Virginia: Appeals court dismisses case seeking party ID in local elections | Richmond Times-Dispatch

A federal appeals court has dismissed a challenge to a Virginia law prohibiting partisan labels on ballots in local elections. In an opinion published Tuesday, the Richmond-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the case brought by a group of Powhatan County Republicans and found the state has a legitimate interest in minimizing political partisanship in local races. “While party identifiers do not appear on the official ballot for Virginia’s local candidates, the candidates still have every other avenue by which to inform voters of this information,” Judge Paul Niemeyer wrote in the three-judge panel’s unanimous opinion affirming a lower court’s earlier ruling. “Political parties and their nominees are entirely free to publicize their association with each other.”

Netherlands: Dutch elections, anyone? 81 parties make it a quandary | Associated Press

Peter Plasman showed up at the Netherlands’ national electoral commission’s offices Monday to register one of the more unusual parties bidding to take part in the upcoming Dutch election — a party for people who don’t vote. Plasman was hardly an exception when it came to flouting convention. A record 81 parties have expressed interest in taking part in the March 15 parliamentary election. Monday was the day they all had to hand in their paperwork. Among the eclectic roster of potential players, there also is the Colorful Cow Party, which casts itself in part as an antidote to the fierce anti-Islam rhetoric of the Party for Freedom. Its website includes a recipe for a traditional Dutch mashed potato dish, prepared with Turkish sausages and Moroccan spices. The party wound up not filing paperwork Monday because it could not find enough funds, its founder, Daan van Reenen, said in an email.

Utah: Judge strikes down Utah law requiring parties to open primaries | The Salt Lake Tribune

A federal judge ruled Tuesday that the state cannot force political parties to open their primaries to unaffiliated voters, a move that will allow the Utah Republican Party to continue to close its primaries and complicate a potential signature-gathering path to the primary ballot. U.S. District Judge David Nuffer signaled during a hearing last week that he would likely strike down the open-primary provision of SB54, as judges in other districts have repeatedly done. SB54 sought to increase voter participation in primaries by forcing the parties to allow the state’s 610,000 unaffiliated voters to cast ballots in the primary elections. But Nuffer said that encroaches on the party’s First Amendment right to association.

Utah: Judge poised to strike down part of new Utah election law | Deseret News

A federal judge appears poised to strike down part of a disputed new state election law that defines how political parties choose candidates for elected office. U.S. District Judge David Nuffer signaled Tuesday that he intends to find forcing parties to hold open primary elections is unconstitutional. He noted that every other court has found that requirement violates the First Amendment. “Honestly, that’s how I think I’m ruling,” he said after hearing arguments from the Utah Republican Party, the Utah Constitution Party and the state. Nuffer will issue a written decision in the coming days, which could potentially end the lawsuit that the Utah GOP filed against the state. The law includes a clause that says if part of it is struck down, the remainder stands.

Wisconsin: Assembly approves splitting GAB into elections and ethics agencies | Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

Assembly Republicans on Wednesday approved legislation to loosen campaign finance restrictions and to split the state ethics and elections agency in two, but the measures face an uncertain future in the GOP Senate. Democrats declined to vote on the campaign finance legislation, contending lawmakers were ethically prohibited from taking up a measure that would help their campaigns. Republicans dismissed the Democrats’ refusal to vote as a stunt, and the bill passed 61-0. On a nearly party-line 58-39 vote, the Assembly voted to disband the state Government Accountability Board and replace it with an elections commission and an ethics commission. The accountability board consists of six former judges, while the new commissions would each be made up equally of Democrats and Republicans selected by the state’s most powerful politicians. The bills next go to the Senate, but Republicans who control that house don’t yet have the votes to approve them, lawmakers said.

Editorials: Supreme Court continues record of hostility to minor parties and independent candidates | Richard Winger/The Hill

Among the 50 most populous countries, the United States and Nigeria are the only nations in the world with exactly two political parties represented in the national legislative body. (For a list of the 50 most populous countries and the number of parties represented in their legislative bodies, click here.) Election laws and debate practices in the United States make it extremely difficult, almost impossible, for the voters to launch a new major party. Consequently, in election after election, there is no realistic chance for a new party to displace either the Republican or Democratic Parties. This state of affairs is partly because the U.S. Supreme Court, for the last 23 years, has fostered the status quo and upheld laws that protect the two major parties from competition. Starting in June 1992, the U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear every case filed by minor party or independent candidates against restrictive laws that bar them from the ballot or debates or otherwise injure them, with only a single exception: a case from Georgia in which Libertarian Party candidates challenged the state law requiring all candidates for state office to be tested for illegal drugs. Setting aside that exception, there are now 54 examples when minor parties and independent candidates asked for help from the court, and were refused, during the period from 1992 to the present. (To see a list of such instances that occurred before 2012, click here.)

Editorials: Too Many Parties on the Ballot in New York | The New York Times

New York State has two big political parties — Democratic and Republican — on its ballot as well as an assortment of smaller parties. That might seem harmless, but in the strange, convoluted netherworld of New York politics, a lot of the minor parties are useless and mysterious. They clog the ballot, warp the debate and confuse the voters. What makes this system especially confounding is that a candidate’s name can appear on two or more ballot lines. Last year, New Yorkers could vote for Gov. Andrew Cuomo on the Democratic, Working Families, Independence or Women’s Equality Party. Now, New York Republicans are trying to get rid of the Women’s Equality Party, which favors Democrats.

Russia: Liberals blast Russian election law as ‘medieval,’ suggest radical changes | RT

The leader of the Yabloko party has told reporters that Russia must abandon the current practice of political parties presenting supporters’ signatures before elections to prove their popularity, saying it was both obsolete and prone to rigging. Sergey Mitrokhin told reporters in Novosibirsk on Monday that his party supported the cancelation of pre-electoral signature collection for all political parties. He commented that this part of Russian election law is “medieval.” The press conference was held in connection with the next nationwide election on September 13. This is when 11 Russian regions will elect legislatures, 21 heads of regions will be elected by a direct vote, and four more by voting in regional parliaments. He added that Yabloko, one of the oldest parties in Russia, has always supported greater equality for all political groups.

Myanmar: Election Body Rejects Muslim Parliamentary Candidates | Radio Free Asia

Myanmar’s Union Election Commission (UEC) on Tuesday rejected all but one candidate from an Islamic party based on citizenship requirements before general elections in November in a move that could lead to the party’s disbandment, the organization’s political leader said. The commission rejected the applications of 17 of 18 candidates who had filed to run for parliamentary seats as members of the Democracy and Human Rights Party (DHRP), Kyaw Min (a) Mahmood Shomshul Anwarul Haque, the party’s chairman, told RFA’s Myanmar Service. Eleven of the rejected candidates are from Rakhine state, and the six others are from the Yangon division, he said, leaving only one party candidate to stand in the elections. “The rejection notice did not mention detailed reasons behind the decision, but just said the candidates were rejected for violations based on laws and regulations,” he said.

Canada: Fringe parties fight to spread message, sway swing ridings | CBC

Depending on the party, they love pot, hate Stephen Harper or just want to have fun. Fringe parties are a perennial fixture in Canadian politics, and so far there are more than a dozen registered to run in this fall’s federal election. The best most can hope for is to scrape up a few thousand votes based on a niche platform or protest ballots from disenfranchised electors. So what drives them — and do they add or detract from the democratic process? Sinclair Stevens, the 88-year-old leader of the Progressive Canadian Party, is mobilizing yet another campaign with one sole purpose: to defeat Stephen Harper. “He has an agenda that is just not Canadian,” he told CBC News.

Canada: More than two dozen ‘third parties’ have registered in hopes of influencing federal election | National Post

Dozens of groups with their own political agendas could, combined, spend millions in this federal election campaign trying to influence voters. These so-called “third parties” (they aren’t actually political parties) are registered to advocate and run advertising during the federal election campaign. They include public and private-sector unions; an anything-but-Conservative veterans group; animal rights supporters; the small-government National Citizens Coalition; environmental groups; the Canadian Medical Association and even one called “Voters Against Harper.” To date, more than two dozen third parties have registered with Elections Canada. Many will run ads either nationally or in specific ridings to support their agendas. Others will rely on grassroots approaches to targeting voters. Their goals include boosting funding for the CBC, improving seniors’ care, restoring door-to-door mail delivery, securing better services for veterans, electoral reform, and strategic voting, to name a few.

Arizona: 9th Circuit Endorses Arizona Ballot Form | Courthouse News Service

Arizona may continue to use a ballot registration form that lists only the two largest political parties in the state, the Ninth Circuit ruled Friday. The Arizona Libertarian and Green parties, and three of their members, sued then-Secretary of State Ken Bennett in 2011 after the state legislature decided that only the two largest political parties would be listed by name on voter registration forms. The plaintiffs in the lawsuit filed in Tucson Federal Court claimed the statute discriminated against Green and Libertarian voters, who now had to write out their party affiliation in a small box, forcing them to “abbreviate, and run the risk that their abbreviation is illegible or misread.”

Louisiana: Baldone seeks to be a Democrat and Republican on fall ballot | Daily Comet

A Houma attorney seeking to return to the state House wants to be listed as both Democrat and Republican on the ballot this fall. Damon Baldone filed a petition today in state court seeking to force the Terrebonne Parish Registrar of Voters to allow the dual registration. “By working with both parties you have a voice,” he said. “By going independent, you just kind of lose that voice and I believe my political beliefs fall within the spectrum of both the Democrat and Republican parties. That hasn’t changed and won’t change.”

India: Election Commission reports that India has 1866 registered political parties | The Financial Express

There has been a rush for registration of political parties, with as many as 239 new outfits enrolling themselves with the Election Commission between March, 2014 and July this year, taking their number to 1866. According to the Commission, as on July 24, there are 1866 political parties which are registered with it. Out of these, 56 are recognised as registered national or state parties, while the rest are “unrecognised, registered” parties. According to data complied by the Commission, in the last Lok Sabha election in 2014, 464 political parties had fielded candidates.

Editorials: Bernie Sanders’s primary problem | Charles F. Bass/The Washington Post

Addressing hundreds of supporters while campaigning in Keene, N.H., last month, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) declared: “Let me tell you a secret: We’re going to win New Hampshire!” He has some reason to feel confident, given that a new poll put him just 10 percentage points behind front-runner Hillary Clinton in the Democratic presidential primary in the Granite State. But before he pops the champagne corks, I have a secret of my own to share with the senator: He may not qualify for the New Hampshire ballot as a Democrat. To understand why, let’s step back a bit. The U.S. Constitution gives Congress the power to set the time of federal elections but not the manner in which political parties choose their nominees. That process is left to the states. The New Hampshire Constitution empowers the legislature to determine the qualifications for those being elected to office (something in which I was closely involved when I chaired the committee with jurisdiction over state election law while a member of the state Senate). Pursuant to that power, state law makes clear that candidates must be registered members of the party on whose ballot line they wish to appear.

National: Federal Election Commission allows parties to form new committees to fund political conventions | Cleveland Plain Dealer

Over objections from watchdog groups, the Federal Election Commission on Thursday agreed to allow the nation’s political parties to form new committees that will raise money to finance their political conventions after Congress eliminated federal funds for the quadrennial events. The decision sought by the Republican and Democratic National Committees means each group can launch a fourth fundraising committee to collect money for convention expenses, in addition to the three committees they already operate to raise money for House races, Senate races, and general party expenses. Political donors will now be able to contribute an extra $32,400 for convention expenses on top of the other political contributions they’re allowed to make during an election cycle.

New Zealand: Electoral commission releases election information | NZ Herald News

Candidate information, party lists and voting booth information for the election on September 20 has landed – and the Expat Party has missed out. The Electoral Commission this afternoon released the official nominations for the election, including 15 registered political parties and 554 candidates to contest the 64 general seats and seven Maori seats. And New Zealand First leader Winston Peters will not be standing in an electorate this election. A notable omission from the list of registered parties is the Expat Party, which wanted to advocate for New Zealanders’ rights, especially in Australia, but failed to register in time.

New Zealand: Environmental groups set case against Electoral Commission | New Zealand Herald

A group of six New Zealand environmental organisations are set to file documents against the Electoral Commission this afternoon, in what they have described as a freedom of speech test case. The groups — Greenpeace, Forest and Bird, 350 Aotearoa, Generation Zero, Oxfam New Zealand and WWF New Zealand — have brought the case after the Electoral Commission branded material produced by them as an election advertisement. The material in question related to the Climate Voter initiative, launched last month, which aims to get all political parties to address climate change in the run up to September’s General Election. Election advertisements must adhere to a strict set of legal requirements, and restrictions on spending.

Europe: Elections for European Parliament: What is new? |

Elections for the European Parliament, to be held later next month, will give EU citizens an opportunity to have an impact on EU policies in the next five years. Elections will be held in all 28 member-countries on May 22-25, and 751 MEPs will be elected for a term of five years.Croatian citizens will elect 11 MEPs, one less than has been the case so far because the number of MEPs will be reduced from 766 to 751. They will, however, elect them for the first time for a full, five-year term.In the May 22-25 elections, close to 400 million EU voters will for the first time elect indirectly, through the European Parliament, a new President of the European Commission. European political parties have for the first time nominated their candidates for EC President so as to attract voters and, by involving them more directly, strengthen the political legitimacy of the EP and the EC. When nominating candidates for the post of EC President, the European Council will for the first time have to take into account election results. MEPs will appoint the new EC President by an absolute majority vote based on the European Council’s nomination, EP Secretary-General Klaus Welle has said.

Europe: A Clash between National and European in the European Elections | EU Inside

For the first time in the EU, you will hear, we have a broad choice. We can vote for a specific candidate for the post of the European Commission president, not only for members of the European Parliament. The candidates of the biggest political families in Europe were selected in the American style – some more democratically (via primaries), others via the ordinary party procedure. Whatever the manner, they are already touring European cities and capitals competing for our vote. They even call their campaign with the same term as in the US – campaign trail. The culmination will be on May 15th when the five candidates will appear together in a debate which will be broadcast live within the Eurovision network and online. To sum up, European democracy in action. There is no doubt that it is more than exciting that, finally, the EU will come to us instead of us constantly going to the EU. The European political parties will fight for our vote, they will present us their ideas, plans, visions about the future of the Union not from the distant Brussels, but they will come in our capitals and cities. They will try to balance between nationalists, austerians, spenders, Germans, Greeks, the north and the south, the east and the west, between Euro-Atlanticists and pro-Russian forces. But there is a problem. In these elections, for the first time, the clash between the national and European political interest will be especially strong because the national parties make calculations of their own for these elections, while the candidates at EU level threaten to mess them up. And this is especially evident in the fact that there are two parallel elections for the post of European Commission president going on. One is the democratic one that I mentioned above and the other is the well known behind-the-scenes way in which the highest European posts are always bargained.

Canada: Elections bill ‘exacerbates’ lack of privacy, political parties micro-target voters more | Hill Times

MPs may be federal law-makers, but there are no laws restricting how political parties can collect or use personal information about voters in Canada, and with the development of micro-targeting techniques, information is more important than ever in politics, however, parties aren’t working to close this legislative gap out of “self-interest,” say experts. “It’s in parties’ self-interest to not be covered by these particular rules and regulations [privacy laws]. They want to be able to collect information and not have to worry about abiding by rules and standards … there’s no reason whatsoever that political parties shouldn’t play by the same rules as businesses and government institutions,” said Jonathon Penney, an associate law professor at Dalhousie University with a focus on intellectual property and information security issues, in an interview last week with The Hill Times. “There’s a real incentive I think for parties to collect more information, because the richer the information, the better your analytics will be, the more you can micro-target, the more you can segment your voter base and shape an individual message to target specific voters for specific reasons, and your electoral strategies and your voter messaging is going to be that much better the richer and deeper and more detailed your information is about the electorate,” he said.

Australia: Electoral Commission agrees to refund $2000 nomination fee for botched WA Senate vote | Sydney Morning Herald

Voters in Western Australia will be confronted with the biggest ballot paper they have seen after the Australian Electoral Commission bowed to pressure and agreed to refund nomination fees for minor parties that contested the botched Senate vote in September. A number of grassroots parties had written to the AEC complaining they would be unable to run again if the $2000 deposit they paid per candidate nomination were not returned to be used again for the April 5 election. Most minor political parties paid a minimum $4000 for two candidates to qualify for ”above the line” voting and take part in the preference swap deals that provide their only hope of election.

Utah: Proposed constitutional amendment would counter Count My Vote initiative | Deseret News

A proposed constitutional amendment prohibiting infringement on a political party’s right to nominate candidates for public office could be on the November election ballot. Sen. Scott Jenkins, R-Plain City, is sponsoring the measure to counter the Count My Vote initiative to replace Utah’s unique caucus and convention system with direct primaries, which might also be on the ballot this fall. Also, the Senate scheduled a floor debate on SB54 — legislation that would allow parties to avoid direct primaries — for 11 a.m. Thursday. Jenkins sees his resolution, SJR15, as complementary to the bill but also an attempt to thwart the Count My Vote effort. The group must gather more than 100,000 signatures to put its measure before voters in November.

Utah: Bill to Head Off ‘Count My Vote’ Moves Out of Committee | Utah Policy

Sen. Curt Bramble calls the “Count My Vote” initiative a “gun to the head” of Utah’s political parties. If the CMV initiative gets on the ballot and passes in November, it would do away with the state’s caucus and convention system for nominating candidates in favor of a direct primary. Bramble says CMV backers and Utah’s political parties were unable to find a middle ground, so that’s why he’s sponsoring SB 54, which is a compromise between the two positions – and would essentially make the “Count My Vote” initiative a moot point. “The best kind of political compromise is where both sides can claim victory,” Bramble told a packed Senate committee hearing room on Friday morning. “I crafted this bill so that both sides don’t get what they want. Under the legislation, ‘Count My Vote’ gets what they were asking for from the parties, while the parties get to keep the caucus system if they meet certain criteria.”

Voting Blogs: Who decides how European elections work: the party or the electorate? | openDemocracy

There is only one European election, however it is held on different days and according to different versions of proportional representative voting for each country. Proportional representation (“PR”) voting with open lists allows for more influence on which candidate gets elected, giving voters the choice between personalities as well as between the political parties. This open list system is used in a large number of EU member states: Ireland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Malta. However, for example in France, Germany and the UK the countries have opted for a closed-list, where voters are only given the choice between the parties, but not the individual candidates. “Closed-list PR” moves the competition between candidates from the same party back from an open election campaign, engaging with the voters, to an earlier stage in the election process: the party selection process.

Tennessee: Third parties seek easing of state ballot rules | The Tennessean

Minor political parties fighting to get on the ballot in Tennessee were given a chance to air their views Monday, but they left the Capitol disappointed. In a meeting held on the eve of the start of the 2014 legislative session, representatives for the Libertarian, Constitution and Green parties presented plans that would have slashed the number of signatures needed for minor parties to be recognized by state election officials. But state lawmakers would agree only to a nonbinding recommendation to lower the requirement for local and statehouse races. The decision frustrated representatives for third parties, which have sued state officials over rules that they say have been designed to thwart them.

Vermont: Long-Awaited Campaign Finance Bill Passes Vermont House | My Champlain Valley

In a 124-15 vote, the Vermont House passed S.82, a contentious campaign finance bill rolled over from last session. The bill limits how much money individuals can donate to political campaigns in the state. Vermont hasn’t had a campaign finance law since 2006, when courts struck down the 1997 campaign finance law. Rep. Debbie Evans (D-Essex) says that was because the limits were too low and didn’t adjust for inflation. Since then, Sen. Jeanette White (D-Windham) says some state leaders reverted back to the 1981 law, which limited donors to $2,000 per candidate. “We didn’t actually re-adopt that,” White said about the 1981 law. “So whether we have any limits now, or any law at all is up in the air.” The new campaign finance bill passed in the Senate in 2013, then was amended by the House. It went to a conference committee made up of three House members and three Senate members, chaired by Rep. Evans. On the House floor Thursday, Rep. Evans said “We’re living in a sort of Wild West situation.”

Ohio: Kasich signs bill on ballot access for minor parties | The Columbus Dispatch

With the Libertarian Party threatening a legal challenge, Gov. John Kasich signed a bill yesterday requiring minor political parties to collect about 28,000 signatures next year to be recognized in Ohio. And it wasn’t the only measure raising Democratic objections yesterday. The Senate passed a bill designed to establish uniform rules for the mailing of absentee-ballot applications. The bill on minor parties moved quickly. Republicans pushed to get it signed into law by the end of the day — so it would not take effect after the Feb. 5 filing deadline for 2014 candidates and give minor parties another legal argument to use against the law. Republicans argued the law is long overdue, filling a void left after the federal courts struck down Ohio’s prior minor-party law in 2006. Secretaries of state have been giving blanket recognition to a handful of minor parties since that ruling — and Speaker William G. Batchelder, R-Medina, said it was time to stop letting the courts and a statewide officeholder set Ohio’s election law.

Ohio: Controversial minor parties bill passes both House, Senate | The Columbus Dispatch

The House and Senate gave final approval today to a bill establishing new criteria for recognizing minor political parties in Ohio, and Gov. John Kasich is set to sign it tonight. Kevin Knedler, chairman of the Libertarian Party of Ohio, said the party is expected to file a lawsuit challenging the law by the end of the week. Meanwhile, the Senate also voted today for a bill designed to establish uniform rules for the mailing of absentee ballot applications. As recommended by Sen. Bill Seitz, R-Cincinnati minor parties would have to collect signatures equal to 0.5 percent of the total vote from the previous presidential election — about 28,000 signatures. Starting in 2015, the requirement would increase to 1 percent of the prior gubernatorial or presidential election. The House-passed version of the bill had set a more lenient 10,000 signatures next year, and then 0.5 percent after. The bill also requires that at least 500 signatures come from each of half of Ohio’s 16 congressional districts.