After years of lagging behind other states, New York radically overhauled its system of voting and elections on Monday, passing several bills that would allow early voting, preregistration of minors, voting by mail and sharp limits on the influence of money. The bills, which were passed by the State Legislature on Monday evening, bring New York in line with policies in other liberal bastions like California and Washington, and they would quiet, at least for a day, complaints about the state’s antiquated approach to suffrage. Their swift passage marked a new era in the State Capitol. Democrats, who assumed full control this month after decades in which the Legislature was split, say they will soon push through more of their priorities, from strengthening abortion rights to approving the Child Victims Act, which would make it easier for victims of childhood sexual abuse to sue their assailants.Full Article: With New Voting Laws, Democrats Flex Newfound Power in New York - The New York Times.
Proposals to limit corporate money in politics and personal use of campaign funds, along with bills to expand absentee voting or address problems with incorrectly assigned voters that wreaked havoc on Virginia’s 2017 elections, are set to be considered by the Virginia General Assembly in the session that begins Wednesday. Redistricting changes are a key issue this year, since any significant change to policy would require an amendment to the state constitution be approved by both this year’s session and the next, before sending it to Virginia voters in 2020. Proposals meant to remedy voters being assigned to the wrong districts would require additional reviews and attempts to restrict the number of precincts split between multiple legislative districts.Full Article: Money in politics, voting, term limits among 2019 Va. elections bills | WTOP.
Editorials: How to Fix America’s Broken Political System | Norman L. Eisen & Fred Wertheimer/Politico
Much attention has focused on H.R. 1, the comprehensive package of democracy reforms introduced on Thursday by Representative John Sarbanes (D-Md.) on behalf of the new Democratic House majority. The unprecedented legislation is perhaps the most important domestic initiative of the new Congress. But it also has the capacity to begin fixing what has been broken in our foreign relations, reassuring our allies that America is on the way back to restoring our democracy, and with it our global leadership. Since 2016, the United States’ friends around the world have been faced with a dual shock: Russia’s multipronged attack on our elections that year and the ascension of President Donald Trump, who has criticized our longtime partners while embracing authoritarians like Russian President Vladimir Putin—despite his assault on our democracy.Full Article: How to Fix America’s Broken Political System - POLITICO Magazine.
New York: Coalition wants ‘fair elections’ legislation to be Albany’s first priority | The Buffalo News
A coalition of 175 grassroots and community groups is pushing Albany to pass a “fair elections” package that includes such elements as small-donor public financing, closing campaign funding loopholes and early voting. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and other Democratic leaders have supported various forms of such legislation in the past, but fair elections proposals had been consistently blocked by Republicans who long controlled the state Senate, organizers say. Now that Democrats control both the legislative and executive branches in New York, the Fair Elections for New York coalition wants elected officials to pass fair elections legislation right away. About 25 representatives from the coalition held a news conference Monday on the steps of Buffalo City Hall to press for the reforms.Full Article: Coalition wants ‘fair elections’ legislation to be Albany’s first priority – The Buffalo News.
Virginia: Northam proposes repeal of Virginia’s voter ID requirement, reform campaign finance laws | WTVR
In an effort to remove barriers to voting, Governor Ralph Northam is proposing a repeal of the law that requires Virginians to show a photo ID when they vote. “Participation makes our democracy strong—we should encourage every eligible voter to exercise this fundamental right, rather than creating unnecessary barriers that make getting to the ballot box difficult,” said Governor Northam. The legislation will be patroned by Senator Mamie Locke and Delegate Kaye Kory. Kory said lawmakers should protect the constitutional right of every American citizen, not inventing ways to keep voters away from the polls. “The photo ID requirement prevents the most vulnerable Virginians from voting and silences the voices of those who most need to be heard,” said Kory.Full Article: Northam proposes repeal of Virginia’s voter ID requirement, reform campaign finance laws | WTVR.com.
National: House Democrats unveil first major legislative package of voting, campaign finance and ethics overhauls | Roll Call
Automatic voter registration, independent redistricting commissions, super PAC restrictions, forced release of presidential tax returns — these are just a handful of the provisions in a massive government overhaul package House Democrats will formally unveil Friday, according to a summary of the legislation obtained by Roll Call. The package is being introduced as H.R. 1 to show that it’s the top priority of the new Democratic majority. Committees with jurisdiction over the measures will hold markups on the legislation before the package is brought to the floor sometime later this month or early in February. H.R. 1 features a hodgepodge of policies Democrats have long promoted as solutions for protecting voters’ rights and expanding access to the polls, reducing the role of so-called dark money in politics, and strengthening federal ethics laws.Full Article: House Democrats unveil first major legislative package of voting, campaign finance and ethics overhauls.
Editorials: Trump’s claim that he didn’t violate campaign finance law is weak — and dangerous | George T. Conway III, Trevor Potter and Neal Katyal/The Washington Post
Last week, in their case against Michael Cohen, federal prosecutors in New York filed a sentencing brief concluding that, in committing the felony campaign-finance violations to which he pleaded guilty, Cohen had “acted in coordination with and at the direction of Individual-1,” President Trump. And this week, prosecutors revealed that they had obtained an agreement from AMI, the parent company of the National Enquirer, in which AMI admitted that it, too, had made an illegal payment to influence the election. The AMI payment was the product of a meeting in which Trump was in the room with Cohen and AMI President David Pecker. This all suggests Trump could become a target of a very serious criminal campaign finance investigation. In response, Trump has offered up three defenses. His first was to repeatedly lie. For quite some time, he flatly denied knowledge about the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels. But now he seems to be acknowledging that he knew (since his personal company reimbursed Cohen for the payment, he ought to). Now Trump and his acolytes have turned to two other excuses: They point to an earlier case involving former senator John Edwards to argue that what Trump did wasn’t a crime; and they say, even if it was a crime, it wasn’t a biggie — there are lots of crimes, so what, who cares.Full Article: Trump’s claim that he didn’t violate campaign finance law is weak — and dangerous - The Washington Post.
National: Tabloid Publisher’s Deal in Hush-Money Inquiry Adds to Trump’s Danger | The New York Times
With the revelation by prosecutors on Wednesday that a tabloid publisher admitted to paying off a Playboy model, key participants in two hush-money schemes say the transactions were intended to protect Donald J. Trump’s campaign for president. That leaves Mr. Trump in an increasingly isolated and legally precarious position, according to election law experts. Hundreds of thousands of dollars in payments made in 2016 to keep two women silent about alleged affairs are now firmly framed as illegal campaign contributions. The news about the publisher, the parent company of The National Enquirer, came on the same day that Mr. Trump’s former lawyer Michael D. Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison in part for his involvement in the payments. “I blame myself for the conduct which has brought me here today,” Mr. Cohen said, “and it was my own weakness and a blind loyalty to this man” — a reference to Mr. Trump — “that led me to choose a path of darkness over light.”Full Article: Tabloid Publisher’s Deal in Hush-Money Inquiry Adds to Trump’s Danger - The New York Times.
Arizona: Judge rules overhaul of campaign finance laws against Arizona Constitution | Arizona Republic
A judge has ruled that Arizona lawmakers violated the state Constitution on multiple fronts when they passed a sweeping overhaul of campaign-finance laws in 2016. Those changes illegally limit the power of the voter-approved Citizens Clean Elections Commission to police campaign-finance laws and illegally create loopholes for spending limits, the ruling states. Maricopa County Superior Court Judge David Palmer ruled that the changes are unconstitutional and cannot be enforced. The ruling is the latest twist in a fight over Senate Bill 1516, a major rewrite of campaign- finance laws that the Republican-controlled Legislature and Gov. Doug Ducey pushed in 2016.Full Article: Judge rules overhaul of campaign finance laws against Arizona Constitution.
Democrats will take control of the U.S. House in January with big items topping their legislative to-do list: Remove obstacles to voting, close loopholes in government ethics law and reduce the influence of political money. Party leaders say the first legislative vote in the House will come on H.R. 1, a magnum opus of provisions that Democrats believe will strengthen U.S. democratic institutions and traditions. “It’s three very basic things that I think the public wants to see,” said Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.), who spearheads campaign finance and government ethics efforts for the House Democratic Caucus. He said H.R. 1 will “demonstrate that we hear that message loud and clear.” But even Sarbanes admits the quick vote is just a first step. Republicans, who control the Senate, are unlikely to pass the bill and President Trump is unlikely to sign it. “Give us the gavel in the Senate in 2020 and we’ll pass it in the Senate,” Sarbanes said. “Give us a pen in the Oval Office and we’ll sign those kinds of reforms into law.”Full Article: Democrats Say Their First Bill Will Focus On Strengthening Democracy At Home - capradio.org.
Britain’s serious crime agency has started an investigation into Brexit backer Arron Banks over the source of 8 million pounds ($10.4 million) in loans to groups including Leave.EU which campaigned to leave the European Union. Banks has said the investigation is part of an attempt to undermine Brexit. He has repeatedly insisted that the money came from him and that no Russian funding was involved. But if criminal offences or foreign funding are proven, that could cast doubt on the legitimacy of the whole Brexit vote. The groups that received the loans ran emotive publicity campaigns to persuade people to vote to leave the EU – and the final result was close. In the June 23, 2016 referendum, 17.4 million voters, or 51.9 percent, backed Brexit while 16.1 million, or 48.1 percent, backed staying in the bloc. The focus is 8 million pounds in loans provided to Leave.EU and Better for the Country Limited (BFTC), which Banks controls and which ran Leave.EU’s campaign.Full Article: The 8 million pound hole in Brexit: smoking gun or damp squib? | Reuters.
Canada: Liberals strike deal with Conservatives to raise pre-election spending limits | The Globe and Mail
The federal Liberal government will raise the maximum amounts political parties can spend in the run-up to an election after striking a deal with the Opposition Conservatives to allow the government’s election bill to move ahead. The bill’s proposed spending limits during what will be called the “pre-election” period were a major concern of the Conservatives, who generally lead the way when it comes to fundraising and would be in a position to outspend their competitors in the weeks before an election campaign. The Conservatives had attacked the pre-election spending limit as a blatant attempt by the Liberals to tilt the electoral rules in their favour, by limiting the ability of opposition parties to advertise during a period when the governing party continues to have access to government-funded travel and other avenues for self-promotion.Full Article: Liberals strike deal with Conservatives to raise pre-election spending limits - The Globe and Mail.
To quote the great political philosopher Cyndi Lauper, “Money changes everything.” 1 And nowhere is that proverb more taken to heart than in a federal election, where billions of dollars are raised and spent on the understanding that money is a crucial determinant of whether or not a candidate will win. This year, the money has been coming in and out of political campaigns at a particularly furious pace. Collectively, U.S. House candidates raised more money by Aug. 27 than House candidates raised during the entire 2014 midterm election cycle, and Senate candidates weren’t far behind. Ad volumes are up 86 percent compared to that previous midterm. Dark money — flowing to political action committees from undisclosed donors — is up 26 percent.Full Article: How Money Affects Elections | FiveThirtyEight.
John McCain devoted much of his career in the Senate to controlling the influence of money in public life — in part to try to recover from his own role in a big congressional influence scandal. McCain, who died Saturday of brain cancer, made money and influence big themes of his first presidential race. “Y’know, there’s a little game they got in Washington,” he told a crowd in New Hampshire in 1999. “And that is: Look at the tax bill when it comes out, to figure out who’s getting the benefit — because of the very complex and convoluted way that they write the tax laws. And it’s a disgrace.” Although McCain, an Arizona Republican, lost the Republican nomination to George W. Bush, his warnings that money was corrupting politics reverberated in many state primaries, amplifying his message and propelling him toward an unexpected legislative triumph in the Senate that helped define his career. … McCain, who served more than 30 years in the Senate, began as an unlikely crusader.Full Article: McCain Made Campaign Finance Reform A Years-Long Mission : NPR.
A widely used loophole for funneling secret “dark money” into political ads closed quietly last weekend, as a federal judge concluded it thwarted Congress’ intent to have broad disclosure of political money. Chief Judge Beryl Howell, of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, threw out a regulation adopted by the Federal Election Commission in 1980. The rule said that “non-political” groups, such as 501(c) nonprofit organizations, could ignore a disclosure law if donors’ contributions were earmarked for specific advertisements — an exception that wasn’t in the law passed by Congress. Howell’s decision was issued Friday evening.Full Article: Judge Shuts Down Multimillion-Dollar Loophole In Election Law : NPR.
Editorials: Brett Kavanaugh, Who Has Ruled Against Campaign Finance Regulations, Could Bring an Avalanche of Big Money to Elections | Lee Fang/The Intercept
The elevation of D.C. Circuit Court Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court could have a profound impact on the rules governing the American democratic system. In recent years, the Supreme Court has swiftly remade the landscape of American politics, gutting 1960s-era civil rights laws restricting voter suppression, sharply weakening labor unions, and deregulating the campaign finance system to allow for wealthy individuals and corporations to exercise greater influence over elected representatives. With President Donald Trump’s pick for the Supreme Court, that influence is poised to grow. Kavanaugh’s appellate court decisions and public comments suggest that he will accelerate the trend toward a political system dominated by wealthy elites — often operating in the shadows, without any form of disclosure.Full Article: Brett Kavanaugh, Who Has Ruled Against Campaign Finance Regulations, Could Bring an Avalanche of Big Money to Elections.
The official pro-Brexit campaign group has been fined and referred to the police after the UK’s elections watchdog found it had broken Britain’s strict electoral laws. The Electoral Commission fined Vote Leave £61,000 ($81,000) for coordinating with another campaign group — called BeLeave — and exceeding spending limits during the 2016 referendum campaign. In a damning ruling, the commission said it had imposed a punitive fine on Vote Leave, and accused it of frustrating the watchdog’s investigation. “We found substantial evidence that the two groups (Vote Leave and BeLeave) worked to a common plan, did not declare their joint working and did not adhere to the legal spending limits,” said Bob Posner, Electoral Commission director of political finance and regulation and legal counsel, in a statement.Full Article: Vote Leave: Pro-Brexit group fined by electoral commission - CNN.
Mexican President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s party could face a $10 million fine for violations of campaign finance rules, the national electoral institute said on Wednesday following the group’s wide-reaching election victory. Lopez Obrador, a former Mexico City mayor who has vowed to root out corruption and make government contracts transparent, on Sunday won by a landslide while his leftist National Regeneration Movement (MORENA) took an outright majority in Congress. The possible fine of more than 197 million pesos, slated to be put to a vote by the National Electoral Institute (INE) on July 18, would be the largest related to campaign financing for the recently concluded election season.Full Article: Mexico authorities mulling $10 million fine for election victors | Reuters.
Editorials: The Vote Leave revelations expose the vulnerability of UK democracy | Caroline Lucas/The Guardian
On Tuesday evening, the nation held its collective breath as the English football team beat Colombia on penalties to make it to the quarter-final of the world cup. Meanwhile, Vote Leave leaked news that the Electoral Commission is set to find it breached electoral law during the Brexit referendum. This is not the most obvious example of news being buried in Westminster. But it could be one of the most significant. With Britain just months from falling off a Brexit cliff edge, and with no guarantee yet in place for a people’s poll on the final deal, the disastrous consequences of failing to meet fundamental standards of democracy will be felt for generations to come.Full Article: The Vote Leave revelations expose the vulnerability of UK democracy | Caroline Lucas | Opinion | The Guardian.
Voting has become one of the most partisan issues in contemporary politics. Republicans have sought to make it more secure by requiring photo identification. The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last month to allow Ohio to purge inactive voters from the rolls is likely to open the door to similar efforts in other red states. Democrats, conversely, are doing everything they can to make voting easier. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill in March implementing automatic voter registration. The following month, Gov. Phil Murphy signed a similar bill in New Jersey, bringing to 12 the number of states that sign people up, unless they opt out, when they interact with the department of motor vehicles or other state agencies. Democrats control the political branches of government in most of these states.Full Article: Voting Rights Debate Moves From Statehouses to Ballot Boxes.