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.
Electionline Weekly surveyed the many states and counties that are moving to new voting systems for the first time in more than a decade in advance of the 2016 election cycle. The chairman of the Federal Election Commission and a fellow Democratic commissioner have filed a petition asking their own agency to do its job. “Don’t hold your breath“, advises Ruth Marcus in a Washington Post editorial. Kansas Governor Sam Brownback has signed a bill that gives Secretary of State Kris Kobach the power to prosecute voter fraud, while New Hampshire Governor Maggie Hassan is likely to veto legislation that would require people to live in New Hampshire for 30 days before they can vote in the state. Ohio is the latest state to move toward online voter registration. Democrats allied with Hillary Clinton have filed a voting rights lawsuit in Virginia, the third time they have done so in a crucial presidential battleground state in the last two months. A group of 17 political parties have agreed to boycott proposed elections in Burundi because they don’t believe they will be free and fair while the failure of the failure of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s AKP to secure a parliamentary majority, the backlash against Erdoğan and the electorate’s embrace of the leftist pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic party (HDP) represent a watershed in Turkish politics.
National: Weak Internet Security Leaves U.S. Elections Agency Vulnerable to Hackers, Reports Find | Wall Street Journal
Weak Internet-security measures at the Federal Election Commission could impair the agency’s ability to carry out one of its primary missions: making information about who is funding U.S. elections available to the public. The FEC hasn’t implemented improvements that were recommended after a series of attacks on its website—including at least one successful hack—leaving it vulnerable to future breaches, according to three previously unreported internal reports. It took the agency weeks to get its campaign-finance disclosure system fully back up to speed after an attack by hackers in China disrupted its operation during the October 2013 government shutdown, when all of the agency’s 335 employees had been furloughed.
National: The rise of the machines: Many states, localities get new voting equipment for 2016 | electionlineWeekly
While issues like early voting, voter registration and voter ID have certainly grabbed the headlines of late, another elections issue will literally be in front thousands of voters in 2016 — new voting systems. Nationwide many states and counties are moving to new voting systems for the first time in more than a decade in advance of the 2016 election cycle. For some jurisdictions the switch to a new voting system was mandated by state legislatures that wanted to move to paper-based systems. For others, it’s a matter of age. Many states and counties replaced their voting machines following the 2002 election and in a world where people replace their phones every two years and personal computers almost as frequently, 10+-year old voting machines are, well, old. Although budgeting and procurement are certainly taking center stage now, soon enough it will be training and voter education. It’s a lot to get done with an election calendar that grows shorter as more and more states jockey for position with their elections calendars.
It has come to this: The chairman of the Federal Election Commission and a fellow Democratic commissioner have filed a petition asking their own agency to do its job. Don’t hold your breath. It’s not news that the campaign finance system is out of control. It’s not news that the FEC has watched, haplessly, as candidates and their super PACs have made a mockery of individual contribution limits and as a torrent of unreported “dark money” sweeps through a system premised on disclosure. The conventional narrative places the blame on the Supreme Court and its 2010 Citizens United ruling, which, along with subsequent decisions, paved the way to unlimited independent expenditures by corporations and bands of wealthy individuals (via super PACs).
Secretary of State Kris Kobach finally got the prosecutorial powers he wanted. Brace yourself, Kansas voters, as he’s unlikely to put them in a drawer. Kobach is such a zealot on the nonissue of voter fraud that he didn’t even wait to start investigations until Gov. Sam Brownback had signed the bill, which occurred Monday. Kobach said three attorneys in his office will work on potential cases at least part time, and he likely will handle some as well. He claimed he’s homing in on more than 100 possible cases of double voting from 2014, using phrases Monday such as “all-time high” and “slam dunk.” The more accurate wording about Kobach’s expanded power came from Rep. John Carmichael, D-Wichita, who called it “jousting at windmills.”
Gov. Maggie Hassan is likely to veto legislation that would require people to live in New Hampshire for 30 days before they can vote in the state. Hassan’s office said Thursday she worries the bill will restrict people’s constitutional right to vote. The comments from her office came after a coalition of Democratic lawmakers, election workers and the American Civil Liberties Union called the bill unconstitutional. The Republican-controlled House and Senate both passed the bill earlier this year and Hassan could take action on it at any time. Besides requiring people to live in New Hampshire for 30 days before they can vote there, it outlines specific criteria election workers should evaluate when determining someone’s domicile for voting purposes, including whether the person is eligible for a resident hunting or fishing license or has a New Hampshire driver’s license.
Senate Republican leaders plan to pass online voter registration by the end of June, but its fate remains unclear in the Ohio House. Ohio currently allows voters to update their registrations online, but full online registration is not available. The Senate Government Oversight and Reform Committee is expected to vote on the bill next week, after hearing from a variety of supporters on Wednesday. Several witnesses, including Secretary of State Jon Husted, a leading proponent of online voter registration, stressed similar themes: It reduces errors when compared with data keyed in by hand; saves money; makes the system more secure, and does little or nothing to change the political makeup of the voting electorate. Husted said data show savings of 50 cents to more than $2 per registration when done online.
Democrats allied with Hillary Rodham Clinton have filed a voting rights lawsuit in Virginia, the third time they have done so in a crucial presidential battleground state in the last two months. The suit, like the others, was filed by Marc Elias, a Democratic election lawyer whose clients include Mrs. Clinton’s presidential campaign and four of the party’s major national committees. Mrs. Clinton is not a party to any of the lawsuits, but her campaign aides have expressed supported for the two earlier suits, in Ohio and Wisconsin. The Virginia lawsuit is part of a broader effort by Democrats to try to roll back voting laws that have been passed in nearly two dozen states since 2010. Many of the laws were passed in states where Republican governors and legislatures rose to power after the Tea Party wave.
Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) has proposed a bill to automatically register Americans to vote, fresh off of similar calls by Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton. “Today, too many politicians are trying to make it harder than ever for citizens to make their voices heard at the ballot box,” Cicilline said in a statement on Wednesday. “The Automatic Voter Registration Act will protect the right to vote and expand access for eligible voters across the United States. I thank my colleagues who have co-sponsored this important legislation that helps to expand one of our most essential rights as Americans.”
States from Rhode Island to Louisiana took steps this week toward making voting easier. In Washington, a new bill that would automatically register citizens to vote when they turn 18 is gaining traction among Democrats. And Ohio’s top voting official blocked a Democratic lawmaker on Twitter amid a spat over efforts to increase access to the ballot in the nation’s most pivotal swing state. It’s more evidence that Hillary Clinton’s major speech on voting last Thursday helped move along a conversation – already underway, to be sure – about how to to expand access to the ballot, especially by modernizing voter registration systems. It’s a conversation that threatens to put Republicans on the defensive after years of playing offense on the issue with a wave of restrictive voting laws.
The United States is notorious for having one of the lowest voter participation rates in the industrialized democratic world, and there is no shortage of proposals for increasing it. President Obama recently floated the idea of compulsory voting. Hillary Clinton, running to succeed him, has a plan for national automatic voter registration and expanded early voting. To the extent that Democrats are targeting actual discrimination against African Americans and other minorities, more power to them, and shame on those Republicans who would raise obstacles to turnout in a purported fight against phantom fraud. As for substantially increasing overall participation rates, however, there’s only so much that can be achieved through measures like those Obama and Clinton recommend. If we really wanted people to vote more, we would have to ask them to vote less. One of political science’s better-established findings is that “the frequency of elections has a strongly negative influence on turnout,” as Arend Lijphart of the University of California at San Diego put it in a 1997 article.
Voting Blogs: “Desperate” at the FEC, Part II: The Risks of Unintended Consequences | More Soft Money Hard Law
A few questions and comments have passed back and forth on the election law listserv about a procedural question raised by the Ravel-Weintraub petition to the FEC for a rulemaking: would the two Commissioners apparently filing this petition in a private capacity have to recuse themselves from voting on it? But there is also a question, not so far discussed, of other consequences that could attach to their decision to raise certain issues in this form. Potential recusal is part, not all, of the problematic course that this initiative could take. The Commissioners wish to have the Commission “clarify” two issues they claim to have been thrown into some doubt by Citizens United. They are concerned that there is some uncertainty about “whether and to what extent” foreign nationals and foreign owned or controlled US subsidiaries can be involved in making corporate independent expenditures. A second clarification is intended to leave no doubt that employers, now prohibited from coercing their employees into making PAC contributions or facilitating candidate fundraising, may also not direct or pressure them into supporting independent expenditures.
The U.S. Supreme Court is nearing a decision over the constitutionality of independent commissions created to draw district lines, but lawmakers in Arizona aren’t waiting for the outcome to start radically redrawing the state’s political boundaries — for their own gain. House and Senate leaders have already begun discussing how and where to redraw lines, and they are likely to come to some sort of agreement over the summer, sources close to Republican leaders in both chambers said. Once an agreement is close, Gov. Doug Ducey (R) would call a special legislative session to dispense with the new maps.
California’s top elections officer on Wednesday expanded his proposed overhaul of the way citizens vote, aiming to make it easier for them to cast ballots. Secretary of State Alex Padilla wants the state to mail all voters a ballot and allow them to use it at any of several voting centers during a 10-day period before elections. That would allow people to vote near their jobs or other convenient locations rather than limit them to visiting polling places near their homes on election day or mailing in their ballots. Voters also would be able to drop ballots off 24 hours a day at secure locations during a 14-day period before elections.
In fall 2010, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach held a press conference alleging that dead people were voting in the state. He singled out Alfred K. Brewer as a possible zombie voter. There was only one problem: Brewer was very much alive. The Wichita Eagle found the 78-year-old working in his front yard. “I don’t think this is heaven, not when I’m raking leaves,” Brewer said. Since his election in 2010, Kobach has been the leading crusader behind the myth of voter fraud, making headline-grabbing claims about the prevalence of such fraud with little evidence to back it up. Now he’s about to become a lot more powerful. On Monday, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback signed a bill giving Kobach’s office the power to prosecute voter-fraud cases if county prosecutors decline to do so and upgrading such charges from misdemeanors to felonies. Voters could be charged with a felony for mistakenly showing up at the wrong polling place. No other secretary of state in the country has such sweeping prosecutorial power, says Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project.
As of May, 27 states have passed laws offering online voter registration.Pennsylvania isn’t one of them, but Gov. Tom Wolf wants to change that and possibly recommend other election reforms, including allowing early voting, same day registration and no excuse absentee voting. Jeffrey Sheridan, the governor’s press secretary, said Wolf “is committed to implementing commonsense, secure election reforms” that encourage better participation. He noted that the state Senate previously authorized online registration by unanimous vote, but the measure did not come up for a vote by the House.
The Davidson County Election Commission is not flinching in a budget dispute with the mayor’s office that could result in the elimination of early voting satellite locations this election. The ball is now in the court of the Metro Council as it prepares to vote on a 2015-16 operating budget Tuesday that could decide how many early voting sites operate next month. Election commission chairman Ron Buchanan, at a commission meeting Thursday, vigorously defended the commission’s 3-2 vote last week to operate only one early voting site ahead of Nashville’s August election — the number required by state law — if the Metro Council approves Mayor Karl Dean’s recommended budget without more funding added to it.
Yakima has now spent more than $1 million defending a voting rights case brought by the American Civil Liberties Union that upended the city’s elections system. Assistant City Attorney Helen Harvey said Wednesday the city has spent $1,074,062 to date — and costs will continue to rise. Yakima’s attorneys on Tuesday filed a request with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals seeking a stay of this year’s elections, and the city expects to file a friend-of-the-court brief with the Supreme Court by early August in a Texas case that could effectively reverse the outcome of the ACLU ruling.
A group of 17 political parties have agreed to boycott elections in Burundi because they don’t believe they will be free and fair, an opposition leader said Thursday. The opposition groups are also opposed to the current electoral commission because it isn’t complete after two of its five members fled, said Frederic Bamvuginyumvira, deputy head of a party known by its initials as FRODEBU. Burundi has been rocked by unrest since President Pierre Nkurunziza announced his plans to run for a third term, which many see as unconstitutional even though the nation’s constitutional court has ruled in the president’s favor.
India: Election Commission likely to introduce ‘preferred time-slot’ for voters | The Indian Express
Voters could soon be able to book a preferred time-slot in which they would want to cast their votes during elections. With an eye on tackling urban apathy amongst voters and making a serious bid to get more people out of their homes to go to the polling stations to vote, the Election Commission is mulling the possibility of introducing this system. “The idea of letting voters book a time-slot is being deliberated upon,” Deputy Election Commissioner Umesh Sinha said. A system could be put into place where voters may be given the facility of calling or SMSing to a designated number to book one of the several time-slots on offer on a given voting day. Those who use the facility could be given a reference number that they would need to show to avail of the facility at the booth, EC officials said. A pre-booked time-slot would ensure that a voter gets to vote at the time of his choice without having to stand in a queue, officials added.
Myanmar’s ruling party Thursday released a draft bill on changes to its junta-era constitution that could end an effective army veto on charter amendments, but still bars opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi from the presidency. Her National League for Democracy (NLD) party is expected to sweep landmark elections, slated for November, but she is barred from the top job under a constitutional provision excluding those with a foreign spouse or children from the presidency. The long-awaited draft bill published in state newspaper The Mirror on Thursday kept this provision under clause 59f but, in a slight relaxation, it no longer applies the ban to those whose Myanmar national children have married foreigners. Suu Kyi’s late husband and two sons are British.
The online voters’ registration program of the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Commission on Elections can now be accessed by overseas Filipino workers worldwide. The DFA-Overseas Voting Secretariat said on Thursday that it had opened iRehistro in the Foreign Service Posts in the Asia-Pacific region. Through the iRehistro program, OFWs can fill out voters’ registration forms in their homes, workplaces, and Internet cafés in their convenience. They can also set their appointment in the FSPs through iRehistro where they will sign their duly-accomplished forms and have their biometrics captured.
United Kingdom: Prime Minister refuses to rule out EU referendum on same day as other elections next year | The Guardian
David Cameron has left the door open for an early EU referendum to be held on the same day as other elections next year, despite Labour’s call for it to take place on a different date. At his weekly prime minister’s question time, Cameron was pressed by the acting Labour leader, Harriet Harman, to rule out holding the poll at the same time as elections for the Scottish parliament, Welsh and Northern Ireland assemblies and the London mayor in May 2016. Harman said she “strongly agreed” with the Electoral Commission that referendum polling day should not feature any other elections and urged the prime minister to agree a separate voting day.
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is the most formidable vote-winner and election conjurer Turkey has ever seen. He founded his own party, led it to three absolute parliamentary majorities as prime minister, then last year performed a Putinesque sidestep to become the country’s first directly elected president with more than half of the popular vote. But on Monday Erdoğan stared defeat in the face. He had forsaken his famously intuitive feel for the popular mood, miscalculated in his highly aggressive election campaign and paid the price. Even if his Justice and Development party (AKP) retained the biggest parliamentary presence with 41% of the vote, many of his longstanding supporters deserted him, concluding that he was out of touch with their lives and the mood of the country.
Press Release: Three More Virginia Jurisdictions Purchase Hart InterCivic’s Verity Voting System | Hart InterCivic
Hart InterCivic, a full service election solutions innovator and national leader in election technology, announced today that three more localities in the Commonwealth of Virginia have elected to purchase the Verity Voting system. Richmond, Henry and Essex Counties voted to purchase Verity, replacing their existing outdated voting equipment. These localities’ adoption of Verity follows on the heels of Prince William County, Virginia’s successful June 9, 2015 primary using the system. Verity in VA: Primary Election in Prince William County, VA Complete Success with Verity Voting System As in Prince William County, voters in Richmond, Henry and Essex Counties will scan their paper ballots using Verity Scan. Voters with disabilities may use the Verity Touch Writer ballot marking device with accessibility features to mark their ballots electronically before scanning them.