Voting Blogs: Wait … What? Agency Advising California Governor on Payments to Counties Proposes Moving to VBM to Save Money | Election Academy

The State of California, like some other states, has an “unfunded mandate” law that requires the state to make money available for new legislation that imposes costs on counties. In practice, those mandates can be “suspended” for budgetary reasons, leaving localities holding the bag on costs. This practice has been particularly difficult for California’s election officials, who are owed more than $100 million collectively for a variety of suspended mandates – the most significant of which involves permanent absentee balloting and vote by mail. That’s why county officials were pleased to see that last year the Legislature asked the Department of Finance (DoF) to write a report analyzing the election mandates and making recommendations to the governor about how to address them.

Florida: Feds charge ex-congressional chief of staff with secretly funding 2010 ringer candidate | Miami Herald

Federal prosecutors on Friday accused former Miami Democratic Rep. Joe Garcia’s ex-chief of staff of secretly financing a ringer tea-party candidate in 2010 to draw votes away from a Republican rival — an illegal scheme that appeared to inspire a more serious copycat case two years later. Jeffrey Garcia was charged with conspiracy to give a campaign contribution of less than $25,000, a misdemeanor offense. Prosecutors say Garcia, no relation to the former congressman, put up the $10,440 qualifying fee for the shadow candidate, Jose Rolando “Roly” Arrojo, to pose as another challenger to David Rivera. Arrojo was also charged Friday with the same misdemeanor.

Editorials: Registering to vote online isn’t controversial | The Tampa Tribune

Americans have been casting ballots for the better part of 230 years, and even though the trend has been toward broader eligibility and easier access, the suspicion remains widespread that we still haven’t managed to get it right. This is particularly true in Florida, where — despite having revamped, twice, our entire vote-casting and tabulating process — like a shoeless guest of an unlit hotel room, we keep stubbing our toes. It’s not enough that we continue to endure the stigma of the 2000 presidential election. It’s not often, after all, the leadership of the free world pivots on 537 votes and county elections officials are pressed to decipher the mysteries of dimpled punch-cards. No, more recently and in precincts dominated by voters of color, we have to have hours-long lines and lawyers beseeching courts to keep some voting places open longer than others.

Maine: Bill to Repeal Maine’s Clean Elections Law Comes Under Fire | Maine Public Broadcasting

A freshman Republican lawmaker is encountering some significant opposition – some from within his own party – over his proposal to send Maine’s taxpayer-funded campaign law back to the voters for reconsideration. Sen. Eric Brakey of Auburn wants to repeal the law and redirect the millions of tax dollars spent on legislative campaigns toward local education costs. But some critics say Brakey actually has an ulterior motive. With a title like “An Act To Repeal the Maine Clean Election Act and Direct the Savings To Be Used for the State’s Contribution toward the Costs of Education Funding,” you could say that Brakey’s bill appears pretty straightforward at first glance.

Voting Blogs: “War Chests” and Political Spending in Massachusetts: Are Unions and Corporations Similarly Situated? | State of Elections

In March of 2015, two family-owned companies headquartered in Massachusetts filed suit in state court challenging certain provisions of Massachusetts’ campaign finance laws. The provisions in question prohibit corporations and corporate PACs from contributing to candidates or political party committees, but permit labor unions and their PACs to directly contribute up to $15,000 per calendar year to candidates or parties. According to the plaintiffs’ complaint (filed as 1A Auto, Inc. v. Sullivan), this law represents a “lopsided ban” that stifles First Amendment-protected speech and associational rights for corporations. Additionally, the plaintiffs allege that the law violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution by granting unions and their PACs a privilege that is forbidden to their corporate counterparts.

Nevada: Why Ron Paul’s big showing in Nevada may have made it harder for Rand Paul to do the same | The Washington Post

Republican presidential politics in Nevada — a key early-voting state — have been chaotic in recent years, thanks in large part to former congressman and two-time GOP White House contender Ron Paul. Now his son, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is running for the office — and the state GOP may be making moves to guarantee the Paul family no longer finds Nevada to be lucky terrain. Nevada Republicans long generally picked a presidential favorite via primaries. In 2008, they held caucuses instead. Many Ron Paul voters showed up that day — but even more showed up at the state party’s convention months later. Paul’s supporters who flooded the gathering, looking to elect their candidate’s followers to represent the state at the national GOP convention. The state didn’t reschedule another convention, instead opting to choose delegates via conference call.

New Jersey: Election commission wants Super PACs to disclose more | Press of Atlantic City

It might seem strange that the state commission monitoring money in politics wants to let contractors give more money to candidates. But this is the era of the Super Political Action Committee. And the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission can’t track Super PAC cash. Super PACs, which can receive unlimited amounts of money without disclosing their contributors, were called “active players” in New Jersey campaigns in ELEC’s 2014 annual report. The report included 12 legislative recommendations to increase oversight and transparency of campaigns. At the top of that list were recommendations dealing with Super PACs.

Texas: Four Years Later, Texas Is Still Defending Its Voter ID Law | Huffington Post

A federal appeals court will hear oral arguments on Tuesday in a case that could have national implications for states that require voters to present government-issued forms of photo identification at the polls. The issue at hand — Texas’ contentious photo ID law — is expected to ultimately make its way to the Supreme Court. But first a three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals will hear the case. There, voting rights advocates will argue that a federal judge’s ruling from October — which called the law an unconstitutional “poll tax,” intentionally discriminatory and an unconstitutional burden on the right to vote — should be upheld. Critics of the law argued that hundreds of thousands of Texans lacked the correct form of identification, but the state’s leadership has insisted that the law is meant to protect against voter fraud and is not an effort to make it more difficult for any demographic to vote.

Editorials: Stop the Texas gerrymander | San Antonio Express-News

Texas has a sordid history of gerrymandering, and the state has been called out for it over the years by the Justice Department and federal courts because of discrimination against minority voters. Constitutional amendments are being considered in the Legislature — proposed by Democratic Rep. Rafael Anchia of Dallas — that would bring more equity to the redistricting process. The need is clear. Political realities work against these measures’ approval, but the Legislature should go there as a matter of fairness and democratic principle. Redistricting maps drawn in 2011 based on the 2010 census were no exception to the Texas gerrymandering rule. After legal challenges, these were improved a bit by a San Antonio federal court in 2013. The problem: Those maps were still based on the clearly discriminatory maps drawn two years previous. They do not adequately reflect the more diverse representation that should have occurred; minorities were nearly 90 percent of the increased population that gained Texas four new congressional seats in the last census.

Cyprus: With Akıncı’s election, a new era opens in Cyprus | Hurriyet Daily News

Sunday’s presidential elections in northern Cyprus will usher the island into a new and challenging phase. Mustafa Akıncı, the winner of the runoff with over 60 percent of the vote will face a daunting task once he takes office later this week: UN envoy and a team of international mediators convinced Greek Cypriot leader Nikos Anastasiades to return to talks and now that northern vote is left behind as well time is up to concentrate on talks and finish off the Cyprus problem this way or the other within next two years. The first round of voting on April 19 was inconclusive. In Sunday’s second round of voting incumbent Dr. Derviş Eroğlu and Mustafa Akıncı, the two front-runners of the first vote contested. Despite pre-election forecasts in public opinion polls, with his “clean politician image” and a political career committed to seek a resolution to the Cyprus problem Akıncı managed to forge a left-right coalition in the runoff vote that carried him to victory, thus to become the second left winger in the difficult seat of presidency since the creation of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus in 1983.

Guyana: Former president Carter reflects before milestone mission | Associated Press

Dozens of trips to monitor elections abroad have left former President Jimmy Carter hopeful about the future of many countries adopting democracy but concerned about the election process in the U.S. Carter spoke with The Associated Press on Thursday in Atlanta ahead of a May trip to Guyana that will mark the Carter Center’s 100th mission and his own 39th observation trip. The program is a large part of what Carter once called his “second life” since forming the human rights organization in 1982 after leaving the White House. The milestone represents “an opportunity to contribute to democracy and freedom,” he said. “I don’t think there’s any doubt that the work that the Carter Center has done in monitoring elections has encouraged people to have more honest elections.”

Japan: Right-wing candidate’s nude campaign poster skirts election law | The Japan Times

Campaigning for Sunday’s second wave of quadrennial unified local elections has highlighted a legal loophole that allows candidates to go to extremes — including nudity — to gain votes. In contrast with the ubiquitous portrait shots preferred by most candidates, the campaign poster for Teruki Goto, an independent running for the Chiyoda Ward Assembly in Tokyo, went viral after it showed him posing nude against a Rising Sun flag motif while raising a katana over the Imperial Seal, his genitals covered by his name.

Kazakhstan: Nazarbayev Wins ‘Unnoticeable’ Election to Extend Kazakh Rule | Bloomberg

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who has ruled the former Soviet Union’s second-biggest energy producer for more than a quarter century, won a fifth term by a landslide, an exit poll showed. The president got 97.5 percent of Sunday’s vote, according to a survey by the Institute of Democracy broadcast by the state-owned TV channel. One of the two challengers was a senior member of his Nur Otan party and the other praised the president’s achievements during a campaign that international observers dubbed “practically unnoticeable.” Official results will be announced Monday.

Togo: President seeks third term as Togo counts votes | Associated Press

Togo’s election officials on Sunday added up results from a presidential vote that had the lowest turnout of any election conducted in the past decade. President Faure Gnassingbe is seeking a third term against four opposition challengers. Gnassingbe has been in power since 2005 when he succeeded his father, who died after 38 years in office. The family has ruled this West African nation for nearly 50 years. The turnout on Saturday was between 53 and 55 percent of the 3.5 million people registered to vote, Taffa Tabiou, head of the election commission, said Sunday. That turnout is lower than presidential contests in 2005 and 2010 and legislative elections in 2007 and 2013.

United Kingdom: How feasible would it be to introduce online voting? | BBC

People can shop, date and bank online. How feasible would it be to allow internet voting at the general election? Imagine democracy had just been invented. Would the UK government decide to set up 50,000 polling stations on Thursday 7 May? Or would the vote be taking place online instead? Until the 1870s those people allowed to vote did so openly with no privacy. The 1872 Ballot Act changed this with the invention of the “modern” polling station – the church hall with its wooden booths, a pencil on string and piles of ballot papers handed out by earnest election workers. Since then the way we vote has hardly changed. Today people shop, find a partner and bank online. Surely voting online is possible? The government says not. In January, Sam Gyimah, the constitution minister, told the House of Commons: “I feel [that] moving to electronic voting would be a huge task for any government. We can’t be under any illusion that this would be easy to achieve.” Remote voting was “incredibly rare” around the world and would require a “very robust and secure” system, Gyimah said.