In the five years since the Citizens United decision was handed down, there has been plenty of evidence to document the magnitude of the flow of dark money and the effects it has had on American politics. In one of the most impassioned moments of the State of the Union address, President Obama decried the corrosive influence of anonymous money in politics. “A better politics is one where we spend less time drowning in dark money for ads that pull us into the gutter,” he said. His comment could not have been more timely, coming as it did a day before the fifth anniversary of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which allowed corporations and labor unions to engage in unlimited spending to advocate for or against candidates. Advocacy groups used the occasion (and the Twitter hashtag #CU5) to start new conversations about the impact big money is having on our democracy, and how to fix it. The Brennan Center hosted a summit on the topic with Common Cause, Demos and others. The American Constitution Society delved into one of the ruling’s more insidious effects: In states where judges are elected, the judiciary is effectively for sale. The Center for American Progress talked about how to mitigate the decision’s impact through executive action.
Del Mar rushed through approval of an Internet-based city voting system and plans to use it next Tuesday, a resident says in a request for an injunction against it. The Tuesday vote will be an advisory election, in which voters will be asked to choose one of three plans for a new Civic Center, also known as the City Hall/Town Hall Project. Only Del Mar voters will be allowed to vote. Del Mar, pop. 44,000, 20 miles north of San Diego, is a wealthy community best known for its racetrack. On Thursday, Dr. Edward Mohns sued Del Mar, its city manager, its administrative services director and Everyone Counts Inc., a San Diego-based company that got the contract to set up the Internet voting system. In his lawsuit in Superior Court, Mohns says that the voting system “has not been certified by the California Secretary of State,” and that the City Council did not give final approval for it until its Jan. 20 meeting.
A special election with a price tag of more than $1 million is on for March, even though only one candidate filed to put her name on the ballot, state and county elections officials said Thursday. The name of Republican Sharon Runner will be the only one to appear on on the certified list of candidates sent out by the California Secretary of State’s office. The special primary election for the 21st Senate District seat vacated by Congressman Steve Knight is scheduled March 17, according to state and county elections officials. “It’s mandated we still have an election, even though there’s one candidate,” said Regina Ip, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County Office of Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk. The special election carries about a $1.4 million price tag in Los Angeles County, Ip said.
Editorials: Low-turnout Los Angeles perfect place to test innovative election ideas | Joe Matthews/San Francisco Chronicle
Like a man who bangs his head against the wall to cure a headache, Los Angeles will hold more municipal elections this March. The certain result: another low-turnout embarrassment that draws the usual lamentations about how our democracy is in peril. Enough crying. If California’s civic leaders are so sure that Los Angeles elections are democratic disasters, then why don’t they declare an official state of emergency? In other California contexts, disasters draw interventions and lead to big changes. After an earthquake or fire, officials can declare emergencies and take decisive action without following the usual regulations. When California school districts don’t meet academic standards or go underwater financially, the state can take them over. When law enforcement agencies fail, the courts or the federal government can assume oversight.
A lawmaker from Hawaii’s Big Island wants to hold Hawaii’s Chief Elections Officer Scott Nago accountable for voting problems that she says denied residents of her district the right to vote. Tropical Storm Iselle hit Hawaii’s Big Island a few days before Hawaii’s primary election last year, felling hundreds of trees and knocking out power to thousands of residents. Voting was postponed in two precincts. But some residents in the precincts where the polls were open had blocked driveways or were too busy struggling without power or water to vote. A makeup election was called, but many Puna residents weren’t sure who could participate, and the instructions were changed with just a few days’ notice, said Rep. Joy San Buenaventura, a Big Island Democrat.
The General Assembly wants to tinker with how elections operate in Iowa. Since the opening of the 2015 session, there have been five bills relating to the electoral process offered in the House and Senate. They range from a bill to allow small cities to hold their municipal elections by absentee ballot only to a wholesale change to how elections are funded in the first-in-the-nation caucus state. Senate File 10, offered up by state Sen. Brad Zaun (R-Urbandale), would require runoff primary elections whenever there is an “inconclusive” primary election. Iowa law requires a candidate to have at least 35 percent of the vote to win a primary election. When no candidate reaches the 35-percent threshold, a convention is held to determine the winner. U.S. Rep. David Young was the fifth-place finisher in the June primary election last year, but won the Republican nomination after several ballots at a district convention.
Two bills in the state Legislature that would increase transparency in Montana politics are dead in committee after Republicans voted them down. It was a 4-3 party line vote last Friday in the Senate State Administration Committee with Republicans using their majority to defeat SB 86, which was introduced by state Sen. JP Pomnichowski, D-Bozeman. The bill’s intent is to provide the public with instant access to campaign finance reports and shine light on attack ad campaigns, Pomnichowski said. Electronic reporting is mandated by 36 states, according to the National Institute of Money in State Politics.
A Wake County judge plans to take two to three weeks to decide whether a lawsuit challenging North Carolina’s voter ID law should be dismissed or proceed to trial this summer. Mike Morgan, a Wake County Superior Court judge, briefed attorneys Friday after listening to several hours of arguments for and against the dismissal request. The case is rooted in an overhaul of North Carolina election law that was adopted by the Republican-led General Assembly in 2013. Under the sweeping changes, which are also being challenged in federal court, voters going to the polls in 2016 will have to show one of seven forms of photo identification to cast a ballot. The League of Women Voters of North Carolina, the North Carolina A. Philip Randolph Institute and five female voters argue that lawmakers overstepped the bounds of the state Constitution when they added the ID requirement. Attorneys for the state lawmakers countered that registered voters without one of the seven acceptable IDs are not shut out completely from voting.
Lawmakers are again considering same-day voter registration at elections, an idea that some believe will lead to voter fraud. Washington County Sen. Anthony Pollina, a Progressive, has introduced S.29, a bill that would allow voters to register at the polls if they miss the registration deadline, which is 5 p.m. on the Wednesday preceding an election. Pollina said instances of voter fraud are extremely rare and allowing registration at the polls does not present any new opportunities for fraud. Secretary of State Jim Condos testified Friday before the Senate Government Operations Committee, of which Pollina is a member, in support of the legislation. He said the state should be looking at ways to encourage voting, not restricting it. “Voting is a right,” Condos said. “The law should protect this right and only limit it when necessary.”
Virginia: Democratic Party sued over way candidate was named to face Morrissey | The Washington Post
Three African American residents of Virginia filed a lawsuit Friday contending that their constitutional rights were violated by the process recently used to pick a Democratic challenger to convicted Del. Joseph D. Morrissey (I-Henrico). Morrissey was recently found guilty of a misdemeanor charge of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. In a special election Jan. 13, he won decisively against both a Republican and the Democratic Party’s chosen candidate. The lawsuit, filed in federal court, argues that the Democratic Party, in its haste to distance itself from Morrissey, intentionally excluded African American voters from the process of nominating the challenger. African Americans make up about 60 percent of the House of Delegates district in question.
Officials recounted all votes for the seat of Mt Coot-tha following an overnight break-in at an Electoral Commission office. Police have confirmed they are investigating the attempted burglary at an office on Lang Parade, Milton, where state election ballot papers for the seat are being counted and stored. The Electoral Commission later confirmed the security incident at the Mt Coot-tha Returning Officer’s office had been resolved and there had been no disturbance to the integrity of vote counting. “All material in the office had been counted over the weekend and today’s check count and audit confirms that figures remain unchanged,” a commission statement said.
According to a study, more people used Internet voting during the last municipal election than ever before, but the relatively new method of marking a ballot shouldn’t be regarded as a panacea to improve voter turnout and political engagement. “Of the 97 (Ontario) municipalities that used Internet voting in 2014, voter turnout increased in 52 communities and decreased in 44 from 2010,” explained Dr. Nicole Goodman, research director with the Centre for e-Democracy, which helped fund the Internet Voting Project (www.internetvotingproject.com). Results of the study, which included survey feedback from Internet voters in 43 municipalities, including Cambridge, will be released online next week. Goodman shared highlights during a webinar this past Thursday (Jan. 29) afternoon.
A relentless campaign of slaughter by Boko Haram militants coupled with widespread administrative chaos threatens to leave tens of millions of Nigerians unable to vote in the country’s looming general election. The February 14 ballot will be the first election in the young democracy’s history in which polls suggest a close race between two rival candidates. Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country, the continent’s largest economy, and a key regional ally for the U.S. But spiralling violence by the Islamist sect Boko Haram has forced upward of one million people to flee their homes and rendered a huge swath of the northeast almost uninhabitable. Compounding that, Nigeria’s top security official revealed earlier this month that half of the electorate — some 30 million people — had yet to receive their polling cards just three weeks before the ballot.