Maine could be a clean election bellwether for the nation, if a citizens’ initiative measure is successful this fall. The organization Maine Citizens for Clean Elections is expected on Jan. 21 to turn in a petition with far more than the 61,123 signatures needed to put the measure on the ballot in November. Under the proposal, all Maine House, Senate and gubernatorial candidates would come under the clean elections umbrella. “Maine is a leader in this,” said John Rauh, a New Castle, N.H., Democrat who ran against Judd Gregg for the U.S. Senate in 1992 and is an advocate for clean election financing. “What Maine has done is provide a model that eliminates the barrier of money to attract candidates who want to run for office.” Rauh joined BJ McCollister, MCCE program director, and Anna Kellar, MCCE southern Maine director, at an editorial board meeting with Seacoast Media Group this past Wednesday.
Prospective Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush is moving to get his share via a new political committee. The way he did it could blaze a new trail for candidates seeking out million-dollar donors. Bush’s action comes just before the fifth anniversary, next Wednesday, of Citizens United, the 2010 Supreme Court ruling that restructured the campaign finance landscape. In the five years since, there’s been an explosion of political money. The organization around Bush, a former Florida governor, has created a superPAC, a species of political committee that wasn’t possible before Citizens United. It can take contributions of any amount. Confusingly, the Bush organization also set up another political action committee at the same time, an old-fashioned PAC operating with contribution limits. The PACs have the same name, Right To Rise, similar logos and the same lawyer.
Editorials: For Florida, online voter registration would be cheaper, more accurate and more secure | Orlando Sentinel
It’s Civics 101 that healthy democracies depend on informed and engaged citizens. In Florida, however, only a little more than half of residents eligible to vote are actually registered, and just 31 percent of eligible voters cast ballots in November’s election. When so many Floridians won’t even participate in the electoral process, politicians have less reason to listen to the public. But there’s a way to boost voter registration, while making the process more accurate and secure, and also saving money for taxpayers: Allow Floridians to submit their registration applications online. Considering everything else Floridians can do online, including banking and shopping, it’s hard to believe this convenient option for registration still isn’t available. The association that represents Florida’s 67 county elections supervisors has made online voter registration application its No. 1 priority for the upcoming legislative session. The group’s president, Supervisor Jerry Holland of Duval County, calls it “a common-sense approach for 21st-century voters.”
Let the lawsuits begin – maybe. As everyone knows, the General Assembly passed a bill last week that will force a special election to fill the state comptroller’s office in 2016. Failed Republican legislative candidate Leslie Munger was appointed to fill the job last Monday, but rather than serve a full 4 years, she will now have to run for election in 2 years if she wants to keep the job. During debate on the bill, Republicans repeatedly said that passing it would lead to litigation. They argued that the only valid way to provide for an early election to fill the office is to change the state constitution. Of course, because of the time it takes to change the constitution, that method would mean Munger would serve a full 4 years anyway.
Floyd County Clerk Christy Eurton made a formal request Tuesday night for 86 more voting machines, along with accompanying scanners and e-poll books totaling $410,000. She will have to wait another month for an answer. The Floyd County Council unanimously voted to table her request until the Feb. 10 meeting. In the next 26 days, councilmen Jim Wathen, John Schellenberger and Brad Striegel will meet with Eurton and the other two members of the election board, Rick Fox and William Lohmeyer, to look at data and further discuss the issue. That committee will report back to the full council next month with a recommendation. The county currently has 70 voting machines, which the election board said is not nearly enough. Eurton said she is on a tight time frame, since the 2015 municipal election primary will be held May 5 and will now include the entire county following the New Albany-Floyd County School Board’s decision Monday to place an $80 million referendum on the ballot. “More machines will only fix part of the problem,” Striegel said after Eurton’s presentation. “I want to see more data.”
Kentucky: It’s Almost Impossible for Felons to Vote in Kentucky. Rand Paul Wants to Change That. | Mother Jones
Sen. Rand Paul began the new year by lobbying for one of his favorite causes: criminal-justice reform. Last week, Paul issued a press release urging the Kentucky Legislature to act on a bill that would let state voters decide whether or not to create a path back to voting rights for nonviolent felons who have completed their sentences. “Restoring voting rights for those who have repaid their debt to society is simply the right thing to do,” Paul said in the release. In 2014, the Democratic-controlled Kentucky House approved a bill that would put a constitutional amendment on ballots in the fall—if voters approved the measure, it would have automatically restored the voting rights of nonviolent felons who have served their time. But the Republican-controlled Senate passed a substitute that proposed several tough restrictions, including a mandatory five-year waiting period after prison before felons could reapply to vote. The two chambers couldn’t agree, and the issue has stalled. Paul, who favors the less-restrictive House bill, is trying to give the issue CPR. (His office declined to comment for this article.)
Virginia: Morrissey, in midst of six-month jail term, wins special election to Virginia House | The Washington Post
Joseph D. Morrissey was reelected Tuesday to the House of Delegates, opening another chapter in a made-for-TV-movie-style drama likely to captivate the General Assembly session starting Wednesday. Running as an independent, Morrissey defeated Democrat Kevin Sullivan and Republican Matt Walton. The heavily Democratic district mostly spans the Richmond suburb of Henrico County. With all precincts reporting, Morrissey won 42 percent of the vote, Sullivan 33 percent and Walton 24 percent, according to unofficial results. Sullivan quickly conceded after the results posted online: “I’m very proud of the campaign we put together in such a short time frame. We met tons of voters who are dissatisfied in their representation and ready for effective leadership in the State House. I look forward to continuing my work on improving the lives of working class families.”
In a first for an Australian general election, when Queenslanders head to the polls on January 31 they’ll need more than loose change for the sausage sizzle and cake stalls – they now also need to bring proof of identity. … Since passing the voter ID rules last year, as part of a suite of big changes to Queensland electoral laws, the state government has gone quiet on the issue. It has also had relatively little coverage in the media, meaning few Queenslanders even realise the rules have changed. Late last week, an Electoral Commission Queensland spokesperson said that “no-one who turns up to vote without ID will be turned away” and that voter information letters will be posted out this week, ready to scan at polling booths as a fast form of proof of identity.
The Supreme Court of India has directed the Government of India to enable e-voting facility for the Indians living abroad. This historical decision will let the NRIs to vote online making things better for the Electorate. Earlier, NRIs used to fly back home to cast their vote during elections but now they can vote for their favourite candidate with a click of a mouse. The Election Commission had earlier recommended e-ballot voting for Indian passport holders abroad. The Government had given voting rights to the NRIs in 2010, but as per the rule – the voter has to be present in their constituency on the day of voting. But with this things might change for better. The Central Government had told the Supreme Court that the EC’s recommendation to extend voting rights to NRIs through postal ballots have been accepted in letter and spirit. Taking note of the submissions, a bench comprising Chief Justice HL Dattu and AK Sikri asked the Government to inform it about “further steps taken to implement the suggestions.”
The civic elections from Rossland to Trail and through the Beaver Valley cost local taxpayers about $45,000. However, when the sum is broken down into the five communities, the price per ballot ranges considerably. Size doesn’t matter when looking at the final tally from each city or village. Rather, it’s more about how many people seized the Nov. 15 opportunity to cast a vote for their favourite politician. While Fruitvale’s cost, about $8,500, fell mid-range on the list of the five municipalities, the price for each vote is the highest because only about one in four eligible electors showed up. With a 23 per cent voter turnout, or 390 from a pool of 1,722, each ballot cost taxpayers $21.86.
Britain’s elections standards watchdog says it will allow political campaigners to handle completed postal votes, marking a U-turn in plans it drew up in the wake of controversy surrounding the independence referendum. It comes as Police Scotland continues to investigate allegations that pro-Union campaigners breached electoral law by examining Scottish Referendum postal ballot papers to gauge how well the Better Together campaign was doing before the polls had closed. nThe day after September’s referendum the Electoral Commission circulated a consultation revealing proposed code changes that “make clear that campaigners should not handle any completed electoral registration, absent vote application forms or postal ballot packs”. The experience of the referendum fed into the consultation which has now stepped back from preventing campaigners from assisting voters.
United Kingdom: Scrap the £500 deposit to run for parliament, says Electoral Commission | The Guardian
The £500 deposit required to run for parliament should be scrapped in order to enable a wider range of candidates to stand, says the Electoral Commission. A report by the election regulator sets out a range of recommendations to update the rules on standing for election, which it says are “complex, out-of-date and difficult for candidates to navigate”. It describes the rule that candidates should provide a £500 deposit – which they lose if they do not win 5% of the vote – as unreasonable. “We do not think that the ability to pay a specified fee is a relevant or appropriate criterion for determining access to the ballot paper,” the report says. The watchdog recommends that if deposits are scrapped, candidates should still be required to gather the signatures of a set number of supporters to show that they are seriously contesting an election.