National: I.R.S. Expected to Stand Aside as Nonprofits Increase Role in 2016 Race | The New York Times

As presidential candidates find new ways to exploit secret donations from tax-exempt groups, hobbled regulators at the Internal Revenue Service appear certain to delay trying to curb widespread abuses at nonprofits until after the 2016 election. In a shift from past elections, at least eight Republican presidential candidates, including leading contenders like Jeb Bush and Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, have aligned with nonprofit groups set up to raise hundreds of millions of dollars. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s supporters are considering a similar tactic. Some of these so-called social welfare nonprofit groups are already planning political initiatives, including a $1 million advertising campaign about Iran by a tax-exempt group supporting Mr. Rubio.

National: States Seeking Voter Citizenship Proof Denied by U.S. Supreme Court | Bloomberg

The U.S. Supreme Court refused to consider letting states require evidence of citizenship when people register to vote for federal elections, rejecting an appeal from Arizona and Kansas. The rebuff is a victory for the Obama administration and voting- and minority-rights groups that battled the two states in court. It leaves intact a decision by a U.S. agency that blocked the states from requiring proof of citizenship for voters in federal elections. It’s the second high court defeat on the issue for Arizona. The state has a law that requires evidence of citizenship, but the Supreme Court ruled in 2013 that it couldn’t be enforced when people use a standard registration document known as the “federal form” to register to vote for Congress and the president. That 7-2 ruling left open the possibility that Arizona could impose its requirements through a different avenue. The court said the state could submit a request to the agency that developed the form, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, asking it to tell Arizona voters they needed to supply proof of citizenship.

National: A Redistricting Ruling That Helps Counter Partisan Gerrymandering | Wall Street Journal

Before the Supreme Court’s decision in the Arizona redistricting case, electoral reform efforts had been in limbo. But Monday’s 5-4 ruling is a major victory for those who support citizen redistricting commissions as a way to counter the polarization and partisan gerrymandering that result from politicians drawing their own legislative districts. In 2000, Arizona voters passed a proposition to shift authority for drawing legislative districts from state lawmakers to a five-member independent commission. Republican legislators who didn’t like the districts that the commission drew after the 2010 Census brought suit in 2012, arguing that it was unconstitutional for anyone except lawmakers to draw congressional districts. In her opinion, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dispatched this idea. “Arizona voters sought to restore ‘the core principle of republican government,’ namely, ‘that the voters should choose their representatives, not the other way around,’ ” she wrote.

National: This kid will be running for president for the next three decades, against his will | The Washington Post

For all of the furor and sweat over the 2016 presidential field, for all of the candidates sitting back with an eye on 2020 — or maybe even 2024, in some cases — there’s one candidate who’s been willing to play the long game. As of today, we are eight years in to what will almost certainly end up being the longest presidential campaign in history — a campaign that will be four decades old by the time voters go to the polls. Meet Andrew Lessig, the first declared candidate for the 2048 election. Lessig graduated from the University of Alaska at Anchorage last year and now is in law school near Syracuse, N.Y. When we spoke by phone Wednesday, he declared, in the spirit of all great candidacies, that he didn’t plan to run. In fact, he said, “I’d totally forgotten that it had even happened until you mentioned it.”

National: Independently Drawn Districts Have Proved to Be More Competitive | The New York Times

Buoyed by a Supreme Court ruling, opponents of gerrymandering want to get more state legislatures out of the business of drawing congressional districts. So it’s worth examining the performance of the independent redistricting commissions validated by the court on Monday. Arizona, via a ballot initiative in 2000, was one of the first states to entrust congressional boundaries to an independent commission, and California followed suit in 2010. Four other states have their congressional districts drawn by independent panels in an effort to make the process less partisan and yield more competitive districts. But those commissions were formed by their respective state legislatures and were not affected by Monday’s ruling.

National: Redistricting litigation persists in key states despite court ruling | Politico

The Supreme Court may have knocked out the best-known challenge to existing congressional districts in a number of states on Monday, but maps still remain in flux for 2016 in three important, large battleground states: Florida, North Carolina and Virginia. Continued redistricting litigation — spearheaded mostly by Democrats, who were in the legislative minority in the three states after the 2010 Census, and their allies — involves 51 of the nation’s 435 congressional districts and could allow Democrats to make a dent in the GOP’s near-historic House majority in next year’s elections.

National: Court order slips quietly under radar | Boston Herald

It wasn’t the biggest headline-grabber in a week full of pivotal U.S. Supreme Court rulings, but an order issued by the court handed a victory to voting rights advocates who have been battling suppressive state-imposed laws as next year’s presidential election draws near. In an unsigned order, the justices on Monday declined to review a lower court ruling barring Kansas and Arizona from requiring proof of citizenship on federal voter registration forms. The states can still impose the requirement on state-based voting forms, but they can’t force the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to do the same on registration forms for presidential and congressional elections in those states.

National: Why the FEC’s Deadlock Won’t Change Any Time Soon | Morning Consult

The nation’s top political watchdog is so thoroughly mired in a toxic partisan gridlock that the members themselves can barely contain their disdain for each other. But there is no sign of a wholesale change at the Federal Election Commission for what might seem like a bizarre reason: There aren’t enough qualified lawyers in Washington. Five of the six FEC commissioners are currently serving beyond the expiration of their terms; only chairwoman Ann Ravel’s term has yet to expire. But there is little interest from either Democrats or Republicans on Capitol Hill in finding a new slate of members, one that could perhaps get along better than the current set.

National: Congressional Democrats to introduce new Voting Rights Act fix | The Washington Post

Congressional Democrats are expected to unveil new legislation this week, possibly as soon as Wednesday, that if passed would restore the requirement for federal approval for voting procedure changes in some states, a provision of the Voting Rights Act struck down by the Supreme Court two years ago. The legislation, titled “The Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2015,” would force any state that has had 15 or more voting rights violations in the last 25 years to be subject to federal preclearance for any change in voting procedure or law. That criterion would initially subject 13 states to preclearance: New York, California, Arkansas, Arizona, Virginia, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Louisiana, and Texas, according to a copy of the legislation obtained by the Washington Post. Those states would be able to free themselves of the preclearence provision by going 10 consecutive years without a voting rights violation.

National: Lawsuit filed challenging general election debate rules | Associated Press

A nonprofit group and the Green and Libertarian parties filed suit Monday seeking to force open the general election presidential debates to candidates from outside the two major political parties. The lawsuit filed against the Federal Election Commission seeks to force it to crack down on the Commission on Presidential Debates, which it argues is violating FEC rules that dictate that debates must be staged in a nonpartisan manner and candidates selected for participation based on objective criteria. Alternatively, the lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia seeks permission to sue the debate commission directly.

National: States Will Need New Voting Equipment for 2016 Elections | The Independent View

While issues like early voting, voter registration and voter ID have certainly grabbed the headlines of late, another elections issue will literally be in front thousands of voters in 2016, new voting systems. Nationwide many states and counties will have to move to new voting systems for the first time in more than a decade in advance of the 2016 election cycle. For some jurisdictions the switch to a new voting system was mandated by state legislatures that wanted to move to paper-based systems. For others, it’s a matter of age. Many states and counties replaced their voting machines following the 2002 election and in a world where people replace their phones every two years and personal computers almost as frequently, 10+-year old voting machines are, well, old. Although budgeting and procurement are certainly taking center stage now, soon enough it will be training and voter education. It’s a lot to get done with an election calendar that grows shorter as more and more states jockey for position with their elections calendars.

National: Corporations are people. But are FEC commissioners people too? | The Washington Post

The agency instructed to treat corporations as people – at least when it comes to their right to spend money on political speech – isn’t sure if its own commissioners are. During a fraught exchange at Thursday’s Federal Election Commission monthly meeting, a Republican commissioner said none of the six panel members should be counted as a “person” when it comes to petitioning their own agency. This led to a strange back and forth between Matthew Petersen, a Republican, and Ellen Weintraub, a Democrat, over her personhood. “First of all, let me say I cannot believe that you are actually going to take the position that I am not a person…a corporation is a person, but I’m not a person?” Weintraub fired back. “That’s how bad it has gotten. My colleagues will not admit that I am a person. That’s really striking.”

National: Presidential candidates lean on well-funded outside groups | US News

Republican Jeb Bush and Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton are asking donors to write the checks to get their campaigns started. Yet these “new” candidates have been fueling their presidential ambitions for months — years, in Clinton’s case — thanks to outside groups that will continue serving as big-money bank accounts throughout the race. In the 2016 presidential field, creative financing abounds. While donors can give a maximum $2,700 apiece per election to their favorite candidatdte’s campaign, the presidential contenders offer generous supporters plenty of other options. Outside groups that can accept checks of unlimited size include personalized super PACs that, while barred from directly coordinating with candidates, are often filled with their trusted friends. There are also “dark money” nonprofit policy groups that keep contributors’ names secret.

National: Bipartisan Group Urges Overhaul of General Election Debates | New York Times

A presidential debate season that begins in mid-September. A television studio backdrop without a live studio audience. And a “chess clock” model, where each candidate is allotted 45 minutes of speaking time, which begins ticking down when they start talking. On Wednesday, a bipartisan panel released recommendations aimed at overhauling the general election presidential debates, with the goal of halting declining viewership, especially among younger voters and Hispanics, and allowing voters to emerge with a better understanding of the candidates and their positions.

National: The fight to strengthen Voting Rights Act is not over yet | Zachary Roth/MSNBC

Legislation to strengthen the Voting Rights Act (VRA) remains stalled in the Republican-controlled Congress. But as the two-year anniversary of the Supreme Court decision that gutted the landmark civil rights law approaches, supporters of the measure aren’t giving up the fight, despite long odds. A coalition of civil rights, voting rights, labor, and other progressive groups plan to mark the June 25 anniversary by rallying in the Virginia district of Rep. Bob Goodlatte, who chairs the House Judiciary Committee where the legislation has been bottled up. “In this 50th anniversary year of the Voting Rights Act, voters are more vulnerable to discrimination than at any time since the law was first passed in 1965,” Wade Henderson, the president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, said in a statement. “Congressional leadership has yet to act on restoring the law.”

National: As Hillary Clinton Pitches Voting Rights On The Trail, Her Counsel Looks To Fight For Them In Court | Huffington Post

The general counsel for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign is heading up three high-profile lawsuits against Republican-backed voting restrictions in what is shaping up to be a perfect political and legal storm leading up to the 2016 election. The attorney, Marc Elias, is involved in lawsuits challenging measures passed in Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin, arguing that laws cutting back early voting, restricting registration and requiring photo identification to vote, among other measures, disproportionately impact racial minorities.

National: Hack the vote: Cyber experts say ballot machines easy targets | Fox News

The recent cyber theft of millions of personnel records from the federal government was sophisticated and potentially crippling, but hackers with just rudimentary skills could easily do even more damage by targeting voting machines, according to security experts. Voter fraud is nearly as old as elections themselves, and different states and precincts use different voting systems and machines. But in many cases, even the electronic ballots could be manipulated remotely, according to a new report by the Commonwealth Security and Risk Management for the Virginia Information Technologies Agency. That report found that the AVS WINVote machines Virginia has used since 2002 have such flimsy security that an amateur hacker could change votes from outside a polling location.

National: States Await Court Ruling on Arizona Voting-District Maps | Wall Street Journal

The Supreme Court is expected to rule this month on an Arizona tool designed to strip politics from the drawing of congressional voting districts, in a decision that could end or expand attempts in several states to address partisan gerrymandering. Arizona voters chose in 2000 to set up a bipartisan independent commission that would draw voting districts. California voters in 2008 approved a similar commission, and several other states have given nonelected bodies some level of control over district boundaries. The goal is to curb the ability of a state’s majority political party to carve out voting districts that make their seats safer. Arizona’s commission draws both state legislative and U.S. congressional boundaries and is made up of five members—two Republicans, two Democrats and an independent chairman.

National: Weak Internet Security Leaves U.S. Elections Agency Vulnerable to Hackers, Reports Find | Wall Street Journal

Weak Internet-security measures at the Federal Election Commission could impair the agency’s ability to carry out one of its primary missions: making information about who is funding U.S. elections available to the public. The FEC hasn’t implemented improvements that were recommended after a series of attacks on its website—including at least one successful hack—leaving it vulnerable to future breaches, according to three previously unreported internal reports. It took the agency weeks to get its campaign-finance disclosure system fully back up to speed after an attack by hackers in China disrupted its operation during the October 2013 government shutdown, when all of the agency’s 335 employees had been furloughed.

National: The rise of the machines: Many states, localities get new voting equipment for 2016 | electionlineWeekly

While issues like early voting, voter registration and voter ID have certainly grabbed the headlines of late, another elections issue will literally be in front thousands of voters in 2016 — new voting systems. Nationwide many states and counties are moving to new voting systems for the first time in more than a decade in advance of the 2016 election cycle. For some jurisdictions the switch to a new voting system was mandated by state legislatures that wanted to move to paper-based systems. For others, it’s a matter of age. Many states and counties replaced their voting machines following the 2002 election and in a world where people replace their phones every two years and personal computers almost as frequently, 10+-year old voting machines are, well, old. Although budgeting and procurement are certainly taking center stage now, soon enough it will be training and voter education. It’s a lot to get done with an election calendar that grows shorter as more and more states jockey for position with their elections calendars.

National: Cicilline unveils automatic voter registration bill | The Hill

Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) has proposed a bill to automatically register Americans to vote, fresh off of similar calls by Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton. “Today, too many politicians are trying to make it harder than ever for citizens to make their voices heard at the ballot box,” Cicilline said in a statement on Wednesday. “The Automatic Voter Registration Act will protect the right to vote and expand access for eligible voters across the United States. I thank my colleagues who have co-sponsored this important legislation that helps to expand one of our most essential rights as Americans.”

National: With boost from Clinton, efforts to expand voting access advance | MSNBC

States from Rhode Island to Louisiana took steps this week toward making voting easier. In Washington, a new bill that would automatically register citizens to vote when they turn 18 is gaining traction among Democrats. And Ohio’s top voting official blocked a Democratic lawmaker on Twitter amid a spat over efforts to increase access to the ballot in the nation’s most pivotal swing state. It’s more evidence that Hillary Clinton’s major speech on voting last Thursday helped move along a conversation – already underway, to be sure – about how to to expand access to the ballot, especially by modernizing voter registration systems. It’s a conversation that threatens to put Republicans on the defensive after years of playing offense on the issue with a wave of restrictive voting laws.

National: Two FEC officials implore agency to curb 2016 election abuse | USA Today

Two Democratic members of the Federal Election Commission, who say they are frustrated by the agency’s failure to rein in campaign-finance abuses ahead of the 2016 presidential race, are making what amounts to a drastic move Monday in the staid world of federal election law. Commissioners Ann Ravel, who is the agency’s chairwoman, and Ellen Weintraub are filing a formal petition, urging their own agency to write rules to clamp down on unfettered political spending and unmask the anonymous money flooding U.S. elections.

National: Citizens United is making local TV rich. Here’s why. | Slate

Remember the outrage over Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission? The 2010 Supreme Court decision allowed corporations and other entities to expend unlimited funds on electoral influence, inspiring feverish protests and calls for constitutional reform. Jeremiads about the devolution of political discourse from an active citizenry engaged in public debate to a Machiavellian nightmare of corporate manipulation proliferated. Coupled with the growing awareness of economic inequality, Citizens United helped incite the Occupy movement and has already become a byword for corruption in the American political process. Like plenty of Americans, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg detests the ruling. “If there was one decision I would overrule, it would be Citizens United,” she told Jeffrey Rosen of the New Republic. “I think the notion that we have all the democracy that money can buy strays so far from what our democracy is supposed to be.” While it’s easy to locate those who defend Citizens United on constitutional grounds, finding support for the decision’s real-world effects on public discourse, debate, and democratic participation is a tougher task. But there’s one party that ought to be cheering the ruling’s positive impact on its livelihood: local TV.

National: U.S. authorities unlikely to stop 2016 election fundraising free-for-all | Reuters

White House hopefuls raking in record amounts of money in the 2016 U.S. presidential race are already being accused by watchdog groups of breaking campaign fundraising laws. But the U.S. Department of Justice is unlikely to prosecute possible violations and halt the funding free-for-all, say current and former department officials. With deadlock in the campaign finance regulator, the Federal Election Commission, watchdog groups are calling on the Justice Department to investigate contenders such as Republican Jeb Bush, who they say has conducted a charade of “non candidacy” to skirt federal election fundraising laws. Bush’s campaign said on Thursday he would announce his White House bid on June 15. Interviews with 11 current and former Justice Department officials indicate the department is unlikely to enforce rules before the November 2016 election, or even after. That means the election could unfold with record money – predictions are for overall campaign chests of more than $5 billion, double the cost of the 2012 election – but little regulation, they said.

National: Hillary Clinton Says G.O.P. Rivals Try to Stop Young and Minority Voters | New York Times

Hillary Rodham Clinton on Thursday accused Republicans including her potential rivals Jeb Bush, Scott Walker and Rick Perry of “deliberately trying to stop” young people and minorities — both vital Democratic constituencies — from exercising their right to vote, as she presented an ambitious agenda to make it easier for those groups and other Americans to participate in elections. Speaking at Texas Southern University here in front of her largest crowd yet as a candidate for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, Mrs. Clinton accused Republicans generally of enacting state voting laws based on what she called “a phantom epidemic of election fraud” because they are “scared of letting citizens have their say.”

National: Hillary Clinton Pushes for Voter Registration Overhaul | Bloomberg

Hillary Clinton called Thursday for sweeping changes to elections and voting laws, arguing that measures including universal voter registration and national early voting are necessary to counteract a tide of laws aimed at making it more difficult for some people to vote. Speaking at Houston’s Texas State University, at a ceremony honoring the late civil rights leader and Democratic Representative Barbara Jordan, Clinton set her sights squarely on some of her potential Republican opponents, who she said are “systematically and deliberately trying to stop millions of American citizens from voting.” In one of her most powerful and passionate appearances of her campaign thus far, the former secretary of state singled out four current and former governors, whose actions “have undercut [the] fundamental American principle” of the right to vote in their “crusade against voting rights.” Instead of continuing along the same path, she said, “they should stop fear-mongering about a phantom epidemic of election fraud” and work to make it easier for Americans who want to vote to go to the polls.

National: How Jeb Bush’s Presidential Announcement Will Change His Money Game | National Journal

The former Florida governor and scion of the modern Republican Party’s most prominent political family revealed on Thursday that he will formally announce his long-expected presidential candidacy on June 15 in Miami. The event comes almost six months to the day after Bush said last December that he was “actively exploring” a campaign and months after it has become clear Bush would, in fact, run. His dodging of that reality had begun to wear thin in recent weeks. On Sunday, pressured about his candidacy by CBS’s Bob Schieffer on his final day hosting Face the Nation, Bush offered up a tepid: “I hope so. I hope, I hope I’m a candidate in the near future.”

National: Attempts To Limit Voting Rights Stunted As Efforts To Enhance Voting Access Prevail | Huffington Post

A number of state legislatures are adjourning, and supporters of expanded access to the ballot box may be sighing in relief as they see some of the major efforts to restrict voting access were stymied during this legislative session. Then again, they may be disappointed that bills to restore voting rights to felons were squashed, or that courts haven’t yet shut down strict new voter identification requirements in Arizona, North Carolina and Texas. At the federal level, congressional Republicans haven’t been rushing to update the Voting Rights Act, which the Supreme Court gutted in 2013, even as they celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Selma, Alabama, civil rights march that helped bring about the landmark law.