National: Super PACs: $125 million spent — and counting | CBS News

With less than 100 days to go in the presidential race, nine single-candidate “super” PACs — political action committees that can raise and spend unlimited sums on political expression – have spent $125 million advocating and advertising for their preferred candidate, a CBS News analysis of Federal Election Commission reports shows. Through the first half of 2012, the pro-Mitt Romney Restore Our Future, was the most active super PAC, raising $81 million and spending $60 million through June 30. Two-thirds of its spending, or $40 million, went to negative ads attacking Republican primary opponents Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum. Super PACs established for six also-ran Republicans — Gingrich, Santorum, Ron Paul, Rick Perry, Jon Huntsman, Herman Cain — spent a combined $36 million dollars on advertising and advocacy during the primaries, which effectively ended when Santorum dropped out in April.

National: Voting Tech Errors Could Be a Deal Breaker in Swing States, Report Says | GovTech

As with any technology, electronic voting machines run the risk of malfunctioning. However, with the upcoming November presidential election, states may want a plan B if a worst-case scenario occurs on Election Day, like if a machine fails to process votes — an issue that could be even more troubling in swing states. History shows that technology doesn’t always cooperate on Election Day. In a 2010 nonpresidential election, North Carolina voters faced problems with electronic voting machines when Republican voters claimed they couldn’t select the Republican candidate while voting because the machines selected the Democratic candidate without the voters’ consent. New York City faced trouble with voting machines that same year due to operational failures and a lack of proper equipment arriving on time at polling sites. To find out how prepared states will be for possible voting system failures in the upcoming election, the Verified Voting Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization; Common Cause, another nonpartisan organization; and Rutgers Law School’s Constitutional Litigation Clinic surveyed each of the 50 states on series of criteria and released a report Wednesday, July 25, that outlines the findings. The report, Counting Votes 2012: A State by State Look at Voting Technology Preparedness, ranked the states based on five evaluation topics. States were asked questions including: Has the state instituted a post-election audit that can determine whether the electronically reported outcomes are correct? Does the state have adequate contingency plans at each polling place in the event of machine failure? According to the report, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Ohio, Vermont and Wisconsin were ranked as best prepared to handle potential voting system malfunctions. Ranked least prepared were Colorado, Delaware, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and South Carolina. Overall, the states’ rankings placed them into one of four categories: good, generally good, needs improvement and inadequate.

National: Voter ID laws could swing states | Politico.com

At least 5 million voters, predominantly young and from minority groups sympathetic to President Barack Obama, could be affected by an unprecedented flurry of new legislation by Republican governors and GOP-led legislatures to change or restrict voting rights by Election Day 2012. Supporters of these new laws — spearheaded in six swing states, as well as other less competitive ones — argue they are just trying to stop voter fraud and protect the integrity of the vote. But opponents, mainly Democrats and Obama’s campaign, which is closely monitoring the daily warfare over the new laws, believe they are trying to change the face of the electorate in a way that benefits the Republican candidate for president. Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Virginia and Wisconsin, all viewed as important states this fall, each have enacted stricter ID laws. Florida and Ohio have cut back on early voting. And a whole host of other states have passed new ID laws as well. As a result, millions of voters will find it much more difficult to vote on Election Day in November — some estimates, such as one from the Brennan Center of Justice last fall, put the number of those affected nationwide at more than 5 million. In Pennsylvania alone, the state’s Transportation Department released figures showing that more than 750,000 registered voters in the state — 9.2 percent of voters there — do not have the required forms of ID to vote in November.

National: Is your vote secure? Many digital systems lack paper backups, study says | CSMonitor.com

In elections this March in Palm Beach County, Fla., an election management software glitch gave votes to the wrong candidate and the wrong contest. But paper ballots were available, and a recount was done. The mistake was corrected. Such failures are hardly unique. And often they are worse. In every national election in the past decade, computer voting systems have failed with memory-card glitches and other errors that resulted in votes lost or miscounted, according to a new national study, “Counting Votes 2012: A State by State Look at Voting Technology Preparedness.” More than 300 voting-machine problems were reported in the 2010 midterm elections and more than 1,800 in the 2008 general election, according to the study by Common Cause, Rutgers School of Law, and the Verified Voting Foundation. “Voting systems frequently fail,” the study concludes. “And when they fail, votes are lost. Voters in jurisdictions without paper ballots or records for every vote cast, including military and overseas votes, do not have the same protections as states that use paper ballot systems. This is not acceptable.” Download the Report

National: FEC says it will enforce nonprofit disclosure rules | The Washington Post

The Federal Election Commission told political advocacy groups Friday that it would enforce new disclosure rules for some nonprofits under a recent court ruling, but many key groups have taken steps to evade the requirements. Legal experts said the FEC guidance makes it clear that nonprofit groups will have to reveal some of their major donors if they pay for electioneering communications — also known as “issue ads” — that name political candidates but stop short of urging viewers to vote for or against them. But advocacy groups such as the conservative Crossroads GPS still have many ways of evading disclosure, often simply by changing the tenor or language of their advertising, experts said. The rules also only apply to ads that run close to an election. Major advocacy groups had already stopped running issue ads close to primary elections this summer in anticipation of the FEC’s guidance. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has said it will simply alter the language of its ads to avoid reporting contributors to the FEC.

National: State systems for overseas voters vulnerable | USAToday.com

States trying to make it easier for troops overseas to vote have set up voting systems that are vulnerable to hacking when they allow voters to return ballots online, via e-mail, or Internet fax, says a state-by-state report to be released today. The report, Counting Votes 2012, by the Verified Voting Foundation and Common Cause Education Fund, says all states should require overseas ballots to be mailed because even faxed ballots can’t be independently audited. “They’re trying to do a calculus and make it easy for the voter, and they may not realize the great risk they’re putting those votes at,” says Pam Smith of the Verified Voting Foundation, a group that advocates accuracy and verifiability of election returns. The report also rates states on their ability to accurately count votes, and it warns that progress away from paperless voting — which leaves nothing to recount in a dispute — has been halted by the lagging economy.

National: Outside groups may have to disclose donors | Politico.com

Secretive outside groups shelling out millions of dollars for political advertisements could now be required to disclose the donors who cut them big checks. Responding to a recent court decision, the Federal Election Commission said Friday that it will force nonprofit groups that air ads that refer to specific federal candidates, but don’t overtly advocate for or against them, to report the names and addresses of donors who give more than $1,000. The FEC’s enforcement could affect nonprofits such as the Karl Rove-backed conservative group Crossroads GPS, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Democratic group Priorities USA. Those groups have been able to raise unlimited amounts from donors, but haven’t been forced to disclose their names. The agency will require groups to report their donors retroactively, it said Friday. Groups will be forced to report donors who gave more than $1,000 since March 30, 2012.

National: Embattled postal service faces challenge on Election Day | NBC

In states that rely largely or entirely on vote-by-mail or absentee ballots, a pre-Nov. 6 disruption of mail delivery caused by the U.S. Postal Service’s fiscal crisis would be a fiasco for voters and election officials. With partisan battles already under way on voter eligibility across the nation over fears of voter fraud and charges of vote suppression, the last thing the upcoming election needs is another procedural snafu. Washington and Oregon voters cast their ballots entirely by mail or at local drop boxes, and in California’s June primary, nearly two out of three voters cast their ballots by mail. Even in states where voters still show up in person to vote at their local precinct, absentee voting by mail is common. In order for the election to take place, the mail must get delivered promptly – no matter how dire the Postal Service’s fiscal crisis is – and it’s dire indeed. In the second quarter of its fiscal year (January to March) the Postal Service lost $3.2 billion. Congressional postal experts will be scrutinizing its third-quarter financial statement on Aug. 9 to see if the distress has worsened. While the Senate has passed a reform bill to keep the Postal Service afloat, the House hasn’t yet acted. Urging the House to move, one of the Senate reform leaders, Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., said Wednesday “Only one week from now, the Postal Service will default on a $5.5 billion payment to Treasury – further eroding the confidence of the millions of customers and businesses” that rely on mail to get delivered.

National: Karl Rove’s Catch-22 | Mother Jones

For all the headlines and hand-wringing about super-PACs, it is dark-money nonprofits like Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS and Americans for Prosperity that dominate the political money wars. These politically oriented groups, which keep their donors secret, outspent super-PACs 3-to-2 in the 2010 elections. Through the spring of 2012, 91 percent of advertising by independent groups came from nonprofits and big business trade groups. And a growing pile of evidence suggests that it’s these nonprofits, not super-PACs, hauling in the bulk of corporate political cash. But come Saturday, the dark-money nonprofits face a dilemma. A high-profile court case known as Van Hollen v. FEC threatens to shine an unwelcome beam of sunlight on donors bankrolling these organizations. Nothing’s stopping Crossroads GPS or AFP from running more “issue” ads hitting Obama and other Democrats (that is, ads that don’t explicitly say “vote for” or “vote against”). Except now nonprofits will have to reveal who funded those spots. Dark-money nonprofits don’t want to name names. Their pitch to donors includes the promise of anonymity and a shield from public scrutiny. This means that Crossroads GPS and other politically active nonprofits—which aren’t supposed to make politicking their primary purpose—have to rethink their ad strategy, election experts say. Do they shift money to super-PACs? Go dark in the months before the election? Find another loophole to run ads and keep their donors secret?

National: Republicans hit Justice Department on voter ID | The Associated Press

House Republicans on Thursday criticized the Justice Department’s decision to challenge new voter ID laws in several states, saying it shows the Obama Administration is more concerned with Democrats winning in November than protecting against election fraud.
“The Department of Justice has embarrassed itself,” said Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz. “The partisan bias is obvious.” Thomas Perez, the department’s chief civil rights enforcer, denied any partisan bias or motivation in bringing federal court challenges under the Voting Rights Act to recently passed voter ID laws in Texas and South Carolina. In both states, Republican-controlled legislatures passed laws requiring voters to show government-issued photo identification in order to vote. The Justice Department indicated this week it also is looking at whether Pennsylvania’s new voter ID law violates the Voting Rights Act, a 1965 law for ensuring minorities’ right to vote. “Our philosophy has been very straight forward,” Perez told a House Judiciary subcommittee that Franks chairs. “We want to enforce laws. There’s a robust debate in this country, and we think we need to continue to have that debate and we do our level best to ensure that every eligible voter casts their vote and has access to the ballot.”

National: Voting Machine Report: States Ranked Based On Use Of Paper Ballots | Huffington Post

Six states received the lowest grades for their abilities to accurately count election results based on their lack of access to paper ballots, according to a report released Wednesday by Common Cause, Rutgers Law School and the Verified Voting Foundation. The report — which studied election technology and administration in the 50 states and the District of Columbia — calls primarily for states to implement paper ballots in all counties in order to guard against system failures and other issues. The grading centered primarily on whether the state had paper trails in place. “The biggest problem is if those machines malfunction, there is no way to independently check,” Susannah Goodman, director of the voting integrity project at Common Cause said in a conference call with reporters. “What was the voters’ intent? You can’t do an audit.” The report showed that Minnesota, New Hampshire, Ohio, Vermont and Wisconsin were best when it came to catching voting problems, while Colorado, Delaware, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and South Carolina ranked at the bottom of the list. States were graded on whether their machines leave a paper trail, whether an audit is done of ballots, whether election officials check the vote count against the amount of voters who come to the polls, whether there are contingency plans in place in case of machine failure, and whether voting-by-mail is encouraged over online voting for military and overseas voters. Failure in the paper ballot category led to failure for states in the audit category, given the need for paper ballots to conduct the audit. “For states that don’t have paper ballots or records, it knocks them down,” Goodman said.

National: Only 5 states very well-prepared to handle voting machine errors, study finds | ABC News

How equipped is your state to handle voting machine errors? Chances are, not overly prepared. Apparently just five states—Minnesota, New Hampshire, Ohio, Vermont and Wisconsin—are “exceptionally well-prepared” to deal with voting machine problems and breakdowns, according to a new study released Wednesday by Common Cause in conjunction with the Verified Voting Foundation and the Rutgers Law School Constitutional Litigation Clinic. And six states are underprepared, said the study: Colorado, Delaware, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and South Carolina. “Recent election history reminds us that equipment does fail and votes will be lost without key protections,” Pamela Smith, president of Verified Voting, said in a statement. “We’re dependent on complex electronic voting systems that must be surrounded by robust procedures to safeguard votes and verify results if we are to avoid known and unknown risks of election failure. Do-overs are never an acceptable part of an election plan. Fair elections are at the heart of our democracy, yet many states are not yet prepared to survive voting system failures that could change results.” With expected close elections in many of the unprepared states, voting errors could have a significant impact on the 2012 results.

National: Electoral College tie possible in Obama-Romney race | CNN.com

It’s the white whale of American elections: elusive, mythical and never realized. But could it finally happen this year? The likelihood that President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney will each net 269 electoral votes in November, instead of the 270 needed to win, is actually not so farfetched — and for close observers of the Electoral College system, a tie would set off a wave of constitutional and political mayhem that would make the 2000 Florida recount seem like a tidy affair. Election results in key states would immediately be subject to legal challenges. Electors, normally an anonymous batch of party insiders elected to ratify each state’s winner with their electoral votes, would be lobbied to change their votes by friends, neighbors and political leaders. Swing states could decide U.S. election Alex Castellanos’ electoral map James Carville’s electoral map Ultimately, the House of Representatives could elect the next president, even if that candidate lost the popular vote.

National: Overseas voting in 24 states vulnerable to hackers | Fox News

Few could forget the weekslong hubbub over vote-counting in Florida in 2000 that led to a recount, a Supreme Court ruling and a national debate about the veracity of the system by which voters cast their ballots. But 12 years later, the voting system is still far from fail-proof, according to a state-by-state report released Wednesday. Almost half of states use voting systems for overseas and military voters that could be susceptible to hackers, says the report by Rutgers Law School and two good-governance groups: Common Cause Education Fund and the Verified Voting Foundation. Dozens of states lack proper contingency plans, audit procedures or voting machines that produce backup paper records in case something goes wrong. Colorado, Delaware, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and South Carolina are least prepared to catch problems and protect voter enfranchisement, the study showed. Minnesota, New Hampshire, Ohio, Vermont and Wisconsin are in the best shape.

National: Will Voter ID Cost Obama the Election? | HispanicBusiness.com

With polls showing President Obama and Mitt Romney locked in a desperately close race for the presidency, will voter identification laws suppress the Democratic vote and cost Obama the election, or will they simply cut down on voter fraud as Republicans contend? What effect, if any, will the court challenges to state voter ID laws have on the laws’ impact, given the short window before the November balloting. What will the U.S. Supreme Court do and how quickly? By law the high court has to hear the appeals of the challenges. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder laid down the gauntlet for the administration in his speech to the NAACP annual convention in Houston July 10. “As many of you know, yesterday was the first day of trial in a case that the state of Texas filed against the Justice Department, under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, seeking approval of its proposed voter ID law. After close review, the department found that this law would be harmful to minority voters — and we rejected its implementation. “Under the proposed law, concealed handgun licenses would be acceptable forms of photo ID — but student IDs would not,” Holder said. “Many of those without IDs would have to travel great distances to get them — and some would struggle to pay for the documents they might need to obtain them.” Holder said some recent studies show only 8 percent of white voting age citizens nationally lack a government-issued ID, while 25 percent of African-American voting age citizens lack one. “But let me be clear: We will not allow political pretexts to disenfranchise American citizens of their most precious right,” Holder said.

National: Million-dollar donors account for nearly half of GOP super PAC fundraising | The Washington Post

If super PACs are indeed saving Mitt Romney early in the 2012 election (as we posited Tuesday morning), he’s got a lot of very wealthy people to thank for it. About four dozen donors and families have given at least $1 million to super PACs this election cycle, with three-quarters of them giving to the GOP. Combined, these four dozen donors have provided $130 million of the $308 million super PACs have raised this cycle (more than 40 percent) — a reflection of how much these outside groups are funded by extremely wealthy donors. And that goes double on the GOP side, where nearly half of the $228 million raised by super PACs has come from about three dozen million-dollar donors. Million-dollar donors have contributed $111 million out of $218 million raised by super PACs this election cycle, while million-dollar Democratic donors have contributed less than one-fourth, $19 million out of $80 million raised.

National: How a great-great-granny could settle the voter ID issue | Yahoo! News

State laws requiring identification cards for voters have raised big issues that will carry into fall election season, as three key rulings are expected at the same time the presidential election heats up. And in one case that has Supreme Court ramifications, it might be a great-great-grandmother’s testimony that could settle the voter ID issue in a key swing state. Viviette Applewhite, 93, is the lead plaintiff in the ACLU’s lawsuit in Pennsylvania, in a case that could have long-term implications for stricter voter ID laws. Currently, there are pitched battles in Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and Texas over photo IDs as a requirement to vote. The issue will get a lot of attention as state court rulings are issued later this summer in Minnesota and Pennsylvania. The Texas case was heard by the District of Columbia federal appeals court and a ruling there is also expected by Labor Day.

National: Lawyers Raking in Cash as Campaign Spending Hits Records | Bloomberg

Every four years, a new mix of politicians assembles to compete for the opportunity to run for president. While the candidates’ names and faces change, the lawyers stay the same. Attorney Michael Toner began his presidential-campaign legal career in 1996 working for Republican nominee Bob Dole. He worked for George W. Bush in 2000. In 2008, his first client was former Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson before signing with party nominee Arizona Senator John McCain. Democrat Bob Bauer worked for former New Jersey Senator Bill Bradley’s presidential campaign in 2000, his law partner represented Massachusetts Senator John Kerry in 2004, and Bauer landed then-Senator Barack Obama of Illinois in 2008. Republican Ben Ginsberg cut his teeth in 1996 working for then-California Governor Pete Wilson’s White House run before joining Bush in 2000 and 2004. Four years later, he landed a new client, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, and he’s still representing him today.

National: Tech Startups Making Millions Off the Presidential Race | Bloomberg

Four years ago, Michael Beach was toiling inside the Republican National Committee, overseeing a voter-turnout operation that was overrun by President Barack Obama’s technology-driven grassroots army.
After the election, he and another former RNC aide, then both 28 years old, set out to start a high-tech political consulting company that is now an expanding 50-person operation with offices in Virginia and Boston. One recent morning, 14 job candidates filed into his fourth-floor office in Alexandria, Virginia, where a wiffle ball net is stowed in the lobby and a pirate flag hangs in the conference room. How many might he hire? “Fourteen, if we like them all,” he said. The rapid expansion of Targeted Victory showcases the rise of a new professional, political class: a core group of young technology experts who are shunning traditional campaign titles, starting companies and making millions off the most expensive presidential campaign in history. They are cutting a path similar to the one etched by television ad makers in the 1980s, with a dose of Silicon Valley and the dot-com boom’s edginess.

National: Voter ID Laws Bring Challenges in Several States | Wall Street Journal

Across the country, legal challenges are mounting to voter identification laws in several states, and the outcome of the November election could be hanging in the balance. A lawsuit is underway in Pennsylvania, where voters are challenging the state’s strict ID requirement; the state of Texas is suing the Obama administration over its move to block a voter ID law; a judge in Wisconsin barred enforcement of a voter ID rule this week; and in Florida, officials sued for access to a federal database of noncitizens in hopes of purging them from voter rolls, according to the New York Times.

National: Voting Rights Act Section 5 challenges reach Supreme Court | SCOTUSblog

Attorneys for challengers to the constitutionality of the 1965 voting rights law’s key provision for federal regulation of state and local election laws urged the Supreme Court on Friday to settle the issue in the next Term, starting October 1.  One new case arrived from the town of Kinston in North Carolina and a second came from Shelby County in Alabama.  The D.C. Circuit Court has upheld the provision at issue — Section 5 — although the Supreme Court itself three years ago raised significant questions about its validity. The Kinston case reached the Court this morning.  The petition is here, and the appendix (a large file) is here.  The Shelby County case was filed in early afternoon; the petition ishere, and the D.C. Circuit Court ruling in that case is here.   Not only has the time come to examine the constitutional questions the Court has raised, the Kinston petition argued, but the Justice Department’s “overzealous manner” of enforcement of Section 5 has put heavy new burdens on state and local governments covered by that provision.   The Shelby County petition argued that the renewed law puts states into “federal receivership,” raising “fundamental questions of state sovereignty,” while denying equality only to designated states – predominantly in the South.  Shelby County also assailed the Justice Department’s “needlessly aggressive exercise” of its veto powers over state and local election laws.

National: Voting Rights Act petitions reach Supreme Court | chicagotribune.com

Two legal challenges to the Voting Rights Act, a landmark law adopted in 1965 that barred racial discrimination in voting practices, reached the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday. The appeals target a part of the law, known as pre-clearance, that says that states with a history of discrimination must get permission from the federal government before changing election procedures. The first challenge was filed by supporters of a 2008 Kinston, North Carolina, measure that would omit candidates’ party affiliations from ballots.

National: States praised, others faulted, for policies toward military voters | KansasCity.com

With both a tradition of helping service members get their votes counted as well as a tight turnaround between its primary and general elections this year, Washington state officials decided to move up its primary date a few weeks, from late August to early August. The Military Voters Protection Project, a nonpartisan advocacy group, cited that schedule adjustment as an impressive effort to help ensure that the ballots of those serving in war zones are counted, and on Tuesday named Washington among 15 states that make extraordinary efforts to enfranchise military voters. The group noted state efforts to register service members to vote, to meet obligations to get absentee ballots out at least 45 days before elections, and legislative efforts to make good practices into law. The project says that less than 20 percent of 2.5 million military voters were able to request and return their absentee ballots in 2008 elections, and that in 2010 only 5 percent of military voters were able to successfully vote by absentee ballot. Those states making the list of 15 “all-stars” include Alaska, Florida, North Carolina, Texas and Washington. Eric Eversole, executive director of the military voter project, identified the states doing the worst job at helping military voters as Alabama, California, Illinois, New York and Wisconsin.

National: Senate Republicans block Democratic bill to require disclosure of large political donors | The Washington Post

Senate Republicans blocked Democratic-backed legislation requiring organizations pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into campaign ads to disclose their top donors and the amounts they spend. GOP opposition prevented Democrats from getting the 60 votes needed to bring what is known as the Disclose Act to the Senate floor. The vote was 51-44. Democrats revived the act during a presidential election campaign in which political action committees and nonprofit organizations, funded by deep-pocketed and largely anonymous contributors, are dominating the airwaves with largely negative political ads. Another version of the Disclose Act passed the then-Democratic-controlled House in 2010 but was similarly blocked by Republicans in the Senate. Republicans cite First Amendment rights and say the bill favors unions in opposing the legislation.

National: Super PAC donors may keep opening wallets, but public may not see it | CNN

When the super PAC backing Mitt Romney, Restore Our Future, files its June donation report on Friday with the Federal Election Commission, it is expected to show a six-figure contribution from Wyoming businessman Foster Friess, his first to the group. But an unwelcome scrutiny came to Friess, Nevada billionaire Sheldon Adelson and some of the other wealthy donors to these super PACs, and some are planning for much of their future generosity to be behind a cloak of anonymity. Friess said he has decided his financial donations in the future will mostly be to groups that do not have to disclose their donors. He said he is planning on contributing to five or six so-called 501(c)(4) groups named after the section of the tax code they are organized under. These are nonprofit organizations that can advocate on behalf of social welfare causes or to further the community. He refused to discuss which groups, but did say one recipient could be an affiliate of American Crossroads, the group founded by Karl Rove.

National: Voter ID laws a burden on poor, black Americans, research shows | guardian.co.uk

The cornerstone of the Declaration of Independence – that all men are created equal – is being undermined by a rash of restrictive laws that force US citizens to endure long journeys, eccentric opening hours and hidden costs before they can vote, a new study finds. The research, by the Brennan Center for Justice within New York University, finds that almost 500,000 eligible voters are being required to travel more than 10 miles to a government office – even though they have no car. More than 1 million eligible voters below the federal poverty line are now expected to pay costs of up to $25 before they can vote. The report looks at the impact of voter ID laws that have been introduced since 2011 in 10 states that require US citizens to obtain a government-issued photo identification card before they can cast their ballot. Proponents of the new laws claim they are needed to combat fraud and that they impose no burden on citizens because ID cards can easily be obtained free of charge. But the Brennan Center report gives the lie to that claim, exposing the many different ways in which hundreds of thousands of Americans will find it harder to vote. The burden falls particularly harshly on poor and black communities where transport and public services are limited.

National: Study finds costs associated with voter IDs | The Washington Post

New laws in 10 states requiring voters to show IDs could present serious challenges to voters without financial resources and transportation, according to a report released Wednesday. The study by the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law, which opposes the new laws, found several obstacles that could keep voters from being able to cast ballots, including limited access to offices that issue the IDs required under the new measures. “The advocates of these laws kept saying we’re going to provide these IDs for free and that’s going to eliminate all of the problems,” said Keesha Gaskins, co-author of the report. “We found the ability to get documents isn’t that simple. The documents are costly for many, many voters and there are serious transportation barriers for many voters. We just found really significant problems.” The study comes on the heels of closing arguments in a trial over Texas’s new law, in which Justice Department lawyers argued that requiring photo IDs from voters would disenfranchise the elderly and minorities.

National: Disclosure Vote Leaves Trail of Broken Republican Vows | Bloomberg

Republicans in the U.S. Senate voted unanimously Monday and again on Tuesday to block adoption of the Disclose Act, Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse’s legislation to require disclosure of political donations of more than $10,000 within 24 hours of the money being spent. The votes were no less remarkable for having been predictable. For years, congressional Republicans had vowed that disclosure of donations and spending was the one sure route to an honest campaign-finance system. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, the field general who for two decades has organized the party’s attacks on campaign-finance regulation, including the McCain-Feingold reforms, once spoke eloquently of the sanctity of the First Amendment and of the merits of disclosure. What’s more, because McConnell in the 1990s had also come around to opposing constitutional amendments against flag burning, he had credibility as a First Amendment champion.

National: As DISCLOSE Act stalls, Super PAC reserves $6 million in ad time for House races | The Washington Post

One Republican group has reserved $6 million in television advertising time for the fall election season to help more than a dozen House GOP candidates, and about half the money will come from the nonprofit side of the organization that is not required to disclose its donors. The Congressional Leadership Fund and its nonprofit affiliate, the American Action Network, reserved the ad time in seven key media markets — which will also be likely battlegrounds for the presidential race — as a down payment for what is expected to be a much larger fall campaign to promote House Republicans. The move comes as congressional Democrats step up their criticism of nonprofit groups that shield their donors and that are playing an increasingly prominent role in House and Senate races. On Monday evening, Senate Republicans blocked consideration of a Democratic bill that would require those nonprofits to disclose the donors of every contribution of at least $10,000 that is used for political purposes. The DISCLOSE Act, as the proposal is known, failed on a vote of 51 to 44, falling short of the 60 votes needed to proceed to a full debate.

National: States Constrict Voting Rights In Advance of November Elections | The International

A nationwide discourse over numerous proposed and enacted changes to state voting laws has reached a new level of fervor in the United States. State legislative sessions in 2011 and 2012 have resulted in 180 different bills that restrict some aspect of state voting laws. Types of legislation introduced have varied from new demands for voter identification to tighter restrictions regarding voter registration periods and processes, as well as a shortening of time frames for casting early ballots ahead of election days. The majority of this activity has occurred in Southern and Midwest states, the bulk of which are controlled by Republican legislatures and governors whose ostensible premise is to increase protection against electoral fraud. Citing the findings of New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice’s Voting Law Changes in 2012 report, Democrats have criticized the wave of legislation as deliberating placing restrictions on youth, minority, elderly and poor voters. The report argues that voting will become significantly more burdensome for five million eligible voters than it was in 2008 elections. The main source of debate has revolved around the questions over an increased burden on voters in the November elections, and whether it will contribute to a marked decrease in electoral fraud.