The regulation of political activity in Arizona took a contentious turn over the summer of 2015. What began as a disputed fine levied against an independent group known as the Legacy Foundation Action Fund after the 2014 gubernatorial election, now pits two prominent regulatory agencies against each other in a battle over the regulation of independent expenditures and the groups who run them. The ad in question focused its criticism on the U.S. Conference of Mayors and its president, Scott Smith. Though the ad ran in multiple states across the country, its message proved especially relevant for Arizonans who were considering Scott Smith, then the mayor of Mesa, AZ, as a candidate for governor in the Republican Primary. Shortly after the election, the Citizens Clean Elections Commission determined the ad constituted an “independent expenditure” advocating for the defeat of Scott Smith and imposed a $95k fine on the Foundation for failing to disclose their spending as a campaign expense.
Members and allies of the NAACP rallied against photo voter ID laws Tuesday morning in the Capitol rotunda for the group’s legislative lobby day, the day after voter ID was brought up in the Senate for a second time in two weeks. State and local leaders, including Secretary of State Jason Kander, State Auditor Nicole Galloway, Democratic Kansas City Rep. Brandon Ellington, and Ben Chapel – president of the NAACP’s Missouri Chapter, spoke to a group of supporters and called for action on photo voter ID, education, court reform and other issues. “Before we leave today, we will take our place in the Senate gallery and bare witness,” Chapel told the crowd. “Let’s go see everyone who stands in our way. Our way is the American way. We vote and we pay taxes.”
Montana: Thousands of voters will miss presidential primary because of election confusion | Billings Gazette
Every presidential election year, there’s a twist in Montana voting procedure that causes some voters to miss the primary. It all has to do with ballots. “That’s one of the problems with our hybrid election system in Montana,” said Brett Rutherford, Yellowstone County elections officer. The confusion begins this Friday when nearly every voter in Yellowstone County is mailed a ballot for school elections. All but one school district in Yellowstone County conducts mail-ballot-only elections, Rutherford said. The exception is tiny Custer School District, which has only a few hundred voters, who still have to go to a polling place to cast ballots.
Redistricting reform legislation designed to distance state senators from drawing politically charged congressional and legislative district maps jumped a last-ditch filibuster Wednesday and was enacted on a 29-15 vote. The bill (LB580) goes on to Gov. Pete Ricketts for his consideration and appears to face an uncertain fate. Several members of the Legislature privately confided that some of their colleagues were receiving text messages from the governor’s office expressing opposition to some of the bill’s provisions during Wednesday’s debate. Ricketts declined to express any opinion about the bill during a recent news conference.
A judge in New Jersey has ruled that Republican presidential hopeful Ted Cruz is a “natural-born citizen” under the US constitution and may run in the state’s primary elections in June. A group of residents had challenged the Texas senator’s eligibility for the presidency. He was born in Canada to a Cuban father and American mother. But Judge Jeff Masin found that Mr Cruz met the constitutional requirements. New Jersey’s Lt Governor, Kim Guadagno, is now expected to review the decision.
The secretary of state has made it official: Some 17-year-olds will be able to vote in this year’s primary election, although not until a new law takes effect May 18. That means they would miss the first eight days of early voting – offered in county clerks’ offices – but be able to vote after that, through the June 7 primary election. The Legislature this year passed, and the governor signed, a bill allowing 17-year-olds to vote in primaries if they will be 18 by the time of the general election. Because of the May 18 effective date, there was some uncertainty about how the new law would apply to this year’s election. But Secretary of State Brad Winter clarified it in a memo dated April 9 he sent to county clerks.
A lot has changed in the presidential primaries since 9 October 2015. Back then, a CBS News poll showed Hillary Clinton beating Bernie Sanders nationally by nearly 20 points; if Joe Biden had entered the race, the same poll suggested Clinton would beat Sanders by 24 points. She was, in the minds of many liberal voters, the inevitable Democratic nominee. Another CBS News poll showed Donald Trump with a slim six-point lead over Dr Ben Carson nationally and, after two almost cartoonish debate performances, most Republicans and pundits expected the businessman’s numbers to slide and eventually eliminate him from contention. Quietly on that same day, the New York state board of elections’ deadline to change party affiliation passed, leaving any registered voters not identified as a Republican or a Democrat with no way to vote in the 19 April 2016 primary.
Awkwardly-shaped state legislative districts drawn by North Carolina Republicans in 2011 went back on trial Monday, just two months after federal judges who heard similar arguments threw out some congressional boundaries as illegal racial gerrymanders. Voters in nine House districts and 19 Senate districts sued last year. The General Assembly maps have helped the GOP expand and retain its control of the legislature in in the 2012 and 2014 elections. State judges have previously upheld challenged legislative boundary lines in separate lawsuits. A three-judge panel February struck down the majority-black 1st and 12th Congressional Districts, forcing lawmakers to draw new lines and delay the congressional primaries until June. That court decision has raised expectations that the challenged legislative districts could also be struck down, forcing lawmakers to redraw them as well.
Ohio: Absentee ballot fix could impact general election after missing Summit County in the primary | Akron Beacon Journal
Instead of automatically tossing out more than 1,000 absentee ballots in March, innovation and a last-minute directive from state officials allowed Cleveland poll workers to count dozens of votes. After a spike last fall in absentee ballots lacking postmarks, state and county election officials began exploring ways to reduce the number of mail-in ballots that arrive after the election without proof that they were mailed out on time. Ballots that arrive within 10 days of an election may be counted if mailed before the election. The issue, locally, was big. Nearly 900 late ballots in Summit County lacked the sufficient postmark to determine the time of mailing. All were discounted, automatically. Cuyahoga County, which also saw a surge in troublesome ballots, took the lead in researching an alternative solution.
The Utah Republican Party doesn’t intend to comply with the state’s controversial election law, even after the Utah Supreme Court rejected its arguments that political parties and not candidates decide how to access the primary election ballot. The Utah GOP argues that the court’s ruling forces it to accept candidates who seek a nomination for office solely through the signature gathering process, which violates its bylaws, according to a new federal court filing Wednesday. “The party is concerned that a candidate will be certified and imposed on the party who does not satisfy the requirements and follow the rules,” attorneys Marcus Mumford and Christ Troupis wrote.
A judge must consider whether Wisconsin’s voter photo identification law applies to people who face daunting obstacles in obtaining identification, a three-judge federal appellate panel ruled Tuesday. The American Civil Liberties Union and the National Law Center for Homelessness and Poverty filed a federal lawsuit in 2011 challenging the law. U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman struck the law down in April 2014, saying it unfairly burdens poor and minority voters who may lack such identification. But a three-judge panel from the 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ultimately reversed him and upheld the law that October, ruling Wisconsin’s law is substantially similar to one in Indiana that the U.S. Supreme Court declared constitutional. The law was in effect for last week’s presidential primary.
Opposition politicians in Chad have claimed fraud during Sunday’s presidential election, but African Union (AU) observers say the poll, while flawed, was fair. Former Malian president and head of the AU observer mission to Chad, Diouncounda Traore, said issues included the late opening of polling stations in hard-to-access areas and poorly trained polling officers. He said he doesn’t know what will happen after the proclamation of the results, but the AU is urging all candidates and their followers to accept the verdict. He said those who are not satisfied with the results should contest them in the courts. Kamalloh Salifou Tourabi, leader of the Pan African Institute for Election Assistance observer mission, said that despite irregularities, voter participation was estimated at 85 percent. The opposition said there was fraud, including ballot stuffing.
On Sunday 5th June, Peru will see a second round of elections for the presidency of the Republic, between candidates Keiko Fujimori and Pedro Pablo Kuczynski. On the 12th of April, with 95.32% of votes officially counted, the Popular Forces party led by the daughter of a dictator convicted and imprisoned for crimes against humanity and corruption, Alberto Fujimori, went on to the second round with 39.74% of votes. The party furthermore constitutes the primary political force in Congress, enjoying an extraordinary majority. This also means that proposals for a new constitution are increasingly distant, as fujimorismo will defend the present one as the principal legacy of the dictator. If Keiko Fujimori becomes president, proposals for human rights and civil rights will be frozen in Congress, and the communities of those historically excluded will be in grave danger.
The breach could be the biggest-yet hack of government-held data, according to Trend Micro. A breach of the Philippines’ Commission on Elections (Comelec) affecting about 55 million people could be the largest hack of government-held data ever, according to security specialists. Government representatives have downplayed the seriousness of the breach, which took place late last month, but IT security firm Trend Micro said its analysis of the exposed data found that it included sensitive information such as passport numbers and fingerprint records. “Every registered voter in the Philippines is now susceptible to fraud and other risks,” Trend said in an advisory. “With 55 million registered voters in the Philippines, this leak may turn out as the biggest government related data breach in history.”
Syria: Elections held despite critics’ contention that they undermine peace talks | Los Angeles Times
Syrian television, the state news agency shows an anchor roaming a polling place as people shuffle toward ballot boxes, awkwardly avoiding eye contact. Some start dancing in the middle of the crowd, while off to the side a young girl recites a poem extolling the virtues of the homeland. “It is a duty upon every citizen to vote,” Inas Qaasem, a Damascus resident, told state television at a polling station. “They have the freedom to choose, that is the most important thing.” When asked how she had chosen her candidate, Qaasem smiled shyly and said “I don’t know. I didn’t read anything. I just saw that people were voting, and I decided to come and vote as well.” On Wednesday, 3,500 candidates vied for a place in Syria’s 250-seat parliament — though the result is not expected to be any different from that of previous elections, which have produced a quiescent parliament.
The Electoral Commission has announced that Vote Leave has been designated as the official lead campaign urging Britain to leave the European Union in the run-up to the June referendum. The decision will allow the group to spend up to £7m it has raised itself, and it will also be given £600,000 of taxpayers’ money to spend on the administration costs of running a campaign. It will also be able to send one leaflet to every home in Britain – although the government has infuriated Brexit campaigners by sending its own publicly funded leaflet already. Vote Leave, which has the support of cabinet ministers and prominent Conservatives including Michael Gove, Boris Johnson and Chris Grayling, and is chaired by the Labour MP Gisela Stuart, had been widely expected to be anointed as the lead group.
For 10 years, the Election Assistance Commission, the bipartisan federal agency created after the 2000 election debacle to help make voting easier and more standardized, has made it clear that prospective voters do not need to prove that they are American citizens before they may register. Anyone registering to vote with the federal voter-registration form, which can be used for both federal and state elections, must already sign a statement swearing that he or she is a citizen. Congress rejected a proposal to require documented proof as well, finding that the threat of criminal prosecution for a false statement was enough to deter fraud. This did not satisfy some states, like Kansas and Arizona, where Republican officials have fought for years to block voting by anyone who cannot come up with a birth certificate or a passport.
When the Presidential Commission on Election Administration held hearings around the country, the future of the Election Commission Administration came up regularly in discussions and testimony. The EAC had no Commissioners, and the concern was chiefly that it could not attend to its responsibility for voting machine standards and certification. There was also a sense that the absence of the EAC—amid indications of neglect, partisan stand-off, or both—highlighted the weakness of a national commitment to progress in professional election administration. The EAC was an invaluable resource for administrators, and, if it could steer clear of partisan conflict, it could perform a valuable service to the election administration community—and to the voters. The EAC then got enough Commissioners for a quorum and full operations. This was a period of considerable promise, and those working in the field moved quickly to engage with the EAC. For example, early on Ben Ginsberg and I sent a letter urging that the newly functional Commission initiate steps to improve the standard-setting and certification process for voting machines. The Commission subsequently acted, and it did so unanimously. EAC-sponsored discussions in which former PCEA Commissioners and election administrators participated heightened the expectation that the Commission could help mark out the ground for professional administration even in a period of intense political and other conflict over voting rights. There were warm and encouraging words all around.
Alaska: First oral arguments as GOP supporters attempt to loosen campaign donation limits | Alaska Dispatch
A federal judge on Monday heard the first arguments in a case that challenges the state’s limits on donations to political candidates and groups, setting the stage for a seven-day trial set to begin later this month. The lawsuit against the state — brought by three supporters of Republican candidates and an Anchorage Republican district committee — has its roots in recent federal cases that have equated free speech with campaign contributions. The Alaska Republican Party District 18 in Anchorage and the three individual plaintiffs want U.S. District Judge Timothy Burgess to strike down annual limits on contributions from political parties and nonresidents, as well as the $500 annual limit that individuals can make to candidates and to groups other than political parties. The trial is set to begin April 25 in Anchorage.
Bernie Sanders won one more delegate in Colorado than first projected after the Colorado Democratic Party admitted this week that it misreported the March 1 caucus results from 10 precinct locations. The party discovered the discrepancy a week after the caucus but did not correct the public record. Hillary Clinton’s campaign discussed the error with state party officials last week, but the Sanders campaign apparently didn’t realize the issue until being informed Monday evening by The Denver Post. The mistake is a minor shift with major implications. The new projection now shows the Vermont senator winning 39 delegates in Colorado, compared to 27 for Clinton.
Indiana lawmakers have enacted a significant change for anyone casting a straight-party ballot. A new state law requires that those opting for just one party on the ballot take the additional steps of selecting individual candidates in all at-large races, according to one of the bill’s sponsors, Rep. David Ober, R-Albion. No ballots will be cast in at-large races without taking these additional few steps, he said. The change was enacted because when those casting a straight-party ballot on electronic equipment chose to support candidates of the opposing party in at-large races, those latter changes were not being counted, Ober said.
For the second time in two elections, a “technical glitch” stalled the Ouachita Parish Clerk of Court’s Office in completing election returns Saturday night. Over 50 minutes elapsed before election results were updated on the Secretary of State’s website at about 10:15 p.m. At the time, less than 10 precincts remained out across three local elections. Ouachita Parish Clerk of Court Louise Bond said equipment including laptops and readers are brought in from the Secretary of State’s office for the election. “We have a computer that has a reader and sometimes they don’t read, and we had a glitch in it,” she said. Cartridges that register votes from each precinct are brought to the clerk’s office where they are electronically read. Bond said the reader was unable to extract information from a cartridge that came from western Ouachita Parish.
With the recent dismissal of a voter fraud case against a former Olathe woman, Secretary of State Kris Kobach has secured just one conviction in his effort to crack down on illegal voting in Kansas. But more convictions are coming, Kobach told The Star on Tuesday. He is expecting a guilty plea in a voter fraud case by Friday and another by the end of the month. The conservative Republican pushed for legislation last year that gave him the authority to prosecute voter fraud. Gov. Sam Brownback signed the measure last summer, making Kobach the only secretary of state in the nation with such power. At the time, Kobach said he had identified more than 100 potential instances of double voting, casting ballots in the same election in different jurisdictions. Kobach announced three voter fraud cases last October and three more in January. One of the October cases resulted in a guilty plea in December, and one was dismissed last Friday.
Editorials: Kris Kobach offers new, lame defense for his ineptitude on voter ‘fraud’ | Yael T. Abouhalkah/The Kansas City Star
Kris Kobach should be apologizing to former Olathe resident Betty Gaedtke instead of puffing himself up over his pursuit of voter fraud in Kansas. The secretary of state offered a laughable defense Tuesday of his so-far lame pursuit of unlawful voting in the Sunflower State. “Six prosecutions in nine months is actually moving at a pretty good pace, and more will be coming in the months ahead,” he told The Star. Actually, it’s one successful prosecution, one embarrassing total strikeout and four pending cases. Last Friday, Kobach meekly gave up his pursuit of Gaedtke, dismissing all charges against her. That canceled a trial set to start in Johnson County on Monday. Kobach wound up dragging Gaedtke’s name through the mud since last October — when he announced with great fanfare unlawful voting suits against three people, including Gaedtke and her husband.
A bill to allow no-excuse early voting in Kentucky is dead for this year. Legislation proposed by Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes cleared the House, but never came up for a vote in the Senate. The legislation was aimed at boosting voter turnout in Kentucky. Currently, voters must have a qualifying reason to vote early. Grimes was the leading supporter of the bill. She expressed frustration that the measure won’t be passed this year. “I’ve traveled the state and people feel it’s something that we should already have,” Grimes stated. “Much like online voter registration, it’s something they expect.”
Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted went to court Monday to overturn a judge’s order last month that kept polls open an extra hour because of a traffic jam. It’s too late to do anything about that March 15 order, but Husted wants to keep it from happening again, especially in the presidential election this fall. The “notice of appeal” filed Monday in U.S. District Court doesn’t make any legal arguments. It is, however, a first step toward a full-blown appeal of the controversial order issued by U.S. District Judge Susan Dlott as polls were closing March 15. “We can’t change it at this point,” Husted spokesman Josh Eck said of Dlott’s order. “Our appeal is based on principle. We don’t want this to be a precedent going forward, that this kind of order is acceptable.”
A challenge to what 12 Democratic voters claim is “one of the worst partisan gerrymanders in American history” is headed to trial in Wisconsin next month. The voters sued the individual members of Wisconsin’s Government Accountability Board in 2015, claiming that Republican lawmakers secretly crafted and hurriedly passed a redistricting plan that would give them overwhelming – and unfair – control of the state legislature. The Government Accountability Board oversees election activity in the state. However, the panel is in the process of being dismantled as the result of reforms signed into law by Gov. Scott Walker in December. In June it will be replaced with new elections and ethics commissions. On Dec. 17, 2015, a three-judge district court panel denied defendants’ motion to dismiss the case, concluding the plaintiffs’ allegations were sufficient to state a plausible claim. The defendants then filed a motion for summary judgment, which the three-judge panel denied (pdf) on Thursday.
The Internet remained mysteriously cut in Chad’s capital on Monday a day after elections held amid tight security, which are expected to see President Idriss Deby extend his 26-year rule. Some foreign television media, who had worked until Sunday evening, were meanwhile unable to cover the post-election situation because they had not received authorisation from the communications ministry, by the middle of the day. Mobile Internet was suspended from Sunday morning, while fixed Internet went out in the evening in N’Djamena, and text messages could not be sent over the local phone network. The online blackout, which occurred without official explanation, was preventing discussion about how the election had gone. The situation was reminiscent of that in Congo, where authorities cut all communications — Internet, phone and texts — for four days for presidential elections on March 20.
The Italian parliament passed Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s flagship constitutional reform on Tuesday, opening the way for a referendum later this year on an overhaul aimed at giving Italy more stable governments. Renzi says the reform will increase political stability and end decades of revolving-door governments that have made it difficult to revive the country’s debt-ridden economy. He has promised to resign if the referendum goes against him. The reform effectively abolishes the Senate as an elected chamber and sharply restricts its ability to veto legislation. In the current system, the upper and lower houses of parliament have equal powers.
Peru’s election, wrought with allegations of fraud and the questionable application of campaign rules that shrouded the final weeks before voting day in uncertainty, has garnered a stern report from observers, who have called for deep reforms to the country’s electoral system, local media reported Tuesday. The Organization of American States mission found that Sunday’s general elections were threatened by political insecurity for voters brought on by the last-minute disqualifications and lasting uncertainty about who would be on the ballot up to 48 hours before polls open. The mission called for an overhaul of the disqualifications system, arguing that in its current form, electoral authorities are not able to guarantee the political rights of voters or candidates.