Sandusky, Ohio, deems Election Day a paid holiday for city employees

In an effort to show its dedication to diversity, the city of Sandusky, Ohio, will no longer recognize Columbus Day as a paid holiday. Instead, the city will give Election Day off to its over 200 government employees, according to The Washington Post. Eric Wobser, Sandusky’s city manager, hopes this decision will set an example for local private companies. The announcement occurs in the midst of a partisan debate over a bill that would make the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November a national holiday, an attempt to increase voter accessibility.

Campaign Finance, Election Law

FBI initiative releases video series addressing online campaign security

Protected Voices, an FBI initiative established to prevent cyber influence targeting U.S. elections, recently released informational videos designed to educate and raise awareness among political campaigns. The videos discuss a variety of trending topics, including secure communication channels, incident response and social engineering. For more information and to watch the videos, visit the Protected Voices website.  

Campaign Finance, Election Law, General News

North Carolina and Ohio address alleged gerrymandering

After what has been a long-run battle in the courtroom, three federal judges held that North Carolina’s current division of congressional districts unconstitutionally favors Republican candidates. The state may be required to redraw their congressional districts before the November 2018 elections. Given the condensed timeline of such an undertaking, state legislators are likely to request assistance from the Supreme Court to help execute a plan that does not violate constitutional standards.

Similar gerrymandering allegations are being dealt with in Ohio, as a panel of federal judges recently ruled in favor of a lawsuit against Republican officials. A group of Democratic voters proved that they have standing to challenge “a 2011 redistricting statute that the GOP used to redraw maps, arguing that it gave unfair advantage to Republicans at the expense of Democrats.” 

Election Law

U.S. Supreme Court defends Ohio voting policy

On June 11, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld an Ohio voter registration policy that permits the State to remove eligible but infrequent voters from registration rolls if they have not returned a postcard confirming they have not moved after failing to vote for two years and have not voted in any election for an additional four years. The Court determined in a 5-4 decision that this practice complies with the National Voter Registration Act, a federal law forbidding voter removal, and is a lawful way to keep voter registration rolls current. 

Election Law

Special election reporting deadlines

PACs, candidates and political parties that plan to make contributions to candidates running for the 12th Congressional District should be reminded of additional reporting requirements associated with this special election. A special primary election is scheduled for May 8, 2018, and a special general election is scheduled for August 7, 2018. 

Campaign finance deadlines for these special elections do not coincide precisely with the deadlines that apply to all other federal activity this year. The first filing date related to the special election is April 26, 2018, and includes special election contributions made between April 1, 2018, and April 18, 2018.

If your political committee is planning to make contributions associated with the 12th Congressional District Special Election, please keep these deadlines in mind and work closely with your analyst or reporting service to make sure your reports are timely. More information can be found on the Federal Election Commission website

Election Law, General News

Current campaign laws overlook tech-based marketing

Today, there are many laws and regulations governing campaign advertisements through traditional media, such as broadcast and print media. However, despite social media marketing’s growing relevance to election outcomes, there are still no laws governing social media ad sales for political candidates. As recently spotlighted in Wired, the 2016 presidential election demonstrates this loophole.

Not only is it speculated that Russian nationals took advantage of the lack of social media regulations to influence the American political climate and election, but Trump’s own tech-savvy campaign relied heavily on social media leniency. Specifically, Facebook’s preferential treatment to provocative or “clickbait” advertisements allow candidates to promote their messages at cheaper rates than their opponents, according to Antonio García Martínez, a former Facebook advertising product manager. He believes that social media’s influence on elections will only continue to rise.

Campaigns are increasingly using social media advertising as a means of targeting and reaching voters. The laws may never catch up to the furious advancement of social media and technology, but, ideally, voters should be privy to the sources behind these posts and how they are funded. 

Election Law

And then there were four. . .

The six-member Federal Elections Commission (FEC) will soon be down to just four with Commissioner Lee Goodman’s announced resignation, effective February 16, 2018. That leaves Chair Caroline Hunter (R), Vice Chair Ellen Weintraub (D), Matthew Peterson (R) and Steven Walther (I). At least four votes are needed for the FEC to take any official action. President Trump announced the nomination of James “Trey” Trainor, a conservative Austin election attorney, last fall to fill a vacancy in a Republican-held seat that was expected to occur at that time. The vacancy left by Commissioner Ann Ravel’s (D) resignation in February 2017 remains unfilled.

Election Law

Columbus citizen group seeks overhaul of city election process

Local citizen group Everyday People for Positive Change has collected enough signatures to put a proposed charter amendment on the May 2018 ballot. The initiative seeks to create a ward-based city council election process and, additionally, limit campaign contributions to city candidates. A similar petition was brought by the group in 2016 and was handily defeated in the special election. Despite reorganizing and addressing some of the initial concerns of its petition, the group may face additional challenges related to the city’s “single subject requirement.” City attorney Zack Klein will deliberate the petition, and city council will ultimately decide if the proposal is allowed on the ballot. 

Campaign Finance, Election Law, General News

HJR 5 seeks to add requirements to initiated statutes and constitutional amendments

On November 1, 2017, Rep. Niraj Antani (R-Miamisburg) introduced House Joint Resolution 5 (HJR 5) to increase the number of required signatures needed to place initiated statutes and constitutional amendments on the ballot. HJR 5 also proposes banning petition gatherers and proposes to increase the votes required for passage to 60 percent (current legislation requires a majority vote to pass statutes and amendments). Ohio currently has some of the easiest standards for placing a measure on the ballot, making it a target for out-of-state interests seeking to influence Ohio legislation.

The proposal is drawing support from the Ohio business community. The Ohio Chamber of Commerce supports the measure as it addresses the need for stronger public support of amendments to the state constitution. Several voter groups oppose the measure, contending that current requirements for ballot placement are already challenging and expressing that HJR 5 will place more barriers than necessary for interest groups seeking to get their issues in front of Ohio voters.

Election Law, General News

Special filing requirement announced for 2018 Ohio candidate campaign committees

The Ohio Secretary of State’s office recently issued guidance and announced deadlines related to the 2018 Declaration of Filing Day Finances and Permissive Funds Report. The requirement applies to campaign committees of candidates who may file petitions for election to a statewide or General Assembly office next year. This requirement does not apply to Ohio Supreme Court Justice candidates. A detailed guide to filing is available here.

Campaign Finance, Election Law
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