July 28, 2015
"Civil rights martyr killed in Alabama gets stone carving at National Cathedral"
AL.com reports: Civil rights activist Jonathan Myrick Daniels, an Episcopal seminary student who died in Alabama in 1965 when he stepped in front of a shotgun blast aimed at black teenager Ruby Sales, has been remembered with a stone monument in the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.
Daniels is the third person memorialized with a bust in the Human Rights Porch of the National Cathedral. The other two are Rosa Parks and Mother Teresa. ...
The Episcopal Diocese of Alabama will celebrate Daniels the weekend of Aug. 14-16. The weekend activities will begin Friday evening in Montgomery with a program at St. John's Episcopal Church and will wrap up Sunday morning with a service at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Selma.
Morris Dees, Jr., co-founder and chief trial counsel for the Southern Poverty Law Center, will be guest speaker at St. John's at 5:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 14.
The annual pilgrimage honoring Daniels begins at the Courthouse Square in Hayneville on Aug. 15 at 11 a.m. The procession will go to the old county jail where Daniels and others were detained, then will move to the former site of Varners Cash Grocery Store where the shooting took place. The current owner of the store, which had become an insurance agency office, demolished the building. During this year's pilgrimage a historical marker will be dedicated at the site. -- Civil rights martyr killed in Alabama gets stone carving at National Cathedral | AL.com
"Aderholt opponent Phil Norris doesn't live in district, but he doesn't have to"
AL.com reports: Phil Norris wants to represent the people of Alabama's 4th Congressional District, but he won't be able to count on his own vote in a Republican primary election, should he qualify for the ballot.
Norris, a 54-year-old military veteran and a nuclear health physics technologist, lives in Dothan, some 200 miles away from the southernmost point of the 4th CD, which stretches from the Mississippi border to the Georgia state line and includes part of Tuscaloosa and all of Gadsden. He has no plans to move into the district by the March primary, but he doesn't need too.
Residency requirements for Congress only say that a candidate has to "inhabit" the state of the district they want to represent. There's a history of candidates -- and even House members -- who don't live in their districts, but they usually live adjacent to the district's boundaries.
Norris, who filed a statement of candidacy with the Federal Election Commission on May 26 to run as a Republican, told AL.com that he has "emotional family ties to the district." He grew up in Hamilton, attended local schools and still has family in the area. -- Aderholt opponent Phil Norris doesn't live in district, but he doesn't have to | AL.com
July 22, 2015
Hubbard to attack constitutionality of Ethics Act
AL.com reports: Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard plans to claim that parts of the state ethics law are unconstitutional, according to a request filed in court by his lawyers on Monday. ...
"Hubbard anticipates filing a motion challenging the constitutionality of various portions of the Alabama Ethics Act," and other issues, the motion says. -- Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard to claim parts of ethics law unconstitutional | AL.com
July 21, 2015
"Abortion rights group files ethics complaint against Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore"
AL.com reports: Alabama Reproductive Rights Advocates has filed an ethics complaint against Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore.
The group claims Moore showed public support for domestic terrorism by speaking at an anti-abortion rally held by Operation Save America in Montgomery on July 11. ...
"Chief Justice Moore has a history of working contrary to federal law in promoting his own personal beliefs and agenda through the Doctrine of the Lesser Magistrate as evidenced by his refusal to follow federal orders to remove the Ten Commandment monument and most recently his stance on disallowing probate judges to issue marriage licenses to couples of the same sex in violation of federal order," according to the complaint. -- Abortion rights group files ethics complaint against Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore | AL.com
For a Wikipedia article on the "Doctrine of the Lesser Magistrate," go here.
July 20, 2015
"Alabama lawmakers again try to tighten campaign finance law"
AL.com reports: The Alabama Legislature has again tried to tighten up the state's campaign finance law, following up on earlier efforts that haven't worked as planned.
The Fair Campaign Practices Act, on the books since 1988, has been criticized for lacking teeth and a designated authority for enforcement.
With a bill that passed during the regular session, lawmakers gave the state Ethics Commission authority to investigate violations of the act, among other changes.
The bill's sponsor, Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, said the bill, based mostly on recommendations from a study committee, "will bring a lot more transparency and accountability to our electoral system." -- Alabama lawmakers again try to tighten campaign finance law | AL.com
July 8, 2015
Study ranks Alabama least democratic (small "d") in the country
AL.com reports: Alabama is the least democratic state in the Union ? ranking 51st out of a ranking of all 50 states plus the District of Columbia. The healthiest democracy apparently belongs to Maine.
At least that's the result of the new Health of State Democracies study by the Center for American Progress Action Fund (CAPAF). ...
Accessibility of ballot ? Grade: F (48th place out of 51) ...
Representation in state government Ė Grade: D- (43rd place out of 51) ...
Influence in the political system Ė Grade: F (46th place out of 51) -- Is Alabama the least democratic state in the Union? | AL.com
"Important to keep fighting for voting rights law"
An editorial in the Montgomery Advertiser: Sometimes you have to swing for the fences.
That's what Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Birmingham, are doing as lead sponsors of the Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2015.
The new bill would restore and strengthen the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act, gutted by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013 in Shelby County v. Holder.
The original voting rights legislation required states with histories of racial discrimination to obtain federal approval before changing voting laws. That protection helped guarantee all eligible voters the right to make their voices heard at the polls.
But the high court stripped that provision of the law, erroneously believing discriminatory election practices were a thing of the past. -- Important to keep fighting for voting rights law
June 15, 2015
Tuscaloosa News editorializes against universal, automatic registration
An editorial from the Tuscaloosa News: Voter fraud is not imaginary. But labeling reasonable efforts to ensure that fraud doesn't taint elections as voter suppression is pure fantasy. Loading the voter rolls with the names of people who don't care enough about their civic duty to provide county officials with a name and correct address is an open invitation to fraud.
The incessant drumbeat, mostly from Democrats, that voter fraud doesn't exist is simply untrue. They know it and we, here in this part of Alabama, certainly know it. We've seen fraudulent absentee ballots turned in by the bundle. ...
What automatic registration would do is create exceptionally fertile ground for voter fraud. People donít neglect to vote because itís difficult to register or get to the polls. Itís not. They fail to register and vote because they donít care about the process of governing this country to make the effort. Or perhaps they just donít believe their vote makes a difference. ...
People who wonít make the minimal effort to register arenít likely to vote. Why let someone vote for them? -- EDITORIAL: Registering all is invitation to voter fraud | TuscaloosaNews.com
June 10, 2015
The TimesDaily reports: Legislation approved in the Alabama Statehouse gives more clarity and enforcement capabilities to the state?s campaign finance reporting laws, the bill?s sponsor and drafter said.
Senate Bill 241, approved last week and sponsored by Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, includes recommendations from a panel of lawmakers and other officials who met in 2013 and 2014. ...
He said the legislation does several things:
Ethics Commission Executive Director Thomas Albritton on Tuesday said the five-member commission will issue formal opinions on campaign finance in the same manner it issues ethics opinions. -- Legislation puts more enforcement in campaign finance reporting laws - TimesDaily: State Capital
June 9, 2015
"Fraudulent claims of voter fraud"
The Anniston Star opines: In the latter half of the past century, Alabama, like most states, struck a workable balance between encouraging participation at the polls and fighting against voter fraud.
Voters were asked to provide a form of identity, which might include a utility bill, a student ID or a simple voter registration card. It was a measure of accountability against in-person voter fraud yet not too much for something that is extremely rare and grossly ineffective in swaying most elections.
About five years ago, things started to change in states dominated by Republicans. Despite no more than a few convictions for in-person voter fraud nationwide, these states erected fresh barriers to the ballot box. Alabama joined many others in requiring a picture ID before a registered voter could cast a ballot.
Others, including this editorial board, wondered why stricter rules were necessary when evidence of fraud that would require tightened rules was absent. -- Editorial: Fraudulent claims of voter fraud - The Anniston Star: Opinion
June 2, 2015
"SEC Primary" bill awaits Governor's signature
Yellowhammer News reports: After Alabama passed its bill moving primaries up to March 1st last week, joining Arkansas and four other Southern states, the ďSEC Primary,Ē appears to be ready to make waves during the 2016 presidential race.
The Yellowhammer State will join Arkansas, Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia to hold its presidential primary election on March 1st as soon as Governor Robert Bentley (R-AL) signs the bill into law. Electoral heavy hitter Florida will also have its primary in March, waiting until two weeks after its neighbors for March 15th. ...
Sen. Quinton Ross (D-Montgomery), who sponsored the bill in the Alabama Senate, called his bill an "economic stimulus," because it would encourage presidential candidates, and their massive cadres of campaign staff, to spend more time in the state. -- Ala. leads 'SEC Primary' to make the South a major player in the presidential race - Yellowhammer News
Alabama bill to require more voter-ID for absentee ballots is dead
AL.com reports: A bill that would require voters to submit a copy of their photo ID when requesting an absentee ballot in the state of Alabama is dead, Rep. Reed Ingram said.
Ingram, R-Montgomery, who served as the bill's sponsor, said there is too much confusion over the legislation that Republicans say is an extra measure to prevent voter fraud.
Ingram likely had enough Republican votes to get the bill passed, but not without a fight from Democrats on the House floor.
The bill didn't have a third reading in the House of Representatives per Ingram's request.
Currently, Alabama is one of only three states that require a photo ID to submit an absentee ballot. The new rule would have required absentee voters to submit a copy of their photo ID on the frontend as well. -- Absentee voter ID bill dead in Alabama Legislature, lawmakers say | AL.com
May 24, 2015
Will presidential candidates show up in the South's "SEC primary"?
The Washington Post reports: Strategists say a Southern primary has the potential to buoy a more conservative candidate and be a challenge for candidates considered too moderate or too affiliated with the establishment -- such as Jeb Bush, who will not denounce the loathed Common Core education standards and has taken a more moderate stance on immigration.
Several Southern states have high rates of poverty and could benefit from an infusion of jobs, although Republicans in the region also like to rail against social welfare programs, and Obamacare is still wildly unpopular. There are worries about terrorism and a desire for an aggressive commander in chief. Evangelical voters are also a major force and are looking for a candidate who will not back down in opposing gay marriage and abortion. ...
But if the South builds an SEC primary, will candidates show up? Or will the attention still go to the biggest states or purplest states?
"No one can really afford a 50-state strategy anymore," said Angie Maxwell, director of the Diane D. Blair Center of Southern Politics and Society at the University of Arkansas. "The truth is, the strategists don't need the South. .. The Republican Party is going to get the South, no matter who the nominee is. That's not a danger. I mean, they voted for a millionaire Mormon."
The last time there was this sort of early Southern primary was 1988, when Democrats still controlled the region. The goal was to boost a moderate Democrat, such as then-Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis, who could be more competitive in the general election. Instead, Al Gore won five of the states and Jesse Jackson took the other five. The same could happen for the Republicans in 2016, strategists caution.
But Kemp remains hopeful: "The South is the new heartland of America. The road to the White House should run through the South." -- As ?SEC primary? takes shape, will presidential contenders show up? - The Washington Post
May 22, 2015
Should Alabama adopt online voter registration?
Currently, if you want to register to vote in Alabama, you have to fill out a form and send it in to the Board of Registrars or go by the office in person. In more than half the states in the U.S., however, registration is as simple as going online.
Twenty states have implemented online voter registration so far, NPR reported, with seven other states and the District of Columbia in the process of doing so now. Proponents maintain online registration is not only easier and more efficient, it's also considerably cheaper.
In Arizona, for example, it costs only 3 cents to register someone online versus 83 cents on paper. -- It's cheap, it's easy and everybody is doing it: Another idea for Alabama | AL.com
Legislature moves the presidential primary date one week earlier
AL.com reports: The Alabama Legislature passed a bill that will allow the state to enter the "SEC presidential primary" set for March 1, 2016.
Moving the primary up a week is expected to make Alabama a bigger player in election process; it allows Alabama to join circuit of southern states to attract more visits from presidential candidates. -- Alabama to join 'SEC primary' for 2016 presidential election | AL.com
May 17, 2015
Former chief justice says money is now king of Alabama judicial races
AP reports: The phones rang. The donations flowed.
Former Alabama Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb in 2006 won one of the most expensive judicial races in American history. Cobb, however, is no fan of the pricey system that got her to be the state's top jurist.
The high-dollar races that have judicial candidates dialing for dollars are tawdry, she said, and the donations that judicial candidates must solicit from law firms and businesses that appear in their courtroom are something akin to "legalized extortion."
"To fully achieve the goal of having fair courts, there must be reform in how judges are selected," Cobb said in an interview with The Associated Press. -- Sue Bell Cobb: Money now king of Alabama judicial races | AL.com
May 6, 2015
Bill introduced to ban political contributions from gambling interests
AL.com reports: Shortly after Alabama House of Representatives Republican Caucus released its budget plan that includes a deal with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, other lawmakers today announced a bill to make it illegal for gambling interests to make contributions to a political candidate's campaign.
"I am not for legalizing gambling in Alabama," bill sponsor, Rep. Danny Garrett, R-Trussville, said. "However, with the recent discussions about possible legislation to expand gambling in the state, I believe it is important to prevent gambling lobbyists from influencing legislators through political contributions,"
Garrett's bill would make it illegal for a gambling interest, or a person or agent acting on behalf of a gambling interest, to make contributions to a politician's campaign or to a Political Action Committee.
Those contributions are currently allowed under current Alabama law, and the Poarch Band of Creek Indians are known to provide large contributions to political campaigns. Recent contributions weren't immediately available. -- Bill introduced to ban casinos from making contributions to Alabama politicians | AL.com
May 2, 2015
Bill seeks a photo ID just to ask for an absentee ballot plus one when casting the ballot
AL.com reports: The Alabama Secretary of State's Office is attempting to take its contentious voter ID law -- enacted in 2011 -- one step further by requiring a photo ID when requesting an absentee ballot.
Why? Republicans, by and large, say it's an extra measure to prevent voter fraud -- something that is hard to track and very hard to prove.
Democrats, however, aren't convinced. Rep. Darrio Melton, D-Selma, said continuing to file bills to combat voter fraud is "playing to the politics of fear." He filed a bill to let any registered voter cast an absentee ballot for any reason.
Rep. Reed Ingram, R-Montgomery, sponsored the absentee voter ID legislation on behalf of the Secretary of State. The bill, which exempts senior citizens, the disabled and military personnel, has about 20 Republican co-sponsors. -- Divisive absentee voter legislation set to come before Alabama House | AL.com
April 2, 2015
"Bill seeks Alabama entry into 'SEC primary' for 2016 presidential election
AL.com reports: The state of Alabama would enter the "SEC presidential primary" set for March 1, 2016, if a bill in the Senate is successful.
Sen. Quinton Ross, D-Montgomery, is sponsoring the bill in the Senate that would move the U.S. presidential primary from the second Tuesday of March to the first Tuesday.
Senate bill 240 received a favorable report from the Senate Constitution, Ethics and Elections Committee today. It will now move on to the full Senate for consideration.
Ross called his piece of legislation "an economic stimulus bill" because it would help the state attract more visits from presidential candidates by allowing Alabama to join a circuit with other southern states. -- Alabama bill seeks state entry into 'SEC primary' for 2016 presidential election | AL.com
March 28, 2015
Congressmen Lewis, Hoyer, Clyburn, Conyers and Brady Reintroduce Voter Empowerment Act
From the website of Cong. John Lewis: Today, lead sponsors Rep. John Lewis (GA-5), House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD-5), Assistant Democratic Leader James Clyburn (SC-6), Rep. John Conyers (MI-13), Rep. Robert Brady (PA-1) and more than 170 Democrats reintroduced the Voter Empowerment Act in the House of Representatives. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York will introduce a companion version in the Senate. The Voter Empowerment Act will help ensure equal access to the ballot for every eligible voter, will modernize our voter registration system to help more Americans participate, and takes steps to eliminate deceptive practices and voter fraud that deter voters from casting their ballots.
On March 21, 1965, thousands of protestors left Selma, Alabama and marched all the way to Montgomery to underscore the need for voting rights legislation which assured access to the ballot box for millions of Americans. Sponsors offer the VEA today as a continuation of the on-going effort to ensure that every American has an equal and fair opportunity to make their voices heard through the electoral process. At a time when some states have implemented or are planning to implement new barriers for voters who may be seniors, students, low-income Americans, members of our Armed Services, disabled, or speak English as a second language, Democrats see the need to certify their efforts to protect voting access for all Americans.
Click for a section by section description, quotes in support, or full bill text of the Voter Empowerment Act. -- Lewis, Hoyer, Clyburn, Conyers and Brady Reintroduce Voter Empowerment Act | The Website of Congressman John Lewis, Serving the 5th Congressional District of Georgia
Comment: I recommend you start with the 9-page section-by-section summary rather than the 167-page bill.
"State auditor asks for grand jury probe of Baldwin's use of taxpayer funds on election"
AL.com reports: Alabama State Auditor Jim Zeigler on Friday asked the Attorney General's Office to launch a criminal investigation into the Baldwin County school system's use of taxpayer funds to promote next week's property tax referendum.
The school system has spent tens of thousands of dollars on consultants, campaign materials and other expenses related to persuading people to renew property taxes totaling 7 mills and approve new levies equaling 8 mills. The last figure provided by the school system is $156,989.
In a letter to Attorney General Luther Strange, Zeigler indicated that he was acting on behalf of four Baldwin County residents in requesting that prosecutors convene a grand jury to investigate the use of taxpayer funds. If Strange agrees, it could result misdemeanor charges punishable by a maximum of a year in jail upon conviction.
"This needs to be stopped," Zeigler said in an interview. "Regardless of the outcome of the vote March 31, this needs to be stopped." -- State auditor asks for grand jury probe of Baldwin's use of taxpayer funds on election | AL.com
March 26, 2015
US Supreme Court vacates Alabama's win on redistricting plan, remands for new proceedings
The New York Times reports: The Supreme Court on Wednesday sided with black and Democratic lawmakers in Alabama who said the State Legislature had relied too heavily on race in its 2012 state redistricting by maintaining high concentrations of black voters in some districts.
The vote was 5 to 4, with Justice Anthony M. Kennedy joining the court?s four more liberal members to form a majority.
Justice Stephen G. Breyer, writing for the majority, said a lower court had erred in considering the case on a statewide basis rather than district by district. He added that the lower court had placed too much emphasis on making sure that districts had equal populations and had been "too mechanical" in maintaining existing percentages of black voters.
The Supreme Court vacated the lower court's ruling and sent the two consolidated cases -- Alabama Legislative Black Caucus v. Alabama, No. 13-895, and Alabama Democratic Conference v. Alabama, No. 13-1138 -- back to it for reconsideration.
Richard L. Hasen, an expert on election law at the University of California, Irvine, said Wednesday's decision might represent only a short-term victory for the plaintiffs.
"It seems likely on remand that at least some of Alabama's districts will be found to be racial gerrymanders," he wrote in a blog post. "This means that some of these districts will have to be redrawn to 'unpack' some minority voters from these districts."
"But do not be surprised," he continued, "if Alabama pre-empts the lawsuit by drawing new districts which are less racially conscious but still constitute a partisan gerrymander which helps the Republicans have greater control over the Alabama legislative districts." --Supreme Court Rules Against Alabama in Redistricting Case - NYTimes.com
Disclosure: I am one of the counsel for the prevailing Alabama Legislative Black Caucus in one of the two consolidated cases. James U. Blacksher (of Birmingham) is lead counsel, Eric Schnapper (U of Washington Law School) argued in the Supreme Court, and UW Clemon (of Birmingham) is also on the team.
Prof. Rick Hasen's analysis of the case is here.
March 25, 2015
Riley's PAC made independent expenditures, but asks candidates to report in-kind contributions
Alabama Political Reporter reports: Former Governor's Political Action Committee asked candidates to declare "in-kind" contributions they never requested or received.
According to the letters exchanged between then Senate candidate Clyde Chambliss and Jeremiah Mosley, Treasurer of former Gov. Bob Riley's Alabama 2014 PAC, the PAC gave Chambliss over $40,000 in in-kind contributions, which the candidate says he never authorized.
Not only did Chambliss say the expenditures were not authorized, but the content of the mailers sent on his behalf violated his campaign promises.
In his letter dated July 30, 2014, Chambliss wrote, "These mail pieces were attacks on my opponent which arrived in the mail addressed to voters in my district at the same time that I was running campaign advertising and making public statements and speeches in which I pledged to run a clean and positive campaign. As a result of the mail pieces sent out by Alabama 2014 PAC, many voters in my district believe that I lied to them. I have had many of these voters contact me and advise me that they planned to vote for me but did not vote because of the negative mailers."
According to a letter dated July 11, 2014, Riley's PAC said it had provided Chambliss with $8,500.00 for survey and $35,916.76 for mailers. "These amounts need to be reported to the Secretary of State in your next financial report," wrote Mosley. -- Candidates Deny In-Kind Contributions from Riley PAC
March 21, 2015
Mobile license commission gave office email list to candidate for mayor
AL.com reports: In the days leading up to election night of a hotly contested mayoral race, Mobile County License Commissioner Kim Hastie allegedly leaked thousands of private taxpayer email addresses from a county database to the mayoral campaign of Sandy Stimpson.
Now that Hastie is facing a federal criminal charge on the matter, the architects of Stimpson's winning campaign maintain that their actions were by the book. ...
Five days before the April 2013 mayoral election, Hastie and Yeager met with License Commission employees in August 2013 and Hastie instructed one of them to email "everyone within Mobile's city limits" a statement from her endorsing Stimpson, court records show.
The employee warned Hastie that sending out an email would be "improper" and cautioned her against it, according to court records. Hastie then directed the employee to retrieve and download email addresses of Mobile County residents onto a flash drive. -- 'The list came to the campaign': Stimpson electioneers talk Kim Hastie's alleged last-minute email scheme | AL.com
March 17, 2015
"Alabama Secretary of State announces partnership to investigate, prosecute voter fraud"
AL.com reports: The Alabama Secretary of State's Office has partnered with the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency and Attorney General's Office to investigate and prosecute allegations of voter fraud or campaign finance irregularities.
Secretary of State John Merrill said authorities will accept complaints about elections or Fair Campaign Practice Act irregularities starting from the June 2014 primary election, July 2014 runoff and the November 2014 general election. Campaign financing the year prior to those elections will also be investigated.
Merrill announced the launch of the Alabama Election Fairness Project today at a press conference held at the Attorney General's Office.
A hotline and an email address have been set up to accept complaints.
The Secretary of State's office can be notified at www.sos.alabama.gov or www.alabamavotes.gov. Complaints can be made at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-800-274-VOTE (8683). -- Alabama Secretary of State announces partnership to investigate, prosecute voter fraud | AL.com