California: ‘MAGA’ hats allowed but ‘Biden’ gear banned under in-person voting rules | John Myers/Los Angeles Times

California election rules prohibit clothing, signs and swag urging support for a specific candidate at polling places, but state officials have decided no such ban exists on items emblazoned with the slogan “Make America Great Again,” a mantra championed by President Trump. If there’s a distinction between a shirt bearing the name of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and the ubiquitous hats featured prominently in Trump’s online store, it may be lost on voters come election day. “I want to make sure the public knows what the rules are,” said Kammi Foote, the registrar of voters in Inyo County. “I don’t want to be accused of favoritism allowing MAGA gear but telling people with a Biden/Harris mask to remove it. ”California has long differentiated between political slogans and what the law defines as “electioneering” — displaying information about a candidate or campaign — at a polling place or vote center. Last month, state elections officials made clear that gear bearing the Trump slogan would not be considered synonymous with showing support for the president’s reelection.

Minnesota: When a T-Shirt Gets You in Trouble at the Voting Booth | The New York Times

Minnesota has a dress code for voting. The idea, the state says, is to create a safe space for democracy. To make sure voters are in a properly contemplative mood at their polling places on Election Day, the state bans T-shirts, hats and buttons that express even general political views, like support for gun rights or labor unions. The goal, state officials have said, is “an orderly and controlled environment without confusion, interference or distraction.” Critics say the law violates the principle at the core of the First Amendment: that the government may not censor speech about politics. They add that voters can be trusted to vote sensibly even after glancing at a political message. “A T-shirt will not destroy democracy,” a group challenging the law told the Supreme Court this month.

Minnesota: Supreme Court takes political clothing at polls case | Constitution Daily

On Monday, the Supreme Court accepted an appeal about the ability of a voter to wear clothing or campaign buttons at a polling place that endorses a political cause. The case of Minnesota Voters Alliance v. Mansky had been before the nine Justices in private conference on five occasions until it was granted a court date. The question under consideration is if a Minnesota law that “broadly bans all political apparel at the polling place, facially overbroad under the First Amendment.” The law, Minnesota Statute Section 211B.11, actually prevents voters from  wearing political badges, political buttons, or other “political insignia” at polling places, because the messages communicated are “designed to influence and impact voting” or promote a “group with recognizable political views.” The controversy started when Andrew Cilek of Hennepin County was temporarily stopped from voting because he was wearing a t-shirt with a “Don’t Tread on Me” and a Tea Party slogan, and a button endorsing Voter ID policies from a group called Election Integrity Watch.

Minnesota: Supreme Court to hear Minnesota voter apparel law challenge | Reuters

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed on Monday to hear a conservative group’s free speech challenge to a Minnesota law prohibiting voters from wearing T-shirts or other apparel adorned with overtly political messages inside polling stations. A group called the Minnesota Voters Alliance is appealing a lower court’s decision to uphold the law, which forbids political badges, buttons or other insignia inside polling places during primary or general elections. State election officials have interpreted the law as also barring campaign literature and material from groups with political views such as the conservative Tea Party movement or the liberal Violators are asked to cover up or remove offending items, but officials are instructed not to bar anyone from voting.

Pennsylvania: Republicans and Green Party to judge: Hold a new 197th District election | Philadelphia Inquirer

Two losing candidates on Thursday asked a federal judge to throw out the results of the controversial March 21 special election for the 197th Pennsylvania House District and order a new election, alleging the Democratic Party and its candidate engaged in illegal electioneering. The lawsuit from Republican nominee Lucinda Little and Green Party nominee Cheri Honkala was filed one day after Democrat Emilio Vazquez was sworn into office. The 29-page suit is a litany of complaints about shady tactics in the North Philadelphia district. The two candidates, along with the city and state Republican Parties and the state Green Party, are suing Vazquez, Philadelphia’s Democratic City Committee, and the Board of City Commissioners and Department of State, which oversaw the election.

Pennsylvania: Vazquez sworn in for 197th District seat as investigation, lawsuit loom | Philadelphia Inquirer

Emilio Vazquez, the Democratic leader of Philadelphia’s 43rd Ward, was sworn in Wednesday as the newest state representative for the 197th District after a special election that is being investigated by city and state prosecutors for alleged voter fraud. … Vazquez’s main two opponents, Republican nominee Lucinda Little and Green Party nominee Cheri Honkala, each vowed two days after the election to sue in federal court to overturn the results, alleging that voters were intimidated or misled by illegal electioneering in polling places. The Pennsylvania Republican Party and the Green Party last week again vowed to sue in a joint effort.

National: How Different Polling Locations Subconsciously Influence Voters | Scientific American

During President Obama’s final State of the Union address, he called for reforms to the voting process, saying, “We’ve got to make it easier to vote, not harder. We need to modernize it for the way we live now.” Just ahead of Super Tuesday and in the midst of the presidential primaries—where we’ve already witnessed record turnout and long lines in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada—it’s a good time to reconsider the president’s appeal to modernize the voting process, and review an encouraging effort to do just this. Many have questioned the burden and fairness of voter ID laws, particularly for minority voters. But even easing voter ID laws doesn’t eliminate the bias of the polling locations themselves. In fact, a score of recent studies highlight how the building where you vote—whether it’s a church or a school—can subconsciously influence which boxes you check on the ballot.

Australia: Northern Territory Adopts Optional Preferential Voting and Bans Campaigning Near Polling Places | ABC Elections

The Northern Territory Parliament yesterday passed legislation that will dramatically change the face of elections in the Northern Territory. I outlined the provisions of the bill in a blog post in January (you can find the post here), but the two provisions with significant political consequences are a switch from full to optional preferential voting, and a ban on posters, how-to-votes, handbills and all forms of campaigning within 100 metres of a polling place. The original bill included a 500 metre ban, reduced to a more practical 100 metres by government amendment in the debate. The ban will remove what locals call ‘the gauntlet’, the tunnel of posters and party workers thrusting how-to-vote material at voters outside polling places. From my own personal observation, campaigning outside polling places is more vigorous in the Northern Territory than in any other Australian jurisdiction.

Montana: Proposed electioneering rule addresses political attack ads | Bozeman Daily Chronicle

As part of the state’s new election disclosure law, Montana’s commissioner of political practices has proposed a rule aimed at attack ads masquerading as educational. It has become common for “social welfare” organizations to send postcards to voters or broadcast TV ads in the days before an election. State Sen. Bruce Tutvedt, R-Kalispell, has a pending political practices complaint against the Taxpayers for Liberty, the National Association for Gun Rights and American Tradition Partnership, among others, which includes examples of attack ads that would be considered electioneering under the new rule.

Canada: Canada braced for US-style attack ads | Financial Times

Derek Demers is not looking forward to more attack ads before Canada’s federal election this autumn. “I find them unbelievable down in the states, what they throw at each other,” says the retired software salesman in Calgary, who has mostly voted Conservative but for this election is considering other parties. “It’s pretty tiring. They can be creative, but they can be demeaning.” Canada’s election is four months away, yet voters are already getting their share of such US-style ads through third-party campaigns by political action committees that show a similar US influence.

Kentucky: Regulation issued prohibiting electioneering | The Ledger Independent

Electioneering during next week’s primary election will not be allowed within 100 feet of Kentucky polling locations. That was the message delivered by Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes on Friday. In her capacity as the state’s Chief Election Official, Grimes issued a notice to the public the State Board of Elections has approved and filed an emergency administrative regulation prohibiting electioneering within 100 feet of the entrance to a polling place on Election Day. The emergency administrative regulation, which is effective immediately, does not apply to private property.

Kentucky: State prohibits electioneering with 100 feet of polls after court strikes down 300-foot ban | Lexington Herald-Leader

Kentucky has taken steps to prohibit electioneering on public property within 100 feet of polling places for the May 19 primary election. The State Board of Elections approved the emergency administrative regulation authorized by Gov. Steve Beshear at a meeting Tuesday. The regulation comes in the wake of an April 28 ruling by the 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals that a Kentucky law prohibiting electioneering within 300 feet of a polling place was unconstitutional.

National: Digital Democracy Or 21st-Century Electioneering | TechCrunch

It’s fair to say that Barack Obama’s 2012 presidential bid marked a watershed moment for political campaigners. This was a campaign covered in Silicon Valley’s fingerprints, characterized as it was by its widespread use of technology to capture and record data to deliver targeted messages to voters. As one former Obama campaign manager said: “We stopped thinking in terms of ‘soccer moms’ and started thinking instead about ‘Mary Smith at 37 Pivot Street.’” What was once done with pen and paper is now being done in real time and at a staggering pace, providing politicians and their election teams with a far richer picture of voters than previously possible. Next month will see the UK head to the polls for its first general election since 2010, which has been described as one of the most unpredictable in living memory. Throughout Westminster, political parties are putting their faith in technology to gain an edge over their rivals, defend vulnerable seats and better connect with the electorate. Both Labour candidate Ed Miliband and Prime Minister David Cameron have hired former Obama advisers to head up their campaign teams, which look to replicate the success of Democrats in securing key votes.

Kentucky: Appeals court: electioneering law unconstitutional |

A federal appeals court agreed with a lower court’s ruling that Kentucky’s electioneering laws banning campaign signs within 300 feet of a polling place was unconstitutional. The U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday upheld the last year’s federal district court’s ruling. The case was sparked by a Northern Kentucky business that displayed election signs on private property near a polling place. U.S. District Court Judge William Bertelsman in an October 2014 ruling found Kentucky’s electioneering sign law too broad. The law banned signs on public and private property within 300 feet of polling location. Kentucky’s attorney general and secretary of state appealed the ruling.

Croatia: Current president, opposition’s presidential candidate on campaign trail | Dalje

With the formal start of electioneering at midnight Monday for the Croatian presidential election set for 28 December, the presidential candidate of the strongest opposition Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic, began her whistle-stop tour in her hometown of Drazice, where she promised that if she won the election she would complete the job which the first president, Franjo Tudjman, had started steering the country towards prosperity, while the incumbent head of state, Ivo Josipovic, embarked on his hustings tour at noon Tuesday in downtown Zagreb where he boarded a bus that will transport him and his team through Croatia in the next 18 days of campaigning. Josipovic, who was seen off by Prime Minister and Social Democratic Party (SDP) leader Zoran Milanovic, said he was starting the tour from the same place, the square outside the law school and the Croatian National Theatre, from where he started the campaigning for his first term five years ago.

National: Judge: FEC improperly narrowed disclosure rules | Associated Press

The Federal Election Commission impermissibly narrowed disclosure requirements for corporations and labor organizations that finance electioneering communications, the political ads that run close to an election, a federal judge ruled Tuesday. In setting aside an FEC regulation, U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson said the commission initiated a rulemaking in response to a Supreme Court decision, but that nothing in the Supreme Court case amounted to a basis for the FEC to narrow the disclosure rules Congress had enacted. She said the FEC regulation was arbitrary, capricious and contrary to law.

Kansas: Statewide network of Republican lawyers ready to intervene on Election Day | Topeka Courier-Journal

The Kansas Republican Party plans to have a statewide network of GOP lawyers ready to intervene on Election Day, and it will analyze close races for potential legal action — as its director warns of “dubious tactics” from Democrats. The network of attorneys is part of the Republicans’ plan for a poll-watching program as well as an Election Day war room with a complement of lawyers on standby. The party will target some polling locations for all-day observation and is urging candidates, county officers and precinct leaders to become poll agents (often called poll watchers) and visit polling locations. The Kansas Republican Party’s poll-watching operation is detailed in a Sunday email from Clayton Barker, the organization’s director. The email, obtained by The Topeka Capital-Journal, begins with a reminder of the election’s consequences.

Kentucky: Appeals court rules in electioneering ban | Associated Press

A federal appeals court ruling Friday will allow Kentucky to prohibit campaign activity on public property near polling places but not on private property. The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on a permanent injunction issued three days earlier by U.S. District Judge William O. Bertelsman, who said the state law violates First Amendment speech rights. A three-judge appeals panel agreed with Bertelsman as far as allowing electioneering on private property but lifted the part of the injunction that applied to public property or polling locations. The case was brought in June by John Russell, a Campbell County businessman who had campaign signs removed from his business’ yard on Election Day in 2012 and 2014. The signs were removed by sheriff’s deputies because they were within 300 feet of a polling place at a church in Cold Spring.

Kentucky: Appeals court rules in electioneering ban | Lexington Herald-Leader

A federal appeals court ruling Friday will allow Kentucky to prohibit campaign activity on public property near polling places but not on private property. The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on a permanent injunction issued three days earlier by U.S. District Judge William O. Bertelsman, who said the state law violates First Amendment speech rights. A three-judge appeals panel agreed with Bertelsman as far as allowing electioneering on private property but lifted the part of the injunction that applied to public property or polling locations. The case was brought in June by John Russell, a Campbell County businessman who had campaign signs removed from his business’ yard on Election Day in 2012 and 2014. The signs were removed by sheriff’s deputies because they were within 300 feet of a polling place at a church in Cold Spring.

Kentucky: Conway tries to preserve Kentucky electioneering law | Courier-Journal

Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway turned to a federal appeals court Wednesday in his effort to preserve a state law that bans electioneering close to polling places, calling the buffer zone an important safeguard against Election Day shenanigans. With the general election less than three weeks away, Conway moved quickly with his motion to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in an effort to keep the law in place — pending an appeal — to insulate voters from campaign activities outside the polls. The filing came a day after U.S. District Judge William O. Bertelsman ruled that the law’s 300-foot anti-electioneering buffer violates First Amendment speech rights. The judge issued a permanent injunction blocking the law’s enforcement. Conway wants the appeals court to block Bertelsman’s ruling, which caught the attention of local election officials in Kentucky.

Kentucky: Judge blocks law banning campaigning near polls | Associated Press

A Kentucky law banning election-day campaigning near polling places was struck down Tuesday by a federal judge, who ruled the 300-foot buffer impedes free speech by reaching private homes and yards. The ruling by U.S. District Judge William O. Bertelsman came three weeks before voters head to the polls to decide a long ballot of local, state and federal races. Those races include the hard-fought U.S. Senate campaign pitting Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes. The ruling means that a broad range of electioneering activities would be allowed near the polls, said Christopher Wiest, one of the attorneys for the northern Kentucky man who challenged the state law. “What this means is there is now complete freedom of speech in and around polling places on Election Day,” Wiest said by phone. “People can hand out fliers, talk to voters. They can wear (campaign) T-shirts, they can hold signs. All that is now fair game.”

Pennsylvania: Kensington election craziness raises doubts about weird poll-watcher rules | Philadelphia City Paper

During Tuesday’s primary, various candidates in Kensington alleged that their opponents were bribing voters, campaigning inside polling places, and, in one instance, distributing anonymous fliers that claimed one candidate was gay — and those were just the complaints made to a reporter over a few hours time. An assistant district attorney showed up at Stetson Middle School in Kensington to respond to reports that campaign workers were accompanying voters into voting booths. After observing a raucous scene that involved dozens of different political supporters in colorful campaign T-shirts, his walkie-talkie crackled and he departed — there had been another report of electioneering at the Bayard Taylor School, on the other side of the neighborhood. In theory, there are poll watchers who can respond to such Election Day complaints. Each candidate is entitled to a certain number of poll-watcher certificates, issued by the City Commissioners office, entitling that person to enter and observe activity at any polling place.

India: India set to challenge U.S. for election-spending record | Reuters

Indian politicians are expected to spend around $5 billion on campaigning for elections next month – a sum second only to the most expensive U.S. presidential campaign of all time – in a splurge that could give India’s floundering economy a temporary boost. India’s campaign spend, which can include cash stuffed in envelopes as well as multi-million-dollar ad campaigns, has been estimated at 300 billion rupees ($4.9 billion) by the Centre for Media Studies, which tracks spending. That is triple the expenditure the centre said was spent on electioneering in the last national poll in 2009 – partly a reflection of a high-octane campaign by pro-business opposition candidate for prime minister, Narendra Modi, who started nationwide rallies and advertising last year.

National: Campaign Activists Blast FEC Decision on Crossroads | Wall Street Journal

Campaign-finance activists vowed to take the Federal Election Commission to court Thursday after it disregarded a finding by its staff that Crossroads GPS, conservative nonprofit backed by Karl Rove, likely broke campaign laws during the 2010 elections. On Friday, the FEC quietly released a legal opinion by its staff lawyers that found that the “major purpose” of Crossroads GPS was to elect federal candidates, despite being registered as a “social-welfare” nonprofit group. The FEC’s general counsel recommended holding a formal investigation into the group. However, the FEC decided not to take any action after a deadlocked 3-3 vote by its commissioners along party lines. On Thursday, that decision drew sharp criticism from campaign-finance activists.

National: There’s No Way to Follow the Money | The Atlantic

Christmas comes early for campaign watchdogs—or late, depending on your perspective. Thanks to a lag in IRS reporting rules, the tax returns of independent groups that spent hundreds of millions of dollars in the 2012 election are just now coming due. Considered together with a recent campaign-finance investigation in California, these filings hint at an orgy of self-dealing and “dark money” shenanigans unprecedented in American politics. The first presidential election since the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision spawned what Bloomberg Businessweek called “a Cayman Islands-style web of nonprofit front groups and shell companies.” These not only shielded donors’ identities but also obscured the huge profits of political operatives who moved nimbly between the candidates, the super PACs, and the vendors that get their business. The so-called “independent expenditure” groups have been “transforming the business of running a political campaign and changing the pecking order of the most coveted jobs,” Businessweek noted. “With a super-PAC, the opportunity to make money is soaring while the job is getting easier to do.” Is it any wonder then that many of the biggest players from past elections jumped to the other side of the game in 2012? Or that they imported two money-making techniques perfected in campaign work: shell corporations that put fees and commissions beyond the reach of federal disclosure rules, and “integrated businesses,” set up by staff and advisers to do nuts-and-bolts electioneering?

Minnesota: Tea party and political buttons: Supreme Court declines Minnesota case |

The US Supreme Court on Monday declined to take up a case testing a Minnesota law that bans the wearing of buttons or clothing with messages that election officials deem too political to be worn within 100 feet of any polling place. The justices took the action in a one-line order without comment. It lets stand a federal appeals court decision upholding the statute. The Minnesota law seeks to prevent campaigning and electioneering by candidates and their supporters at the locations where voters are casting their ballots. But an array of conservative groups challenging the statute said it went far beyond preventing electioneering and violated the free speech rights of voters to express broader political ideas without facing government censorship.

Pennsylvania: Lawmakers won’t stop tinkering with election rules | CNHI

Conflicts caused by the state’s last attempt to improve the integrity of elections was the biggest source of complaints logged by a watchdog group during the 2012 presidential race. But that isn’t stopping lawmakers from trying to tinker even more with the state’s election rules, again in the name of improving voting integrity. The Legislature’s state government committee held a hearing last week on a package of bills that includes tougher penalties for voter intimidation and a ban on promotional materials inside polling places. The bills come up as the state’s controversial voter identification law remains in legal limbo, blocked from taking effect by a state appeals court judge’s order. The law passed in March 2012 has never been enforced, but it has resulted in confusion and anger among poll workers told they had to ask for ID and voters told they didn’t need to show it. Like the voter ID law, a proposed ban on promotions in polling places could create conflict between voters and those who are supposed to be assisting them, advocates worry. Barry Kauffman, executive director of the Pennsylvania chapter of Common Cause, said a ban on posters would be acceptable. But it would cause problems, he said, “if that is interpreted to mean you can’t walk in wearing a pin with the name of your preferred candidate.” Poll workers shouldn’t be judging what voters are wearing, Kauffman said.

Mauritania: Parties accuse rivals of foul play | AFP

Mauritania’s ruling party and Islamist opposition group traded accusations of foul play on Tuesday as the campaign for the west African nation’s legislative and local polls drew towards its conclusion. The governing Union for the Republic (UPR) — overwhelming favourites to win Saturday’s elections — cast doubts over the funding of Tewassoul, a relatively new party fighting its first election. “This party has much larger resources than my party. We want to know where these means are coming from,” UPR national campaign director Mohamed Mahmoud Ould Jaavar said during a meeting in the capital Nouakchott. He demanded that Tewassoul leaders “set themselves apart from the Islamists who have committed a lot of damage in the Arab and Muslim world”. “No party has the right to appropriate Islam, which is the religion of all of us, for itself,” he added. Meanwhile Tewassoul, a self-styled moderate party legalised in 2007 that professes to hold different beliefs and goals from Mauritania’s jihadist fringe, hit back by accusing the UPR of illegally using public money to fund its electioneering.

National: Report argues for lifting ban on politics from the pulpit | The Washington Post

Even as polls show Americans broadly oppose electioneering from the pulpit, a new report by a group of faith leaders working closely with Capitol Hill argues for ending the decades-old ban on explicit clergy endorsements. The report being given Wednesday to Sen. Charles E. Grassley — the Iowa Republican whose office for years has been probing potential abuses by tax-exempt groups — comes as the ban has become a culture-war flashpoint. More than 1,100 mostly conservative Christian pastors for the past few springs have been explicitly preaching politics — they call the annual event “Pulpit Freedom Sunday” — in an effort to lure the Internal Revenue Service into a court showdown. Meanwhile, groups that favor a strong church-state separation are going to courtto demand that the IRS more aggressively enforce the ban that dates to 1954.