Votelaw, Edward Still's blog on law and politics: January 2004 Archives

« December 2003 | Main | February 2004 »

January 31, 2004

Schwarzenegger uses loans to evade disclosure

AP reports:

Although he said he could pay for his own race and not take money from special interests, records show Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has a pattern of relying on bank loans and other credit, which some critics say disguises hundreds of thousands of dollars of special-interest donations.

Schwarzenegger's borrowing of millions of dollars before the Oct. 7 recall election was ruled a violation of state campaign law by a Superior Court judge last week because he could raise money to pay off the loans after the election.

That ruling may mean Schwarzenegger may have to pay back $4.5 million in loans with his own money.

Campaign laws compel candidates to disclose their financial supporters before an election. There is also a restriction that candidates cannot loan their campaigns more than $100,000.
While Schwarzenegger said Tuesday he never intended to repay the loans with contributors' money, he did just that with his campaign for Proposition 49, a 2002 initiative for state-supported after-school programs.

North Carolina hires Jenner & Block for preclearance

The Raleigh (NC) News and Observer reports:

The state Attorney General's Office wants an extra $100,000 to pay a Washington lawyer to help with the state's legislative redistricting case.

Attorney General Roy Cooper's office is seeking approval from the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to use new legislative maps. Before the plans for new House and Senate districts are used in elections, a panel of federal judges must determine that the maps do not weaken minority voting strength. Cooper's office has hired Sam Hirsch and the firm Jenner & Block to help with the case.

Surprise: Kerry took lobbyist contributions

Actually, according to the Washington Post, Kerry is the leader of the pack:

Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), who has made a fight against corporate special interests a centerpiece of his front-running campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, has raised more money from paid lobbyists than any other senator over the past 15 years, federal records show.

Kerry, a 19-year veteran of the Senate who fought and won four expensive political campaigns, has received nearly $640,000 from lobbyists, many representing telecommunications and financial companies with business before his committee, according to Federal Election Commission data compiled by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.

For his presidential race, Kerry has raised more than $225,000 from lobbyists, better than twice as much as his nearest Democratic rival. Like President Bush, Kerry has also turned to a number of corporate officials and lobbyists to "bundle" contributions from smaller donors, often in sums of $50,000 or more, records provided by his campaign show.

"Senator Kerry has taken individual contributions from lobbyists, but that has not stopped him from fighting against special interests on behalf of average Americans," said Kerry spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter. "If anyone thinks a contribution can buy Kerry's vote, then they are wasting their money."

Money Flows to the "Shadow Democratic Party"

Tom Edsall reports today in the Washington Post:

Major liberal donors are demonstrating their willingness to fund a new shadow Democratic Party, according to reports filed yesterday by a network of nominally independent organizations committed to defeating President Bush in November.

At the same time, momentum to bar their activities gained new strength. On Thursday, the legal staff of the Federal Election Commission proposed regulations that could choke off the groups' plans, with backing from an alliance of Republican Party leaders and campaign watchdog groups.

The reports filed yesterday with the Internal Revenue Service and the FEC showed millions of dollars flowing from unions, wealthy individuals, environmental groups and others on the left into such organizations as America Coming Together (ACT), America Votes and the Partnership for America's Families, which are known as "527" groups for the section of the tax code governing their activities.

These and other 527 groups were formed to fill a vacuum on the Democratic side of the aisle created by the 2002 passage of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law, which bars the political parties from raising and spending large, unregulated "soft money" contributions from corporations, unions and rich people.

The article also deals with the proposal of the FEC staff to regulate 527 organizations.

January 30, 2004

Howard Bashman

Howard Bashman announced this morning on How Appealing that he is opening his own firm on Monday. Good luck, Howard.

Take a civil rights tour -- come to Alabama

Phillip Rawls, an AP writer I have known for years, has an article on civil rights tourist destinations in Alabama. The Tri-City Herald in Washington State has just published the article, which begins:

In Montgomery, Jefferson Davis Avenue crosses Rosa Parks Avenue, creating an appropriate intersection for a place that used to rely on Civil War tourism but that now draws visitors to a growing number of civil rights attractions.

Events that made Alabama a civil rights battleground in the 1950s and '60s -- Ku Klux Klan bombings, beatings of Freedom Riders and the jailing of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. -- are now being remembered in state-of-the-art museums and historic preservation projects.

"Alabama stands at the epicenter of America's second revolution," says Jim Carrier, author of "A Traveler's Guide to the Civil Rights Movement."

"No other state has the quality or quantity of destinations of what was a battlefield in the '60s," Sentell said.

I am happy to see Phil's article was published so far away. I hope it is picked up by more papers.

And to the people of the Mid-Columbia region of Washington, and everybody else, "Y'all come."

Oklahoma pol sentenced for campaign fund violations

AP reports:

Former Oklahoma state Sen. Gene Stipe was sentenced Friday to five years probation for his role in a 1998 federal campaign finance scandal.

During the first six months of his probation, Stipe will be in home detention with electric monitoring. He must perform 1,000 hours of community service.

U.S. District Judge James Robertson also increased Stipe's fine to $735,567 -- triple the amount of the illegal contributions he admitted funneling to the unsuccessful congressional campaign of former state Rep. Walt Roberts, and the maximum allowed under federal law. Stipe and the government initially agreed to a $490,378 fine. Stipe also faces a separate fine from the Federal Election Commission.

Stipe did not speak in the courtroom, and declined comment afterward.

In court, Justice Department trial attorney Howard Sklamberg urged Robertson to sentence Stipe to prison.

"This is not a crime of somebody making a mistake," Sklamberg said. "It is a flagrant attempt to make a shambles out of the election laws."

FEC sues Rep. Evans' campaign committee

Quad Cities Online reports on a suit filed in federal court in Illinois:

The Federal Election Commission has filed a complaint alleging U.S. Rep. Lane Evans' campaign committee funnelled hundreds of thousands of dollars in contributions to an ``alter ego'' organization set up to avoid federal donation limits.

The complaint, filed Friday in federal court in Rock Island, covers fundraising efforts during the 1998 and 2000 campaigns.

The complaint names the Friends of Lane Evans and Samuel Gilman, its treasurer; the 17th District Victory Fund and Linda K. Anderson, its treasurer; and the Rock Island Democratic Central Committee, and John Gianulis, its treasurer.

Rep. Evans, D-Rock Island, defeated Republican Mark Baker in both campaigns. He defeated Mr. Baker by 10 percentage points in 2000, after squeaking out a five-point victory in 1998.

The FEC claims the 17th District Victory Fund is an ``alter ego'' of the congressman's campaign committee that took donations and made expenditures to directly benefit the campaign. It alleges the election committee and the Victory Fund failed to adequately account for the expenditures.

Fourth Circuit denys stay to Charleston County

The Charleston (SC) Post and Courier reports:

The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals will meet Feb. 24 to hear arguments in Charleston County Council's voting rights case, and it refused to postpone a judge's order that the county begin holding elections in new single-member districts this fall.

At issue is whether the council can keep its current makeup of nine members elected at large or whether it must change to another system, such as nine members elected from nine single-member districts, which some say would give minority voters a greater voice.

Instead of asking [U.S. District Judge Michael] Duffy to reconsider his decision to order single-member district elections this fall, the county's lawyers bypassed his court and asked the appeals court for a stay.

The [Fourth Circuit] judges refused, citing a rule that requires such requests to go through the lower courts first unless impractical.

North Carolina black caucus to join GOP suit against redistricting

The Wilmington Journal reports:

The NC Black Leadership Caucus has announced that it will file a ''friend of the court'' brief in GOP litigation against the recently adopted Legislative redistricting plan, claiming that it reduces African American representation in the state House and Senate by slashing the number of voting age Blacks in so-called ''majority-minority'' districts in violation of federal law.

NCBLC President Larry Hall, a Durham attorney, discussed the group's intentions during its January 17 meeting in Raleigh.

...

Given the recently adopted Legislative redistricting plan, Hall maintains that the percentage of voting age African Americans in so-called ''majority-minority'' districts has consistently been slashed over the past decade and last two redistricting plans, thus putting Black legislative representation in these districts at risk.

For instance, Rep. Howard Hunter [D-Northhampton] has had both his Black voting age population lashed by 10 percentage points, and the lines changed in his District 5, so much so that there is no longer a guarantee that he or any other African American would win a legislative race if challenged by a white.

''That will end up with us giving up a seat,'' Hall predicts.

The problems of Diebold die hard

The New York Times reports:

Electronic voting machines from Diebold Inc. have computer security and physical security problems that might allow corrupt insiders or determined outsiders to disrupt or even steal an election, according to a report presented yesterday to Maryland state legislators.

But authors of the report -- which described the first official effort to hack Diebold voting systems under election conditions -- were careful to say the machines, if not hacked, count votes correctly. And they said the vulnerabilities the exercise found could be addressed in a preliminary way in time for the state's primaries in March.

"I don't want to beat people up," said Michael Wertheimer, a security expert for RABA Technologies in Columbia, Md., who oversaw the exercise. "I want to get an election that people can feel good about."

Further steps could be taken to ensure a safe general election in November, the report concluded. But ultimately, it said, Diebold election software had to be rewritten to meet industry security standards and limited use of paper receipts to verify votes would be needed.

The AP has a similar report.

New election ordered in Albany County, NY

The Second Circuit has ordered the district court to hold a new election after the district court found a violation of the Voting Rights Act. The case is Arbor Hill Concerned Citizens Neighborhood Association v. County of Albany.

Thanks to Brenda Wright of the National Voting Rights Institute for sending the decision to me.

Two new blogs to read

There are a couple of new blogs that you might want to read.

Legal Fiction is by Publius, and is subtitled "An
unconventional look at law, politics, and culture from a southern, non-Federalist Society law clerk." It looks like he does one good and substantive post a day.

More Soft Money Hard Law is by Bob Bauer, one of the best campaign finance attorneys around. This weblog presents updates to the second edition of Bob's book on the BCRA, and seems mostly to cover the FEC.

I am adding each to my daily reading list.

January 29, 2004

Not many online campaign ads

The Online Journalism Review has published Candidates Slow to Bring Political Advertising Dollars to the Web:

The 2004 election campaigns are using the Internet more than ever for organizing, fund-raising and communicating with supporters -- but they haven't put big resources into online advertising. What will it take to get them to give up their TV mindset?

He also points out:

Another big advantage for the online medium is that it won't be subject to campaign finance limitations this year, which pertain to so-called "soft money" ads. These ads are banned from TV and radio in the last 60 days of the campaign. Many online publishers are expecting a big influx of ads during the time leading up to the November election.

Redistricting commission proposed for Virginia

Senator Whipple of Falls Church, Virginia, has a report in the Falls Church News Press concerning the bills he has introduced. One is a proposed constitutional amendment to place redistricting in the hands of a redistricting commission.

Supreme Court denies stay for GOP in Colorado

AP carried a story quoting from the arguments made by Colorado AG Ken Salazar.

"This is a matter concerning the sovereignty of the state," argued Salazar, a Democrat. "In seeking federal court intervention to overturn the Colorado Supreme Court's ruling, the General Assembly is challenging a keystone of American jurisprudence - the authority of a state's highest court to rule on that state's own laws."

Salazar said the Colorado Supreme Court's ruling is not a question of courts "usurping" the power of the state legislature, as Republicans allege, but a question of whether a state may, through its constitution, restrict congressional redistricting to once per decade following reapportionment.

"Nothing in the federal constitution precludes such a state constitutional restriction," Salazar said.

Another story carries the good news for Salazar that his wish was granted: Supreme Court Associate Justice Stephen Breyer denied the stay application:

The U.S. Supreme Court today rejected a request by Republicans to temporarily block a congressional redistricting plan that favors Democrats.

The ruling was issued by Justice Stephen Breyer, who is responsible for Colorado. Breyer was appointed to the court by President Clinton.

State Senate President John Andrews, R-Centennial, said Republicans would not pursue a stay from another judge and will wait for a decision by the court on whether it will take up the issue.

The ruling makes it likely that Secretary of State Donetta Davidson will use the same map that was used for congressional elections two years ago. That map, drawn by a judge after lawmakers failed to come up with the boundaries in time for the November 2002 election, is more favorable to Democrats.

FEC staff proposes regulation of 527's

AP reports:

Federal election lawyers have concluded tax-exempt political groups cannot spend donations from businesses, unions and people who write big checks to promote federal candidates.

That recommendation, which the Federal Election Commission (news - web sites) is expected to consider next week, threatens a strategy Democrats hoped would keep them competitive with Republicans.

At issue is how the new campaign finance law affects the plans of partisan groups that want to defeat or re-elect President Bush (news - web sites). The law broadly bans the use of soft money — corporate, union and unlimited contributions — for federal election activity.

The proposed advisory opinion is not on the FEC website yet.

Bob Bauer has a short blurb and promises a longer analysis at his More Soft Money Hard Law website.

January 28, 2004

Montana Supreme court upholds commission's assignment plan

The Great Falls Tribune reports:

The Montana Supreme Court Tuesday upheld the final portion of a controversial plan redrawing Montana's legislative districts affecting three key Senate districts in northcentral Montana.

The high court unanimously upheld the Districting and Apportionment Commission's assignment of 25 midterm senators to new districts for the 2004 election.

Republican Party leaders, who had protested the assignments and tried to invoke their own, said the ruling essentially gives Democrats a four-seat advantage going into this year's election.

"(Democrats) pick up four seats with this ruling, in my opinion and have effectively taken the Senate from the majority and given it to the minority voters," said Senate Majority Leader Fred Thomas, R-Stevensville.

Democratic leaders, however, said the court properly rejected Republican attempts to overturn the constitutionally protected work of the five-person Districting and Apportionment Commission.

Texas pays $700,000 for defense of re-redistricting plan

AP reports:

The private lawyer defending Texas' new Republican-backed congressional redistricting map has billed the state $735,398 for work and expenses in the legal battle over the GOP plan.

Andy Taylor, a Houston-based attorney, has charged $400 per hour of his time, $200 per hour for work by another lawyer and assorted expenses for travel and payment to expert witnesses, according to state documents examined Wednesday by The Associated Press.

A total of $444,437 in bills from Taylor's law firm have been paid by the state, according to Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott's office.

Some $290,960 of the bill is expected to be paid in early February. It was charged for work in December, when Taylor defended the state at trial in a lawsuit alleging the redistricting plan violates minority voting rights.

Colorado GOP stay application

Michael Carvin has sent me the application for a stay pending disposition of the certiorari petition. It's a large file, so be patient.

UPDATE: Here is what appears to be the appendix to the application.

2nd UPDATE: I am having problems with the appendix file. I will try to correct it tomorrow. Check back then. Sorry.

3rd UPDATE: The appendix file has been corrected and is now ready for download.

January 27, 2004

Alabama governor wants to outlaw three card monte

Alabama Governor Bob Riley has proposed several "accountability" measures. Here is what his press release says about one of those:

Riley also proposed a ban on financial transfers between political action committees.

Alabama’s current campaign finance laws allow unlimited transfers of money among PACs, thereby making it impossible to trace the true source of many contributions.

"Instead of continuing to keep these transfers hidden from public view, it’s time we shine the light of accountability on them," Riley said.

Ain't just the deep pockets, it's the many pockets

The Baltimore Sun reports:

MONTGOMERY County Executive Douglas M. Duncan has a good friend in Francis O. Day III.

The Rockville developer, his family members and about a dozen companies he controls have contributed almost $75,000 to the likely 2006 Democratic gubernatorial candidate - using a provision of Maryland election law that lets donors get around the state's $4,000 limit on contributions to a single candidate over each four-year election cycle.

Fifteen of the contributions worth $68,000 - all but one for $4,000 - were listed as coming from the same Rockville address Sept. 9. Another $4,000, from Maria Day, came from the family home in Potomac.

Most of the contributions were attributed to limited liability corporations apparently controlled by Day. Under Maryland law, each LLC is treated as a separate entity under election law as long as its ownership mix varies even slightly from the others.

Thanks to OnBackground at Political State Report for the link.

IRV on the Berkeley ballot

The Berkeley Daily Planet has a commentary promoting the use of Instant Runoff Voting. The voters of Berkeley, Calfornia, will decide on switching to IRV from a "delayed" runoff on 2 March.

Thank you for pointing out I broke the law

Talk about spin!

The Los Angeles Times reports today under the headline, Governor Welcomes Campaign Ruling:

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger today praised a Superior Court judge's decision that found the governor had violated state election law by using a $4.5 million bank loan to help finance his campaign in last fall's recall race.

During a lunchtime speech at the Sacramento Press Club, Schwarzenegger said he had never meant to take out the loan in the waning days of the campaign. But because he was on the campaign trail and is "hands-on when it comes to money," the campaign borrowed the money.

Schwarzenegger said it had been his intention to write a check to the campaign himself, and he said he would pay back the money himself.

Since his election, Schwarzenegger has raised money for his campaign account that would have repaid the loan. The decision by Superior Court Judge Loren E. McMaster ordered Schwarzenegger to place any such contributions in an escrow account. But Schwarzenegger left the impression that the whole matter had been a misunderstanding, and he hailed the judge for defending the state's campaign finance laws.

UPDATE: the decision can be found here.

Dean asks for regulation of Iowa caucus

The New York Times reported Sunday that Dean is displeased with the lack of regulation in the caucuses:

Five days after his damaging third-place finish in the Iowa caucuses, Howard Dean said Saturday that the state should regulate discussion inside caucus rooms or lose its premier status in the presidential nomination process.

"I like the Iowa caucuses a lot and I think they should be first, but they have to have a process that is good for democracy," Dr. Dean said on his campaign bus as he headed to Dover, N.H., to knock on the doors of undecided voters. "The kind of stuff that's going on with the phone calls and all that under the table is not particularly good for democracy, and I didn't know it went on inside the caucuses. And if it does it should not be permitted."

Later, speaking after a packed forum at a picturesque coastal hotel here, Dr. Dean said he would not participate again unless the rules were changed to prohibit negative campaigning during the caucuses.

His complaints concern the internal debate that unfolds in each precinct after the initial round of voting, when supporters of different candidates try to sway one another. Dr. Dean said he had been surprised to learn that aides to one of his rivals, Senator John Edwards of North Carolina, circulated booklets to Iowa precinct captains with instructions to paint Dr. Dean as "an elitist from Park Avenue" and Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts as "part of the failed Washington politics."

Should the Nashville Metro Council be smaller?

The Nashville Tennessean reports today:

Would Nashville be better served if Metro Council had fewer than 40 members?

Freshman Councilman Chris Whitson thinks so, and wants to do something about it.

He talked about the issue in his campaign last summer, and he's considering a petition drive to cut the council to 20 members. Whitson said he had tested the idea on a few colleagues and citizens and would like voters in the November presidential election to vote on it.

Councilman Mike Jameson is one council member that Whitson has discussed the issue with. He supports Whitson in his effort to explore the idea but said he isn't sold on it.

''I do get frustrated still with how difficult it is to get a consensus out of a 40-member body,'' Jameson said. ''There are countervailing issues I haven't looked at. One of those is the practicality of representing a much larger district.''

I wonder what effect the smaller council would have on black representation? Anybody know the answer?

Colorado GOP asks Supreme Court for stay

AP reports:

Republicans have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to block a congressional redistricting map that favors Democrats, saying the Colorado Supreme Court had no authority to throw out districts drawn up by GOP lawmakers.

A stay would allow Secretary of State Donetta Davidson to use the GOP-drawn map for the November elections, which includes two hotly contested races in the 3rd and 7th congressional districts.

"This judicial usurpation of the Legislature's plenary power over congressional redistricting squarely conflicts with the elections clause and necessitates prompt corrective action," according to the motion filed Monday by Michael Carvin, who was hired by Republicans to pursue the case.

Notice that this is a request to stay the decision of the Colorado Supreme Court. Just a few days ago, the federal court in Colorado refused to rule on the issues, saying that the state supreme court already had and that the proper course of action was a cert petition to the U.S. Supreme Court. (See my earlier post on this.)

Elections are too hard to hold

Dilip Hiro has an op-ed, One Iraqi, One Vote? in today's New York Times. Hiro takes on the objections of the Bush Administration to direct elections in Iraq and rebuts each argument.

(UPDATE: It just occured to me that the Administration may see the problem this way: there is no Supreme Court there to rule on the winner.)

January 26, 2004

The sentencing bone is connected to the voting bone

The Miami Herald has an important article on the disparity in criminal adjudications. Here is the part that caught my eye:

White criminal offenders in Florida are nearly 50 percent more likely than blacks to get a ''withhold of adjudication,'' a plea deal that blocks their felony convictions even though they plead to the crime. White Hispanics are 31 percent more likely than blacks to get a withhold.

The disparity in outcomes has cost thousands of black offenders their civil rights, including the right to vote, serve on juries, hold public office, own a firearm. And the convictions carry an economic penalty: Felons can't be hired for many government jobs, and they can't apply for some student loans.

''Most prosecutors and some judges see the potential for salvation in a white defendant. With a black defendant, they see the destruction of a civilized society,'' said H.T. Smith, a prominent South Florida criminal defense lawyer who is black. ``It's not conscious racism. It's part of their cultural upbringing.''

Thanks to TalkLeft for the link.

Louisiana AG proposes more campaign disclosure

AP in Louisiana reports:

Attorney General Charles Foti, the target of an attack ad from a third party group last fall, said he plans to push the Legislature to make changes to campaign finance laws for independent groups in elections.

"We will work to pass a bill that (says) third party groups have to follow the same rules as everybody else," Foti told the Press Club of Baton Rouge on Monday.

The state ethics board already is suggesting changes that would require third party groups trying to influence elections to report expenditures and contributions in the critical days before voting, just like candidates and political committees are required to do.

Now, candidates and political committees are required to report the receipt of contributions above a certain threshold within 48 hours -- $500 for major offices and $250 for district-level offices.

Campbell fined for excess contributions

AP in California reports:

Federal elections officials Monday announced a $79,000 fine for campaign finance violations against the 2000 U.S. Senate campaign of then-GOP Congressman Tom Campbell.

Campbell, who lost the race to Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, is now dean of the business school at the University of California, Berkeley.

His campaign has also agreed to refund $104,434 in excess contributions, the Federal Election Commission said.

The fine and repayment are the result of FEC findings that Campbell's campaign and its treasurer accepted excessive contributions and failed to correctly disclose some financial activity.

Confusion in Arizona

Arizona Capitol Times reports on the confusion:

A judge's decision throwing out the boundaries of the 30 legislative districts is creating uncertainty over when and where candidates may collect signatures for nominating petitions, a state elections official said.

The Jan. 16 court ruling also could delay the collection of qualifying contributions for legislative candidates seeking public funding for their campaigns, an official with the Citizens Clean Elections Commission said.

(Disclosure: I represented the plaintiffs in the suit against the Independent Redistricting Commission regarding its Congressional plan.)

January 25, 2004

The life of the campaign lawyer

The Boston Globe reports today on a lawyer for Lieberman. The story is Boston.com / News / Politics / In Lieberman camp, a lawyer takes on the fine print:

To the public eye, Cassandra Lentchner is invisible in Joseph I. Lieberman's campaign, though she was among the first staff members to arrive and, if his effort collapses, she will be one of the last to leave.

Lentchner is Lieberman's lawyer. Every campaign has one, and the job is as hair-tearing as interpreting federal election law, as critical as getting the candidate's name on every state primary ballot, as nightmarish as a recount, and as mundane as negotiating leases for field offices and contracting with vendors to install telephones and print bumper stickers.

Contribute through Amazon.com

The New York Times reports Candidates Find Donors On Amazon:

Amazon.com, the online mega-merchant, is taking retail politics to a new level, allowing shoppers to contribute to candidates with a credit card and the click of a mouse.

"We're making it as easy for people to contribute as it is to buy the latest `Harry Potter,' " the Web site says.

The candidates are listed in alphabetical order, with biographical information and a policy statement. The law allows contributors to give up to $2,000 to a candidate, but Amazon.com asks that contributions be $5 to $200.

The company is charging the campaigns what it says are the normal fees for transactions and says the money will be donated to Kids Voting USA, a nonpartisan group that provides civics education.

January 24, 2004

Kerry and campaign finance

The Sacrementon Bee has published what it describes as the "first in a series examining the campaign finances of the presidential candidates". Today's victim (or subject) is John Kerry:

The subject of campaign finance has been a double-edged sword for Democratic Sen. John Kerry. He has criticized the system and supported reforms, but he also has faced questions about his ties to some of his donors.

Kerry, the winner of the Democratic caucuses in Iowa, has accepted money from two figures who later were prosecuted for election violations. He also has received substantial donations from telecommunications, media and steel companies overseen by committees on which he sits.

Kerry has raised $3.2 million in large donations -- those of at least $200 -- in California through Dec. 31, second only to his home state of Massachusetts, where he collected slightly more, his Federal Election Commission reports show.

The Bee does not say when the future installments will be published.

Prairie View: making a federal case out of it

The Houston Chonicle reports:

The U.S. Department of Justice has launched a civil rights investigation into Waller County District Attorney Oliver Kitzman's challenge to Prairie View A&M University student voting rights.

The Texas secretary of state, meanwhile, issued an opinion Thursday that students at Prairie View, like those at all Texas campuses, can vote locally if they designate their campus address as their official place of residence.

"When a student registers to vote and describes his or her permanent residence in Texas for voting purposes, the presumption is in favor of the voter's factual statement on the face of the application," the opinion from Secretary of State Geoffrey Connor reads.

"There is nothing in the (Texas) Election Code," he added in a statement, "that prevents university students from registering to vote in the county where they attend school."

However, Connor's opinion appeared unlikely to sway Kitzman, who has said more than once that he would await a ruling from Attorney General Greg Abbott before reconsidering his position.

...

The Justice Department's letter states that Prairie View students have the right to register to vote in the jurisdiction they claim as "home base," and it goes on to express concern that they "not become the targets of any discriminatory residency requirements."

The Jan. 16 letter, from Assistant U.S. Attorney General William Moschella to U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Houston, added that federal officials would review Kitzman's statements and other developments in the case to decide how far to take the investigation.

Will female voting be squelched in Afghanistan?

Inter Press Service News Agency reports:

The United Nations, which has strong reservations about the feasibility of upcoming elections in politically unstable Afghanistan, is now expressing fears that women might be marginalized in the national polling.

''The registration process and the holding of free and fair elections in mid-2004 will be a major test for Afghanistan,'' U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in a 19-page report released Friday.

''Some disturbing signs have appeared in the early days of the registration process, where some women have been barred from registering,'' he added.

Titled 'The Situation of Women and Girls in Afghanistan', the report says that women should be encouraged to stand for political office -- in addition to having the right to vote.

They also need to be strongly supported by local and international actors, it adds.

''The capacity of potential women candidates needs to be strengthened and intensive voter education and awareness programmes implemented to dispel negative stereotypes of women as leaders,'' said Annan.

Earlier this month, a traditional assembly of Afghan leaders approved a new constitution for the country, which guarantees equal rights for men and women.

Here is the report.

More details on Colorado decision

The Denver Post has more details about the decision of the 3-judge federal court:

The boundary lines are set for November's congressional elections in Colorado, state Attorney General Ken Salazar declared Friday.

Salazar made the announcement after a three-judge federal panel ruled it will not hear a Republican appeal of a congressional redistricting case until the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled on it.

"The 2002 boundaries currently in place will be the boundaries used in the 2004 elections," Salazar said at a hastily called news conference, minutes after the federal panel issued its opinion.

But the state Republican Party said it is not ready to concede defeat and will "proceed with deliberate speed" to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In a 27-page opinion, the federal judges said the state Supreme Court had already decided the federal issues in the case and that the case was ripe for review by the U.S. Supreme Court. The panel said that although it has jurisdiction over the case, the appropriate avenue for appeal is to the nation's highest court.

The decision of the federal court is here.

Arizona IRC to appeal redistricting case (2)

The Arizona Daily Sun has a longer story today on the decision of the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission to appeal the decision of the Superior Court ordering it to adopt a more competitive plan. Here are some new details:

Friday's decision to appeal was unanimous even though two of the five commissioners, both Democrats, actually had voted two years ago for a different plan -- one that the judge said apparently would have met the requirements of the law.

Joshua Hall, one of those dissenting commissioners, acknowledged that he and Andrea Minkoff had "a difference of opinion" with the majority over how to divide the state into 30 legislative districts. Hall said, though, a challenge must be mounted to Fields' ruling because "the judge, frankly, is wanting to hijack the process."

...

Commission attorney Lisa Hauser said she will file the necessary legal papers Monday with the state Court of Appeals.

But Hauser said that, in an effort to expedite the entire process, she also will ask the state Supreme Court to take the case immediately rather than wait for the appellate judges to rule.

...

Commission Chairman Steve Lynn said he also will renew his request, initially made last fall, for an additional $4.2 million to continue the legal battle. The commission already had spent its initial $6 million appropriation.

Lawmakers instead approved only $1.7 million which got the agency through the trial in Fields' court. As of Friday the commission reported it still had $1.1 million.

(Disclosure: I represented the plaintiffs in the suit against the Independent Redistricting Commission regarding its Congressional plan.)

Tucson Citizen editorial on the redistricting case

The Tucson Citizen has an editorial today denouncing Judge Fields' decision on the legislative redistricting plan:

Two years ago, the new Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission was handed an impossible task and came up with a laudable result.

Now a Phoenix judge has disagreed, ordering the commission back to work - a ruling that is not only baffling but one that bollixes this fall's legislative elections.

...

Commission members will meet tomorrow to decide whether to appeal Fields' ruling. They should. The current maps may not be perfect. But they are fair.

(Disclosure: I represented the plaintiffs in the suit against the Independent Redistricting Commission regarding its Congressional plan.)

I posted this on Thursday, but technical problems (read: my boneheaded mistake) kept it invisible till now.

Technical problems solved

My technical problem has been solved by "girlie," a guru of Movable Type. Many thanks.

If you have a problem with your Movable Type weblog, put your question on the Movable Type Support Forum.

Colorado redistricting challenge rejected

AP and DenverPost.com report:

Three federal judges today rejected a GOP challenge to Colorado's congressional redistricting map, but stayed their ruling to wait to see if the U.S. Supreme Court takes up the issue.

The decision came after lawyers for the Republican-dominated state legislature asked the judges to reinstate their version of the congressional district map. The current court-drawn map creates districts more favorable to Democrats.

January 23, 2004

It takes money to keep going

AP reports, in Money Crunch Threatens Some Democrats:

Gephardt's departure from the race should be a warning to the remaining candidates, including fund-raising leader Dean, said Tony Coelho, chairman of Democrat Al Gore's 2000 presidential campaign.

"He can afford to ride it out as long as he starts cutting costs," Coelho said. "He has extensive operations throughout a network of states, so the cost of his campaign is the most costly of all of them."

Dean raised roughly $40 million last year, nearly twice as much as anyone else in the Democratic race. Despite his third-place Iowa showing, by Friday afternoon, Dean had raised at least $750,000 of the $1 million he asked donors to give before New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation primary Tuesday.

Kerry and Edwards have also seen hundreds of thousands of dollars come in this week.
Like Dean, Iowa winner Kerry is trying to raise $1 million this week. The campaign had collected at least $860,000 over the Internet by Friday afternoon. Edwards raised at least $560,000 online since Monday night.

Internet voting

The New York Times has an editorial today, Making Votes Count: The Perils of Online Voting, that ends:

There is every reason to believe that if federal elections can be tampered with, they will be, particularly when a single hacker, working alone, might be able to use an online voting system to steal a presidential election. The authors of this week's report concede that there is no way of knowing how likely it is that the Pentagon's voting system would be compromised. What is clear, however, is that until the vulnerabilities they identified are eliminated, the risks are too great.

Arizona IRC to appeal redistricting case

AP reports:

The state's redistricting commission voted unanimously Friday to appeal a court ruling that it acted unconstitutionally when it drew a statewide map of legislative districts.

The Independent Redistricting Commission's appeal of a Maricopa County Superior Court judge's ruling will go initially to the Court of Appeals, but a lawyer for the commission said she hopes to immediately transfer it to the state Supreme Court.

Judge Kenneth Fields ruled that the commission violated constitutional provisions by not giving enough weight to creating competitive districts, failing to set criteria to be used in its line-drawing process and by taking incumbents' residences into account.

(Disclosure: I represented the plaintiffs in the suit against the Independent Redistricting Commission over its Congressional plan.)

January 22, 2004

DSCC starts a weblog

The Democratic Senate Campaign Committee has started a weblog, From The Roots :: Pulling the Bush Out.

One of its first entries begins:

All Americans are in danger of losing their right to vote or having their votes stolen by the new voting technology. We need to stop the use of these machines and the Internet, or provide for a voter verified paper ballot as the primary counting vehicle.

Trouble uploading etc

I have just upgraded the software for this weblog and am now having some technical problems. I may be a bit slow in getting things posted till I get the problem worked out.

Pentagon's electronic voting system not secure

The major news sources were reporting on the Pentagon's SERVE system. The New York Times reported:

A $22 million system to allow soldiers and other Americans overseas to vote via the Internet is inherently insecure and should be abandoned, according to a report by computer security experts asked to review the new program.

The system, the Secure Electronic Registration and Voting Experiment, or Serve, was developed with financing from the Defense Department and will first be used in the primaries this year.

The review, requested by the government, noted that experts had voiced increasingly strong warnings about the reliability of electronic voting systems. It said the new program, restricted to voters overseas using personal computers to vote using the Internet, raised the ante on the risks of such systems.

Serve, the panel members wrote, "has numerous other fundamental security problems that leave it vulnerable to a variety of well-known cyberattacks, any one of which could be catastrophic."

Any system for voting over the Internet with common personal computers, the report noted, would run the same risks.

The Washington Post reported:

"It's not possible to create a secure voting system with off-the-shelf PCs using Microsoft Windows and the current Internet," said Avi Rubin, an associate professor of computer science and the technical director of the Information Security Institute at Johns Hopkins University.

He and Barbara Simons, a retired researcher from International Business Machines Corp., said their biggest fear is that this year's experiment would be a hit, leading to widespread Internet voting for the 2008 presidential election. That is when the kind of Internet attack they envision could emerge, possibly from foreign subversives.

"History has shown that when people have the opportunity to tamper with an election they do," said Rubin, noting that the Internet is rife with viruses and worms even when there is no incentive for an attack.

The threat to the current election is great enough that the program should be shut down immediately, said Rubin, Simons and the other two other scientists who released a report yesterday -- David Wagner, an assistant professor of computer science at the University of California at Berkeley, and David Jefferson of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

TechTV's Tech Live had an interview with Wagner, but the site does not have today's show available yet.

January 21, 2004

Bloggers

I asked a few days ago when mainstream media like the Washington Post would stop putting "blogs" in quotation marks. Well, my rhetorical question may have been heard in High Places. Today's White House Briefing column by Dan Froomkin in the Washington Post mentions bloggers without quotation marks:

I'll round up the coverage of what was in last night's State of the Union in just a minute. But first, a look at what the various news stories, analyses, pundits and bloggers are saying was notably missing.

January 20, 2004

How the Iowa Caucus was held in one town

The New York Times has a medium-length article on the brokering that went on at the Waukee, Iowa, caucus.

Should the Pentagon build a voting system?

Marc Strassman does not like the Pentagon's proposed electronic voting system (SERVE). Read his
"Fully fund the Election Assistance Commission and stop SERVE now" and find out why.

New Report on Felon Voting Restrictions

Demos has just recently published "Punishing at the Polls: The Case Against Disenfranchising Citizens with Felony Convictions" by Alec Ewald. Ewald wrote me, "It's adapted from my Wisconsin Law Review article of last year, completely revised and rewritten and designed to be accessible." The major topics of the article are:

Disenfranchisement fails as a form of punishment.

Disenfranchisement is a hidden penalty, not a public one.

No evidence exists that offenders would vote in a “subversive” way, as some supporters of criminal disenfranchisement allege.

No evidence exists that offenders are more likely than others to commit lectoral fraud, and states have numerous laws on the books designed to prevent and punish fraud.

Disenfranchisement laws have an explicitly racist past.

Disenfranchisement has an extraordinary impact on communities of color today.

The argument for lifetime bans on voting is not much different from the case for
temporary restrictions.

January 19, 2004

Iowa caucuses

I saw just a little of the C-SPAN programming tonight, but both channels were covering different caucuses in Iowa. The videos are available at Cspan.org (clips 16260 and 16261). Go watch democracy in action.

Felon Voting Rights

Eric Alterman and Laleh Ispahani had a column at the Center for American Progress last week entitled Is the Right to Vote a Criminal Matter?. It begins:

Amazingly ex-felons, unless they used to be CEOs or arbitragers, tend to have few political friends. This helps to explain why they enjoy so few political rights. Much of the public shares the misimpression that after one has served ones time — "paid their debt to society" — all rights and responsibilities are restored. Well, think again. Seven states permanently disfranchise even felons who have fully served their sentences. And because these states do not distinguish between types of felonies or length of sentence, an 18-year-old convicted in Virginia of a one-time drug sale who successfully completes a court-ordered treatment program, and is never rearrested, permanently loses her voting rights unless she obtains a gubernatorial pardon — which is to say almost never.

Thanks to TalkLeft for the link to this piece I missed.

January 18, 2004

North Carolina Dems adopt contingency caucus plan

AP reports:

[North Carolina] Democrats signed off on a plan Saturday to hold county caucuses in April instead of a presidential primary should the May 4 elections be delayed.

The party's executive committee agreed on an April 17 caucus to ensure that Democratic delegates will be pledged for presidential candidates in time for their national convention in July.

The timing of the primary elections is uncertain because Republicans are suing legislative leaders over the latest version of district maps for state House and Senate seats. Similar litigation delayed the 2002 primary by four months.

This year, the risks are higher because the state's nearly 2.4 million Democrats also choose their preference for a presidential nominee during the primary.

Under the plan approved Saturday, Democrats registered by April 9 to vote would gather in their home counties April 17. The state party, rather than the State Board of Elections, would oversee the gatherings.

January 17, 2004

The value of decentralized campaign finance

Fortune had an article on The New Soft Money in November. A subscription to the magazine is required for access to the website. Here's a good point from the article:

In some ways this setup is an improvement on the old party-centered system. In the last presidential campaign in 2000, the Democratic Party collected $245.2 million in soft money and spent it as it chose. Afterward, many prominent Democrats criticized its priorities, and for good reason: Al Gore lost his bid for the presidency, and Republicans won a majority of the nation's governorships as well as control of the U.S. Congress. The new, privatized structure allows donors to decide with much more precision where their money will go. Each organization has given itself a narrowly defined mission and is seeking funds for just that purpose and no other. For instance, Governor [Bill] Richardson's group, Moving America Forward, will work to register Hispanic voters and get them to the polls in four states and also recruit more Hispanics to run for elective office.

Montana candidate refunds contributions from minors

The Helena (Montana) Indpendent Record reports:

Unable to prove that some campaign donations from students actually came from their own pockets and not their parents' bank accounts, Republican gubernatorial candidate Pat Davison's campaign on Friday refunded $9,460 in contributions to 26 donors. Scot Crockett, Davison's campaign manager, said the campaign was in full compliance with state election laws, but decided to return the money. The refunded money amounts to 3.6 percent of the $259,327 total that Davison has raised as of Dec. 31. ‘‘And while we have not knowingly received any inappropriate contributions, we are refunding 26 contributors totaling $9,460 in order to avoid any appearance that this campaign is not fully committed to complete compliance with both the letter and the spirit of state campaign finance laws.''

Refunds were sent to a list of parents whose children donated. The parents included CPAs, a physician, a pilot, a retired timber company executive and an oil and gas businessman.

Davison's campaign actually encouraged the practice of giving through children.

A donation card that accompanied a Sept. 18 fund-raising solicitation signed by Davison said: ‘‘Contribution limits: Individuals can contribute up to $400 (per person or $800 per couple). If one check is written for two people, you must indicate in the ‘memo section' on the check the name and amount for each person. Children and friends can contribute up to $400 each. List all names in the ‘memo section.' ''

More on the Montana redistricting

AP reports:

The Legislature had no business meddling in decisions over how to assign midterm senators to newly drawn legislative districts, and the Montana Supreme Court should say so, a lawyer for three affected lawmakers says.

In written arguments filed with the high court Wednesday, Jennifer Hendricks said determining which Senate districts are on the next general election ballot is a task reserved for the Districting and Apportionment Committee after each census.

"The Montana Constitution expressly deprives the Legislature of authority over the districting and apportionment process, and creates the commission for the sole purpose of exercising that responsibility," she said.

Hendricks' argument that nothing in the constitution gives lawmakers the power to interfere in the commission's work is opposite of Secretary of State Bob Brown's major argument defending the Legislature's assignment of holdover senators.

Brown, the chief elections officer, has argued nothing in the constitution prevents such legislative action.

The FEC decides to tackle 527's

NPR's Morning Edition had this story, Watchdogs Target New 'Soft Money' Groups, this morning.

The General Counsel's proposed Rulemaking Priorities that forms the backdrop to this story is here.

6th Circuit voids Kentucky restrictions on campaigning and loan repayment

The Louisville Courier Journal reports:

A federal appeals court yesterday threw out Kentucky's ban on electioneering within 500 feet of polling places and also a law that keeps elected officials from recouping big loans they make to their campaigns.

The decision brought objections and warnings from the authors of the major laws that the General Assembly passed in 1988 amid concern about the influence of money in politics, from vote-buying at precincts to millionaires buying the governorship.

The unanimous opinion by a three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said those laws and some less significant statutes unconstitutionally restricted candidates' and campaign workers' freedom of speech.

The electioneering law "prohibits speech over too much geography and ... prohibits more speech than is necessary to meet the state's protected interest" of running its elections and preventing corruption, said the opinion by Judge Alice Batchelder of Ohio.

The case is Anderson v. Spear, No. 02-5529, 6th Cir., 17 Jan. 2004.

IRS issues guidelines for non-profits and campaigns

NewsMax has a story, IRS Issues Chilling Guidelines, today that begins:

The Internal Revenue Service today reminded tax-exempt organizations that their public advocacy activity must adhere to tax rules as well as campaign-finance laws.

On the eve of an election year, the IRS has issued Revenue Ruling 2004-6 concerning certain public advocacy activities conducted by social welfare organizations, unions and trade associations.

Under the Internal Revenue Code, social welfare organizations, unions and trade associations generally are permitted to engage in advocacy or lobbying related to their exempt purposes. However, they may engage in only limited political campaign activity. The guidance clarifies the tax implications of advocacy that meets the definition of political campaign activity.

Read the Revenue Ruling yourself and see how chilling it is -- or is not.

More on the Arizona ruling

The Arizona Daily Sun and Arizona Republic have stories in today's papers about the ruling yesterday by Judge Kenneth Fields voiding the legislative districting plan.

Particularly interesting are these quotes from the Independent Redistricting Commission's counsel, Lisa Hauser:

Hauser blasted the judge's ruling. "I would submit we read the constitution a helluva lot better than he did," she said.

She also chided Fields for his 45-day deadline to not only come up with new district lines but also to first come up with definitions for terms like "communities of interest." She said there is no way with that short a time line all this can be done with sufficient public input, calling that "reprehensible."

(Disclosure: I represented the plaintiffs in the suit against the Independent Redistricting Commission over its Congressional plan.)

"High tech poll tax"

The New York Times has a short article in tomorrow's paper on Internet voting in the Michigan Demcratic Primary:

Next month, voters in the Michigan Democratic primary will have the option of casting their votes from their homes over the Internet. Critics of such voting raise the possibilities of fraud, privacy violations, vote buying and coercion.

But the sharpest critique of the Michigan plan came from the Rev. Al Sharpton, a Democratic candidate for president, who called it a "high-tech poll tax."

"If someone can vote in the warmth of their living room, but a grandmother has to go down four flights of stairs and into the cold," he said, "that's not an even playing field."

People with Internet access at home do tend to be richer and whiter than those who do not. And the Supreme Court has ruled that making polling places in the physical world inconvenient for black voters can violate the law.

The article quotes Rick Hasen (of the Election Law blog) and Heather Gerken on their mixed reactions to Internet voting.

How is Internet voting different from no-reason-needed absentee voting -- according to the "warm living room" standard? That's a frivolous way of asking this important question: how close to equal does the ease of voting have to be not to violate either the Voting Rights Act or the equal protection clause? I would be interested in your comments.

How much is a list worth?

If I give a political campaign organization a list of people who would be likely to contribute to the campaign, is that worth something? Sure, but how much? And is that a contribution? If the list cost me $1.7 million to build, have I made a $1.7 contribution to the campaign?

In December, the FEC entered into a concilation agreement with John Ashcroft's Senate campaign committee for violating the FECA by accepting such a list. Of course, the only amount mentioned in the FEC's press release was $110,000 -- the amount of rental income from the list.

Forbes.com and the Washington Post have reported recently on the gift by Grover Norquist of a list of activists to the Bush re-election campaign. Here's how the Post describes the list:

Norquist, 47, is known for his weekly strategy sessions of conservatives, a Washington institution. But quietly, for the past five years, he also has been building a network of "mini-Grover" franchises. He has crisscrossed the country, hand-picking leaders, organizing meetings of right-wing advocates in 37 states. The network will meet its first test in the presidential race. On this evening at Harry's, several blocks from campaign headquarters in Arlington, Norquist presented his master contact list to Mehlman, mapped out and bound in a book.

"Fabulous, Grover. Awesome," Mehlman said, scanning the book like a hungry man reading a menu. "We're going to take that energy and harness it."

Forbes.com reports the reaction of the clean government groups:

"A campaign would love to get a list of these [coordinators'] names," says a conservative who's familiar with the Washington powwows. "It saves them time. The Bush campaign has a database with 6 million names, but how many can they really activate?"

A verboten contribution of a list? Clean government groups are licking their lips. "How much money and staff time over five years did it take to put together this list?" asks Lawrence Noble, director of the Center for Responsive Politics. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics is already planning on calling for an FEC inquiry. "The list has no financial value," Norquist insists.

Oh, yeah? Stay tuned.

Thanks to Alfredo Garcia for both news links.

January 16, 2004

GOP To Reshuffle Swing States; Plan To Redistrict America

Go over to The American Street and read GOP To Reshuffle Swing States; Plan To Redistrict America. Please be warned that this article is rated GP -- Gullible Persons Should Not Read This.

This just in: blogs are useful to campaigns

The Washington Post reported yesterday:

Political candidates trying to use the Internet to win support from young, Web-wise voters should avoid pop-up and banner ads and instead use interactive media like Internet chats and "blogs," according to a study released today.

Sponsoring an online chat room or creating a Web log -- or blog -- where people can voice their opinions and ask questions is the most popular way for candidates to communicate with young people, according to the study, which was sponsored by the D.C.-based Council for Excellence in Government's Center for Democracy and Citizenship and the University of Maryland's Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement.

The study showed that teenagers and younger voters resented being peppered with one-way communications. Sixty-nine percent of the respondents said they would be less likely to pay attention to a candidate who sent weekly text messages to their cell phones or handheld devices.

"The Internet is a terrific tool to use with those you already have reason to believe are with you and who are willing to do more on their terms, but by all means avoid like hell the shotgun scatter of banner ads and blanket e-mail," said David Skaggs, executive director at the Center for Democracy and Citizenship and a former Democratic Congressman from Colorado.

Thanks to Airblogger for the link.

(By the way, how long do you think it will be before mainstream publications, like the Post, stop putting "blog" in quotes?)

Another re-redistricting -- this time in New Hampshire

The Concord Monitor reports:

Time to unroll those maps again. The New Hampshire House voted yesterday to retool slightly the state's electoral landscape, passing a redistricting bill that divides several districts into smaller ones.

Supporters of the new plan said shrinking some of the state's largest districts would force representatives to be more responsive to their constituents.

"We always put the people of New Hampshire first, and not the incumbents sitting in this House," said Deputy House Speaker Mike Whalley.

But opponents, including most Democrats, argued that the House was setting a dangerous precedent by redrawing district boundaries just two years after the latest remapping of electoral lines. The House has traditionally reconsidered district boundaries every decade, as specified in the state constitution. Democratic Leader Peter Burling warned lawmakers that annual redistricting votes would allow the majority party to solidify its grip on power through unconstitutional methods.

Stay of Texas re-redistricting denied by Supreme Court

AP reports:

The U.S. Supreme Court refused Friday to block Texas from holding congressional elections next fall under a hard-fought new map that could cost the Democrats as many as six House seats. The map was pushed through the Legislature by the Republicans last year after months of partisan fighting that included two out-of-state walkouts by the Democrats.

Congressional Democrats and others claim the map dilutes minority voting strength, but that was not at issue on Friday; the high court has yet to decide whether to hear that argument.

Instead, the justices rejected an emergency appeal that sought to stop the state from using the new boundaries in next fall's elections.

"The elections will move forward under the new map," said Angela Hale, a spokeswoman for Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott. Abbott has said repeatedly he expects the map to withstand court challenges.

Arizona legislative plan struck, congressional plan OK

The Superior Court of Arizona, Maricopa County, has issued its
findings of fact, conclusions of law, and order in a case challenging the legislative and congressional redistricting under provisions of the Arizona Constitution. The court held that the Independent Redistricting Commission failed to comply the Arizona Constitution's requirement that competitiveness be favored. The court ordered relief (a new plan) for the legislative plaintiffs but held that the Commission had convinced the court that drawing more competitive congressional districts would have violated another state constitutional goal -- compliance with the Voting Rights Act.

(Disclosure: I represented the plaintiffs in the suit against the Independent Redistricting Commission over its Congressional plan.)

January 15, 2004

Money Primary

Reuters reports:

If recent history is any guide, Howard Dean may have locked up the presidential nomination at midnight on New Year's Eve when he became 2003's best-funded Democratic hopeful, a public-interest group said on Wednesday.

Research into campaign funding by the Washington-based Center for Public Integrity shows that since the mid-1970s every party nomination has gone to the candidate who raised the most money the year before the election and qualified for federal matching funds.

The center is a nonprofit group that conducts independent research into issues of public interest including government accountability.

"It's true for both parties," said Charles Lewis, the center's executive director and author of the book "The Buying of the President 2004" (HarperCollins), which charts the role played by money in modern presidential politics.

I know. It was a surprise to me too.

5 groups ask for investigation of Ashcroft campaign

Public Campaign Action Fund joined with four other citizen groups and public interest law firms to ask the Department of Justice to appoint an outside special counsel and launch a criminal investigation of Attorney General John Ashcroft’s campaign finance and ethics violations.

January 14, 2004

California changes the rules for campaign contributions

AP reports:

The state's campaign watchdog Wednesday closed a contribution limit loophole that enabled Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante to raise nearly $4 million last year in limit-topping donations in his unsuccessful campaign for governor.

The Fair Political Practices Commission's 4-0 vote threw out the panel's 2 1/2-year-old ruling that said campaign committees in existence before voter-approved contribution limits took effect in January 2001 were not covered by the caps.

The original decision drew strong criticism from campaign reform groups and some legislators and to a significant extent kept open the flow of big donations that voters tried to cut off when they approved Proposition 34 in 2000.

According to Common Cause, the old ruling has enabled legislators to raise at least $6 million in donations that exceeded the limits of Proposition 34, which puts a $3,200-per-election cap on donations to legislative candidates from most sources. Limits for statewide candidates are higher.

Escambia County FL to use mixed election system

The News | Pensacola News Journal reports:

After 15 months of meetings, the Escambia County Charter Commission agreed Tuesday night to have "at-large" county commissioners in its proposed new form of county government.

The charter commission voted 9-4 in favor of a move to install a 10-member county commission, with seven single-member districts and three at-large districts.

Such a set-up will not dilute the minority vote, said Garrett Walton, the charter commission member who proposed the at- large plan. Escambia County Supervisor of Elections Bonnie Jones has managed to draw seven districts, of which two districts have a majority of black voters. The district lines are not set in stone, and the current county commission would be responsible for redistricting.

At-large representation brought up another issue among charter commission members.

Countywide representation possibly could result in three people from the "downtown crowd" getting elected to the county commission, said Barbara "Bobbie" Brown, a charter commission member.

To quell those concerns, the charter commission voted 8-5 to create northern, central and southern zones, where residents who wanted to run for the at- large seats must reside. The at- large members would be elected - one from each zone - but still would directly represent the entire county.

I am particularly interested in this plan because I was one of the lawyers representing the plaintiffs in a suit about 20 years ago to dismantle the at-large elections and go to districts.

January 13, 2004

Absentee voting campaign leads to prosecution

Tomorrow's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has an article on a prosecution for election fraud arising out of an absentee voting campaign:

The case is now in a jury's hands after Knox took the stand in his own defense Tuesday, acknowledging problems in the absentee drive he supervised but denying any criminal intent.

By testifying, Knox was able to lay out his long history as a voting-rights activist, including his involvement in a successful redistricting suit against Milwaukee County.

After defense attorney Tom Erickson established Knox's credentials, Knox insisted that his crew of ACE volunteers - many of whom also face election fraud charges - were specifically instructed not to sway people to vote for any particular candidate in the recall race.

He acknowledged that errors came to plague the drive - errors that prosecution testimony Tuesday showed had led to absentee ballots being cast for Holloway from vacant lots and by non-existent voters in an election Holloway easily won.

But Knox said they were innocent mistakes in a trial run of a novel concept designed to boost African-American turnout, not Holloway's campaign in particular.

ACE workers under Knox's direction went door-to-door in Holloway's district convincing residents to request that absentee ballots be sent not to the residents, the usual procedure, but to ACE's offices. Workers would then bring the ballots to the residents, witness their votes and return the ballots to City Hall. The law allowed the procedure, if done properly.

House Dems raise almost as much hard money as former soft money

The Hill reports House Dems unfazed by loss of soft money:

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), the fundraising arm for House Democrats, raised $28.5 million in 2003, close to the $31.7 million record it set two years ago, at the height of soft money’s heyday.

Last year’s sum is within a few million of the off-year record House Democrats set in 1999, prior to the last presidential election.

House Democrats finished the year in strong financial shape, raising $8 million in December and ending up with $8.5 million in cash and no bank debt. Of the money raised in December, typically a slow fundraising month, $1.5 million came through direct mail.

The fundraising sums defy predictions made at the beginning of the year that House Democrats would face major difficulties raising money under a new campaign finance law that bars the national parties from raising unlimited donations.

Permanent NY Times links

Howard Bashman clued me into a technique to make New York Times links permanent. Links to the Times had been leading nowhere after about two weeks. I started using the technique this weekend. Thanks, Howard.

How the Iowa caucuses work

The New York Times has this article, Iowa's Dark Art of Caucusing Is Turning a Bit More Public:

The caucuses will convene at 6:30 p.m. as participants arrive and sign in. Some could have a dozen or so people show up, others in the hundreds. After candidate letters are read and nominating papers circulated, the hat is passed for money to help pay for the caucuses. They get down to presidential business at 7 p.m.

The chairman of the caucus determines the "viability" threshold for groups backing each presidential candidates, which in most cases will be 15 percent of the number of people attending. Caucusgoers then have 30 minutes to divide into preference groups for the candidates. If some groups supporting candidates do not reach the 15 percent level, those people then have up to half an hour to realign with other campaigns.

At this stage, the pressure will be on the newly liberated caucusgoers to enlist with another candidate. In a deeper layer of strategy, some participants might even align with a candidate they are not that wild about to cut into the count of those who most threaten their first choice.

At the end of 30 minutes, the preference groups are counted again and the delegates are apportioned by multiplying the number in the preference group by the number of delegates up for grabs in a precinct, then dividing by the total attending the caucus. In cases of ties, delegates can be awarded by flipping a coin or drawing straws.

Dems may contest Pennsylvania judge election

The Phliadelphia Inquirer has an article on the newest member of the Pennsylvania Superior Court, an intermediate appellate court. It includes the following:

After 19 ballot recounts and 60 days of lawyering, [Susan] Gantman, 51, captured the last open seat on the Pennsylvania Superior Court by just 28 votes out of 2.2 million cast, a narrower win than Bush's in Florida.

Yet, for the restrained world of judicial politics, Gantman is on a wild ride that still hasn't stopped. Sworn into a 10-year term on the 15-member court in a private ceremony on Jan. 3, she is now hearing motions.

But for how long? Democratic lawyers representing Gantman's opponent, Westmoreland County Judge John Driscoll, say they have discovered more than 200 disabled, injured and elderly voters whose mail-in absentee ballots were never counted in Philadelphia, Allegheny, Carbon and Westmoreland Counties because they were received late. In a pending federal suit, Democrats say the law allows a later deadline for some disabled voters. They demand these ballots be counted.

"Counting these votes will change the outcome," says Don Morabito, executive director of the state Democratic Party. "We've got to make sure invalids, too, get the right to vote... . I'm not trying to be cute about it, but I think we're on the side of the angels here."

The angels have been silent about Gantman's election.

GOP urges restrictions on 527's

The Wahington Post reports:

The Republican National Committee plans to ask the Federal Election Commission today to ban the raising of $300 million or more in "soft money" by pro-Democratic groups seeking to pay for voter mobilization and TV ads in this year's elections.

The request marks a reversal of traditional Republican opposition to regulating political money. Democrats say the shift is motivated by the GOP's recognition that tougher regulation might work to Democrats' disadvantage.

The Republican request would restrict most political spending to "hard money" contributions, which are limited to $2,000 per individual to a federal candidate. The Republican Party and President Bush hold a substantial advantage over Democrats in raising such money.

RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie -- whose group previously urged the Supreme Court to overturn McCain-Feingold -- pointedly asked his Democratic counterpart, Terence R. McAuliffe, to co-sign the letter to the FEC. McAuliffe said he would consider co-signing if Gillespie would expand the request's scope to cover such pro-Republican groups as Progress for America, United Seniors Association and Americans for Tax Reform, most of which use a different section of the tax code, "501." "I look forward to your reply," McAuliffe concluded his "Dear Ed" letter.

James Jordan, spokesman for three pro-Democratic groups -- the Media Fund, America Coming Together and America Vote -- denounced the RNC action. "This is nothing more nor less than an another attempt by Republican special interests to silence progressive voices in an election year," he said.

The GOP is commenting on a request by Americans for a Better Country. You can review their request and the comments so far (the Republican response is not posted yet) at the FEC site. It is number 03-37.

January 12, 2004

North Carolina GOP appeal

AP reports:

Republican plaintiffs in a lawsuit over legislative districts said Monday that a recent lower court decision needs review by an appeals court because it breaks new legal ground.

The Republicans who want to block new legislative districts waited more than a week before filing notices that they would appeal a decision by Superior Court Judge Robert Hobgood that moves the case to Wake County.

Hobgood also affirmed legislation establishing a new three-judge panel to hear all redistricting lawsuits, including the current challenge.

Metts v Murphy en banc briefs

Sunil Kulkarni, one of the counsel for the plaintiffs in the Metts v Murphy case, has kindly sent me the en banc supplemental briefs requested by the 1st Circuit in the Rhode Island Senate redistricting case. You may download the Brief of the Appellees (the State defendants) or the Brief of the Appellants (the plaintiffs), part 1 and part 2.

Mr. Kulkarni adds, "Thanks for your site--it's now a daily must-read for me." And thanks to you, Sunil.

January 11, 2004

Clark raised $10 million in 4th Q

The New York Times reports in Clark's Cash Came Quickly:

Gen. Wesley K. Clark turned some heads when he announced a few weeks ago that his campaign had raised at least $10 million from October to December. It was less than the $12 million some aides predicted but enough to finance a serious challenge, and it was all engineered by a campaign created in a matter of weeks. General Clark's late-blooming candidacy, which began in September, may have worked to his advantage when it comes to raising money. The fourth quarter fund-raising, though traditionally slowed by the holidays, was the general's first full quarter of seeking money.

While some other candidates struggled to produce numbers so low that many would not publicly announce them, General Clark was able to chase what is often called the "easy money,'' contributions from donors who were naturally inclined to support him.

In many cases, these were celebrities in New York and Los Angeles drawn by the early buzz surrounding his campaign. "This community responds to sizzle, charisma and newness," said Andy Spahn, an executive who handles political affairs for Steven Spielberg and DreamWorks SKG. "He has all that."

January 10, 2004

Prairie View controversy may be ending

HoustonChronicle.com - Deal set in Prairie View A&M voting dispute

Waller County District Attorney Oliver Kitzman will "affirm" the voting rights of Prairie View A&M University students in a letter and personal appearance as early as next week, according to a deal U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee said she made with the prosecutor Friday.

But signs afterward were that the two sides may not yet agree on what Kitzman will affirm.

Jackson Lee said she understood that Kitzman will concede officially that Prairie View students can vote on campus in local elections if they choose to. Kitzman said he still questions whether students can vote at the campus unless their official residence is there.

But both sides did agree that Kitzman will produce a letter and make a visit to the predominantly black campus "as soon as possible." The meeting could occur as early as next week in anticipation of a student voting-rights rally and march planned for Thursday, the birthday of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

California will close a loophole in campaign finance laws

The Los Angeles Times reports:

State officials are moving to bar lawmakers from taking donations of unlimited size in campaign accounts created before new contribution caps took hold.

The Fair Political Practices Commission is expected next week to reverse a decision it made in 2001 that allowed such fundraising. The decision created a loophole used by Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, state Senate leader John Burton (D-San Francisco), Assembly Speaker Herb Wesson (D-Culver City) and other officeholders to tap donors for millions above current contribution limits.

In a memo recommending the reversal, the commission's attorneys said the "potential loophole ... may give some candidates an unnecessary and unfair advantage."

"By amending the regulation," the nine-page memo says, "the commission can ensure that incumbents and challengers conduct their campaigns under the same set of rules and that neither has an unfair advantage over the other."

Advocates of campaign finance limits praised the commission for moving toward repeal of the 2001 rule. The board is expected to act Wednesday.

Sharpton living high while raising low

AP reports:

The Rev. Al Sharpton's presidential campaign has paid for stays in swanky hotels even though it is running on a low budget, federal campaign finance records show.

Although his campaign had raised just $284,000, financial records filed through September showed Sharpton's campaign expenses included $7,343.20 for three nights at the Four Seasons Hotel in Los Angeles and $3,264.11 for one night at the Mansion on Turtle Creek in Dallas.

The Sharpton campaign also spent $1,675 for a limousine service in Oak Lawn, Ill., and $3,645.82 for a stay at the posh Mandarin Oriental hotel overlooking Biscayne Bay in Miami, according to the records available Saturday at the Federal Election Commission's Web site.

The New York Times has a longer story on the same subject. The Times includes this exclupatory statement from Sharpton:

"If I was going to go and live the high life, I certainly wouldn't be doing it one night or two nights at a time," Mr. Sharpton said about his choice of accommodations.

Contributions to California AG

AP reports:

In the last two months, Attorney General Bill Lockyer has taken $71,000 in campaign contributions from executives and two companies that are embroiled in lawsuits and the subject of scores of consumer complaints.

Executives from one firm, Oklahoma-based Pre-Paid Legal Services Inc., gave Lockyer a total of $20,000 between Nov. 8 and Nov. 12, according to state campaign finance records.

Pro football Hall of Famer Fran Tarkenton, who used to be on the firm's board, chipped in another $5,000.

Pre-Paid, a multilevel marketing firm that sells insurance-like legal plans, has been the subject of an "inquiry" by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, according to the company's annual report, and has been the subject of dozens of lawsuits in Oklahoma, Mississippi, Alabama, and West Virginia stemming from its business practices.

The second company, Paycom Billing Services Inc. of Marina del Rey, is the subject of more than 150 complaints with the Better Business Bureau over its billing practices. The company and its top executives gave $46,000 to Lockyer this December.

Paycom is headed by J. Christopher Mallick, a Los Angeles businessman and longtime Lockyer donor who calls the state's top consumer watchdog a "personal friend." In 2001, Mallick, the company, other Paycom officials and lawyer representing the company gave Lockyer $36,195 for his re-election fund.

Consumers have complained that Paycom, an Internet billing company that gets a substantial portion of its money processing credit card payments for adult Web sites, charged them for services they didn't buy.

North Carolina GOP to appeal redistricting decision

AP reports:

Republicans opposed to new legislative districts approved by the General Assembly will appeal a lower court decision requiring a three-member panel of judges to consider rival lawsuits.

Lawyers for GOP legislators filed notices Friday they would appeal Superior Court Judge Robert Hobgood's decisions on redistricting last month to the state Supreme Court.

Hobgood upheld a new law requiring Supreme Court Chief Justice Beverly Lake Jr. to name three Superior Court judges to consider pending and future redistricting lawsuits. He also transferred the court case challenging the districts from Johnston County to Wake County.

Republican lawmakers who opposed the districts approved by the Legislature in November said legislative leaders violated federal law by diluting minority districts to bolster the chances of some white Democratic incumbents.

Georgia governor tries again on re-redistricting

AP reports that Gov. Perdue of Goergia will ask the legislature to "set new rules for future redistricting and voted to scrap a map drawn two years ago when Democrats were in power."

Internet voting in the Michigan Democratic primary

The New York Times has an article today, Michigan's Online Ballot Spurs New Strategies for Democrats:

The virtual ballot box has arrived in Michigan. Democrats in this state are the only voters in the country who have the option of voting online in the presidential primaries this year.

Since New Year's Day, voters have been allowed to apply for ballots and vote by mail or Internet in advance of the Feb. 7 caucuses. Or, on Feb. 7, they can go to one of 576 caucus sites and vote the old-fashioned way. By Thursday night, 11,000 people had applied for ballots, three-fourths of them over the Internet, according to the Michigan Democratic Party. About 100 people had voted so far, 90 of them online.

Mark Brewer, executive chairman of the party, said he had promoted the Internet option as a way to make voting easier and increase turnout. "Polls show that this is very popular, particularly with young people, and they have one of the worst rates of participation," Mr. Brewer said. "If this helps them, that's terrific."

When Mr. Brewer proposed online voting last year, none of the candidates objected. But when Howard Dean started climbing in the polls, they had a change of heart, fearing that his Web-surfing followers would have an inherent advantage.

Seven of the nine candidates — all but Dr. Dean and Gen. Wesley K. Clark — joined a challenge to the process initiated by Joel Ferguson, a Lansing businessman and member of the Democratic National Committee. Their brief, filed with the national committee, which oversees the rules for states, said that major security problems had not been resolved and that online voting discriminated against low-income blacks and Hispanics, less likely than whites to be computer-literate.

But the national party agreed to the Michigan proposal, and now, with the rules set, the candidates have embraced the process, devising innovative ways to track their supporters and prompt them to vote online.

The article explains how each campaign in trying to turn out the vote -- either via the Internet or at traditional voting sites -- using technology.

January 9, 2004

FEC issues a non-gag rule

The Boston Globe had an article yesterday about the FEC meeting on Wednesday:

The Federal Election Commission ruled yesterday that the president, vice president, members of Congress, and candidates for those offices may play a role in campaign fund-raising events even if those who come to the event are asked to give money that exceeds ceilings set by federal law.

So long as those officerholders or candidates do not themselves directly ask for money beyond those ceilings, they may appear as speakers or in other capacities at the events, the FEC ruled. The sponsors must tell the audience that the officeholders and candidates themselves are not there to raise money outside the limits, but others there may make such solicitations.

In yesterday's ruling, the FEC continued its policy of interpreting narrowly the ban imposed on unregulated campaign giving and spending under the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform act, signed into law in 2001.

The request for an opinion came from the Republican Governors Association, formerly affiliated with the RNC but now a separate 527 organization. The FEC General Counsel's proposed response is here, with the proposals of Commissioners Smith and Thomas.

(Thanks again to How Appealing for the link.)

Illegal voting

The Boston Globe had an article yesterday on an extremely rare prosecution for illegal voting:

A disbarred Wall Street lawyer, convicted of the almost unheard-of felony charge of illegal voting, is seeking vindication through a last-ditch appeal to the US Supreme Court.

The appellant is John Kennedy O'Hara, a longtime Brooklyn political activist who ran several insurgent campaigns against the Brooklyn Democratic machine until 1996, when he was convicted of voting using an address that was not his permanent residence. He says party bosses targeted him for prosecution to silence him.

The Supreme Court is scheduled to decide tomorrow whether it will accept the appeal. The case has wended through state and federal courts, an odyssey that has included a conviction, a reversal on appeal, a hung jury in a second trial, and then another conviction. A state appeals court in Albany upheld the second conviction.

The Supreme Court's order list did not grant cert on his case today. (Thanks to How Appealing for the link.)

Application for stay in Supreme Court by Texas plaintiffs

The Texas plaintiffs have filed an emergency application for a stay with Justice Antonin Scalia. Here is the filing (without all the juicy attachments), and here is the AP story.

Thanks to Gerry Hebert for sending the stay application.

French investigating Cheney

Center for American Progress's Progress Report reports today:

Though neglected by major media in the United States, international news sources report that French law enforcement authorities have made Vice President Dick Cheney the target of a criminal investigation for his role in a massive bribery scandal during his time as CEO of Halliburton. Le Figaro, one of France's biggest (and most conservative) newspapers, reports "an investigative judge is looking into allegations of corruption during construction of a natural gas complex in Nigeria by Halliburton" and a French oil company. The international AP newswire reported on 10/11/03 that the judge is "looking into who may have benefited from nearly $200 million in potentially illegal commissions allegedly handed out from 1990 to 2002." In May, Halliburton admitted that, under Cheney's stewardship, it paid "$2.4 million in bribes to Nigerian officials to get favorable tax treatment." Halliburton now says it is cooperating with a simultaneous review by the Security and Exchange Commission.

THE POTENTIAL CHARGES: The London Financial Times reports the investigation specifically focuses on the criminal charges of "misuse of corporate funds" and "corruption of foreign public agents." The Sydney Australia Morning Herald reports the investigative judge is specifically targeting Cheney for his "alleged complicity in the abuse of corporate assets."

THE POTENTIAL CONSEQUENCES: Though the investigation is being spearheaded by French law enforcement, the UK Guardian notes, it would be prosecuted under international laws agreed to by the United States in a 35-nation treaty signed in 1997, meaning the consequences could be very real. The treaty, "under the auspices of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, aims to fight corporate attempts to buy the favors of public authorities abroad." Not coincidentally, the London Financial Times points out that the Bush Administration is using similar agreements to aggressively "seek the extradition and pressing claims against senior French finance industry executives connected with the Credit Lyonnais purchase of Executive Life, the failed Californian insurer."

The story has links to the overseas newspapers.

Suit against FEC regulations not dismissed

The Hill's Tipsheet reports in today's edition:

Expect the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to review a challenge by House campaign finance reformers Chris Shays (R-Conn.) and Martin Meehan (D-Mass.) to election regulations adopted last year by the Federal Election Commission (FEC). On Wednesday, U.S. District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly rejected a proposal by the FEC to dismiss Shays and Meehan’s case on the basis that they lacked standing. The favorable ruling for the reformers could be a sign that the court is inclined to throw out new FEC regulations that reformers have criticized for undermining the new campaign finance law.

To sign up for the free email newsletter, go here.

GOP-leaning businesses to form a 527 group

The Hill reports:

The Bush-Cheney political operation is working with business groups to help President Bush overcome the impact of pro-labor coalitions that have sprung up since the enactment of campaign finance reform legislation.

The business groups have devised an ambitious plan to counteract the anti-Bush forces that have already mustered a $10 million dollar pledge from Wall Street financier George Soros.

Ken Mehlman, who left his post as White House political advisor last year to oversee the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign, is playing an important role in organizing the new effort.

Now that the law bars the use of most forms of so-called soft money in election campaigns, a large segment of the business community appears to be turning more and more to a labor union model that entails direct advocacy among employees, some of whom also could be union members.

The campaign finance laws require the group to maintain at least a semblance of nonpartisan independence, but there is no question that it favors Bush’s re-election in November.

January 8, 2004

Preclearance for abolition of NYC community school boards

The Queens Chronicle reports on the preclearance of the abolition of the community school boards in New York City:

The federal government has given preliminary approval to a city plan to replace community school boards with parent councils.

The Justice Department’s decision last Thursday clears the final administrative hurdle to dissolving the boards, which have governed the city’s schools since 1969.

The approval also marks a significant victory for Mayor Bloomberg as well as state lawmakers, who passed a law eliminating the school boards in 2003 after giving the mayor direct control over the system.

Georgia GOP opens new front on redistricting fight

In addition to their suit now being tried in federal court (and the still-to-be-reheard Section 5 precelarance action), Georgia's GOP leadership is mounting a publicity campaign leading up to the legislative session. These two articles cover the issues:

From The Weekly Online!:

Governor Sonny Perdue today focused on his plans for redistricting in the coming legislative session during the second day of his statewide fly-around. Perdue spoke to large and enthusiastic crowds in four cities - Rome, Chickamauga, Crandall, and Toccoa. During each stop, Governor Perdue spoke directly to the issue of redistricting. "You recall how during the last round of redistricting, partisan lawmakers sliced and diced Georgia's legislative maps. In the process, they broke apart communities, divided counties, and disenfranchised many voters," said Perdue. "There is no reason why one district has 15,000 more voters than a neighboring district. That's just not right." To address redistricting, Governor Perdue announced that his floor leaders will introduce a "Principles of Redistricting" bill to put broken communities back together. The redistricting bill will strip partisanship out of the process and ensure that the State of Georgia clearly and convincingly follows the U.S. Constitution and federal law. "I believe these principles will help us restore the kind of legislative process you want - one in which well-meaning people on both sides work together to move the state forward," added Perdue.

And from the Gwinnett Daily Post, a small report on the trial:

The Georgia General Assembly’s Republican leaders during the most recent political map-drawing sessions testified Wednesday that they were frozen out of the process by majority Democrats.

‘‘It was partisan from the get-go,’’ said state Sen. Eric Johnson, of Savannah, who was leader of the Senate’s minority Republicans during 2001’s redistricting. ‘‘It was going to be political, but I guess what was a surprise was the brutality of it.’’

Johnson was testifying in front of a three-judge panel in U.S. District Court in the second day of a trial challenging the state’s House, Senate and congressional maps.

Republicans filed the federal suit, arguing that majority Democrats crammed as many voters as possible into heavily Republican districts while spreading out Democrats over as many districts as possible — violating the Constitution’s ‘‘one person-one vote’’ provision, as interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court.
The trial is expected to continue at least through Friday and the judges have no deadline for when they must return a verdict.

Montana Supreme Court to rule on holdover question

The Billings (MT) Gazette reports:

The Montana Supreme Court has promised a decision by Feb. 3 on whether the Legislature went too far in deciding how midterm senators should be assigned to newly drawn legislative districts.

In an order this week, the court gave both sides until Jan. 20 to submit their written arguments. The justices did not indicate whether they will require the attorneys to also argue personally before the court, as is often done on major cases.

The high court agreed to put the matter on a fast track, because a ruling will affect the status of 11 Senate districts containing about a fifth of the state's population, and the period for candidates to file opens Jan. 26. The Supreme Court's decision will determine which of those seats will be on the ballot this year.

The legal dispute centers on the 2003 Legislature's decision to pass a law dictating how "holdover senators" - those not up for election until 2006 - are assigned to the new districts created following the 2000 census.

Christian Science Monitor editorial on Texas case

The Chirstian Science Monitor has an editorial, Gerrymuddling in Texas, in tomorrow's paper. Here is an excerpt:

New technology has made redistricting easier, quicker, and ever more precise - an advance that should be used to help better reflect the voting population rather than more finely carving up congressional seats.

Voters shouldn't sit back and let the courts or Congress solve this problem. They can pressure candidates to support measures on when redistricting should be done, and how each district should reflect equality, contiguity, unity, and compactness.

The problem is, of course, the Texas GOP thinks its plan does "better reflect the voting population."

Appeal from Texas redistricting decision

The Tyler Morning Telegraph reports:

A Tyler attorney filed an appeal to the United States Supreme Court Wednesday, contesting the redistricting map approved by a federal three-judge panel.

Otis Carroll Jr. filed the appeal in the Tyler federal courthouse, as well as an emergency motion for a stay pending the appeal.

Republican U.S. Representative candidate Louis Gohmert said the decision was appealed quickly because the Secretary of State has to make plans for the new primary election filings. If they were going to stop the map they would have to do it immediately.

"Otis Carroll is an excellent lawyer," Gohmert said. "They picked a good salesman but it's not a good product to sell. The Supreme Court is not going to be very accommodating. It was really up to the trial court."

January 7, 2004

"How to Be an Iowan for a Day"

Dan Savage has an op-ed in today New York Times, How to Be an Iowan for a Day, about how easy it is to vote in the Iowa caucuses:

As a citizen and, um, a respectable journalist, I was appalled when I learned that you didn't need a valid voter registration card or proof of residency — any identification at all — to take part in Iowa's caucuses. All you had to do was show up at a caucus site and fill out a voter registration card. While Iowa's caucuses don't determine the Democratic or Republican nominee, they play a big role in shaping the presidential race. With huge numbers of volunteers and true believers flooding into the state, the potential for mischief seemed huge.

So I went to a caucus site, gave the address of my hotel in Des Moines as my "residence" when I registered (no one asked how long I intended to reside in Iowa), and took part in the caucus. As it turned out, I didn't even need to register — when it came time to indicate whom we supported for president, slips of scrap paper were passed out to everyone in the room. There was nothing to stop someone who hadn't signed in, or even registered to vote, from grabbing a piece of paper and jotting down a name. I told this story in my articles. I thought I was being a good citizen, pointing out the flaws in the system. Instead, I was charged with a felony. (I eventually pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and paid a small fine.)

January 6, 2004

Texas re-redistricting upheld

The federal district court has upheld the re-redistricting of the Texas Congressional districts. Tim Storey of the National Conference of State Legislatures (for whose lead to the link I am thankful) says that the court unanimously upheld the authority of a state to do mid-decade re-redistricting, but one judge dissented on some other issues. The opinion is here, but be patient for its loading.

Felon voting suit filed in New Jersey

Frank Askin writes:

The Rutgers Constitutional Litigation Clinic filed suit this morning challenging then New Jersey law that disfranchises parolees and probationers. The suit was filed under the State Constitution in Union County Superior Court Chancery Division. The lead Plaintiffs are the New Jersey State Conference NAACP and the Latino Leadership Alliance of New Jersey. It is based on a disparate impact theory, and alleges that the disparate impact of the felon disfranchisement law is, in significant part, an artifact of the discriminatory operation of the criminal justice system itself. The Complaint cites the many acknowledgments of the courts and Executive in New Jersey of racial profiling practices which lead to the investigation, arrest, prosecution and conviction of African-Americans and Latinos in numbers greatly disproportionate to their propensity to commit crime. More than 60 per cent of those on parole and probation in NJ are African-American and Latino.
Although the New Jersey Constitution authorizes the Legislature to deny the right to vote to persons convicted of indictable offenses, the suit alleges that the Construction does not authorize the Legislature to deny Equal Protection of the Law to the minority community.

UPDATE: the complaint is attached here.

Nevada seeks voluntary disclosures

The Reno Gazette-Journal reports:

Unhappy at his failure last year to get better information on campaign contributions from politicians, Secretary of State Dean Heller is asking elected officials to voluntarily report additional figures this month.

By law, elected officials must file reports periodically stating how much money they have raised and spent during campaigns. The first of such forms are due Jan 15.

Heller is sending a letter to elected officials asking them to report how much cash they had on Jan. 1, 2003, how much interest they earned on contributions in 2003, how much they spent during 2003 and how much they had left as of Dec. 31.

The current forms require candidates to report how much they raised and spent during 2003 but not how much money they had left over from the last reporting period.

Major donations from minors

The Helena Independent Record reports:

Republican governor candidate Bob Brown's campaign on Monday called on GOP rival Pat Davison to stop his practice of taking large donations from minors.

Brown's running mate, Rep. Dave Lewis of Helena, noted in Davison's third-quarter campaign finance report, Davison reported collecting $4,100 from 11 children listing their occupations as students for an average of $377 each. That's $23 less than the $400 maximum donation per individual that was in place at the time.

Lewis said three of the donations totaling $1,200 came from students out of state and nine donations totaling $3,200 were made by in-state students living at the same address as their parents. Only one of the nine students living at home is listed as a registered voter.

A father and grandfather, Lewis said he couldn't imagine many teenagers willingly parting with that much money to back a political candidate.

Scottish MP voting to be challenged

The Glasgow Evening Times reports:

Premier Tony Blair is likely to need Scottish support to force through increases in tuition fees in English universities, so Conservative James Gray is seeking to stop their voting rights.

Mr Gray, who was educated at Glasgow High School and Glasgow University, is MP for North Wiltshire. He believes Scots votes at Westminster are "completely unsustainable".

Mr Blair wants to force through higher tuition fees for England - against fierce opposition from many of his own MPs.

More than 150 have said they will rebel - and Mr Blair has made it clear he could be forced to quit if he loses such a vital vote.

Mr Gray believes Speaker Michael Martin should rule that Scots MPs must refrain from voting when a Bill affects only England and Wales.
He also wants to stop Scottish MPs becoming ministers in departments with England-only responsibilities.

January 5, 2004

MoveOn.org posts 15 anti-Bush for your vote

Bush in 30 Seconds has posted the 15 finalists in its contest to choose the best anti-Bush ad.

Democratic Delegate Selection Plans

Rob Richie asked if I had links to Democratic Party delegate selection plans showing the use of proportional representation. Here's what I have found so far:

A summary of the national rules on the allocation of delegates to the states (found for some reason on the website of Mr. Carmel High School)

a CBS News summary

Alabama

Florida

Hawai'i

New Jersey

North Dakota

Ohio

Oklahoma

Texas

Wisconsin

If you have links to some more, let me know.

Georgia redistricting suit goes to trial

AP reports:

A three-judge federal panel will begin hearing a lawsuit challenging Georgias state and congressional political districts on Tuesday.

The results of the case, expected to continue at least through Friday, could radically alter the states 2004 elections and throw this years General Assembly session, which begins next week, into chaos.

The lawsuit was filed last year by two dozen Republicans who claim political districts drawn more than two years ago _ when Democrats dominated the statehouse _ are unconstitutional because they dont ensure that all districts have the same number of people.

The so-called Larios case _ after plaintiff Sara Larios _ had been broader. But the judges tossed out several other complaints, including charges of political gerrymandering and racial discrimination.

Afghan Constitution

The New York Times article on the new Afghan Constititution gives few details on the election arrangements except for these two paragraphs:

There had been long battles in the assembly and committee rooms over the three weeks right up to the last moment, but delegates over all said they accepted the final draft. The grand council, or loya jirga, added some checks and balances to the presidential powers, giving the Parliament a veto over senior appointments and over some policy decisions, and it gave broad language rights to the ethnic minorities in their own regions.

In addition, women were given recognition as equal citizens, and 25 percent of the seats of the lower house of Parliament were set aside for them.

A sidebar from Agence France-Presse has the following additional details:

¶The president will be elected by the Afghan people, with two vice presidents, nominated by presidential candidates.

¶A national assembly will consist of two houses: a Wolesi Jirga or "house of people" and a Meshrano Jirga or "house of elders."

¶The president will appoint ministers, the attorney general and central bank governor with the approval of the Wolesi Jirga.

Texas redistricting -- another biref

Nina Perales has kindly sent me the brief of the GI Forum (and other Hispanic plaintiffs) in the Texas redistricting case.

January 3, 2004

Texans for a Republican Majority

The Los Angeles Times has a longish article today on a group formed by Tom DeLay:

Authorities are conducting a criminal investigation into whether corporate money, including hundreds of thousands of dollars linked to U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, improperly financed the Republican Party's takeover of the Texas Capitol.

The probe is focused on several political and fundraising organizations run by Republican activists, investigators said. One of the organizations, the political action committee Texans for a Republican Majority, has direct ties to DeLay, a Texas Republican and one of the most powerful politicians in Washington.

At issue is whether the organizations improperly used corporate contributions to help finance the campaigns of more than 20 Republican candidates for the Texas House of Representatives in 2002, according to documents and interviews with prosecutors and government investigators.

Many campaign finance watchdog organizations believe the investigation is a test of whether "soft money" — unlimited contributions from corporations, unions and wealthy individuals — will begin playing a more direct role in state and local elections.

January 1, 2004

Voting rights in history

Three articles about voting rights in museums or in historical magazines:

AP reports:

ATLANTA (AP) -- The daughter of the late civil rights leader Hosea Williams plans to build a museum and community center on the site of the house where he lived for 35 years.

The Providence Journal reports:

The [Glocester Historic Society] hopes to make the [Reuben Mason house in Chepachet Village] into a museum about the Thomas Dorr rebellion of 1842 -- a battle that made the extension of voting rights a dominant issue in Rhode Island.

The house also played a significant part in Thomas Dorr's rebellion in 1842 against Rhode Island's limit of suffrage. Dorr's lawyer was from the area and a large number of people who supported Dorr worked on the local farms, according to Edna Kent, a Glocester historian. As a result the house was designated as the military hospital for Dorr's supporters.

The Lennox (SD) Independent reports on the latest issue of the journal South Dakota History:

Emma Smith DeVoe was a key figure in the first campaign for the adoption of a woman suffrage amendment to the state constitution in 1890. Those fighting for women’s voting rights continued to look to her leadership until they achieved victory in 1918. DeVoe’s story is told by Jennifer Ross-Nazzal in “Emma Smith DeVoe and the South Dakota Suffrage Campaigns.” Ross-Nazzal works as an oral historian for the NASA Johnson Space Center Oral History Project in Houston and is a Ph.D. candidate in United States history at Washington State University.

"The Slave Power"

The Indiana Law Blog has an interesting post on the election of 1800. According to Garry Wills, in his new book The Negro President, Jefferson won because of the disproportionate voting power given to slave holding states -- three fifths of all the slaves were counted as part of each state's population for purposes of apportioning Congress and the Electoral College.

Just think: an institution as evil as slavery gave us a president as great as Jefferson.

Indianapolis contest decided

The Indianapolis Star reports on the election contest for an at-large seat on the Indianapolis "UniGov" city-county council:

Republican Scott Keller held on to his slim Election Day victory for City-County Council after a judge on Tuesday threw out portions of a recount challenge by his Democratic opponent.

Judge David Dreyer of Marion Superior Court ruled that voters chose Keller over incumbent Karen Horseman by a margin of three votes to represent District 16 on the Eastside.

Dreyer also found that a section of the state's election law -- which requires that valid absentee ballots be initialed by the county clerk or election board -- runs counter to the Indiana Constitution.

The judgment does not affect control of the City-County Council, which Democrats captured for the first time in more than 30 years after the Nov. 4 election.

Horseman argued that three ballots on which a straight-Democratic Party vote was marked but also included a write-in candidate for District 16 should be counted in her favor -- an argument Dreyer dismissed.

Horseman also maintained that two absentee ballots cast for her should count, even though they did not have the clerk's initials as required by law.

On that point, Dreyer agreed and gave Horseman those two disputed votes.

"Destroying one's fundamental right to vote because of a clerk's mistake is totally unjustified," he wrote in the nine-page opinion.

Those same initials are not required on regular ballots.

DC voting rights petition

The Washington Times reports today,

D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton has published in the Congressional Record a D.C. voting rights petition signed by 1,000 D.C. residents including a former U.S. senator, a former congressman, a former vice chairman of the Federal Reserve, a former ambassador, two former Cabinet secretaries, four current university presidents and four national civil rights leaders.

Texas student voting challenged

The Houston Chronicle reports:

The dispute over whether Prairie View A&M University students may continue to vote in Waller County elections has now reached the Texas attorney general's office.

State Sen. Rodney Ellis sent a letter Tuesday to Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott asking for a legal opinion on the debate, set off in November when Waller County District Attorney Oliver Kitzman raised questions about whether the students can vote in county elections.

In his letter to the attorney general, Ellis spelled out the requirements necessary to vote in Texas: A person must be a resident of the county at least 30 days prior to the election; be a U.S. citizen; be at least age 18; be properly registered; not be a felon who has not completed his sentence; and not be mentally disabled as determined by a court.

"The law, I think, is very clear on the subject," Ellis said Wednesday. "Students have the right to vote where they go to school."

Ellis, who has also asked the U.S. Justice Department to look into the matter, cited a 1979 U.S. Supreme Court ruling affirming the right of Prairie View students to vote in Waller County.

Prairie View A&M is a state-supported, historically black university that represents a potentially large voting bloc in the county. Ellis, a Houston Democrat, said if all students went to the polls, they would account for almost one-third of the voters in the county.

Yeah, if they would all vote.