move that will determine its survival in the recession-weary country. Government spokesman Sofia Voultepsi said the vote would be held Dec. 17, with possible later rounds held in the following 12 days. The vote had not been expected to be held until late February. The government needs the support from opposition lawmakers to avoid a stalemate and a snap general election, but is trailing in opinion polls to the anti-bailout Syriza party and facing widespread public discontent after a six-year recession.
Israeli lawmakers voted Monday to dissolve the parliament and hold elections on March 17, making the current government one of the shortest-lived in the country’s history. With some cellphone cameras flashing but no objections, lawmakers passed the motion at the end of an hours-long discussion of last-minute legislation that included no-confidence motions and harsh criticism of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government. Lawmaker Dov Khenin called the Netanyahu government “bad and dangerous” and said it had blocked all chances for a political solution to Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians and the wider Arab world. Jamal Zahalka accused Netanyahu and his ministers of giving orders that killed thousands of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, and called for a no-confidence vote that would be a “harsh indictment against a criminal government.”
At long last the Supreme Court of Liberia Monday conducted hearing into the much awaited writ of prohibition filed before the court to halt the pending Senatorial election, but the fate of the election hangs as the court failed to state when the next hearing is expected to take place. The writ of prohibition was filed by several political parties and eminent Liberians at the Supreme Court against the National Elections Commission (NEC) calling for a halt to the December 16, 2014 Senatorial election due to the outbreak of the Ebola Virus in the country, coupled with constitutional violations. Last week it was widely speculated that the high court was to hear the writ of prohibition that led to the current stay order placed on the December 16, 2014 senatorial election, but the hearing failed as Chief Justice Francis Korkpor announced in open court that there was no hearing assigned by the high court on the matter. Monday’s hearing at the Chamber of Supreme Court, which lasted for nearly nine-hours was witnessed by several Liberians from various backgrounds including ordinary citizens as lawmakers with vested interest in the outcome of the writ also turned out.
Nearly one million Mauritians head to the polls on Wednesday for the tenth legislative election since the island nation’s independence, with the key campaign issue: the proposed strengthening of presidential powers. The issue of constitutional reform makes the polls one of the most important for Mauritius since the independence of the Indian Ocean nation from Britain in 1968. Two rival coalitions are competing for 62 parliamentary seats — 60 on the main island of Mauritius, and two on the small island of Rodrigues, some 560 kilometres (350 miles) to the east.
Since the ouster of long-time dictator Zine El Abedine Ben Ali in 2011, Tunisia has been the bellwether for the revolutions that have rocked the Middle East. Three years into their revolution, Tunisians stand at a crossroads: a choice between “protecting” the revolution and sacrificing some revolutionary gains for the sake of stability. Last month’s presidential elections are, in the eyes of many hopeful Tunisians, the capstone to a tumultuous period of post-revolutionary instability. Over twenty candidates ran in the first round elections, but to many external observers and Tunisians it was a race between two candidates that embody the fierce debate occurring within the country. In one camp is the establishment candidate: Beji Caid Essebsi. A remnant of not only Ben Ali’s government but the government of his predecessor Habib Bourgiba, Essebsi has campaigned on providing Tunisians with a modicum of security after three years of uncertainty.