Due to a loophole in Florida election law, a violation can go without any punishment. On September 30, a Florida District Court of Appeals ruled that because the statute allowed candidates to opt for an administrative hearing regarding their violations but didn’t give those courts the power to levy sanctions, candidates could violate election law and not be penalized. This was caused by a “glitch” in the legislation and was not intentional. Florida Election Commission Chairman says that it won’t affect the cases for this year’s elections because the legislature will have an opportunity to fix it before they’re heard.
According to the 9th Circuit, Washington doesn’t discriminate against minorities in prison. The Court ruled on October 7 that the Washington felon disenfranchisement law, which prohibits incarcerated felons from voting, does not constitute discrimination despite disproportionately affecting minorities. In January, a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit held 2-1 that incarcerated felons should be allowed to vote. Sitting en banc to reconsider the decision, the Court unanimously upheld the law. The Court ruled that the felons must show “intentional discrimination” on the part of the state and not merely that the law does discriminate, something the prisoners failed to do in this case.
A new study by the Center for Responsive Politics shows that challengers have raised more funds than incumbents in 11 races. The average difference is $613,200. All but one of these races are competitive and all but two of them have Republican incumbents. This is unusual because incumbents usually have a significant advantage over challengers in fundraising; this is one of the reasons re-election rates are so high. The anomaly could be a reflection of the fact that many big donors are starting to leave the Democratic party.
“Trigger” funds are OK in Maine–for now. The First Circuit denied a motion for an emergency injunction to invalidate portions of Maine’s Clean Elections law on October 6, citing the public harm that will come from the “chaos that will ensue if the Maine election laws … are invalidated … in the crucial finals weeks before an election.” The court did not, however, close the door on overturning the law at a later date, noting that they “cannot forecast what (their) ultimate judgment on the merits will be.” For now, the gubernatorial race that the challenge was brought from will proceed under the Clean Elections matching funds provisions.
Can a bank loan to a candidate who loans the money to his campaign? Florida State House Candidate James Grant recently received a $40,000 personal loan from First Citrus Bank that he immediately put towards his campaign. Grant has already been accused of election law violations in three separate violation complaints. The complaints, filed by Hillsborough County Democratic Party vice chairman Chris Mitchell, charge that the loan is an illegal campaign contribution, and also accuse Grant of violating elections law by racking up expenses in his primary campaign without having the money to cover them, and accepting contributions within five days of the primary election — which state law prohibits. Mitchell wants to know why a bank would give a three-month, $40,000 loan to a 28-year-old man who, according to state-required financial disclosure forms filed to qualify for the ballot, has a negative net worth of $5,780. Mitchell states that “something doesn’t smell right here.”
Senator Al Franken wants to investigate whether the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is violating election law by raising money from foreign donors. The Chamber has raised thousands from these donors, must of which goes into its general fund which is used against democratic candidates. The Chamber denies doing anything illegal, and says it only raises about $100,000 in dues from its foreign branches. It is illegal to solicit or accept donations from foreign nationals, directly or indirectly, for election activity.