During the final weeks of the 2013 legislative session, Robert J. Rodriguez, a state assemblyman from Harlem, went out drinking with friends one night and was later arrested and charged with drunken driving. Mr. Rodriguez eventually pleaded guilty, losing his driver’s license for at least six months. But the monetary cost to Mr. Rodriguez was far less: His campaign not only picked up the roughly $8,500 in legal bills — it also paid his $900 penalty, records show. Mr. Rodriguez’s case, while extreme, is one of many examples where New York lawmakers have used campaign funds to pay for lawyers, often lawyers who specialize in criminal defense. The New York Times examined the spending of 41 elected officials who have been connected to a scandal or investigation since 2005; those 41 politicians have spent at least $7 million of campaign funds on legal fees, based on a review of Board of Elections filings from 2005 to the present.Full Article: Millions in Campaign Donations in Albany Go to Legal Fees - The New York Times.
The jury trial for a Wanamingo Township supervisor accused of burning township election ballots in 2014 got underway Tuesday in Goodhue County District Court. Defense attorney Alex Rogosheske said his client, Thomas Joseph Shane, 59, of Zumbrota, admits to destroying the ballots after the March 11 election, but was well-intentioned and acted following the advice of an election judge present that night. Prosecutor Christopher Schrader with the Goodhue County Attorney’s Office said the key question is why Shane allegedly burned the ballots and if he had legal reason to do so.Full Article: Trial begins in burned ballots case | Republican Eagle.
Voting Blogs: Campaign Finance and Issue Advocacy: The Fight About Wisconsin | More Soft Money Hard Law
The Wisconsin Supreme Court was badly divided on the “coordination” question that it resolved in favor ending an ongoing criminal investigation. The majority and dissents expressed their disagreement in harsh terms, and there was a similar outbreak of ill-will or impatience among experts and seasoned observers trading views on the election law list serv. Dividing the camps for the sake of convenience into progressives and conservatives: the former were appalled by the case and the latter overjoyed, and neither could believe how the other was reacting. The case was either a nightmare for desperately needed reform, or a vindication of the rule of law in a struggle with political persecution and police state tactics. But are the issues being fairly brought out amid all this vitriol, and is it necessarily true that the opinions on the coordination issues in Wisconsin must always and inevitably fall out along ideological and party lines?Full Article: Campaign Finance and Issue Advocacy: The Fight About Wisconsin -.
Just days after Scott Walker officially kicked off his presidential bid, the Wisconsin Supreme Court was set to announce Thursday whether investigators can resume a wide-ranging and secret probe into alleged election law violations during the Republican governor’s 2012 recall campaign. At issue is whether Walker’s campaign and several conservative groups illegally coordinated their activities during the recall, which was spurred by Democratic anger over Walker’s successful drive to effectively end collective bargaining for most public workers. Walker and the groups have denied any wrongdoing and called the probe a violation of their free-speech rights.Full Article: GOP candidate Walker awaits ruling on 2012 recall probe - StarTribune.com.
Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi has endorsed an amended law defining voting districts in this country of more than 50 million voters, his spokesman said Thursday, removing the last hurdle for setting the date for the long-delayed parliamentary elections. Egypt has not had an elected legislature since 2012, when the country’s Supreme Court ruled that the parliament’s lower chamber was not constitutionally elected. An earlier version of the law was declared unconstitutional by the same court in March, causing an indefinite delay in parliamentary elections. The court at the time said the law failed to guarantee equal representation for voters, and asked that it be amended.Full Article: Egypt president signs election law, paving way for vote date - Yahoo News.
Two small political parties in South Dakota filed a federal lawsuit Monday challenging part of a law that they say would make it harder to get their candidates on the ballot. The American Civil Liberties Union filed the lawsuit on behalf of the state’s Libertarian and Constitution parties, among other individuals. South Dakota activists are also gathering signatures to refer the law to voters in the 2016 election for a possible repeal. The measure in question, part of a new bundle of election law changes passed during the 2015 legislative session, shifted the deadline back by about a month for new parties to turn in signatures allowing them to participate in a primary election.Full Article: ACLU files federal suit challenging SD election law change.
A former campaign manager for one-time Democratic Congressman Joe Garcia plans to plead guilty Thursday in Miami federal court to financing a tea party candidate in a scheme to siphon votes from his Republican nemesis. In April, Jeffrey Garcia was charged with a misdemeanor of conspiring to give a campaign contribution of less than $25,000 to the shadow candidate in the 2010 Miami congressional race. Prosecutors said Garcia, no relation to the former congressman, surreptitiously put up the $10,440 qualifying fee for Jose Rolando “Roly” Arrojo to pose as a GOP challenger to David Rivera in the general election. Arrojo was also charged with the same misdemeanor.Full Article: Ex-congressman’s top aide to plead guilty to breaking election law | Miami Herald Miami Herald.
Senator Bernie Sanders, who is challenging Hillary Clinton for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, will face a significant legal barrier if he attempts to run in next year’s New York primary while remaining unaffiliated with a party. A section of state election law commonly known as Wilson-Pakula prohibits candidates from appearing on the ballot in a party’s primary unless they are either enrolled members or receive the approval of the party’s committee.Full Article: Sanders could face N.Y. primary ballot struggle | Capital New York.
Campaigning for Sunday’s second wave of quadrennial unified local elections has highlighted a legal loophole that allows candidates to go to extremes — including nudity — to gain votes. In contrast with the ubiquitous portrait shots preferred by most candidates, the campaign poster for Teruki Goto, an independent running for the Chiyoda Ward Assembly in Tokyo, went viral after it showed him posing nude against a Rising Sun flag motif while raising a katana over the Imperial Seal, his genitals covered by his name.Full Article: Right-wing candidate's nude campaign poster skirts election law | The Japan Times.
Elections are about to get easier for major party candidates — especially those who have access to big-dollar donors. And voters who want to craft their own laws will find new hurdles, as Gov. Doug Ducey on Monday signed three measures approved by the Republican-controlled Legislature, including:
– Sharply boosting the number of signatures minor-party candidates would need to qualify for the ballot;
– Allowing candidates to accept up to $5,000 from any one source, a 25 percent increase since the last election;
– Requiring judges to throw out citizen-sponsored initiative, referendum and recall petitions if there are technical flaws in the paperwork.
It is the measure on petition signatures, though, that could have the biggest impact.
Utah: Federal judge deals Utah Republican Party a blow in its challenge of new election law | The Salt Lake Tribune
A federal judge on Friday declined the Utah Republican Party’s request to block the state’s new method for nominating political candidates, finding that the law doesn’t unfairly infringe on the party’s rights. “At this point there will be no injunction against the enforcement of Senate Bill 54,” U.S. District Judge David Nuffer ruled from the bench after hearing nearly five hours of argument, most of it from the attorney representing the Utah GOP. Later, Nuffer said, the party may be able to show it might be harmed by the law, but now there are paths it could take where it wouldn’t be burdened and it would be premature to block the law. The trial on the party’s legal challenge will still go forward and the judge has said he hopes to have the case resolved early next year.Full Article: Federal judge deals Utah Republican Party a blow in its challenge of new election law | The Salt Lake Tribune.
Arizona lawmakers yesterday rejected another attempt to ban the practice of people collecting others’ election ballots to turn in. Such a practice was utilized by the group Citizens for a Better Arizona during the successful 2012 recall of then-Senate President Russell Pearce. CBA workers collected early-voting ballots from voters who agreed to have their completed ballot hand-delivered to elections officials to make sure it was counted. A ban on such a practice was included in 2013’s House Bill 2305, a Republican-backed package of changes to election law. Seeing that Democrats, third-party supporters, and other non-Republicans had enough support to put the issue on the ballot for voters to decide, the Republican-led Legislature repealed the whole law last year, but Democrats have kept their eye out for any attempts to pass parts of this bill again.Full Article: Ban on Ballot Collection Voted Down by Arizona Lawmakers | Phoenix New Times.
House Democrats are seeking changes to state election laws that they say will make voting easier in 2016. House Minority Leader Larry Hall unveiled the two bills at a news conference Tuesday. House Bill 239 would restore the week of early voting that was cut from state law by the Voter Information Verification Act, the Republican election overhaul bill passed in 2013. The proposal would be effective in 2016. Prior to VIVA, state law allowed up to 17 days of early voting, including three weekends. The overhaul reduced that to 10 days, including two weekends.Full Article: House Dems push for election changes :: WRAL.com.
An Egyptian court on Tuesday deferred a long-awaited parliamentary election due in March indefinitely after another court declared the election law’s provision on voting districts as unconstitutional, judicial sources said. Egypt has been without a parliament since June 2012, when a court dissolved the democratically elected main chamber, reversing a major accomplishment of the 2011 uprising that toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak. This delay prolongs a period in which President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has wielded sole legislative authority and slows Egypt’s progress towards democracy since its first freely elected president was ousted by the army in 2013.Full Article: Egypt court defers parliamentary election: judicial sources | Reuters.
Egypt’s electoral commission said on March 1 it was preparing a new timetable for parliamentary polls, delaying the March 21 vote after a court ruled parts of the election law unconstitutional. President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi ordered that the law be redrafted within a month and asked that “legal measures be undertaken to avoid delaying” the election, his office said. Egypt’s constitutional court ruled that sections of the law dividing the electoral districts were unconstitutional. The electoral commission said in a statement the section of the law deemed unconstitutional will be revised and then “there will be a new timetable for the procedures” for the election.Full Article: Egypt electoral panel preparing timetable for delayed poll - MIDEAST.
Sen. Rand Paul is on track to officially jump into the presidential race on April 7, the New York Times reports, citing “people close to” the Kentucky Republican. “Only his family’s doubts could change his mind at this point, said associates of the senator,” according to the Times. While Paul’s entry into what is promising to be a crowded GOP field appears nearly a done deal, the first-term senator has one looming problem ahead: Kentucky law dictates that “no candidate’s name shall appear on any voting machine or absentee ballot more than once.” In other words, by law, Paul wouldn’t be able to compete in both his home state’s GOP presidential primary and Republican Senate primary, which will be held together on the same day in May 2016. Team Paul, meanwhile, has made it clear that their man isn’t willing to give up a second term in the Senate to battle for the GOP presidential nomination. So, game over then? Hardly. “There are avenues available to him, should he decide to run for both offices at the same time,” Doug Stafford, Paul’s top political strategist, told reporters on a conference call in early December. “I don’t think we have abandoned any option, nor have we settled on any option.”Full Article: Rand Paul 2016-election law: How Kentucky senator can run for re-election and president at the same time..
Vermont: Lawmakers consider changing majority rule in elections, could opt to do nothing | Associated Press
A month after state lawmakers had to elect a governor because no one got a majority in November, a key lawmaker said Wednesday that the best solution to the issue may be to do nothing. “We are more seriously looking at whether we need to have a change,” said Sen. Jeanette White, chairwoman of the Senate Government Operations Committee. “I think a number of people automatically assumed that we had to have a change, but now we’re looking at do we need to have a change.” The panel is considering proposed amendments to the Vermont Constitution, which currently says that if no one gets more than 50 percent of the vote in a general election for governor, lieutenant governor or treasurer, the election goes to the Legislature.Full Article: Vermont lawmakers consider changing majority rule in elections, could opt to do nothing - Daily Journal.
When politicians tinker with the laws governing their own elections, one should view their proposals with a guilty-until-proven-innocent attitude. Almost always, the politicians proclaim that they are acting in the public interest to make elections fairer. And almost always, election law changes would improve the politicians’ chances of holding their offices or advancing up the political food chain. The most obvious example of the syndrome is redistricting – altering the boundaries of legislative, congressional, city council, county supervisor or school trustee districts to comply with population shifts. Self-serving gerrymanders had become so common in California that the state’s voters finally shifted the power over legislative and congressional districts from the Legislature to an independent commission.Full Article: Opinion: Election law changes aid politicians | The Sacramento Bee The Sacramento Bee.
South Dakota lawmakers are moving quickly on an election law package to expand state and citizen oversight of candidates’ petitions to secure a spot on the ballot. Two state Senate panels on Wednesday approved parts of the package put forward by Secretary of State Shantel Krebs and the bipartisan state Board of Elections. The Senate Local Government Committee approved a measure allowing the Secretary of State’s office to audit a random sample of voter signatures from statewide candidates’ petitions.Full Article: Proposed election law changes move forward at Capitol - Times Union.
John Kennedy O’Hara spent most of 2003 picking up garbage in city parks and cleaning public toilets as part of his sentence for illegal voting in Brooklyn. Also, he had to pay a fine and restitution amounting to $15,192. His supposed crime was that he registered to vote using the address of a girlfriend on 47th Street in Sunset Park, where he claimed to live part of the time. But he also maintained a residence 14 blocks away. While this sounds like pretty serious punishment for virtually nothing — the state election laws are so remarkably elastic on matters of residency that a former head of the Brooklyn Democratic Party was actually living in Queens during his reign — we cannot be sure if Mr. O’Hara got more than his unfair share. There are, after all, very few people to compare him with. Practically no one. It appears that the last person to be convicted of illegal voting in New York State before Mr. O’Hara was the abolitionist and suffragist Susan B. Anthony, who cast a ballot in Rochester in 1872, flagrantly disregarding that she was a woman and therefore not allowed to do so. She was not sentenced to pick up garbage in the parks, but was fined $100. She never paid.Full Article: Man Seeks to Turn Tables on Officials in Voter Fraud - NYTimes.com.