Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz (R), one of the nation’s most enthusiastic voter suppressors, released a report on Thursday outlining the results a two-year investigation into possible voter fraud, conducted by the Iowa Department of Public Safety’s Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) at his request. But while Schultz has frequently scared Iowa voters with allegations of thousands of possible non-citizens voting in the state and living people showing up at the polls to cast ballots in the name of dead voters, the investigation revealed found an infinitesimal number of illegal votes cast and zero cases of impersonation at the polls. … Nearly two years and $250,000 later, Schultz said that 238 total cases of suspected election misconduct were investigated. Investigators “found evidence of election misconduct in 117 cases that cancelled out the votes of legitimate Iowa voters,” he notes, and 17 more cases are still being investigated. One of those cases resulted in a not-guilty verdict and four cases were dismissed. Combined, that means at most 134 instances of fraudulent voting were found in Iowa over several elections, compared with 1,589,951 votes cast in the 2012 general elections alone. That means, at most, the investigation found a 0.008427933% rate of voter fraud.
March election set a record for low voter turnout in a primary, with about 16 percent of all registered voters casting ballots across Cook County. But one bright spot in the otherwise dismal measure of civic engagement was found among newly-registered young voters, according to a study released Wednesday by a consortium of local elections officials and civic groups. The study, titled “Voting Early and Often,” found a higher percentage of registered 17- and 18-year-olds voted than did registered voters in many older age groups. The study analyzed participation by those who are registered to vote, breaking down the statistics by gender and age; it did not take into account the number of youth who are eligible, but have not registered.
Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann and his claque in the media were cruising along self assuredly that the state’s voter ID was home free from any federal court derailment since the Supreme Court junked a core provision in the 1965 Voting Rights Act one year ago. Then suddenly things began to turn around. Last week, a federal judge in Wisconsin struck down that state’s voter ID law. And, in doing so, he provided a pathway for other states to challenge similar laws by circumventing the high court’s butchery of the 1965 act. The 90-page voter ID ruling, written by Federal District Judge Lynn Adelman of Wisconsin’s Eastern District, marked the sixth court action blocking ID voting laws in the past year, each in a Republican-controlled state. Last year, the Supreme Court had upheld constitutionality of the overall Voting Rights Act but gutted Section 5, which had required nine states, including Mississippi, to pre-clear any voting changes with the Justice Department.
Last month, I joined millions of other Indians in voting in our national election, the biggest in history. Was I wrong to feel disappointed? After all, the ritual of the vote — with its emphasis on privacy, silence and secrecy; its underlying political associations of duty, virtue, community, even transcendence — is the one democratic event that resembles a religious experience. The only difference is that the voter is also, in a manner of speaking, the deity being propitiated, the vote being the offering that establishes his or her agency. So I went to the polling booth, a school in my neighborhood in New Delhi, with great expectations. On a sheet outside the polling booth was a list of all the candidates I could vote for: seven or eight from the established political parties, then a slew of independents. Inside, I stood in a line before a table, behind which sat some officials from the Election Commission — a force 11 million strong — to whom I presented my voter identification card to be checked off against the electoral rolls. This done, I moved on to the next step, which was to have the nail of my left forefinger daubed with a stroke of indelible black ink. (This quaint practice, designed to discourage impersonation or double-voting, has led to the mass posting of what’s now called the “election selfie.”)
The widespread condemnation of the vile prejudice expressed by a professional basketball team owner and a Nevada rancher underscored the progress America has made on race. On the same day Donald Sterling, the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, was banned from the game for life for making racist comments, another story with more important racial implications was unfolding: A federal judge in Wisconsin struck down a law passed by that state’s Republican legislators that would have made voting harder by requiring state-approved photo identification at polling places. More than 30 states have sought to impose voting restrictions over the past three years. Supporters of the measures claim they are aimed at preventing voter fraud. Critics say they are designed to disenfranchise, particularly black Americans and members of other minorities, and are the greatest threat since the Voting Rights Act was passed almost a half century ago. They are fighting back.
It seems like virtually everyone on Capitol Hill is interested in fixing the Voting Rights Act. But who will step up and make something happen? Last year, the Supreme Court hollowed out one of the most powerful parts of the law, a formula prescribing which states and localities had to get before-the-fact federal approval of any changes they wanted to make to their voting rules. Without the formula, which had been based on historical records of discrimination, the federal government had to stop its automatic review of alterations to voting-district boundaries and other election-related guidelines. The ruling hobbled a law that for decades has offered meaningful political representation to minority Americans by preventing discriminatory tricks from limiting their access to the franchise. The decision was also an insult to Congress, which in 2006 overwhelmingly determined that the act’s provisions — all of them — remain necessary.
A federal judge recently struck down a Wisconsin law that would have required voters to present a photo ID in order to vote, one in a series of judicial rulings addressing how states can control who gets to cast a ballot. A slew of voter ID laws were passed after the 2010 election gave Republicans control of both branches of legislature in many states. Supporters say the laws prevent fraud at the polls. But studies indicate that fraud is virtually nonexistent, and that states that saw higher minority turnout were more likely to pass voter ID laws, said Wendy Weiser, director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice. “We haven’t seen a legislative movement like this since Reconstruction,” she said.
Editorials: Wisconsin voter ID ruling a ‘blueprint’ for similar challenges in North Carolina, Texas | Facing South
In a major victory for voting rights, a federal judge struck down Wisconsin’s voter identification law last week, ruling that requiring voters to show a state-issued photo ID at the polls discriminates against low-income and minority voters. Legal experts say the decision in a state that’s been called the “Selma of the North” for its history of racial conflict has important implications for legal challenges to similar laws passed in North Carolina and Texas. The ruling is “absolutely a blueprint” for the courts considering those other challenges, Katherine Culliton-González of the Advancement Project, a national civil rights group that challenged the Wisconsin law, said last week during a press call about the decision. “This case is very symbolic of turning the tide toward democracy,” Culliton-González added. Wisconsin’s Republican-controlled legislature passed the photo ID requirement in 2011. The law was in force only for the 2012 primary before it was temporarily blocked.
When it comes to the fight about voter fraud and voter suppression, how do you prove a negative? One key question in the battle over the legality of voter identification laws is whether such laws are necessary to prevent voter fraud and whether they suppress a lot of votes from eligible voters. Though the answer to the second question remains in considerable dispute, after Tuesday’s federal court decision striking down Wisconsin’s voter ID law, it is time for voter ID supporters to throw in the towel and admit state voter ID laws don’t prevent the kind of fraud they are supposedly targeted for. Federal Judge Lynn Adelman looked at the evidence from Wisconsin and reached a conclusion unsurprising to those of us who study how elections are run. “Virtually no voter impersonation occurs in Wisconsin,” Adelman wrote, “and it is exceedingly unlikely that voter impersonation will become a problem in Wisconsin in the foreseeable future.” Wisconsin is not alone in lacking such evidence. When the United States Supreme Court considered the constitutionality of Indiana’s voter ID law in 2008, the state conceded there was no evidence, ever, of impersonation fraud in the entire state.
Editorials: Welcome to the beginning of the end of the GOP’s voter-imposter performance | Arvina Martin/The Guardian
After Tuesday’s court ruling that the Republican-sponsored voter ID law in Wisconsin was going to prevent more real votes than fraudulent votes from being cast, Republicans who insist on pushing more states to adopt these overreaching laws are going to have to do some serious mental gymnastics to convince anyone that voter impersonation is a real issue, let alone a big enough problem to affect any election. US District Court Judge Lynn Adelman ruled that the law, passed by the state’s Republican legislature and signed by Governor Scott Walker in May 2011, places an unconstitutional burden on the right to vote and violates the Voting Rights Act because of its disproportionate effects on black and Latino voters. Judge Adelman agreed with the main point that voter ID opponents have long argued: there is virtually no voter impersonation – despite claims like that of State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, who told the Green Bay Press Gazette “We continue to see these isolated incidents of people trying to vote five, six times a day; people voting based on some sort of fraudulent documentation that’s offered.” Additionally, Adelman ruled that whatever voter impersonation does occur does not justify the potential infringement on citizens’ voting rights. “It is,” Adelman wrote, “absolutely clear that Act 23 will prevent more legitimate votes from being cast than fraudulent votes.” He added: The evidence at trial established that virtually no voter impersonation occurs in Wisconsin. The defendants could not point to a single instance of known voter impersonation occurring in Wisconsin at any time in the recent past.
Editorials: Judges dismantle voter ID laws while voting rights ‘advocates’ dither | Michael Hiltzik/Los Angeles Times
The saddest spectacle on the voting rights front lately has been the sight of progressive voting rights “reformers” giving up the fight against photo ID laws. In the front ranks of these sunshine patriots (to cadge a phrase from Thomas Paine) have been former United Nations Ambassador Andrew Young and former President Bill Clinton, who recently came out in favor of forcing the Social Security Administration to issue photo IDs to citizens who request them. The argument is that Republican-sponsored voter ID laws are here to stay, so we might as well just make it easier for people to get photo IDs so they can exercise their right to vote. (The argument is also advanced by political scientist Norman Ornstein, co-founder of a voting rights group called WhyTuesday, which is chaired by Young.) We’ve described the numerous drawbacks of this sort of capitulation here and here. We called the Social Security photo ID thing “a terrible idea,” which got Young’s troupe of loyal supporters all upset. Now it turns out that photo ID laws may not, indeed, be here to stay. Over the last week, judges in three states have tossed them out, two of them on grounds that there’s no evidence that voter impersonation, the problem they supposedly address, even exists, and they’re plainly designed by the GOP to discourage voting by minorities and the poor. In other words, likely Democratic voters.
Editorials: A Federal Judge Searches for Voter Fraud in Wisconsin and Finds None | Andrew Cohen/The Atlantic
A long and bitter Wisconsin trial ended Tuesday afternoon with a sweeping defeat for supporters of a voter-ID law designed to make it more difficult for citizens to cast ballots. U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman declared in a 90-page order that the state’s new voting restrictions violate both the equal-protection clause of the Constitution and Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. The law unduly burdens minority voters, he ruled, without sufficient justification for doing so. Adelman’s ruling will be appealed by the Republican officials who enacted it in 2011. It is far from certain that the ruling will withstand review by the very conservative 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals or the even more conservative Supreme Court, which in 2008’s Crawford v. Marion County declared that state voter-ID laws could be constitutional. In the meantime, the law—which required all voters to present photo identification to vote—is enjoined from enforcement.
Wisconsin’s voter ID law suffered another welcome blow Tuesday when a federal judge struck it down, ruling that it violated the Voting Rights Act and the Constitution. The law, ruled Judge Lynn Adelman, “results in the denial or abridgment of the right of black and Latino citizens to vote on account of race or color.” As we’ve argued for years, Adelman found that there really isn’t any voter fraud in Wisconsin that a voter photo ID could address — one of the key arguments of supporters of the law. Instead, a photo ID law places an undue burden on low-income people. A “substantial number” of the 300,000 eligible voters in the state who lack an ID are low income, the judge found, concluding that many of them “will be deterred from voting. Detecting and preventing in-person voter-impersonation fraud is a legitimate state interest,” he wrote. “However…because virtually no voter impersonation occurs in Wisconsin and it is exceedingly unlikely that voter impersonation will become a problem in Wisconsin in the foreseeable future, this particular state interest has very little weight.”
A Pulaski County judge’s decision to strike down Arkansas’ voter ID law complicates planning for a primary that would have been the first statewide test of new voting restrictions, and reopens a debate that Democrats and Republicans both see as having an upside in this fall’s election. Ruling in a case that had focused on a narrow portion of the law, Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox declared the requirement that voters show photo identification at the polls “void and unenforceable” after saying it violates Arkansas’ constitution. His ruling was issued just a week and a half before early voting begins for Arkansas’ May 20 primary. It’s a case that will ultimately be decided by the state Supreme Court. In the meantime, he provided fodder for Democrats and Republicans alike to revive their arguments over the voter ID law that was approved last year. Just how much of a boost both parties hope to see from the ruling was immediately clear. Within an hour of Fox’s decision, state Democrats were fundraising off of his ruling.
Editorials: McCutcheon Restores Power to Congressional Campaigns | Tim Peckinpaugh and Steve Roberts/Roll Call Opinion
Earlier this month, the Supreme Court struck down an aggregate cap on individual contributions to federal candidates, parties and political committees over a two-year election cycle in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission. Certainly, this is an important holding, but this is not Citizens United II. In fact, in as much as Citizens United increased spending opportunities with outside groups, it’s just the opposite. This decision will have a major impact in national political giving by restoring congressional campaigns themselves — as well as the national parties that support them — to renewed importance by which donors of all political persuasions (and particularly wealthy donors) provide support to a slate of preferred candidates. That shift will, in turn, result in a larger portion of political giving by way of transparent, fully disclosed contributions to federal campaign committees and the Members of Congress they support. Essentially finding that the presence of any cap was arbitrary, and building on its previous free speech analysis in Citizens United v. FEC, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. illustrated the underlying faulty logic of the biennial aggregate limit in operation: “If there is no corruption concern in giving nine candidates up to $5,200 each, it is difficult to understand how a tenth candidate can be regarded as corruptible if given $1,801, and all others corruptible if given a dime.”
Editorials: Before convicting four Alabama counties of voter fraud, let’s see the evidence | Bob Nicholson/AL.com
If you needed to rotate the tires on your car would you accomplish that task by changing the oil? Silly idea isn’t it? Yet that analogy is on target when you look at the Alabama Legislature’s actions in establishing strong voter ID laws. They claim that they are reacting to fraud allegations and a crowd of onlookers, columnists and pundits, are cheering them onward. Unfortunately, only a brief examination of the “evidence” shows no fraud. I am a Certified Fraud Examiner. The definition of fraud is specific (wrongful or criminal deception intended to result in financial or personal gain) and to casually alleging such is irresponsible. In order to prove fraud, not only do you have to show what happened, you have to show intent as well. Lacking a confession admitting intent, fraud is proven in court by ruling out all other possibilities. Let’s look at the latest “evidence” and see if it meets the definition of proving fraud. Four counties in Alabama, Macon, Wilcox, Lowndes and Greene, have more voters on the roll than the US Census Department estimated their adult populations to be in 2012 by a cumulative 2934 people. And, these counties vote with a strong Democratic majority. Not only that, but in 2012 former Alabama Congressman Artur Davis alleged that wholesale voter fraud goes on in parts of the Black Belt. Convinced that there is fraud going on? Don’t convict just yet.
It seems a forgone conclusion that, with everything going digital, voting is sure to follow. Especially after lost paper ballots triggered the recent rerun of Western Australia’s 2013 Senate election, sparking renewed calls to trash pencil-and-paper voting for an online alternative. And why not? Networks can transport data faster than vehicles. Machines can tally numbers faster and, arguably, more accurately than humans. And machines alone can’t be accused of manipulating votes. Estonia and Norway have, with the aid of cryptographic ID checks, launched internet voting without too much controversy. But are machines really any less fallible than error-prone humans?
The sixth phase of India’s protracted general election took place on April 24th. Voters trooped to polling stations in 117 constituencies in various states including Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. As with other rounds there was much to cheer: first-time voters, enthusiasm in cities and villages, determination to take part despite the heat. Momentum seems to be with the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led by Narendra Modi. A late surge of support for the BJP is reported even in places—West Bengal, Odisha—where the party has traditionally not done well. If true, its prospects of forming the next government look stronger by the day. Three more rounds of voting are due, the last on May 12th, before results are published on May 16th. It constitutes a marathon election. The voting period is eight days longer than last time, in 2009. Count in all the official campaigning and India will have been busy with its general election for a whopping 72 days. The local devotion to voting looks more remarkable with each successive election. As the population grows, and so the electorate, the process will presumably get more protracted yet. The next national poll is likely in 2019, by when more days of voting, and further rounds, may be needed to accommodate many more tens of millions of new voters. Are long elections a problem? They can certainly grow tedious, as some rightly point out that other big countries hold elections much quicker. Brazil, Indonesia and America can all get it done in a single day. The European parliamentary elections next month, across the whole of the European Union, will wrap up within four days. One of the reasons Thailand’s recent general election was annulled was because of a failure to abide by its constitution and hold it in a single day.
In the food world, change from the ground up is all well and good. We desperately need cooks, gardeners, farmers and teachers. But we also need legislation. The recently passed and almost uniformly abysmal Farm Bill is a lesson in how legislation affects those of us working to change the chaotic so-called food “system.” Pittances were tossed at supporters of local and organic food, fortunes’ worth of agribusiness subsidies were maintained, and much-needed support for the country’s least well-off was slashed. That’s a Republican-led Congress at work, but when it comes to supporting Big Ag and Big Food, most of the Democratic representatives from states where farm income matters most are not much better: While the majority of Big Ag’s financial support for candidates goes to Republicans, Democrats are close behind. For big-time change on a national scale, we need representatives who put the needs of a sustainable food system and all that goes with it ahead of those of the chemical and processed food manufacturers who are currently running the show.
The still fresh McCutcheon v FEC Supreme Court decision, like the January 2010 Citizens United, has again set off the rage of activists and reformers—who call it nothing less than the privatization of government or the end of the republic! Indeed, removing aggregate contribution limits does for individual donors what Citizens United did for corporations years earlier, make it easier to influence elections. Yet, the apocalyptic cries, however comprehensible, are largely misdirected anger and misguided strategy. Since Citizens United, there have been fervent movements to “get money out of politics” from Movement to Amend (to overrule the case by Constitutional Amendment) to Lawrence Lessig’s Rootstrikers petition (to enact tough campaign finance laws and promote a government-funded option). The idea, remove large campaign donations and see saner policies and better government follow, seems plausible enough. But let’s parse the obvious. Citizens United did not cause the predominance of money in American politics; it is but a symptom of it.
Last week’s splintered Iowa Supreme Court decision created a lot of confusion about the state of the law regarding the voting rights of Iowans with criminal records. But the court’s lack of clarity made one thing perfectly clear: The Iowa Constitution must be amended to eliminate the clause that is at the heart of this confusion. A majority of the seven-member court resolved the immediate question of Iowa Senate candidate Tony Bisignano’s eligibility to be on the June 3 primary ballot. His opponent, Ned Chiodo, argued that because Bisignano had pleaded guilty to second-offense drunken driving he was not eligible to vote or hold public office under Iowa law. Second-offense drunken driving is an aggravated misdemeanor, however. The court ruled that convictions for crimes below the level of felonies do not disqualify voters or candidates for public office.
In New Jersey, politics is a contact sport. It should come as a great disappointment that New Jersey was just ranked 37th in the nation for the administration of our elections. The Pew Charitable Trusts assembled a panel of experts to rank each state and the District of Columbia. The newest rankings came out last week. Not only did the experts score New Jersey poorly, but the Garden State was one of only 10 states that saw a decrease in their score from 2008. Worse, the Garden State got mowed by some of its neighbors. Pennsylvania came in 16th, Connecticut was 10th and Delaware was ninth. As a small comfort, the Garden State did beat New York, which came in an abysmal 47th. … So, how can New Jersey improve its ranking? First, the state could implement an online voter registration system. This innovation, which has been adopted in 16 states thus far, has made it easier for citizens to register quickly and securely, while allowing for instant verification of eligibility. Four additional states have recently passed similar measures. New Jersey should follow their lead.
This year’s national election in South Africa is arguably the country’s most important election since the advent of the universal franchise in 1994. While that earlier election was enormously important in confirming the negotiated settlement that had ended the National Party’s whites-only domination, it was a foregone conclusion that the ANC would be the big victor. This time around, while the ANC is almost certainly going to win a sizeable majority yet again (at least nationally), in the absence of a totally unanticipated, magnitude 8 electoral earthquake, the real core of this election is an increasingly vigorous debate over South Africa’s economic future circumstances. And yet, with the possible exception of a website or two like South Africa Votes 2014 and some often interesting, informative, even challenging writing by columnists like Steve Friedman, Judith February and Eusebius McKaiser, most of the media attention over this election has been in the form of reporting that mostly can be tabbed as either a kind of “horserace” or “insider trading” coverage. Even the various broadcast and open forum debates that have been held have, too often, been opportunities for the rolling out of the usual media-friendly sound bites and snappy retorts – rather than any sustained, substantive analyses of the economic policies the various candidates and parties have been proposing as panaceas to address the country’s current malaise.
Does the 1st Amendment allow states to make it a criminal offense to disseminate false statements about a political candidate? Should citizens who fear that their free speech will be chilled by such a law be permitted to challenge it even if they aren’t in danger of imminent prosecution? Only the second question will be argued before the Supreme Court on Tuesday, but it is inextricably linked to the first one. If the court rules that the Susan B. Anthony List, an antiabortion group, may not challenge Ohio’s criminalization of false political speech, that law and similar ones in other states will remain on the books. Ohio’s law prohibits false statements about a candidate if they are made knowingly or with reckless disregard of whether they might be false. If the Ohio Elections Commission decides the law was violated, it “shall refer” the matter to prosecutors.
Campaign finance reformers are worried about the future. They contend that two Supreme Court rulings — the McCutcheon decision in March and the 2010 Citizens United decision — will magnify inequality in U.S. politics. In both cases, the court majority relaxed constraints on how money can be spent on or donated to political campaigns. By allowing more private money to flow to campaigns, the critics maintain, the court has allowed the rich an unfair advantage in shaping political outcomes and made “one dollar, one vote” (in one formulation) the measure of our corrupted democracy. This argument misses the mark for at least four reasons. First, the money spent on federal campaigns is not excessive; quite the contrary. Second, elections — and politics in general — are inherently unequal for many reasons other than money. Third, incumbency is by far the greatest source of this inequality, and the limits on contributions — and thus on most candidates’ spending — that reformers want to retain would only worsen it. Finally, the claim that generous donors and big independent spenders in effect buy federal elections and policies is contradicted by the empirical evidence.
Editorials: Legislature puts stumbling blocks in the way of voters | Catherine Turcer/Cleveland Plain Dealer
For Ohioans concerned about strengthening our democracy — which should be all of us — this legislative session has been extremely disappointing. While Secretary of State Jon A. Husted and voter advocates have been urging the passage of cost-saving legislation to improve voter access and the voter registration database, the Ohio General Assembly instead focused on reducing early voting (Senate Bill 238) and making voting more difficult (Senate Bills 205 and 216). Two bills have been introduced to implement online voter registration: one sponsored by a Democratic House member (House Bill 78) and one by a Republican Senator (Senate Bill 175). Online registration is more convenient for potential voters and more efficient for election administrators because it reduces data entry errors based on scrawled signatures and basic human error. This means a more accurate voter database that actually saves money. Husted’s office estimates that online voter registration between 2010 and 2012 would have saved county boards of elections up to $3 million.
Even after felons pay their dues to society and leave prison, America sidelines them from the public square. Parolees and probationers are often perceived as undeserving of citizen benefits, and they have little power to assert their rights. Not only do governments often deny felons public resources such as Food Stamps, subsidized college loans, public housing and professional opportunities like licenses and contracts, it is also common for U.S. states to deny former prisoners the right to vote and otherwise exercise full and free citizenship. Felon disenfranchisement is the rule rather than the exception. Some 35 U.S. states deny voting rights when felons leave prison, restoring the right to vote only after the completion of terms of parole and probation. Effective lifetime disqualification prevails in a few states like Florida, Iowa, Kentucky and Virginia — where the right to vote can be restored for felons only on a case-by-case basis involving individual appeals leading to gubernatorial pardons. But felon disenfranchisement is not going unchallenged. Reform pushes are widespread — and a 2006 victory in Rhode Island offers room for optimism that full citizenship rights may, over time, be restored to former prisoners.
One of the most pernicious outcomes of the intense political struggle between Democrats and Republicans is the parties’ breathtaking capacity to game our voting rules. Nothing makes voters more cynical than seeing political leaders seemingly supporting or opposing election laws based solely on their partisan impact — from redistricting reform to fights over whether to allow early voting. But a reform win in New York could foreshadow a cease-fire in the voting wars. On April 15, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation making New York the 10th state to pass the National Popular Vote (NPV) interstate compact for president. Overwhelming majorities of both Republicans and Democrats approved the bill, which seeks to guarantee election of the presidential candidate who wins the most popular votes in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. We don’t need a constitutional amendment to achieve this goal. The Constitution gives each state power over how to allocate its electoral votes and the ability to enter into binding interstate compacts. The Founding Fathers gave states freedom to structure how to select the president — and national popular vote embodies that tradition.
Most Alabama voters won’t see anything other than Republicans and Democrats on their ballots in the November general election. That’s because it’s hard — unjustly hard — for anyone else to get on the ballot in our state, thanks to the restrictive ballot access law the Legislature has refused to change. Lawmakers have had many opportunities to amend the law to something more reasonable that still protects the integrity of the ballot, but a bill to do that failed in this year’s session, just as similar measures have languished in past sessions. Independent candidates face serious barriers to the ballot here. Under current law, an independent candidate trying to run for a statewide office must collect signatures of registered voters — lots of them. The candidate must present to the secretary of state petitions bearing such signatures totaling at least 3 percent of the number of votes cast for governor in the previous general election.
Many analysts have written a lot about the decision, with a natural focus on its direct implications for campaigns. Those are huge and important. But they are, I believe, overshadowed by the impact of the decision on corruption in America. Here, Rick Hasen and Dahlia Lithwick, two of the best legal analysts in the country, have weighed in, and I want to add my weight. Some have suggested that McCutcheon was not a terribly consequential decision—that it did not really end individual-contribution limits, that it was a minor adjustment post-Citizens United. Others have said that it may have a silver lining: more money to parties, more of the money disclosed. I disagree on both counts. Justice Stephen Breyer’s penetrating dissent to the decision pointed out the many methods that campaigns, parties, and their lawyers would use to launder huge contributions in ways that would make a mockery of individual limits. Chief Justice John Roberts pooh-poohed them as fanciful. And, of course, they started to emerge the day after the decision. As for disclosure, the huge amounts that will now flow in through political parties will be channeled through joint committees, state and local party committees, and others in complex ways that will make real disclosure immensely difficult, if not impossible.