Penalties levied by the Federal Election Commission for campaign finance violations have plummeted to record lows even as political spending has soared, according to newly released data from the agency. The statistics underscore the sharp decline in enforcement at the commission, which has come under fresh scrutiny because of partisan gridlock. By law, each party has three commissioners, resulting in recent years in a 3-to-3 vote on virtually any significant issue. Republicans on the commission say they believe the drop in fines shows that campaigns are generally following the law as a result of better training and compliance programs. Democrats say it is a troubling sign of lax enforcement.
Over the past few days, the field of declared 2016 presidential candidates has picked up a few more names, each announcement quickly detailed and closely analyzed. Does getting bounced from her seat running Hewlett-Packard, and conducting a solitary and abysmal U.S. Senate campaign, make Carly Fiorina a serious contender? What about Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor and TV host who already failed in his first bite at the presidential apple? Is former neurosurgeon Ben Carson in over his head? For those who follow politics like a spectator sport, these incremental news items are tidbits to be savored. For most of the rest of the country, they are tedious and irrelevant developments in an endless cycle of campaigning. But to the New York Review of Books’ Elizabeth Drew, the campaign minutiae distract from the more important story of the “three dangers” threatening the American electoral system: “voting restrictions, redistricting, and loose rules on large amounts of money being spent to influence voters. In recent years, we’ve been moving further and further away from a truly democratic election system.”
Montgomery will be the first spot in the state where a new pilot program will be tested out at the polls in the upcoming municipal election. Secretary of State John Merrill discussed the plan for electronic poll books with Montgomery council members during their work session Tuesday afternoon, saying it will modernize the election process by speeding up check-in. ID’s will be scanned when voters arrive at their polling place, making things more efficient and helping to eliminate lines.
Palmdale officials Wednesday night announced that they have agreed to major changes in their elections system, settling a widely watched lawsuit over minority representation and the California Voting Rights Act. Until now, Palmdale was a lone holdout in a string of lawsuits filed against cities that resisted district voting, which backers say helps minority groups gain elected office. The city agreed to align its balloting to coincide with state and federal general elections, starting in November 2016. It also agreed to have voters choose elected officials by four geographic districts, including two with Latino majorities, rather than from the city as a whole.
Yesterday, the city and county of Denver, CO held an election at which the incumbent mayor was re-elected and other city offices were decided. But the races on the ballot weren’t the only topic of interest; Denver Elections and its vendor Dominion Voting co-hosted a two-day event with attendees from across the nation to see first hand how Denver – and Colorado – are rethinking how voters receive and return ballots.
The system, which Denver’s Amber McReynolds calls “ballot delivery” but is also known nationally as the “Colorado model”, flips the traditional approach to bringing voters and ballots together. In a traditional system, voters have two choices: come to the ballot – at precincts, early voting stations or vote centers – and make their choices there; or have the ballot mailed to them and return it the same way.
Kentucky: State prohibits electioneering with 100 feet of polls after court strikes down 300-foot ban | Lexington Herald-Leader
Kentucky has taken steps to prohibit electioneering on public property within 100 feet of polling places for the May 19 primary election. The State Board of Elections approved the emergency administrative regulation authorized by Gov. Steve Beshear at a meeting Tuesday. The regulation comes in the wake of an April 28 ruling by the 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals that a Kentucky law prohibiting electioneering within 300 feet of a polling place was unconstitutional.
Washington: Yakima watching intently as Supreme Court considers Texas voting rights case | Yakima Herald Republic
U.S. Supreme Court justices will convene May 14 to discuss a Texas voting rights case that could impact Yakima’s legal fight with the American Civil Liberties Union. Meanwhile, an attorney hired by the city says negotiations to reduce the ACLU’s $2.8 million fee claim against Yakima are at a standstill. The Supreme Court conference, held behind closed doors, is a routine part of the decision-making process on whether to hear cases submitted to the court. An announcement on whether the case will be heard could come as early as May 18.
The state Senate has passed a bill adjusting election recount fees. Currently recounts are free if the margin is less than 10 votes with fewer than 1,000 votes cast or less than half-a-percent in larger elections. Requesters pay $5 per ward if the margin is 10 votes in smaller elections or falls between half-a-percent and 2 percent in bigger contests. Requesters pay full costs if it’s greater than 2 percent.
Australia: Sex party to ‘vigorously’ appeal against Electoral Commission deregistration | The Guardian
The Australian Sex party will appeal against a decision by Australian Electoral Commission to deregister the party because it does not have enough members. The decision comes just months after the Victorian branch of the party won its first seat in the state’s upper house in November. The co-founder, Robbie Swan, said in a statement that the party would “vigorously” appeal against the decision which means the party will not be able to put its name on ballot papers at federal elections or receive commonwealth funding available to registered parties.
Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza said he would seek re-election for a third term in office after receiving backing from the country’s Constitutional Court, as an opposition leader called for a delay in the vote. Protests over Nkurunziza’s plan to extend his decade-long rule continued on Wednesday in the capital, Bujumbura. The demonstrations erupted on April 26 after the ruling party nominated him to run in June elections, which opponents say violates a two-term limit stipulated in peace accords that ended a 12-year civil war in 2005. The Constitutional Court ruled on Tuesday that the 51-year-old leader is eligible to run.
In baseball, a tie goes to the runner. On the track, a tie goes to a photo finish. In Alberta elections, it seems, a tie goes to an official recount. Two Alberta election candidates found themselves in limbo Wednesday after their race ended in a tie. After 28 days of campaigning and more than 21,000 votes cast, Progress Conservative incumbent Linda Johnson and NDP challenger Anam Kazim each ended the night with 7,015 votes in Calgary Glenmore. Johnston trailed her challenger for most of the evening, but mounted a comeback, tying it on the last poll.
Philippines: Hybrid system of manual voting, automated canvassing pitched for 2016 elections | InterAksyon
Saying time was running out for the task of refurbishing the 82,000 Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines, a lawmaker on Wednesday pushed for a hybrid system of elections for May 2016. “It will be manual voting and automated canvassing,” Bayan Muna partylist Representative Neri Colmenares said at the regular news conference of the minority bloc at the House of Representatives. “With this, there is no need for billions of pesos and sophisticated technology,” he added. What will be needed are laptops and a secured program that will be used to canvass the total number of votes from the precinct level up to the national level, according to Colmenares. “The checks and balance will be at the canvassing of votes at the precinct level, because people will know the results there,” he said.
United Kingdom: With election race tight, Britons turn to vote-swapping strategy | The Globe and Mail
Amy Herbert has never met Robert Knight, but on Thursday she will go to a polling station in southwest England and – acting against her own political beliefs – cast a ballot for Mr. Knight’s preferred party, the Liberal Democrats. She’ll do so trusting that Mr. Knight, an ordinary voter like her, will reciprocate by marking his own ballot for the party she really supports, the Labour Party, in his own constituency. Thursday’s election in the United Kingdom is unlike any of those held before it. Every polling firm says the result is too close to call, and a hung Parliament is considered all but a certainty. At the end of an almost six-week campaign, few were daring Wednesday to predict what the country’s next government will look like. With the race so tight, voters are being pressured to vote tactically – that is, to cast their ballots with one eye on the candidates in their local constituencies, and the other on the big picture of how the each race could affect who becomes prime minister.
United Kingdom: Thousands of pensioners unable to cast votes in scandalous mix-up over registration | The National
A new voting scandal has emerged which means that thousands of vulnerable pensioners in care homes across Scotland could be denied their right to vote in today’s General Election. The new registration system, brought in the day after the independence referendum, banned block voting which means that the elderly and frail being looked after in nursing homes had to register individually for the first time, particularly those who require a postal vote. However, The National can reveal that there are older people who are still waiting for their postal vote months after the deadline, and that the problem is said to be far-reaching. Scottish cabinet minister Alex Neil warned that this was just be the tip of the iceberg, and expressed concern that the problem was “widespread”. He called on the Electoral Commission to investigate the scandal and ensure pensioners in nursing homes are registered to vote in time for the Scottish Parliament elections next year because it was too late now to “sort out the mess” in time for the General Election.