National: Supreme Court Rules States Can Bar Judicial Candidates From Soliciting Donations | Wall Street Journal

A divided Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that states can prohibit judicial candidates from soliciting campaign donations, rejecting arguments such bans violate the free-speech protections guaranteed by the First Amendment.Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the court’s majority in a 5-4 opinion, said judges aren’t politicians, even when they join the bench by way of an election.“A state’s decision to elect its judiciary does not compel it to treat judicial candidates like campaigners for political office,” the chief justice wrote. “A state may assure its people that judges will apply the law without fear or favor—and without having personally asked anyone for money.”

National: Supreme Court Upholds Limit on Judicial Fund-Raising | New York Times

The Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled that states may prohibit judicial candidates from personally asking their supporters for campaign contributions. The vote was 5 to 4, with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. joining the court’s four-member liberal wing to form a majority. “A state’s decision to elect judges does not compel it to compromise public confidence in their integrity,” Chief Justice Roberts wrote. In dissent, Justice Antonin Scalia said the decision was a disguised attack on judicial elections that “flattens one settled First Amendment principle after another.”

National: Casting Early Presidential Vote Through Facebook by Clicking ‘Unfollow’ | New York Times

The arguments on Facebook regarding Hillary Rodham Clinton’s announcement that she was running for president began politely at first but slowly grew more vitriolic with each back and forth. Eventually, Madison Payne, a 27-year-old from Tyler, Tex., had had enough. So she took revenge against the Clinton opponents, simply clicking “unfollow.” “If I see somebody that is just so hateful, then of course I’m going to unfollow them,” said Ms. Payne, whose “friend” count on Facebook has dwindled since Mrs. Clinton’s announcement. “I’ve lost touch with many great childhood friends of mine due to social media providing a platform for political discussion.”

National: Digital Democracy Or 21st-Century Electioneering | TechCrunch

It’s fair to say that Barack Obama’s 2012 presidential bid marked a watershed moment for political campaigners. This was a campaign covered in Silicon Valley’s fingerprints, characterized as it was by its widespread use of technology to capture and record data to deliver targeted messages to voters. As one former Obama campaign manager said: “We stopped thinking in terms of ‘soccer moms’ and started thinking instead about ‘Mary Smith at 37 Pivot Street.’” What was once done with pen and paper is now being done in real time and at a staggering pace, providing politicians and their election teams with a far richer picture of voters than previously possible. Next month will see the UK head to the polls for its first general election since 2010, which has been described as one of the most unpredictable in living memory. Throughout Westminster, political parties are putting their faith in technology to gain an edge over their rivals, defend vulnerable seats and better connect with the electorate. Both Labour candidate Ed Miliband and Prime Minister David Cameron have hired former Obama advisers to head up their campaign teams, which look to replicate the success of Democrats in securing key votes.

Voting Blogs: Of Politicians and Girl Scouts: First Thoughts on the Supreme Court’s Judicial Campaign Finance Decision | More Soft Money Hard Law

The Court’s campaign finance jurisprudence has come under just criticism for its incoherence, and today’s decision on judicial campaign finance does not mark a step toward improvement. There is much to be said about the case, but a good starting point is the question of whether Chief Justice Roberts is right to say—in fact, to assert flatly—that “judges are not politicians.” Williams-Yulee v. Florida Bar, No. 13-499, slip op. at 1 (2015). The Chief Justice is joined in this view, quite emphatically, by Justice Ginsburg, who argues, as she has before, that judges do not participate in representative democratic processes—and so are not properly seen to be politicians. Over a decade ago, in Republican Party of Minnesota v. White, Justice Scalia, then writing for the Court, had countered that the distinction drawn between judicial and other elections had been exaggerated: “the complete separation of the judiciary from the enterprise of “representative government”…is not a true picture of the American system.” 536 U.S. 765, 784. In the case today, the Court doubles down on the contrary proposition.

Maine: Voter ID bill clears Senate by 1 vote, faces poor prospects in House | Bangor Daily News

By a single vote, the Maine Senate on Wednesday approved a bill that would require voters to produce a photographic identification at the polls when voting. The 18-17 vote followed a lively floor debate in which Republican supporters of the bill argued protecting the integrity of the state’s voting system was their primary objective. If the bill, LD 197, were to pass into law, Maine would become the 32nd state to require some form of photo identification at the polls. The bill’s sponsors said that voting should be treated the same as other activities that require proof of identity, including buying alcohol, cigarettes or being allowed to vote in a union election.

Missouri: Expanded voting rights, registration for military voters sent to governor | Associated Press

Military voters returning from service would have a longer window to register to vote in Missouri elections under a measure headed to the governor’s desk. The Missouri Senate gave final approval Wednesday to a bill that would allow military and overseas voters to participate in elections for statewide offices, the state Legislature and statewide ballot initiatives. Currently those voters are allowed to vote only in federal elections.

Wisconsin: State high court quickly ousts Shirley Abrahamson as chief justice | Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

Conservatives on the Wisconsin Supreme Court picked Justice Patience Roggensack as their new leader Wednesday, dumping longtime Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson after voters approved changing how the head of the court is selected. Four justices on the seven-member court voted to put Roggensack in charge just hours after state election officials certified the April 7 referendum results, allowing court members to choose the chief justice. For the past 126 years, the state constitution had the most senior member of the court serve as chief justice. The vote for Roggensack comes at a time when the court has been roiled by ideological and personal differences, and as Abrahamson has pursued litigation to remain chief justice until her elected term ends in 2019.

India: Government proposes to give voting rights to Non-Resident Indians | The Economic Times

The government today agreed to convene an all-party meeting to discuss its proposal to give NRIs the right to exercise their franchise by e-postal ballots or through proxy voting. Law Minister DV Sadananda Gowda accepted the demand of opposition parties in the Rajya Sabha that their views should be taken into consideration while enacting a legislation to grant voting rights to NRIs and domestic migrant labour. Replying to a calling attention motion moved by Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad, the Law Minister made it clear that the government was acting on the Election Commission report regarding voting rights of over one crore NRIs and not as directed by the Supreme Court.

Nigeria: Social media helps curb Nigerian election deathtoll, paving future path | PCWorld

The dozens of deaths that marred the recent Nigerian elections would be considered shocking by the standards of most developed nations. Compared to past elections, however, the violence this time around was limited, and many observers say social media and technology such as biometric card readers played a big role in minimizing conflict. Online services are credited with keeping people informed during the runup to the elections, promoting the feeling they could communicate and express their views without resorting to violence, and other technology helped to ensure cheating would be kept to a minimum. Nigeria’s experience suggests that tech can play a role in reducing election-related violence in other countries.

South Korea: Vote counting broadcast live online | The Korea Times

The whole process of the by-elections, from voters entering polling stations to ballot-counting, was broadcast live online Wednesday. To improve transparency of the four by-elections in Seoul, Incheon, Seongnam and Gwangju, the National Election Commission (NEC) aired special programs live on its website, YouTube, Naver and Daum. The NEC said this was to earn people’s trust over the nation’s election system.

Togo: Opposition leader disputes vote results, says ‘I’m president’ | AFP

Togo’s opposition leader Jean-Pierre Fabre on Wednesday claimed he had won a weekend presidential vote, despite the electoral commission pronouncing victory for incumbent Faure Gnassingbe. Fabre denounced the results as “fraudulent” and a “crime against national sovereignty” after the electoral commission said he won 34.95 percent of the vote against Gnassingbe’s 58.75 percent. His party, the Combat for Political Change (CAP 2015), said it “categorically” rejected the results, asserting that they bore “no resemblance to those compiled from reports collected in polling stations by its representatives”. Fabre was asked whether he considered himself the new president of Togo and he replied: “Of course!” The opposition leader went into Saturday’s election looking to prevent Gnassingbe from securing a third term of office and end his family’s nearly 50-year grip on power of the tiny west African nation.

National: Carter: Can’t afford to be president today | The Times-Tribune

Jimmy Carter didn’t hesitate when asked how he would feel about running for president today. “I couldn’t possibly do it, because I have very little money,” the 90-year-old said at a press conference during a recent visit to Wilkes-Barre. “And now it takes $200 million if you want any chance to get the Democratic or Republican nomination.” Since 1976, when Mr. Carter, a Democrat, became the 39th president of the United States, campaigns — and financing them — have changed dramatically. In the early 1970s, individuals and organizations were limited as to what they could contribute to political campaigns. But campaign financing has been reshaped over the past 40 years due to a series of U.S. Supreme Court decisions.

Florida: House tightens cyber-security in online voter registration | Palm Beach Post

The Florida House agreed Tuesday to allow online voter registration but tacked on a provision aimed at heightening cyber-security — sending the measure back to the Senate for final approval. Secretary of State Ken Detzner, the state’s top elections official and an appointee of Gov. Rick Scott, has opposed the legislation, which sets online registration to begin in 2017. Detzner cautioned that problems could emerge with the measure that has drawn widespread support from lawmakers, county elections supervisors, and voter advocacy groups. The House approved the measure (CS/SB 228) 109-9 Tuesday. But the move came after Rep. James Grant, R-Tampa, added a provision that authorizes the Scott administration to conduct a “comprehensive risk assessment” of online registration before the system is made available to the public.

Florida: Online voter registration moves forward | Herald Tribune

Florida took another step toward becoming the 28th state to approve some form of online voter registration system Tuesday after legislation cleared the House with broad bipartisan support. The bill is strongly supported by local supervisors of elections, including those in Sarasota and Manatee counties. It tasks the state Division of Elections with developing a secure website for processing new voter registrations and updates to existing voter records. The legislation passed the Senate 34-3 on Monday but must go back for another vote after House Republicans added additional security measures to the proposal Tuesday.

Illinois: Group starts new bid to put redistricting on 2016 ballot | Associated Press

A coalition of business, clergy and civic leaders has launched a petition drive and fundraising efforts for a 2016 ballot question aimed at changing how Illinois draws political boundaries, an initiative group officials said Tuesday builds on a previous failed attempt. Independent Maps, which wants to take the mapmaking process out of the hands of politicians and give it to an independent commission, said the state’s once-a-decade process of redistricting is too political. The group bills itself as nonpartisan and board members include former Tribune Co. CEO Dennis FitzSimons, former White House chief of staff Bill Daley, the Rev. Byron Brazier of Chicago’s Apostolic Church of God and former Playboy Enterprises CEO Christie Hefner.

Kentucky: Appeals court: electioneering law unconstitutional |

A federal appeals court agreed with a lower court’s ruling that Kentucky’s electioneering laws banning campaign signs within 300 feet of a polling place was unconstitutional. The U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday upheld the last year’s federal district court’s ruling. The case was sparked by a Northern Kentucky business that displayed election signs on private property near a polling place. U.S. District Court Judge William Bertelsman in an October 2014 ruling found Kentucky’s electioneering sign law too broad. The law banned signs on public and private property within 300 feet of polling location. Kentucky’s attorney general and secretary of state appealed the ruling.

Missouri: Pleadings due today in Clay Chastain’s legal attempt to get Sly James off Jackson County ballot | The Pitch

A Jackson County Circuit Court judge has told Clay Chastain, April’s distant third-place finisher in the Kansas City mayoral primary, and attorneys for incumbent Sly James to file arguments to the court by the end of the day Tuesday about whether James should be disqualified as a candidate. Tuesday’s deadline is the first major step in Chastain’s bid to remove James from the ballot. Jackson County Judge Joel Fahenstock indicated on Monday that she might hold a hearing on Friday afternoon.

Texas: State Asks Appeals Court to Uphold Voter Photo ID Law | Associated Press

Supporters and opponents of a Texas law requiring specific forms of photo identification for voters faced close questioning in a federal appeals court Tuesday on whether the law was meant to discriminate against minorities and whether there are ways to remedy it. The U.S. Justice Department and others oppose the law as an unconstitutional burden on minority voters. The state of Texas says the law was aimed at preventing fraud. The state is appealing a federal district judge’s ruling last October that struck down the law. Judge Catharina Haynes, one of three judges hearing the Texas case at the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, suggested in questioning that the matter should perhaps be sent back to the district court for further consideration. She noted that the Texas Legislature currently has several bills that that could broaden the number and types of ID voters could use to cast ballots.

Texas: Federal Appeals Court to Scrutinize Voter ID Law | The Texas Tribune

Texas’ voter ID law faces a fresh round of legal scrutiny in New Orleans on Tuesday, the next step in a long-winding case that may be headed for the U.S. Supreme Court. Three judges on the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals will hear arguments from Texas Solicitor General Scott Keller and lawyers for the plaintiffs, including minority groups and the U.S. Department of Justice. The case asks whether Texas intentionally discriminated against Hispanics and African-Americans when it passed what are widely considered the nation’s strictest rules for the identification voters must present at the polls. The dispute stands out in the national debate over recently tightened identification requirements in many Republican-controlled states, and could factor into whether Texas might – once again – need federal approval to enact new election laws.

Virginia: Henrico to spend $1.2 million to replace outdated voting equipment | Richmond Times-Dispatch

Henrico County has agreed to pay $1.2 million to buy new voting equipment after state authorities decided hundreds of machines the county already owns are no longer fit for use. Registrar Mark J. Coakley announced the purchase to the county’s Board of Supervisors at its Tuesday meeting. The State Board of Elections voted earlier this month to disallow the use of WinVote touch-screen voting machines due to security concerns. Henrico owned about 800 of the machines and only a handful of others. The county will replace the touch-screen machines with optical scan devices. To use the new machines, voters will fill out paper ballots, then feed them into the machines.

India: E-voting for Non-Resident Indians too risky, say Rajya Sabha members | The Times of India

Cutting across party lines, members of Rajya Sabha on Tuesday supported the calling attention notice by Leader of the Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad about the risks involved in giving voting rights to Non-Resident Indians through proxy voting or e-postal ballots. The members also pointed out that government needs to do something about millions of migrant workers who are denied voting rights within the country. Bhupendra Singh, BJP member from Odisha, and NDA leaders like Anil Desai of Shiv Sena and Naresh Gujral of Akali Dal said wider consultation is needed for the proposal of e-ballot for NRIs as it may not be very secure and advised the government not to rush into amending the Representation of People’s Act. They said supremacy of Parliament in framing laws should not be usurped by the Supreme Court.

Philippines: Comelec decides against testing electronic voting system in 2016 | Philippine Daily Inquirer

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) will no longer push through with a plan to pilot-test the touch screen technology during the 2016 elections. In a memorandum, the Comelec said it would not be pilot-testing the direct recording electronic (DRE) voting system, as this would just present an “unnecessary hurdle” in the preparations for the May 2016 presidential polls. “The value of pilot-testing the DRE technology and its potential to further revolutionize Philippine elections are undeniable. However, present circumstances sway the undersigned that pilot-testing the use of DRE voting machines in Pateros is an unnecessary hurdle to the already daunting task of conducting the 2016 polls,” said the memorandum signed by acting Comelec Chair Christian Robert Lim.

Togo: President re-elected with 58.75% of vote: official | AFP

Togo’s President Faure Gnassingbe has won a third term with 58.75 percent of the vote in Saturday’s polls, the electoral commission said, with his main rival Jean-Pierre Fabre taking 34.95 percent. “The national electoral commission states that Faure Essozimna Gnassingbe has been elected based on provisional results which are subject to confirmation by the Constitutional Court,” the commission’s head Taffa Tabiou said late Tuesday. Outside the headquarters of the ruling party, about 50 of his supporters danced to campaign songs late at night shortly after the results were announced.

National: Sen. Grassley: No Need To Fix Voting Rights Act Since ‘More Minorities Are Already Voting’ | Huffington Post

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said Monday he doesn’t expect to bring up legislation to restore the Voting Rights Act, because lots of minority people are already voting. During an event at the National Press Club, Grassley was asked about the committee considering a bill that would fix the landmark 1965 law. The Supreme Court struck down Section 4 of the law in 2013, ruling that it needed to be updated. The section determined which states and localities with a history of suppressing minority voters had to get permission from the Justice Department to change their voting laws. The justices instructed Congress to come up with a new formula for designating which regions of the country warrant special scrutiny. Grassley dismissed the idea that there’s a need to act.

National: Federal Election Commission Deadlock Could Open Door To More Foreign Money In Local Ballot Initiatives | HNGN

“Imagine, for example, a foreign billionaire who was dissatisfied with U.S. Immigration policy and decided to try to change it more his own liking, one statewide ballot measure at a time,” wrote Democratic Commissioner Ellen Weintraub. “The ballot measure is the mechanism design to most directly express the will of the American people regarding the laws that govern us. I think most Americans would be disturbed by the notion that a wealthy foreigner could freely spend to rewrite our laws.” In reaching a 3-3 deadlock, the Federal Election Commission decided to not investigate allegations that an international pornography and advertising firm made $327,000 in donations to a campaign to defeat a ballot initiative in Los Angeles County, a move that some worry could open the door to more foreign money in state elections.

Editorials: How Record Spending Will Affect 2016 Election | Albert R. Hunt/Bloomberg View

The role of money and politics in the 2016 presidential election is a conundrum. Humongous sums will be spent; the effect on the outcome could be minimal, but in time the flood of cash may produce Watergate-level money scandals. Spending by candidates, parties and outside groups and individuals may approach $10 billion. Both Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush, if they receive their parties’ nominations, each could spend more than $2 billion, about twice as much as Barack Obama and Mitt Romney each forked out in 2012. With several Supreme Court decisions lifting restrictions — on the misguided premise that money doesn’t buy political influence — the way is open for an orgy of spending by well-heeled interest groups and super rich individuals on both political sides. Even beneficiaries, including Clinton and several top Republican aspirants, say the system is rotten.

Arizona: Federal court upholds election law | Arizona Daily Star

A federal appeals court on Friday upheld a 2011 Arizona law designed by Republicans to slow the tide of people not registering with their party. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals acknowledged that the statute says voter registration forms can specifically list the names of only the two parties with the highest number of members, and list them in the order of most adherents. That means the Republicans and Democrats. And anyone who wants to register as a Libertarian or otherwise has to fill in that party’s name on a line that’s less than an inch long. But Judge Wallace Tashima, writing for the three-judge panel, said that differentiation was not enough of a burden on minor parties — or those who want to sign up for them — to make it illegal.

Florida: Senate approves bill to create an online voter registration | Tampa Bay Times

The Florida Senate on Monday overwhelmingly passed a bill that requires the state to create an online voter registration application by 2017. The 34 to 3 vote sends the bill to the House, where passage is also expected, despite strong opposition from Gov. Rick Scott’s chief elections official, Secretary of State Ken Detzner. To underscore bipartisan support for online voter registration, the Senate’s Republican leadership left a Democratic senator as the bill’s sponsor. The bill (SB 228) is sponsored by Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth. Three Republican senators voted no.