Editorials: Kansas Secretary Of State Says His Voter Suppression Crusade Is Meant To ‘Protect Immigrants’ | ThinkProgress

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R) is headed to Capitol Hill this afternoon to tell lawmakers he fears the President’s action protecting millions of young immigrants and their parents from deportation will lead to a spike in voter fraud. “It’s a very real problem of aliens registering to vote, sometimes unwittingly,” Kobach told ThinkProgress earlier this week. “They go to get a drivers’ license, and the person at the DMV says, ‘Hey, would you like to register to be an organ donor and register to vote?’ So some are given the misimpression by the clerk that they are entitled to register to vote. We have plenty of cases like this. And if you increase the population of people who are not US citizens getting drivers licenses, it necessarily follows that these errors that keep happening would increase as well.” Citing what he calls President’s Obama’s “recent controversial en-mass deferred action,” Kobach is pushing a policy he has advocated since long before the President’s executive order: requiring proof of citizenship for everyone registering to vote, even though Kansas’ and Arizona’s attempts to do this have been ruled illegal. Continuing his argument that undocumented people are “unwittingly” committing felony-level voter fraud, Kobach told ThinkProgress that his policy is really about keeping immigrants safe.

Editorials: ‘Election delay does not signal death of Nigeria’s democracy – yet’ | Simon Allison/The Guardian

So Nigerians will not be voting on Valentine’s Day after all. The new date is 28 March, the delay officially justified by the worsening Boko Haram-inspired insecurity in the north-east, and the military’s refusal to guarantee the safety of the poll. “The security agencies reiterated that they will be concentrating their attention to the insurgency and may not be able to play its traditional role in providing security during the elections,” said Attahiru Jega, chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission. The announcement late on Saturday sparked a flurry of outrage both within Nigeria and abroad, with Nigeria’s democracy viewed as the main victim. Few bought Jega’s statement, seeing instead the underhand machinations of under-fire President Goodluck Jonathan and his ruling People’s Democratic Party.

Editorials: 5 Ways To Fix America’s Dismal Voter Turnout Problem | ThinkProgress

Voter turnout in the U.S. during the last midterm election hit the lowest point since the 1940s. The number of Americans heading to the polls each election has been declining for the last fifty years and lawmakers have recently been pushing efforts to keep even more people away from the polls. People do not exercise their right to vote for various reasons, some of which are easier to solve than others. According to a U.S. … Voters can already use their smartphones in some cities to simplify daily tasks like tracking how long they have to wait for a bus or train. So why shouldn’t information about polling places be available online? Joe Kiniry, the principal investigator with computer science company Galois, said that while he was working in Denmark, he helped to build a system voters could use to figure out the length of lines at polling places. “Of course it’s doing that by watching people’s cell phones as they walk into the polling place and figuring out how long it took you to get to the front of the line, how long it took you to leave,” he said. “So in the adoption of this cheap, easy technology… we’ve now traded off the cost and efficiency of an election with the privacy of voters.”

Editorials: The Future Of Voter Suppression Is Before The Supreme Court | Ian Millhiser/ThinkProgress

A petition asking the Supreme Court to consider the fate of Wisconsin’s voter ID law begins with a powerful quote: “There is no right more basic in our democracy than the right to participate in electing our political leaders.” Yet, this quote may prove more revealing than the authors of this petition may have intended, as these words do not come from a court decision upholding the right to vote. Rather, they are the opening line of Chief Justice John Roberts’ decision in McCutcheon v. FEC, a case which made it easier for wealthy donors to influence elections. The question facing the Supreme Court in Frank v. Walker, the Wisconsin voter ID case, cuts much closer to the “right to participate in electing our political leaders” than McCutcheon did. McCutcheon struck down a $123,200 cap on donations to federal candidates and political committees — a decision that, by its very nature, only benefited the very wealthy. Frank, by contrast, will consider to what extent illusionary concerns can justify restrictions on the right to vote itself. Yet, if the Roberts Court’s past is prologue, they are unlikely to pay the same regard for the actual right to vote that they do for the right of wealthy individuals to use their fortunes to influence elections. The plaintiffs’ petition asking the Court to hear Frank was filed last month. Wisconsin’s response to that petition is due to the justices on Monday.

Editorials: Changing The Way We Vote Isn’t Getting More People To Vote | Amy Walter/Cook Report

California is the closest thing we have to a political lab for engineering a solution for the country’s voter apathy problem. From permanent absentee voting to term limits and redistricting reform and now a top-two primary system, California has tried just about every remedy imagined to help boost voter participation in the state. The result: turn-out in the Golden State last year for both the primary and general election was the lowest it has been in recorded history. Did reform fail? Was it a failure of candidates themselves? Or is there something more that California’s lack of voter interest can tell us about why/how reforms to voting systems impact actual voting behavior? At a conference organized by the Institute of Governmental Studies at the University of California at Berkeley – called California Votes 2014 – some of the smartest and most plugged-in political professionals in the state tried to diagnose the state’s lack of interest in the 2014 election. Before we get to the question of why voters didn’t turn out, it’s notable that California’s low turn-out election didn’t bring Republicans the success they found in other parts of the country last year. Democrats actually swept all seven of the Golden state’s partisan offices and picked up one seat in the House. The joke out in California is that the GOP wave of 2014 stopped at the foot of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Some have attributed this to the younger and more diverse (i.e, heavily Hispanic) electorate. But, the Latino turn-out was just 15 percent – 4 points less than it was in 2012. And, young people didn’t show up either.

Editorials: Can Open-Source Voting Tech Fix the U.S. Elections System? | Techonomy

American voting technology is trapped in the last millennium. This lifeline to democracy is kept secret—closed off from public inspection and controlled by large businesses. It is decades old to boot. Our voting methods ought to be at least as cutting edge as our selfie apps, but they’re not. “Our nation’s elections systems and technology are woefully antiquated. They are officially obsolete,” says Greg Miller of the TrustTheVote Project, an initiative to make our voting system accurate, verifiable, transparent, and secure. He adds: “It’s crazy that citizens are using twentieth-century technology to talk to government using twentieth-century technology to respond.” Miller and others are on a mission to change that with an entirely new voting infrastructure built on open-source technology. They say open source, a development model that’s publicly accessible and freely licensed, has the power to upend the entire elections technology market, dislodging incumbent voting machine companies and putting the electorate at the helm. With Miller’s system, we’d still go to the polls to vote and use a machine to cast our ballot. But the software on that machine would be completely open to public inspection. While coders wouldn’t be able to edit or tamper with the code, technically literate citizens would be able to, in effect, cross-examine the processes tabulating all of our votes, verifying their integrity and assuring accountability.

Editorials: Kris Kobach’s bill on straight-ticket voting in Kansas is not helpful | The Kansas City Star

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s voting proposals have always been about marginalizing certain citizens and smoothing the way for Republican candidates. This year’s crop of ideas, a couple of which unfortunately are moving in the Legislature, is more of the same. The House Elections Committee has recommended that the full House pass a Kobach bill to restore straight-ticket voting in Kansas. Combine that with a proposal by Gov. Sam Brownback, which Kobach supports, to move elections for local and judicial races from the spring to the fall, and you can see where this is headed. Brownback and Kobach would love nothing more than to engineer a partisan takeover of local races by creating long ballots with a tempting option at the top to simply vote the ticket.

Editorials: Election law changes aid politicians | Dan Walters/The Sacramento Bee

When politicians tinker with the laws governing their own elections, one should view their proposals with a guilty-until-proven-innocent attitude. Almost always, the politicians proclaim that they are acting in the public interest to make elections fairer. And almost always, election law changes would improve the politicians’ chances of holding their offices or advancing up the political food chain. The most obvious example of the syndrome is redistricting – altering the boundaries of legislative, congressional, city council, county supervisor or school trustee districts to comply with population shifts. Self-serving gerrymanders had become so common in California that the state’s voters finally shifted the power over legislative and congressional districts from the Legislature to an independent commission.

Editorials: Nevada recall campaigns face hurdles | Joshua Spivak/Las Vegas Review-Journal

Enraged by political maneuvering that resulted in moderate Republican John Hambrick being elected speaker-designate of the state Assembly, Nevada conservatives are preparing a recall petition to kick Hambrick out of office. If this recall came to pass, Nevada would be following other states — in the past 21 years, five states have had legislative leaders face recall elections. But the tea party types should not hold their collective breath — because of the quirks of Nevada law, a recall is much harder to get on the ballot in the Silver State than in many other places in the United States. Using recall elections to target legislative leaders has been a popular, bipartisan undertaking in recent years. It started in 1994, when California Senate President Pro Tempore David Roberti, a Democrat who was already term-limited, faced a recall over his support for gun control legislation. Roberti easily survived the recall, although he lost the Democratic primary for state treasurer. California also got to see a recall used the next year against Doris Allen, a Republican and an independent, who was briefly made speaker after she switched her vote to support the Democrats retaining control of the Assembly. Allen stepped down from the speakership before the recall, and then was trounced in the ensuing election.

Editorials: Five Years After Citizens United, Signs of a Backlash | Sarah Knight/Newsweek

In the five years since the Citizens United decision was handed down, there has been plenty of evidence to document the magnitude of the flow of dark money and the effects it has had on American politics. In one of the most impassioned moments of the State of the Union address, President Obama decried the corrosive influence of anonymous money in politics. “A better politics is one where we spend less time drowning in dark money for ads that pull us into the gutter,” he said. His comment could not have been more timely, coming as it did a day before the fifth anniversary of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which allowed corporations and labor unions to engage in unlimited spending to advocate for or against candidates. Advocacy groups used the occasion (and the Twitter hashtag #CU5) to start new conversations about the impact big money is having on our democracy, and how to fix it. The Brennan Center hosted a summit on the topic with Common Cause, Demos and others. The American Constitution Society delved into one of the ruling’s more insidious effects: In states where judges are elected, the judiciary is effectively for sale. The Center for American Progress talked about how to mitigate the decision’s impact through executive action.

Editorials: Low-turnout Los Angeles perfect place to test innovative election ideas | Joe Matthews/San Francisco Chronicle

Like a man who bangs his head against the wall to cure a headache, Los Angeles will hold more municipal elections this March. The certain result: another low-turnout embarrassment that draws the usual lamentations about how our democracy is in peril. Enough crying. If California’s civic leaders are so sure that Los Angeles elections are democratic disasters, then why don’t they declare an official state of emergency? In other California contexts, disasters draw interventions and lead to big changes. After an earthquake or fire, officials can declare emergencies and take decisive action without following the usual regulations. When California school districts don’t meet academic standards or go underwater financially, the state can take them over. When law enforcement agencies fail, the courts or the federal government can assume oversight.

Editorials: The Rise of Dark Money and the Koch Party | Ron Fournier/National Journal

This week may be remembered as the birth of the Koch Party. A usurper of the GOP and a rival to Democrats, the network of conservative advocacy groups backed by Charles and David Koch pledged Monday to spend $889 million on the 2016 election. Financially, the tax-exempt Koch coalition could be as big as either of the two major parties, spending more than the combined 2004 campaign budgets of President George W. Bush and Democratic challenger John Kerry. Koch operatives will poll, track, and target voters—mirroring the activities of a traditional political party. Except for one thing: dark money. The Democratic and Republican parties are required by law to disclose their donors. Not so for outside groups. While the Koch alliance disclosed some of its contributors last year, most of its money comes from anonymous sources. Secrecy breeds distrust, if not corruption, as voters are left to guess what politicians do to repay their donors.

Editorials: Digital Democracy? – Yes, Please; but Not Online Voting | Glyn Moody/ComputerworldUK

It is a sign of the times that the Speaker of the House of Commons – not the first person that comes to mind as being part of the digital age – has established a Digital Democracy Commission to look into ways to re-imagine democracy for the connected world. With one important exception – that concerning online voting – its recommendations are sensible and to be welcomed. … Enabling people to vote online would indeed draw in many young people who otherwise wouldn’t vote, and that’s hugely important. So why am I against the idea? Well, the report quotes a good encapsulation of the key issues here by the Open Rights Group:

Voting is a uniquely difficult question for computer science: the system must verify your eligibility to vote; know whether you have already voted; and allow for audits and recounts. Yet it must always preserve your anonymity and privacy. Currently, there are no practical solutions to this highly complex problem and existing systems are unacceptably flawed.

Editorials: Want to Vote? Get Fingerprinted. | Bloomberg View

Fingerprints can now be used to unlock smart phones, car engines, even guns. Why not ballots, too? A New Mexico legislator has just proposed that his state’s election officials study the feasibility of a biometric voter identification system. The idea is simple enough: Rather than require voters to show a particular type of document that not everyone possesses, the law could require election officials to collect a piece of information — a finger image or an eye scan — from all voters, which would confirm their identity at the polls. The political appeal of the idea is clear: Republicans would have the ID laws they claim are needed to protect against voter fraud. And Democrats would have a system that doesn’t disproportionately hurt minorities and the poor. Both parties could declare victory in the war over voter ID and move on.

Editorials: Compulsory voting, much like democracy, beats the alternatives | Lisa Hill/The Conversation

Queenslanders will soon head to the voting booths to either oust or re-elect the Newman government and no doubt some will be wondering why. “Why must I vote or be fined? Why must I be forced to choose who leads my society when I’d rather save myself the trip and stay home?” Victorian Liberal MP Bernie Finn criticised Australia’s compulsory voting laws after the Victorian state election in November. He said: To force people to vote who don’t want to be there, who don’t know what they are doing, is frankly quite ludicrous. While, at first glance, Finn’s claims might ring true, many experts consider Australia’s electoral system to be one of the finest in the world. The majority of Australians apparently share this view: 70% approve of compulsory voting. For decades, compulsory voting has done what it was supposed to do: maintain high and socially even turnout levels that are the envy of the industrialised voluntary-voting world. Prior to its introduction at the federal level in 1924, turnout was hovering in the 50–60% range (of registered voters). Since then, it has remained steady for many decades at around 93%.

Editorials: The Growing Shadow of Political Money | New York Times

Like bettors checking Las Vegas odds on the Super Bowl, specialists in the nation’s booming campaign finance industry are tracking the action in the 2016 elections, not so much to assess the candidates as to see how much of a payout is likely this time around in the grand casino of American politics. The record total of $6.3 billion spent on the presidential and congressional elections of 2012 is only the starting point. Estimates of next year’s likely total are running between $7.5 billion and $8 billion. This moneyed universe is certain to keep expanding as the political industry’s managers and their candidates master the unlimited fund-raising and spending devices they now have at hand. The sheer numbers should be enough to raise public alarm. But needed reforms are going nowhere, with too many congressional members busy bolstering their incumbency with the help of the same large-scale donors. In last year’s elections, the 100 biggest campaign check writers gave $323 million, plus many millions more in anonymous donations to politically active “social welfare” groups and other new money troughs. According to a report by Politico, total spending by the 100 ultra-donors exceeded that of the 4.75 million ordinary Americans who made smaller donations of $200 or less.

Editorials: Party insiders would be big winners if Los Angeles switches election timing | Bernard C. Parks/Los Angeles Times

f two charter amendments headed to Los Angeles voters March 3 get approved, it will make it next to impossible for candidates who aren’t party insiders, or the darlings of labor or business interests, to run for and win city office in L.A. Charter Amendment 1 and Charter Amendment 2 would move city and school board elections to June and November in even years from March and May in odd years to coincide with state and federal elections. The professed goal is to increase voter turnout, but I believe that’s a smokescreen. The proposals miss that objective while tilting the playing field in favor of special interests and in ways detrimental to good representation for residents. First, there’s turnout. Higher turnout alone doesn’t necessarily mean a higher percentage of voters who are engaged and knowledgeable on local races and issues. Besides, voter turnout in three of our last four odd-year city elections for mayor actually exceeded the even-year turnout, which has been especially weak in primary elections. Yet primaries are where most of our local elections get decided (over that period, 78% of City Council and school-board elections were determined in primaries). So the promise of voter turnout rings false.

Editorials: The Supreme Court’s Billion-Dollar Mistake by David Cole | David Cole/The New York Review of Books

Five years ago this week, in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the Supreme Court decided to allow unlimited amounts of corporate spending in political campaigns. How important was that decision? At the time, some said criticism of the decision was overblown, and that fears that it would give outsize influence to powerful interests were unfounded. Now, the evidence is in, and the results are devastating. To coincide with the decision’s fifth anniversary, eight public interest organizations—the Brennan Center for Justice, Common Cause, Public Citizen, Demos, U.S. PIRG, Public Campaign, Justice at Stake, and the Center for Media and Democracy—have simultaneously issued reports that demonstrate the steadily growing influence of money on elections since the Court’s decision. Their findings show that the case opened the spigot to well more than a billion dollars in unrestricted outside spending on political campaigns, by corporations and individuals alike. It has done so at a time when wealth and income disparities in the United States are at their highest levels since 1928. Increasingly, it’s not clear that your vote matters unless you’re also willing to spend tens of thousands of dollars to support your preferences. Some of this money has come directly from the kind of corporate money at issue in Citizens United. But much more of it has come from other kinds of funding made possible by the Court’s decision, whose rationale undermined expenditure limits across the board, not just for corporations. Take the 2014 midterm elections. Just eleven closely contested Senate races tipped the balance and allowed the Republicans to regain control of the Senate for the first time since 2006. In eight of the ten states for which data is available, outside groups outspent the candidates themselves, by many millions of dollars. In North Carolina, for example, outside groups spent $26 million more than the candidates did. With these kinds of numbers, elected politicians may feel as beholden to such groups as to the people who actually voted for them.

Editorials: Honor King’s Legacy by Protecting Voting Rights | Ari Berman/The Nation

The film Selma movingly chronicles Martin Luther King Jr.’s fight to win the Voting Rights Act (VRA). It ends with King speaking triumphantly on the steps of the Alabama capitol, after marching from Selma to Montgomery. Five months later, Congress passed the VRA, the most important civil-rights law of the twentieth century. If only that story had a happy ending today. Selma has been released at a time when voting rights are facing the most sustained attack since 1965. The Supreme Court gutted the centerpiece of the VRA in Shelby County v. Holder in June 2013. That followed a period from 2011 to 2012 when 180 new voting restrictions were introduced in 41 states, and 22 states made it harder to vote. Last year, on King’s birthday, a bipartisan coalition in Congress introduced a legislative fix for the Shelby decision, restoring the requirement that states with the worst record of voting discrimination have to clear their voting changes with the federal government. The Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2014 (VRAA) was an imperfect piece of legislation, but voting rights advocates viewed it as a good first step toward protecting voting rights.

Editorials: Here’s what I learned when I helped Stephen Colbert set up his Super PAC | Trevor Potter/The Washington Post

It’s been five years since the Supreme Court handed down its Citizens United decision. The ruling gave rise to a complicated mess of super PACs, dark money, and “coordinated non-coordinated expenditures” — a world that likely surprised even the Supreme Court. Viewers of Stephen Colbert’s late lamented “Colbert Report,” however, knew just how tricky this new world had become. In 2011, Colbert formed his own Super PAC. And he reported on the process every step of the way, explaining to viewers how the wacky post-Citizens United world worked (or, perhaps, didn’t work). I was his lawyer for the venture, which meant I did everything from drafting a Federal Election Commission Advisory Opinion Request to accompanying Colbert to hearings. I even figured out how to make the money “disappear” from public view when the PAC was closing. (Hint: It’s not that hard.)

Editorials: The ballot has become another partisan battleground | Dave Helling/The Kansas City Star

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a Republican, says Kansans should be able to cast a straight-ticket ballot, where a voter could select all of a party’s nominees by checking just one box. “It’s a matter of voter convenience,” he told reporters last week. That would be news to former state Sen. John Loudon of Missouri, also a Republican. In the mid-2000s he sponsored legislation that ended straight-ticket voting in his state, claiming it confused voters. “There’s really no virtue to it at all,” he said then. Now, reasonable politicians can disagree on issues, but both Republicans can’t be right. Straight-ticket balloting either helps voters or hurts them. But the fact that two members of the same party disagree so sharply — in two different states — suggests their views are less about voter convenience and more about manipulating outcomes at the voting booth.

Editorials: The legacy of ‘Citizens United’ strays from the Supreme Court’s vision | The Washington Post

Five years ago, the Supreme Court turned a corner on campaign finance. In Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission , the court held that corporations could undertake unrestricted independent spending in election campaigns, overturning decades of restrictions on corporate money in politics by saying that the money represented free speech . At the same time, the court, in a decision written by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, emphasized the importance of disclosure of the sources of campaign money. The court declared, “With the advent of the Internet, prompt disclosure of expenditures can provide shareholders and citizens with the information needed to hold corporations and elected officials accountable for their positions and supporters.” It also said that disclosure “permits citizens and shareholders to react to the speech of corporate entities in a proper way. This transparency enables the electorate to make informed decisions and give proper weight to different speakers and messages.” And the court expressed enthusiasm that technology today makes disclosure “rapid and informative.”

Editorials: Fifty years after the Voting Rights Act, Congress still doesn’t look like America | The Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Not surprisingly, the face of the newly inaugurated United States’ 114th Congress is a face of privilege: male, white, Christian and wealthy. What does this mean for citizens who do not fit these criteria? It means that the rest of us are severely underrepresented in lawmaking in a country that considers itself the ultimate upholder of democratic values. According to The Washington Post, about 80 percent of the members of the 114th Congress are men while only 20 percent are women. Of course, this does not reflect our nation’s reality. Women are not a minority in American society, making up just over half of the population and 64 percent of the electorate. Yet in Congress, the voices of women are far and few between. Drastic underrepresentation aside, this number has increased from nearly zero in the 1960s, but has gone up only slightly in the past 15 years. As for race, House members are 79.8 percent white, and the Senate is 94 percent white. Only 10.1 percent of the House and two percent of the Senate is black, 7.8 percent of the House and 3 percent of the Senate is Hispanic, and 2.3 percent of the House and one percent of the Senate is Asian.

Editorials: Will the Supreme Court Re-Visit Voting Rights Before the 2016 Elections? | Jessica Mason Pieklo/RH Reality Check

Civil rights advocates want the Supreme Court to step back into the fight over voting rights, urging the Roberts Court to act soon and strike down Wisconsin’s 2011 voter ID law or risk getting caught in the “untenable position of referring voter ID disputes in the run-up to the November 2016 election.” Wisconsin Act 23 mandates that voters show one of nine specific forms of identification in order to vote either by absentee ballot or in person. Wisconsin lawmakers passed the law more than three years ago, but because of ongoing legal challenges to its constitutionality, the restrictions have only been enforced once in a state primary election, in 2012. Two state courts blocked the law’s enforcement in 2012 on the grounds that it violates the state constitution. Meanwhile, a federal trial judge in April ruled that the law violates the U.S. Constitution as well as Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Editorials: When Can a Judge Ask, ‘Write Me a Check’? | Garret Epps/The Atlantic

Here’s an old Chicago joke: A judge comes to a lawyer preparing to try a case. “The other side just gave me $10,000 to decide for them,” he says. “You have two choices: you can give me $20,000 to decide for you.” “What’s other choice?” the lawyer says. “Give me $10,000 and I’ll just decide based on the law.” A judge who actually tried this would be in trouble. Flat-out bribery is illegal. But very often the real scandal in a society is what is legal.  What about a judge who says, “You might want to know that the other firm has contributed to my campaign fund”? Currently 39 out of the 50 states have a system of popular election for judges.  All but nine of those states have laws providing that judges and judicial candidates “shall not personally solicit campaign funds, or solicit attorneys for publicly stated support.” They may establish campaign committees to raise funds; but the hey-given-me-money-lately sidebar is forbidden.

Editorials: Tycoon dough: The ultimate electoral martial art | Lawrence Norden and Daniel Weiner/Reuters

Jan. 21 marks the fifth anniversary of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the Supreme Court ruling that corporations (and, by extension, unions) have a First Amendment right to spend unlimited money on elections. Few recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions have received as much attention — or generated as much public backlash – as Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. The court and its defenders promised that the ruling – which gave corporations (and, by extension, unions) a First Amendment right to spend unlimited money on elections — would free up more voices to enrich U.S. political debates. Critics predicted a deluge of corporate cash into U.S. elections. Yet neither has been the most striking result of Citizens United. The most stunning consequence is the influence that a few tycoons and other wealthy donors now wield in U.S. elections. Running a close second is the tidal wave of “dark money” from unknown sources making it impossible for citizens to know who is supporting candidates in pivotal races. Both these unexpected and troubling developments undermine American democracy.

Editorials: Why Obama Should Pardon former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman | Jeffrey Toobin/The New Yorker

Since the midterm elections, President Barack Obama has been acting as if he feels liberated from parochial political concerns. After taking action on immigration, Cuba, and climate change, he should take on another risky, if less well-known, challenge by commuting the prison sentence of Don Siegelman, the former governor of Alabama. Siegelman, a Democrat, served a single term in office, from 1999 to 2003, in the last days before Alabama turned into an overwhelmingly Republican state. He’s spent the subsequent decade dealing with the fallout from the case that landed him in prison—a case that, at its core, is about a single campaign contribution. Siegelman ran for office on a promise to create a state lottery to fund education in Alabama. The issue went to a ballot question, and Richard Scrushy, a prominent health-care executive, donated five hundred thousand dollars to support the pro-lottery campaign. (Voters rejected the lottery.) After Scrushy had given the first half of his contribution, Siegelman reappointed him to Alabama’s Certificate of Need Review Board (the CON Board), which regulates health care in the state. Scrushy had served on the CON Board through the administrations of three different governors. The heart of the case against Siegelman came down to a single conversation that he had with Nick Bailey, a close aide of the Governor’s, about a two-hundred-and-fifty-thousand-dollar check from Scrushy for the lottery campaign. As summarized by the appeals court: Bailey testified that after the meeting, Siegelman showed him the check, said that it was from Scrushy and that Scrushy was “halfway there.” Bailey asked “what in the world is he going to want for that?” Siegelman replied, “the CON Board.” Bailey then asked, “I wouldn’t think that would be a problem, would it?” Siegelman responded, “I wouldn’t think so.”

Editorials: Why the Supreme Court Should Reject the Arizona Legislature’s Challenge to the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission | Vikram David Amar/Justia

One of the important Supreme Court cases currently being briefed (with oral argument set for March), Arizona Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, involves the question whether the U.S. Constitution and congressional statutes permit the people of a state to implement an initiative creating an independent redistricting commission (IRC)—i.e., one that is not controllable by the elected state legislature—to devise congressional districts. Arizona voters passed just such an initiative in 2000, and the elected Arizona legislature (acting as a body) has now brought the case to the Supreme Court, arguing primarily that the so-called Elections Clause of Article I of the Constitution (Article I, section 4) prevents a state from divesting district-drawing power from the elected state legislature. The Arizona legislature (represented by former Solicitor General Paul Clement) has filed its brief in the Court, and the IRC (also represented by a former Solicitor General, Seth Waxman) will file its written argument very soon. In the space below, I analyze the merits portion of Mr. Clement’s brief on behalf of the Arizona legislature, and point out why I think it fails to demonstrate that the IRC’s creation and powers violate federal law. (Another part of Mr. Clement’s brief, addressing whether the Arizona legislature has “standing” in federal court to assert a challenge to the IRC at all, raises interesting questions of its own, but those will have to await another day.)

Editorials: For Florida, online voter registration would be cheaper, more accurate and more secure | Orlando Sentinel

It’s Civics 101 that healthy democracies depend on informed and engaged citizens. In Florida, however, only a little more than half of residents eligible to vote are actually registered, and just 31 percent of eligible voters cast ballots in November’s election. When so many Floridians won’t even participate in the electoral process, politicians have less reason to listen to the public. But there’s a way to boost voter registration, while making the process more accurate and secure, and also saving money for taxpayers: Allow Floridians to submit their registration applications online. Considering everything else Floridians can do online, including banking and shopping, it’s hard to believe this convenient option for registration still isn’t available. The association that represents Florida’s 67 county elections supervisors has made online voter registration application its No. 1 priority for the upcoming legislative session. The group’s president, Supervisor Jerry Holland of Duval County, calls it “a common-sense approach for 21st-century voters.”

Editorials: The government is making it harder for Canadians to vote | Michael Pal/Ottawa Citizen

While the courts are making it easier for Canadians to exercise their right to vote, the federal government seems committed to making it harder. The Fair Elections Act elicited unprecedented condemnation for restricting access to the ballot box. The government has now introduced the Citizen Voting Act, after a court granted the right to vote to some Canadians living outside the country. The Act puts in place rules on how non-resident Canadians can exercise their constitutional right. These rules are so onerous that they will effectively prevent voting by many non-residents. The implications for the more than one million Canadians of voting age who live out of the country deserve close scrutiny.