Two Democratic members of the Federal Election Commission, who say they are frustrated by the agency’s failure to rein in campaign-finance abuses ahead of the 2016 presidential race, are making what amounts to a drastic move Monday in the staid world of federal election law. Commissioners Ann Ravel, who is the agency’s chairwoman, and Ellen Weintraub are filing a formal petition, urging their own agency to write rules to clamp down on unfettered political spending and unmask the anonymous money flooding U.S. elections.
Imagine This: Next year, the Supreme Court accepts a campaign finance case for review and reverses its 2010 decision in Citizens United, which struck down a ban on independent electoral spending by corporations and unions. Many Americans would cheer, in the mistaken belief that the reversal would limit — if not end — the influence of super PACs. They’d be sorely disappointed. Super PACs are not dependent on corporate funding. They’re primarily funded by super-rich individuals, whose right to devote unlimited amounts of their own money on independent expenditures (those not involving direct contributions to candidates) was confirmed by the Court in 1976, in Buckley v. Valeo. As the Brennan Center, a fierce critic of the Citizens United ruling, has acknowledged, “the singular focus on the decision’s empowerment of for-profit corporations to spend in (and perhaps dominate) our elections may be misplaced.”
Editorials: Hillary Clinton is politicizing voting rights: The Democratic frontrunner is destroying the chance for election reform by blaming all Republicans. | Richard Hasen/Slate
Hillary Clinton spoke at Texas Southern University last week, where she put forward some good and provocative ideas for improving our elections. She wants Congress to fix the part of the Voting Rights Act that the Supreme Court gutted in 2013. She wants to expand early voting periods nationally to at least 20 days. And most provocatively, she advocates automatic universal voter registration across the country, including a program to automatically register high school students to vote before their 18th birthdays. But the partisan way she’s framed the issue—by blaming Republicans for all the voting problems—makes it less likely these changes will actually be implemented should she be elected president. Instead, she’s offering red meat to her supporters while alienating the allies she would need to get any reforms enacted.
Hernando County will update their voting system in time for the 2016 Election Cycle. Supervisor of Elections Shirley Anderson announced that she will begin contract negotiations with Dominion Voting Systems, one of the two companies who submitted a bid. “We are very excited to continue our working relationship with Dominion Voting Systems. They have provided a reliable tabulation system and excellent customer service to Hernando County since 1998,”stated Supervisor Anderson. As in previous elections, voters will fill in the ovals on a paper ballot. One of the many new features is that we will only have one universal vote tabulator. The new system will allow disabled voters to cast a paper ballot using the same equipment as all other voters.
Former Peoria Republican Congressman Aaron Schock’s fall from political grace set in motion an unexpected special election, and that has unexpected consequences for county clerks. On July 7, primary voters in the 18th Congressional district will get their first crack at choosing who’ll represent them in D.C., following Aaron Schock’s resignation. Anyone who forgot to register to vote beforehand will be able to do it that day. That’s thanks to a law that was intended to be in place for the first time for next year’s elections. McLean County Clerk Kathy Michael and others had asked legislators to delay the law until then. It never happened.
Kansas: Brownback signs election bill, gives Kobach prosecutorial authority | The Wichita Eagle The Wichita Eagle
Gov. Sam Brownback has officially given Secretary of State Kris Kobach the power to prosecute. The governor signed SB 34 at a ceremony Monday, granting the secretary of state the authority to prosecute voter fraud. Kobach, who crafted and pushed for the legislation, said his office has already begun preliminary work on investigations and said he had identified more than 100 possible cases of double voting. He said his office has started requesting voters’ signatures from counties as evidence.
Former county executive candidate Jim Shalleck will lead the Montgomery County Board of Elections as the board majority shifts from Democratic to Republican. Shalleck, a Republican, was appointed to the elections board in February by Gov. Larry Hogan and confirmed by the Senate. Shalleck was unanimously elected to serve as president of the seven-member board on Tuesday. “I’m very honored by this and grateful to the governor,” he said. For the next four years, local boards of election across the state will be led by Republicans. State law dictates that the majority party — the party of the sitting governor — have a majority on local elections boards.
A federal judge on Monday sounded dubious that a New Hampshire ban on posting photos of voter ballots online was a necessary safeguard against fraud in the information age. U.S. District Court Judge Paul Barbadoro heard arguments in a lawsuit brought by three people who are under investigation after they posted pictures of their ballots online, including one man who voted for his dead dog because he didn’t like any of the candidates. The American Civil Liberties Union took up their cause, saying the ban was an overreaching restriction on free speech. “I think there is a serious problem with a law that bans the dissemination of truthful, public speech related to a matter of public concern,” said Gilles Bissonnette, the legal director for the ACLU’s New Hampshire chapter. “This is actually a blanket ban on a certain kind of speech.”
US Virgin Islands: Voting rights group seeks V.I. plaintiffs Appeals court: No birthright citizenship for American Samoa | Virgin Islands Daily News
The attorneys behind a series of lawsuits that will seek federal election voting rights for the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and Guam are continuing their efforts to find plaintiffs and are now developing their legal strategy, according to Neil Weare, founder of the voting rights group We the People Project. Weare would not give a specific date when his group would file the suits but said they would take place “in the next few months.” Semaj Johnson, a St. Croix attorney who is working with Weare on the cases, said that the group is taking its cues from the African-American civil rights movement, using legal action as a spark for wider social change. “With litigation, oftentimes it’s setting just a piece of precedent to move forward, and for our cause, it really is essentially about the incremental movement,” Johnson said. “We believe that it won’t only happen through the courts, most likely. It will happen through a combination of the courts, legislation, and of course public support.”
When voters in Virginia went to the polls in 2012, a narrow majority backed President Obama’s re-election bid, just as they’d done four years earlier. In a closely watched U.S. Senate race, the commonwealth’s voters also elected Sen. Tim Kaine (D) over former Sen. George Allen (R) by about six points. But just a little further down on the ballot is where things get tricky. If you add up all the votes case in each of Virginia’s U.S. House races, roughly 49% of Virginians voted for Democratic candidates, while about 51% supported Republican candidates. The state has 11 congressional districts, so if there was some kind of parallel between voter preferences and partisan results, we might expect to see five Democrats head to Congress from the state, along with six Republicans.
A spokesman for Burundi’s independent opposition coalition said the proposal by the electoral commission to change the dates for national elections has no standing because Burundi has no legally constituted electoral commission. Francois Bizimana, spokesman for Mizero Y’Barundi, or “Hope for All Burundians,” said the commission lacks a quorum because three of its five members have fled the country. Burundi’s constitution stipulates that the commission must make decisions by consensus which requires that four out of its five members be present.
It’s a little bit like the Falkland Islands getting to decide who leads the government in the U.K. Danes may have to spend the final hours of June 18 — election night — watching their former colonies Greenland and the Faroe Islands decide their fate. After almost two weeks of campaigning, polls show it’s now too close to predict a winner in Denmark’s election. That means four parliamentary seats reserved for the two Atlantic islands that form part of the Kingdom of Denmark may determine who becomes the country’s next prime minister. “The likelihood that North Atlantic votes will be decisive is rising,” said Peter Kurrild-Klitgaard, a professor of political science at the University of Copenhagen. Should voting among Danes prove inconclusive, it “would be an unfortunate development for democracy,” he said.
Protesters burned ballot boxes in several restive states of southern Mexico on Sunday, in an attempt to disrupt elections seen as a litmus test for President Enrique Peña Nieto’s government. Officials said the vote was proceeding satisfactorily despite “isolated incidents”. Thousands of soldiers and federal police were guarding polling stations where violence and calls for boycotts threatened to mar elections for 500 seats in the lower house of Congress, nine of 31 governorships and hundreds of mayors and local officials. Midterm Mexican elections usually draw a light turnout, but attention was unusually high this time as a loose coalition of radical teachers’ unions and activists vowed to block the vote. They attacked the offices of political parties in Chiapas and Guerrero states and burned ballots in Oaxaca ahead of the vote.