Progressive and political money groups say they will intensify their lobbying in the coming days to prevent four campaign finance measures from hitching a ride on a year-end spending deal. With a deadline to reach agreement on government-wide funding less than two weeks away, the effort will be no easy pitch. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., authored one of the measures, which would relax limits on coordination between political parties and candidates. “They’re swimming upstream every step of the way,” said Costas Panagopoulos, a Fordham University professor who specializes in campaign and election issues. “Legislators are going to be hard-pressed to vote against an appropriation bill that’s otherwise appealing to them on the basis of some of these riders.”
Editorials: Next Chance To Gut Campaign Finance Law Heads For Supreme Court | Paul Blumenthal/Huffington Post
The next domino in the effort to erase campaign finance restrictions has just been pushed. A case attacking the McCain-Feingold reform law’s ban on unlimited contributions to political parties has been set on a path that almost certainly ends at the Supreme Court. With the help of Citizens United lawyer Jim Bopp, the Republican Party of Louisiana and the Jefferson Parish and Orleans Parish Republican Party sued to allow state and local parties to raise enormous sums under looser state laws and then spend them on federal elections. That practice is currently banned by restrictions on the use of “soft money” — unlimited contributions to political parties that pay for so-called party-building activities, as opposed to supporting specific candidates. The ban came after Senate investigations found that both parties had abused their soft money accounts to evade campaign contribution limits. Money meant for party-building activities was spent on ads promoting candidates. The Senate’s investigations also found that soft money donors were provided increased access and influence in policy making.
An El Paso County clerical error was apparently to blame for Planned Parenthood shooting suspect Robert Lewis Dear Jr. being listed as a woman on his voter registration card — a detail that fueled national speculation over his gender identity. Ryan Parsell, El Paso County’s chief deputy clerk and recorder, said his office incorrectly recorded Dear’s gender in October 2014, leading to the issuance of both a driver’s license and voter’s registration card erroneously identifying him as a woman. “The Clerk and Recorder’s Office processes over 500,000 transactions a year,” Parsell said. “Mistakes are going to be made, and it is a reminder to us of the important job that we do to see that a mistake made by us has had national implications.” What Parsell described as a data entry error occurred after the 57-year-old Dear moved to tiny Hartsel in Park County, which doesn’t have a driver’s license office.
A Leon County judge and lawyers for the Legislature and voting-rights organizations on Tuesday began muddling through the legal process for deciding on a new set of districts for the 40-member state Senate. While the hearing before Circuit Judge George Reynolds was largely procedural, attorneys for the two sides clashed over whether the coalition of voting-rights organizations, which includes the League of Women Voters of Florida and Common Cause Florida, faces the same burden of proof as lawmakers do when a full-blown trial about the maps begins Dec. 14. Reynolds has the task of recommending one of five maps — one drawn by Senate aides and four drawn by the voting-rights groups — to the Florida Supreme Court after the existing map was set aside as part of a legal settlement. Lawmakers conceded in that settlement that the current map, drawn in 2012, would likely be found by the courts to violate a voter-approved ban on political gerrymandering adopted two years earlier.
Florida’s municipalities intend to fight a proposal now before state lawmakers that would take away their ability to set local election dates and could extend the terms of some current elected officials. State lawmakers on Thursday will look at a proposal that seeks to improve local voter turnout by requiring every city, town and village to line up their elections the same day each year. The proposal (PCB SAC 16-04), scheduled to go before the House State Affairs Committee, would require the local elections to either mesh with statewide November general elections in even years, or be held every other year on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November in odd years.
The U.S. Supreme Court last week temporarily stopped Hawaii from counting ballots in a recent election of Native Hawaiian delegates over concerns by some the vote violates the U.S. Constitution by discriminating against voters who aren’t native Hawaiians. The delegates, once elected, would prepare a document for self-governance by native Hawaiians. Guam plans to hold a political status vote, limited to the island’s indigenous Chamorros, as defined by Guam law. The non-binding vote, or plebiscite, would be used to determine whether the island’s Chamorros prefer statehood, free association or independence. Guam currently is an unincorporated territory of the United States. The Guam vote is being challenged in federal court for allegedly discriminating against the island’s non-Chamorro voters. The case, filed by Guam resident Arnold Davis, who isn’t Chamorro, is scheduled to go to trial next July.
The Kansas Secretary of State has begun the process of finding an election commissioner to replace Brian Newby, who for the past 10 years has overseen elections in Johnson County. Newby has taken a job as the executive director of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. Newby’s last day as the top election official in Johnson County was Nov. 13. His replacement will be appointed by the Kansas Secretary of State’s office. There is no interim county election commissioner in the meantime. The vacancy has been advertised by the Secretary of State’s office, which has an online site to submit resumes and cover letters. Qualified applicants have to have lived in the county for at least two years. Applications will close Friday.
A Democrat who lost a primary in Pike and Walthall counties and a Republican who lost in the general election in Smith and Jasper counties are trying to have election results overturned so they can become Mississippi House members. Five-term Rep. David Myers said he is confident the House will dismiss arguments from Tasha Dillon, the primary opponent he defeated by 144 votes. “She’s acting as a sore loser,” Myers told The Associated Press by phone Tuesday. “I beat her fair and square — twice.”
A handful of groups are getting together to push for changes to the state’s voting laws. The organizations – like Common Cause Pennsylvania, the League of Women Voters, and the Pennsylvania Public Interest Research Group – say they’re asking for modest changes. They want to create a pre-registration system for teenagers to get on the voting rolls before they turn 18, and allow same-day registration for everyone. Another suggestion is for Pennsylvania to start in-person voting before Election Day — something that 33 states already allow.
The plaintiffs and the original defendants in Virginia’s congressional redistricting case want a three-judge panel to proceed with drawing a new map over the objections of Republicans in the state’s delegation. Lawyers for the plaintiffs say congressional Republicans’ motion to suspend the proceedings, pending the U.S. Supreme Court’s review of the GOP appeal, is “simply the latest in a series of efforts to delay this court’s correction of the unconstitutional racial gerrymander” in Virginia’s 3rd District.
Virginia: Democrats accuse rogue elections official of compromising voter privacy | The Washington Post
Election officials in Prince William County this week asked the Commonwealth’s attorney to investigate one of their own. They say Guy Anthony Guiffré, a member of the county electoral board, might have broken state and federal laws in his quest to determine whether someone improperly used technology to impersonate voters in last month’s election. At issue is a state rule that says a voter can apply for an absentee ballot online using an electronic signature instead of the old-fashioned way — with paper and pen. Guiffré, a Republican, says the system opens the door to fraud. To prove it, he recruited four friends — while the county’s registrar was away — to inspect 151 absentee ballot documents and registration records laden with Social Security numbers and other personal information. In doing so, Democrats say, he compromised the meticulous process used to handle ballots, usurped his authority and violated voter privacy.
The Commission on Elections in 2010 and 2013 trusted Smartmatic, a purportedly Venezuelan firm, that its counting of votes in those election years would be completely aboveboard. The Comelec will again give its full trust to Smartmatic in the national election next year as the Filipino people decide who will run this country in the next six years. For such a crucial role in our democratic process, the Comelec knows exactly what it is dealing with, and who the owners of Smartmatic are. Right? Amazingly, no. Neither the Comelec nor Smartmatic has disclosed the full details of the firm’s ownership. What’s worrying is that a detailed investigation by the US Embassy in Caracas, Venezuela (which, one would presume, had inputs from its intelligence services), where the firm is purportedly based, concluded:
“Smartmatic is a riddle. The company came out of nowhere to snatch a multi-million dollar contract in an electoral process that ultimately reaffirmed Chavez’s mandate and all but destroyed his political opposition. The perspective we have here, after several discussions with Smartmatic, is that the company is de facto Venezuelan and operated by Venezuelans. The identity of Smartmatic’s true owners remains a mystery. Our best guess is that there are probably several well-known Venezuelan businessmen backing the company and who prefer anonymity either because of their political affiliation, or perhaps, because they manage the interests of senior Venezuelan government officials.”
Next year’s elections in Brazil will be processed manually due to substantial cuts in public spending, it emerged yesterday. This is the first time elections will be carried out through paper-based means since 2000, when electronic voting machines were used to process all votes. E-voting in Brazil was first introduced in 1996 and rolled out gradually in the following years. Municipal elections will take place in October 2016. According to an official statement, more than R$428m ($109.6m) in resources will not be released to the Superior Electoral Court, which impacts the ability to buy the electronic voting devices and other required equipment. The pressure is on to expand it, even though a secure online voting system is impossible using today’s technology. “The biggest impact [of the budget cuts] is around the purchasing of electronic voting equipment, as bidding and essential contracting is already underway and [to be concluded] by end of December, with committed spending estimated at R$200m ($51.2m)” the statement added.
The Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday, December 1, temporarily ordered the Commission on Elections (Comelec) not to deactivate the registration of 2.5 million voters who failed to have their biometrics taken for the 2016 elections. SC spokesman Theodore Te said the SC’s temporary restraining order (TRO) covers the Comelec’s “No Bio, No Boto” (No Biometrics, No Vote) policy. Te said the TRO is “effective immediately and until further orders.” In a text message to Rappler on Tuesday, Comelec Spokesman James Jimenez said around 2.5 million voters completely failed to have their biometrics taken.