At some point next year, the U.S. Supreme Court is likely to face a major First Amendment question: whether to overturn what remains of the 2002 McCain-Feingold Act. This measure prohibited political parties from raising “soft money”—unlimited funds that wealthy individuals, corporations, and labor unions could give to parties, thanks to a loophole in the post-Watergate campaign-finance laws. Such a ruling would allow political parties once again to take millions of additional dollars from donors who, as the Supreme Court found in 2003, use soft money to ingratiate themselves to election officials and secure access to them. How the Court rules is likely to determine whether the wealthiest donors will have an easier path to secure that access—and whether the rest of the country will suffer as a result. A special three-judge federal district court has been convened in Washington, D.C., to consider the law in light of recent campaign-finance rulings by higher courts. The suit, brought by the Republican Party of Louisiana, is being litigated by Jim Bopp, the attorney who successfully navigated Citizens United and other related cases to the Supreme Court. A key argument in the suit is that cases like Citizens United have called into question the constitutionality of the “soft-money” ban. Chief Justice John Roberts, in the 2014 McCutcheon case, seemed to invite such a challenge, raising the possibility that money given to strengthen parties deserves special First Amendment protection.
Arizona: Dark money group leads last-minute effort to speed up campaign finance changes | Tucson Sentinel
Arizona is already poised to relax rules regarding so-called “dark money” groups starting next year, but a last-minute amendment from the state Senate could make the changes go into effect in less than a month. The proposal to accelerate the dark money regulation changes came late Thursday, as an amendment to HB 2296, and originated with the Arizona Free Enterprise Club, a dark money group that spent about $1.7 million during the 2014 election cycle.
Steve Kriston is accustomed to insults from shoppers. Some tell him to get a job when he solicits signatures to qualify measures for California’s ballot. This is my job, he responds. It’s a banner year for paid signature-gatherers like Kriston, who came to San Diego after three months working in Orlando, Florida, on state ballot measures there. He is weighing offers to move to Missouri and Minnesota after California’s season ends. The Hungarian immigrant now makes more than the $1,200 to $1,500 a week he earned as a truck driver. In California, always a hotbed for voter initiatives, sponsors are paying up to $5.50 a signature, well above the $1 to $3 in previous statewide elections. “No one has ever seen prices anywhere in this ballpark,” said Steven Maviglio, a longtime political consultant in California.
The chance that Colorado’s unaffiliated voters might be able to participate in an open presidential primary in 2020 has dropped — at least for now — after state legislators Friday proposed a new compromise bill. Backed by a bipartisan group of sponsors, the Senate bill was racing to get through the General Assembly in the final days of the session, which ends Wednesday. It would reinstate the primary on the third Tuesday of March for presidential selections — but keep it closed to unaffiliated voters, as the major political parties prefer. The bill, which faces some resistance, raises the stakes before a potential November ballot measure that would force a statewide vote on the issue.
Florida has 12 million registered voters, but the only one named Zakee Furqan stands out. The 42-year-old Jacksonville landscaper voted year after year until police received a complaint that he used to be Leon Nelson, who lost his right to vote when he was convicted of second-degree murder. After Furqan left prison, he registered to vote and swore that he was not a felon, records show. Prosecutors tried Furqan on five felony counts of voter fraud, but the case ended in a hung jury in February after six people could not agree that he broke the law. The Furqan case illustrates that cases of voter fraud are not only rare but hard to prove. Yet the illusion of widespread cheating by voters continues to hover over democracy — like a bogeyman at the ballot box. This is, after all, Florida, a place still haunted by the 2000 recount with its hanging chads and headache-inducing “butterfly ballot.”
Democrats considering changes in the Iowa caucus process heard advice Saturday from an unusual source: Republicans. Republican Party of Iowa Chairman Jeff Kaufmann and veteran GOP activist David Oman spoke at the first meeting of the Iowa Democratic Party’s 20-member caucus review committee. The committee was organized after Democrats drew complaints and concerns about their historically close Feb 1. caucuses. Some of the Democrats on the committee indicated an interest in borrowing from the GOP process. Some even suggested using a simple vote to determine the caucus winner rather than intricate dance of preference groups and delegate equivalents that make the Democrats’ process seem obscure and inaccessible.
A second Brooklyn Board of Elections official is expected to be suspended Thursday over New York’s primary day snafu that led many voters to be turned away at the polls. Betty Ann Canizio-Aqil, a BOE chief clerk in Brooklyn, is expected to be suspended after a vote at 3:30 pm by the board’s commissioners, sources told the Daily News.
New York: Elections Board Certifies Primary Vote, Rejects 91,000 Provisional Ballots | The Indypendent
After presiding over a chaotic Democratic presidential primary on April 19, the New York City Board of Elections released its certified election results Friday afternoon showing that it has rejected 91,000 provisional affidavit ballots, or about three out of every four cast that day. Diana Finch, who has served as a poll worker for nearly a decade, said the number of affidavit ballots in her Bronx election district far exceeded the usual number. “The envelopes that are provided to each election district to put the affidavit ballots in were all filled to bursting at my poll site, we had to squeeze the affidavit ballots in,” Finch told The Indypendent. “Clearly the Board of Elections never anticipated having so many affidavits.”
A week after a federal judge upheld sweeping changes in North Carolina voting laws, The New York Times reported that studies focused on the centerpiece of the changes – the requirement of a photo ID to vote – have found that more than 1 in 10 adult Americans lack a government-issued ID and “compared with whites, the share of minorities without photo IDs is far higher.” The Times story focused on elections in Texas where a voter ID law adopted in 2013 continues in effect pending appeal despite being struck down by courts three times. The story cites the campaign of former U.S. Rep. Pete Gallego, who lost his seat by a narrow margin that may well have reflected the effects of the photo ID law. “It’s tremendously undemocratic in a democratic society when you deliberately disenfranchise thousands of people,” he said. “Turnout is good for the system.”
A lawsuit challenging Texas’ voter ID law, filed by a judge on the state’s highest criminal court, was abruptly withdrawn Wednesday, only one day after a Dallas appeals court heard oral arguments on whether the lawsuit should be allowed to continue. Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Larry Meyers, the only Democrat in statewide office after switching parties in 2013, was seeking to have the voter ID law thrown out, arguing that it exceeded the power granted to the Legislature by the Texas Constitution.
Virginia: State works to help registrars verify felons’ voting rights restored | Richmond Times-Dispatch
Trust, but verify. Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s administration is taking to heart President Ronald Reagan’s famous maxim as the state works with local registrars to verify that felons’ voting rights were restored when the governor signed an order April 22 that opened the door to full civil rights for more than 206,000 Virginians who have done their time for felony convictions. For many, verification has required nothing more than a quick search in one of two state databases fully updated a week after McAuliffe’s order to show when felons’ rights had been restored. Almost 2,100 had registered to vote by midday Thursday.
Republican legislators in Virginia are threatening to sue Gov. Terry McAuliffe to block his executive order restoring voting rights to more than 200,000 residents who have completed their felony sentences. The lawmakers have no good legal case, and worse, such a suit would be affirming Virginia’s racist history. Virginia is one of just four states — along with Iowa, Florida and Kentucky — that continue to impose a lifetime voting ban on people convicted of felonies. In recent years, both Democratic and Republican governors have worked to lift this burden, either by streamlining the application process for individuals or trying to restore rights to specific classes of people, like those convicted of nonviolent felonies.
The intent of Virginia’s ban on voting by convicted felons was to weaken the political power of black people, whose electoral clout was abhorrent to the racists who enacted the prohibition a century ago. Today, Virginia Republicans, who have done their utmost to dilute minority voting by enacting arbitrary voter-ID requirements, are animated by the same idea. Determined to block any surge in African American electoral participation in November, which would mainly benefit Democrats, they are planning litigation to challenge Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s executive order that restores voting rights to more than 200,000 former convicts who have finished serving their felony sentences. When Richmond’s GOP leaders embarked on their campaign to tighten voter-ID laws, they could cite no widespread or credible problem with fraud at the polls. Today, similarly, they can point to no constitutional language preventing Mr. McAuliffe, a Democrat, from restoring voting rights to ex-convicts — something that takes place routinely in most states.
The issue of people voting in the wrong delegate district may be bigger than the Kanawha County Clerk originally thought. Vera McCormick’s staff was able to identify 10 people who originally voted in the wrong district — one in Precinct 416, two in Precinct 175, five in Precinct 403 and two in Precinct 277. The problem comes from voters being placed in precincts that don’t correspond with the delegate district in which they live. The clerk’s office has arranged it so that when people from affected areas come in to vote, they will receive a ballot for the correct delegate district. But the problem may be bigger than what McCormick originally stated.
Australia’s prime minister on Sunday officially called a July 2 election and put economic management at the forefront of his campaign to win a second three-year term for his conservative coalition during an era of extraordinary volatility in the country’s politics. Kicking off a two-month election campaign, Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull said a center-left Labor Party win would prevent the Australian economy diversifying from a mining industry that had been hit hard by the Chinese slowdown and the associated falls in the prices of iron ore and coal, Australia’s most lucrative exports.
Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov said on May 8 that he believed that President Rossen Plevneliev was correct to veto amendments to the Electoral Code, and he was prepared to make changes but first would have to speak to minority coalition government partner the Patriotic Front. Plevneliev’s office announced on May 7 that the head of state was sending back to the National Assembly controversial changes to the rules for voting abroad seen as limiting the franchise rights of Bulgarian expatriates. It was the nationalist Patriotic Front, part of the governing coalition agreement although it does not have seats in the Cabinet, that drove these amendments, in a move largely seen as directed against the Movement for Rights and Freedoms and its electoral stronghold in Turkey.
Japan: Age 18: 2.4 million new voters / Teachers worry about staying neutral on politics | The Japan News
“How should we respond if students ask us what we think of today’s political parties?” In late March, a Tokyo high school principal posed this question to members of the government’s Education Rebuilding Implementation Council, who were visiting the school to observe a mock election being held there. A senior official of the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry who was accompanying the visitors advised, “Avoid saying, ‘I think that …. ’” With the voting age soon to be lowered to 18, teachers are worried about how to deal with political neutrality. The Fundamental Law of Education stipulates that “[Schools] must not carry out political education or other political activities in support of, or in opposition to, a particular political party.”
Lebanese voted Sunday in municipal elections in Beirut and the Bekaa Valley amid tight security and a low turnout in the capital that has recently seen the largest anti-government protests in years following a months-long trash crisis. Security was tight in the country as authorities took strict measures to guarantee that the vote passed without trouble. Lebanon was hit by a wave of bombings in recent years that killed scores of people and Syria’s civil war has spilled over in the past.
Voting for a new Philippine president began on Monday with a brash challenger to the political establishment the favorite to win after campaigning on pledges to crush crime and corruption. Many voters in Manila had to line up in blazing sunshine for more than an hour to cast their votes, and there were several reports of electronic voting machine hitches, which could dash the election commission’s hope to declare a victor in 24 hours. The election campaign exposed widespread disgust with the Southeast Asian country’s ruling elite for failing to tackle poverty and inequality despite years of robust economic growth. Tapping into that sentiment, Rodrigo Duterte, mayor of the southern city of Davao, emerged as the front runner by brazenly defying political tradition, much as Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has done in the United States.
Voting has begun in the Philippines in a general election that opinion surveys suggest will see a tough-taking mayor, dubbed “the Punisher” for his lax attitude to extrajudicial killings, clinch the presidency. Rodrigo Duterte, a 71-year-old ex-prosecutor, has run an obscenity-filled campaign in which he has boasted about Viagra-fuelled affairs and joked about raping a missionary. Rights groups allege Duterte allowed death squads to kill more than 1,000 suspected criminals during his two decades as mayor of Davao city, an accusation he has at times denied and at other times bragged about. Philippines’ ‘Duterte Harry’: the would-be president accused of using vigilante squads The political establishment has warned that years of solid economic growth is threatened and foreign governments have looked on with trepidation as the country is a key regional player in the South China Sea dispute with Beijing. The front-page headline of the Philippine Star newspaper on Monday summed up the anxiety: “It’s judgment day”.