National: Party fundraising provision, crafted in secret, could shift money flow in politics | The Washington Post

A massive expansion of party fundraising slipped into a congressional budget deal this week would fundamentally alter how money flows into political campaigns, providing parties with new muscle to try to wrest power back from independent groups. The provision — one of the most significant changes to the campaign finance system since the landmark McCain-Feingold measure — was written behind closed doors with no public debate. Instead, it surfaced at the last minute in the final pages of a 1,603-page spending bill, which Congress is rushing to pass to keep government operations from shutting down. Under the language in the bill, a couple could give as much as $3.1 million to a party’s various national committees in one election cycle — more than triple the current limit.

Iowa: Felon voting task force met only once | Associated Press

A task force created to fix errors in Iowa’s database of ineligible felon voters met once for two hours, failing to resolve a problem that has disenfranchised at least a dozen people, records show. Secretary of State Matt Schultz formed the group in April after finding 12 cases in which errors on the 50,000-name list resulted in the wrongful rejection of ballots from non-felons or people who had their voting rights restored. Schultz said the panel would develop a “long-term solution to fix inaccuracies contained in the state’s felon file. More than four months passed before the group held its first and only meeting Aug. 29, according to documents obtained by the Associated Press under the public records law. “If we get done early, so be it,” then-Secretary of State general counsel Charlie Smithson emailed members before the meeting, scheduled for four hours.

Maine: Ranked choice voting proponents within 15,000 signatures of forcing statewide referendum | Bangor Daily News

The organizers of an effort to bring ranked choice voting to Maine say they have pulled within striking distance of their goal to force a statewide referendum on the issue with only a month left until the deadline to put the question on the 2015 ballot. Former independent Sen. Richard Woodbury, principal officer for the Committee for Ranked-Choice Voting, said Wednesday his group has collected more than 45,000 signatures and aims to handily eclipse 61,000 signatures by Jan. 7. The deadline for the group to submit signatures to municipalities for certification is Jan. 12. In ranked choice voting, also known as instant runoff voting, voters rank candidates in order of preference, in essence voting for more than one candidate. If none of the candidates receive a majority of the initial vote total — at least 50 percent — the lowest performing candidate is eliminated. The ballots with that candidate listed as a first preference are recounted with the second-choice votes tallied and third choice, if necessary, until one candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote.

New Mexico: Vote recount watched closely | Albuquerque Journal News

Election workers in all 33 counties were recounting ballots Thursday in the close race for state land commissioner, in the first such statewide recount. Results were not expected until next week. The contest between Republican Aubrey Dunn and Democratic Land Commissioner Ray Powell was so close it triggered a recount under a 2008 state law. Dunn won by just over 700 votes out of nearly 500,000 cast. At least one county, Quay, finished Thursday, while some counties may need to work into the weekend. Bernalillo County, with the biggest chunk of votes – more than 173,000 – is scheduled to wrap up on Monday.

Ohio: Lawmakers strike deal on redistricting | The Columbus Dispatch

Legislative Republicans and Democrats forged a historic agreement early Friday morning to change Ohio’s hyper-partisan process for drawing legislative districts and, supporters hope, give voters a greater say in those elections. After days of closed-door negotiations, including talks that stretched to nearly 2 a.m. this morning, legislative leaders emerged in a rare showing of bipartisan harmony to announce the deal. Rep. Vernon Sykes, D-Akron, who negotiated on behalf of House Democrats, noted that he is finishing a 26-year legislative career, and “This is the most significant bipartisan activity that I’ve been involved in in my time here.” Shortly after 4 a.m., the Senate voted 28-1 to pass the plan, and the House is expected to vote on it when it returns to session on Wednesday. Sen. Bill Seitz, R-Cincinnati, voted against it. Both Sykes and Rep. Matt Huffman, R-Lima, the No. 2 House leader and House GOP point person on redistricting, expressed confidence that their caucuses would approve the deal. The deal builds off a bipartisan redistricting plan that passed the House last week. The changes “really make it a better bill,” Huffman said.

Australia: Indigenous recognition vote eyed | BBC

More than a century after its constitution was drafted, Australia is edging closer to formally recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders as the nation’s first people. Changing the constitution to recognise the nation’s first people is not about politics, says Mike Baird, premier of New South Wales – Australia’s biggest state. It’s about righting a wrong. “It is an important part of who we are, it is an important part of our history,” he says. Earlier, this month, Mr Baird became the first state or territory leader to publicly back a federal government campaign – started by the previous Labor government and adopted by coalition Prime Minister Tony Abbott – to reverse the historical exclusion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people from Australia’s constitution. To do that, the public would have to vote in a referendum.

Greece: Markets hit as presidential vote in doubt | Associated Press

Shares on the Athens Stock Exchange suffered more heavy losses Thursday, as the governing coalition appeared short of the support needed to stop the government collapsing in a parliamentary vote this month. Retreating for a third day, shares closed down nearly 7.5 percent, taking this week’s cumulative losses to around 20 percent. Meanwhile the yield on Greece’s 10-year-bond jumped to nearly 9 percent, way above levels thought as sustainable. Even though Greece has recently emerged from its brutal six-year recession and has made big strides to get its public finances into shape, the country has been thrown back into uncertainty following the decision earlier this week by conservative Prime Minister Antonis Samaras to call an early vote in parliament to elect a new president. To get his preferred candidate — Stavros Dimas, a former commissioner at the European Union — elected, Samaras will require support from opposition lawmakers in the 300-member parliament.

Japan: Shinzo Abe and the Japanese election | The Guardian

Japan goes to the polls on Sunday after the prime minister, Shinzo Abe, called a snap election he hopes will give his Liberal Democratic party (LDP) a greater mandate for economic reforms. The election caught almost everyone by surprise, not least voters and the opposition parties. Surveys show that most people question the need to go to the polls again, just two years after Abe and the LDP were elected by a landslide. They have good reason to be skeptical. The LDP, along with its much smaller junior coalition partner, Komeito, now controls both houses of parliament, ending the legislative deadlock that frustrated previous administrations. After a decade that saw leaders come and go in quick succession, Abe has managed to close the revolving door to the prime minister’s office and secure some semblance of stability. That said, the resignations of two cabinet ministers in September were uncomfortable reminders of his first term as leader – for a year from autumn 2006 – when he was forced out following a string of scandals involving senior colleagues.

National: Campaign Finanace Changes in the Cromnibus | Roll Call

Despite backlash from Democrats, good government groups think the language in the year-end spending bill that alters campaign finance law benefits both parties’ pocketbooks too much for it to be carved out. The watchdogs were among the first to criticize provisions buried deep in the “cromnibus” released Tuesday night that would dramatically ease spending limits on individual contributions to national political party committees. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi followed suit. The California Democrat said she learned about the provisions only one day before the carefully negotiated agreement was released. Pelosi, one of the top fundraisers for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, announced she’s “deeply troubled” by how that part of the package would increase by tenfold the amount of money wealthy individuals can contribute. Reps. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland and Steve Israel of New York, former chairmen of the DCCC, joined in the criticism of the legislation that would allow a single individual to contribute to each national party’s three committees a total of $1.5 million per two-year election cycle.

Arizona: Barber/McSally: All over but the re-recounting | Tucson Sentinel

Pima and Cochise counties have finished the machine recount in the race between U.S. Rep. Ron Barber and likely winner Martha McSally, but there won’t be any results released until next week. First, a hand recount of random ballots will be performed Monday, and used to verify the accuracy of the machine count. Results from the counties must be submitted to state officials by 5 p.m. Tuesday. With McSally up by just 161 votes, a recount in the congressional race was automatic under Arizona law. Another look at the ballots is triggered when the margin is less than 200 votes. While Pima will perform the required hand count on Monday — done with randomly selected precincts and batches of early ballots — Cochise will tackle that task on Friday.

Maine: Democrat wins Senate election after investigation reveals ‘phantom ballots’ for GOP opponent did not exist | Bangor Daily News

After mystery swirled around a contested southern Maine Senate district election for weeks, Catherine Breen — who saw Election Day victory slip from her grasp after an initial recount — is headed to the Senate after all. Breen, a Falmouth Democrat, was declared the victor on election night by a narrow margin over her Republican opponent, Cathleen Manchester of Gray. Manchester asked for a recount, which was conducted on Nov. 18, and the candidates saw their fortunes reversed, with Manchester squeaking out an even tighter win. Last week, Manchester was provisionally seated in the Legislature’s upper chamber, and Republican lawmakers had already taken to referring to her as “senator.”

New Mexico: Provisional ballots allowed in recount in land commissioner race | Albuquerque Journal News

State elections officials say rejected provisional ballots cast by New Mexicans who registered to vote at the Motor Vehicle Division should be counted in the recount of the land commissioner race that begins today. The State Canvassing Board’s recount procedures say those MVD registrants, whose names didn’t show up on voter rolls, should have their ballots counted if they’re otherwise qualified. The recount of the race between Republican Aubrey Dunn, who won by just over 700 votes, and Democratic Land Commissioner Ray Powell is required by law because it was so close. The state Supreme Court cleared the way for the recount after a hearing Wednesday. Powell’s camp told the court it’s concerned that counties wouldn’t get the necessary information from state officials to determine who the MVD voters were. Powell claims he has been stonewalled in his own efforts to get documentation about those voters from the secretary of state and MVD.

Ohio: Bipartisan redistricting reform passes Senate in historic vote | Cleveland Plain Dealer

The Ohio General Assembly made history early Friday morning when the Senate passed a House-backed redistricting reform plan before adjourning for the session. State lawmakers have debated how to change to Ohio’s process for drawing legislative and congressional districts since 1978 but have never come to an agreement. The Senate voted 28-1 just after 4 a.m. to accept an amended bipartisan plan passed by the House last week. House Joint Resolution 12 now goes to the House for final approval, which is expected next week. If approved, the plan would go before voters in November 2015 for approval to be added to the Ohio Constitution. Friday’s vote followed days of discussion behind closed doors with few signs a compromise would be reached before the Senate adjourned this week. The Senate recessed from the last planned session at 8:30 p.m. so members could caucus with their parties and redistricting language could be drafted. An agreement was reached shortly after 1:30 a.m. Friday.

Oregon: Measure 92 supporters concede defeat on Oregon GMO labeling — for now | The Oregonian

Supporters of Oregon’s Ballot Measure 92 to require labeling of genetically modified foods conceded defeat Thursday morning. The Yes on 92 Campaign, thwarted in a lawsuit this week challenging the rejection of about 4,600 ballots over signature issues, sent a news release saying that it had concluded it had no other legal options. “Given the razor-thin margin in this race, and the failure to count every valid ballot, we believe that Oregonians will never know for sure what the true outcome of this race was,” the release said. “That said, we intend to abide by the judge’s decision and will not pursue any further legal action.” The measure was the subject of the costliest campaign in state history, with supporters spending more than $8 million and opponents nearly $21 million. The initial results from the Nov. 4 election showed Measure 92 failing by just 812 votes out of more than 1.5 million cast — a margin of just 0.05 percent. Anything under 0.2 percent triggers a recount.