Tuesday is shaping up to be a big day in the world of politics. In Iowa, Republican caucus-goers officially kick off the 2012 presidential election cycle at 1,774 precincts across the state. In Egypt, voters in nine of the country’s 27 governorates head to the polls in the third and final round of elections for the first People’s Assembly to convene since last winter’s revolution.
At first glance, the contests couldn’t be more different. Egyptian voters will cast their ballots against a backdrop of continuing political instability and a volatile security environment. In Iowa’s gymnasiums, libraries, and churches, the greatest disruptions might well come from a handful of rowdy Ron Paul supporters.
But dig a little deeper, and one finds some uncanny parallels. If democracy really is God’s gift to the world, He’s infused it everywhere with His own quirky sense of humor. Here are a few to look out for as the first voting of the new year gets underway. Read More
The eyes of the world are upon us, but not only to see who is declared the winner of the GOP caucus Tuesday night. Some are trying to see just how the votes get added up. A reader from Florida writes:
While researching the Iowa Caucus process I came across your website. I was just wondering if you were aware that the Iowa GOP has decided to tally the votes in an undisclosed location this year due to an anonymous threat to ’shut down’ the caucus. This is very concerning to me and I was wondering what your take is being that you’re much more familiar with the Iowa election process than I am. I have heard that Iowa is one of the most transparent states in terms of voting, but wouldn’t counting the votes in secret open up the potential for serious vote fraud? Knowing that the Iowa GOP is not very fond of the current front runner in Iowa I am even more suspicious.
Indeed. It’s easy to imagine the whole Republican Party in the corner with Mitt Romney, hoping to hold off the Paulites and the Gingrich disaster, willing to do anything to save their careers from the hoi polloi. Might they even move their vote counting to an undisclosed location? Sure, even their beloved VP hangs out there! Read More
Three key campaign-finance challenges, one already at the U.S. Supreme Court, seek to push through doors left open by the justices’ controversial Citizens United decision. Advocates and opponents of campaign-finance regulations are watching, in particular, U.S. v. Danielczyk, now being briefed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit. The government is appealing a district court ruling that struck down the federal ban on direct corporate contributions to candidates.
The two other challenges tackle federal prohibitions against foreign campaign contributions and contributions by individuals with federal contracts. “These lawsuits are all at least theoretically outgrowths from Citizens United,” said Tara Malloy of the Campaign Legal Center. In Citizens United v. FEC, a 5-4 Court struck down the federal ban on the use of general treasury funds by corporations for independent campaign expenditures. “Citizens United is, of course, not directly on point in terms of the law, but its reasoning is certainly being used in new areas of campaign-finance law,” said Malloy. The plaintiffs in the three cases are using, to different degrees, language in Justice Anthony Kennedy’s majority opinion that campaign-finance regulations cannot discriminate based on the identity of the speaker, Malloy said. “This is not necessarily even the holding but it is this type of reasoning that is being leveraged,” she added. Read More
Wedged up against the Illinois border on the banks of the Wabash River, Terre Haute, Indiana, has seen better days. Many factories have closed, and downtown has too many vacant storefronts. But there are signs of activity: Indiana State University has grown, the federal prison still provides reliable jobs—and the ten-lawyer litigation machine that occupies the offices of attorney James Bopp Jr. at the corner of 6th and Wabash is going full tilt.
Bopp is best known as the lawyer behind a case involving a 90-minute film made in 2008 attacking then–presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Bopp’s suit ultimately resulted in the landmark 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision, in which the Supreme Court held that corporate funding of independent political broadcasts such as the movie and its promotional ads were legitimate expressions of free speech and couldn’t be limited by campaign-finance laws. The ruling overturned key restrictions on the use of corporate and union money in politics. Bopp is already well into the next phase of his crusade to topple as many of the state and federal limits on the role of money in politics as can be done in one man’s lifetime.
Over the past 30 years, Bopp has been at the forefront of litigation strategies that have reshaped campaign-finance law inexorably. Having helped pave the way for spending in the 2012 elections that’s likely to exceed the 2008 level by several billions, Bopp is already well into the next phase of his crusade to topple as many of the state and federal limits on the role of money in politics as can be done in one man’s lifetime. His targets include two of the few remaining bedrock principles of money-and-politics law: disclosure mandates and the prohibition against unions and corporations giving directly to candidates and parties. He’s also juggling cases that go after dollar limits on contributions, attack elements of public-financing programs, and chisel away at other facets of the regulatory regime. Read More
While much of the rest of the nation was diverted for the holidays, a group of lawyers in Washington pressed on to prepare new legal papers in hopes of getting a speedy decision — perhaps in time for the 2012 elections — on the constitutionality of the federal law that many consider history’s most important guarantee of minorities’ voting rights. Having barely missed the chance in 2009 to get the Supreme Court to strike down Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, challengers are seeking to set up a new test case as quickly as they can. They may get their wish, at least in lower federal courts.
Three days after Christmas, attorneys for a group of opponents of Section 5, who live in the small community of Kinston in eastern North Carolina (population about 24,000), urged the D.C. Circuit to take unusual steps to decide their case in close tandem with an already pending challenge there from Shelby County, Alabama. The Kinston lawyers even offered to forfeit the usual opportunity for an oral argument, if that would move the case along.
“The public has a compelling interest in a prompt and definitive resolution of Section 5′s facial constitutionality during the upcoming election year,” the attorneys said in a motion to expedite their appeal, and to assign it to the same three-judge panel that is reviewing the Shelby County case. “Section 5 will have a sweeping effect on the 2012 elections, because it will affect redistricting, voter-identification laws, polling-place locations, early-voting hours, and any other voting change” in all or parts of 16 states that are subject to Section 5. The Justice Department, the attorneys told the Court, does not object to those requests. Read More
The perennial fight over whether voters should have to produce a valid ID to cast elections ballots is set to begin. Rep. Shane Shoeller of Willard — who is also running for Secretary of State — has filed a bill that would require a photo ID requirement for voters. He says it’s common-sense legislation.
The measure was vetoed by Gov. Jay Nixon last year, and the Supreme Court struck down the requirement in 2006. Opponents of the measure say it disenfranchises poor and elderly voters. Nonetheless, Schoeller thinks it will gain approval by the Republican-led General Assembly, and hopes if it does that Nixon will pen the legislation into law. Read More
To cope with ballot scanners a federal agency has deemed faulty, Cuyahoga County’s elections board has mandated four tests during each election — plus an audit afterward — to guarantee results are right. The county even received a grant from the federal agency, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, to produce a how-to guide on testing and auditing, to give voters throughout the country greater confidence in elections.
“The board has become a nationwide leader in assuring accurate elections and understanding that technology can fail, and it’s their job to test carefully, not just occasionally, but persistently,” said Candice Hoke, an elections professor at Cleveland-Marshall College of Law. “That is very good news.”
Rigorous testing matters in part because the election commission last week ruled the county’s ballot scanners were out of the compliance, the first such decision in the agency’s nine-year history. The machines, made by Omaha-Neb.-based Elections Systems & Software Inc. inexplicably freeze up, miss some votes and fail to log problems. Read More
A state lawmaker unveiled a bill Wednesday that he says would target “legal bribery” in the effort to recall Gov. Scott Walker. Rep. Evan Wynn, R-Whitewater, has introduced a bill he said would eliminate a loophole in state law that allows recall petitioners to pay others in exchange for petition signatures.
The state’s bribery statutes outlaw paying someone to vote or to sign nomination papers, but there’s no state law on the books against paying someone to sign—or not to sign—a recall petition, Wynn said.
Wynn, who represents the 43rd Assembly District, said he learned of the issue recently after a constituent told him that someone collecting recall signatures door-to-door had paid the constituent’s friend $10 to sign a petition. Wynn has reached out to the state Government Accountability Board over the issue. He called the legal loophole “mind-boggling” and said it allows “legal bribery.” Read More
Egyptians vote Tuesday in the third round of a parliamentary election that has so far handed Islamists the biggest share of seats in an assembly that will be central in the transition from army rule. Islamist groups came late to the uprising that unseated president Hosni Mubarak in February, but were well placed to seize the moment when Egyptians were handed the first chance in six decades to choose their representatives freely.
The run-up to the third round has been overshadowed by the deaths of 17 people last month in clashes between the army and protesters demanding the military step aside immediately. But the ruling generals have insisted the election process will not be derailed by violence. Monitors mostly praised the first two rounds as free of the ballot stuffing, thuggery and vote rigging that once guaranteed landslide wins for Mubarak’s party.
But police raids on pro-democracy and rights groups last week have disrupted the work of leading Western-backed election monitors and drew accusations that the army was deliberately trying to weaken oversight of the vote and silence critics. Read More
Egypt’s army rulers issued a decree on Sunday to hasten the conclusion of parliamentary elections after deadly clashes in Cairo last month raised pressure for a quicker handover to civilian control. Final run-offs to the assembly’s upper house will end on February 22 instead of March 12 as previously planned, the ruling military council said in a statement, and the house will hold its first sitting on February 28.
Fifty-nine people were killed in confrontations in late November and December between security forces and protesters demanding the military leave power sooner. Many Egyptians voiced outrage at video footage of soldiers beating men and women after they had already collapsed on the ground, some dragging a female protester by her black full-body veil, exposing her bra then clubbing and kicking her. Read More
Chairman of the Centre Party Abu-Ela Madhi said that his party would demand to add a new article to the new Constitution to activate the electronic voting in the next parliamentary elections.
Madhi said, in a statement reported by the Middle East News Agency (MENA), that the e-voting guarantees that elections are based on the principle of transparency and justice of all contestants. Read More
In a surprising move, the Cabinet yesterday reviewed two key election reform draft laws presented by Prime Minister HH Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Sabah, one of them calling for the establishment of an independent election commission. The second bill calls for setting up of an independent national committee for supervising election campaigns in a bid to ensure equal and fair opportunities to all candidates contesting the polls.
The two draft laws were then referred to the Cabinet’s legal committee to study its details before they come back to the Cabinet for final approval, according to a statement issued following the Cabinet’s weekly meeting. The two draft laws will not be issued immediately as they will be referred to the next National Assembly which will be elected on Feb 2. The establishment of an independent election commission has been among the main demands by the opposition to reform the election process which has been under the supervision of the interior ministry since 1962 when Kuwait began adopting the parliamentary system. Read More
Libyans with ties to ousted leader Muammar Gaddafi will be banned from running in elections under a bill drafted by the country’s new rulers. Academics who wrote about Gaddafi’s “Green Book,” containing his musings on politics, economics and everyday life, will also be barred from running under the draft law, published online by the National Transitional Council (NTC) on Sunday night.
“This is a very important law because people are complaining that some of Gaddafi’s figures still occupy high positions,” said Abeir Imnena, a university professor among a number of legal experts, judges and lawyers involved in drafting the bill. “This is to tell people that there’s no room for them [Gaddafi supporters].” Read More
The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has created a special Board of Canvassers (BOC) that will re-canvass the election returns of Compostela, Cebu for the positions of mayor, vice mayor and 10 municipal councilors.
Cebu Provincial Election Supervisor Lionel Marco Castillano said the new BOC is composed of Comelec lawyers who are based in Manila. Read More