National: What A Bitcoin Political Debut Could Mean For Transparency | Capital Public Radio

Bitcoin, the virtual currency that exists as alphanumeric strings online, is on the verge of getting into politics. The Federal Election Commission is expected to vote Thursday on a proposal to allow bitcoin contributions to political action committees — even as skeptics say that bitcoins could undermine the disclosure standards of federal law. The FEC is acting as other federal agencies are also exploring the uses, and dangers, of digital currency. At a Senate hearing on Monday, federal law enforcement officials cited Silk Road, an online illegal marketplace that used bitcoin before it was shut down. Edward Lowery III, chief of the Secret Service Criminal Investigative Division, told the panel: “While digital currencies may provide potential benefits, they present real risks through their use by the criminal and terrorist organizations trying to conceal their illicit activity.” Still, no one at the Senate hearing wanted to stifle virtual currency, and neither does the FEC. The commission was brought into the issue by the Conservative Action Fund, a political action committee that is seeking approval to accept bitcoins as contributions.

National: Long voting lines: Not just an inconvenience | MSNBC

Long voting lines were at the top of voters’ complaints in 2012 – and young voters got hit hard by wait times. A study released Monday from Advancement Project and OurTime.org turned the spotlight on Florida and Virginia, two states that experienced the longest wait times in 2012, and found that young voters turned out “in spite of numerous ballot barriers, not because the system worked efficiently.” How’s that for an apathetic youth? The study states: “Florida voters experience some of the longest voting lines in the country, with an average wait time of 39 minutes to cast a ballot. That was three times the national average in 2012, of 13.3 minutes.” Matthew Segal, co-founder of OurTime, calls those extra minutes a tax. Not in a monetary sense, but if time is money (as we’ve heard it is) then young voters are feeling the pinch more than others. “The Time Tax doesn’t cost literal dollars and cents, but it’s certainly costing time,” Segal explained to msnbc.com. Those minutes and hours spent on a voting line means less time for jobs, classes, and homework and more hoops to jump through to obtain proper identification and necessary voting qualifications means more people may give up on voting because it’s too time-consuming.

National: Sensenbrenner amps up voting rights reform push | The Hill

A powerful House Republican said this week that he’s preparing to throw his full weight behind the effort to reinstall the voting protections shot down by the Supreme Court in June. Rep. James Sensenbrenner, former head of the House Judiciary Committee, has been focused on a new surveillance bill in recent weeks. But speaking Tuesday at the Georgetown University Law Center, the 18-term Wisconsin Republican said he intends to shift gears to address the provisions of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) deemed by the high court to be unconstitutional. “Once I am done with this issue, my next project is to try to constitutionalize those parts of the Voting Rights Act that were struck down,” Sensenbrenner said. While noting that he no longer heads the Judiciary panel, Sensenbrenner vowed he’s “keeping my hands in the pie and attempting to deal with issues that I think are important … to improving the quality of life for all of the people in the United States of America.”

National: War on ‘Greatest Generation’? Critics assail voter ID laws | CSMonitor.com

Genevieve Winslow of Milwaukee belongs is a member of the Greatest Generation. In 1948, at age 20, she married Alex Winslow, who fought in the Battle of the Bulge. Beginning a year later, at 21, she’s voted in nearly every election since. Now, she worries she might get turned away at the polls in the future. It is a common concern among older Americans living in states that have enacted photo ID requirements for voting. Passed by Republican state legislatures as a hedge against voter fraud, the laws have been assailed by critics who say they discriminate against the elderly and minorities. As Wisconsin implements its law, it is opening a window into why a photo ID can be so difficult for the elderly to obtain. But it is also highlighting what some activists are calling a “war against the Greatest Generation” as federal and state budget cuts fall disproportionately on the elderly. Whether it is the government shutdown making it harder to obtain veteran’s benefits or cuts to food stamps or state welfare programs, many in the Greatest Generation feel that they are now being left in the cold. During the latest partial government shutdown, “I don’t know that people didn’t get their benefits, but does that mean that things did not get processed while the government was shut down? Yes,” says David Hobson, executive director of the National Organization of Veterans Advocates. ” That does mean that claims did not get processed, so that was being held up.” Yet voter ID laws, which have been adopted in at least 34 states, feel to many seniors like the most direct attack.

National: Republican Party Weighs a 2016 Shakeup With ‘Midwestern Primary’ | The Daily Beast

The national Republican Party is considering a number of major changes to its presidential nominating process to avoid a repeat of the debacles of 2012, according to several party officials. Most significantly, the party is considering holding a “Midwestern primary” featuring Great Lakes states such as Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin that would come immediately after the votes in the traditional early primary states. Also being weighed and thought likely to be approved when the Republican National Committee meets in early 2014 is a plan to shorten the primary season considerably by holding the party’s convention in July, almost as soon as the last primary ballots are cast. The move toward a “Midwestern Super Tuesday” after the early primary states of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Florida appears aimed in part at wresting control of the nominating process from social conservatives in the South in an effort to produce a nominee more likely to carry the election in November. Nearly all the “Rust Belt” states have fallen into Democratic hands in recent elections, and GOP officials believe that showering them with more resources throughout the primary process—and ensuring that an eventual nominee is broadly popular there—could flip the Midwest into the Republican column in November.

National: Democrats tread carefully on voting rights bill | The Hill

Democrats in both chambers are working behind the scenes to draft legislation to re-install the Voting Rights Act protections shot down by the Supreme Court over the summer. But in a sign of the delicate nature of the topic, Senate Democrats are taking care not to rush ahead of the House, for fear of sinking the bill’s chances in the GOP-controlled lower chamber. Instead, Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) is working with House Democrats and a small contingent of House Republicans – notably former Judiciary Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner (Wis.), who championed the 2006 VRA reauthorization – in an effort to defuse the partisan politics surrounding the thorny issue and forge a bill that has the best chance of becoming law. “We’ve had hearings and now we’re just trying to quietly get some support, because I don’t want to bring up something that doesn’t go anywhere,” Leahy said Thursday.

National: Gerrymanders and state [s]elections | The Hill

Ol’ Elbridge Gerry is back in the dock, his namesake “gerrymander” blamed for all that ails our “gridlocked” Congress.   Some claim that the House districts drawn by state legislatures in 2011 have reached new heights (or lows) of partisanship.  Critics deride the shape of the districts and object to their effect on control of the House.  These claims are important, but they ignore the fact that state legislatures have since 1788 sought to influence the selection of members of Congress. The current, computer-aided gerrymandering is only the most recent battle in that perennial fight.  When viewed as the “selection” of sympathetic House members by state legislatures, gerrymandering reflects deeper constitutional roots than its critics admit. The Framers of our Constitution granted state legislatures key roles in the election of the members of the Senate and House.  Article I of the 1787 Constitution provided for the election of senators by vote of the state legislatures.  Members of the House were to be chosen by the vote of the people of each state, but state legislatures would choose the “time, place, and manner” of such direct elections,” though Congress retained power to “alter” such state regulations.

National: Using Hurricane Sandy as a Lesson for Future Elections | New York Times

Hurricane Sandy prompted elected officials to consider many ideas to prepare for storms, as varied as building protective dunes and fortifying subway stops. Now politicians representing areas vulnerable to storms are also considering steps to protect something less obviously threatened by the weather: Election Day. The officials say they are responding to lessons learned during the 2012 presidential election, one week after Hurricane Sandy, when they were forced to scramble to relocate polling places and devise ways for displaced residents to vote. Many of their adjustments were conceived on the fly, and voting in New York and New Jersey was chaotic. “Voting is a fundamental American right, and all states should have a plan to ensure that even a serious man-made or natural disaster doesn’t interfere with that right,” said Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, who plans to introduce legislation to require states to develop disaster contingency plans for elections for federal offices.

National: Soon You’ll Be Able To Buy Politicians With Digital Cash | Huffington Post

The digital currency Bitcoin is perhaps best known for its use in buying illegal drugs from online stores like the now-defunct Silk Road. An upcoming Federal Election Commission ruling will expand what you can buy with bitcoins into a strictly legal realm: purchasing politicians. The FEC is set to approve an advisory opinion this week allowing federal political campaigns to accept contributions in bitcoins. The agency will treat bitcoins the same way it treats donations of stock, as an in-kind gift worth the amount at which it was valued at the time of contribution. Bitcoins were valued at about $376 each (as of this writing), and the maximum contribution an individual may make to one campaign is $2,600 per election. The advisory opinion comes in response to the Conservative Action Fund, whose request was filed by conservative election lawyer Dan Backer. He is the force behind a number of recent deregulatory advisory opinion requests and court challenges, including the initial FEC filing that led to the pending Supreme Court case McCutcheon v. FEC. Backer asked the FEC whether the Conservative Action Fund could accept bitcoins as contributions as well as use bitcoins to pay expenses and to make contributions to other candidates.

National: How Supreme Court Decision on Voting Rights Act is Affecting State Laws | ProPublica

Last year, we wrote extensively about photo ID laws and the Supreme Court’s decision to strike a key section of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Now, with gubernatorial elections in New Jersey and Virginia, and the debt ceiling and healthcare debates already shaping the 2014 midterms, we’re revisiting voting policies to see which states have enacted tougher restrictions since the Supreme Court ruling in June. Under the Voting Rights Act, states and localities with a history of racial discrimination needed to get permission from the federal government to enact any changes to their voting laws, in a process called “preclearance.” As of June 2013, nine states, mostly in the South – Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia – needed to get any new voting laws pre-approved. Some counties and townships in California, Florida, New York, North Carolina, South Dakota and Michigan were also subject to preclearance. Section 5 first applied to states that imposed literacy tests or other unfair devices, and had low voter registration or turnout. Congress later expanded the law to add jurisdictions with sizable minority populations and English-only election materials.

National: Curtailed Voting Rights Act To Be Tested In Disenfranchisement Lawsuits Across US | MintPress News

In Wisconsin, the first test of the Voting Rights Act post-Shelby County v. Holder is underway. Since the controversial ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court in June — in which the court ruled that the federal preclearance formula used to prevent racist voter suppression in certain states and communities is dated and unconstitutional — nine states have moved to introduce stricter voting laws — including harsher requirements for voter identification, restrictions on absentee and early voting and limiting access to voting places. Wisconsin is the first state the Justice Department has sued under Section 2 of the VRA, which prohibits states from limiting voting access to federally recognized protected groups and permits the Justice Department to file suit on the basis of racial, ethnic, age, gender, sexual preference or disability discrimination at the polling place. Wisconsin passed a law requiring a state-issued photo ID be presented in order to vote. This, in turn, would require a birth certificate, which many minorities do not have access to. Additionally, out-of-state college students might not have access to a state ID. … In one of the two challenges being heard, the American Civil Liberties Union argues that Ruthelle Frank, an 86-year-old resident of Brokaw, Wis., and a member of the Brokaw Village Board since 1996, is being unfairly discriminated against because — although the state Register of Deeds bears a record of her live birth — the record has her maiden name incorrectly spelled. As a result, all of her vital certifications would be inadequate under the law toward obtaining a voting ID, while correcting the error would be costly for an elderly woman on a fixed budget. The ACLU argues that the Wisconsin law places Frank under an undue financial burden in order to exercise her right to vote.

National: Lawyers Seek $2M in Fees from Federal Governemnt in Voting Rights Act Challenge | Legal Times

The lawyers who successfully challenged the Voting Rights Act before the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this year are seeking $2 million in legal fees from the federal government. U.S. Department of Justice lawyers and attorneys from Wiley Rein, who represented Shelby County, Ala., in the voting rights dispute, are expected to fight over two issues: whether the challengers are entitled to fees in the first place and whether $2 million is too much. The fee request “appears to present novel legal issues,” the attorneys in the case said in a Nov. 4 court filing. The government and civil rights groups involved in the litigation plan to oppose the fee request. U.S. District Judge John Bates will first decide whether Shelby County’s lawyers are entitled to fees before looking at how much compensation is appropriate. In June, a divided U.S. Supreme Court struck down Section 4 of the voting rights law, which laid out the formula used to decide which states and jurisdictions should have to take special steps before making changes to their voting procedures. Wiley Rein filed its fee request in late October.

National: Presumed guilty: Ex-felons face barriers to voting rights | MSNBC

When the votes are tallied in Virginia’s race for governor on Tuesday, over 300,000 citizens will be missing from the voting rolls – including 20% of the state’s black population. The reason is not low turnout or voter ID, but a growing and often invisible barrier to voting that is upending elections around the country. Over 5 million Americans are barred from voting because they have criminal records, according to a report this year from the Sentencing Project. The crackdown on ballot access is so intense, a majority of states actually bar former convicts from voting even after they are released from prison.  If voting rights were restored to those former inmates, about 4.3 million more Americans would be able to vote. That is over three times margin of victory in the last House midterm elections.

National: Republicans target minor parties after election losses | Washington Post

Republican legislators and political activists in several red states are taking steps to make it harder for minor party candidates to make the ballot after a string of elections Democrats won with less than 50 percent of the vote. The Ohio legislature voted earlier this week to require minor parties to collect signatures of 1 percent of the number of voters who cast ballots in the last gubernatorial or presidential election. Libertarians and Green Party members complain that the rule — which would require them to gather about 56,000 signatures to make the 2014 ballot — sets an impossibly high standard. In Arizona, Gov. Jan Brewer (R) signed legislation earlier this year to require candidates running for Congress to collect enough signatures to represent one-third of 1 percent of registered voters in their respective districts. That’s a 40-fold increase in the number of signatures Libertarian Party candidates would have to collect.

National: Fast schedule set for Kansas-Arizona voting rules lawsuit | KansasCity.com

A federal judge has set an expedited schedule in a lawsuit filed by Kansas and Arizona against a federal agency in hopes of bolstering their states’ enforcement of proof-of-citizenship requirements for new voters. A hearing was scheduled for Dec. 13 on the states’ request for a preliminary injunction forcing the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to modify a national voter registration form to help the states administer their requirements. U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren, based in Wichita, also told the commission and its top administrator Thursday that they had until Nov. 27, the day before Thanksgiving, to file a written response to the request for such an order. A preliminary injunction would impose the change even before the lawsuit is heard.

National: Few Tricks, Some Treats as Two New FEC Commissioners Start Work on Halloween | In the Arena

For the first time since January, the Federal Election Commission held a meeting at which a majority of six Commissioners agreed on an advisory opinion.  At its public meeting today, the Commission welcomed Lee Goodman and Ann Ravel to its ranks.  Commissioner Goodman came from a private practice in which he represented Republican candidates and officeholders, among other clients.  As the chair of the California Fair Political Practices Commission, Commissioner Ravel made waves last week with the announcement of a million-dollar settlement with two conservative nonprofits that failed to disclose the sources of funds spent on state ballot initiative campaigns. In opening statements, the two new Commissioners found common ground on two subjects: they both expressed appreciation of the FEC’s staff, and a desire to achieve consensus on issues facing the agency.  Commissioner Goodman added, though, that the FEC is a “complicated agency” where First Amendment and regulatory concerns must be carefully balanced.

National: State voter ID laws snare women with name changes | USAToday

Some states that have tightened their voter identification laws are using workarounds to avoid voting problems for women whose names have changed because of marriage or divorce – even as opponents of the laws warn there is still potential to disqualify female voters. Voter ID laws are intensely controversial: the Justice Department is currently suing Texas and North Carolina to block their new, stricter laws, and lawsuits in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin have also prevented voter ID laws from being implemented. Legislators supporting voter ID laws say they are necessary to prevent voter fraud; opponents say laws requiring certain types of identification disproportionately affect minorities and the poor. They may also create problems for women who have changed their names after marriage or divorce, advocates say.

National: Voter ID update: the diversity in the details | Constitution Daily

Voter ID laws are back in the news. Curiously, the most recent action concerns one of the oldest cases. Judge Richard Posner wrote the 2007 appellate opinion upholding Indiana’s strict photo ID law — the first legal one in the country — against a challenge. Justice John Paul Stevens wrote the 2008 opinion for the Supreme Court upholding that upholding. Both have recently publicly mused about the merits of arguments by the judges that disagreed. That sort of reflective appreciation for the opposing view is sufficiently unusual that it has provoked a flood of commentary. And that flood of commentary has largely lost sight of two very important distinctions. First: ID laws are not all the same. Every state makes sure, when people come to the polls, that they are who they say they are. It’s the details of how they do this that matter. Some states compare signatures. Many see whether they can match up Social Security digits, or ask for a document like a utility bill or paycheck, off a long list. Some have a shorter list of approved documents. Some ask for a government-issued photo ID card from those who have one, and demand a special affidavit from those who do not.

National: How voter ID laws might suppress the votes of women. Republican women. | Dahlia Lithwick/Slate

Last June the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a key part of the Voting Rights Act, resulting in several states, among them Texas and North Carolina, racing to enact draconian new voter ID laws. While the first wave of attention focused on the ways such laws disproportionately impact minority voters, young voters, and the elderly, a slew of articles this past weekend point out that voter ID laws may also significantly suppress women’s votes. Indeed some have even suggested that this is the next front in the war on women, and suppressing female votes is part of the GOP’s concerted effort to ensure victories in states like Texas, where women like Wendy Davis threaten to topple the GOP with the support of female voters. It’s beyond disputing that women have ensured that Democrats, up to and including President Obama, have achieved major wins in recent elections. Female voters decided 22 of 23 Senate races in the 2012 election. But a closer look at whether voter ID laws will invariably harm liberal women and Democratic candidates at the polls suggests that something more interesting, and more complicated, may be going on here. We don’t actually have very good data to support the claim that voter ID laws will disproportionately disenfranchise progressive women. In fact some election law experts tell me the opposite may be true: These laws may hurt conservative women instead.

National: Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act is more effective than expected, new research shows | Slate

A voting rights battle royal began last month when the Department of Justice sued North Carolina over its restrictive new election law. DOJ alleged that the law, which imposes a photo ID requirement for voting, ends same-day voter registration, and cuts back on early voting, violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. Earlier this summer the DOJ also filed two Section 2 suits against Texas, arguing that its photo ID law and electoral district maps are illegal. Section 2 is the VRA’s core remaining prohibition of racial discrimination in voting. It bans practices that make it more difficult for minority voters to “participate in the political process” and “elect representatives of their choice.” It applies to both redistricting (as in Texas) and voting restrictions (as in North Carolina). And it just became a whole lot more important thanks to the Supreme Court’s June decision in Shelby County v. Holder, which neutered the VRA’s other key provision, Section 5. Section 5 used to bar certain states and cities, mostly in the South, from changing their election laws unless they first received federal approval. To get approval, the jurisdictions had to prove that their changes wouldn’t make minority voters worse off. Now that Section 5 is essentially gone, all eyes are on Section 2.

National: Judge in Landmark Case Disavows Support for Voter ID | New York Times

It is the kind of thought that rarely passes the lips of a member of the federal judiciary: I was wrong. But there was Richard A. Posner, one of the most distinguished judges in the land and a member of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, saying he was mistaken in one of the most contentious issues in American politics and jurisprudence: laws that require people to show identification before they can vote. Proponents of voter identification laws, who tend to be Republican, say the measures are necessary to prevent fraud at the polls. Opponents, who tend to be Democrats, assert that the amount of fraud at polling places is tiny, and that the burdens of the laws are enough to suppress voting, especially among poor and minority Americans. One of the landmark cases in which such requirements were affirmed, Crawford v. Marion County Election Board, was decided at the Seventh Circuit in an opinion written by Judge Posner in 2007 and upheld by the Supreme Court in 2008.

National: Voter-ID Laws Worry Retired Supreme Court Justice Stevens | Wall Street Journal

Retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens said he was concerned by the proliferation of state laws tightening voter-identification requirements but believes he ruled correctly in 2008 that an Indiana voter-ID law could stand. Debate over the case was reopened last week when a federal appeals judge in Chicago repudiated his own 2007 opinion upholding the Indiana law. Judge Richard Posner wrote the 2-1 decision of the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that the Supreme Court, by a 6-3 vote, upheld the following year. “I plead guilty to having written the majority opinion (affirmed by the Supreme Court) upholding Indiana’s requirement that prospective voters prove their identity with a photo ID—a type of law now widely regarded as a means of voter suppression rather than of fraud prevention,” Judge Posner writes in his new book, “Reflections on Judging.”

National: The next, next Citizens United | Washington Post

Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, a case many — including my GovBeat colleague Niraj — have dubbed the next Citizens United. McCutcheon challenges the government-set aggregate limits on how much an individual can contribute to federal candidates. It’s the latest salvo in a coordinated drive by conservative lawyers to undermine campaign finance reforms. And those conservative lawyers aren’t waiting for McCutcheon to be decided before they tee up their next assault — this time on rules against corporations contributing to candidates. Last week, Indiana attorney Jim Bopp Jr., on behalf of the Iowa Right to Life Committee, asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review Iowa’s ban on political contributions by corporations. Bopp says Iowa’s rules, which allow labor unions to give but prohibit corporations from donating to candidates, violates the Fourteenth Amendment’s equal protection guarantee, along with the right to free speech.

National: Judge Who Framed Voter ID Laws As Constitutional Says He Got It Wrong | The Nation

When the United States Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit in Chicago issued a critical ruling defending the constitutionality of Voter ID laws, Judge Richard Posner authored the decision. The arguments Judge Posner made for upholding Indiana’s Voter ID law framed the some of the key underpinnings for the 2008 decision of the US Supreme Court that, since it was issued, has been employed as a justification for similar initiatives in states across the country. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, “a total of 34 states have passed voter ID laws of some kind.” Not all of those laws have been implemented, with a number of them facing court challenges. So it should count for something that Judge Posner now says that he was mistaken in his determination. Indeed, the judge’s rethink ought to inspire a national rethink — about not just Voter ID laws but the broader issue of voter rights.

National: Poll: Americans support fine-tuning election policy | USAToday

The capital’s shutdowns and showdowns have tested the patience even of the Senate chaplain. “Save us from the madness,” he prayed at the opening of one session last week. But how, exactly? The roots of the nation’s polarized and sometimes paralyzed politics, decades in the making, are too complex and far-reaching to be easily reversed or resolved. Even so, some political scientists and politicians argue that making simple changes — expanding who can vote in primary elections, for instance, or rethinking how legislative districts are drawn — could make a difference in the kind of government that follows. A nationwide USA TODAY/Bipartisan Policy Center poll finds a majority of Americans support a range of proposals aimed at easing hyper-partisanship and building confidence in elections. Some command the sort of broad bipartisan backing rare in national politics.

National: Judge: my voter ID ruling was wrong | Politico

A federal appeals court judge said Friday that he erred when writing a decision which served as a key precursor to the Supreme Court’s 2008 ruling upholding the constitutionality of Indiana’s voter ID law. In an interview Friday on HuffPostLive, Seventh Circuit Judge Richard Posner said his opinion finding the Indiana law constitutional was mistaken, due to the court not having sufficient information about how the law could be used to prevent or discourage people from voting. “Do you think that the court got this one wrong?” HuffPo’s Mike Sacks asked. “Yes. Absolutely. And the problem is that there hadn’t been that much activity with voter identification,” Posner said. “Maybe we should have been more imaginative….We weren’t really given strong indications that requiring additional voter identification would actually disfranchise people entitled to vote.”

National: States joining forces to scrub voter rolls | Associated Press

More than half of states are now working in broad alliances to scrub voter rolls of millions of questionable registrations, identifying people registered in multiple states and tens of thousands of dead voters who linger on election lists. Poll managers are looking for more states to get involved and say the efforts are necessary because outdated voter registration systems are unable to keep up with a society where people frequently move from one state to another. While many of the registration problems are innocent, some election leaders fear the current disorder within the system is inviting trouble. “It creates an environment where there could be more problems,” said Scott Gessler, the Republican secretary of state in Colorado. “It’s a precursor to potential fraud, there’s no doubt about it.” Half of all states have now joined a consortium anchored by the state of Kansas, compiling their voter registration lists at the end of every year to assess for duplicates. That program has grown rapidly since beginning in 2005 in an agreement between four Midwestern states. Meanwhile, seven states are coordinating on another project that makes those assessments more frequently with advanced algorithms _ while also checking for deceased voters.

National: Supreme Court Again Weighs Spending Limits in Campaigns | New York Times

The Supreme Court on Tuesday seemed prepared to strike down a part of federal campaign finance law left intact by its decision in Citizens United in 2010: overall limits on direct contributions from individuals to candidates. The justices seemed to divide along familiar ideological lines, and they articulated starkly different understandings of the role of money and free speech in American politics. “By having these limits, you are promoting democratic participation,” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said. “Then the little people will count some and you won’t have the super-affluent as the speakers that will control the elections.” Justice Antonin Scalia responded, sarcastically, that he assumed “a law that only prohibits the speech of 2 percent of the country is O.K.” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., who probably holds the crucial vote, indicated that he was inclined to strike down overall limits on contributions to several candidates, but perhaps not separate overall limits on contributions to several political committees.

National: Much Ado About McCutcheon: The Continuing Erosion of Campaign Contribution Limits | Pacific Standard

Shaun McCutcheon wants to make political donations to federal candidates. Allow me to clarify; McCutcheon wants to make a lot of political donations to federal candidates. The Republican National Committee, among others, wants him to be able to do so. So what’s the problem? Currently, McCutcheon can give $2,600 per election directly to a federal candidate, a total of $48,600 per election to all federal candidates, and $74,600 per election to federal political party committees and political action committees, or PACs, that give money to federal candidates. Put another away, McCutcheon (and other individuals) are subject to a $123,200 per election aggregate contribution limit with respect to candidates, political parties, and PACs. McCutcheon, an electrical engineer living in Alabama, would like to change that. The result is the latest and greatest campaign finance question to hit the high court since Citizens United. In the early 1970s, in the wake of the Watergate scandals that lead to the resignation of President Nixon, Congress implemented the nation’s first comprehensive campaign finance law. The law limited how much could be given to and spent by candidates, how much could be spent by independent groups and organizations, required that certain donations and expenditures be disclosed to the public, and created a system of public campaign financing for presidential candidates. The primary reason that McCutcheon’s argument may likely carry the day is that five of the nine justices on the Supreme Court are, to varying degrees, hostile to campaign finance legislation.

National: McCutcheon v. FEC’s Other Threat: Case Could Super-Size Joint Fundraising Committees | Huffington Post

The joint fundraising committee may join the super PAC and the “dark money” nonprofit as the new face of big money in politics if the Supreme Court decides to unravel key contribution limits in an upcoming case. A decision in favor of Shaun McCutcheon, the lead plaintiff in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, to be argued Oct. 8, could vastly increase the joint fundraising committee’s cash-gathering capacity. The justices will decide in McCutcheon whether the aggregate federal campaign contribution limits — $123,200 for a single donor in the 2014 election cycle — place an unconstitutional burden on a donor’s rights to free speech and association. In the absence of the aggregate limit, individual donors could donate to as many candidates, political party committees and political action committees as they saw fit.