A few years ago, after the enactment of McCain Feingold, the Federal Election Commission began issuing implementing rules, and there were not well received in reform quarters. It was objected that the agency was ignoring Congressional intent and gutting the law. One line of attack was possible Hill intervention to disapprove the rules pursuant to the Congressional Review Act. At a lunch with Senators to discuss this possibility, a prominent reform leader told the assembled legislators that if they did not reject the rules and hold the FEC to account, the public “would rise up” in protest. The public uprising did not occur, neither the Senate nor the House took action, and the reform critics took their cases to court—with some but not complete success.
More than 60 people, including sitting lawmakers, have received subpoenas as part of a long stalled lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Florida’s state Senate maps. The lawsuit was originally filed in 2012, but has sat dormant as a separate lawsuit challenging the state’s congressional lines worked its way through the courts. That lawsuit resulted in lawmakers having to redraw the state’s 27 congressional districts and an appeal is still pending before the Florida Supreme Court. The lawsuit challenging state Senate lines is being spearheaded by the League of Women Voters of Florida and Common Cause, which were both involved in the Congressional lawsuit. The group will also be represented by David King, the same attorney involved in the congressional lawsuit.
Iowa: Forget the caucuses, Iowa is terrible at picking the eventual GOP presidential nominee | The Washington Post
Some states know how to pick them. Some don’t. When it comes to choosing the eventual Republican presidential nominee, Iowa, famous for its early caucus, and Louisiana have the worst track-record in every election since 1976. Both have picked losers four times over that period, according to a new analysis by Eric Ostermeier, author of the Smart Politics blog and a research associate at the University of Minnesota. Of course, being first (or among the first) means no candidate has momentum yet, while later primaries and caucuses can be swayed by building support for one over the rest.
The Nebraska Secretary of State has announced that 48 county election offices will receive reimbursements totaling nearly $50,000 to help cover costs associated with the use of voter disability equipment during the 2014 general election. The money is provided to the Secretary of State’s office through a federal grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as part of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002.
North Carolina: Supreme Court Revives Challenge to North Carolina Redistricting | Wall Street Journal
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday revived a challenge to North Carolina’s election map, which civil rights groups complain illegally concentrates black voters in a handful of districts. The North Carolina Supreme Court in December had upheld a redistricting map set by the Republican-controlled state legislature following the 2010 census. But in March, the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated a similar lawsuit against Alabama’s map, which also had previously passed muster with a lower court. Monday’s decision, issued without comment, ordered the North Carolina high court to reconsider its ruling in light of the March opinion. The Alabama ruling required a lower court to consider that packing more minority voters in a district than necessary to give them political strength could violate the Voting Rights Act, by reducing the number of districts where minority voters could wield influence.
A Republican state lawmaker says a rumored possible run for governor by U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp in 2016 “was on my mind” when he drafted a bill that would require a special election to fill a vacant congressional seat instead of allowing the governor to appoint a replacement. State Rep. Roscoe Streyle of Minot said he plans to introduce a bill when the Legislature reconvenes next week that would require the governor to call a special election within 60 days to fill a sudden opening in the U.S. Senate or House of Representatives. “The people should decide who their representative is, not the governor,” he said.
A program allowing soldiers in hostile fire zones to vote via email soon may come to Bell County, if a bill can make its way through the Texas Legislature. A pilot version of the program was held last year in Bexar County, which includes Fort Sam Houston and other military bases. The secretary of state reported 365 ballots were sent to soldiers overseas for the November election. Of those ballots, eight soldiers from Bexar County cast ballots in Texas’ general election in 2014. Bexar County Elections Administrator Jacquelyn Callanen said the eight emailed back represent “a huge success.” Now, a bill that expands the program is winding its way through the Texas Senate. The bill would allow the secretary of state’s office, which oversees elections, to extend the program to other counties, including Bell County for Fort Hood and El Paso County, home to Fort Bliss. … But voting via email and through the Internet can be a big red flag for cybersecurity experts.
Virginia: Roanoke County, Botetourt County, Montgomery County to replace banned voting machines by June | Richmond Times-Dispatch
The decision by the State Board of Elections to scrap thousands of touchscreen voting machines used in 20 percent of the state’s precincts sent shock waves through Virginia’s community of voter registrars, forcing them to scramble and replace the faulty equipment less than two months ahead of the June 9 primaries. The board on Tuesday imposed a ban on all touchscreen direct recording electronic voting machines of the WinVote model, because the continuing use of the aging devices “creates an unacceptable risk to the integrity of the election process in the commonwealth,” said Edgardo Cortés, commissioner of the state Department of Elections. A review by the Virginia Information Technologies Agency after the Nov. 4 elections had confirmed what computer experts had feared for years — that the WinVote machines may be vulnerable to cyberattacks. Virginia is the only state where WinVote devices are still in use.
In a not-all-that-unexpected move, the Washington state Democratic Party voted this past weekend at its state central committee meeting to select and allocated delegates to the 2016 national convention through a caucuses/convention system. The party had already telegraphed the move with the earlier release of its draft 2016 delegate selection plan. With Washington Democrats set to hold caucuses in 2016, it does seemingly spell doom for legislation that has been working its way through the Washington state legislature this winter/spring. As it stands now, state law calls for a Washington presidential primary in May of any presidential election year. However, legislation (SB 5978) that has already passed the Republican-controlled state Senate in Washington calls not only for moving the date up to March, but also for the state parties to allocate some of their delegates based on the results of the primary election. Without buy-in from both parties, the primary would still be held but with all candidates from both parties listed together on the primary ballot.
Burundi’s president will provoke more protests if he announces plans this month to seek a third five-year term and the poor African nation risks being dragged back into a cycle of unrest, a rebel-turned-politician said. Agathon Rwasa, a presidential hopeful who in 2009 was the last rebel commander to lay down weapons, told Reuters he would call for peaceful protests if Pierre Nkurunziza chose to run, a move opponents say would violate the constitution and the Arusha deal that ended a 12-year civil war in 2005. Nkurunziza has yet to state his intentions, but supporters argue he can and should run in the June presidential vote. Diplomats expect him to declare this month before a May deadline to register. Some opponents have already held small protests.
Cubans voted Sunday in local elections featuring two opposition candidates who could become the island’s first non-Communist elected officials in decades. Political dissidents Hildebrando Chaviano, a 65-year old lawyer and independent journalist, and Yuniel Lopez, a 26-year old computer scientist, have already made history by surviving the first round of balloting and making it to the final vote. Chaviano and Lopez would be the first officials elected from outside the Communist Party since Cuba’s electoral law was put in place under former president Fidel Castro in 1976. They are the only two non-Communist candidates among 30,000 people running for local office in Sunday’s elections.
As expected, Finnish voters on Sunday turned out their country’s Conservative-led government and its pro-European prime minister, Alex Stubb. The opposition Centre Party came in a clear first, with 21% of the vote. But the verdict seemed more an expression of economic frustration and a rejection of the current government than an endorsement of a new one. Only the smallest of margins separated the runner-up parties: the Conservatives won 18%, the Finns Party 17.6%, and the Social Democrats 16.5%. Finns waited until the last minute to make up their minds. Less than a week before the election, more than 40% of voters were still undecided.
The US, Britain and Norway on Monday blasted Sudan for failing to hold free and fair elections which alleged war criminal President Omar al-Bashir is widely expected to win. In a joint statement the three countries said they “regret the government of Sudan’s failure to create a free, fair, and conducive elections environment.” They blamed low voter turnout on “restrictions on political rights and freedoms” as well as continued fighting in parts of the country.