The Supreme Court is expected to rule this month on an Arizona tool designed to strip politics from the drawing of congressional voting districts, in a decision that could end or expand attempts in several states to address partisan gerrymandering. Arizona voters chose in 2000 to set up a bipartisan independent commission that would draw voting districts. California voters in 2008 approved a similar commission, and several other states have given nonelected bodies some level of control over district boundaries. The goal is to curb the ability of a state’s majority political party to carve out voting districts that make their seats safer. Arizona’s commission draws both state legislative and U.S. congressional boundaries and is made up of five members—two Republicans, two Democrats and an independent chairman.
As voters begin to assess presidential candidates ahead of the 2016 election, they’ll face a new world in which ostensibly outside groups — which often have extremely close ties to the candidates, but are theoretically separate from them because they aren’t “controlled” by the candidate and don’t give their money directly to her campaign — could dominate political spending. That’s because super PACs and other groups conceived after the 2010 Citizens United decision may raise money without limits, while candidates cannot. While many have understood that super PACs would make a significant impact on American elections, few could have predicted the speed with which they have evolved and moved to the center of our political system. Download the Report
Alaska: Fairbanks Borough Assembly says ‘no’ to mail-in ballots, raises mill rate slightly | Fairbanks Daily News-Miner
The Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly shot down a proposal to change voting in local elections from the ballot box to the mailbox, but it was clear something needs to be done to boost voter turnout. The assembly voted down an ordinance authored by Assemblyman Lance Roberts to implement vote-by-mail elections in the Fairbanks borough during its meeting Thursday night, with Roberts casting the lone “yes” vote for the measure. The move was, in part, an effort to make voting in municipal elections more convenient in the hopes of boosting voter turnout. Turnout in the last two municipal elections has been historically low at 16.7 percent last year and 14.4 percent in 2013.
Los Angeles County is home to a burgeoning technology industry. It boasts a roster of high-profile companies including Hulu, Snapchat, and Tinder. As of 2013, it offered more high-tech jobs than other major markets in the country, including Silicon Valley and New York City. Come election time, however, its residents cast their votes by marking inkblots on ballots that resemble Scantron forms. This discrepancy hasn’t gone unnoticed. In fact, thanks to recent efforts, it’s gradually narrowing. LA County is finally in the process of developing an open source voting system, purported to be a flexible, intuitive replacement of the incumbent method. Under the new system, slated for public use in 2020, voters will indicate their choices on a touchscreen-operated tablet, after which a machine at the voting booth will print and process their paper ballots to be tallied. This is a leap from the ink-based system, which has remained unchanged since its adoption in 2003. The project, which began in 2009, stems from a combination of misfortune and luck. After the 2000 presidential election, many jurisdictions adopted paperless voting systems in compliance with new federal legislation. LA County couldn’t make the shift; the electronic systems on the market lacked the capacity to process its high volume of votes, and the county was forced to develop its own software. Eventually, some of the other jurisdictions’ machines began to fail and lost their certification. Though spared, Los Angeles County recognized this volatility, and it started drafting plans for a more sustainable solution.
Voter turnout is so abysmal in California that something has to change. So while it may not be the ultimate or perfect solution, legislators ought to seriously consider Secretary of State Alex Padilla’s proposal to overhaul how Californians vote. Padilla does not envision a statewide edict. Instead under Senate Bill 450, counties would be allowed to use a new election system starting in 2018. If all goes well, it could be expanded.
The Iowa Republican straw poll, once a staple campaign event for GOP presidential candidates, is vanishing because of waning interest from 2016 hopefuls. The governing board for the Republican Party of Iowa voted unanimously during a private conference call Friday to drop the event, said state GOP Chairman Jeff Kaufmann. It was scheduled to be held in the central Iowa city of Boone on Aug. 8. Republican officials wanted to make sure negativity surrounding the straw poll didn’t hurt Iowa’s traditional place in holding the first votes of the presidential nomination contest, with its leadoff caucuses.
Numerical figures are the same in English and Spanish – except on the ballots prepared for the Dodge City USD 443 bond issue. In the English version of the ballot question, the proposed bond amount is not to exceed “$85,600,000.” In the Spanish translation on the ballot, the number – “$85,600,00” – has the correct commas but is missing the last zero. Ballots for the mail election began arriving in voters’ mailboxes last week. They are due back in the Ford County Clerk’s office June 25, and some ballots already have been returned. “The typo in and of itself does not invalidate an election,” said Bryan Caskey, state director of elections in Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s office.
Gov. Maggie Hassan says she is likely to veto a bill that would require a person to live in the state for at least 30 days before being able to vote. In a statement on Thursday, Hassan’s press secretary says the governor has “serious concerns” that this bill could violate the constitutional rights of New Hampshire citizens. This comes after activists and numerous lawmakers have put pressure on the governor this week to kill it.
New Jersey: Democrats pushing major changes to voting laws, an issue riling Christie & Clinton | NJ.com
Democratic legislative leaders plan to introduce and fast-track legislation that would make sweeping changes to New Jersey voting laws in an attempt to bring more voters to the polls in a state where turnout and registration rates are in decline, NJ Advance Media has learned. The “Democracy Act” will include about a dozen measures to expand voter access, according to representatives of left-leaning groups that are backing the plan. It will be introduced just a month after Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton sharply criticized Republicans for attempting to squelch voter participation, prompting a sharp rebuke from Gov. Chris Christie, a likely GOP White House contender.
North Carolina: Tick Tock: Will North Carolina Be Ready for 2016 Presidential Election | Public News Service
North Carolina is projected to be a “swing state” by analysts for the 2016 presidential election, yet its election law changes and redistricting still are being challenged in court. If the 2014 election is any indication, there is cause for concern, according to a Democracy North Carolina report released today that estimates that at least 30,000 voters did not vote in that election because of new voting limitations and polling-place problems. Report co-author Isela Gutierrez, Democracy North Carolina’s research director, said the state needs to take time to make sure the 2016 elections go smoothly. “We don’t want to become a national joke,” she said. “We have time now to take the right, proactive action to make sure voting goes smoothly in North Carolina, even if these restrictive new laws are not overturned by the courts.”
North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory has signed a bill offering a new way for voters to decide whether to keep a state Supreme Court justice on the bench. The “retention election” option was among 12 bills McCrory’s office said Thursday he had signed into law. It gives most sitting justices the option to be re-elected to additional terms in an up-or-down statewide vote, without a challenger. The option begins with Justice Bob Edmunds for 2016.
All 11 Nashville early voting sites are likely to be reinstated and cleared to operate next month after an apparent compromise between the Metro Council and Davidson County Election Commission has eased election officials’ concerns. A budget spat with the mayor’s office that could have resulted in the elimination of all but one early voting site appears resolved. Renewed optimism from election commission chairman Ron Buchanan comes after Metro Council Budget and Finance Committee Chairman Bill Pridemore has committed to an additional $283,500 in funding for the election commission as part of a substitute budget to Mayor Karl Dean’s original proposal.
A former Republican political operative convicted in the first federal criminal case of illegal coordination between a campaign and a purportedly independent ally was sentenced Friday to two years in prison — a lighter punishment than prosecutors sought but one that still served as a sharp warning. Under questioning from U.S. District Judge Liam O’Grady, Tyler Harber said: “I’m guilty of this. I knew it was wrong when I did it.” But Harber said he was not motivated by greed or a lust for power — he simply wanted to win an election and believed that what he was doing was a common, if illegal, practice. “I got caught up in what politics has become,” said Harber, 34, a resident of Alexandria. The watershed prosecution comes as super PACs are playing increasingly prominent roles in national politics.
Burundi: Opposition cautiously welcomes African Union recommendations | International Business Times
The African Union’s new recommendations regarding the crisis in Burundi have been cautiously welcomed by the opposition, which claims they somewhat failed to address the issue of the third mandate. It is estimated between 60 and 70 have died and around 150,000 civilians have sought refuge in neighbouring countries since the start of the violence on 26 April, when Burundi’s ruling National Council for the Defense of Democracy (CNDD-FDD) party nominated President Pierre Nkurunziza to stand for re-election. Opposition leaders want the president to withdraw his third-term bid, claiming it violates the country’s constitution and the Arusha Accords, a peace deal that ended ethnic civil war and established the foundation for Burundi’s post-conflict recovery in 2005.
Burundi: Election commission appoints President Nkurunziza′s followers to top positions | Deutsche Welle
Burundi’s opposition on Saturday slammed the CENI election commission for deliberately steering the country towards a controversial presidential vote next month, branding it a tool of President Pierre Nkurunziza and his ruling party. The rushed appointment of two new members to the CENI commission was “a government-orchestrated sham to put in place a CENI totally subservient to Nkurunziza and his party”, said Jeremie Minani, spokesman for the Arusha Movement, a coalition of opposition and civil society groups. The criticism came after the upper and lower houses of parliament – both dominated by the ruling CNDD-FDD party – overwhelmingly approved the two new election commissioners earlier in the week. Annonciate Niyonkuru and Alice Nijimbere, both 38-year-old women from the Tutsi ethnic minority, took up their posts immediately after their appointments were approved by 81 votes to one in the National Assembly and by 31 to two in the country’s Senate.
President Hassan Rouhani unofficially kicked off next February’s parliamentary elections before a gathering of provincial governors on 26 May. “No political or sectarian belief should be discounted, for they are based in religion, science, and personal beliefs, and of course elections without competition are impossible,” Rouhani said. “We have different ideas in our society, and all are free to express their ideas. This is why we have various parties and persuasions.” Rouhani’s comments suggest he hopes to prepare the way for increased reformist participation in the majles (parliament). The president suggested he would resist attempts by far-right, fundamentalist elements to improperly leverage money, influence, or advertising in order to influence voters. “Hopefully no one will be told that so-and-so from the government, the Revolutionary Guards, the military, the media, the regional or local government, or the mosques, supports so-and-so as a candidate for the majles,” he said. “Such talk constitutes poison for otherwise healthy elections. All officials and people in positions of power are duty bound to serve the interests of the nation as a whole and not those of [particular] political parties or individuals.”
Moldovans voted in local elections Sunday which are seen as a test of whether the country is committed to European integration or will move closer to Russia’s orbit. The elections in the former Soviet republic come two days after pro-European Prime Minister Chiril Gaburici resigned amid questions about the authenticity of his high school diploma and university degree.