April 18, 2014

"Florida no longer part of controversial national voter data project"

The Miami Herald reports: Interstate Crosscheck's reports in 2013 include Florida data based on the 2012 election. However, Florida is absent from the 2014 report.

We asked a spokeswoman for Republican Secretary of State Ken Detzner why Florida dropped out.

"The Department of State and Supervisors of Elections currently work with elections officials in other states to update registrations regarding residency, and we are always exploring options to improve the elections process," Brittany Lesser said.

Oregon is another state that changed its mind about sharing its voter data with the Kansas project. Its explanation was more blunt than the one we got from Florida.

"We left because the data we received was unreliable and we felt joining the ERIC project would better meet our needs," said Tony Green, spokesman for Oregon Secretary of State.

ERIC is a project of the Pew Charitable Trust to improve the accuracy and efficiency of state voter registration systems. States must pay to participate in ERIC while the Kansas project is free. -- Florida no longer part of controversial national voter data project | Naked Politics

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Alabama Sec of State wants to join Interstate Crosscheck

Alabama Political Reporter reports: Based on recent evidence of double voting discovered in North Carolina, Alabama Secretary of State Jim Bennett (R) urged on Tuesday that Alabama legislators pass a bill allowing his office to exchange voter lists with other states to check for duplications.

Legislation that would have done that was sponsored by State Representative John Merrill (R) from Tuscaloosa in the last session. It passed the Alabama House of Representatives but died in the Alabama Senate. Secretary Bennett said that he remains committed to the plan under which a compact of 28 states exchange lists to look for duplicate voters. Alabama law currently only allows the secretary of state to sell the voter list to other states for a penny a name, which with about 3 million voters, amounts to approximately $30,000.

Sec. Bennett said, "The idea in the exchange is not to make money, but to check for voter fraud," Bennett said. "It is time Alabama joined the compact of states where cross-checks are made possible."

Sec. Bennett said that many Alabamians have vacation homes in Florida, so cross-checking there and in Georgia would be highly practical. Florida joined the compact in 2013. Every state surrounding Alabama is already a compact member. -- Bennett Urges Alabama to Join Compact of States Checking for Voter Duplication

[But see the post just before this one.]

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"6 charts explain fundraising in District 6 GOP primary"

AL.com reports: What campaign has the most individual contributors? What percentage of those contributors are from Alabama? Who has the largest average donation, and the smallest average donation?

This week, the Republican candidates in the race for Alabama's 6th Congressional district filed their April quarterly fundraising reports with the Federal Elections Commission. These six graphs will show you what they raised, and who and where it came from.

[Follow the link to see the 6 charts.] -- 6 charts explain fundraising in District 6 GOP primary: Who raised the most, where did it come from? | AL.com

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"AEA funds opponent of Sen. Del Marsh, foes of other supporters of Alabama Accountability Act"

AL.com reports: The state teachers' organization is fighting private school tax credits in court and the architect of the tax credits at the ballot box.

The Alabama Education Association's political action committee filed a campaign finance report showing the largest donation it gave in March was $50,000 to Democratic state Senate candidate Taylor Stewart, an Anniston attorney and son of former U.S. Sen. Donald Stewart of Anniston. Taylor Stewart is opposing Republican Sen. Del Marsh of Anniston, who was the chief architect of the Alabama Accountability Act. ...

The campaign finance report from AEA's PAC shows it gave large amounts last month to opponents of other legislators who voted for the act.

It gave $25,000 each to Republican Bruce Whitlock, a Cullman County store owner and bus driver, and former Democratic state Rep. Angelo "Doc" Mancuso, a Decatur physician. Both are running against Republican Sen. Paul Bussman of Cullman.

AEA's PAC also donated $25,000 each to Democrat Terry Jones, an educator from Hazel Green who is running against Republican Rep. Jim Patterson of Meridianville; educator Bobby Jackson of Athens, who is opposing Republican Rep. Dan Williams of Athens in the GOP primary; and Republican Ginger Fletcher, who is challenging Republican Rep. Kerry Rich of Albertville. -- AEA funds opponent of Sen. Del Marsh, foes of other supporters of Alabama Accountability Act | AL.com

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April 17, 2014

"Ethics Commission asked to investigate PSC Commissioner Dunn staffer for misuse of state office"

Yellowhammer.com reports: In a letter sent today to the Alabama Ethics Commission, Tuscaloosa coal miner John Box asks officials to investigate what he describes as "misuse of state office" by an employee of Public Service Commissioner Terry Dunn.

Mr. Box specifically asks the Ethics Commission to review two examples of alleged misconduct by Dunn's chief of staff David Rountree, under the auspices of his boss.

Rountree recently conducted a television interview on behalf of Commissioner Dunn, who is currently running for re-election.

"Not only is Mr. Rountree there during work hours under the title Chief of Staff in Commissioner Terry Dunn?s office, he is also discussing which type of political donations the Terry Dunn Campaign will accept," Box wrote in his Ethics Commission letter. "He can either be a Chief of Staff or a campaign spokesman, but he can't be both."

Box's second complaint centered around Rountree's use of a taxpayer-funded cell phone to conduct business for a Political Action Committee he launched last year. -- Ethics Commission asked to investigate PSC Commissioner Dunn staffer for misuse of state office - Yellowhammer News

Yellowhammer attached Box's letter.

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"No campaign finance reporting changes this year, lawmakers look to 2015"

The Decatur Daily reports: The 2014 legislative session ended this month with no changes to state campaign finance reporting rules or better enforcement of existing rules.

Several north Alabama lawmakers worked on a campaign finance reform committee and suggested changes, including giving the secretary of state more authority to fine candidates who violate the Fair Campaign Practices Act. Now those lawmakers say they will regroup and work on legislation for 2015.

“The main thing is, after we go through the primary cycle (in June), we’ll have a better feel for what we need to change, what we need to tighten up,” said Rep. Mike Ball, R-Madison, a committee member. He said making changes this year wasn’t likely anyway — rewriting the rules in the middle of an election year would be problematic.

In the past three years, the Legislature banned PAC-to-PAC transfers and created penalties for candidates or groups that don’t file their campaign reports on time. Lawmakers also have made reports easier to view and search online. -- No campaign finance reporting changes this year, lawmakers look to 2015 - Decatur Daily: Local News

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"AEA's PAC spends nearly $2 million in March"

The Montgomery Advertiser reports: Alabama voters aren't going to the polls for the next few months, but the Alabama Education Association is already opening its wallet -- wide.

The group's Alabama Voice of Teachers for Education (A VOTE) political action committee reported spending $1.98 million in March, according to filings earlier this month with the Alabama Secretary of State's Office. The spending represented 45 percent of the $4.3 million the AEA had on hand at the beginning of the month. ...

Big spending by the Alabama Education Association isn't unusual. But it may be notable what the PAC spent the money on.

The largest share of it -- $1 million -- went for a loan made directly to the Alabama Education Association. Another $710,000 went to an organization called National Research Services LLC, based out of a mailbox in Brentwood, Tenn. -- AEA's PAC spends nearly $2 million in March

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April 9, 2014

ADC files second motion for preliminary injunction

The Alabama Democratic Conference (represented by John Tanner and me, plus two others) recently filed a motion for a preliminary injunction in its suit against Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange. ADC is suing the Alabama Attorney General to be overturn the ban on PAC-to-PAC transfers if the transfer is going to be used for independent expenditures. This is the ADC's second motion for preliminary injunction.

Alabama Democratic Conf v Strange, Mot for prelim Injunction motion

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April 8, 2014

Replacement candidate -- legal or not?

Qualifying for Alabama's party primaries closed about a month ago. Elbert Peters was the only one to qualify to run as a Republican in HD 53 (in Madison County). After the qualifying deadline passed, Peters found out that he did not live in the district, so he resigned as a candidate. The GOP wants to replace Peters.

Not so fast. There is a federal court consent decree in which the Secretary of State (a Republican) represented by the Attorney General (a Republican) agreed with the big, bad U.S. DOJ (not Republican) to stretch out the election calendar. In particular, the proposed consent decree (later adopted by Judge Myron Thompson) states: "Notwithstanding the provisions of Ala. Code § 17-13-23, vacancies in nominations must be filled by the State or county executive committees not later than 76 days before an election." (US v. State of Alabama, Case No. 2:12-cv-179-MHT-WC, Middle District of Alabama, doc. 110-1) Since the primary is 3 June, the 76-day deadline was 19 March.

The Democrats have protested.

We will have to see what happens.

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April 6, 2014

AEA backing Republican candidates in North Alabama

The TimesDaily reports: The Alabama Education Association's political action committee gave major contributions to three candidates challenging two Republican lawmakers from north Alabama, according to March campaign finance reports.

The PAC gave $25,000 each to a Democrat and a Republican challenging Sen. Paul Bussman, R-Cullman. It also gave $25,000 to a Republican challenging Rep. Dan Williams, R-Athens.

"We give to Republicans all over the state," AEA chief Henry Mabry said.

He said the AEA believes Republican Bobby Jackson, who is challenging Williams, is a pro-education candidate. Mabry criticized Williams for his education-related votes during the past four years, including his support of the Alabama Accountability Act.

Disclosure: I do legal work for the AEA. -- AEA backs challengers - TimesDaily: News

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"Is the AEA behind attack mailers against Sen. Bill Holtzclaw?"

Dale Jackson, a radio talk-show host, has a disjointed attacked beginning with: The Alabama Foundation for Limited Government is not a conservative group...

Anytime a brand new political group pops up out of nowhere with an absurd amount of money, people should be concerned and careful about what they believe.

As with most of these groups, we will find out who is behind this later but we already know it’s the AEA. -- Is the AEA behind attack mailers against Sen. Bill Holtzclaw? | AL.com Disclaimer: I do legal work for the AEA.

(Read the comments following this initial rant. There is a lively discussion about the true source of these ads.)

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"The Gang of Four"

AL.com reports: In District 6 Republican race, claws come out in new Chad Mathis radio ad | AL.com

In a new radio ad released Thursday by Alabama District 6 Congressional candidate Chad Mathis, a voiceover rails against four of his opponents, calling them "The Gang of Four."

"They're called the 'Gang of Four.' They say they're running for Congress to clean up Washington, but in reality they'll fit right in," the voiceover says, while ominous music plays in the background.

The "Gang of Four" is identified as Scott Beason, Will Brooke, Paul DeMarco, and Gary Palmer, who, like Mathis, are Republican candidates looking to fill the seat of U.S. Rep. Spencer Bachus, who is retiring at the end of this term. --

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July 23, 2013

New Alabama law allows absentee ballots for emergency workers

AL.com reports: Gov. Robert Bentley held a bill signing ceremony today for a new law aimed at allowing emergency workers to vote by absentee ballot if they are called away to work during an election. ...

The new law authorizes the Secretary of State, by emergency rule, to provide for absentee voting by those emergency workers if they are called away to work during an election. -- Read the whole story --> Gov. Robert Bentley praises new absentee ballot law for emergency workers | al.com

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July 19, 2013

Rep. Hubbard wants to run in special election for another House seat

The Montgomery Advertiser reports: It's a question of time and place, with two very different interpretations.

The Alabama secretary of state's office said Thursday that the current boundaries of House District 74 - being vacated at the end of the month by Rep. Jay Love, R-Montgomery - will be the boundaries used for a special election expected to be called for the seat.

That could be an issue for Rep. Joe Hubbard, D-Montgomery, who has purchased a home within the new District 74 boundaries and is considering entering the special election. Hubbard's residence, while in the newly created boundary lines for the 2014 general election, is outside the current lines. ...

Hubbard said Thursday he has not made a decision whether to run in the special election, though he plans to seek the seat in next year’s general election. However, he said that the law as written would allow him to run, and he accused Republicans of trying to make his race for the seat more difficult. -- Read the whole story --> Law may bar Joe Hubbard from running for House seat vacated by Jay Love | The Montgomery Advertiser | montgomeryadvertiser.com

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July 18, 2013

Voter ID program an 'unfunded mandate' to county registrars

AL.com reports: Alabama's new law requiring people to show a government-issued photo identification to vote is raising some concerns for Jefferson County officials.

The law -- to get around accusations that it's a modern poll tax to make people buy ID -- requires that the state have an option for a free ID.

Jefferson County, which has more voters than any other county in the state, may be forced to come up with money to cover personnel and labor costs associated with producing new voter IDs, said Barry Stephenson, chairman of the Board of Registrars.

"I want to do everything possible to help the voters and to have fair and honest elections," Stephenson said. "However, I only have so many resources in my budget and the state has made no mention of reimbursing the counties for any personnel or labor costs associated with producing the new free identification cards." -- Read the whole story --> New Alabama state ID law may pose some problems for Jefferson County (photos, video) | al.com

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July 17, 2013

"Big donors" to be handled centrally by GOP legislative leaders

The Alabama Political Reporter reports: The Alabama Political Reporter has obtained an email from Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) sent to fellow republican senate members, telling them to "get started earlier as opposed to later" on their campaign fundraising; but only from local donors.

This letter, and similar communications, has senators privately grumbling over financial road-blocks, claiming that they are being set-up by Marsh and Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard.

The rank-in-file members say they are being told to "stay out of Montgomery" when it comes to raising money for their campaigns. Marsh and Hubbard have made it clear that they will be handling the "Big Donors," legislators complain. ...

By keeping legislators off the Montgomery money train, Hubbard, Marsh and Riley guarantee they remain the masters of the political universe in Alabama. -- Read the whole story -->Editorial: Message to Republican Legislators: Big Donors Off-Limits

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July 6, 2013

Alabama's new online campaign-finance reports working well

AL.com reports: The Alabama Secretary of States office reported no glitches with its new online, searchable system for candidates and political action committees to file campaign finance reports.

The system was used for the first time for June campaign finance reports, the first reports of the 2014 election cycle. The reports were due on Tuesday.

Adam Thompson, deputy chief of staff for the secretary of state, said some candidates and PACs experienced problems using third-party software to access the new system, but the help line set up by the state's vendor, Quest Information Systems, Inc., was able to help them. The state paid the company $300,000 to develop the new filing system, which was mandated under a bill passed by the state Legislature in 2011. It replaces an old system of filing paper reports that were scanned and posted on the secretary of state website. ...

Thompson said 76 candidates and 168 political action committees had used the new system. -- Read the whole story --> Alabama Secretary of State's office reports no glitches with new online filing system | al.com

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July 4, 2013

Eleven years

Eleven years ago today I started this blog.

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July 1, 2013

Voter photo IDs for old folks, disabled, et al

A press release from Gov. Bentley: Governor Robert Bentley on Friday tasked Neal Morrison, Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Senior Services, with developing a plan to help all citizens have access to a photo ID that will comply with the state’s photo voter ID law.

“The right to vote is fundamental to democracy,” Governor Bentley said. “I want to remove any obstacle that could keep any eligible voter from exercising their constitutional right to vote.”

The plan to be developed by Commissioner Morrison will compliment [sic] a photo voter ID plan outlined by Secretary of State Beth Chapman. Under the proposed regulations announced by Secretary of State Chapman, citizens without acceptable forms of photo voter ID can receive a free ID by visiting Department of Public Safety offices, Board of Registrars offices or the Secretary of State’s office.

Governor Bentley is tasking Commissioner Morrison to develop this additional plan to specifically help the disabled, the homebound and others who may not have access to those offices so they can receive this free service as well. The plan will be designed to provide assistance to citizens of any voting age who are in need of this service.

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June 29, 2013

Voter photo ID to be used in 2014; plans announced

AL.com reports: Voters without photo identification will have two options for getting a free ID from the state before the state's new photo voter ID law kicks in next year, Secretary of State Beth Chapman announced today.

Alabama's new law requiring people to show photo ID to vote is scheduled to go into effect with the party primaries in June of 2014. The law -- to get around accusations that it's a modern poll tax to make people buy ID -- also requires that the state have an option for a free ID.

Chapman today announced a proposal for complying with the free ID requirement.

She said voters can go to the Department of Public Safety office in their county and get a free non-drivers identification card. The secretary of state will reimburse Public Safety for the cost. Voters can also go to their local Board of Registrars office and get a free photo voter ID there. -- Read the whole story --> State announces plan for free IDs under new photo voter ID law | al.com

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June 26, 2013

Voter photo ID to be used in 2014

AL.com reports: Today's U.S. Supreme Court decision clears the way for Alabama's new photo voter ID law to be used in the 2014 elections without the need for federal preclearance, state officials said.

Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange and Secretary of State Beth Chapman said they believed the voting requirement, which is scheduled to take effect with the June 2014 primaries, can simply move forward. ...

Alabama lawmakers in 2011 approved a law to require Alabamians ? beginning with the party primaries in June of 2014 -- to show photo identification in order to vote. -- Read the whole story --> Alabama photo voter ID law to be used in 2014, state officials say | al.com

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"ALEC influences Alabama legislators"

Alabama Political Reporter reports: From voter identification laws to immigration bills, many states seem to be acting as if from the same agenda in recent years. It's no secret that lobbying groups impact public policy on all levels, but many states are being influenced by a stronger, more powerful group.

ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, "is the only state legislative organization that adopts policies and creates model legislation for its members to use in their states," the ALEC website says. "To date, ALEC has nearly 1,000 pieces of model legislation."

Alabama has seen several pieces of "model legislation" in various forms in the past legislative sessions.

For example, ALEC offers model legislation on "The Parental Choice Scholarship Tax Credit Accountability Act," which describes a program similar to the one laid out in HB84, the Alabama Accountability Act.
http://www.alec.org/model-legislation/the-parental-choice-scholarship-tax-credit-accountability-act/ -- Read the whole article --> ALEC influences Alabama legislators

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June 24, 2013

Telling the "real Republicans" from the infiltrators

Alabama Political Reporter reports on Speaker Hubbard's incumbent-protection plan, saying "We cannot let those entities infiltrate and highjack our primary." The article then list 5 house members and 3 senators who ran as Democrats and switched parties after the election. The article includes this:

Most interestingly, though, is Senator Tom Whatley (R-Auburn), who supported the Democrats long before he ever became a Republican.

Whatley donated a significant amount of money--$2,300--to the Obama campaign in July, 2008. This donation occurred around the same time that Whatley applied for an appointment, under the Obama administration to become the state director of USDA Rural Development in Alabama.

Whatley did not get the appointment, and many believe it was due to inaccuracies on his resume. Shortly after, Whatley joined the Republican Party and ran against Senator Ted Little, a 32-year incumbent, riding into the seat on the Republican landslide of 2010. -- Read the whole article --> Hubbard's "real republican" incumbents include Obama donor and party switchers

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June 22, 2013

Briefs filed in voting rights suit about Birmingham school board

AL.com reports: State school officials and a group of Birmingham voters argued in separate court papers Friday whether the state should have obtained federal permission under the Voting Rights Act before it took control of Birmingham school finances last year.

The voter group says the majority white state school board grabbed authority away from voters who elected the Birmingham Board of Education, which is majority black. The state board should first get pre-clearance for its 2012 intervention plan under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act before overriding any more decisions by city school board members, the voter group says.

State school board officials say they don't need pre-clearance for what amounts to a "temporary shift" in how a limited number of decisions with "serious financial implications" are made. The voters' Section 5 claim should be dismissed, the state says. ...

In February a group of five voters, including Birmingham Board of Education members Virginia Volker and Emanuel Ford and Alabama Education Association representative Michael Todd, who lives in the city, filed a lawsuit that says the state's intervention in the city school system violated Sections 2 and 5 of the Voting Rights Act. -- Read the whole story --> Birmingham group: state should be ordered to get federal approval to override city school board votes | al.com

Disclosure: I represent the voters in this suit.

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Hubbard seeks to preserve Purity of Essesnce of the GOP

AL.com reports: Rep. Mike Hubbard sounds more like a man about to run a counterintelligence operation than the speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives.

Hubbard was at The Club Friday speaking to a meeting of Birmingham Young Republicans where he warned them that the "folks in Montgomery who used to run things" are making plans to take back their power and they are preparing to do it by pretending to be Republicans. ...

Hubbard identified the Alabama Education Association among other Democratic Party leaning groups who are at work on plans to reduce the GOP majorities in the House and state Senate. ...

"I'm telling you the race will be determined in the primary. The other guys know that," Hubbard said. "They know they can't win as a Democrat in a general election." -- Read the whole story --> Mike Hubbard readies to defend the GOP majority against faux Republicans | al.com

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