Weekly Wrap-Up

Virginia governor Robert McDonnell is outpacing his Democratic predecessors in restoring voting rights to felons. McDonnell, known as a law-and-order attorney general, has approved 780 of 889 applications — approximately 88 percent of applications — since taking office in January. His predecessors, Democrats Timothy Kaine and Mark Warner, restored the rights of 4,402 and 3,486 felons, respectively. McDonnell revamped the process for restoring voting rights to felons, reducing the wait time for nonviolent felons to two years, allowing applicants to submit documents online, and self-imposing a deadline of 60 days after the application is complete to make a decision. Even as this process continues, however, 300,000 people in Virginia remain disenfranchised.

Rahm Emanuel may be out of a job. The same day that the White House announced he was leaving his post as Chief of Staff to run for mayor of Chicago, attorney Burt Odelson pointed out a 1871 law requiring candidates to live in their jurisdiction for the year before the election. Since Emanuel leased out his house in Chicago while he was working in DC, this may block him from running for Mayor.

Is the FEC ignoring election law violations? The general counsel of the FEC found that the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) violated election law when it “required local affiliates to contribute to its political action fund.” However, the FEC’s board chose to ignore its general counsel and dismissed the original complaint. To add insult to injury, the group that originally filed the complaint, the National Right to Work Foundation (NRWF), was not given an explanation of the FEC’s decision under after its right to file an appeal had lapsed. NRWF plans to still advocate for an appeal, or, if necessary, file a new complaint. The FEC refuses to comment. Learn more about the issue here.

Circuit clerks in Mississippi are trying to stop a write-in judicial election. The election for a circuit court post in south-central Mississippi will be a write-in only election, as the only person signed up to run, incumbent Judge Robert Evans, died of cancer in July. Four circuit clerks have filed a lawsuit to stop the election. The Mississippi Board of Election Commissioners decided earlier this month that the election was required by the state constitution to be held on November 2. Opponents worry that a write-in election will create additional costs for taxpayers, as the results may be tied up in the courts for years. Their solution is to hold a special election with the 2011 General Election. To qualify for the position, candidates must be 26 years old, a practicing attorney for five years, and a Mississippi resident for five years. Currently no date has been set for a hearing on the lawsuit.

Morgan Stanley is joining a small group of corporations, including JPMorgan and Goldman Sachs, who are saying that they will continue to operate under the pre-Citizen’s United rules.  They have signed a public anti-spending pledge created by New York Public Advocate, Bill De Blasio.  The decision is most likely to avoid any political blowback if they took advantage of the Citizen’s United ruling and spent unlimited funds on political campaigns.  In contrast, 3M has recently taken advantage of the new rule by donating $100,000 to Minnesota Forward, an independent group, to pay for ads supporting conservative candidates in Minnesota.

In some states, elections may be won or lost long before polls open in November.  More states are allowing their citizens to vote earlier and earlier by providing no-excuse early and absentee voting.  In Ohio, for example, voters were able to cast their ballots as early as September 26.   The two main political parties are scrambling to adapt their campaign strategies to these changes, with Democrats coming out ahead in this at least.

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