What do you do when you don’t like the ruling of the Supreme Court? In Iowa the answer is easy: get a new Supreme Court. Iowa’s system of judge retention elections makes it unique. Judges are appointed by a council, and at the end of an eight year term the public votes on whether a justice should be retained or let go. Until recently, judges didn’t have to campaign hard for retention; in fact, from 1962 to 2010 every justice was retained. There are no challengers in these judicial elections, the public simply votes for or against retention. In 2010 the system was shaken when three justices, including Chief Justice Marsha Ternus, were voted out of office. [Read more…] about Redefining unconstitutional: Varnum justices continue to be targets in Iowa
Starting this November voters in Pennsylvania will face stricter ID requirements at polling stations. A new law requires a voter to present an ID from a list of approved forms of identification each time before casting a ballot. Proponents of the new law, such as PA’s Republican Governor Tom Corbett, say the law will reduce fraud, but the new push for voter ID has many opponents asking about ulterior motives.
An Arizona State University, Walter Cronkite School of Journalism study found that voter impersonation occurred at a rate of only 1 in 15 million for in-person voting. By comparison, the PA Department of State and Transportation estimates that 9% of Pennsylvania’s eligible voters do not meet ID requirements. Analysts at the Brennan Center also point out that a five year prison sentence and $10,000 fine for each count of voter fraud makes it “a singularly foolish way to attempt to win an election.” [Read more…] about Voter ID squabbles continue in Pennsylvania
Late last month the Supreme Court struck down Montana’s ban on corporate spending in elections. Montana was the first of many states to push back against the implications of Citizens United. In February the Montana Supreme Court upheld the ban saying that Montana had a rich history against corporate spending that rises to the level of a “compelling interest”, forcing the Supreme Court to take another look at its holding in Citizens United on appeal.
On the same day the Court ruled on the Affordable Care Act they also struck down Montana’s century old law banning corporate spending. The Court reiterated that corporate campaign donations are no different than contributions by any other citizen. Obama spokesman Eric Schultz said of the opinion, “Citizens United mistakenly overruled longstanding cases that protected the fairness and integrity of elections.” But Despite the mounting criticism the Court stands the same as in 2010 with the same five justices voting against the ban. James Bopp Jr., the attorney pushing for unlimited corporate spending, called the decision, “excellent”.
In deciding against Montana’s ban the Supreme Court has effectively shut down challenges that have sprung up since the Citizens United decision. But what will it mean for the future of Montana’s elections? For now it seems that corporate politics will begin to play a large role, whether its for good or bad. This does not mean that the fight against corporate spending is over. Governor Scweitzer said in response to the decision, “We’re going to overrule the Supreme Court with a constitutional amendment, to make it clear that we the people are in charge of America, not we the corporations. Here in Montana, we’re putting it on the ballot.” While the Court seems to be unwavering in their decision, the war against corporate spending is far from over.
Last month the Supreme Court issued a stay on Montana’s Supreme Court decision upholding corporate spending limits in state elections. It seems that the Court may be ready to reexamine Citizens United. What they’ll find is what many states have been saying all along: Citizens United is out of sync with the values of many states.
Montana was the first of many states to express disdain for unlimited corporate funding. Early last week 55 towns in Vermont passed resolutions proposing a constitutional amendment that would limit the rights of corporations. The Alabama legislature has also been seeking to stop PAC-to-PAC fund transfers that mask donors. Even some members of the Court seem eager to reexamine the effects of Citizens United. In response to the Montana decision, Justice Ginsburg referred to Justice Kennedy’s language in Citizens United decision saying, “Montana’s experience, and experience elsewhere since this court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission make it exceedingly difficult to maintain that independent expenditures by corporations ‘do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.’” Meanwhile some panelists at the Federal Election Commission’s hearing last week urged the FEC not to wait for the Supreme Court to reverse Citizens United and to take regulatory action into their own hands. [Read more…] about Montana Supreme Court leading the charge against Citizens United
It may be surprising that the biggest blow to corporations in 2011 didn’t come from Wall Street protestors. Late last month Montana’s Supreme Court took a swing at corporate spending in elections holding, in spite of the decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Committee, that a 100-year-old law banning corporate spending was valid. In doing so, the court held that the lower court’s reading of Citizens United was erroneous. The Court in Citizens United said, “Laws burdening such speech are subject to strict scrutiny, which requires the Government to prove that the restriction ‘furthers a compelling interest and is narrowly tailored to achieve that interest.’”
So what exactly should be considered a “compelling interest” for bans on political spending? The Supreme Court of Montana answers bluntly that they have met the standard of review set out in Citizens United. In assessing Chief Justice McGrath explains Montana’s long standing fight against corporate spending. [Read more…] about Montana rebels against Citizens United