Votelaw, Edward Still's blog on law and politics: July 2003 Archives

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July 31, 2003

Michigan city looking at IRV

The Daily Tribune reports that Ferndale, Michigan, is looking at making its new voting machines be able to handle Instant Runoff Voting.

Corporate Facilitation of Contributions

Forbes.com has an article, Federal Election Commission Eyes Corporate Donors, dealing with "corporate facilitation." That's the use of corporate facilities to gather contributions to a political campaign.

Specifically, Aube made a pitch at a bank employee dinner for $50 donations to a political action committee operated by the Oregon Bankers Association during the 2000 election. Aube then made a follow-up solicitation to dinner attendees via e-mail. A total of $1,570 was raised for the PAC. That's exactly the type of stuff prohibited under FEC rules. The bank agreed to pay a civil penalty of $16,500--more than ten times the amount it helped raise for the PAC in the first place.

But much less-blatant behavior can get you in trouble too, particularly when it comes to those rules limiting use of corporate resources. "It's much easier to violate [rule] 114.2(f)," says Brett Kappel, a partner with Powell, Goldstein, Frazer & Murphy in Washington, D.C. "All the executive has to do is send out an e-mail asking employees to send their checks to his secretary."

My post on Kappel's advisory to his clients on the same subject is here.

NYC may be going non-partisan

The New York Times reports, "Panel Endorses Mayor's Plan to Alter City's Voting System."

The panel, the Charter Revision Commission, largely adhered to the wishes of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who appointed them this year to consider his proposal to eliminate party primaries and switch to nonpartisan elections. Mr. Bloomberg, a billionaire who personally financed his 2001 campaign as a Democrat-turned-Republican, has suggested that the change would dilute the power of political bosses.

Responding to concerns about the plan, Mr. Bloomberg has said that the first elections under the new system should take place in 2009 — after he has served a presumptive second term. He has also said candidates should be able to list their party affiliations on the ballot.

UPDATE: the Charter Commission's staff report on non-partisan elections is here.

Fail-safe disabled on NY voting machines

The New York Times reports:

The votes of as many as 60,000 people in New York City may not have been counted in the 2000 presidential election because of an adjustment made to city voting machines back in 1964, according to a lawsuit filed yesterday by advocacy groups.

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of the Working Families Party and a group of community advocates and minority voters, accuses the city and state boards of elections of disenfranchising these voters, who represented about 2.7 percent of the overall city turnout. The advocates say voters in poor and immigrant communities were more likely to have been among those whose votes had not been counted.

July 30, 2003

Texas, round 3 goes on

Burnt Orange at Political State Report gives a round-up (no pun intended) of the Texas situtation. Short answer: Dems still gone.

Miss. Judicial Indictment

The Biloxi Sun Herald reports that Dickie Scruggs was on of the unnamed intermediaries named in last week's federal indictments.

July 29, 2003

Fed Ct strikes down part of California recall procedure

Findlaw has the opinion in FRANK PARTNOY, et al. v. KEVIN SHELLEY, et al. in which the federal court in San Diego struck down the requirement that a voter vote on the recall question in order to have a vote counted on the question of who wins the election.

Texas, Round 3

Charles Kuffner in Political State Report reports on today's events in Texas. Summary: the Dems are still gone; the GOP is still mad. See his earlier report here.

July 28, 2003

Texas Dems seek asylum in New Mexico

Political State Report has two posts from Texas about the most recent flight of the Democrats. The Governor has called a 2nd special session, but it now appears that enough Democrats in both houses have absented themselves that neither house had a quorum (2/3) this afternoon. Only the Senators have flown to New Mexico. See posts by Burnt Orange and Charles Kuffner.

Indiana Sup. Ct. interprets political advertising statute

The Indiana Law Blog has a post on the decision last week of the Indiana Supreme Court answering question:

Is the term “persons” in Ind. Code §§ 3-9-3-2.5(b)(1), (d) limited to candidates, authorized political committees or subcommittees of candidates, and the agents of such committees or subcommittees, or does it have a broader scope, and, if so, how much broader?

The answer is "broader."

Will there be a backlash against redistricting?

The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports in "GOP pushes redistricting as next issue,"

Many Georgia voters are confused or irritated by the Democratically drawn districts for their state senators and representatives.

"The Democrats are missing the point. I really don't think they understand," Lee said. "It's discussed every day by people who contact me."

Lee is one of four Democrats who switched parties right after the general election in November to give the GOP control of the Senate for the first time. He and other Republicans, including Gov. Sonny Perdue, see such voter reaction to political districts as one of the ingredients that won the Republicans control of the governor's office last year.

As a result, they plan to make the supposedly once-a-decade practice of redistricting one of the top campaign themes for Republican candidates in next year's elections.

"The Democrats don't think this is an issue," said Merle Black, an Emory University political scientist. "I think they missed the boat on that."

You can view the Georgia maps here.

Vote dilution in South Dakota

The Aberdeen News reports that the State of South Dakota and the ACLU have both filed summary judgment motions in a suit challenging two legislative districts. The ACLU suit alleges "that the Legislature diluted the voting strength of American Indians when it redrew legislative district boundaries two years ago."

Here is a map of the districts.

July 26, 2003

Albany Co. NY redistricting suit

The Albany Times Union /a> and Capitol News 9 report on the county legislature's adoption of a plan designed to meet the requirements of the Voting Rights Act, but the minority plaintiffs are not pleased.

Arbor Hill activist Aaron Mair said, "What the County has presented is what we call the Oreo cookie plan. It looks like it has four majority/minority districts but in actuality the district that they are creating is actually designed to elect a white legislator."

Udall raising money for Colorado re-redistricting suit

According to the Aurora Sentinel,

U.S. Rep. Mark Udall has contracted with a telemarketing company to solicit funds from Colorado voters to help pay legal fees in a lawsuit challenging a Republican-backed congressional redistricting plan.

Udall is raising the money in accordance with the Federal Election Campaign Act.

Citizens can redistrict in Texas

Exam question 1: Find the mistakes in the following passage from this
Austin American Statesman article:

But where to begin? Most people work from whatever map is currently being considered by the Legislature, Dyer says, calling up the map on the screen. Whatever your final product, a redistricting map must conform to the federal Voting Rights Act, meant to ensure one person, one vote in the fairest possible way. No matter how you move the boundaries, all districts must have the same voting-age population, she says.

Dean Defense Forces

Howard Kurtz in the Washington Post has an interesting article about the changing nature of letters to the editor in an Internet campaign. Dean Defense Forces: Lobbing E-mail at the Enemy:

The letters were indeed generated by Dean Defense Forces, a volunteer outfit affiliated with the doctor's campaign. Day after day, the DDF Web log, which is linked to Dean's official site, hammers reporters deemed critical of Dean and urges its followers to flood the in-boxes of offending journalists.

"When negative press gets written, we'll ensure that letters to the editor get printed in response. . . . The last couple of months have proven the effectiveness of our efforts at media response," the DDF says.

Dean Defense Forces, of course, has noticed the article and talked about it:

Now, first of all, I think it is somewhat humorous that the fact that Dean's supporters are now using email as a tool is a big story. We've probably all heard of the GOP TeamLeader program (a pure astroturf operation), but, no, the big story is a volunteer-based, shoestring operation that puts out, in Kurtz's words, "rough stuff."

Now, in case no one had noticed, Dean Defense Forces didn't start the notion of Dean supporters writing Letters-to-the-Editor, we simply are trying to channel (justified) unhappiness with the news media.

Maybe if I mention Howard Kurtz, he will give me a plug in his next column.

Ex-felon voting suit revived

The 9th Circuit has reversed a federal district court's dismissal of a Voting Rights Act suit against Washington State's disfranchisement of felons. The case is Farrakhan v. State of Washington.

We disagree with the district court’s analysis, because it conflicts with our well-established understanding of Section 2. As recognized by both the Supreme Court and our circuit, a Section 2 “totality of the circumstances” inquiry requires courts to consider how a challenged voting practice interacts with external factors such as “social and historical conditions” to result in denial of the right to vote on account of race or color. Thornburg v. Gingles, 478 U.S. 30, 47 (1986); see also Smith v. Salt River Project Agric. Improvement & Power Dist., 109 F.3d 586, 595-96 (9th Cir. 1997). Because a Section 2 analysis clearly requires that we consider factors external to the challenged voting mechanism itself, we hold that evidence of discrimination within the criminal justice system can be relevant to a Section 2 analysis. In light of the district court’s having improperly disregarded this evidence, combined with its assessment that Plaintiffs’ evidence of discrimination in Washington’s criminal justice system was “compelling,” we reverse and remand for further proceedings.

I have followed this case since its inception. I thought the plaintiffs were setting a needless burden for themselves by alleging that the criminal justice system was intentionally discriminatory as opposed to just disparate in effect. However, it seems that the plaintiffs' strategy has paid off:

To substantiate their vote denial claim, however, Plaintiffs presented statistical evidence of the disparities in arrest, bail and pre-trial release rates, charging decisions, and sentencing outcomes in certain aspects of Washington’s criminal justice system. They also submitted expert declarations and relied on the same reports and studies that the State had submitted to show the extent to which these disparities could be attributed to racial bias and discrimination.

Congratulations to Lawrence A. Weiser, D.C. Cronin and Jason T. Vail, all of
Spokane, Washington, the plaintiffs' lawyers.

Miss. S.Ct. justice indicted

The Jackson Clarion-Ledger reports:

State Supreme Court Justice Oliver Diaz Jr. became the first justice in Mississippi history to be indicted on felony charges.

A federal grand jury returned a 16-count indictment Friday against Diaz, his ex-wife, Jennifer Diaz, trial lawyer Paul Minor of Ocean Springs, and former judges Wes Teel and John Whitfield charging them with fraud and bribery. Minor is also charged with racketeering.

The Clarion-Ledger has 5 other stories:

Merits, motive of case debated

Indictments

Events timeline

Charges expected to chill donations: Trial lawyers may hesitate to give, politicians may hesitate to receive

Indictment alleges loans and paybacks

The Biloxi Sun-Herald has 5 stories:

Three Coast judges indicted; Minor charged with racketeering

Indictments cast doubt on justice system fairness

Diaz taking leave of absence

Indictment penalties

Transcript of the indictments, Part 1 and Part 2

July 25, 2003

Texas: round 2, ding!

Round 2 is over and the Democrats seem to have fought the GOP machine to a draw.

A White House-backed power play to grab more Republican congressional seats from Texas has been derailed by Democratic opposition, at least temporarily.

Reuters.

Republican Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst declared Friday that this round, on the most partisan of issues, is over.

"We didn't have the votes to bring it up," Dewhurst said. "And so, in essence, redistricting in this session is dead."

Austin American Statesman.

The Dallas Morning News has an article about the possible 2nd special session -- what will the Democrats do, should the Gov call another special session, and will the GOP overreach?

Draft AO to Bob Smith

On Thursday's agenda for the FEC was this draft Advisory Opinion to former Sen. Bob Smith that instructs him to give unrefundable contributions to the US Treasury rather than his foundation. Give it up, Bob.

Draft AO to James Treffinger

On Thursday's agenda of the FEC was this draft Advisory Opinion (and amendment) allowing James Treffinger to use some of his campaign funds to defend himself from criminal charges.

Leadership PACs

At Thursday's meeting, the FEC adopted its proposed regulations on "leadership PACs," according to the AP (see the last 2 paragraphs of the story). This article from The Hill explains the changes in more detail. This item was not listed on the agenda for the Thursday meeting.

New FEC Commissioner nominated

Thomas Edsall reports in the Washington Post:

Democratic congressional leaders yesterday announced the selection of labor lawyer Robert D. Lenhard to replace Federal Election Commission member Scott Thomas. Thomas has been a leading supporter of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law, while Lenhard was part of a union legal team that challenged the law's constitutionality.

McCarty admin case to continue

The Sun-Sentinel reports:

A federal judge on Thursday refused to stop the Florida Elections Commission next month from levying what could be a record fine against Palm Beach County Commissioner Mary McCarty for alleged election law violations.

U.S. District Judge William Stafford relied on a 1971 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that instructs federal judges to refrain from interfering in certain state cases -- especially if the case involves an issue of important state interest and involves a state proceeding that is judicial in nature.

"There are ongoing state proceedings that ... clearly under Florida law are quasi-judicial, if not judicial," Stafford said of the pending case. "And these proceedings implicate important state interests in regulating the state elections process."

McCarty, a Republican, faces a possible $450,000 in state sanctions because of her leadership of a group that raised money to oust Florida Supreme Court justices who sided with Democrat Al Gore's demand for a hand recount of votes during the 2000 presidential election.

Texas: "I'm ready to walk"

Pessimism is growing among the Republicans that they will be able to pass the re-redistricting plan in this sepcial session, according to the San Antonio Express. The Democrats are talking about a boycott of a 2nd special session, according to the Dallas Morning News:

Democratic senators said Thursday that they are poised to boycott further proceedings on congressional redistricting and that they have the numbers to paralyze the Senate if Gov. Rick Perry calls a second special session next week.

"I'm ready to walk," said Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, the Senate's longest-serving member.

"For me, there is no benefit to staying for another special session," said Sen. Mario Gallegos, D-Houston. "I can tell you as far as breaking a quorum, 11 will break it."

Florida Will Allow Many Ex-Felons to Vote

AP reports:

Florida agreed to help restore voting rights to nearly 125,000 convicted felons who didn't get enough advice on how to regain their rights when they walked free, officials said Thursday. The agreement by the Department of Corrections will settle a case brought by civil rights groups. Leon County Circuit Court Judge P. Kevin Davey is expected to sign it by Friday.

About 94,000 of the felons will have to apply for a clemency hearing before the governor and Cabinet, but the rest can skip the hearing and will likely be able to vote within a year, said Randy Berg, lawyer for the Florida Justice Institute (search), one of the groups bringing the suit.

Here is the press release issued by ACLU when the suit was filed.

Update: Here is the Miami Herald story just out.

July 24, 2003

Texas, oh, Texas

Charles Kuffner has a long post at Political State Report: straight from the trenches on the strategy of both parties in Texas. Well worth a read.

Soft money still OK for conventions

AP reports:

Federal election regulators decided Thursday to allow corporations and unions to continue making large contributions to finance the two political parties' presidential nominating conventions despite a new law outlawing such donations in elections.

The Federal Election Commission unanimously ruled that the law passed by Congress last year did not apply to fund raising by the local committees in the host cities that help the parties stage the nominating conventions.

Colorado Re-redistricting

The Daily Sentinel has this report on the brief filed by the Colorado Secretary of State:

"When the secretary of state was sued in the (congressional redistricting) case, the role of the attorney general was to analyze and advise his client as to the different legal strategies available ... Instead, he turned around and brought his own suit against her," attorney Richard Coffman wrote Wednesday, which was the final brief filed before oral arguments in the state Supreme Court case.

Pryor restraint (2)

Nina Totenberg's report on the Pryor Hearing includes (beginning about 4:15 minutes into the audio) some discussion of Pryor's response on the fund raising for RAGA. The Fulton County Daily Report also mentions that subject, although the supposed "newspapers of record," the NY Times and the Washington Post, do not.

July 23, 2003

Florida Senate Race Already Drawing Complaints

AP reports:

U.S. Rep. Peter Deutsch filed a complaint Wednesday with the Federal Election Commission alleging that Democratic rival Alex Penelas illegally coerced donations from a South Florida health care company in their U.S. Senate race.

The complaint by Deutsch, D-Pembroke Pines, accuses the Miami-Dade County mayor of receiving at least $49,000 in illegal contributions from 41 employees and their spouses of CarePlus Medical Centers Inc. Both are competing for the seat of Sen. Bob Graham, who is running for president.

The Miami Herald has more details:

Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas, whose campaign pledged to reject contributions for his U.S. Senate campaign resulting from a controversial e-mail appeal sent to employees of a South Florida healthcare firm, took tens of thousands of dollars from people associated with the company.

A Herald analysis of campaign finance records shows that employees, relatives and business associates of Michael Fernandez, owner and chief executive officer of CarePlus Medical Centers Inc., donated at least $68,000 to Penelas' campaign -- all connected to the same day in May that Fernandez hosted a fundraiser at his home.

Are Indian Tribes Covered by State Campaign Laws

The AP reports this evening:

The [California] Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered an appeals court to consider whether Indian tribes must abide by state campaign finance laws.

...

The [Fair Political Practices Commission] alleged the [Agua Caliente] tribe was late in disclosing more than $8 million in donations to candidates and causes between 1998 and 2002. The tribe posts campaign finance reports on its Web site and contends it discloses its political activity just not according to the state's rules.

It argued its status as a sovereign nation means it was not bound by the state's campaign rules and the commission can't sue to enforce them.

Lack of Security in Electronic Voting

Four computer science professors at Johns Hopkins University and Rice University have published a paper concerning the Diebold software used in many Direct Recording Electronic voting systems. This is from the abstract of the paper:

Our analysis shows that this voting system is far below even the most minimal security standards applicable in other contexts. We highlight several issues including unauthorized privilege escalation, incorrect use of cryptography, vulnerabilities to network threats, and poor software development processes. For example, common voters, without any insider privileges, can cast unlimited votes without being detected by any mechanisms within the voting terminal. Furthermore, we show that even the most serious of our outsider attacks could have been discovered without the source code. In the face of such attacks, the usual worries about insider threats are not the only concerns; outsiders can do the damage. That said, we demonstrate that the insider threat is also quite considerable. We conclude that, as a society, we must carefully consider the risks inherent in electronic voting, as it places our very democracy at risk.

You can see the whole paper here. Thanks to David Jefferson for the link.

Texas re-redistricting approved by Senate committee

The Senate Jurisprudence Committee has approved (on a party-line vote) a Republican redistricting plan proposed by the GOP, according to the Dallas Morning News:

A Senate panel approved an aggressive Republican redistricting plan Wednesday that would oust at least five and as many as seven incumbent Democratic congressmen.

While considered dead for this special session, the proposal is likely to be the road map GOP senators follow – at least in broad outline – in a second redistricting session, expected to be called next week.

Democrats' expert believes the Republican plans will not pass muster with the US Justice Department, while a Republican expert does, according to the San Antonio Express:

A pair of redistricting experts gave conflicting accounts Tuesday about how minorities would be impacted by two maps slated for a Senate committee vote today.

"When you 'plus-up' or stuff more African American or Hispanic voters into a district that is already a minority opportunity district, you are all but inviting a presumption of an unconstitutional" action, said Gerald Hebert.

Hebert is a Georgetown University law professor and former acting chief of the Justice Department's Voting Rights section.

Hebert, a consultant for the national Democratic Party, told members of the Senate Jurisprudence Committee that maps drawn by Sen. Todd Staples, R-Palestine, cram minorities in at least six congressional districts.

"There's no way either one of those maps will pass Justice (Department) review," he said outside the hearing.

But Ronald Keith Gaddie, a University of Oklahoma political science professor and consultant to Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott, said either maps is legally defensible to a court challenge.

Gaddie has written six books on politics and testified as an expert witness in six state redistricting lawsuits.

"My job here is to analyze the various data to determine if there is a retrogression of minority voting districts, and to talk about the legal threat (if there is one)," he told committee members.

The Washington Post reports on the genesis of the scheme to re-redistrict Texas:

In early 2001, Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) was driving around Austin with his top political aide, Jim Ellis, brainstorming about how to create more Republican-leaning U.S. House districts in Texas. State legislators were redrawing congressional borders to reflect the latest Census figures, and the Democrats who controlled the state House were preventing GOP senators and the governor from approving a plan that would give Republicans maximum advantage.

The two men devised a bold idea: create a political action committee whose sole purpose was to give Republicans control of the state House in the 2002 elections. Then, they surmised, the legislature could draw the districts again in 2003, this time ensuring more GOP seats in Congress.

Pryor restraint

Despite calls by Democrats to continue an investigation into Bill Pryor's fundraising for the Republican Attorneys General Association, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved Pryor on a party line vote. See the
article in the Washington Post.

California redistricting case

A California Superior Court judge has dismissed three petitions to invalidate the legislative and congressional redistricting on state constitutional grounds -- contiguity, respect for subdivision boundaries, and reasonable equality of population. The case is Andal v. Davis. Thanks to Lance Olson, one of the counsel for the Senate and Congressional delegation for the PDF.

July 21, 2003

Bush gets the big bucks

Reform Voter Project has released a study:

A state-by-state analysis of President George W. Bush’s campaign contributions as filed with the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) finds that in 48 out of the 50 states, plus the District of Columbia, the majority of funds collected came from donors of $2,000, and that in two-thirds (32) of the states, $2,000 contributions comprised more than 70 percent of the itemized contributions the president collected. In the top ten contributing states, the proportion of contributions from $2,000 donors was 77% or higher.

July 19, 2003

The Money-Vote Connection

I know you will be shocked by this AP Wire story:

You don't need a scorecard to figure out how lawmakers vote on major issues. You just need to tabulate their campaign donations.

Texas Lt. Gov. might break precedent

Meanwhile, back in Texas, Lt. Gov. Dewhurst is telling the dissidents in the Senate they had better deal now or get rolled later. Dave McNeely
explains how it can be done.

Another Republican map surfaced late in the week. See the stories in the San Antonio Express, Houston Chronicle, the Austin American Statesman, and the Dallas Morning News.

July 18, 2003

The Pryor-Condon connection

the wyeth wire has a posting about the connection between RAGA and South Carolina AG Charles Condon's decision to drop an antitrust suit against Microsoft shortly after the SC Republican Party received a contribution from Microsoft.

What was Pryor hiding?

Stories on the controversy about Bill Pyror's nomination to the 11th Circuit appear in the Washington Post, the New York Times, and the Birmingham News.

The Democrats are saying that Pryor lied to them when he said he did not remember soliciting contributions for the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA) from Alabama companies. The Republicans say (to quote John Cornyn), ''elected officials can and do raise money . . . It's perfectly legal.''

In his confirmation hearing, Pryor answered most questions with admirable candor -- except when it came to RAGA. As I have discussed before, RAGA was soliciting contributions from companies for the use in various state Attorney General campaigns. On this subject, Pryor's answers were something like, "I don't remember," "I don't have the records," "you'll have to ask the Republican committee for the records." Why the reticence?

I want to suggest an answer that fits the facts. The documents the Democrats have show that Pryor made calls for RAGA in September 1999 to some Alabama-based companies. Alabama law (Ala. Code 17-22A-7(b)(2)) prohibits legislative and state-wide elected officials are prohibited from raising funds for their own campaigns more than a year before the primary or general election. In September 1999, Pryor's next election was the primary in May 2002. To see this section, go the Alabama Code online and drill down to the proper section.

Of course, Pryor was not fundraising for his own campaign at the time. But the Attorney General of Alabama (Bill Pryor) issued an opinion (2001-176)to a legislator about whether he could solicit for a PAC during the prohibited period. The answer was as follows:

A member of the Legislature who participates in the establishment and operation of a political action committee is not prohibited by the FCPA from soliciting contributions on behalf of the committee. The legislator may receive contributions from this committee if the legislator does not have the sole authority to make contributions or expenditures on behalf of the committee to his own campaign and does not participate in the decision to make these contributions.

Applying that rule to Pryor's conduct, if he participated in the decisions of RAGA about its contributions, he was prohibited from this fundraising. And Pryor was on the the executive committee of RAGA. If the executive committee does not make those decisions, who does?

My hypothesis is that Bill Pryor was close-mouthed about his fundraising for RAGA because it violated state law and his own office's interpretation of that law. Documents I have not seen and skillful cross-examination of Pryor and others may prove the hypothesis.

UPDATE: An earlier AG opionion, issued when (now-US Senator) Jeff Sessions was AG and Pryor was Deputy AG, is even clearer that RAGA's and Pryor's activities (as I understand them) would be a violation of state law. The opinion is number 97-54 and states:

A member of the Legislature who maintains a principal campaign committee may participate in the establishment and operation of a separate and distinct political committee for the purpose of receiving contributions and making expenditures to other members of the Legislature and nonmembers who are candidates for election to the Legislature, if the political committee's organizational document prohibits contributions to or expenditures on behalf of the member of the Legislature participating in such establishment and operation.

Don't be confused by the reference to a "member of the Legislature." The opinion was requested by a legislator and the question was phrased that way, but the law applies to all elected officials and candidates.

Pryor cannot be prosecuted under Alabama law because the two-year statute of limitations has expired, Ala Code 17-22A-22, but it would still look bad for a person nominated for judge to have violated the state law, wouldn't it?

July 17, 2003

Pryor nomination

Bill Pryor's fundraising for the Republican Attorneys General Association has become the issue on which the Democrats on the Judiciary Committee are centering their attention, according to the AP. I had missed the earlier story in the Mobile Register to which the AP refers. The Washington Post and the New York Times have stories. Finally, here is yesterday's story by Nina Totenberg on All Things Considered.

July 16, 2003

NC re-re-redistricting

The Fayetteville Observer editorializes that redistricting in North Carolina cannot be consistent with the state constitution's command, "No county shall be divided," and the Voting Rights Act. The conclusion:

Two little parts of our state constitution must be revised - an even dozen words per chamber. Until that anachronism is disposed of, no one's remap is safe because no plan that complies with the state's no-splits provision can comply with the Voting Rights Act. Anyone can challenge any remap, with a reasonable expectation of seeing it overturned - and, perhaps, of seeing yet another map drawn by a judge despite the state constitution's unambiguous declaration that redistricting is the responsibility of House and Senate.

Colorado re-redistricting

The Bennan Center has filed an amicus brief in Salazar v. Davidson, the action in the Colorado Supreme Court on the validity of the recent re-redistricting of congressional districts. The brief's introduction begins:

The extent to which partisan advantage can permissibly serve as one of several goals in post-census redistricting is among the most difficult questions in election law, one that the Supreme Court will wrestle with once again this coming Term. See Vieth v. Jubelirer, 71 U.S.L.W. 3709, 3793, 3798 (U.S. June 27, 2003) (No. 02-1580) (noting probable jurisdiction).

This case does not present that question. Instead, it raises the far simpler question of whether a legislature can alter election rules midstream for the sole purpose of partisan advantage and justify the discrimination against disfavored voters by labeling it “redistricting.”

Attorney General Ken Salazar urged the Colorado Supreme Court to act quickly on the case, set for oral argument on 8 September. Salazar said speed would aid next year's candidates. See the AP story here.

Democratic lawmakers filed a brief on Tuesday arguing that the process of adoption was ''closed, starkly brief, uninformed and unconstitutional,'' and noting that the new plan "decreases Hispanic voters in the 7th Congressional District by 5 percent and carves up heavily Democratic Pueblo into two districts," according to the AP.

DeLay 'splains; Gonzales sues

AP reports "DeLay denies misuse of FAA in redistricting dispute." However, according to the Houston Chronicle,

"I think we mishandled it," Transportation Department Inspector General Kenneth Mead said Tuesday. But he said he didn't think DeLay's request was inappropriate. "I'm not going to make a judgment about Mr. DeLay. The issue is, how should the FAA respond to these requests."

Meanwhile, back in Washington, The Hill reports,

Rep. Charlie Gonzalez has turned to the courts in his effort to force the Department of Justice to detail its possible role in tracking Democratic Texas state legislators who fled the state in May.

Gonzalez (D-Texas), a former state judge, and Diana Salgado, an official with the state Democratic Party, filed the suit July 8 under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

The Glitches will get you if you don't watch out

AP reports

A Republican state senator whose congressional redistricting proposal had been anxiously awaited by fellow lawmakers angrily left a Senate committee meeting Wednesday and said he wasn't unveiling any congressional maps.

"I'm out of the map-drawing business. Senator Staples now has that business," Sen. Chris Harris, R-Arlington, said at a meeting of the Senate Jurisprudence Committee. He said the maps were drawn by the attorney general's office and a "computer glitch" had rendered them unable to stand up to court scrutiny.

The Austin American Statesman reported

Harris said he had been told by the attorney general that his maps were illegal. With that, Harris left the committee room. Reporters chased after Harris but the gruff Arlington senator would say little.

FEC statistics on Fed Elections 2002

The FEC has published FEDERAL ELECTIONS 2002: Election Results for the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives. Its tables are available in both HTML and Excel files.

Georgia fight over who controls litigation

OnlineAthens reports that the Georgia Supreme Court has refused to dismiss the suit of Gov. Perdue against Attorney General Baker. Baker had claimed it was moot.

North Carolina redistricting

AP reports that the NC Supreme Court has upheld a lower court decision invalidating the legislative redistricting on state constitutional grounds. The court's opinion is here.

Colorado re-redistricting

DenverPost.com reports

The Colorado Supreme Court has scheduled oral arguments in the congressional redistricting battle for Sept. 8, court officials confirmed Tuesday.

Republicans hold five of the state's U.S. House seats, Democrats two.

In the final three days of the 2003 state legislative session in May, the Republican-controlled General Assembly passed a bill that assured the GOP solid control in five of Colorado's seven districts for the remainder of the decade.

The previous map, validated by a state court and the Colorado Supreme Court last year, had given the GOP control in four districts, Democrats in two and split the new 7th District equally among Republicans, Democrats and unaffiliated voters.

Thanks to Luis for the link.

Attorney General Ken Salazar challenged the new map as unconstitutional and asked the Supreme Court for a ruling.

Going postal not allowed for political posters

The New York Law Journal has an article on the decision of the 2nd circuit upholding a Hatch Act regulation forbidding the posting of political posters on government property. The case is Burrus v. Vegliante, 02-6257.

July 15, 2003

Maybe dead, maybe a zombie

Re-redistricting may be dead with the defection of Sen. Ratliff, but Lt. Gov. Dewhurst is suggesting breaking with Senate tradition and allowing the bill come to a vote without a 2/3 majority voting to take it up, and Gov. Perry is threatening a second special session, according to the Austin American Statesman.

The Chamber

Forbes magazine (free registration required) has an article, Buying Justice, that begins:

For years the trial lawyers had state courts wrapped around their fingers. Now big business is striking back. It is waging a secret election-campaign war on judges who favor plaintiffs in tort cases.

Thanks to Bonnie Tenneriello for the link.

Texas Lt. Gov. may suspend the rules

My source "close to the redistricting" in Texas writes, "Yesterday was one of the more bizarre days, when the former Lt. Governor (a Republican) announced that he would join with 10 other Dems to block redistricting). Now the new Lt. Gov, who up to now has prided himself as a a bipartisan, seems ready to revoke the long-honored 2/3 rule." Sure enough, the Corpus Christi Caller Times says the same thing.

July 14, 2003

Mayor of Detroit

The Detroit News reports:

Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick routinely failed to report political donations his campaign committee received while he was a state legislator, an analysis by The Detroit News has found.

Public reporting of campaign donations is required by state law. Kilpatrick's failure to report the donations means at least $16,650 that donors reported giving to his campaign is unaccounted for.

ABA proposes election reforms for state courts

You may have seen some articles in the paper mentioning the ABA report on judicial independence, such as this AP report about Florida judicial campaigns raking in the dough. The full report by the ABA Commission on the 21st Century Judiciary is here. If you don't want to read the full 141-page report, read the executive summary. Election mavens like me will want to look at the full report to see what this (from the summary) means: "The second set of recommendations is designed to improve judicial selection by encouraging appointment of judges who serve for long terms with limited opportunity for reselection while offering a number of alternatives for jurisdictions that continue to elect and retain judges."

Reform of the FEC

Jules Witcover has an op-ed in the Baltimore Sun supporting the proposal of McCain and Feingold to restructure the FEC.

"Canvassing money" in Louisiana

AP reports:

BATON ROUGE, La. -- Republican candidate for governor Dan Kyle reported receiving what appeared to be votes-for-cash offers Monday, suggesting they were evidence of attempted vote fraud.

At the same time, he slammed rival candidate Claude "Buddy" Leach, a Democrat, for paying out "canvassing money," linking it to the former congressman's 1979 indictment on vote-fraud charges. Leach was later acquitted.

A spokesman for Leach responded angrily to Kyle's charges, firing back with a few of his own. "How does this have anything to with vote buying?" asked Leach's media consultant, Roy Fletcher.

"We're being very straightforward. This is totally within the confines of the law," Fletcher added, accusing Kyle of "playing the race card."

Will women get the right to vote in Kuwait?

The New York Post has a column by Amir Taheri on the possibility that the recent election in Kuwait may lead to the enfranchisement of women.

A march for ex-felon voting rights

Black political leaders in Alabama plan a march in Montgomery on Friday to protest Gov. Riley's veto of the bill to restore the voting rights of many ex-felons, the Mobile Register reports. The Rev. Jesse Jackson will be the featured speaker. If you are interested, the march forms at 11:30 am at Court Square and proceeds to the Capitol at noon. (This will be about a 6 block walk, but there's nothing like a walk up a hill in the noonday sun in July in Alabama.)

Is re-redistricting dead?

The Austin American Statesman reports:

Texas Republicans' effort to draw new congressional districts took a direct, potentially fatal hit on Monday from one of their own.

Sen. Bill Ratliff, R-Mt. Pleasant, announced he has signed on with 10 Democrats who have said they will vote to keep any redistricting map from the Senate floor.

It takes 21 votes in the 31-member Senate to bring any legislation to the floor for action. Eleven senators can block any action.

Recall Committee's complaint

FindLaw has the complaint filed last Thursday in California state court by the Recall Gray Davis Committee against the Secretary of State and several county clerks.

IRS 527 database

The Campaign Finance Institute has just issued a press release calling the IRS website on 527 organizations "a Bonanza of Campaign Finance Information." The release begins:

The Internal Revenue Service’s new website on “Section 527” Political Organizations, unveiled July 1st, is a major advance in campaign finance disclosure. These tax-exempt groups, formerly dubbed “Stealth PACs (Political Action Committees)” are already the leading edge of a trend toward increased involvement of non-profits in partisan political campaigns. With the advent of the new campaign finance law restricting federal parties and candidates access to unlimited contributions, 527s are expected to become even more important federal political actors. That is why the new IRS website is so important for journalists, citizens and others trying to get information about candidates and elections. CFI was active in the process that led to this important achievement.

The IRS website on 527 organizations is here. Click on "Search Political Organization Disclosures." [Corrected]

Flake's AO request

The Arizona Republic has a short article on the Advisory Opinion Request of Rep. Jeff Flake. Flake's request (discussed here, here, here, and here) was passed over at last Thursday's meeting of the FEC and will be discussed this Thursday.

Texas Assn of Business

The Washington Post has an article today about the grand jury investigation into the Texas Association of Business's fliers in the last election.

July 13, 2003

The hunt for the Killer D's

The Austin American Statesman reports:

The state will appeal a court ruling that Department of Public Safety officers cannot be used to track and arrest lawmakers who refuse to attend legislative sessions.

In a lawsuit filed in Travis County, visiting state District Judge Charles Campbell ruled Thursday that state law limits the department's officers to enforcing public safety laws and the "prevention and detection of crime."

State Attorney General Greg Abbott on Friday said Campbell's ruling is inconsistent with state law and that Campbell did not get input from the state before issuing the ruling.

The Houston Chronicle, the Dallas Morning News, and the Washington Post have articles detailing the actions of Tom DeLay and the FAA in the hunt for the Killer D's when they absconded to Ardmore, OK. While the congressional liaison in the FAA felt "used" when he found that the political nature of the request for help from DeLay's office, the FAA controllers knew they were looking for a politician involved in the redistricting fight.

What will the Texas Senate do?

The Austin American Statesman has an editorial on a maneuver the Texas may use on the re-redistricting: pass a bill to their liking and adjourn sine die.

Voting by Web in 2004

The Pentagon-run Secure Electronic Registration and Voting Experiment "could give 100,000 voters the chance to cast absentee ballots online in next year's presidential primaries and general election," according to an APstory.

July 11, 2003

Texas Senate still considering a plan

Texas House Democrats called on the state Senate to reject the House-passed redistricting plan because of its effect on rural Texas, the Jacksonville Daily Progress reports. As the Austin American Statesman says,

Put simply, the country boys (most of them Democrats, but a few key Republicans) think they are being flimflammed by a GOP-backed effort to graft much of rural Texas onto suburban-dominated U.S. House districts in a drive to create as many as 22 Republican-leaning districts.

The U of T Daily Texan reports,

Both Sens. Kip Averitt, R-Waco, and Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock, face significant opposition to redistricting back home.

"I'd hate to be in their position right now, after the testimony I heard yesterday," said Sen. Mario Gallegos, D-Houston, vice chairman of the committee, which has delayed any vote on the issue until Tuesday at the earliest.

The proposed House map could substantially diminish the voice of rural constituents in Averitt and Duncan's senate districts, Gallegos said.

Meanwhile, the San Antonio Express reports:

Gerry Hebert, an attorney who represents Texas congressional Democrats, said he found that at least 36 procedural irregularities occurred during House redistricting hearings last month.

The allegations of irregularities include holding a hearing without a quorum, failure to have the entire committee present at the hearings and failure to appoint ethnic minority representatives to chair the subcommittees.

More on the Search for the Killer D's

AP reports:

The Federal Aviation Administration spent eight hours looking for a Texas legislator's plane in May, and House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's staff called four times to get details on the aircraft's whereabouts, a Democratic congressman says.

Albany county, NY suit

In this post, I mentioned the Section 2 case pending against Albany County, New York. Jeff Wice has provided me with a copy of the magistrate judge's recommendation in the case.

Rhode Island redistricting

I have updated the files on this entry. The Dare amicus brief is now available.

Ballot-tampering

Bev Harris has a website, Black Box Voting: Ballot - Tampering in the 21st Century, devoted to the problems with computer voting machines. The particular story about how votes and audit trails can be altered is here on the site.

Mary McCarty case

The Washington Post has more on the case before the Florida Elections Commission regarding the Florida group "Take Back Our Judiciary." Here also are the Recommended Orders by the Administrative Law Judge in the cases. (The Fla. EC has rejected some of those recommendations.)

Thanks to Alfredo Garcia for the link to the ALJ decisions.

July 10, 2003

Florida Elections Commission and Mary McCarty

After the 2000 election, some Florida Republicans set up the Committee to Take Back Our Judiciary to run an anti-retention campaign against Florida Supreme Court justices who had voted to allow Gore's election challenge to proceed. The Daily Business Review reports:

Attorneys for Palm Beach County Commissioner Mary McCarty are asking a federal judge in Tallahassee to block the Florida Elections Commission from enforcing its recent findings that McCarty and a controversial political action committee she once chaired violated state election laws.

McCarty, a former head of the Palm Beach Republican Party, faces up to $450,000 in state fines from the FEC. The Elections Commission ruled in May that she broke state laws regulating the collection, expenditure and reporting of tens of thousands of dollars that flowed through the Committee to Take Back Our Judiciary.

The Sun Sentinel and the Palm Beach Post offer a few more details.

Thanks to Alfredo Garcia for the tip.

"I love America"

That's what Kristina Leung said outside the courthouse where a federal judge had expressed doubts about 3 of the 5 charges against Leung. See the Ontario (CA) Daily Bulletin and the New York Times.

Texas Senate considers its own re-redistricting bills

The Texas Senate seems to have put the House-passed bill aside and will be considering its own bills, according to the Dallas Morning News.com.

According the Corpus Christi Caller-Times and the Daily Texan (the U of Texas newspaper), one Democrat and two Republicans are drawing their own plans for the Senate to consider.

The weekly Austin Chronicle has several articles on the re-redistricting session: one on the racial aspects of the fight, another on the "GOP-opportunity" districts already existing, and a third on the action in the House.

Dems attack Andy Taylor

The Texas Democrats don't like Andy Taylor. Not the sheriff in Mayberry, but a lawyer in Texas, now in private practice, but who has worked over the past few years for the Texas AG, as a private lawyer under contract to the Redistricting Board on which the same AG sat, and as a lawyer for various pro-GOP business groups. Dave McNeely explains in today's column in the Austin American Statesman.

And now he is apparently helping the GOP draw the re-redistricting plan, according to the Houston Chronicle.

Cleaning up after the Hunt for the Killer D's

AP reports:

The Texas Department of Public Safety lacks the legal authority to track down and arrest rebellious state lawmakers who break a quorum, a judge said Thursday.

But Sen. Lieberman wants more of an investigation in Washington, the Dallas Morning News reports:

A key Democratic senator asked the Homeland Security Department on Thursday to reopen an internal inquiry into its role in the Texas redistricting fight, saying a report issued last month left too many questions unanswered and let state police off the hook too readily.

Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, ranking Democrat on the Senate Government Affairs Committee, sent the department's inspector general a scathing five-page critique of its report on the hunt for Texas House members who fled to Oklahoma in May.

U of Alabama closes voter fraud investigation

The Crimson White, the student newspaper at the University of Alabama,
reports:

The University of Alabama Police Department has placed its investigation of the massive voter fraud in March's SGA election on inactive status, The Crimson White reported on its Web site Thursday.

UA spokeswoman Janet Griffith said UAPD ended the active phase of the criminal voter fraud investigation in late May. Investigators were unable to identify who was behind the fraudulent voting, and the investigation is on inactive status pending new information.

Griffith said investigators determined the fraudulent voter(s) used a dated list of UA students' Social Security numbers and birth dates in combination with a computer program that could cast votes at high speeds.

What I blog

For some time, I have tried to avoid duplicating stories that Rick Hasen and Electionline are covering, unless I can "add value" by finding similar stories or by giving my own take on the matter. I have taken another step in that direction today by adding the top-of-the-page (see the right column) link to each of these great news sources. There's enough election-related stuff out there that all three of us will stay busy in getting it to you just once.

July 9, 2003

AO to Rep. Flake re Stop Taxpayer Money for Politicians Committee

The General Counsel of the FEC has circulated 2 drafts of an advisory opinion in answer to Rep. Jeff Flake's questions about the activities to be carried out by the Stop Taxpayer Money for Politicians Committee. The 2 drafts are 66 pages long, so I won't have time to read them for a day or so. If you do, leave a comment to let me know what you think.

Blogging slow today

I did not have much time to blog yesterday and probably won't over the next 2 days. In the meanwhile, Rick Hasen's Election Law blog has the latest breaking information on the briefs in McConnell v FEC.

Re-redistricting passes Texas House

Corpus Christi Caller Times reports:

A House-approved congressional redistricting map will eliminate rural districts and long-time members of Congress who have expertise and seniority over rural issues, officials said Tuesday.

The House passed a redistricting bill early Tuesday that could give Republicans as many as 21 of the state's 32 congressional seats. Democrats now hold a 17-15 majority.

The Austin American Statesman reports:

The congressional redistricting map approved early Tuesday by the GOP-dominated Texas House was pronounced DOA later in the day in the GOP-dominated Texas Senate.

Senators, including Republicans upset at how their regions were sliced and diced by the House, will go to work on drawing their own map or maps in advance of a possible floor vote early next week.

Carl Luebsdorf opines in the Dallas Morning News:

Two recent Supreme Court cases could pose a far greater threat to the Republicans' congressional redistricting drive in Texas than the resistance of Democratic legislators.

In one case, the court agreed to hear a challenge to the way Pennsylvania Republicans redrew congressional districts to give themselves a 12-7 majority in a state that votes Democratic at least as often as it votes Republican.

In the other case, from Georgia, the court bolstered a key Democratic argument that the election of black and Hispanic lawmakers isn't the only way to protect the rights of minority voters.

And the Houston Chronicle explains how the Democrats could kill the bill in the Senate.

Why Democrats lose

I wish Mark Mellman had a chart with his hard-to-follow commentary in The Hill. When he finally gets to the point, he says:

Democratic redistrictors were less tenacious -- or at least less effective. Where Democrats controlled the process, the number of Gore majority districts increased by only five. The decision by California Democrats under Gov. Gray Davis not to "play politics with redistricting" helped cede the House to the GOP.

The electoral impact is clear. Ten seats switched party control. Eight of them went to the party that had the presidential majority two years before. Democrats actually picked up four seats in Gore majority districts. There just were too few of them left after redistricting. Democrats won only 35 seats in Bush majority districts, down from 45 in 2000.

July 8, 2003

Rhode Island redistricting case

I mentioned the Rhode Island Senate redistricting case yesterday. Anita Hodgkiss of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law has provided me with copies of the briefs and Rule 28(j) letters. The case is Metts, et al., v. Almond, et al., No. 02-2204 in the 1st Circuit.

Appellants' brief --Download file

Appellees' brief --Download file

Appellants' reply brief --Download file

Amicus brief of ACLU --Download file

Amicus brief of Dare --Download file


Appellants' Rule 28(j) letter --Download file

Appellees' Rule 28(j) letter --Download file

Va. GOP official sentenced

The Washington Post reports "Matricardi Gets Probation for Eavesdropping." Matricardi was indicted for eavesdropping on a strategy call among Democratic legislators and Gov. Mark Warner about the appeal of the then-pending redistricting suit. Matricardi was the executive director of the Virginia Republican Party at the time.

Thanks to Daily Kos for the original link to the AP.

Michigan Initiative to overturn Grutter

National Review Online has a speech by Ward Connerly announcing the campaign for the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative.

And so today, I am pleased to announce that we, the people hereby assembled — including Tom Wood, coauthor of Proposition 209, Valery Pech, plaintiff in the Adarand case, as well as Jennifer Gratz and Barbara Grutter — will begin a campaign to place on the November 2004 Ballot what will be commonly known as the "Michigan Civil Rights Act." This initiative will be patterned after the 1964 Civil Rights Act and California's Proposition 209 to prohibit discrimination and preferences in public education, public employment, and public contracting.

Thanks to How Appealing for the link.

Dean qualifies for matching funds

The FEC has announced that Howard Dean has qualified for presidential primary matching funds.

July 7, 2003

Albany NY redistricting

Capital News 9 in Albany, New York, reports:

A federal judge has told Albany County to rethink redistricting.

A lawsuit was filed by the Arbor Hill Concerned Citizens Neighborhood Association. The group claimed when the democrat [sic] majority on the county legislature drew up new district boundaries, they failed to properly represent minority voters.

There are three districts in Albany County with minority majorities. The plaintiffs in the suit contend there should be four.

Judge David Homer issued a preliminary injunction compelling the county to draw up new maps adding the fourth minority majority district.

Do the Republicans have a Lock on the Future?

If you want to think (with glee, horror, or bemused detachment) about the future of America, I suggest you read these two articles.

Grover Norquist - The Republican Party's prophet of permanenceby Chris Suellentrop (in Slate) recounts (and poo-poos) Grover Norquist's theory that the GOP is going to be dominant in the Congress and the Presidency for a l-o-n-g time to come.

James Traub argues in "Temperament Wars" in the New York Times Sunday Magazine that the Democrats lose because "We live in a culture that values brazen certainty and loud conviction, no matter how wrongheaded. Pity the Democrats, stuck with the wrong set of virtues."

Rhode Island Redistricting Case

Garrison Keillor once said that a small town newspaper is really just an index: that you had to know what was going on to make any sense of the paper. This Westerly Sun article reminds me of that. The article gives just enough information so that I might be able to figure it out if I had more facts.

What is interesting is this: while the ACLU (with whom I have co-counseled on cases) opposed the preclearance of the Georgia districts in Georgia v. Ashcroft, the Lawyers' Committee (where I used to work) argues that the case supports their position that a black influence district should be protected under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. What some civil rights lawyers consider a lemon, the Lawyers' Committee is trying to make into lemonade.

Update: a longer version of the article is in the Providence Journal. Because it quotes more extensively from the letters of the counsel to the Court of Appeals, it makes more sense.

Winner-take-all makes losers of many

William Raspberry's column on the problems of winner-take-all elections appeared in the Washington Post, the Tallahassee Democrat, and other papers.

Texas re-redistricting moves along

The Dallas Morning News reports,

African-Americans and Hispanics in the Democratic party are worried that if Republicans are able to use redistricting to increase their numbers in Congress, the Voting Rights Act could be repealed in 2007 when it is reviewed.

News 8 Austin reports:

The Texas House late Monday rejected a Democratic proposal to keep the existing boundaries for the state's 32 congressional districts.

Independent redistricting commissions

Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon) and Jim Leach (R-Iowa) have an op-ed, Redistricting, a Bipartisan Sport, in tomorrow's New York Times. They promote the use of independent redistricting commissions.

July 6, 2003

Who is your candidate?

SelectSmart.com has a presidential candidate selector. Answer 16 questions on your views on various public policy issues, and the program will rank the candidates according to their agreement with your views.

Thanks to TalkLeft for the link.

Re-redistricting approved by committee

Well, surprise, surprise, as Gomer Pyle used to say. The GOP congressional re-redistricting bill has been approved by the House Committee.

A Republican redistricting map described by its author as likely to unseat six Democratic congressmen won rapid approval Saturday from a Texas House committee. With little debate, the redistricting panel advanced the newly drawn map by a vote of 10-4 about an hour after it was unveiled.


Dallas Morning News. See also this from the same paper about the importance of this redistricting to the business of the US Congress.

[Rep. Richard Raymond, D-Laredo] also peppered [Rep. Kent Grusendorf, R-Arlington] with questions about U.S. Majority Leader Tom DeLay's role in Grusendrof's changes.

"I don't know if Mr. DeLay has even seen this map," Grusendorf said.

"Then I know it's not the final map," Raymond said. "If it's not acceptable to (DeLay), it's not going to pass."

Austin American Statesman. And that may be right.

If the proposal passes the House, its future in the Senate is uncertain.

At present not enough senators support redistricting to get the two-thirds majority necessary to bring a bill up for debate. If all 12 Democrats in the 31-member chamber oppose debate, they can stop it.

But three Democratic senators have said they might vote to debate, and one Republican, Bill Ratliff, R-Mount Pleasant, has said he might vote against it.

The map approved Saturday is unlikely to win Ratliff over because it puts his rural part of northeast Texas into a congressional district that would be dominated by Dallas.

The map also might cost the support of Sen. Kip Averitt, R-Waco, because it splits his home territory of McLennan County into two districts, diminishing its influence.

The Senate already has announced that it plans to draw its own map after holding hearings around the state.

Houston Chronicle.

July 5, 2003

Texas House Committee to vote on re-redistricting today

The San Antonio Express reports:

After a week of public comment and sometimes angry debate, the House Redistricting Committee is set to meet this afternoon to vote on a congressional redistricting map.

"There's nothing else I intend to change," said Rep. Phil King, R-Weatherford, the bill's author.

KRIStv has an explanation of why redistricting is taking place and is opposed by Democrats.

You can view the various plans on the Texas GIS system, RedViewer; click on "All other redistricting plans"

DCCC requests AO on furniture `sale

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has requested an Advisory Opinion from the FEC about the sale of its office furniture and equipment on the open market. The DCCC "anticipates that much of its old office equipment and furniture will be incompatible with the new" Democratic Party headquarters building.

Is the Internet the Future of Compaigning?

The New York Time's article on Howard Dean and the Internet concludes:

[Dean campaign manager] Mr. Trippi, a veteran consultant, called the Internet a revolutionary campaign tool, much as television was in 1960, replacing radio. Skeptics wonder. For one thing, they say, not all voters have what it takes to make the Internet a significant new tool, including credit cards and computers.

Bob Bauer, a lawyer and an expert in campaign finance, said the clamor over Internet fund-raising reminded him of a similar excitement about Pat Robertson's direct-mail solicitations to supporters in his unsuccessful presidential bid in 1988.

"It's easy to overstate the novelty and significance of a new fund-raising tool as a means for the future," said Mr. Bauer, whose company represents Mr. Kerry, Mr. Gephardt and another Democratic contender, Senator Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut. "But the Internet as a revolutionary tool? I don't know."

July 4, 2003

Mass. redistricting suit

The Boston Globe reports:

Massachusetts House Speaker Thomas M. Finneran, who controls virtually every action of the House, has testified under oath that he didn't know how the Legislature's 2001 redistricting plan would affect the racial makeup of his own district, or even which neighborhoods he gained and lost.

In a federal voter-rights lawsuit accusing him and his colleagues of redrawing the election map to protect white incumbents, the powerful Democrat also refused to divulge details about how the new map was drawn, or to hand over documents related to the process.

FBI investigating Maryland and Wisconsin Democrats

The Washington Post reported yesterday,

Maryland Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. solicited contributions from interests with business before the General Assembly for a national Democratic committee he heads, and the committee spent heavily on Maryland races at the expense of Democrats in more competitive battleground states, records and interviews show.

Today the Post reports,

Maryland Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr.'s fundraising practices drew fresh scrutiny on two fronts yesterday as the state prosecutor and a legislative ethics panel said they would examine whether a national Democratic committee headed by Miller violated state campaign finance laws.

The Baltimore Sun has a report as well.

Yesterday the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel also had a report on the Wisonsin connection to the scandal. Here is its sidebar summary of the "Money Trail":

The FBI is investigating whether two political committees that prosecutors link to state Sen. Chuck Chvala violated federal money laundering laws. According to a criminal complaint filed last year, here is one example of how Chvala is accused of skirting state campaign finance laws:

Chvala told lobbyist Bill Broydrick to have his clients contribute money to the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee in Washington, D.C.

The DLCC then funneled money back to a phony independent group in Wisconsin called Independent Citizens for Democracy Inc. Chvala is accused of creating and controlling that group.

That group spent more than $800,000 during the 2000 campaign on ads in three key state Senate races that helped the Democrats maintain control of the Senate.

Montana redistricting plan is valid

Associated Press in Montana is reporting:

A district judge Wednesday struck down a law intended to derail an apportionment plan the Republican-controlled Legislature considered a power grab by Democrats.

Judge Dorothy McCarter of Helena said the law was an improper attempt by lawmakers to interfere with the process of redrawing legislative districts that is already spelled out in the constitution.

[Secretary of State Bob] Brown, who had defended the law as the state's chief elections officer, said he will not appeal the decision to the Montana Supreme Court and that the plan was immediately filed Wednesday, implementing the new district boundaries.

Poll shows recall is close call

The Los Angeles Times has four articles on the recall effort. The first reports,

If the election were held today, 51% of voters would opt to unseat Davis, while 42% would reject the proposed recall, the poll found. Support for the recall has risen substantially since March, when a Times poll found just 39% of voters in favor of it.

Yet the poll's other findings suggest that many voters are not firmly wedded to a recall. When told that the special election sought by proponents would cost at least $25 million, enough voters reversed themselves to doom the recall.

And when voters were asked whether they would support a recall if no Democrats were on the ballot to replace Davis, enough switched sides to keep him in office. At present, the state's leading Democrats are united behind the governor, insisting that they do not intend to run to replace him.

The second analyzes the poll. The third reports, "Voting officials in California counties have received about 695,000 signatures supporting the recall of Gov. Gray Davis, according to a tally of results compiled Thursday by The Times."

The fourth reports, "Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista) said Thursday that he would probably run for governor on a recall ballot even if the election is delayed until next spring, and he dismissed recent questions about past arrests as irrelevant to his goal of ousting Gov. Gray Davis from office."

Georgia on my mind

The Charlotte Observer reports:

Attorneys for both the state and Republican legislators traded legal briefs this week over the importance of a U.S. Supreme Court decision that gave more leeway to some states over redistricting and minority voters.

The lawyers sought to influence the state Supreme Court, which has yet to issue a ruling over legislative districts nearly four months after it heard arguments in the case.

The justices must decide whether the Democratic-controlled legislature last year complied with mapmaking criteria laid out in an earlier opinion when lawmakers drew the boundaries for state House and Senate seats.

Arizona redistricting case

The Arizona Daily Sun reports:

Challenges to Arizona's new congressional and legislative districts were set to go to trial next week, but there is new uncertainty regarding how and when those challenges will be resolved.

Arguing that challengers had just raised issues of federal law for the first time, the commission that drew the new maps got the cases moved to federal court from state court, where they had been scheduled to go to trial July 8.

(Disclosure: I represent the plaintiffs in the Congressional challenge, while Paul Eckstein represents the plaintiffs in the Legislative challenge.)

Affirmative Action on the ballot

The Washington Post reports:

Opponents of affirmative action, angered by a recent Supreme Court decision, are planning to launch a flurry of ballot initiatives for 2004 in presidential battleground states.

The ballot actions, which conservative activist Ward Connerly will begin, will seek to ban affirmative action in Michigan and other states or localities. According to people familiar with the plans, the places being contemplated include Colorado, Missouri, the Florida cities of Orlando, Tampa and Fort Lauderdale, and Allegheny County (Pittsburgh), Pa.

The ballot campaign could cause a headache for President Bush. His advisers have expressed concern that such initiatives, because they are polarizing, tend to increase voter turnout among racial minorities and other Democratic-leaning constituencies.

Anniversary

Today is the anniversary of this blog. I only blogged a bit in July 2002 and then skipped the next several months, but it was the beginning.

Go listen to the Declaration of Independence on NPR and then read David Broder's column on the meaning of the Declaration.

July 3, 2003

Texas redistricting, u-turns, rented crowds

Dave McNeely's column in the Austin American Statesman covers the U-turns and changing attitudes of Republicans over court-drawn districting plans.

And the Statesman has an article on why the chief draftsman withdrew his own plan on Wednesday -- some pesky technicality about it not complying with the Voting Rights Act. Additional stories are in the San Antonio Express , Daily Texan, and Houston Chronicle.

The weekly Austin Chronicle has an article on the legislative session so far and another on the "field hearings" held last week.

And finally, the Corpus Christi Caller-Times reports:

The Corpus Christi Chamber of Commerce hired 40 temporary workers to boost attendance at a congressional redistricting hearing in McAllen.

The chamber hired the workers at the behest of a local businessman, who said he would pay the bill because he wants the 27th Congressional District to remain intact, said Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Tom Niskala. The businessman, whom Niskala would not identify, wants the district's military bases represented by longtime U.S. Rep. Solomon P. Ortiz during base realignment and closure hearings.

July 2, 2003

Are electronic voting machines "hacked"?

A group on the Democratic Underground web site claims to have proof that electronic voting machines have been "hacked" -- that is fixed so as to give incorrect results. This thread is extremely long and paranoid, but remember that paranoids have real enemies too.

Read a little of this so that you can say to your friends, "Oh, yeah, I heard about that the other day."

Maine redistricting

The Maine Supreme Judicial Court has issued the Final Order 2003 Apportionment of Senate and Congressional Districts. Thanks to Jeff Wice for the link.

North Hempstead, NY

From Jeff Wice, Special Counsel to the Town of North Hempstead (NY) Board:

On Wednesday, the NY State Appellate Division denied an appeal from the Town of North Hempstead Republican Chairman, Peter Cavallaro, seeking to enjoin use of the town's new 6 single member council district plan in this year's elections. In April, voters approved a referendum switching from a 4 at-large member board to a six single member district scheme. The current Town Board plan for new districts was approved last month and was quickly challenged by the GOP questioning the authority of the Town Board to draw a new plan instead of the Nassau County Board of Elections. A trial is now scheduled for late August.

Recallers claim to have enough signatures

TheBakersfieldChannel.com is reporting that the California recall campaign is claiming to have 1.2 million signatures -- more than enough to put the recall on the ballot this fall.

And a group of Republicans has formed an organization opposing the recall, AP reports.

"It could destroy whatever shred remains of civilized political discourse in this great state," GOP consultant Scott Barnett said in announcing the formation of Republicans Against the Recall.

Texas special session

Here are the highlights of the Tuesday and Wednesday action.

Texas House Republicans surprised Central Texans on Tuesday night with a new congressional map that leaves Travis County in two districts and U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, an Austin Democrat, as a heavy favorite to win re-election.

Austin American Statesman

Republicans unveiled a new plan Tuesday night that they say would give the GOP a chance to capture most of Texas' congressional seats, possibly pitting some Democratic incumbents against each other.

Dallas Morning News. See also Houston Chronicle,

Gov. Rick Perry expanded the special legislative session Tuesday to take up a massive government reorganization that enhances his powers but also limits public participation.

Houston Chronicle. See also San Antonio Express, and another, and the Austin American Statesman.

"Protestors invade McAllen meeting," the San Antonio Express reports and the Valley Morning Star.

Rural Texas lawmakers say they are worried that a map redrawing the state's congressional districts would limit their voice in Congress by lumping small towns with urban and suburban districts that don't understand or appreciate the economic issues of rural areas.

Houston Chronicle.

Never mind.

House Republicans withdrew their proposed congressional map Wednesday, saying it may violate federal law by diluting the political clout of minority voters in four districts, including one represented by Democrat Martin Frost of Arlington.

Dallas Morning News.

And finally, ...

Departing from past practice, some lobbyists say they are withholding contributions to House Texas Democrats until the state’s congressional redistricting fight is resolved.

While many of these lobbyists represent groups with Republican sympathies, they have often hedged their bets by giving to the Democrats as well.

But at this point they seem wary of antagonizing House GOP leaders and of wasting political cash on what is still an uncertain situation over who will be running in which revamped district.

The Hill.

Republican re-redistricting strategy

The Washington Post has a Big Picture article, "GOP Redistricting: New Boundaries of Politics?" on the Republican effort to re-redistricting Colorado (already done), Texas (I hear the train a'coming), and perhaps other places.

The Indiana Law Blog has a comment on the article and an earlier one from the New York Times.

Westar starts investigation of political contributions

The Business Journal of Kansas City reports:

"We've hired an attorney to look specifically at any of those issues," Mark Schreiber, senior manager of government affairs for Topeka-based Westar (NYSE: WR), said Wednesday. "We don't have a timeline on that, but we're positive he's going to do a thorough and complete review on that."

The investigation by a lawyer versed in election law was recommended by the authors of a 360-page internal report released May 15. The board of directors approved, and the company hired Tim Jenkins of Washington, Schreiber said.

Among those watching closely is the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen, which has called for federal investigations into whether Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Texas; Rep. Billy Tauzin, R-La.; or Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, violated congressional ethics rules or federal bribery statutes in connection with their activities on behalf of Westar during 2002.

Thanks to Alfredo Garcia for the link.

Update: More in the Lawrence Journal World. And this study of Westrar documents by the Center for Public Integrity.

USA v Charleston County SC

Armand Derfner writes:

We won a case this spring striking down the Charleston Count Council's at-large system. The link is below. We are now working on a remedial plan, although the County apparently still has the right to appeal both liability and remedy and has not yet decided whether it will. The case is interesting because the County's defense was that the racial bloc voting was for partisan reasons, and the judge rejected that defense.

The opinion is here.

FEC submits NVRA report

The FEC has submitted its bi-annual report to Congress on the NVRA. The News Release has a one-page summary of the report and a link to the full report.

July 1, 2003

"Better Presidential Campaigns for Only $2 More"

FEC Commissioner Scott Thomas has an op-ed, Better Presidential Campaigns for Only $2 More, in the New York Times today. He is pushing the plan he and Commissioner Michael Toner have to revitalize the public financing system for presidential elections.

How Dean did it

Rick Klau has a post on his unofficial pro-Dean blog,
Howard Dean in 2004, about how Dean used the Internet to pull off the stunning $7.1 million dollar contribution drive. In answer to my question last week about why Democrats don't give more, Rick's answer might be, "Because you didn't ask them." Actually, he said this: "Most impressive? Not only will he have the largest number of donors, but his per-donor average will be among the lowest - meaning that he’s getting the “little” guys to contribute."

Doug Ireland on TomPaine.com gives some of the credit to the MoveOn.org "primary":

It's not just that so many people unexpectedly participated. ... But MoveOn's electronic electors also voted with their checkbooks.

And the cash instantly came flowing in to the two top MoveOn vote-getters, both of whom the conventional wisdom had long decreed were underdogs with no hope of nomination or election.

More on the Texas hearings

Burnt Orange of Political State Report: straight from the trenches has a l-o-n-g post with two eyewitness accounts of the weekend redistricting hearings. Some of the stuff recounted is even funnier than the newspaper reports I had yesterday. The post begins with Monday's developments in the Legislature.

FEC cracking down on corporate-aided contributions

Brett Kappel of Powell, Goldstein, Frazer & Murphy LLP has issued a Client Alert,
FEC Strictly Enforcing Ban on Company Facilitation of Political Contributions . "Facilitation" is the use of corporate premises and resources for campaigning, including the company soliciting contributions for candidates. An interesting read.

Demo tactics in the California recall

The San Francisco Chronicle had an interesting article yesterday, State Democrats recall lessons of Florida / Republicans' 2000 tactics serving as model for Davis' team.

When the 2000 presidential election melted down in Florida, Democrats were admittedly exhausted, caught off guard and outmaneuvered by Republicans. Now, Democrats are applying the lessons they learned 3,000 miles away to the potential recall of Gov. Gray Davis.

Over the past two weeks, Davis and his supporters have become more organized and focused, and unafraid of ground-level skirmishes. They have settled on a simple message -- that the recall is a right-wing coup attempt -- and started preparing a long-range public relations assault.

(Thanks to Taegan Goddard's Political Wire for the link.)

Proposed changes to the NAHB AO

Ellen Weintraub, chair of the FEC, proposed extensive changes to the General Counsel's draft advisory opinion to the National Association of Home Builders. Here proposal is here. I have not seen the minutes or a news article on last Friday's meeting of the FEC, so I don't know what the final version of the AO looks like.

Anybody at the FEC reading this is welcome to send on or off the record comments.

Recall-ers may sue Sec of State

Leaders of the Recall Gray Davis Committee say they may sue the Secretary of State over a memo he sent to county officials saying "they have broad leeway on how to count and verify the signatures being turned in by recall supporters. The memo allows counties to verify names in batches, a decision that could slow down the process, which might delay a recall election until spring," according to the San Jose Mercury News. Going slow in certifying the recall petition will cause the recall election to be held at the same time as the spring Democratic presidential primary rather than this fall.

Charlotte NC redistricts

The Charlotte Observer reports that the Democratic majority on the Charlotte City Council has chosen a ... (I know the suspense is killing you) ... Democratic plan for redistricting the council.

Howard Dean's got game

Many papers have stories on Howard Dean leading the Money Primary for the 2nd Quarter. The Baltimore Sun notes most of the money was raised online and calls him the "Internet candidate." The Washington Post reports that Dean raised $7 million thanks to "wide-open field and the power of the Internet."

The Mess in Texas

The Travis County grand jury has declined to take any action after its investigation of the Department of Public Safety's search for the Killer D's. See the stories in the San Antonio Express-news, Houston Chronicle, and the Dallas Morning News.

Re-redistricting session opens

The New York Times article, Across U.S., Redistricting as a Never-Ending Battle, is mostly abou Texas but views it as a harbinger of things to come. (Of course, Colorado was the first harbinger, but I suppose a second harbinger is necessary -- especially one that is as noisy as the Texas harbinger is.)

The Washington Post article is here with an editorial here.

There are articles on the first day of the special session in the Daily Texan, the El Paso Times, the Houston Chronicle, and the Dallas Morning News.