The 2016 presidential campaign seems certain to feature not only more money than any since Watergate but also more money from undisclosed donors since the days when black satchels of illicit cash were passed around. This so-called dark money, or contributions to entities that are not required to disclose their donors, topped more than $300 million in the 2012 presidential race, and some experts believe that the levels may be far higher this time. Among the risks is that foreign money — barred from playing a direct role in the election — could be surreptitiously funneled into the campaign because it could move through channels where it wouldn’t have to be publicly disclosed.
California: State court grants right of voters to weigh in on Citizens United | San Francisco Chronicle
The state Supreme Court cleared the way Monday for Californians to vote in November, if the Legislature approves, on whether to urge Congress to amend the U.S. Constitution and overturn the Citizens United ruling, which allowed corporations to spend unlimited amounts on political campaigns. The state justices had blocked a vote on the same measure initiated by the Legislature in 2014, saying it was not clear that California lawmakers had the power to put an advisory measure on the ballot. But in a 6-1 ruling Monday, the court said the Legislature’s power to “investigate” issues includes asking the public for advice on whether to seek a nationwide constitutional amendment.
A proposed ballot measure that would change the way Colorado’s political maps are drawn is being criticized by some minority groups and lawmakers. Currently, the state Legislature determines Colorado’s congressional districts after each census. The ballot measure would shift that responsibility to a 12-member independent commission made up of four Democrats, four Republicans and four unaffiliated members. A new map would be approved when eight members reach an agreement.
Signing up to vote in Iowa will now be just be a few clicks away, as the Iowa Secretary of State’s Office prepares launches a new online voter registration system. The system is a first for Iowa, and a project Secretary of State Paul Pate’s office has been working on for most of 2015. The system utilizes the Department of Transportation’s database to register any Iowan with a state driver’s license or DOT-issued I.D. card as a voter, completely replacing the paper form. Since its activation no January 1, the office reports 28 people have already registered to vote online. But some advocacy groups in the state are crying foul.
Kansas: New plaintiff seeks to join suit challenging proof of citizenship law | Lawrence Journal World
Attorneys in a federal lawsuit challenging Kansas’ proof of citizenship voting law are seeking to add another plaintiff in the case as part of their effort to turn it into a class action lawsuit. Last week, attorneys filed a motion to amend their complaint, adding a 20-year-old Kansas University student, Parker Bednasek, as a plaintiff. If approved, he would serve as a representative of all members of the class of people whose voter registrations are being blocked for failure to show valid proof of U.S. citizenship. Plaintiffs are asking the court to declare the proof of citizenship law unconstitutional. They are also asking for an injunction to prevent the state from enforcing a new regulation that requires county election officers to cancel all incomplete applications after 90 days.
Maryland voters will now have paper ballots they can review before finally submitting them this election season, and the Hagerstown races will be nonpartisan, the director of the Washington County Election Board said. State officials decided in 2007 to return to paper balloting, once the state had the funding available, so there will be a voter-verifiable paper trail, according to Washington County Election Director Kaye Robucci and the State Board of Elections’ website. If voters participate in early voting, they will use a machine with a touchscreen to select their choices, but that machine will print out a paper ballot that allows voters to review their choices before submitting the ballot officially, Robucci said.
Right now, if a natural disaster or other major issue happens when Minnesotans head out to vote, there’s no emergency plan in place.Minnesota is now one step closer to being prepared for an election day emergency. The Elections Emergency Planning Task Force is a group of 14 members consisted of election officials, and experts when it comes to emergency planning. Over the course of six meetings last year, they made a few recommendations.
New Hampshire: Voter ID Law Remains Big Unknown for Presidential Primary Day | New Hampshire Public Radio
New Hampshire’s primary is just five weeks away, and state election officials are anticipating record turnout. There’s something else on their minds too—this will be the first presidential primary with the state’s new voter ID law in place. The law, which passed three and a half years ago, was part of a wave of stricter voter laws pushed by Republicans across the country. How it plays out on Primary Day is still an open question. Folks like Kerri Parker, the town clerk in Meredith, have been planning for that day for a while. Parker remembers when she and other election officials got together to learn the new state voting rules.
Ohio: State Supreme Court rules in blogger Randy Simes’s voting rights case | Cincinnati Business Courier
A Cincinnati native who is owner and managing editor of UrbanCincy.com has the right to vote in Hamilton County while living in South Korea for his job, the Ohio Supreme Court has ruled. In a 6-1 decision, the court ruled that the Hamilton County Board of Elections did not abuse its discretion in 2013 when it decided that Randy Simes had the right to vote here. The court upheld both the Board of Elections’ decision and a Hamilton County Appellate Court ruling. Two people – Barbara Holwadel and Steven Johnson – pursued the case, which started when Simes voted in the 2013 Cincinnati mayoral primary between John Cranley and Roxanne Qualls, all the way to the state’s highest court.
A pair of Republican lawmakers are circulating a proposal that would prohibit county and town governments from issuing — or spending money on — photo identification cards. The legislation would also bar photo ID cards issued by cities or villages from being used for things like voting or obtaining public benefits, such as food stamps. Critics say the legislation is an attack on local control and is targeting a plan recently approved by city and county officials in Milwaukee to issue local identification cards to the homeless, immigrants in the country illegally and other residents unable to obtain state driver’s licenses or other government-issued ID cards. They also say the bill is an example of anti-immigrant discrimination. The measure’s sponsors, state Sen. Van Wanggaard (R-Racine) and state Rep. Joe Sanfelippo (R-New Berlin), say they’re trying to fight fraud and prevent confusion.
Wisconsin Republicans are pushing state legislation that would block local governments from issuing voter ID cards — which are required at the ballot box under a 2011 law — even though the locals IDs currently being considered in a Milwaukee program aren’t meant to be used for voting. Republican state Sen. Van Wanggaard and state Rep. Joe Sanfelippo are floating a proposal that would bar cities and villages from issuing any photo ID card, according to the Journal Sentinel. It also would require that any ID issued by local governments to state clearly that it does not meet the state’s voter ID requirements. Nor can local government IDs be used for any public benefits program, under the proposal.
For as long as there’s been a Canada, Canadians have voted according to what’s known as first-past-the-post. Each voter gets one vote, and each electoral district gets one member of Parliament. In each of Canada’s 338 federal districts, the candidate who has the greatest number of “X”s beside their name wins, and becomes the MP. In last fall’s election, the Liberal Party promised to scrap this system: “We are committed,” says the platform, “to ensuring that 2015 will be the last federal election conducted under the first-past-the-post voting system.” The Liberals didn’t say what they would put in its place, only that the system that has been around since Confederation is so unacceptable it has to be quickly be replaced with something – anything.
Twenty out of the 30 candidates vying to be president of Central African Republic have demanded the election be scrapped after what they said was a tainted first round of voting. In a joint statement on Monday, the dissenters cited what they described as irregularities and intimidation in balloting on 30 December, partial results of which have been published. They said they refused to be “complicit in this electoral masquerade” and called for the whole process to be “purely and simply stopped”. They invited all players to get around the negotiating table “to draw up ways of safeguarding the nation”. Signatories include heavyweight candidate Karim Meckassoua , a former foreign minister from the minority Muslim community, who had been a pre-election frontrunner.
An independent commission on Sunday reported that the first round of Haitian presidential elections on October 25 were “stained by irregularities” but claimed problems were not serious enough to void the poll or further delay a run-off. The panel found that poll watchers intervened to help several candidates in the October ballot, and recommended possible legal action against poll workers and others involved in a fresh blow to a country long crippled by political instability. It also urged measures to improve the transparency in the contest to choose a successor to President Michel Martelly.
Taiwan police have arrested 45 people involved in a betting ring worth more than US$40 million a year including wagers on the upcoming elections, officials said Monday (Jan 4), adding the racket could have influenced voting. Police launched weekend raids on 31 venues across the island and made the arrests on charges of gambling and obstructing votes, prosecutors said. “As the ring had so many posts islandwide and so many gamblers were involved, we fear that the gambling could influence the outcome of the election,” said Wang Yi-wen, spokesman for the Taoyuan Prosecutors’ Office.
National: Enshrining the right to vote and 2015’s other constitutional amendment ideas | The Guardian
More than 11,000 amendments have been proposed in Congress to the constitution, and only 27 have become law. But that hasn’t stopped members of Congress from trying to add to that total and make their mark on the founding document of the United States. This year, congressmen and senators have proposed nearly 70 different amendments to the constitution. Amending the constitution is an intentionally difficult process. In order to be enacted, an amendment needs to be approved by two-thirds majorities in both the House and the Senate, and then has to be approved by the legislatures in at least three-fourths of states (or 38 out of 50). The last amendment was passed more than two decades ago. … Unbeknown to many Americans, there is no explicit right to vote in the US constitution. While US citizens have the right to bear arms, the right not to have troops quartered in their homes and to trial by jury in a federal civil law “where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars”, there is no affirmative right to cast a ballot.
The Colorado Secretary of State’s Office says information on Colorado voters released on the Internet is public information and did not compromise any voter’s identity information after a database of 191 million U.S. voters was published on the Internet. The database included voter names, addresses, ages, party affiliation, phone numbers and voting history. A company that said it compiled the national database for campaigns said it was released inadvertently and was no longer available.
This November in Austin, Texas, voters will pick a president during their regular trip to the grocery store. Maine residents who have never voted will register on Election Day. Every Colorado voter will get a ballot in the mail that they can mail or drop off anytime before the polls close. And some Alaskans will simply mark their ballots online. More and more, waiting in line at a neighborhood school or church to vote on a Tuesday in November is becoming archaic. Around the country, states are changing their laws accordingly, hoping to make casting a ballot as convenient as possible. And then there’s Florida, a state that has shunned same-day voter registration and vote centers as an alternative to busy precincts. Citizens here have to request a mail-in ballot every other election year or set aside time to go to a polling place.
Lawmakers’ unexpected vote to block school districts and municipalities from informing the public about local ballot measures within two months of an election has left opponents pressuring Gov. Rick Snyder to veto the bill, which they say would keep voters in the dark about taxes and other issues. On Dec. 16, in the final hours of the Legislature’s last voting day of 2015, majority Republicans added the provision and others to campaign-finance legislation with no explanation and quickly passed the measure over objections from Democrats who said they were not told what was in it. Caught off guard, groups representing school officials, cities, libraries and other local entities are lobbying the Republican governor for a veto. He has until Jan. 11 to decide.
Dozens of candidates are expected to begin gathering signatures to get on the ballot in 2016 under a new election law, but a handful will face a steep, almost insurmountable climb in their bid for office. The way the new law is written, combined with a judge’s ruling and Republican Party rules, will mean some incumbents would have to get signatures from 1 of every 3 GOP voters in their districts. It is a daunting task that has some questioning the fairness of the new law and may ultimately result in a lawsuit. Utah Republican Party Chairman James Evans blames Count My Vote — the group of prominent Utah politicos who pushed for changes to open up the elections process — for forcing through changes for the 2016 election.
Wisconsin: Judge’s ruling a mixed bag for those challenging voter ID law | Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
A federal judge has thrown out portions of a challenge to Wisconsin’s voting laws but is allowing a key part of the lawsuit to proceed that could allow more types of identification to be used under the voter ID law. In his ruling last month, U.S. District Judge James Peterson in Madison also found the liberal One Wisconsin Institute could pursue its argument that recent restrictions on early voting violate the U.S. Constitution. The group brought its lawsuit in May, contending the voter ID law, limits on early voting and other policies were designed to make it harder for minorities, the poor and those backing Democrats to vote.
The year 2015 will go down in history as one of elections in Africa. Overall there were thirteen of them. According to observers, eligible voters realized the importance and civic duty to take part in the elections. For the first time in Nigeria’s history, a sitting president was defeated and accepted the outcome of the election. He later willingly handed over power to his main rival. In this case it was Goodluck Jonathan handing over power to Muhammadu Buhari. Six months later it was Burkina Faso’s turn to elect its new leader. Voters endured long queues at polling stations to elect a new leader, knowing that this time their vote counted, unlike in the past three decades under Blaise Compaore’s rule when the results were long certain.
Twenty-five candidates out of 28 have been cleared to run in the first round of next month’s presidential elections in the Indian Ocean archipelago of the Comoros, the Constitutional Court confirmed in a ruling on Saturday. All the remaining hopefuls come from the island of Grande Comore, which is next in line to hold the post in compliance with a 2001 constitutional provision stipulating that the presidency should rotate among the three islands that make up the Comoros.
As three German states prepare to hold local elections in March 2016, Turks, who make up the largest ethnic community in the country, seek voting rights. The 1-million-strong Turkish community in North Rhine-Westphalia launched a petition to win voting privileges, complaining of double standards in voting rights among foreigners. They demand the same voting rights held by citizens of European Union member states, who are granted the right to vote after residing in Germany for three months. Bahattin Demirci, an activist for Initiative to Vote in North Rhine-Westphalia, says it is unfair to give the right to EU citizens while Turks “who have served this country for the past 54 years” are exempted. Germany’s large Turkish population is the product of a post-World War Two economic development program which saw thousands of Turkish “guest workers” flock to the country.
The electoral commission of Ghana will not be compiling a new voter list to be used for the November 7 general election, despite calls by the main opposition, New Patriotic Party (NPP) to do so. Backed by other opposition and some civil society groups, the NPP petitioned the electoral commission, saying it has evidence that the current voter list is bloated with minors and non-citizens. The opposition party maintains the credibility of presidential, parliamentary and local elections will be undermined if the current voter list is not discarded and a new one compiled. The electoral commission had appointed an independent panel to look into the NPP’s concerns.
A commission charged with evaluating Haiti’s Oct. 25 presidential and legislative elections has found that egregious irregularities and a high presumption of fraud plagued the vote, while the electoral machine requires sweeping changes in order to hold a postponed runoff. According to official results, government-backed candidate Jovenel Moïse received 32.76 percent of the votes while Jude Célestin, the former head of the state construction agency, garnered 25.29 percent. Célestin, however, called the results a “ridiculous farce” and refused to campaign. Alleging vote-rigging and ballot-stuffing, Célestin and other opposition candidates called for an independent Haitian-led commission to probe the disputed balloting. The commission was created by President Michel Martelly on Dec. 22, five days before the postponed second round. On Sunday morning, members issued their findings, which critics say do not resolve the political crisis despite pointing out a series of major systemic problems besieging Haitian society.
Members of the small far-left Catalan party CUP (Popular Unity Candidacy) decided Sunday not to support a new term for the incumbent regional president Artur Mas, bringing down his plans for a pro-independence government and pushing the wealthy Spanish region towards a new election in March. The decision brought to an end months of negotiations between the pro-independence movement Junts pel sí (Together for Yes), which unites center-right and left parties, and the radical CUP, which wants Catalonia to leave Spain, the EU and NATO. The prospect of a new election in Catalonia, which only held its last regional vote at the end of September, adds to the political uncertainty in Spain after the December 20 national elections, in which no party — including incumbent Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s conservative Popular Party (PP) — got enough votes for a majority.