During the 2012 presidential campaign, Montana lumber company owner Sherm Anderson found it “fairly easy” to help raise $2 million from his fellow Republicans to boost Mitt Romney’s presidential hopes. Anderson expects a far tougher road in 2016, given the growing dominance of super PACs and other outside groups that are amassing millions in political contributions from a small cluster of the nation’s richest individuals. “It turns small contributors off,” Anderson said. “They say, ‘Gee whiz, I thought I was helping by giving $100 or $1,000, but how can I help when someone else is giving $100,000?’ These super PACs are definitely changing the dynamic,” he said.
Many find politics frustrating because problems that seemed to be solved in one generation crop up again years or decades later. The good thing about democracy is that there are no permanent defeats. The hard part is that some victories have to be won over and over. And so it is with the Voting Rights Act of 1965, a monument to what can be achieved when grass-roots activism is harnessed to presidential and legislative leadership. Ending discrimination at the ballot box was a way of underwriting the achievements of the Civil Rights Act passed a year earlier by granting African Americans new and real power to which they had always been constitutionally entitled. “The results were almost unimaginable in 1965,” writes Ari Berman in “Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America,” his timely book published this month. … In fact, Obama’s election called forth a far more sophisticated approach to restricting voting. Republicans closely examined how Obama’s political organization had turned out large numbers of young African Americans who had not voted before. Their participation was facilitated by early voting, and particularly Sunday voting.
A Florida judge will draw up new maps for the state’s 27 congressional districts. After meeting in a two-week special session, Florida’s House and Senate adjourned without agreeing on what the maps, ordered by the State Supreme Court, should look like. This was the Florida Legislature’s third attempt to draw congressional maps that comply with the state Constitution. Under an amendment adopted by voters in 2010, Florida’s Legislature must compile maps for congressional and legislative districts that don’t protect incumbents or political parties. But although Florida’s House and Senate are both controlled by Republicans, the two bodies were unable to come to an agreement. They adjourned amid acrimony between House and Senate leaders. It was an atmosphere similar to that when the regular session ended in April with an impasse over whether to expand Medicaid. Republican leaders denied that feud carried over into this special session.
Rand Paul is giving new meaning to the term “buying an election.” Over the weekend, the Kentucky senator said he gave $250,000 to his state’s Republican Party for the explicit purpose of funding its presidential caucus in March. He promised to pony up another $200,000 in the fall, enough to cover the entire cost of the nominating event. Put another way: Paul is paying the party to hold an election in which he is running. He’s doing it neither to ensure a victory nor out of the simple goodness of his heart. No, Paul is making a rather blatant end-run around state law, and he’s compensating the Kentucky GOP for going along with him. The law forbids someone from appearing on the same ballot as a candidate for two different offices, and Paul, who is up for reelection next year, doesn’t want to give up his Senate seat to make his rather long-shot bid for the presidency.
Attorneys on both sides of the lawsuits challenging the 2013 state election law overhaul are trying to find common ground on North Carolina’s voter ID law and plan to report the results of their efforts to a judge next month. Lawyers for the NAACP and others offered that detail in an update to the federal judge presiding over the cases that will determine which rules govern elections in North Carolina next year. They plan to report to the judge on Sept. 17 as part of a trial that could test the breadth of protections for African-Americans with claims of voter disenfranchisement two years after the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated a key provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. U.S. District Judge Thomas Schroeder presided over three weeks of arguments in July on parts of the challenge that did not include the requirement that N.C. voters show one of six photo identification cards to cast a ballot. The legislature amended that portion of the law on the eve of the trial, setting up a request from the challengers for deeper review of the broader implications of the changes.
National: Federal Election Commission refuses to release computer security study | Center for Public Integrity
Next to the Federal Election Commission’s front door is a quotation from former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis: “Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants.” But the agency is refusing to uncloak a pricey, taxpayer-funded study that details decay in the security and management of its computer systems and networks, which the Center for Public Integrity revealed had been successfully infiltrated by Chinese hackers in October 2013. The report — known within the FEC as the “NIST study” — also provides recommendations on how to fix the FEC’s problems and bring its computer systems in line with specific National Institute of Standards and Technology computer security protocols.
The U.S. Postal Service is the largest self-funded agency of the U.S. government and is supported entirely by revenue from postage and products. Because of that, unlike most federal agencies that are always looking for ways to cut costs, the Postal Service is also always looking for ways to boost revenue. Therefore, with the increasing popularity of vote-by-mail, the Office of the Inspector General of the USPS (USPSOIG) set out to evaluate voting methods to identify opportunities to increase voting by mail and therefore revenues for an agency that has struggled under budget constraints and the changing mailing habits of Americans.
With their special legislative session set to end at noon Friday, House and Senate leaders were in stark disagreement over congressional redistricting Thursday night. One thing that appears certain, though, is that Tallahassee will be split between a newly configured District 5, a minority-access district running from downtown Jacksonville to Gadsden County, and a redrawn District 2 that extends from the Panama City area to near Ocala. State Rep. Alan Williams, D-Tallahassee, made one last try at keeping all of Tallahassee in one district Thursday but his amendment died in a voice vote. Williams pleaded with his colleagues to support his amendment, which would have kept the city and most of the county in the 5th District.
With one day left in a special session to redraw congressional district maps, the Florida House and Senate seem as far apart as ever. The House on Thursday received the Senate’s redistricting plan but voted instead to largely keep their base map. The tweaks they made would keep the cities of Riviera Beach and Sunrise wholly within a single congressional district, unlike the original map. As with previous maps, the new map calls for districts 21 and 22 in Broward and Palm Beach counties to be stacked on top of each other rather than run side by side as they currently do. The new House map was approved 60-38, with 22 absentees.
The Ohio Democratic Party and two of its county organizations are seeking to join a federal lawsuit filed in May that alleges that election laws and rules in the political battleground state disproportionately burden Democratic-leaning voters. The Ohio Organizing Collaborative brought the case. But in court filings last week, the organization’s attorneys asked Magistrate Judge Norah McCann King to let it withdraw and substitute in its place the state’s Democratic Party and Cuyahoga and Montgomery county parties. “OOC is a non-profit organization with limited resources, and it does not have the institutional capability to remain as a plaintiff,” attorneys wrote in court documents.
When it turns political, the American arts scene sometimes descends into such heavy-handed didacticism that it can make Ayn Rand seem as frolicsome as P.G. Wodehouse. So it is a delight to report that the Virginia Political Repertory’s production of “Special Session: Redistricting” avoids this trap, and instead delivers keen observations on homo politicus. The script cleverly weaves two seemingly unrelated plot lines: congressional redistricting and judicial appointments. These might seem unlikely topics for compelling drama, but in the deft hands of the cast they become powerful vehicles for exploring the contradictions of contemporary governance and the foibles of the political class.
Editorials: Malaysians risk being cheated out of an election | Ambiga Shreenivasan/The New York Times
Malaysia’s ruling party is facing its greatest crisis of legitimacy yet. Long seen as a modern and moderate Muslim democracy, Malaysia has been riding on its economic growth and good diplomacy for years, and the United Malays National Organization (UMNO), which has led coalition governments for nearly six decades, has been claiming the credit. … The…
A US-based rights group has urged Myanmar to prevent the exclusion of hundreds of thousands of Muslim Rohingya from voting in crucial November elections after the minority were stripped of their identity cards earlier this year. The Carter Center also warned that growing anti-Islamic hate speech in the Buddhist-majority nation could see religious tensions flare during the upcoming campaign period. Myanmar authorities began collecting temporary identification documents from minority groups, mainly the displaced Rohingya in western Rakhine state, in April — a move which takes away their voting rights.
Turkey’s election board has proposed holding a snap legislative poll on 1 November, adding to a security crisis and sending the Turkish lira to a record low. The date for the fresh ballot is sooner than most commentators had expected after efforts to form a coalition ended in failure after inconclusive polls in June. The proposal, presented to political parties before a final decision is made, comes three days before the deadline for forming a new government. The Justice and Development party of the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, lost its overall majority in the June election for the first time since it came to power in 2002.
United Kingdom: Labour seeks legal advice over leadership election infiltration fears | The Guardian
Labour is seeking legal advice to ensure its leadership election is being conducted according to party rules, amid fears that the contest is being infiltrated by people who oppose the party. A spokesperson for acting leader Harriet Harman confirmed that the party had called in lawyers to ensure that the process would not be open to challenge, but denied that there were any plans to halt or suspend the process. Under new rules anyone can vote if they pay £3 to register as a supporter, which prompted concerns that the system was being gamed by people who support other parties. About 400,000 people have become eligible to vote in the contest since the general election, swelling the electorate to 600,000 A spokeswoman for Harman denied that legal advice had been sought as a result of the worries over “entryism” from the left and right. “The party’s focus is on making sure that the rules are fully complied with, as we said last week we have taken legal advice to make sure that the rules are being complied with and that all due diligence as possible was being done,” she said.
Texas: Federal Appeals Court Orders Texas to Pay $1M in Legal Fees in Voting Rights Case | National Law Journal
Texas must pay more than $1 million in legal fees to groups that challenged the state’s redistricting plans, a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., ruled Tuesday. Texas forfeited any opposition to fees when it failed to make substantive arguments in the lower court, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit said. A three-page advisory filed by the state—contending that Texas became the winner in the redistricting case after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a provision of the Voting Rights Act in Shelby County v. Holder—didn’t cut it, Judge Patricia Millett wrote. “Texas gets no second bite at the apple now,” Millett wrote. “What little argument Texas did advance in its ‘Advisory’ provides an insufficient basis for overturning the district court’s award of attorneys’ fees.”
The same federal three-judge panel that has twice ruled that Virginia’s congressional map unconstitutionally packs blacks into the 3rd District will now be responsible for remedying the injustice it found. How will the court arrive at a new map for the 2016 elections? “We don’t know,” Loyola Law School Professor Justin Levitt told CQ Roll Call Tuesday. “I think they were really hoping the legislature would do it.” The court had given the General Assembly a Sept. 1 deadline to redraw district lines, and Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe had called a special August session to begin that process. But the state Senate failed to agree on a map Monday, when a dispute over a Supreme Court appointee derailed the session.
Seven months after he was elected on a promise to overturn austerity, the Greek prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, has announced he is stepping down to pave the way for snap elections next month. As the debt-crippled country received the first tranche of a punishing new €86bn (£61bn) bailout, Tsipras said on Thursday he felt “a moral obligation to place this deal in front of the people, to allow them to judge … both what I have achieved, and my mistakes”. The 41-year-old Greek leader is still popular with voters for having at least tried to stand up to the country’s creditors and his leftwing Syriza party is likely to be returned to power in the imminent general election, which government officials told Greek media was most likely to take place on 20 September. The prime minister insisted in an address on public television that he was proud of his time in office and had got “a good deal for the country”, despite bringing it “close to the edge”. He added he was “shortly going to submit my resignation, and the resignation of my government, to the president”. The prime minister will be replaced for the duration of the short campaign by the president of Greece’s supreme court, Vassiliki Thanou-Christophilou – a vocal bailout opponent – as head of a caretaker government.
United Kingdom: Andy Burnham calls for urgent meeting over concerns that ‘large scale’ Tory infiltration could lead to legal challenge | The Independent
Andy Burnham has called for an emergency meeting over concerns of “large scale” infiltration of Conservative supporters in the Labour leadership race. His team has written to Labour HQ demanding a meeting be held early next week between all four campaigns, claiming that the evidence of ‘entryism’ from supporters of other parties in the leadership election…