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

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September 30, 2003

State campaign money

The National Institute on Money in State Politics today issued a report on the soft-money raised by state political parties (or transferred from national party groups) in 13 states.

An AP story on the report says,

Despite federal controls on so-called soft money, major donors are sending large amounts of money to state campaigns without restrictions and campaign contributions are being shuffled back and forth across the country, a study released Tuesday shows.

The six-year, 13-state study, produced by the Institute on Money in State Politics, a Montana-based campaign watchdog organization, followed the path of soft money between the state and national Republican and Democratic committees.

Money in state judicial races

The National Institute on Money in State Politics has issued a study of the campaign contributions to judicial candidates for the Louisiana, Alabama, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan and Montana Supreme Courts and the Michigan Court of Appeals.

The summary of the Alabama study states:

In the three election cycles examined in this study, 19 individuals seeking the nine Supreme Court positions available from 1994 through 1998 raised $18.4 million. • Overall, political parties were the largest source of campaign funds for these partisan races, contributing $6.3 million, or 34 percent of the total raised by all candidates. • Attorneys, law firms and legal PACs contributed nearly $4 million, about 22 percent of the total raised. • Other business interests gave 32 percent of the funds, about $5.86 million. • Fewer than half the candidates contributed to their own campaigns, giving only $119,000, less than 1 percent of the total. • A total of 904 cases, or 63 percent of the 1,424 cases decided during the study period, involved a party or attorney who contributed to a Supreme Court Justice before that Justice ruled on the contributor’s case. About 9 percent of all litigants contributed to a Justice before a case decision by that Justice; they accounted for 7 percent of the 8,374 contributors named in campaign-finance reports and gave $1.58 million, less than 9 percent of the total money.


The Rocky Mountain News reports,

A federal judge has put a temporary hold on a U.S. District Court fight over Colorado's new Republican-drawn congressional redistricting map.

U.S. District Judge Zita Weinshienk signed an order delaying action until the Colorado Supreme Court issues a ruling in a separate case challenging the GOP plan.

The order calls on all parties to file "simultaneous status reports" with the federal court within three days after the state Supreme Court issues an opinion.

This case seems to have snuck in under my radar. If anyone has a copy of the complaint or other pleadings in the case, email them to me or email me for instructions on where to fax them. The email address is in the upper right corner of the page.


The Washington Post again explains what the Texas re-redistricting fight is really about: r-a-c-e:

Central to the problem is that partisanship and race are so closely entwined in Texas, as they are in other southern states. Mindful of that, the GOP redistricting plans under consideration aim to defeat some white Democratic incumbents mainly by breaking up geographic clumps of their most reliable voters -- African Americans and Hispanics -- and dispersing them into heavily white, middle-class and Republican districts.

That practice -- known as "cracking" voting communities -- is a tried and true method of redistricting for partisan advantage. Democrats themselves did it to Republicans in the past. But the move was less racially tinged, analysts said, because it involved redrawing communities with primarily white voters.

In the current fight, the Texas Democrats may be able to draw fresh support from a Supreme Court ruling in a Georgia case earlier this year. In that ruling (Georgia v. Ashcroft), a closely divided court endorsed a tactic used by Democrats in several states after the 2000 census, when they shifted blocs of black voters into districts where they could reinforce white Democrats and elect representatives sympathetic to minority interests -- the very opposite of what Texas Republicans are doing at the moment.

The Austin Star Telegram reports on another proposal floated by the GOP:

As House and Senate negotiators continued their stalemate over how the state's 32 congressional districts should be configured, a North Texas lawmaker on Tuesday offered an alternative plan that would probably end the political career of Arlington Democrat Martin Frost.

State Rep. Arlene Wohlgemuth, R-Burleson, said her plan, which would give Republicans as many as 21 safe districts, deserves consideration because Fort Worth would be the only city in Tarrant County that would be split into two or more congressional districts.

A spokesman for Frost said the map would not withstand a legal challenge, chiefly because inner-city minority neighborhoods that are currently represented by the 24-year congressional veteran would be appended to a district dominated by affluent Anglo suburbs.

The need for that plan is highligthed in the following AP article:

House and Senate Republicans remained at odds on congressional redistricting Tuesday and one of the lead negotiators said he hopes a fourth special session won't be necessary for both chambers to agree on a new map.

It appeared Tuesday that Gov. Rick Perry's preferred Wednesday deadline would be missed.

Members of the House and Senate negotiating team have had fruitless meetings behind closed doors several times this week to find middle ground in the roadblock.

Really Important FAQ

Lloyd Grove in the New York Daily News offers this little item (scroll down past the more important Kelly Ripa story):

The Bush-Cheney '04 campaign has just issued a helpful "Frequently Asked Questions" memo to its New York fund-raisers:

Question: "Can I use my personal aircraft for campaign business?"

Answer: "No, you may not use your personal aircraft for campaign business. Corporate aircraft may be used, but only if each person boarding the plane pays the equivalent of a first-class airplane ticket."

Q: "Can I have a fund-raising cocktail party for my friends at a private club or hotel and pay for the party?"

A: "No. You may have them come to your house and treat them up to $1,000 in expenses per adult in the household without it counting against your $2,000 contribution limit."

Q: "Can I use my executive assistant to help with my fund-raising activities?"

A: "Any person can volunteer to help. Employees may volunteer a maximum of 1 (one) hour per week during working hours and an unlimited amount outside of the office."

Of course, when the boss says, "volunteer some of your working time and still get paid," how voluntary is it?

September 29, 2003

Minnesota campaign finance law under attack

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports on a case to be heard in federal court on 21 October:

A major challenge to Minnesota's campaign finance laws, including an effort to relax restrictions on how much candidates can receive from lobbyists and large donors, is expected to be heard soon in U.S. District Court in St. Paul.

The multifaceted lawsuit, filed by Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life (MCCL), also seeks to undo a ban on the transfer of funds between campaign committees. The MCCL, which opposes abortion, long has been one of the state's more powerful interest groups.

Attorney General Mike Hatch, who will be defending the current law, says the suit is the "biggest assault on Minnesota's campaign finance law" since the last big overhaul in 1993. And he says it represents a significant undermining of the state's ability to control the power of interest groups, lobbyists and wealthy contributors.

But the lead MCCL attorney said that similar challenges by his law firm in other states have succeeded and that courts have tended to view many state restrictions on issues-advocacy groups as an unconstitutional infringement of free speech.

"We have won dozens of these cases around the United States," said James Bopp Jr., an Indiana attorney for the MCCL. He said the laws in question actually represent efforts "by incumbents to drive people out of participating in democracy. . . . Almost any regulation of elections benefits incumbents." Bopp represents the firm of Bopp, Coleson & Bostrom and the James Madison Center for Free Speech in Terre Haute, Ind.

Here are some of the provisions under attack:

Among the more significant of seven provisions being challenged is a ban on the transfer of money from one candidate's campaign to another's.

Another key provision under challenge is a law that restricts candidates from collecting more than 20 percent of their combined contributions from lobbyists, political action committees or in gifts of more than $250.

... Bopp said the suit attempts to remove a requirement that advocacy groups provide extensive disclosure of their contributors who give more than $500. Some supporters are reluctant to contribute because of that disclosure requirement, he contends, and the result is a chilling effect on citizen involvement.

VeriSign to work on Internet voting system

CNET reports,

VeriSign announced Monday that it will provide key components of a system designed to let Americans abroad cast absentee votes over the Internet.

The contract was granted by consulting firm Accenture, which is working with the U.S. Department of Defense on a voting system known as the Secure Electronic Registration and Voting Experiment. When completed, the system will allow absentee military personnel and overseas Americans from eight participating states to cast their votes in the 2004 general election.

September 27, 2003

Bexar County, TX, still fighting over JP districts

The San Antonio News-Express reports,

Bexar County's efforts to save money by reducing the number of constables took another blow Friday when a federal judge ordered the county to go back to the way things were — including voiding last November's election results. Senior U.S. District Judge William Wayne Justice of Austin ordered the county to reinstate the five justice-of-the-peace precincts in effect before Aug. 28, 2001, when Commissioners Court approved a plan to reduce that number to four.

Now the county finds itself almost $1 million into a legal battle to preserve the lines they drew in 2001, with more legal costs looming. But county officials vowed to fight on.

"What we will do is to seek a stay of the order from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals," County Judge Nelson Wolff said Friday.

If the county can't get a stay, Justice's ruling will go into effect next week.

Texas re-redistricting talks

Will the Texas Senate and House be able to reconcile their differences? The San Antonio Express reports,

Turning up the heat on House and Senate conferees trying to iron out differences between congressional redistricting bills, Gov. Rick Perry on Friday said negotiators must do it within 10 days — preferably by Wednesday.

Perry said the five Senators and five House members given the job of crafting a single plan out of two very different redistricting maps would meet through the weekend to try to beat a looming "drop-dead date" of Oct. 6.

But most of the conferees left Austin on Friday, and House sources said the committee heads from the two chambers wouldn't meet again until Monday.

The governor's deadline apparently referred to the 60 days it is expected to take the U.S. Department of Justice to review and, Republicans hope, approve a remap plan.

If the expedited federal review begins in early October, it could be completed by early December, about the time candidates begin filing the necessary paperwork to declare their candidacies for congressional races in 2004.

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports on the governor's optimism and the the reality:

Despite a stubborn disagreement over how West Texas should be configured, Gov. Rick Perry predicted Friday that Republican legislative leaders will soon agree on a congressional redistricting plan.

"I feel confident that there is a map that can be drawn that will get a majority vote in the House and the Senate," Perry told reporters after attending a swearing-in ceremony for his new secretary of state, Geoffery Connor. "We're going to get it worked out. We are not going to have a fourth [special] session."

House-Senate negotiators are attempting to craft a compromise because the maps adopted by each chamber bear little resemblance to each other. A chief sticking point is West Texas, where House Speaker Tom Craddick is adamant that any plan must include a congressional district anchored in his hometown of Midland.

Republican state Sen. Robert Duncan of Lubbock, a member of the conference committee that's seeking to draw the final map, has rejected the Craddick-backed House plan because it is unacceptable to his constituents, especially farmers and ranchers who support Democratic Rep. Charles Stenholm of Abilene.

September 26, 2003

Alabama adopts felon voting bill

The Birmingham News reports today that Gov. Riley has signed the bill to streamline the restoration of the voting rights of some felons. The report is in the print edition, but not online.

Update: the bill is now Act 2003-415. The Secretary of State should have the act on her website within the week.

September 25, 2003

Dems winning the 527 money race

Tom Edsall writes today in the Washington Post,

The widely heralded fundraising advantage enjoyed by Republicans could be significantly mitigated by the success of Democratic-leaning "527" committees, according to a study by the Center for Public Integrity.

Known by the section of the tax code under which they fall, 527 committees can accept unlimited donations from corporations, unions and the rich -- just the kind of "soft money" federal candidates and the national parties have been barred from collecting under the McCain-Feingold bill of 2002.

The center's study, which covered the period from August 2000 to August 2003, found that money going to Democratic-leaning groups -- such as unions and environmental and abortion rights groups -- was more than double that going to Republican-affiliated groups, $185 million to $81.6 million, a difference of $103.4 million.

In terms of "hard money" fundraising that remains legal for the parties and candidates, the Republican advantage is clear based on the results from the first six months of this year. In that period, the three major GOP committees -- the Republican National, Senatorial and Congressional committees -- raised $115 million, 21/2 times the $43.5 million raised by their Democratic counterparts. Hard money can be given only by individuals, not corporations or unions, and is limited to $2,000 to federal candidates and $25,000 to a party.

Texas primary date change?

A reader has asked about the status of the bill to change the date of the Texas primary to allow more time to pass and preclear the re-redistricting. I can't find such a bill on the legislature's website. If anyone knows, please email me.

Erik Heels on using weblogs

Eric Heels' September 2003 "" column in Law Practice Management magazine is entitled, Fire Your Website, Hire A Weblog. Heels discussed the benefits of using weblogging software to create your website:

Don't start a weblog. Replace your website with a weblog. In November 2002, I started experimenting with weblog software. Three months into the experiment, I had converted my existing website into a weblog powered by Radio Userland Software. After only two months, I switched to the much more capable Movable Type software. In this article, I discuss what I did, how I did it, and why some law firms are catching weblog fever.

Heels mentions several blogs, and among them is Votelaw. Thanks, Eric.

Alabama Legislature passes felon voting rights bill

Some paroled felons in Alabama should have their voting rights restored soon, according to the Birmingham News:

State lawmakers gave their final approval Wednesday to a bill making it easier for some felons to regain the right to vote.

"If you've served your time, then I think you ought to get your voting privileges back," said the Senate sponsor, Sen. E.B. McClain, D-Midfield.

The bill also would expand the state Parole Board so it could give early releases to an extra 5,000 state inmates in the coming year to ease prison crowding.

The Senate voted 21-11 for the bill after less than an hour's debate. Gov. Bob Riley asked his fellow Republicans in the Senate not to delay the bill, said Sen. Steve French, R-Mountain Brook.

Riley will sign the bill into law, said David Azbell, his press secretary. The state House of Representatives voted 47-42 for the bill on Monday.

September 24, 2003

Alabama Senate likely to approve felon voting bill

The Birmingham News reports,

The state Senate likely will pass a plan to expand the parole board and make it easier for some felons to regain the right to vote, possibly as soon as today, a key lawmaker said Tuesday.

"I think it has plenty of support," said Sen. Lowell Barron, D-Fyffe, the top-ranking senator.

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 12-1 Tuesday for the bill. The panel approved, without changes, the version the state House of Representatives passed Monday.

Sen. Bradley Byrne, R-Fairhope, voted against the bill, noting that it would allow inmates convicted of manslaughter, robbery, kidnapping and other violent crimes to regain their right to vote.

"I have a fundamental problem with someone under any circumstances who has committed those kinds of crimes ever getting their voting rights back," Byrne said.

Texas Senate approves its own re-redistricting plan

AP reports Texas Senate Approves Redistricting Plan. This is different from the House plan.

September 23, 2003

Virginia GOP leaders approved of eavesdropping

The Washington Post reports,

Edmund A. Matricardi III, former executive director of the Virginia Republican Party, testified yesterday that GOP leaders including then-House Speaker S. Vance Wilkins Jr. (Amherst) knew about and approved of his eavesdropping on Democratic conference calls. Matricardi, appearing before a panel of judges in Richmond regarding the fate of his law license, also said that ex-Republican Party chairman Gary R. Thomson, Matricardi's boss at the time, gave him the go-ahead to listen in on the Democratic strategy sessions in March 2002.

Matricardi pleaded guilty in April to felony eavesdropping and was fined $5,000 and sentenced to three years' probation. Thomson pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor in August for "aiding and abetting" the distribution of the contents of the calls, but has denied approving them. He was fined $2,000 and resigned.

Dems file amicus briefs in Vieth case

The Hill reports,

House Democrats, who are predicted by some analysts to be in the minority until after the 2010 census and who may lose up to six seats because of redistricting in Texas, have high hopes for a challenge to GOP-drawn districts in Pennsylvania that the Supreme Court has agreed to consider.

Four House Democrats from Texas — Martin Frost, Chris Bell, Sheila Jackson Lee and Nick Lampson — as well as Georgia’s Rep. John Lewis (D), have filed amicus briefs in the Pennsylvania case, which experts say could have a big impact on the makeup of Congress. The court notified attorneys recently that it would hear arguments in January.

Depending on how the Supreme Court decides, it could end the tradition of partisan gerrymandering — the drawing of congressional districts to favor one party. Many political analysts consider gerrymandered districts to be the main reason there are fewer competitive House races now than at almost any time in American history.

Texas GOP'ers reject the Gov's compromise

Charles Kuffner at Political State Report: straight from the trenches reports that gov. Perry's proposed compromise Congressional map -- of only part of the state -- was pretty much dead in the water.

Felon voting bill closer to passage in Alabama Senate

As I reported last night, the Alabama House has passed the bill to expand the Pardons and Paroles Board for a year or so and to liberlize the procedures and conditions under which convicted felons may obtain the right to vote again. (The Pardons and Paroles Board has the power to pardon and to restore civil rights -- powers held by the governor in most states.) Here and here are stories from the Birmingham and Mobile papers on the House passage. WSFA-TV in Montgomery reports that the Senate Judiciary Committee has reported the bill favorably. The legislature's website lists the bill as being reported without amendments.

Update: the Sentencing Project has issued a report, "LEGISLATIVE CHANGES ON FELONY DISENFRANCHISEMENT, 1996-2003," detailing the 11 states which have chenged their registration eligibility laws relating to felons. Eight have loosened the restrictions and three have tightened them.

September 22, 2003

Bustamante can't use "old" money to fight Prop. 54

AP reports,

A judge blocked Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante on Monday from using a campaign finance loophole to spend millions of dollars from an old campaign committee on ads featuring him opposing a ballot measure as he simultaneously campaigns for governor.

Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Loren McMaster ordered that any money left from the more than $4 million raised from Indian tribes and labor unions by Bustamante's old campaign committee be returned to donors through that account.

Bustamante had argued he accepted the money legally in an account that predated campaign finance reforms limiting donations to $21,200. He said any conflicts were resolved when he shifted the money from his campaign fund into a separate effort to defeat Proposition 54, a ballot initiative banning the state from collecting most racial and ethnic data.

Critics and his fellow candidates said the tactic was akin to money laundering. They complained that the cash was used to fight the initiative in television ads that feature Bustamante and look virtually identical to his gubernatorial recall campaign ads.

"It's wrong for Bustamante to hijack the campaign against Prop. 54 for his self-promotion," said independent candidate Arianna Huffington, who also opposes the voter initiative.

Proposition 54 is the Ward Connerly initiative to block the collection or use of racial statistics.

Felon Voting Bill Passes Alabama House

By a vote of 47-42, the Alabama House has passed the bill to restore the right to vote for certain ex-felons, according to the AP.

I just checked the Legislature's website for details on the bill. Here are the important provisions:

(a) Any other provision of law notwithstanding, any person, regardless of the date of his or her sentence, may apply to the board of pardons and paroles for a Certificate of Eligibility to Register to Vote if all of the following requirements are met:

(1) The person has lost his or her right to vote by reason of conviction in a state or federal court in any case except those listed in subsection (h);

(2) The person has no criminal felony charges pending against him or her in any state or federal court;

(3) The person has paid all fines, court costs, fees, and victim restitution ordered by the sentencing court;


(4) Any of the following are true:
a. The person has been released upon completion of sentence;
b. The person has been pardoned; or
c. The person has successfully completed probation
or parole and has been released from compliance by the ordering entity.

Here is the list in what was subsection (h) [now g]:

Impeachment, murder, rape in any degree, sodomy in any degree, sexual abuse in any degree, incest, sexual torture, enticing a child to enter a vehicle for immoral purposes, soliciting a child by computer, production of obscene matter involving a minor, production of obscene matter, parents or guardians permitting children to engage in obscene matter, possession of obscene matter, possession with intent to distribute child pornography, or treason.

DOJ files brief in Georgia v Ashcroft

The Justice Department has filed its brief in the US District Court for DC in the remanded Georgia v. Ashcroft. The brief argues that either more discovery is needed OR the preclearance should be denied -- in that order! Here are the concluding paragraphs of the brief:

In summary, what limited evidence is available in the existing record on the impact of the proposed plan on black voters, when reviewed under the Supreme Court’s revised standard, shows that although black voters are becoming a larger percentage of the voting pool in Georgia, the State is reducing their overall power. This limited record indicates retrogression. Second, while the subtraction of ability-to-elect districts is well documented in the present record, considerable additional evidence concerning the new areas of inquiry identified by the Supreme Court is now necessary to permit the “totality of the circumstances” examination required by the Supreme Court to determine the effect of the plan on black voters. Reopening of discovery and a trial on remand regarding these factors is required to do this.

For the reasons set forth above, the United States respectfully requests that this Court defer entry of judgment on this remand pending the opportunity to conduct reasonable additional discovery, to supplement the record and to conduct such further proceedings as the Court deems appropriate. In the alternative, entry of judgment should be granted to the United States due to the Plaintiff’s failure to meet its burden of proof under Section 5.

Texas Gov. proposes compromise

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports,

With the House and Senate on a collision course over redistricting, Gov. Rick Perry on Monday entered the fray by offering an alternative congressional map for West Texas that he hopes will end a standoff between two key Republican lawmakers.

Perry's attempt at forging a compromise between House Speaker Tom Craddick of Midland and Sen. Robert Duncan of Lubbock came one day before the Senate debates its version of how Texas' 32 congressional districts should be drawn.

The Senate plan remains far different from the one adopted three times since June by the House, chiefly because it does not include a West Texas district dominated by Midland.

Craddick has insisted that he will not accept any plan that does not have a Midland district. Duncan, who chairs the Senate's redistricting committee, wants Lubbock to be the key city in that district.

Under the plan prepared by the governor's office and unveiled by Rep. Phil King, the Weatherford Republican who drew the House map, Lubbock and Midland would each have its own district.

Craddick and King offered qualified support for Perry's plan, which only draws six West Texas districts and leaves the rest of the state to be apportioned at a later date, but Duncan stopped far short of embracing it.

September 21, 2003

Grading the States on Campaign Disclosures

The Campaign Disclosure Project has just published a report, Grading State Disclosure 2003, rating each state's disclosure of campaign finances.

While 33 states had passing grades, Alabama was one of 17 states without a satisfactory disclosure program. In fact, Alabama was number 47.

Alabama budget stuck behind the felon voting bill

The Alabama 2004 budget (which must be adopted by the end of the month) is not moving through the Alabama House because the GOP members refused to follow their governor, Bob Riley. Here is the Birmingham News story on the impasse:

Some lawmakers are scrambling to salvage a plan that would make it easier for many felons to regain the right to vote. They warn that failure to pass it could endanger next year's state budgets.

Gov. Bob Riley helped write the proposal, but most of his fellow Republicans in the state House of Representatives opposed the bill and stopped it from passing the House last week.

"I think there's a real chance of getting to midnight on the 30th (of September) and not being done with what we're mandated to do, and that's get these budgets passed," said Rep. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, who opposes the bill.

But Riley's press secretary, David Azbell, said a passable compromise was shaping up for debate Monday. "We're optimistic," he said.

Rep. Yvonne Kennedy, D-Mobile, said she and Riley wrote the felons' voting bill together.

Even though Riley helped write the bill, most of the 42 Republican House members fought it when it came up for debate Thursday.

After hours of delaying tactics by angry Republicans, Speaker Seth Hammett, D-Andalusia, said there was no point trying to pass the bill that day, and House members adjourned.

It takes a three-fifths vote in the House to end delaying tactics, and Hammett said bill supporters didn't have enough votes. He publicly urged Riley to ask Republican House members to drop their tactics.

"He needs to get directly involved in this," Hammett said. "He agreed to the bill. He negotiated the bill with Dr. Kennedy as sponsor."

Ward predicted most Republicans would keep fighting the bill.

Rep. Ken Guin, D-Carbon Hill, majority leader of the 63 House Democrats, said he thinks there's a chance the bill could gain enough votes to pass the House if some of the more-contested sections were changed.

Kennedy said black House members were reviewing those options.

But Rogers said, "The bill is weak enough already. If you weaken it any more, you may as well not have a bill."

People lose the right to vote when convicted of a felony. Now, they can regain their voting rights only if pardoned by the parole board. The board has a waiting list of 3,000 people who have completed their sentences and hope to win a pardon.

The latest felons' voting bill would not apply to anyone convicted of a crime defined as violent if the crime involved physical injury to anyone.

September 19, 2003

Conan the Reformer

The San Diego Union-Tribune > News > Politics >reports,

Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger unveiled a plan yesterday that aims to clean up government by banning fund raising during budget deliberations and taking redistricting away from the Legislature.

Schwarzenegger, who began his campaign for governor promising to reform politics, said his proposals are aimed at restoring public confidence.

"For democracy to be strong, we must bring trust back to government," the actor said at a news conference yesterday.

A campaign finance expert, Jim Knox of California Common Cause, endorsed some of the proposals. But he said Schwarzenegger appears to favor corporate interests because he calls unions and Indian tribes "special interests," but excludes businesses.

"It undermines his credibility as a political reformer," Knox said. "It certainly implies that he's not for reforms that apply equally."

Schwarzenegger said he was in favor of banning fund-raising while the budget is under negotiation, a process that normally stretches from January through July. Some reform advocates, however, say the period with more potential corruption is the end of the legislative session, when the fate of hundreds of bills is uncertain. Lawmakers hold dozens of fund-raisers during that time.

Schwarzenegger also endorsed a constitutional amendment that would enhance California's open-meeting laws and prohibit the long-standing practice of "gut and amend," which allows bills to be completely rewritten and passed without public hearing or comment.

Knox of Common Cause said Schwarzenegger "had some good ideas, but they don't go far enough" because the Republican rejects public financing of campaigns.

Schwarzenegger's best idea, Knox said, was a redistricting process that would have required appellate court justices to redraw legislative districts every 10 years, making them competitive.

With lawmakers determining the lines, districts are carved out to protect incumbents, both Democrats and Republicans.

In contrast to Schwarzenegger, Bustamante endorsed public financing but said he didn't think voters would support it.

Texas Senate committee passes re-redistricting bill

The San Antonio Express reports,

On a strict party line vote, a Senate committee today sent a redistricting bill aimed at giving Republicans control of the state's congressional delegation to the full Senate for debate.

The panel's Democrats, outvoted 4-3 by Republicans, said they will fight the proposed map when it reaches the Senate floor on Tuesday.

But Democrats expect to lose. Republicans hold a 19-12 Senate majority.

It may take a conference committee to reconcile differences between the Senate bill and an already-passed House version, but assuming a bill is signed into law by Gov. Rick Perry, it almost certainly faces a federal court challenge.

But a major dispute remains over whether Midland will anchor a West Texas district, pitting House Speaker Tom Craddick, R-Midland, against Sen. Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock.

Duncan was adamant in his dispute with Craddick.

"He's got to decide, are we going to have redistricting or are we going to have Midland?" Duncan said. "Is this about Texas, or is this about Midland?"

The DallasMorning News reported yesterday that the Senate placed the Democratic Senators on probation:

Senate Republicans on Thursday put their Democratic colleagues on "probation" for boycotting a special session last month, infuriating the Democrats and deepening partisan divisions in the chamber.

While Republicans lifted the fines and penalties that had been imposed on the runaway Democrats, their decision to place the 11 senators on probationary status until January 2005 provoked outrage from most of the Democrats, who vowed to respond in due time.

The Senate resolution setting aside the fines and putting the Democrats on probation was approved on a 13-10 vote. While on probation, any Democrat absent for more than 72 hours without being excused would be slapped with the fines and penalties.

Felon voting bill ties up the Alabama legislature

I was hasty in my cynicism about Gov. Riley's (R.-Ala.) keeping his apparent promise to the Black Caucus to back a milder form of re-enfranchisement of ex-felons. According to the Birmingham News, Riley is backing Rep. Yvonne Kennedy's revised bill:

But [Speaker of the House Seth] Hammett said House members were deeply split over a bill on felons' voting rights and the parole board. The logjam on that bill blocked debate on the General Fund and operating budget for state agencies.

Next year's operating budget would spend $1.205 billion from the General Fund, a drop of $66.8 million, or 5.25 percent, from this year.

Hammett scheduled debate on the parole board ahead of the operating budget because it would affect the budget. The bill, which Riley supports, would expand the parole board from three to seven members. Riley hopes that would let the board release an extra 5,000 non-violent inmates on parole next year to ease prison crowding.

Hammett said failure to expand the board would make the prison crowding problem unsolvable with the money Alabama has.

Without early releases, Hammett said he thinks a court would take over operation of state prisons in the coming year.

"It's much better for us to select people to release, I think, than for us to have a state or federal judge to make that decision," Hammett said.

But many of the 42 House Republicans blocked a vote on Riley's parole board bill because it also would make it easier for many felons to regain the right to vote, a position favored by most of the 27 black House members.

Riley in June killed a felons' voting bill, angering many black lawmakers. The governor now supports a similar bill that is merged with his plan to expand the parole board.

"This is an overall reform of the pardons and paroles process," said David Azbell, Riley's press secretary.

But House Republicans said the current bill is worse than the one Riley killed in June. That bill would have required inmates to finish all of their sentences before regaining the right to vote.

The current one could apply to a felon who had been on parole for at least three years without a parole violation, but who still had years of parole left to serve. It also could apply to a felon convicted of robbery, stalking and other crimes as long as the crime involved no physical injury.

Rep. Jay Love, R-Montgomery, said the bill could help regain the right to vote for someone who held a pistol in a victim's face during a robbery but didn't pull the trigger. "I think that's wrong," he said.

Hammett asked the bill's sponsor, Rep. Yvonne Kennedy, D-Mobile, to consider rewriting it to answer those objections.

Hammett also asked Riley to call House Republicans and ask them to stop delaying tactics on the bill.

Azbell said, "The governor and his legislative team are going to be working with both sides to put together a bill that brings us into compliance with federal court orders related to our prison population and at the same time serves the best interests of the people of Alabama."

September 18, 2003

GOP suit against NC legislative districts

The Charlotte Observer reports,

North Carolina's courts should not try to oversee the process of redrawing legislative districts, but await a new plan before again wading into the issue, a state lawyer said Wednesday.

In a sometimes testy court hearing, Chief Deputy Attorney General Eddie Speas urged Superior Court Judge Knox Jenkins to dismiss an amended complaint filed by a group of Republican legislators.

The complaint asks Jenkins to force the legislature to quickly pass new House and Senate district maps or take over the mapmaking process again.

Jenkins did not rule Wednesday, indicating he would decide before Tuesday whether the issue is properly before him. If he allows the amended complaint to go forward, the judge would hold another hearing to consider its merits.

Speas said the state Supreme Court had already ruled on the redistricting issues filed by the plaintiffs, and it is now up to legislators to pass a plan that meets the criteria set out in those rulings.

If anyone has any of the pleadings in this case, please email or fax them to me.

Albany County redistricting approved

The Albany Times Union reports,

A federal judge has accepted Albany County's revised legislative district map, which adds a fourth district likely to provide minority residents with the voting strength to elect candidates of their choice. But U.S. Magistrate David R. Homer did not set a date for a primary election to make up for the postponed balloting on Sept. 9, raising doubts that elections for the County Legislature's 39 seats can take place in November.

In approving the county's redistricting plan, Homer rejected arguments by African-American community leaders who sued the county and said the plan fractured minority neighborhoods and was flawed in other ways.

Homer stated that in a county with 39 districts for its legislature, "it is inevitable that a plan would include boundaries which divide certain areas which would otherwise be unified and join other areas with little in common in order to satisfy the constitutional mandate of one person, one vote."

The judge said the instances in which the county's plan divides established neighborhoods or awkwardly joins dissimilar communities "are neither so numerous nor so egregious" that they violate the federal Voting Rights Act.

Where's the GOP's map?

I'm travelling and don't have a lot of time to blog, so go to Political State Report: straight from the trenches for the latest on the GOP bickering in Texas over the redistricting map. The Dems are lovin' it.

Democrats get a blog

The latest to jump on the blog wagon is the Democratic National Committee with the great title DNC: Kicking Ass.

Honolulu campaign probe

The Honolulu Advertiser reports,

In an unusual legal maneuver, a prominent Honolulu attorney yesterday became the first person to plead guilty to steering illegal campaign contributions to Mayor Jeremy Harris since a wide-ranging investigation began nearly two years ago.

Edward Y.C. Chun, 71, denied in court papers that he had intentionally advised the Food Pantry grocery chain to violate the law by donating $5,000 to Harris under the names of two employees.

But he admitted his failure to carefully check whether the contribution was legal and could be construed as "reckless conduct" and grounds for conviction.

Chun pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor charge of exceeding the state's $4,000-per-donor campaign donation limit in exchange for prosecutors dropping a second charge of making donations under a false name.

But as a condition of the plea, Circuit Court Judge Steven Alm also granted Chun the right to appeal an earlier ruling denying Chun's request that Alm remove himself from the case after indicating he would sentence Chun to prison.

September 17, 2003

Legislative privilege in Arizona

Yesterday, the Arizona Court of Appeals issued a decision ion discoverable information n a redistricting case. The plaintiffs sought documents exchanged between the Independent Redistricting Commission and its consultants and expert witnesses. The IRC raised legislative, deliberative process, attorney-client, and work-product privileges. The Court held that the legislative privilege applies to consultants, but "by designating consulting experts as testifying experts, the IRC waived the legislative privilege attaching to communications with those experts, or any materials reviewed by them, that relate to the subject of the experts' testimony."

Disclosure: I represent another set of plaintiffs in the case.

"Fool me once ..."

The Birmingham News reports this morning,

Gov. Bob Riley, who let die a bill to automatically give ex-felons their voting rights back, is now in negotiations on legislation to streamline the existing rights restoration process, his spokesman said.

However, some black lawmakers, who felt Riley "tricked" them by not signing the earlier bill, threatened Tuesday to stall the special session if it doesn't pass.

"We're going to force that bill out of here one way or the other," said Rep. John Rogers, D-Birmingham. "We're not going to budge. If we don't get a budget that's fine. We're willing to shut state government down."

Alabama's Legislature is meeting in special session to adopt a budget for FY 2004, which begins on 1 October. Thus the threat to shut the government down is real.

September 16, 2003

Alabama bill on ex-felon voting

Earlier this year, the Legislature passed and the Governor vetoed a bill to make the re-enfranchisement of ex-felons automatic. Now the Governor has come up with his own proposal: appoint more members to the Board of Pardons and Paroles, allow the Board to sit in 3-member panels. There is no change in the substantive standard to be used by the Board. Here is the bill.

What, don't you think that's a big improvement? How cynical you are.

September 15, 2003

Birmingham News editorial on (state) campaign finance

The Birmingham News editorializes today with these suggestions, among others, for more accountablity in state government:

End transfers between political action committees. Alabama has strong laws about reporting campaign contributions and spending. The problem is that PACs can transfer money between themselves over and over again, with no limits, meaning contributions are thoroughly laundered before getting to a candidate. Voters deserve to know which special interests own which lawmakers. Ending PAC-to-PAC transfers will help voters know that.

Lobbyists must be prohibited from giving anything of value to lawmakers. Currently, a lobbyist can spend up to $249.99 a day on lawmakers for entertainment, meals and drinks, and never have to report the spending to the public. Lawmakers are paid a fair wage for their public service, and they receive daily expenses for meals and hotels while they're in Montgomery.

Groups such as the Christian Coalition of Alabama that ask for donations to oppose initiatives like tax reform must be compelled to release their donors. Who, exactly, pays the Christian Coalition's bills? Voters deserve to know.

Texas 3rd Special Session Begins

For good stories on the beginning of the third special session in Texas, check out the posts in Political State Report here, here, and here.

9th Circuit overturns Washington's blanket primary

The Ninth Circuit issued this opinion today holding unconstitutional the Washington State "blanket primary." A blanket primary is a primary in which the voters may choose among all candidates on the ballot, not just the persons seeking the nomination of one party. To be "nominated" by the primary, a candidate must receive a plurality of the votes cast for the candidates of that party and at least 1% of the total vote for all the candidate for that office.

Thanks to Howard Bashman for the link.

9th Circuit Enjoins Recall Election

The Ninth Circuit issued this 65-page opinion today enjoining the State of California from proceeding with the recall election until the punch card machines are replaced in several counties. For more information, see Rick Hasen's Election Law blog.

September 14, 2003

Albany county, NY, redistricting suit

The Albany Times Union has an article about the hearing in federal court earlier in the week in the suit against the Albany County Legislature. The author points out the Legislature skewed the districts to preserve the City of Albany's political power despite its declining population.

After all, the first law of political physics reads that a politician in office will tend to remain in office unless acted upon by an exterior force, namely the voters or the grim reaper. Or in this case, a federal judge.

No, it's about just how far they'll go to stay in power. In a three-day hearing last week before Homer, the county defended its latest version of a redistricting plan, while a team of lawyers representing the NAACP and Arbor Hill Concerned Citizens ripped it up.

During the course of testimony on creating a new map for 39 legislative districts, county consultant Philip Chonigman acknowledged he was "requested," although he couldn't remember by whom, to keep the same number of seats in the city -- 14. That would mean essentially preserving the same number of districts in the suburbs, regardless of the enormous shift in demographics within the county.

Chonigman did that. It's perfectly legal. Totally unfair, but legal.

Should 2nd home owners vote in Vail?

The Vail Daily has an article beginning this way:

More than two-thirds of people who own homes in Vail can't vote in local elections. These "second-home owners" can't even vote on a proposal to increase their property taxes.

It's an old debate that received new fuel after a recent regional study that showed about 70 percent of homes in Vail are owned by residents who live a significant part of their lives somewhere else in the world.

"I think the really big misconception is that second-home owners and local homeowners are on a different page; (but) we're not," says Alan Kosloff, president of the Vail Village Homeowners Association. "We're on the same page; we're here for many of the same reasons."

Kosloff says other resort towns have figured out how to give their second-home owners limited voting powers. He says Vail should follow suit.

"Practising to be roadkill"

NPR's Wade Goodwyn had a report on Weekend Edition Sunday in which he described the Democrats as "practising to be roadkill."* Are things really that bad? I don't think so. The San Antonio Express has a story today about the upcoming session, including the following about the problems on the GOP side:

The Texas congressional delegation now has 17 Democrats and 15 Republicans. Republicans want redistricting to bolster their majority in the U.S. House and say they deserve from four to six new seats in Texas.

But senators from rural areas — Republicans included — don't like the redistricting maps that emerged during previous sessions. The effort also was stalled by Democrats pulling the plug through parliamentary maneuvering or mass desertions.

Rural senators particularly dislike the maps that have passed the House twice previously. But those maps are expected to be the basis of what the House approves in the upcoming session.

Republican senators such as Bill Ratliff of Mount Pleasant and Kip Averitt of Waco say the House maps would slice and dice their districts and say they won't vote for any such plan. Neither will Sen. Ken Armbrister of Victoria, the only Democrat who didn't flee to Albuquerque.

They are just as unhappy with maps that have circulated in the Senate in recent weeks. But the major Republican fracture is over the anchor city of a West Texas district, with powerful interests on both sides digging in and showing no sign of compromise.

But it's the GOP that's defining the battle. The debate over West Texas — losing population but still important politically because of its oil and agribusiness economy — pits House Speaker Tom Craddick of Midland against Sen. Robert Duncan of Lubbock, both Republicans.

Craddick wants someone from his hometown in Congress and is said to want that person to represent the oil patch's interests. Duncan wants someone from the agriculture sector, and he wants his hometown to remain the district's anchor.

Currently, the area is represented by U.S. Reps. Randy Neugebauer, R-Lubbock, and Charlie Stenholm of Abilene, whose clout as ranking Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee pleases his constituents — most of them Republicans — who re-elected him in 2002.

Duncan's and Craddick's very public positions make it "nearly impossible to work out a solution that doesn't require one of them to back down and lose face back home," wrote Ross Ramsey, editor of the Texas Weekly political newsletter.

Duncan heads the committee that Dewhurst charged with drawing up the Senate's redistricting bill. Among its members is Sen. Todd Staples of Palestine, the Republican Caucus chairman.

For months, Staples has been trying to draw a map acceptable to a Senate majority. He has said he'll vote with Duncan on a map, which means that whatever it looks like, it likely will keep Lubbock the anchor of a congressional district.

And just as likely, that won't be acceptable to the House, which Craddick heads. That might place Dewhurst in the awkward position of having to broker a compromise or choose between the wishes of his own committee chairman or Craddick.

The House and Senate versions would then go to a committee of five senators and five House members to iron out differences. Whether they could succeed, given their leaders' differences, is an open question.

Among the bills Gov. Perry has included in the "call" for the special session is one to change
the date of the primary.

Seeking to head off stall tactics by Democrats who oppose congressional redistricting, Gov. Rick Perry has given legislators the option of delaying the spring primary in Texas.

But moving the primary could have another potential benefit for the GOP – discouraging attacks on President Bush in his home state.

Concerned that delays might extend beyond the January filing deadline to get a spot on the March primary, the governor – who sets the special session agenda – has allowed for a bill to change the primary date.

Some Republicans in the Legislature are considering dividing the election – the presidential contest remaining in March and the congressional elections later – or moving the entire set of primaries to the summer.

*Because of computer sound problems, I could not review the clip to get the exact wording.

Arizona redistricting cases may be tried in November

AP reports,

The political and legal hot potato of redistricting has been tossed back to state court, leaving uncertain where things will stand when voters cast ballots next year. At stake are maps of new congressional and legislative districts that have Republicans sitting pretty and Democrats complaining that they weren't given a fair shot.

A federal judge recently ruled that Democrats' challenges to the new maps, which were approved by a state commission for use the rest of the decade, must be heard in state court after all.

The challenges were initially filed in state court and scheduled to go on trial in Maricopa County Superior Court in July, but the commission had the cases moved to federal court, arguing that a May 15 filing by some challengers raised issues of federal law for the first time.

However, U.S. District Judge Rosyln Silver now has sent the challenges back to state court. The challenges must be decided there because they center on the state constitutional issue of whether the new districts feature enough competition between major political parties, Silver said.

Disclosure: I represent the plaintiffs in the Congressional case.

Render unto Caesar ...

In middle on an AP article, Online Shopping Lures Christian Coalition (about the Coalition's proposed sale of coupons to use in shopping) is this advice:

Ken Gross, an attorney specializing in tax-exempt groups, said a nonprofit must be careful when looking to business to raise money to avoid putting at risk its tax-exempt status. If it's active in federal elections, it also might run afoul of a ban on the use of corporate money for partisan political activity, he said.

"Most of these organizations have different buckets. They have charitable buckets and advocacy buckets and political buckets" for the money they raise, Gross said. "They often allocate funds in a way that makes it permissible."

The Christian Coalition is registered with the Internal Revenue Service as a tax-exempt social welfare organization. It uses its money for a variety of activities, including widely distributed election-year voter guides describing how members of Congress voted on issues the group has taken positions on.

Combs' SharingCertificates e-mail says the typical family using the program commits to $200 to $300 in purchases each month. They can use the certificates at various mall-type stores, such as Banana Republic, Bath & Body Works and KB Toys, at hotels and restaurants and for services such as Merry Maids and the home services company Rescue Rooter.

The coalition has long been a powerful player in Republican politics. It spent at least $1 million lobbying this year on several issues, including pushing for bans on late-term abortion and human cloning, seeking a crackdown on child pornography and promoting education measures such as legislation on home schooling.

Court will not rehear case on release of FEC documents

AP reported Friday,

An appeals court has refused to reconsider its ruling barring the release of documents from a federal investigation into campaign coordination between the AFL-CIO and the Democratic Party.

The Federal Election Commission had asked the full federal appeals court in Washington to reconsider a June decision by a three-judge panel of the court prohibiting the record release.

The full court unanimously denied the request, without comment. The court made its decision Sept. 5, but some of those involved in the case, including the commission, didn't receive word of the ruling from the court until Friday.

Siding with the AFL-CIO and the Democratic National Committee, the three-judge panel upheld a lower court decision and ruled in June that letting the FEC release the records to the public would infringe on the free-speech rights of the union and the party.

It said the commission could change its disclosure policy to continue releasing some documents from its investigations without infringing on First Amendment rights.

The commission now must decide whether to pursue an appeal to the Supreme Court, or to write new rules on the disclosure of documents, Commission Chairwoman Ellen Weintraub said Friday.

September 13, 2003

Felon voting rights in Alabama

The Mobile Register reported yesterday (in an article reporting cost-cutting measures the State may adopt in reaction to the defeat of a referendum to reform the tax structure in Alabama and raise more revenue),

The governor said his proposed Pardons and Paroles [Board] legislation would include provisions to expedite the restoration of voting rights to felons who have completed their sentences or have otherwise been released and paid restitution. Riley vetoed a freestanding voter restoration bill earlier this year, angering many black Democrats who strongly supported the bill. Some observers have that decision may have hurt Riley's tax reform efforts.

The Birmingham News reported today (in the print edition only) that the governor's spokesman David Azbell said the details of the bill would be revealed on Monday when the special session of the Legislature convenes.

September 12, 2003

Elections and NFL training camp

Former Denver Bronco Reggie Rivers and a regular columnist for the Denver Post writes,

If you're having trouble understanding the current redistricting fight in Colorado, try thinking about it in terms of a football team.

As a rule, politicians hate elections the way pro football players hate training camp.

Both election season and training camp are arduous proving grounds during which you could suffer a physical or political injury; the talent of your competitors could expose weaknesses that get exploited later; or you could lose your job.

Ideally, politicians want to be like football stars who don't have to compete for their jobs every election season. They want guaranteed contracts, assurances that they'll be starters, and they want elections to be reduced to mere formalities they have to endure to get to the "regular season."

They can achieve this status through merit (that's the hard way) or they can use their power while in office to frame election rules or procedures so they're virtually guaranteed to get re-elected (that's the easy way).

How much for Colorado redistricting?

How much is the Colorado redistricting case costing? I'm not sure if these two articles are talking about the same thing, but the Rocky Mountain News says at least $250,000 and the Denver Post says $300,000.

Texas 10 lose another one

No, they didn't lose another member, but their case in federal court. How Appealing has the docket entry and a link to the text of the decision. The only news story I can find is this AP story.

The court found that the case is premature: "It is undisputed that any new redistricting bill would have a direct relation to voting. According, it would have to be precleared under the [Voting Rights] Act and would thereafter be subject to judicial challenge. However, that time has not yet come."

Update: Findlaw has the decision here.

The Houston Chronicle has these reactions from the players:

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said Friday it will be up to the Republican senators to decide whether to rescind the fines. He said it is time for the Democrats to return to the Senate for their fight.

"I'm pleased the federal court ruled today that the Senate Democrats' legal claims were meritless, and it appears obvious to me they were just stalling for time," Dewhurst said.

Dewhurst said he has no intention of reinstating a Senate procedure that allows a third of the senators to block debate when it comes to redistricting, changing the primary dates or any legislation that was approved by the Senate during the first special session.

While a resolution adopting the fines said the Senators would be barred from the floor, Dewhurst aide Mark Miner said that part of the resolution expired when the second special session ended but the fines and other sanctions remain in place.

U.S. Rep. Martin Frost,D-Dallas, leader of the Democratic congressional delegation, said he believes any plan passed by the Legislature will violate minority voting rights and will not withstand court scrutiny.

Republican redistricting proposals would likely give the GOP a gain of four to seven seats. Republicans argue that is only fair since the GOP holds every statewide office and a majority of the Legislature but only 15 of 32 congressional seats.

"It is clear that any of the proposed Republican maps will face intense legal scrutiny and likely be overturned in federal court later this year," Frost said.

"This is not the battle of the Alamo. This decision is merely the buildup to the battle of San Jacinto, which we will win later this year."

Any redistricting plan passed by the Legislature will face reviews by the U.S. Justice Department and the federal courts for changes that might adversely affect minority voters.

The Democrats also are hoping a U.S. Supreme Court review of partisan gerrymandering in Pennsylvania will result in an opinion that would negate the Republican efforts in Texas.

The Texas House Democratic Caucus and U.S. Reps. Shelia Jackson Lee and Chris Bell of Houston, Martin Frost of Dallas and Nick Lampson of Beaumont have joined their Pennsylvania colleagues in a friend-of-the-court brief arguing in favor of judicial limitations.

J. Gerald Hebert, a lawyer representing the Texas Democrats, said a Supreme Court ruling cracking down on partisan gerrymandering would give the Democrats an opportunity to challenge elections next year if they are held under a new map.

"The Republicans in Texas have made it known that their primary goal here is to replace sitting Democrats with Republicans," Hebert said. "When you have that kind of dominant motive at work, the Supreme Court's decision could have a definite impact on what happens in Texas."

Hebert noted that a three-judge federal court vacated Texas primaries in 13 Houston and Dallas congressional districts in a 1996 redistricting case.

John P. Krill Jr., a lawyer representing the Pennsylvania Senate Republican leader and the Speaker of the House before the Supreme Court, said the Texas Democrats' hopes are not outside the realm of possibility.

"Anytime the U.S. Supreme Court takes a case, they intend to make law," Krill said.

Krill said both he and lawyers representing the Pennsylvania Democrats are at a loss as to what direction the court intends to go. Oral arguments are tentatively set for January.

Under current law as established by a divided Supreme Court in 1986, partisan gerrymandering is legal except when its effects are so devastating as to affect a voters' equal rights. The standard is so loose that it has not stopped partisan gerrymandering.

However, in that same case, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and Chief Justice William Rehnquist said the courts had no business reviewing partisan gerrymandering cases. They argued those were political positions not suited for the courts.

So redistricting lawyers across the country were stunned in June when the court agreed to hear the Pennsylvania case.

Note that the argument in Laredo on Wednesday was done by Paul Smith -- one of the same lawyers who represents the Pennsylvania Democrats.

The Dallas Morning News reports,

“We have no other choice” but to prepare for passage of a map, said Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, chief legal strategist among the senators. “And, once that occurs, we will be back before the Department of Justice, and if necessary, before the court.”

Although Democrats will still lack the votes to pass or kill a new map during the session that begins Monday, they won’t be without leverage: privately, they acknowledged that they can horse-trade with Republican factions that need votes to prevail in an intraparty disagreement over how to redraw West Texas districts.

The Democratic suit centered on the theory that Mr. Dewhurst’s actions represented a change in voting procedures that potentially affected minority voting power, and thus required approval of the federal Justice Department.

That Justice Department recently ruled that no such review was required. Democratic lawyers deemed that decision political and asked the court to overrule it. Mr. West said that the denial of that lawsuit and the defection of Mr. Whitmire haven’t ended the fight.

“This is one of the valleys,” he said. “You can be sure we will be up again.”

Mr. Dewhurst’s spokesman, David Beckwith, framed the Democratic resistance in less noble terms:

“This was a huge waste of taxpayer money,” he said. “You can expect further dilatory tactics from the Democrats before this is over.”

A later AP story quotes Democrats as saying that they will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

September 11, 2003

Is the candidate responsible for the treasurer's actions?

Abstract Appeal by Matt Conigliaro has this item:

Hey, Legislature! Election law fans will enjoy reading this decision yesterday in State Senator Alex Diaz de la Portilla's appeal of $311,000 in fines imposed on him by the Florida Elections Commission in connection with his 1999 senate campaign. The Third District held that a candidate cannot be vicariously responsible for a campaign treasurer's reckless conduct, at least not where the candidate shouldn't actually know of a discrepancy in the treasurer's reports. The court found, however, that candidates can be personally responsible for approving some items, such as ads, that don't meet election law requirements. The court ultimately called on the Legislature to revisit and clarify the law regarding a candidate's certification of campaign reports.

Matt has lots of links in that paragraph, so surf on over to Abstract Appeal.

9th Circuit hears punch card case

AP reports,

In a case reminiscent of the Bush vs. Gore legal battle over ballot counting in 2000, a three-judge federal appeals court panel questioned Thursday whether California's recall election should go forward even though six counties still use the flawed punch-card voting system. Lawyers for civil rights groups that want to stop the Oct. 7 election argued during a hearing that a statistical study showed 40,000 poor and minority voters might have their ballots excluded and be disenfranchised if punch-card ballots are used.

U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Harry Pregerson noted that the California secretary of state had found the punch-card system unacceptable because of errors.

"So we have to accept the unacceptable, is that what you're saying?" Pregerson asked lawyers representing the state.

Rick Hasen has this report from the argument. (It's always good to hear from someone who actually understands what is going on.)

Texas 10 in federal court

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports,

With a third special legislative session on redistricting scheduled to begin Monday, a panel of three federal judges promised to resolve as early as Friday questions about the legality of the state Republican Party leadership's push for a new congressional district map that would increase GOP power in Washington.

During a two-hour hearing Thursday on a lawsuit alleging violations of the Voting Rights Act by state Republican leaders, the panel _ composed of two Republicans and a Democrat _ appeared unimpressed by Democratic arguments that the act applies to the entire legislative process and skeptical that courts should intervene before an actual map has been passed.

"I'm trying to understand why that doesn't raise constitutional issues," said presiding judge Patrick Higginbotham, a Republican U.S. Circuit judge in Dallas.

And I am trying to understand what Judge Higginbotham meant -- or why the writer and/or editor thought this quote out of context followed logically from a paragraph saying the court was "unimpressed." Perhaps a lawyer who was at the hearing can tell me what really happened.

AP has a slightly different story. And the Dallas Morning News also offers a pessimistic outlook for the Dems:

A panel of federal judges offered Democratic senators little hope Thursday they will order a halt to the redistricting train set to roll next week.

The three judges questioned the need for them to wade into the Texas fight, as requested in the Democrats' lawsuit alleging that the GOP redistricting effort violates the federal Voting Rights Act.

"What concerns me is the freezing of a dynamic legislative process," said 5th Circuit Judge Patrick Higginbotham of Dallas. "The Legislature is a complicated, interactive force ... with chairmanships, blocker bills, killing each others' bills, getting in fights."

Higginbotham seems to understand the stuff they don't teach in civics class in high school, "How a bill becomes law." A real flowchart of legislation resembles a combination of a plate of spaghetti and a map of rivers in the Southwest where some of them go underground for a ways.

Meanwhile, back in Austin, the Austin Chronicle asks, "Whither After Whitmire?" and has a short piece that begins,

State Rep. Joe Crabb, R-Atascocita, who as chair of the House Redistricting Committee has distinguished himself by equal parts ineffectiveness and irascibility, continues to demonstrate his limitations as a public servant.

And it gets better, or worse (depending on your point of view), from there.

Kerry may go private

The Boston Globe reports,

Senator John F. Kerry said yesterday that he would break a federal spending cap, reject public financing for the presidential primaries, and possibly use his personal funds if Howard Dean's fund-raising strength leads the former Vermont governor to go beyond the federal spending limit.

Dean sent a letter to the government in June saying he would abide by the limit, but is now considering exceeding the cap.

"If Howard Dean decides to go live outside of it, I'm not going to wait an instant," Kerry said in an interview at his campaign headquarters. "Decision's made. I'll go outside. Absolutely. I'm not going to disarm."

September 10, 2003

Contest: when will the McConnell decision be announced?

Don't forget to make a prediction about the date the Supreme Court will decide the campaign finance case. Go to this post and click the Comment link.

You could be a winner.

Dean and the Internet, again

Eleanor Clift writes in her Newsweek column (via MSNBC),

When Dean asks his Internet followers for money, he gets an almost 50 percent response—a phenomenal return rate. Dean has tapped into a highly motivated core of voters with the capability of sustaining an insurgent candidacy. If the Internet had matured to where it is today when Gary Hart, the new-ideas candidate, challenged former vice president Walter Mondale in 1984, Mondale couldn’t have gotten the nomination, says Trippi, who worked for Mondale. Hart was stopped because he couldn’t raise money quickly enough to sustain his momentum after beating Mondale in New Hampshire. Just as the 1960 televised debate between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon signaled the dominance of television, Dean has shown the power of the Internet. Not bad for a governor who barely did e-mail and had never heard of blogging. Now he’s doing it, though his blog needs brightening up; it reads like it was written by an automaton. When one respondent accused Dean of having his stuff ghostwritten, Trippi emailed back that if it were ghostwritten, they’d do a better job.

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

Proposal for the "Family Vote" in Germany

Deutsche Welle reports,

In an attempt to pass some of the responsibility of Germany's political future to those who will have to face it, a plan to give children the vote has been proposed and supported by a number of politicians.

A controversial proposal to give children the right to vote in national elections is drawing support from a number of influential and powerful politicians in Germany. The legislation, which is slated for introduction to parliament in autumn, would place a child’s vote in the trust of parents until it is of an “able age.”

Texas Ten return

Dallas Morning News reports,

LAREDO – The holdout Democrats from Texas came home Wednesday, arriving on friendly turf to rally in advance of an expected, less-sympathetic reception in Austin next week.

"It's good to be home! Viva Laredo!" Sen. Judith Zaffirini told a hometown crowd gathered in an airplane hangar, moments after a school band and drill team heralded the returning senators with a thumping toreador march. "I can't tell you how many sacrifices the senators you see today have made."

The senators chose to make Laredo their point of entry partly because it is a Democratic stronghold and Ms. Zaffirini's hometown. But they also came to attend a federal court hearing Thursday in their suit that contends that the GOP-backed redistricting effort violates the Voting Rights Act.

And again, why is this fight important? Jean Damu answers the question in this essay linking the Texas fight with Proposition 54 in California:

Now Texas is on the verge of becoming the nation’s second non-white majority state.

Thanks to Michelle Goldberg’s excellent article, “The Texas Stalemate: It’s All About Race,” we know that the Texas state senators, holed up in a New Mexico hotel, are attempting to fight off a redistricting power grab by right wing Republicans that effectively would un-empower Black and Hispanic voters.

All of the Texas legislators hiding out in New Mexico are either Black or Hispanic, with the exception of one white.

The fugitive Texans say their protest is not a political quarrel but rather a civil rights struggle that harkens back to days of Jim Crow segregation. They say their struggle is to preserve Black and Latino political voting power that is commensurate with their numbers.

Republicans, however, are attempting to redistrict Texas, something that normally happens only once every 10 years, in a way that would dilute Black and Latino voters and separate them from their white allies. They would do this by merging mostly Black and Latino districts into overwhelmingly white districts.

In California, the Racial Privacy Initiative is not seen as a specific means by which white political power would be preserved, because it would not affect the U.S. Census Bureau nor conceivably would it affect redistricting, at this time.

Down the road, however, if Prop 54, the Racial Privacy Initiative, passes, then the colorblind movement would begin to swell, as the anti-affirmative action movement has. Eventually, the real intention of the Racial Privacy Initiative, the preservation of white supremacy, would be clear for all to see.

Query: Successful Shaw v Reno cases

Dan Lowenstein asks, "do you know of any case anywhere this decade in which a Shaw v. Reno claim has been successful?" Assuming this was not a test for me from the professor, I am passing the question on to you.

If you know of a successful Shaw claim since 2000, click on the Comment link below.

$80 per new donor

The Hill reports,

Several key House Republicans have voiced concerns over the amount of money that their fundraising arm has already spent so early in this election cycle.

The disquiet generated by the high spending levels, with the congressional elections still 14 months away, extends to executive committee members of the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC).

In particular, some Republicans are questioning more than $26 million in payments to InfoCision, a telemarketing company that has drawn criticism in recent years for its fundraising tactics and high operating costs.

September 9, 2003

Greene Co., VA, bailout suit

Greene County, Virginia, has filed this complaint seeking a "bailout" under Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act. Gerry Hebert, one of the counsel for the County, tells me that the Justice Department and the County have filed a proposed consent decree in the case. If approved, this would make the ninth local jurisdiction since 1982 to obtain bailout -- and Hebert has represented all of them.

Texas 10 come home for 3rd special session

KERA reports,

The Senate Democrats are coming home. In a statement today, the 10 remaining members of the 'Texas 11,' who fled to New Mexico six weeks ago to break the Senate quorum, said their decision to return to Texas merely acknowledges that "the battlefield has changed." ... The Democrats will leave Albuquerque Wednesday and arrive in Laredo at 4:30 p.m. On Thursday they will attend a hearing by a three-judge panel on the Democrats' lawsuit in Federal Court there.

And Gov. Perry has called the third special session, to begin on Monday, AP reports.

The list of pending redistricting cases

Here is the list of pending (or concluded in 2003) congressional or legislative redistricting cases I know about (with links to the latest posts I have about them). This does not include any litigation about re-redistricting.

Arizona, legislative and congressional, pending in state court (disclosure: I represent the plaintiffs in the congressional case)

California, legislative and congressional, recently concluded

Florida, congressional

Georgia, congressional and legislative

Maine, legislative and congressional

Maryland, congressional, concluded

Massachusetts, legislative

Mississippi, congressional, concluded

Montana, legislative, recently concluded

New Jersey, legislative, recently concluded

New York, some legislative and one congressional district

North Carolina legislative is pending in state court

Pennsylvania, congressional

Ohio -- maybe

Rhode Island, legislative -- CORRECTED LINK

To find earlier stories on any of these redistricting cases, use the Search box in the right margin of the main page.

Florida congressional redistricting case pending

Here is an email from Gerry Hebert:

Ed--there is also congressional redistricting litigation pending in the FL Supreme Court. It's a political gerrymandering claim that we had filed in the Broward County Circuit Court. Our case was thrown out initially (after 2 removals), but the FL court of appeals reversed the dismissal. The case is now pending before the FL Supreme Court which issued orders within the last week asking certain parties to file briefs on jurisdiction issues. Gerry

September 8, 2003

McConnell v FEC arguments

For the best collection of the links to stories on today's argument in McConnell v FEC, go to Howard Bashman's How Appealing. Great job, Howard. And thanks to Rick Hasen for his insightful comments on the arguments.

Texas: GOP prepares for Round 4

The Dallas Morning News reports,

With the Democrat boycott over redistricting legislation broken, Gov. Rick Perry met Monday with Republican leaders to plan another special session on the issue amid one remaining obstacle – getting agreement among the Republicans themselves.

At issue is a squabble between House and Senate Republicans over the shape of a West Texas congressional district that currently includes Midland and Lubbock.

Sen. Robert Duncan of Lubbock was to keep the district largely intact. House Speaker Tom Craddick wants new boundaries in which Midland has its own district.

"There is no deal on West Texas," Craddick spokesman Bob Richter said Monday after a meeting of the state's top three GOP officials. Mr. Craddick, Gov. Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst met for about an hour in the governor's office.

Mr. Dewhurst said only that the governor could summon the Legislature back into a third special legislative session as early as this week, but cautioned that the House and Senate still needed to break the deadlock over new congressional boundaries.

The New York Times today editorialized about the re-redistricting efforts in Colorado and Texas,

The more the G.O.P. persists in this, the more it hands the Democrats traction for their charge that Republicans are mischievously specializing — as in the California recall — in undoing normal elective processes.

Albany County, NY, redistricting

Capital News 9 reports,

The fight over Albany County redistricting is going to federal court.

Opponents on both sides of the redistricting debate are testifying at a hearing over the next few days. U.S. Magistrate David Homer will hear arguments over the county's redrawn legislative map. The map adds a fourth minority voting district, as ordered by the court.

Colorado re-redistricting arguments

The Colorado Supreme Court heard arguments today about the re-redistricting of the congressional districts by the Legislature. Here is part of's story on the argument:

Democrats objected to the latest redistricting effort and filed a lawsuit to block the map, saying it’s unconstitutional. Democrats like congressman Mark Udall believe it’s illegal, not just because it takes away from Democrats chances to win more congressional seats, but also because they say the Colorado Constitution calls for redistricting only once every 10 years, and the judge’s and Republicans’ plans came in the last two years.

“We can play games in this state or we can play fair. We've had a tradition of playing fair in Colorado at the state level and at the federal level and I really believe that's what this boils down to. Are we going to play fair or play games? In the end I think the Colorado Supreme Court will come down on the side of playing fair,” Udall said during Monday’s hearing.

Republicans made their argument. Senate President John Andrews told the justices an unelected judge should not be creating Colorado law.

“The Colorado Constitution says it's the job of the state Legislature, 100 elected senators and representatives, chosen by the voters, to draw those Congressional districts. It's not the job of the courts, of an unelected judge to draw Congressional districts,” Andrews said.

AP had this quote from the Republican litigants:

The lawyers also said judges lack the authority to require the Legislature to adopt a court-approved map that established district boundaries after the 2000 census.

"This is clearly a case about the power of the General Assembly. It is not the power of the court," attorney Richard Westfall told seven Colorado Supreme Court justices.

September 7, 2003

Donations in the Birmingham mayor's race

The Birmingham News has an article today about the contributions to the mayoral candidates -- at least those who raised at least $1,000. The dead-trees version of the paper includes several columns of small type listing the contributors to each campaign. The website does not include those lists.

Suffrage sculpture in Wyoming

The Casper Star-Tribune reports,

A Virginia sea captain's daughter was acclaimed as "the world's first woman voter under laws guaranteeing absolute political equality" as her statue was unveiled on the anniversary of her historic vote in the Wyoming Territory primary election of 1870.

"Until this day the historic deed Louisa Swain performed has been sadly neglected and very much under appreciated," State Treasurer Cynthia Lummis told a crowd assembled Saturday for dedication of the work by Laramie sculptor John D. Baker as the centerpiece of a new downtown plaza [in Laramie].

The plaza is at 313 South Second Street, a short distance north of Garfield and a block from the building where Swain voted.

"America Coming Together" site is open

For all those who have been putting up comments on my earlier posting about America Coming Together, here is the website. Here is how the organization describes itself:

America Coming Together (ACT) will conduct a massive voter contact program, mobilizing voters to defeat George W. Bush and elect progressive candidates all across America.

Actually, it will only be working in 17 "battleground states." See the AP article and the In These Times article about the group.

How to hear or read about the McCain-Feingold argument

The Supreme Court will make a tape of the argument available immediately after the argument ends. C-SPAN will begin about 3:45 ET to play to tape.

The Campaign Legal Center will post excerpts and the full audio (morning and afternoon sessions will be separate) by 10 p.m. ET Monday; by noon on Tuesday it promises

Specific highlights will be featured, identified by topic and speaker. (For example, "The Chief Justice questions Mr. Starr about the soft money provisions in Title I.") Arguments will be available arranged by speaker and topic.

Rick Hasen is in Washington and will attend the Supreme Court argument and will blog about the argument at the lunch break and after the session ends.

Howard Bashman on How Appealing asks for those attending to send him emails about the argument.

Thanks to all those who will put in so much work to make this argument available to all of us.

Colorado re-redistricting argument

Luis at Political State Report has a post about tomorrow's argument in the Colorado Supreme Court over the recent re-redistricting.

Here is the AP article on the argument.

September 6, 2003

And the winner is ...

The title of UPI's analysis article says it all: Texas remap feud may harm state.

Polls indicate the players in the bitter Texas battle over congressional redistricting may pay a heavy price in the next election, but the biggest loser may be the state itself.

When he was governor, George W. Bush used to brag about his accomplishments in Austin working side by side with Democratic legislative leaders in an era of bipartisanship. Following months of stalemate, bitterness has developed among legislators that may take years to heal.

"It is my very real fear that the Senate will not have the same collegial atmosphere that it has over my career and I don't know how long it will be before it is restored, if ever," said Sen. Bill Ratliff, a veteran Republican lawmaker from East Texas.

AP reports that Sen. Whitmire, formerly one of the Texas 11, will attend the next legislative special session, whenever that may be:

Democrat Sen. John Whitmire said Friday he will voluntarily fight congressional redistricting on the Senate floor if and when Republican Gov. Rick Perry calls a third special session.

The Houston senator who broke ranks this week with 10 boycotting colleagues in Albuquerque, N.M., would give Republicans the quorum they need to vote on the divisive issue. Perry has indicated he will call another session, but refused to point to a date again Friday.

"I urge Gov. Perry not to call another special session," said Whitmire, the longest-serving senator. "It is wasteful, it is a power grab, elections matter. We should not have redistricting just because individuals do not like the names and faces of those who won the last election."

Charles Kuffner, at Political State Report, had some speculation a couple of days ago about when that session might be:

It will not surprise me if Perry takes no action until after the September 13 election. The tort reform amendment, Proposition 12, is a huge GOP priority. I'm just speculating, but Perry may be under some heat to pay attention to other issues like that one instead of calling sessions at which nothing gets done. The Chronicle's theory about Perry not wanting to give Democrats a rallying point before this election may also have some validity. It may already be too late for a map to be agreed upon, passed, and reviewed by the Justice Department in time for 2004 primaries even if the Lege were reconvened tomorrow given that there's no consensus for one particular map within the GOP yet. Even with all that, the first thing that'll happen after a map passes will be a court challenge. Given all that, Perry may as well wait and try to hammer out an agreement among the differing factions (such as Sen. Robert Duncan, who wants to keep Rep. Charlie Stenolm's district intact, and House Speaker Tom Craddick, who wants a new district that includes his hometown of Midland) before having another go at it.

That all assumes a certain amount of leadership and patience on Gov. Perry's part, two qualities he's not exactly flaunted lately. So as usual, take my guesses with the standard measure of salt. We'll know when we know.

Rocky Mountain High

If you are in Denver this coming Monday, here's the place to be:

For one night only, Fat Tire beer will become Redistricting Unity Beer at a benefit for Texas House Democrats.

• When: Monday, 5:30 p.m.

• Where: Law offices of Ballard Spahr Andrews & Ingersoll, 1225 17th St., Denver

Cource: Rocky Mountain News: Local

The big picture about Texas

BeldarBlog: Beldar asks a question:

Friday's Fort Worth Star-Telegram has this quote from US Representative Martin Frost (D-Texas), one of Leticia's children:
"This is a national issue," said Frost, who saluted the Texas senators for their stand. "The Republicans are trying to overturn the results of the elections two years ago. This cannot be permitted to happen."

I assume he means the elections of 2002, since there were neither statewide nor national elections two years ago in 2001. I assume he's not talking about the California recall election either, even if he thinks that it and the ongoing Texas redistricting fight are part of some sinister master plan.

Please: Would someone who's left-of-center — or at least very familiar with their arguments — leave a comment to identify for me (a) what "elections" Frost is referring to, and (b) in what sense the Republicans are attempting to "overturn" their results?

Here's my best effort. Frost's "elections" is referring to the 2002 congressional elections in Texas. Most members of Congress (and many other political operatives) think in two-year cycles. Since we are now in the 2004 cycle, the last election must have been two years ago.

The Republicans are seeking to "overturn" the elections by redrawing several congressional districts where the voters split their tickets and vote for Republican candidates most of the time, but continue to re-elect Democratic representatives.

One of the pithy little sayings about redistricting is that it is an opportunity for representatives to choose their voters. This applies to a body redistricting itself, but in this case it refers to the Republican Party -- from Karl Rove and Tom DeLay to Rick Perry and David Dewhurst and the Republicans in the Legislature -- to rejigger the election results till they get the "right" result.

I will admit that most redistricting has the goal of determining in advance the composition of the body to-be-elected. But usually we restrict ourselves to once a decade.

September 5, 2003

Soft money makes hard cases

In case you had not heard, the US Supreme Court will hold a late and long session on Monday to hear McConnell v. FEC. Late because this is still the October 2002 Term which usually ends in June and long because argument will be 4 hours. Here are major stories previewing the argument:

New York Times, Fund-Raising Law Goes Before Supreme Court

Scripps-Howard News Service, High court set to hear arguments over campaign finance law

And in Canada, the CBC reports that the Supreme Court of Canada will hear a government appeal of a decision striking down a law "putting limits on spending by special interest groups during federal election campaigns."

Vieth briefs in Supreme Court

Jenner & Block has posted the briefs filed so far in Vieth v. Julelirer. In case you forgot, this is the case that attacks the partisan gerrymander of Pennsylvania's congressional districts. This is the first time the Supreme Court has agreed to hear a partisan gerrymandering case since Davis v. Bandermer 17 years ago.

Clean Elections in Arizona under attack

The Arizona Republic reports,

A group calling itself "No Taxpayer Money for Politicians" took the first step Tuesday toward ending Arizona's popular but controversial system of publicly funding politicians' campaigns.

The group filed an initiative for the 2004 ballot that would amend the Arizona Constitution and ban the use of Clean Elections money to pay for political races.

Instead, millions of such taxpayer dollars now used for the races would be diverted to things such as public education and health care for seniors.

In 2002, the Clean Elections system distributed $13 million in public money to hundreds of statewide and legislative candidates.

Notice that Rep. Jeff Flake and his Stop Taxpayer Money for Politicians Committee are not mentioned in this article. Flake received an Advisory Opinion from the FEC that the STMP committee must follow the BCRA limits on fundraising because of his involvement in setting it up. It looks like another group is going to the main player now, but we can expect Flake to be involved in the campaign somehow.

Flood the Zone Friday

Today's topic is Civil Liberties, particularly the PATRIOT Act! This may be old news but there are a bevy of new, bipartisan amendments floating around Congress that could substantially weaken the objectionable parts of the act. So lets get to it.
Go to Not Geniuses: Flood the Zone Friday: America the Free? for talking points on what you can do to Flood the Zone.

September 4, 2003

Georgia's AG can keep representing the state

Howard Bashman's How Appealing has this note:

The U.S. Supreme Court can now breathe a sigh of relief: Today the Supreme Court of Georgia finally ruled that the Attorney General of Georgia was authorized to pursue in the Supreme Court of the United States the voting rights case known as Georgia v. Ashcroft even after the Governor of Georgia had ordered the Attorney General of Georgia to dismiss the case. You can access today's ruling at this link. The U.S. Supreme Court announced its decision in Georgia v. Ashcroft back on June 26, 2003.

Despite Howard's dismissive tone, this case does have an impact on the continuing Georgia v. Ashcroft litigation. The case was remanded to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. If Gov. Perdue had won in the Georgia Supreme Court, he could have instructed Attorney General Baker to dismiss the case in the District Court. See pp 5-6 of the opinion.

The ultimate goal of the litigation -- the preclearance of the Legislature's preferred plan of redistricting -- still has not been attained. Thus, Baker's continued prosecution of the case is important.

(By the way, Howard has more links in his post than I pasted into the quote above.)

September 3, 2003

North Carolina redistricting

Here's another state I forgot about. AP reports:

A group of Republican state legislators has filed an amended complaint to try to force the General Assembly to pass a new redistricting plan before Nov. 2. The latest legal action filed over legislative redistricting asks Superior Court Judge Knox Jenkins to require lawmakers to quickly enact a new plan or once again take over the redistricting process. Jenkins is the Johnston County Superior Court judge who ruled two different sets of state House and Senate maps drawn by Democratic legislative leaders were unconstitutional. The state Supreme Court upheld his rulings, finding that lawmakers improperly split counties and providing a criteria for future redistricting efforts.

What will the Texas 11 or 10 do?

Last week, the Texas 11 filed this brief in opposition to the State's motion to dismiss their complaint. (I "printed" this document as received -- strange formatting and all -- from WordPerfect to PDF.)

Meanwhile, what of the Texas 10 (now that Sen. Whitmire has gone home)? The Ten say, "we are undeterred," according to the Dallas Morning News:

"We will take this fight to any arena, at any place, at any time to protect voting rights ... and our constituents," said Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, the leader of the Senate Democrats who have been in self-imposed exile since July 28 to thwart action on a congressional map. "Make no mistake about that and our resolve."

The Democrats who remained in Albuquerque said they are resigned to the likelihood that Gov. Rick Perry will call a third special session on redistricting and their Democratic colleague John Whitmire, who returned to Houston on Tuesday, will provide the Senate quorum needed to pass the GOP's map.

But some said that in such an event, they probably would rush back to Austin and try to block a bill with a filibuster.

In Washington, John Conyers is trying to open a second front for the Ten, the AP reports:

A high-ranking Democrat and his colleagues have asked the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee to hold a hearing on the potential civil rights implications of redistricting legislation Republicans are pushing in Texas.

Rep. John Conyers, ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, initiated the letter that was signed by eight other Democratic members of the committee and sent Wednesday afternoon to Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis.

Democrats said the Republican congressional redistricting efforts in Texas make matters worse for minority communities that already are "woefully underrepresented." They said in the letter that the Republican legislation would reduce minority opportunity districts, move minority voters into safe Republican districts and diminish minority voters' ability to influence elections affecting their own communities.

AP also reports on an ad campaign by

The battle over congressional redistricting in Texas is at the center of a fund-raising campaign by a Democratic-leaning online group that raised $1 million for Spanish-language radio and television ads in several key swing states., formed in the late 1990s to help oppose the impeachment of then-President Clinton, is announcing the ad campaign Thursday along with Democratic state senators from Texas fighting GOP efforts to redraw the state's congressional map.

They plan to run radio and TV ads in swing presidential states including Florida, Illinois, Missouri, Ohio, Arizona, New York, Nevada and Texas, along with the District of Columbia.

The ads will begin running within the next two weeks, accusing President Bush and other Republican leaders of trying to disenfranchise Hispanic voters, especially in the Texas redistricting fight.

More redistricting cases

Jeff Wice wrote, "there is a major case pending in New York, Rodriguez v. Pataki, challenging state senate (and one congressional) district in many parts of the state. Scheduled to go to trial sometime late this year.

I am checking, but the statewide Ohio decision may be on appeal to the US Supreme Court. Will let you know."

If anyone knows of others, please let me know.

Birmingham mayor's race

The Birmingham News reports on the campaign finance reports of several of the 16 -- yes, count'em, 16 -- candidates for mayor. The top three have raised between $105,000 (Mayor Bernard Kincaid) and $343,000 (Carole Smitherman) with Bob Jones in the middle with $248,000.

Soft Money Lives

The Hill reports,

Democrats are poised to reap the benefits of soft-money contributions next year, even though the new campaign finance law bans candidates for federal office from raising such unlimited money directly.

Republicans, who have dominated other aspects of fundraising so far in this election cycle, have seen one of their highly touted soft-money fundraising operations bog down in controversy and, as a result, unable to collect any donations.

Internal Revenue Service records show that allies of the Democratic Party have set up a significantly greater number of large soft-money funds than have comparable GOP allies. As a result, such traditional Democratic allies as unions, environmental groups and pro-abortion-rights groups have utilized soft-money entities to raise two and a half times as much money as pro-Republican groups, such as the fiscally conservative Club for Growth.

September 2, 2003

Rhode Island parties argue over Virginia dismissal

The significance of the dismissal of the Lawyers' Committee's challenge to a Virginia congressional district is being argued by the parties in the Lawyers' Committee's challenge to a Rhode Island senatorial district. In each case, the plaintiffs argue that blacks had an effective opportunity to elect a candidate of their choice even if they did not have a majority in the district. In each case, Anita Earls (formerly Hodgkiss) argued that Georgia v. Ashcroft supported the plaintiffs' position.

The Providence Journal reports on the additional letters sent by each side to the appeals court about the Virginia decision.

The Rhode Island plaintiffs wrote to the federal appeals court in June, saying a recent U.S. Supreme Court case bolstered their argument. In the case of Georgia vs. Ashcroft, a divided Supreme Court ruled that when states redraw political maps, they may consider overall minority influence -- and not just the number of minority voters in a district.

The Virginia case is significant, [Victoria M.] Almeida said, because it represents the first redistricting decision by a federal District Court since the Georgia ruling. "What the court has said is that Georgia vs. Ashcroft does not undercut the legal basis for dismissal of a claim that is essentially identical to the claim in [Rhode Island]," she said.

But an attorney for the plaintiffs, Anita S. Earls, noted that while the Georgia ruling came from the Supreme Court, the Virginia ruling came from a lower court. "They are asking a court of appeals to follow a lower court decision in a different district," she said. "It is certainly not binding in any sense."

Two cases about Georgia redistricting

At the APSA last week, I asked a roomful of people who are faily knowledgeable about such things whether there were any state-wide redistricting challenges pending besides the Arizona case I am handling, and the various re-redistrictings going on. None of us thought of Georgia. How quickly we forget.

There are two cases about Georgia's redistricting still pending. In addition to Georgia v. Ashcroft, which was remanded to the district court for further proceedings, the AP reminds us,

The state has failed to persuade a three-judge federal panel in Atlanta to dismiss a new lawsuit challenging the way Georgia lawmakers drew state Senate districts in 2001.

But in a decision late last week, the panel postponed further proceedings in the case for several months while a court in Washington acts on a separate challenge.

At issue in the Atlanta case is a lawsuit filed this year by more than two dozen Republicans who claim the districts drawn two years ago are unconstitutional because they do not ensure that all districts have the same numbers of people under the one person, one vote principle.

Texas 11 Minus 1

Dallas Morning News has just reported,

The Senate's longest-serving member flew home from New Mexico on Tuesday, putting himself in a position where Republicans may force the Democrat to attend a special session aimed at bolstering GOP power in Congress.

"You got to know when to hold them and when to fold them," said Sen. John Whitmire of Houston, who was one of 11 Democrats who left Texas to prevent a quorum assembly of the Senate, preventing consideration of a Republican redistricting bill.

A return by just one senator to the Capitol would give the 31-person Senate enough members to conduct business if Gov. Rick Perry calls a third special session.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, the Republican who presides over the Senate, hailed Mr. Whitmire's action as a possible breakthrough that could end the months-long impasse over redistricting .