These days, presidential candidates are not just raising money for their own campaigns. They are also raising money for outside groups with generic sounding names like Priorities USA, Right to Rise and Our American Renewal. These are Super Pacs (political action committees), affiliated with each outside campaign but nominally independent. In 2012, they were helpful appendages. This year, heading into 2016, they are becoming fully fledged substitutes for campaigns, taking over functions including opposition research, polling and even knocking on doors. Super Pacs are just five years old. Like most developments in modern campaign finance law, they were created by accident through judicial decisions, not by legislation.
Editorials: Campaign finance reformers should remain depressed | Jessica A. Levinson/The Sacramento Bee
It is time to rain on the parade of anyone who is vigorously celebrating the latest U.S. Supreme Court campaign-finance decision. In Williams-Yulee v. Florida Bar, Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for himself and the four liberal members of the court, blessed the ability of states to prohibit judicial candidates from directly soliciting campaign contributions. Campaign-finance reformers celebrated the outcome and Roberts’ decision to side with the liberal wing of the court. Some let themselves wonder if this decision might represent the end of the high court’s march to deregulate our nation’s campaign-finance laws. But those revelers are wrong. The chief justice is nobody’s liberal, or even moderate. And the decision does not represent a sea change in the high court’s otherwise dismal campaign-finance jurisprudence.
Editorials: The GOP’s worst nightmare and a pundit’s dream: A brokered convention in 2016 | Taegan Goddard/The Week
There are so many Republicans running for president, or thinking about running for president, that the Republican National Committee is having a hard time keeping track of them all. An official GOP online straw poll lists 36 potential candidates (and as Politico noted, that list actually missed at least two former governors who have said…
Florida: Miami-Dade plans to finish redrawing voter precincts in advance of 2016 presidential election | Miami Herald
At long last, Miami-Dade County plans to finish drawing new voter precincts, a once-a-decade task that contributed to waits of up to seven hours outside the polls on Election Day in 2012. Later this year, the Miami-Dade elections department plans to send updated registration cards to the county’s nearly 1.3 million voters. About 12 percent of them will find they’ve been moved to a different polling place, under a proposal scheduled for county commissioners’ approval Tuesday. That’s far less than the 55 percent of voters Elections Supervisor Penelope Townsley said last year would be displaced in 2015. Her office redrew a minimal number of precinct boundaries — only the ones of the most crowded precincts — to displace as few voters as possible before the 2014 gubernatorial election.
In 2011, Gov. Rick Scott drew criticism for backing legislation that opponents said restricted the ability of Floridians to vote, including reducing the time that early voting would be allowed. After the 2012 presidential election — when Florida again attracted national attention for voting problems, including long lines in some major counties and the inability to finish a final vote count along with the other states — Scott backed legislation that pulled back some of those 2011 changes and implemented other reforms. On Friday, Scott went even further by signing legislation (SB 228) that would let Florida voters register online by 2017 — making Florida the 25th state that has online registration or is in the process of implementing it. Scott’s latest move — seen as a major expansion of voting rights – is drawing praise from some of his harshest critics.
After months of debate in the state capitol and weeks of worrying in county election offices, Florida Governor Rick Scott has now signed legislation that will make the Sunshine State the latest to move toward online voter registration. … Florida’s experience on OVR is just the latest example of how the policy debate has shifted on election issues in recent years. At this time four years ago, the hot topic was voter ID and all the divisive partisan heat that brings. While ID legislation lives on in some legislatures – and clearly in many legislators’ hearts – OVR’s emergence as the new trend in legislatures is quite remarkable.
Advocates for restoring felons’ voting rights faster are hoping to try again next year. Minnesota law bans felons from voting until they’ve completed parole or probation. Advocates made headway this year in their long push to restore that right immediately after felons are released from prison. They say it’s an essential right that would ease the transition back to society for an estimated 47,000 people.
Nebraska: Citing voter concerns over mail-in ballots, Nebraska lawmaker calls for ‘secrecy sleeve’ | Omaha World Herald
Paul Schumacher hears it all the time: More and more voters in Nebraska are worried about the secrecy of their ballots in the age of mail-in elections. The angst is especially acute in small towns, where everybody knows everybody, and some voters worry that an election worker will sneak a peek at their ballot and realize they didn’t vote for their crazy brother-in-law. “I have some people who are just outraged by the fact that they know, or think they know, their ballots are being viewed,” said Schumacher, a Republican state senator from Columbus. “In a small community, they worry that someone can see that they didn’t vote for their relative or they voted for someone in another party.”
Wisconsin: Supreme Court declines to hear lawsuit seeking to block John Doe probe | Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear an appeal seeking to permanently block a secret probe into Gov. Scott Walker’s 2012 recall campaign and its dealings with allied groups, ending one line of attack by subjects of the investigation. The high-profile probe remains stalled, however, because of a separate decision last year by a Wisconsin judge that is now being reviewed as part of a trio of cases before the Wisconsin Supreme Court. The state’s high court is expected to decide the cases this summer, which will determine whether the investigation can be revived or must be abandoned for good. The ruling is likely to come just as the Republican governor launches an expected presidential campaign. The U.S. Supreme Court passed on taking the case without any comment, as is its usual practice. Its decision leaves in place an appeals court ruling that dismissed the lawsuit.
On Sunday, President Uhuru Kenyatta spoke with his Burundian counterpart by telephone, according to spokesman Manoah Esipisu, who said other East African Community leaders shared the view that Pierre Nkurunziza should postpone his June 26 re-election bid. Protests started April 26, after the president announced plans to retain power. Presidential aide Willy Nyamitwe said Burundi “could decide to delay” the vote: “We will put everything in place for the laws and constitution to be respected and for elections to be held.”
At a press conference on Monday, the Alliance for Peace and Democracy – the organizer of a massive petition which lasted nine days – said over 1.21 million people had signed in support of the Hong Kong SAR Government’s constitutional reform package. The simple fact that more than 20 percent of eligible voters, or a seventh of the city’s populace signed their names, speaks volumes about Hong Kong society’s aspirations regarding universal suffrage. It sends a crystal-clear message that the overwhelming majority of Hong Kong people don’t want their voting rights deprived by a tiny minority of opposition lawmakers.
As generally known, to achieve clean, honest, fair, accurate and transparent elections, the electoral process must demonstrate: Secrecy and sanctity of the ballot; transparency; credibility; and fast and accurate results that reflect the people’s will. Elections, excluding campaigns, have the following distinct processes: Voter’s registration; casting of ballot; counting of votes at precincts; canvassing of votes; and declaration of winners. Of the five processes, only counting and canvassing may be automated or electronically tallied. Prior to the advent of Smartmatic, everything was manual, with counting of votes taking several hours or more, and canvassing, several weeks or more, before national candidates were declared winners.
Daniel Ceballos may be in jail, but he’s also on the ballot for Venezuela’s legislative elections. The former San Cristobal mayor is among winners of Sunday’s opposition coalition primary, in which voters chose 42 of the 167 candidates who will compete against the governing socialist party. Ceballos was arrested last year for refusing to help the national government put down a wave of street protests fed in part by anger over crime, inflation and shortages. In a quirk of Venezuelan law, a win in the general election could spring the 31-year-old from military prison because legislators receive immunity from prosecution during their terms.