Republicans – with a helping nudge from the United States Supreme Court’s conservative majority (of which more below) – are passing restrictive voting laws in states where they control both branches of government. Meanwhile, Democrats are expanding voting rights in states where they dominate the governing process. Democrats Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Representative John Lewis of Georgia also introduced a bill in Congress at the end of June that would require states (mostly in the South) to get federal approval for any changes in any statewide voting laws or procedures. This battle is especially important for a presidential election year, when voter turnout is significantly higher than in midterm elections. Much of the difference in the turnout is made up of prime Democratic constituencies – the young and minorities – which explains why Democrats are so set on increasing turnout and Republicans would prefer to restrict it.
A federal court on Tuesday upheld a longstanding prohibition on federal contractors making political contributions, handing a rare win to proponents of stronger campaign finance restrictions in an era of relaxed regulations. The 75-year-old ban applies to individuals, corporations and firms that are negotiating or working under federal contracts. While doing so, they cannot give money to federal candidates, parties or committees. The rule is predicated on the idea that such donations could be a corrupting influence. In his decision, Chief Judge Merrick Garland of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, wrote that the contribution ban did not constitute a violation of free speech or the plaintiffs’ equal protection rights “because the concerns that spurred the original bar remain as important today as when the statute was enacted.”
Finding that the problem of corruption in government contracting is still a major civic scandal, a unanimous federal appeals court on Tuesday rejected a new constitutional challenge to the seventy-five-year-old ban on political contributions by individuals who are hired under contract to do work for federal agencies — an increasing way that federal agency tasks get done. The sweep of the ruling by the en banc, eleven-judge U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit would also appear to support the ban as it applies to business firms with federal contracts, even though the ruling was technically limited to individuals who act as federal contractors because those were the only challengers.
After a nearly three-year wait, the outline of a battle over Florida’s state Senate maps is taking shape. Subpoenas are being served and a bitter fight has resumed between consultants and the voting groups that accuse them of illegally influencing political maps. A coalition of plaintiffs, including the League of Women Voters of Florida, filed a legal challenge to the state Senate maps shortly after they were approved during the 2012 redistricting process. They argue the new lines were drawn for “incumbent and partisan favoritism.” That’s in violation of constitutional amendments passed by voters in 2010 that no longer allow redistricting to be used to favor political parties or protect incumbents. Plaintiffs take specific issue with 28 of the state’s 40 state Senate seats, while attorneys for the Legislature argue that political consultants from both parties tried to influence the process, but failed.
Illinois: Special 18th Congressional District primary includes same-day registration | The State Journal-Register
Sangamon County Clerk Don Gray isn’t hazarding a guess about turnout in Tuesday’s special primary to pick candidates to take the seat vacated by former U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock in the 18th Congressional District. “I’m even hesitant to say because of the uniqueness of it all,” Gray said Monday. … Gray did say that Sangamon County has done the work to meet a legal requirement that will allow voters to register or update their voter registration with a change of address or name at their polling place. They will then be able to cast a ballot at that polling place. For same-day registration, Gray noted, people will need two forms of identification, including one showing their current address.
Kansas residents can register to vote using a federal form without having to provide proof of citizenship under the June 29 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, but they won’t be allowed to vote in state and local elections, the state’s top election official said. The high court’s justices rejected an appeal from Republican officials in Kansas and Arizona who have sought force federal elections officials to change a national voter registration form so that it requires new voters in their states to submit a birth certificate, passport or other papers documenting U.S. citizenship. Last year, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the two states can not demand that the U.S. Election Assistance Commission help them enforce their laws. Most new Kansas voters use a state voter registration form requiring such documents. The federal form requires only that voters sign a sworn statement saying they are citizens.
Lieutenant governors and secretaries of state from across the country are heading to Maine this week for their annual summer conference. The National Association of Secretaries of State conference, hosted by Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, begins Thursday. The four-day event will be held in Portland. Dunlap’s office says that lieutenant governors and secretaries of state from 34 states are planning to attend.
Pennsylvania: GOP activists claim district judge must resign to seek state Senate seat | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
In separate complaints, two Republican activists contend that District Judge Guy Reschenthaler is violating judicial ethics rules in seeking a Republican nomination for the state Senate. Mr. Reschenthaler dismisses the complaints as political sniping, noting that he had received an advisory opinion from a judicial ethics panel that his pursuit of the GOP nomination was appropriate. Mr. Reschenthaler of Jefferson Hills was elected district judge in 2013. The state Senate seat, covering Jefferson Hills and other southern and western suburbs, opened when former Sen. Matt Smith, a Democrat, resigned in midterm to become president of the Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce. That set the stage for a special election to fill the balance of the term, which will take place at the same time as the November general election.
The last unresolved legal appeal of the 2011 robocalls scandal is at an end after the Federal Court of Appeal tossed out a bid to overturn the federal election results from Guelph, Ont. The judge’s ruling states that a looming federal vote in October now makes it moot to further challenge the 2011 election outcome — notwithstanding a raft of as-yet unsolved Election Act offences. Kornelis Klevering, who ran for the Marijuana Party in Guelph, was seeking to overturn the Liberal victory in the riding on the grounds that thousands of eligible electors may have been misdirected by fraudulent, automated phone calls purporting to come from Elections Canada. Klevering, however, launched his legal challenge of the Guelph election results too late under the rules, and a succession of courts rejected his suit on the grounds there was no evidence the fraudulent calls affected the actual election outcome.
Myanmar’s historic general elections are set for November 8, an official from the country’s election commission said Wednesday. Tin Tun, director general of the Union Election Commission, confirmed the date in an interview. The commission had previously said that the election would happen sometime in October or November. Mr. Tin Tun added that the commission will publicly announce the date on Wednesday evening. The landmark vote, which will be the first under Myanmar’s reformist government, is expected to be the freest and fairest in over two decades. Myanmar was ruled by a military junta for over six decades, which made way for a government that was nominally civilian after elections in 2010.
Russian police on Tuesday raided the offices of election watchdog Golos as well as the homes of its employees, a lawyer for the group said, amid an ever-increasing crackdown on independent voices in the country. The searches, which came ahead of regional elections this autumn, coincided with an unveiling by Russian authorities of the first 12 American and other groups to be likely put on the list of “undesirable” organisations. On Tuesday, police raided the homes of several Golos employees, including the apartment of senior executive Grigory Melkonyants and confiscated equipment including computers. “They are searching the offices as we speak,” a Golos lawyer, Olga Gnezdilova, told AFP.