National: Your State And Local Elections Are Now A Super PAC Playground | Paul Blumenthal/Huffington Post

The influence of billionaires in the post-Citizens United era is in no way limited to the 2016 presidential and congressional elections. While the super-wealthy dominate those races, local and state elections in 2015 are also attracting big money from Forbes-listed billionaires and local wealthy interests that’s funneled through super PACs. Not all states, cities and…

National: Review: ‘Give Us the Ballot’ a sobering look at the modern struggle for voting rights in America | Los Angeles Times

Fifty years after passage of the Voting Rights Act, “Give Us the Ballot” makes a powerful case that voting rights are under assault in 21st century America. Current events underscore the book’s timeliness. In September, Alabama announced it was closing 31 driver’s license offices, a disproportionate number of them in majority-black counties, making it even harder for African Americans to comply with Alabama’s 2011 law requiring voters to show government-issued IDs to cast ballots. As author Ari Berman points out, Alabama is one of nine Republican-controlled states to pass voter ID laws since 2010, and those are only the most blatant of restrictions that also include limits on early voting and rules that make voter registration more difficult. Efforts to roll back the act’s protections for minority voters are nothing new, Berman demonstrates; the first legal challenge to the law was filed five days after President Lyndon B. Johnson signed it in 1965. When the Supreme Court upheld the Voting Rights Act a year later, Southern legislators turned from preventing African Americans from voting to diluting their votes. Black-majority counties were consolidated with larger white ones; at-large elections and multi-member districts made it nearly impossible for African American candidates to gain office. Section 5 of the act, which required seven Southern states with histories of voting discrimination to submit any changes in their voting laws for federal review, became the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division’s instrument for preventing such manipulations.

California: Airbnb wages $8 million campaign to defeat San Francisco measure | Reuters

Airbnb has spent more than $8 million and hired a top political operative to defeat a San Francisco initiative on the ballot Tuesday that could threaten the growth of one of the most valuable global technology companies. Proposition F, which would limit short-term rentals, was brought by affordable housing advocates fed up with the city’s housing stock being used as rentals for tourists while residents face skyrocketing rents and evictions. For Airbnb, a defeat in its hometown of San Francisco would be mostly a symbolic blow. Should similar measures be introduced elsewhere, however, the company could face serious financial consequences. At stake is its ability to continue adding rentals at the same speed, increase revenue and maintain its $25.5 billion valuation, all of which fall under greater scrutiny as it moves closer to an initial public offering.

Florida: House Pitches New Redistricting Senate Map | FlaglerLive

The chairman of the House redistricting committee Friday filed a new Senate map that would recast districts in South Florida, opening up a potential conflict with the Senate a week before a special legislative session on the lines is set to end. Rep. Jose Oliva, R-Miami Lakes, said in a memo to House members that his proposal for the 40 state Senate districts was inspired in part by a plan floated by the League of Women Voters of Florida and Common Cause Florida. Those voting-rights organizations have helped lead a legal fight against congressional and Senate maps drawn by the Legislature in 2012, saying that the plans violated the anti-gerrymandering “Fair Districts” amendments approved by voters two years earlier.

Illinois: State’s expansion of same-day voter registration costs Will, Grundy county clerks | Morris Herald-News

Will County Clerk Nancy Schultz Voots and her staff are staying busy as they work to comply with an unfunded state mandate ahead of the March 15 primary that requires certain Illinois counties to offer same-day voter registration at every polling place. Start-up costs carry a price tag of more than $1 million for just Will County when taking into account the required staff time, printed materials, additional training for election judges and the installment of Internet capabilities, among other factors, Schultz Voots said. “All these little things add up,” Schultz Voots said, noting how extension cords alone cost $4,000. The law requires Schultz Voots to equip the county’s 300 polling places with electronic poll books – or computer tablets with voting and registration capabilities. The law only applies to counties with a population of 100,000 or more, or those already using electronic poll books.

Maryland: D.C. law student takes case against Maryland gerrymandering to Supreme Court | The Washington Post

Steve Shapiro recently pulled his first all-nighter in years. He worked until about 1 a.m. last month on an assignment for a class at American University’s Washington College of Law, where he is a first-semester 1L. From then until dawn, he pored over his brief due at the U.S. Supreme Court, where his battle against Maryland’s often-criticized gerrymandered congressional districts will be heard this week in a case that bears his name. At age 55, Shapiro is not the typical law school newbie; he’s more often mistaken for a professor. It was his decades-long fight with Maryland’s political leadership over redistricting that, in part, fueled his decision to leave his job as a career federal employee and enroll full time in law school.

Ohio: Voters weigh overhaul of redistricting | Toledo Blade

On Tuesday, voters will be asked for the third time in a decade to overhaul the inherently political process of how Ohio redraws state legislative districts every 10 years. Voters said “no” the first two times. This time a broad coalition of Republicans, Democrats, and business, labor, government watchdog, and voting-rights groups that have often aligned on opposite sides of the issue have come together to urge voters to say “yes” on Issue 1. Many are already looking ahead at a similar bipartisan approach with congressional remapping if this one affecting only state House and Senate maps passes. “Fair districts mean fair elections,” said Catherine Turcer, policy analyst with Common Cause Ohio. “Issue 1 creates greater transparency, keeps communities together, and establishes a bipartisan plan. I look at Issue 1 as a reform decades in the making. There is general agreement that this is the proposal that will make a real change.”

US Virgin Islands: New Machines Will Reduce Errors, Save Money | St. Croix Source

A new machine that voters will use to cast their ballots in the territory’s next election will not only save the V.I. Board of Elections money on paper costs, but it will also reduce the chance of voting errors, said Willie Wesley Jr. of Omaha-based company Election Systems and Software. “It’s going to actually put the Virgin Islands on the cutting edge of technology,” Wesley said. “If there’s something out there more advanced than this, I want to see it.” Wesley, who has been working with Elections Supervisor Caroline Fawkes to overhaul the territory’s voting technology, gave a demonstration of the new machine at Tutu Park Mall on Thursday evening. The machine is called ExpressVote and is a touchscreen computer system that voters insert a blank ballot into before making selections. The ExpressVote then prints barcodes on the ballot that can be read by an electronic tabulator.

Washington: Seattle Voters Take Aim at Big Money in Politics | Al Jazeera

Running for re-election, Seattle City Council Member Mike O’Brien knows firsthand that the campaign chase for donors is often at odds with the hunt for votes. “Most candidates spend about 10-15 hours a week on the phone dialing for dollars,” he estimates. “You start by looking up the people who can write the big checks. Often they aren’t even in your district and can’t even vote for you but they have the capacity to finance your election.” In the 2013 election two-thirds of all of the money raised by Seattle candidates came from just 0.3 percent of the city’s residents, according to a report by the Sightline Institute, a nonprofit think tank. This makes for heavy competition as dozens of candidates try to appeal to a very narrow slice of the electorate. “Of course everyone else is calling those same people so you’re fighting with other candidates whether they’re in your race or not, to convince the donors that you’re their guy and they should write you a check,” O’Brien said.

Editorials: Wisconsin legislature should reject secrecy bill | Daniel I. Weiner and Brent Ferguson/Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

Last week, the Wisconsin Assembly passed a bill that would dramatically reduce voters’ ability to know which corporations, unions and wealthy individuals are funding state campaigns. The Senate is expected to vote on a companion bill (SB 292) shortly. Supporters of the measure say these changes are required by recent court decisions. Don’t believe it. If passed, SB 292 would radically change the law, not comply with it. As we explained in a letter to legislators this week, the Senate should vote it down.

Azerbaijan: Parliamentary vote held amid free speech limits | Associated Press

Voters in the oil-rich Caspian Sea nation of Azerbaijan cast ballots Sunday in a parliamentary election that is expected to secure the ruling party’s dominance. International rights groups have accused Azerbaijani authorities of limiting free speech, and the main trans-Atlantic security and rights group, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, has refused to monitor the vote after Azerbaijan demanded that it sharply cut the number of observers. It marks the first time since Azerbaijan won independence after the 1991 Soviet collapse that the OSCE will not monitor its election. Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev’s government long has faced criticism in the West for showing little tolerance for dissent and holding elections that fall below democratic standards.

Bulgaria: President slams parties over referendum, calls on Parliament to approve electronic voting | The Sofia Globe

Bulgarian head of state Rossen Plevneliev has described the October 25 national referendum on electronic voting as an indisputable success and proof that citizens want to participate actively in decision-making in the state, while slamming political parties for their inertia towards the issue. He also disclosed that he had asked the State Agency for National Security to investigate the hacker attack that confounded the working of the Central Election Commission website on election day, and said that he saw the attack as an attempt to discredit the idea of online voting. Plevneliev was speaking on October 30 at a briefing broadcast live on radio and television, two days after the Central Election Commission said that 69.5 per cent of those who voted were in favour of introducing electronic voting in future elections and referendums, and 26 per cent voted against, with the remaining 4.5 per cent of ballots declared invalid.

Turkey: Erdogan’s party enjoys decisive election victory in Turkey | The Washington Post

Less than half a year after losing its hold on Turkey’s parliament, the country’s ruling Justice and Development Party regained a decisive majority Sunday in a dramatic snap election. It marks a considerable political coup for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has been at the helm of the country for 13 years and now looks likely to further entrench his rule. In the buildup to Sunday’s election, a vast majority of pollsters and political analysts predicted a hung parliament and anticipated a tricky process of coalition-building that would have complicated Erdogan’s own designs on power. But by nightfall on Sunday, Erdogan’s ruling party, also known by the Turkish abbreviation AKP, had taken almost 50 percent of the vote and was expected to form a single-party government once more. The result took many experts by surprise.

Editorials: Turkey’s election means turning from democracy towards autocracy | Yavuz Baydar/The Guardian

Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has once more managed to fight through to victory. With a landslide in Sunday’s elections, he now impose his will more resolutely than ever before, making certain that the ruling Justice and Development party (AKP) extends its writ over the country another four years. He gambled, crossed many lines, and won. He has now the half of the national vote on his side to argue for legitimacy and perhaps even as carte blanche to extend his rule into autocracy. This was a result that a very few had predicted. Most pollsters had tipped the AKP gaining around 44% of the vote, short of being able to form a government on its own. So for the AKP to come away with the scale of the victory it was a shock. The other conundrum was whether the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democracy party (HDP) would fall below the critical 10% threshold (to enter parliament). It managed to score above that the relief of many who had been concerned that the Kurdish movement out of parliament would destabilise Turkey further.