A district court judge on Monday dismissed four corruption charges against Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and his donor Salomon Melgen, but denied motions to toss out other charges including, notably, the senator’s solicitation of contributions for a super PAC. Lawyers for the senator had asked the court to dismiss charges related to the $700,000 in contributions from Melgen to Senate Majority PAC, a super PAC run by former aides to Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) that made independent expenditures to support Menendez’s 2012 reelection, which prosecutors allege were made in exchange for official acts. The basis for dismissal offered by Menendez’s lawyers were the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United and 2013 McCutcheon decisions. Those two cases redefined corruption as only explicit bribery, excluding influence and access. The senator’s lawyers argued that this redefinition of corruption and Citizens United’s declaration that independent expenditures “do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption” provided freedom of speech protections for all “efforts to influence and obtain access to elected officials,” including any campaign contribution.
When we receive a summons for jury duty, we are required to present ourselves at the court. Should we treat showing up at the polls in elections the same way? Although the idea seems vaguely un-American, it is neither unusual, nor undemocratic, nor unconstitutional. And it would ease the intense partisan polarization that weakens both our capacity for self-government and public trust in our governing institutions. It is easy to dismiss this idea as rooted in a form of coercion that is incompatible with our individualistic and often libertarian political culture. But consider Australia, whose political culture may be as similar to that of the United States as the culture of any other democracy in the world. Alarmed by a decline in voter turnout to less than 60 percent in the early 1920s, Australia adopted a law in 1924 requiring all citizens to present themselves at the polling place on Election Day. (This is often referred to as mandatory voting, although Australian voters are not required to cast marked ballots.)
Alabama: Congressional Black Caucus Blasts State’s DMV Office Closures As Discriminatory Toward Minority Voters | International Business Times
A group of African-American lawmakers on Friday blasted a decision by Alabama officials to shutter dozens of driver’s license offices, a move that disproportionately affects government ID services in black Democratic areas of the state. Given the state’s 2011 law that requires voters to show government-issued IDs before casting election ballots, closing the offices potentially disenfranchises thousands of black and minority voters, the Congressional Black Caucus said. “Alabama’s decision to close ID offices reminds us that 50 years after the passage of the Voting Rights Act, the fight for equal access to the polls still continues today,” the caucus said in a statement released Friday. “Having a say in our country’s Democratic process still does not exist for all.” Since a 2013 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated the section of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that required federal approval of voting law changes in states with a history of racial discrimination, members of Congress and voting rights activists have pushed for restoration of the law. They did so as some Republican-led states passed laws requiring government-issued IDs and other forms of identification at polling places.
Florida: House, Senate reach agreement on congressional redistricting | Jacksonville Business Journal
As congressional mapmakers defended their versions of districts in a hearing before a Tallahassee judge, the House and Senate announced Friday that they had reached agreement on how to move forward with a process to draw new lines for the state Senate in a special session starting next month. There were few revelations during Friday’s hearing on the congressional districts, expected to wrap up Monday. Leon County Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis is expected to either choose one of seven maps — offered by lawmakers, voting-rights organizations, and a group of voters backed by the Florida Democratic Party — or combine the maps in a new proposal. Ultimately, Lewis’ recommendation will go to the Florida Supreme Court, which ruled in July that a map approved by the Legislature in 2012 and tweaked two years later violated a voter-approved constitutional ban on political gerrymandering.
Could the route toward increasing the competitiveness of Indiana elections and boosting voter participation turn on reforming how legislative district boundaries are drawn? A special 12-member study committee convened Thursday at the Statehouse to begin a two-year investigation into Indiana’s redistricting process. Currently, the General Assembly draws the maps for U.S. House, Indiana House and Indiana Senate districts every 10 years, after the U.S census tallies the state’s population. The only requirements for each district are that all parts of it be contiguous and that it be nearly equal in population to every other district of its type. Critics of legislative redistricting say those conditions provide lawmakers a significant opportunity to manipulate district lines in ways that advantage themselves or their political party.
Kansas: Officials to begin canceling incomplete registrations from 31K prospective voters | Associated Press
Kansas election officials are expected to begin removing the names of more than 31,000 prospective voters from their registration records Friday in line with the state’s tough voter identification law, which requires applicants to prove their citizenship before casting a ballot. Republican Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a leading advocate for rigorous voter identification requirements, directed county election officials to begin canceling the applications of prospective voters who after 90 days had not provided all required information and documents. Since 2013, Kansas has required new voters to provide a birth certificate, passport or other papers documenting their U.S. citizenship. The latest action would be the first purge of incomplete applications. Kobach described the culling of pending applications as just “common sense” to maintain accurate records of who is legally allowed to vote.
National: General Services Administration kicks of search for new Federal Election Commission headquarters | Washington Business Journal
The Federal Election Commission could end up relocating its headquarters from 10th and E streets NW as part of a search process now ramping up. The General Services Administration posted a presolicitation to FedBizOpps.gov Wednesday seeking up to 105,000 square feet for the FEC, now based at 999 E St. NW under a lease that expires in September 2017. It is the latest in a small but growing batch of new prospectuses the GSA is pursuing for the federal government’s 2016 fiscal year.
National: It’s bold, but legal: How campaigns and their super PAC backers work together | The Washington Post
The 2016 presidential contenders are stretching the latitude they have to work with their independent allies more than candidates in recent elections ever dared, taking advantage of a narrowly drawn rule that separates campaigns from outside groups. For the first time, nearly every top presidential hopeful has a personalized super PAC that can raise unlimited sums and is run by close associates or former aides. Many also are being boosted by nonprofits, which do not have to disclose their donors. The boldness of the candidates has elevated the importance of wealthy donors to even greater heights than in the last White House contest, when super PACs and nonprofits reported spending more than $1 billion on federal races. Although they are not supposed to coordinate directly with their independent allies, candidates are finding creative ways to work in concert with them.
The Supreme Court said Thursday it will decide an important question on the rights of the nation’s 22 million public employees: How far do free-speech rights go in protecting a public employee who is demoted or fired over his or her perceived political affiliations? In the past, the court has said public employees have 1st Amendment rights, including the right to speak out on public issues. But lower courts are split on whether these employees are always protected from political retaliation. The justices agreed to hear an appeal from a New Jersey police detective who was demoted to walking a beat after he was seen putting into his car a large campaign sign that supported a candidate who was trying to oust the mayor of Paterson.
Voting Blogs: A case study on college poll workers – An in-depth look at the Chicago Program | electionlineWeekly
Elections officials looking to improve efficiency on election day should look no further than the nearest college, university or community college according to a recent study of the college poll worker program in Chicago. Among other things, the Student Leaders in Elections: A Case Study in College Poll Worker Recruitment found that recruiting college poll workers helps improve the transmission of election results, makes it easier to staff polling places in need because students aren’t married to a location and students who served as bilingual poll workers are more likely to serve in future elections. The U.S. Election Assistance Commission has long supported the practice of college poll workers and one of the recommendations of Presidential Commission on Election Administration was for jurisdictions to recruit more college students as poll workers.
It was Alabama that brought the country the Voting Rights Act (VRA) because of its brutality against black citizens in places like Selma. “The Voting Rights Act is Alabama’s gift to our country,” the civil-rights lawyer Debo Adegbile once said. And it was a county in Alabama–Shelby County–that brought the 2013 challenge that gutted the VRA. As a result of that ruling, those states with the worst histories of voting discrimination, including Alabama, no longer have to approve their voting changes with the federal government.
Thirty-two candidates are running for seven positions as Hawaii Island delegates to a Native Hawaiian constitutional convention, or aha, set for early next year. In all, more than 200 candidates qualified for a total of 40 delegate positions, the organization in charge of the election and convention announced Wednesday. Native Hawaiians who registered to vote by Oct. 15 will be allowed to vote for delegates. More than 95,000 voters have registered to date. The delegates will spend eight weeks in Honolulu beginning in February, deciding what type of nation or government, if any, will be created or reorganized. Half of the delegates, 20, will come from Oahu, seven from Hawaii Island, seven representing out-of-state Hawaiians, three from Maui, two representing Kauai and Niihau and one representing Molokai and Lanai.
New York State has two big political parties — Democratic and Republican — on its ballot as well as an assortment of smaller parties. That might seem harmless, but in the strange, convoluted netherworld of New York politics, a lot of the minor parties are useless and mysterious. They clog the ballot, warp the debate and confuse the voters. What makes this system especially confounding is that a candidate’s name can appear on two or more ballot lines. Last year, New Yorkers could vote for Gov. Andrew Cuomo on the Democratic, Working Families, Independence or Women’s Equality Party. Now, New York Republicans are trying to get rid of the Women’s Equality Party, which favors Democrats.
With a presidential election a year away, Vermont officials are working to make casting a ballot easier for voters. Starting Oct. 12, the Office of the Secretary of State will roll out a new online elections management system that will let Vermont residents register to vote electronically, request absentee ballots and track their personal voting information. Secretary of State Jim Condos called the nearly two-year process of overhauling the state’s systems a response to his agency’s “antiquated” way of doing business. “We think that this will help us increase participation not only from our local residents, but also from our military and overseas voters,” Condos told StateScoop. “It improves the accuracy, it certainly has a reduction in budgetary requirements and increases the speed in which [registrations] are done.”
How convenient would it be if you could vote from the comfort of your own home, at work or if you were out of the country? According to tech experts if you can file your taxes online there’s no reason Canadians couldn’t cast their ballots the same way. … Both he and Jones still aren’t sure the traditional pencil and paper should be replaced with a more modern approach to voting. For Rayner, the single biggest obstacle has nothing to do with the security of the system if internet voting was made available. “The issue is that it’s fundamental to our democratic system that our ballots should be free, free from influence, free from pressure of any kind and that’s why we go to the polls so we that we can be observed making our vote individually without being pressured by anyone.” For Jones, the biggest con of internet voting would be if the system wasn’t secure and if an election could be swept because a technology compromise.
Ivory Coast’s opposition leaders rallied at the state television station and electoral commission on Monday to call for a new electoral body to replace one they said is biased in favour of President Alassane Ouattara’s government. Ouattara is tipped to win a second term at the Oct. 25 election after presiding over rapid economic growth in the wake of civil wars in 2002 and 2010, but his bid has been met with some unrest.
Official campaigns have wound down ahead of national elections in Kyrgyzstan, where around half of the country’s 5.8 million people are eligible to vote on October 4. In the decade since the so-called Tulip Revolution ousted a Soviet-holdover president, the Kyrgyz social and political landscape has experienced periodic convulsions. But the country has also clung to democracy and a free press sufficiently to remain a bright spot in a region otherwise populated by authoritarian and dynastic governments. RFE/RL’s Qishloq Ovozi blogger Bruce Pannier has spent the last two weeks traveling the country to get a read on the atmosphere in the run-up to the vote and will be in the capital, Bishkek, on election day. … These parliamentary elections feature 14 political parties competing for all 120 seats in the Supreme Council. The vote has particular significance since Kyrgyzstan has a parliamentary system of government and a unicameral legislature.
Shortly after the two-month campaign season leading up to Myanmar’s much-awaited national elections started, the Union Election Commission (UEC) announced on September 11 that 124 candidates did not pass scrutiny and would be barred from running for office. Many were opposition and minority members and an estimated one-third were Muslim candidates, raising serious questions over bias in the review process and the exclusion of Muslims from the political process. Though 11 candidates were eventually allowed to rejoin the race after appealing, the current legal framework and a lack of transparency about the decision-making and appeal process could negatively impact the UEC’s credibility as an impartial arbiter in the election process. The November 8 elections will set the tone for Myanmar’s continued democratic development in the near-term and are widely expected to be competitive, with more than 90 political parties and more than 6,100 candidates competing for office in 1,171 constituencies. Fifty-nine of these political parties are linked to minority ethnic groups and religious groups, and one—the Women’s Party (Mon)—consists entirely of women. Though the plethora of political parties ought to be fairly representative of Myanmar’s population, it is notable that Muslims—who make up at least 4 percent of Myanmar’s total population—were under-represented. Growing intolerance and accusation from extremist Buddhists that the major opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) is anti-Buddhist kept the NLD from nominating even one Muslim candidate, while the USDP dropped some of its more outspoken Muslim candidates.
Nigeria: Independent National Electoral Commission Seeks Review of Law Prohibiting Full Electronic Voting | allAfrica.com
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has called for a review of the law prohibiting electronic voting in Nigeria. Acting Chairman of INEC, Hajia Amina Zakari, made this call on Tuesday at the Post 2015 Electoral Reform Symposium organised by the National Democratic Institute and other Civil Society Organisations. She argued that technology has become an unavoidable reality in everyday life and that it played a major role in the success recorded in the 2015 general elections. The introduction of the Card Reader by the immediate past INEC Chairman, Professor Attahiru Jega, was said to have minimized massive rigging and electoral irregularities during the 2015 general elections.
Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy on Thursday announced that Spain’s forthcoming general election will be held on December 20. Rajoy, who announced the date in an interview with Antena 3 television, enjoys an absolute majority in parliament with his conservative Popular Party (PP), but opinion polls suggest support for the opposition Socialist Party is running close behind. Far-left party Podemos, which wants to loosen the grip of austerity introduced by Rajoy’s government since it came to power in 2011, is running in third place. If the Socialists and Podemos teamed up in a coalition, they could boot the PP from power, surveys suggest.
By adopting an election protection system, the National Election Committee reiterates its commitment to hold an election that is characterised by the highest degree of fairness and transparency by implementing the best internationally recognised practices used in the world’s most successful parliaments, said Dr Anwar Mohammad Gargash, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Minister of State for Federal National Council Affairs and Chairman of the National Election Committee. Dr Gargash said on the eve of the early voting that starts today at nine polling stations across the country, the highly accurate e-voting technology adopted by the NEC is a pioneering experiment in the region, which the UAE introduced during the first Federal National Council Elections in 2006.
A ban on long-term expatriates voting from abroad has drawn the ire of Canadian business groups in Asia, who argue the measure runs contrary to both their rights and the country’s interests. In an open letter decrying the rule, the five groups based in Asia call on members of Parliament and Canadians to help their cause. Their appeal, which comes as Canada attempts to close an important Pacific trade deal, carries the signatures of Canadian chamber of commerce members in Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and Japan under the heading, Out of Sight, Out of Mind, Really?
Sunday’s regional election results in Catalonia show that its citizens are pretty evenly divided between separation from and union with Spain — a plurinational state that must now rise to the challenge of how to accommodate ancient nations within it such as the Catalans and the Basques if it is not to break up. But first the electoral facts. Junts pel Sí, the main independence bloc made up of centre-right nationalists and centre-left republicans, came first with 62 out of 135 seats. With 10 more seats won by a separatist group of the radical left, there is a secessionist majority in the Catalan parliament. It is not a homogeneous majority: the leftist group wants to see the back of Artur Mas, president of the Generalitat, the Catalan autonomous government. Most important of all, the separatist camp presented these elections as a plebiscite for independence, but fell short of a majority of votes, with only 47.7 per cent — well below the crystal-clear majority it would need morally to justify a rupture with Spain.