Iowa: Presidential election ad wars: candidates flood $6.5m into Iowa TV market | The Guardian

Presidential candidates have spent $6.5m flooding just one small television market alone with more than 10,000 political commercials in the weeks leading up to the Iowa caucuses, the first votes of the 2016 election, according to a Guardian study. The exclusive analysis of regulatory filings by the four main commercial TV stations in Des Moines, Iowa, also reveals a sharp increase in the influence of rich donors on the race, with spending by Super Pacs – organizations independent of the candidates’ campaigns which, unlike the campaigns, may raise unlimited amounts of money from individual donors – now outstripping candidate expenditure by at least a third.

Canada: Changes to Ontario elections include new ridings, spring fixed date | CBC

The Ontario Liberal government is tabling legislation this afternoon to create 15 new ridings that would be up for grabs in the provincial election in 2018. The government is also planning to switch the fixed date of the provincial election from the fall to the spring and to “strengthen the rules” surrounding election campaign advertising by third-party special-interest groups such as unions. The proposed new ridings would match constituency boundary changes recently made at the federal level. Most of the new seats are in the Greater Toronto Area. The bill, if passed, would bring the number of seats at the Ontario Legislature to 122. It currently stands at 107.

California: Special interests are at center of L.A. election date debate | Los Angeles Times

As it waits for a City Council vote on new rules for electronic billboards, outdoor advertising company Clear Channel Outdoor has become a major backer of the campaign to change L.A.’s election dates. The company recently gave $25,000 to the campaign for Charter Amendments 1 and 2, the March 3 ballot measures that would align L.A. city and school board races with higher-turnout state and presidential elections. Supporters say the change in election dates, which are backed by council President Herb Wesson and would go into effect in 2020, will diminish the power of special interests by getting more voters to the polls. But records show that, so far, many of those lining up behind the measures — public employee unions, business groups and a handful of private companies — have past or present stakes in City Hall decisions. Denver-based CP Development, which won city approval last year for a downtown high-rise, gave $25,000 to a committee promoting the measures. So did the L.A. County Federation of Labor, which fought a move to scale back city employee pension costs and, more recently, convinced the council to hike the minimum wage at large hotels.

National: On Facebook, Nobody Knows You’re a Voter. Well, Almost Nobody. | New York Times

Your Facebook profile doesn’t have boxes to check which political party you belong to or whether you voted in the last election. But political organizations who already know that can now deliver Facebook ads to fit your political preferences. At least two statewide campaigns during the past year have used the new tool, “Custom Managed Audiences,” to reach Facebook users who are registered voters or political supporters. Facebook says Terry McAuliffe’s election as Virginia governor in 2013 and this year’s re-election effort of John Cornyn, a Texas Republican senator, are examples of successful user targeting via voter lists. The company first introduced the tool in February 2013 and recently upgraded its capabilities. Linking the two isolated sets of data and teasing out information on voter preferences and opinions is a new front in microtargeting. Even smaller campaigns could use the technique to sway small but crucial sets of voters with very specific messages. Facebook’s most notable achievement may be that it makes some of the sophisticated approaches used during the 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns affordable to other kinds of political contests.

Florida: Smallest political donors appeal Florida’s restrictions to Supreme Court | Washington Times

A Florida group has appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court in a challenge to the state’s campaign finance restrictions that force groups looking to spend even tiny amounts of money on political radio advertising to form a political action committee. The plaintiffs, who are suing the Florida secretary of state over the provision, said the rules impose a “chilling effect” on their right to free speech. Their suit was rejected by the 11th Circuit Court in June. If the regulations are struck down by the court, state residents could raise and contribute money for campaign advertising without facing the reporting restrictions — including registering with the state, selecting a treasurer and submitting to random audits — demanded of PACs. The Supreme Court is expected to announce whether it will accept the case early next month.

Netherlands: Stoner voters targeted in Dutch election campaign |

With slogans like “Don’t let your vote go up in smoke!”, owners of the free-wheeling cafes where bags of hashish are sold alongside cups of coffee are mounting a get-out-the-stoner-vote campaign ahead of next week’s Dutch election. The campaigners are calling on their sometimes apathetic dope smoking clientele to get out and support political parties that oppose the recently introduced “weed pass” that is intended to rein in the cafes known as coffee shops and close them altogether to foreign tourists. At a coffee shop in The Hague, a member of staff selling weed wears a T-shirt emblazoned with a modified Uncle Sam style poster calling on smokers to “Vote against the weed pass on Sept. 12.” Under the new system, coffee shops become member-only clubs and only Dutch residents can apply for a pass to get in. The cafes are limited to a maximum of 2,000 members.