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

« January 2004 | Main | March 2004 »

February 29, 2004

Florida considers closing a campaign finance loophole

House Speaker Johnnie Byrd is joining the drive to examine a campaign-finance loophole that allows some lawmakers to get unlimited donations from people they don't have to name.

Byrd, a Republican from Plant City who will begin his second session in charge of the House on Tuesday, sent a letter during the weekend to two other lawmakers asking them to write legislation that would address "committees of continuous existence."

The committees have remained largely under the campaign-finance radar screen, allowing sitting lawmakers to raise large amounts of money to fund their ambitions to leadership posts in the Legislature. For example, the expected next speaker, Rep. Allan Bense, R-Panama City, was allowed to raise money in unlimited amounts to support his bid. Bense would mostly use the money to support other candidates who might support him for speaker. -- Speaker joins fight to close loophole (AP)

Miami contractor loses $2 million job over $500 contribution

A $500 campaign contribution to a Miami Beach commissioner helped disqualify a contractor and will result in the city paying close to $300,000 extra to renovate the Jackie Gleason Theater of the Performing Arts.

The illegal contribution from Tran Construction to City Commissioner Simon Cruz's campaign marks the first time a vendor has been disqualified and temporarily barred from obtaining new business from the city under Miami Beach's toughened vendor ordinance. ...

Tran Construction was the lowest bidder for the contract to renovate the theater, at 1700 Washington Ave., and city staff deemed the company to be the best option for the $2 million job. However, in October, the company made a $500 contribution to Cruz, who was sworn into office in November.

The vendor ordinance, strengthened in 2003 as part of campaign finance reform by commissioners, specifies that a person or entity who makes a contribution to a candidate who is elected to office is disqualified from serving as a vendor to the city for 12 months following the swearing in of that elected official. -- Contractor loses $2 million job (Miami Herald)

India will use electronic voting machines exclusively

Hoping ‘‘India shines in conducting its elections,’’ Chief Election Commissioner T S Krishnamurthy today set the largest democratic exercise rolling by announcing the dates for General Elections to the 14th Lok Sabha [House of the People in the Indian Parliament]. Simultaneous Assembly elections will be held in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa and Sikkim.

Votes will be cast in four phases, spread over 20 days: on April 20 and 26, May 5 and May 10. For the first time, only electronic voting machines will be used across the country. -- Election countdown begins, 50 days to go (Express News Service, India)

Bullitt Co., KY, legislative districting okayed

An attorney representing a group of Bullitt County residents said yesterday that he would appeal a judge's decision upholding a redistricting plan that divided the county among four state legislative districts.

In a 10-page ruling issued Friday, Franklin Circuit Judge Roger Crittenden criticized the meandering 18th Legislative District but wrote that it still passed constitutional muster. ...

Crittenden's ruling denied a motion by the plaintiffs asking the judge to order a new redistricting plan that would divide Bullitt County into fewer districts. The lawsuit argued that the redistricting bill passed by the General Assembly eroded Bullitt's political power, with three of the four districts dominated by other counties. -- Appeal planned in redistricting case (Louisville Courier-Journal)

Boston's problem may be exported

Some officials south of Boston are worried that court-ordered redistricting of House districts in Boston will affect suburban districts, too.

"I'm sure we'll be affected, but what the effect will be we just don't know," said James G. Mullen Jr., Milton's town clerk and chairman of the Board of Selectmen.

James F. Burgess Jr., a Randolph selectman, said the Legislature might try to carve up Randolph more than it already is to solve its problems in Boston.

"I believe you are going to see the Legislature still try to protect the incumbents," said Burgess, who sued the state after the current district lines were established in 2001. "When that happens, it doesn't bode well for the citizens of the Commonwealth." -- Officials wary of fallout from Boston's redistricting woes (Boston Globe)

February 28, 2004


You have probably noticed some changes around the old weblog during the last week. We have three columns now and a new banner (I would have called it the masthead or name plate in my newspaper days).

The left column is going to hold ads, the book store (I promise to add some more titles -- and I welcome your suggestions), and a news feed from Jurist of recent law-related stories.

The banner is something I did myself, using Adobe Photoshop Elements and an old drawing by the granddaddy of policial cartoonists, Thomas Nast.

I hope you like the new look.

Kucinich and matching funds

Dennis Kucinich has been the target of many jokes as he marches winless through the Democratic primaries. So how does the Ohio representative carry on? One reason is that so far he can afford to, thanks in part to taxpayer money.

In February, Mr. Kucinich drew more public financing than any other candidate, according to the Federal Election Commission. He received $2.1 million in public money, even though he raised only $5.5 million from donors through January, far less than Senator John Kerry's $24 million or Senator John Edwards's $16 million.

Public financing matches individual contributions up to $250, and the campaign's high number of small, matchable donations lifted its take, said Phillip Mohorich, the Kucinich campaign finance director. -- Week in Review: How He Keeps Going and Going (New York Times)

In order words, Kucinich is raising money the way the drafters of the FECA planned. I can't think of a better reason to criticize the guy. A candidate who can't think of a way to raise funds by skirting the edge of the law must be too stupid to be president.

Arnold terminates the loan

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has agreed to use his own money to pay off $4.5 million in personal loans to two campaign committees from last fall's recall election, responding to a judge's ruling that the loans violated campaign-finance law.

The Republican governor filed papers Friday to convert the loans into campaign donations to the committees, Californians for Schwarzenegger and his Total Recall Committee.

In a preliminary ruling late last month, Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Loren McMaster said the loans violated Proposition 34, a campaign reform measure approved by California voters in 2000. The measure allows candidates to loan their campaigns no more than $100,000.

The restriction is designed to prevent winning candidates from loaning their campaigns large amounts of money, then using their newly won positions to leverage donations to repay themselves. -- Schwarzenegger to Pay Back Campaign Loans (AP)

A $100,000 cap on loans -- what will those populists in California think of next to level the playing field for ordinary candidates?

California paper unearths another form of corruption -- oh, lordy

Rules written before the Internet explosion allow independent expenditure committees to request photos from candidates without violating regulations banning expenditures "made at the behest of" a candidate. Candidates' downloadable photo galleries comply with the law, an official said Friday.

"If all you're doing is getting a photo, then you still fall under the definition of independent expenditure," said Stephanie Dougherty of the state's Fair Political Practices Commission.

Money-starved candidates are putting out the digital welcome mat. Candidates' Web site photo galleries offer a smorgasbord of possible campaign art. Most show the candidates with other elected officials. Candidates also appear with police officers and firefighters or strolling with their families.

Several photos from Emmerson's campaign Web site ended up in pro-Emmerson television commercials and brochures paid for by the California Dental Association's political action committee. -- Campaign funding loophole exploited (Press-Enterprise)

"It's very difficult to run a campaign and keep an eye on your rear end"

Mobile County [Alabama] Commissioner Freeman Jockisch illegally took more than $19,000 from his campaign fund and used it for personal gain, according to an updated indictment returned against him Friday by a special federal grand jury.

The document adds eight counts of mail fraud to the 16 mail fraud counts and four counts of filing false tax returns that Jockisch already faced in federal court, charges that accuse the commissioner of hiding and failing to pay federal taxes on more than $93,000 of income.

The latest allegations stem from the same paperwork issues that led a Mobile County Circuit Court grand jury to indict Jockisch last month on a single state charge of illegally using campaign funds. That indictment did not divulge how much money state investigators believe Jockisch took or how he did it. ...

"If they've done nothing else, they've certainly interfered with his opportunity to be re-elected," said Jockisch's lawyer, Billy Kimbrough. "It's very difficult to run a campaign and keep an eye on your rear end all at the same time."

Jockisch, a three-term Republican, is seeking re-election. He is set for trial on the federal charges in May, days before the June 1 primary, in which he will face at least two opponents. -- Federal grand jury adds charges against Jockisch (Mobile Register)

Can you vote on a lottery ticket?

A proven national system for printing ballots already exists and we use it every day, said Dan Sullivan, Fine Gael candidate for Artane today (Friday).

"The government is telling us that adding a printout system to ensure that the votes cast by the electorate is not possible due to reliability issues with printers. Yet each week the National Lottery handles 4 million individual transactions through its national network of machines located with 3,500 agents. ...

“I am not suggesting that Lotto machines be used to count or print out votes. These machines simply prove the point that there are existing machines that can regularly and reliably printout more than is required for a Voter Verification Audit Trail to be viable. The truth is that the government negotiated a bad deal and can’t fix it without costing the electorate even more money.” -- National Lottery system proves electronic voting with paper trail is possible ( - The Irish Politics Website)

Irish electronic voting forgets the visually impaired

Labour Party Deputy for Dublin North, Sean Ryan, has today stated that the Government's proposals on electronic voting do absolutely nothing to improve voting facilities for the visually impaired. Deputy Ryan claimed it was clear they had totally forgotten about this section of the community only a matter of weeks after the close of the European Year of People with Disabilities. -- E-voting proposals do nothing for visually impaired - Labour ( - The Irish Politics Website)

"It's not the voting that's democracy, it's the counting."

Adam Cohen has a column in Sunday's New York Times, Making Votes Count: Editorial Observer: The Results Are in and the Winner Is . . . or Maybe Not. It discusses the 2002 Senate races in Georgia and Nebraska and their "mythic status" among those complaining about electronic voting machines.

A healthy democracy must avoid even the appearance of corruption. The Georgia and Nebraska elections fail this test. Once voting software is certified, it should not be changed -- not eight times, not once. A backup voting method should be available, so if electronic machines fail or are compromised shortly before an election, they can be dropped.

Votes must be counted by people universally perceived as impartial. States should not buy machines from companies that have ties to political parties, and recent company executives should not be running for elections on those machines.

And every voter should see a paper receipt. This "voter-verified paper trail" should be retained, and made available for recounts -- a low-tech check on the reliability of electronic voting. Most Americans would not do business with a bank that refused to provide written statements or A.T.M. receipts. We should be no less demanding at the polls.

After all, as Tom Stoppard has observed, "It's not the voting that's democracy, it's the counting."

In Saturday's NYT, the news columns carried this story:

Millions of voters in 10 states will cast ballots on Tuesday in the single biggest test so far of new touchscreen voting machines that have been billed as one of the best answers to the Florida election debacle of 2000. But many computer security experts worry that the machines could allow democracy to be hacked.

Here in Georgia, along with Maryland and California, an estimated six million people will be using machines from Diebold Election Systems, which has been the focus of the biggest controversy.

Independent studies have found flaws in Diebold's system that researchers say might allow hackers or corrupt insiders to reprogram the touchscreens or computers that tally the votes, without leaving a trace.

Without a paper record of every vote or some other way to verify voters' choices after the fact, these experts warn, elections may lose the public's trust. -- Electronic Vote Faces Big Test of Its Security (New York Times)

Arizona Senate committee approves voter i.d. bill

A Senate committee approved a proposal Wednesday to require voters to show their driver's licenses or state-issued identifications to cast ballots at polling places.

A similar bill was approved last year by the Legislature, but Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano vetoed it, saying it was a deterrent to voter participation.

This year's bill was approved 5-4 Wednesday by the Senate's Judiciary Committee. -- Capitol briefs (Arizona Republic)

Mississippi Senate passes voter i.d. bill

Mississippi voters would be required to show a driver's license or other identification to cast ballots in all elections, under a bill the state Senate passed Thursday.

After emotional debate, the Senate voted 30-18 for Senate Bill 2250.

While Mississippi doesn't require ID to vote in state and local elections, starting with the March 9 presidential and congressional primaries, voters will have to show ID to vote in federal elections as part of the federal Help America Vote Act.

Advocates say the Senate legislation would curb voter fraud, while critics say it would only intimidate voters, especially African Americans. -- Senate passes bill to require voter ID (Jackson Clarion-Ledger)

DA apologizes to Prairie View students

In a proposed agreement awaiting a federal judge's signature, Waller County District Attorney Oliver Kitzman reaffirms the right of Prairie View A&M University students to vote locally and promises to meet with them before the March 9 primary.

He also apologizes for what he terms "threatening" behavior toward students seeking to register to vote in local elections.

"I have come to realize," he said, "that, although it was never my intention, my actions and statements beginning with the letter I sent to Waller County Election Administrator Lela Loewe in November and continuing with my response to the Attorney General opinion earlier this month, taken in the historical context in which they occurred, have been understandably perceived by some PVAMU students as threatening.

"I want the PVAMU community to know that I apologize, and I welcome them as participants in the democratic institutions in Waller County." -- Waller County DA apologizes in vote flap (Houston Chronicle)

U of Alabama SGA Senate considers resolution against election fraud

I'm happy to see that the SGA Senate at my alma mater will consider "a resolution condemning any fraud, misrepresentation, violence and threats that may occur in March's SGA election."

The resolution, written by Culverhouse College of Commerce and Business Administration Sen. Ryan Smith, cites past incidents where misconduct tainted the UA election process.

Among the acts mentioned are the assault of 1993 SGA presidential candidate Minda Riley and the 2002 actions of a now-defunct, unregistered organization called Students for a Better SGA. ...

The resolution calls for any guilty candidates disqualified from a race to be prohibited from seeking office for the remainder of their time at the Capstone. It also asks for the orientation for prospective candidates to be extremely clear on what the Student Elections Board considers a violation. -- Senate to vote on election resolution (Crimson White, U of Alabama)

Despite my tongue in cheek attitude, this is a serious problem. Last year's election was voided by the university administration because of various chicanery. (You can search for the posts I had on the events by using the Search feature on the right side of the main page.)

"A vote count above reproach"

This little item was from the Roses & Raspberries column of the Battle Creek (Mich.) Enquirer -- in the Roses section:

To Takoma Park, Md. The city council passed a resolution urging state legislators to require a voter-verified paper audit-trail ballot for independent audits and recounts. The Center for Voting and Democracy, based in Takoma Park, also supports inclusive debates, instant-runoff voting, constitutional safeguards for voting rights and other election reforms. So it's a good birthplace for - as one local leader put it - "a nationwide movement of cities demanding a vote count that is above reproach." - John A. La Pietra, Marshall

Election tampering or just helping?

When Deborah Williams did not receive her absentee ballot, she was told by the board of elections that her ballot was being held for Jamie Gilkey, the 3rd ward Democratic leader.

As it turns out, Williams' ballot application is among at least 145 on file at the county board with instructions that they be held for Gilkey, all written in his distinctive scrawl.

It's not unusual for candidates' campaign teams to arrange for some voters who can't get to the polls to receive personal delivery of ballots, and election experts say there's no state law limiting the number that can be picked up and returned by one person.

But the apparent tampering with Williams' address -- and the designation of so many Democratic primary ballots for Gilkey's stewardship -- is raising concerns with local election officials. -- Altered ballots cast doubts (Albany, N.Y. Times Union

The headline is inaccurate -- no ballots have been altered, only absentee ballot applications.

3 more W&M students sue for registration

The Virginia chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has filed federal lawsuits on behalf of three more students at the College of William and Mary, trying to win them the right to register to vote in Williamsburg. ...

All four students started campaigns this winter to run for three City Council seats in a May 4 election. They have run into problems meeting the residency requirements for registering to vote in the city, where only residents can run for the City Council. ...

The cases are scheduled for a hearing at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday before U.S. District Judge Raymond A. Jackson in Norfolk. Tuesday is also the deadline for council candidates to register as voters and turn in petitions necessary to be on the ballot. -- Three more William & Mary students sue for voting rights (AP)

Opposition to the Frist Amendment

As I reported a couple of days ago, Sen. Frist offered an amendment to the gun liability bill -- an amendment to make the "special provisions" of the Voting Rights Act permanent. Sen. Frist's remarks begin on page S1650 of the Congressional Record. Below are some of the remarks of Sen. Kennedy immediately after the introduction of the proposed amendment. He began by praising Sen. Frist and Sen. McConnell for offering the amendment, but added:

This has been a long march, as the Senators have pointed out. We have to ask ourselves whether now is the time to take this action.

Let me read into the RECORD the letter I have received from the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights . I read it at this time:

On behalf of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights , the Nation's oldest, largest, and most diverse civil and human rights coalition, we write to express our opposition to the amendment being offered by Majority Leader Frist to the protection of the Lawful Commerce in Arms Act , S. 1805, to make the preclearance of the minority language provisions of the Voting Rights Act permanent.

The Voting Rights Act is one of the most important civil rights statutes ever enacted by Congress. This law, which enforces the 15th amendment, has been successful in removing direct and indirect barriers to voting for African Americans, Asian Americans, Latino Americans, and Native Americans. And since its passage, the act has survived narrow interpretations by the United States Supreme Court only to be amended by Congress to restore its original strength. Nevertheless, voting disenfranchisement still exists today.

As you know, the VRA's preclearance and minority language provisions are scheduled for reauthorization in 2007. We in the civil rights community plan to actively engage in the process, including working to establish a strong legislative record in support of reauthorization.

I underline, Mr. President, the language that says ``establish a strong legislative record in support of reauthorization.'' That is a key phrase in terms of this letter and for reasons to which I will refer in a moment.

Nevertheless, we oppose the Frist amendment because it is premature. Critical analysis of issues surrounding preclearance of minority language provisions of the Voting Rights Act have not yet been fully examined and analyzed carefully to reflect the current status of our laws, court decisions, enforcement actions, and society.

The Supreme Court has made it clear in recent years that it will require Congress to establish a detailed record through hearings and legislative findings in order to ensure that provisions such as these survive constitutional scrutiny.

Therefore, while we plan to strongly support the reauthorization of these important provisions, we urge you to vote no on the Frist amendment.

The reasons for this urging are the relevant parts of this letter which have strong justification, given holdings by the Supreme Court on other actions that the Congress has taken in trying to expand rights and liberties for American citizens, and which have been struck down.

Census of Votelaw readers

And in the fourth year of the reign of George II, a census of all the readers of Votelaw was taken.

I would like to know a little about who reads this site. Please click on the "Comment" link at the end of this post and leave me a message about who you are, how often you read, etc. I'm not looking for praise or criticism, just some idea about who you are. If you don't want to leave your name and email address, it is not necessary.


February 27, 2004

Virginia nixes felon voting fix

Legislators rejected a proposal Friday to allow Virginians to decide whether to make it easier for nonviolent felons to get their voting rights restored.

The House Privileges and Elections Committee voted 14-8 to kill Sen. Yvonne B. Miller's legislation to place the issue on the November ballot.

The Virginia Constitution allows only the governor to restore the felons' rights after they serve their sentence. Miller, D-Norfolk, said about 400,000 Virginians have yet to have their rights restored. ...

To get a constitutional amendment on the ballot, the General Assembly must pass the proposal in two sessions with an intervening legislative election. Miller's proposal passed last year. -- Proposal on restoration of rights rejected (AP)

Sinn Fein complains of annual registration requirement in Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland's Electoral Office is carrying out an annual "shredding' of the province's voting register, Sinn Fein vice president Pat Doherty claimed tonight.

The West Tyrone MP attacked legislation brought in by the British Government in May 2002 which compelled voters in Northern Ireland to register each year, claiming it represented "the biggest gerrymander since partition."

Mr Doherty alleged: "This legislation is primarily aimed at trying to ring fence the electoral growth of Sinn Fein in the Six Counties (Northern Ireland)." --- Sinn Fein Accuses Government of 'Gerrymandering' (PA News, UK)

The effect of the annual registration requirement -- used in Northern Ireland, but nowhere else in the United Kingdom -- is shown in an official report discussed in this BBC news story from December of last year.

Measures to combat voting fraud in Northern Ireland have had a negative impact on young people and those in poorer areas, according to a report.

The study published on Tuesday was carried out by the Electoral Commission earlier this year, but its release was delayed until after the assembly election.

The need to register every year was brought in by the Electoral Fraud Act 2002.

In the past, one form was given to every household, but now everyone has to register individually.

The commission said this measure tended to have an adverse impact on disadvantaged, marginalised and hard to reach groups.

It meant young people, students, people with learning disabilities and those living in poorer areas were less likely to register, according to the government-appointed watchdog. -- Vote fraud measures criticised (BBC News)

ABA and U of Ala law students to register voters

The American Bar Association and University of Alabama law students will work together to register and educate voters under a program announced Friday.

Students will sign up new voters and distribute 40,000 cards developed by the lawyers' group to inform people of their rights and responsibilities as voters. -- Alabama, bar association to work on voter registration (AP)

North Carolina plan not precleared, but close

Federal attorneys said Friday they only have a couple of questions about North Carolina's legislative districts, a sign that the plans may be approved in time for a primary now set for July.

The U.S. Department of Justice, writing to a three-judge federal panel in Washington, said the state's latest House and Senate maps don't appear to have been designed to reduce the political power of minority voters.

The attorneys also aren't worried that black residents may be worse off compared to maps approved in 2002, except in two legislative districts, both covering several northeastern counties. ...

Senate leader Marc Basnight, D-Dare, said late Friday the filing shows the federal government "has no overall objections to our maps." But a Senate Republican who believes the maps are retrogressive had a different take.

"It sounds like ... they are not convinced the maps complies with the Voting Rights Act," said Sen. Phil Berger, R-Rockingham. "If they were convinced, they would clear them." -- U.S. attorneys say they have a few questions about N.C. maps (AP)

Why a Section 4 extension matters

After yesterday's post about Sen. Frist proposing a permanent re-authorization of Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, a college professor wrote me about the difference in Section 4 and Section 5. We routinely say things like, "Section 5 expires in 2007." He was confused by my reference to Section 4.

Here's the difference. Section 4 designates (through a formula) the states and sub-state jurisdictions that are covered by the VRA and suspends the use of "tests and devices" in those jurisdictions. Section 5 also requires those same jurisdictions to get preclearance from the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia or from the Justice Department of any changes in their voting practices and procedures. Section 5 contains no time limit, but if Section 4 ceased to be effective, so would Section 5.

Rick Hasen has some thoughts on why the Congress ought to move deliberatively on the extension of the Voting Rights Act.

Here is what the New York Times reported on Frist's proposed amendment -- remember the bill under consideration deals with the liability of gun manufacturers:

Thursday's vote came on a day when the debate on the immunity bill turned into something of a political free-for-all, as Democrats tried using the measure as a vehicle to extend unemployment benefits, and the Senate majority leader, Bill Frist, Republican of Tennessee, tried using it to renew parts of a landmark civil rights measure.

Both attempts were unsuccessful. The unemployment benefits extension, sponsored by Senator Maria Cantwell, Democrat of Washington, failed on a procedural motion when it fell 2 votes short of the 60 necessary for the Senate to take it up. The civil rights amendment was withdrawn when Senator Frist realized that he did not have the votes to tack it onto the bill.

The debate illustrates how both parties are trying to use the gun immunity bill, which has broad bipartisan support and is expected to easily pass the Senate next week, to further their political aims in an election year. In addition to the unemployment measure, Democrats have also been talking about using the bill to try to overturn new overtime regulations promulgated by the Bush administration — an issue that is important to working families, a major Democratic constituency.

Dr. Frist's voting rights amendment, meanwhile, caught many lawmakers off guard. Dr. Frist said he decided to introduce the measure, which would have made permanent certain sections of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, after a recent trip to Alabama and Tennessee with Representative John Lewis, a civil rights leader. The act is set to expire in 2007.

But the effort fell apart after Mr. Lewis issued a statement calling Dr. Frist's maneuver admirable but premature. Other Democrats were not so generous; they called the move a political ploy to give Republicans a chance to demonstrate their commitment to civil rights, while forcing Democrats who oppose the gun bill to vote against an issue that is dear to them.

"It's a convenient way to play 'gotcha,' " said Senator Jon Corzine, Democrat of New Jersey.

February 26, 2004

W&M student sues to register

The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia filed a lawsuit Thursday on behalf of a College of William and Mary student who was not allowed to register to vote in Williamsburg.

Seth Saunders also wants to run for a seat on City Council in the May election. To do that he must be registered himself and have collected 125 signatures in support of his candidacy by March 2.

The ACLU asked U.S. District Court in Newport News to order the Williamsburg voter registrar to permit him to register immediately.

Saunders lives in Williamsburg, but his mother lives in Tappahannock and his father lives in Hanover County. He was told to register in Hanover because his father claims him as a dependent for income tax purposes. -- William & Mary student sues for voting rights (AP)

Pigs fly: Sen. Frist proposes permanent reauthorization of Section 4 of Voting Rights Act

"Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act will be up for reauthorization in 2007. President Reagan signed into law a 25 year reauthorization in 1982.

"Section 4 contains a temporary pre-clearance provision that applies to Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, and parts of Alaska, Arizona, Hawaii, Idaho, and North Carolina. These states must submit any voting changes to the United States Department of Justice for pre-clearance. If the Department of Justice concludes that the change weakens the voting strength of minority voters, it can refuse to approve the change.

"While I recognize the bureaucratic hassle this can be for states acting in good faith, in light of our history, it’s one that I believe provides a measure of assurance that the full force of the U.S. Government stands behind voting rights.

"There is a widespread 'urban legend' that Section 4 will not be renewed in 2007, 25 years after it was reauthorized, and that African Americans will lose their right to vote. This is not true. Even if Section 4 were not reauthorized, the right to vote for all Americans would remain.

"However, you can imagine how fearful this is for many Americans who, until recently in American history, were denied the right to vote.

"That’s why Sen. McConnell and I are offering an amendment to permanently reauthorize Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act. We want to make clear to all that we will not renege on the hard-fought gains of the Civil Rights Movement." -- Frist Seeks Permanent Authorization Of Voting Rights Act (

Republicans also sought to put on the [handgun regulation] bill a renewal of a special provisions section of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that requires Southern and some Western states get federal approval before making any changes in state voting laws. However, they pulled the amendment after Democrats complained that the issue should be considered separately. -- Senate OKs Handgun Locks Legislation (AP)

I have not been able to find Frist's statement in the Congressional Record. If anyone finds it, please let me know.

By the way, read the whole Frist statement. It may prove that Rep. John Lewis's trip to Alabama has had some success. Let's see if this actually passes.

Finneran defends his handiwork

A state lawmaker Thursday defended a redistricting plan rejected by a federal appeals court, denying legislative leaders tried to weaken the clout of black voters by packing them into as few districts as possible.

Speaker Thomas Finneran also defended the protection of incumbents as one of several factors lawmakers are entitled to use when drawing new electoral maps. He said he was surprised by the tone of the ruling, which was harshly critical of House leaders.

"I think the language is completely out of bounds for a variety or reasons," Finneran told The Associated Press. "The decision embraced an academic theory of voting that history refutes."

The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday ordered lawmakers to redraw 17 Boston districts, saying Democratic House leaders sacrificed "racial fairness to the voters on the altar of incumbency protection." The court gave lawmakers six weeks to submit a redrawn map. -- Mass. Lawmaker Defends Redistricting Plan (AP)

Once again, the AP incorrectly states that this decision was by the court of appeals. It was not; it was by a three-judge district court.

Supreme Court says 'no' to Georgia stay, federal court readies to draw plan

The U.S. Supreme Court has denied the state of Georgia's request to postpone a judgement requiring lawmakers to redraw legislative maps before this year's elections. ...

The ruling does not close the door on legal action. [Attorney General] Baker could continue with an appeal of the decision.

But shortly after Thursday's order, Baker was urging lawmakers to complete their work of redrawing district lines -- saying the three-judge panel that originally overturned them would draw the maps otherwise.

"The attorney general is not foreclosing any legal options, but he encourages the General Assembly and the governor to draw maps or the three-judge court will be drawing maps for them," said Baker spokesman Russ Willard. -- Supreme Court denies stay of redistricting order (AP)

Three federal judges, who ruled earlier this month that House and Senate districts are unconstitutional, on Wednesday chose retired Judge Joseph Hatchett to lead a panel of experts that would design new election districts.

That selection came after attorneys from both sides agreed that it is "highly unlikely" a politically divided Legislature and Republican Gov. Sonny Perdue would reach agreement.

Hatchett was the first black person to serve on the Florida Supreme Court. He was appointed to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 1979 and then moved to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals when it was created in 1981. He practices law in Tallahassee. ...

"Come next Monday, if we don't have a plan, we have no choice but to begin crafting an interim plan," said 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Stanley Marcus, one of the three judges on the panel. "If the court draws a plan, we will do it with expedition."

Marcus pointed out that a court-drawn plan might not protect incumbents. "How would you protect incumbents, if you wanted to?" he asked.

The court wants to have a draft from Hatchett by March 15. Then, attorneys for the state and for the Republicans who filed the lawsuit would have a week to respond before the judges made the maps final. -- Judge picked to draw districts (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

February 25, 2004

Soft money complaint in Oregon GOP primary

Congressional contender Jim Zupancic has filed a federal election complaint against his GOP rival, state Sen. Jackie Winters, alleging she illegally spent money on a newspaper insert.

Zupancic's complaint with the Federal Election Commission asserts that Winters violated campaign finance laws by using money from her state legislative campaign fund to promote her congressional candidacy.

But Winters' campaign called the complaint frivolous. It said the newspaper insert was an "end-of-session report" that dealt with the actions of the 2003 Legislature, not with Winters' bid for Congress. ...

Zupancic, a Lake Oswego lawyer, said Winters violated the federal law's prohibition against "soft money" by using money from her state campaign committee to promote her candidacy for Congress.

That's because Winters' state committee received money from corporations which under federal law are barred from making donations to congressional candidates, he said. -- Congressional contender files complaint against rival (AP)

Arguments in the South African constitutional court on prisoner voting

There is still time for the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) to register prisoners to vote for the April general election although the voters' roll has already closed, the Constitutional Court heard on Wednesday.

The court would need to provide a legal framework to allow the registration of certain categories of prisoners who were excluded from voting, said advocate Marumo Moerane, SC, who was acting for the IEC. ...

Advocate Vincent Maleka, on behalf of the applicants, conceded that as a matter of principle the legislature was entitled to limit the right to vote if there was a "demonstrable justification for the limit", but in this case argued that there was no legitimate justification.

He said the amendment to the Electoral Act promulgated in December 2003 violated two constitutional rights of prisoners: the right to vote and the right to equality.

Advocate Vas Soni, SC, representing the minister of home affairs, said prisoners should not be placed in a more favourable position than others who could not vote.

The government would be sending the wrong message if it made special arrangements for prisoners.

The argument was being heard by a full bench headed by Chief Justice Arthur Chaskalson.

Chaskalson said the issue of prisoners' right to vote seems to have split courts around the world. -- Still time to register inmates (, South Africa)

"Being called ugly by a frog"

With Republican campaign-spending practices under investigation in Austin, U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay blasted Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle on Tuesday for using his power for "vindictive" ends.

"This is nothing more than a vindictive, typical Ronnie Earle process. The district attorney has a long history of being vindictive and partisan," Mr. DeLay said at a weekly session with reporters, responding to a question about a grand jury investigation being run by Mr. Earle.

"This is so typical. This is criminalizing, or an attempt to criminalize politics. We have a runaway district attorney in Texas," Mr. DeLay said.

Mr. Earle said of the leader's comments: "Being called partisan and vindictive by Tom DeLay is like being called ugly by a frog." -- DeLay blasts DA in spending inquiry (Dallas Morning News)

And the plot thickens ...

A statement made by an ally of U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay is raising questions about some Republican National Committee contributions to seven Texas House candidates whose fund raising is part of a state criminal investigation.

The contributions totaling $190,000 were sent two weeks after Texans for a Republican Majority Political Action Committee contributed $190,000 to an arm of the national Republican group. The money given to the Texas PAC was donated by corporations, which are prohibited by state law from donating directly to candidates.

Officials with the Texas PAC and the Republican National Committee have repeatedly called the identical amounts a coincidence.

But John Colyandro, executive director of the Texas PAC, said in a deposition that he directed an accountant to send a blank check to another DeLay aide, Jim Ellis, the day before Ellis met with the Republican committee, the Austin American-Statesman reported Wednesday. -- Blank check raises questions in Texas GOP fund raising (AP)

Georgia's application for a stay

Here is the application of Georgia for a stay of the district court decision voiding its legislative redistricting plan.

Thanks to Jeff Wice for sending this to me.

February 24, 2004

Whites and Latinos sue the Virgin Islands seeking districts

Andy Simpson writes: I'm the lawyer for the plaintiffs in a law suit challenging the multi-member, at-large districts used to elect senators to the U.S. Virgin Islands legislature. The case is a bit unique, because the Virgin Islands are a majority black jurisdiction, and the case is brought on behalf of Latino and white voters who claim that there vote is diluted. For more information,

Some years ago, I was counsel for the City of Birmingham in a suit in which white voters sought to have the City's elections changed from at-large to single-member districts. So, Mr. Simpson's suit is unusual but not unprecedented.

Take a look at his complaint on his website. Some of his allegations (like pictures of candidates on the ballot) remind me of tricks the white South pulled immediately after the Voting Rights Act was apopted.

Kansas Senate: don't fence my funds in

Reacting to a Kansas Supreme Court ruling, the Senate tentatively approved a bill Tuesday reaffirming that elected officials may spend money raised for one campaign to run for another office.

The court, in a December decision in a lawsuit filed by a Wichita mayoral candidate, had ruled such transfers illegal because they are not specifically authorized by the state's Campaign Finance Act.

The Senate bill, advanced to final action on a voice vote, would add language on the matter to the campaign finance law.

Kansas politicians had routinely transferred money from one campaign fund to another without challenge until the issue arose last year when former Republican state Rep. Carlos Mayans ran for mayor of Wichita. -- Senate advances bill to allow transfers of campaign funds (AP)

Mississippi campaign finance bill advances

A bill that cleared the House 91-29 on Tuesday would require more disclosure of who donates cash or makes loans to candidates in Mississippi elections, supporters say.

Among other things, the bill would require disclosure of "soft money" spent by interest groups within 60 days of a general election or 30 days of a primary. ...

The bill would require candidates to disclose the source of loans and would prohibit one political action committee to give money to another PAC. Reynolds said the PAC-on-PAC contributions hide the source of donations. ...

The bill also would require that searchable electronic reports be filed by candidates who raise at least $50,000 of campaign cash a year. Most campaign finance reports are filed on paper, making page-by-page searches time consuming. -- Campaign finance bill clears Mississippi House (AP)

Georgia will probably miss its deadline for new redistricting plan

The state Legislature probably won't meet a federal court deadline to submit new maps of state House and Senate election districts by Monday, officials said Tuesday.

The House Legislative and Congressional Redistricting Committee plans to approve a new House map Wednesday.

But Rep. Calvin Smyre (D-Columbus), chairman of the Rules Committee, said the current schedule would not send it to the House floor until Monday or Tuesday.

And committee Chairwoman Carolyn Hugley (D-Columbus) said her panel would not begin working on the Republican-drawn Senate map, approved there last week, until it finished with proposed new House districts. -- State probably won't meet redistricting deadline (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Arizona may get more competitive districts

Both Democrats and Republicans would have to fight harder for their Tucson seats under a new legislative map given preliminary approval Monday night.

The Independent Redistricting Commission will take a final vote next Monday on the new 30-district statewide map, drawn under a judge's order.

It grants Republicans an edge statewide but gives either major party the potential to come out on top in eight districts - including two in Tucson.

Republicans have more registered voters statewide than Democrats: 41.5 percent to 35.9 percent.

Southern Arizona would have three strong Democratic districts, one strong Republican district and the two competitive districts, compared with today's four Democratic and two Republican districts. -- Legislative map may tighten up local races (Arizona Daily Star)

South African prisoners seek right to vote

The [South African] Constitutional Court will hear an urgent application on Wednesday for a case challenging various sections of the Electoral Act to be heard before the court. ...

The applicants will also ask for an order directing the Independent Electoral Commission and the minister of correctional services to ensure all qualifying prisoners get a reasonable opportunity to register as voters and vote in the April elections.

The applicants will be challenging an amendment to the Electoral Act promulgated in December which effectively disenfranchised people serving prison sentences without the option of a fine.

The applicants claim this violates a citizen's right to vote and the right to equality enshrined in the constitution.

They also argue that the amendment offers an arbitrary way to decide who can and cannot vote. -- Prisoners go to ConCourt (, South Africa)

Montiel likely to attack Alabama's districts

A federal court decision throwing out Georgia's legislative districts is going to be the model for litigation challenging Alabama's districts.

Former Criminal Appeals Court Judge Mark Montiel said Monday he plans to file a federal court suit within a couple of weeks based on the Georgia decision.

Marty Connors, chairman of the Alabama Republican Party, said the party is reviewing the Georgia decision and is seriously considering a lawsuit because of the similarities between Alabama's and Georgia's districts.

"It's painfully clear the Democrats in the Legislature underpopulated Democratic districts and significantly overpopulated Republican districts," Connors said. -- Republican lawyer readies challenge of legislative districts (AP)

Press coverage of the Massachusetts decision

A federal appeals court has barred the state from holding elections this fall in 17 Boston House districts as currently drawn, saying the redistricting map approved by lawmakers in 2001 deprived black voters of their constitutional rights.

The three-judge panel ordered lawmakers to submit a new map within six weeks, or the court would draw its own map.

In their sharply critical ruling, the judges found the map deprives black voters of rights guaranteed under the federal Voting Rights Act.
House leaders deliberately ''packed'' black voters into as few districts as possible, diluting their political clout, according to the ruling by the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. -- Federal court blocks elections in 17 districts, orders new lines drawn (AP)

Actually, it was a three-judge district court, not an appeals court panel that decided the case.

Some Massachusetts districts struck down

Reed Witherby writes: A three-judge district court in Massachusetts issued decisions this afternoon in two consolidated cases that challenged Massachusetts House districts on minority vote dilution grounds. In the Black Political Task Force case, the court found minority vote dilution in Boston and gave the Legislature six weeks to enact a new plan. In the Meza case, the court ruled for the defense but postponed its memorandum of decision.

Cybersquatting (?) in Maryland

Robin Ficker wants his name back.

The perennial political candidate from Montgomery County has filed a lawsuit to claim control of, a domain name snapped up by a paid political consultant for Charles R. Floyd, one of Ficker's Republican opponents in the March 2 congressional primary.

The lawsuit, filed with U.S. District Court in Greenbelt late Friday, asks the court to shut down the site because it deceives Ficker's potential supporters by sending them to a site that features unflattering accounts of his past behavior. An initial hearing in the case is scheduled for today, Ficker said. -- Md. Congressional Candidates Playing the Domain Name Game (

February 23, 2004

Blog power

... [Ben] Chandler's campaign turned a $2,000 investment in blog advertising into over $80,000 in donations in only two weeks. Chandler -- who won a seat in the House of Representatives Tuesday evening -- definitely knows what a blog is now, Sauer said. "It's that thing that brings in money."

Political blog advertising represents the latest twist on the Internet fund-raising strategy pioneered by the campaign of Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean, which raised millions of grass-roots dollars from its Blog for America website. Chandler's campaign is the first of several that have started advertising on political blogs as a cost-effective way to reach a national audience.

But even as campaigns queue up to place ads on the most popular sites, and political bloggers seem poised to reap an election-year windfall, some warn that politicians should not expect blog ads to translate automatically into dollars. -- Blogs Pump Bucks Into Campaigns (Wired News)

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

Background on the investigation of the Texas speaker

News 8 in Austin explains the background for the investigation now going on in Texas over the election of the Speaker of the House.

Until now, District Attorney Ronnie Earle has worked within the confines of murky and confusing campaign finance laws in which crimes are often difficult to prove.

But the investigation widened significantly last week when a series of news stories broke tying Speaker Tom Craddick into the delivery of potentially laundered corporate dollars to his supporters.

Suddenly, the axis of the investigation shifted from campaign finance laws to something called the Speaker statute.

Once upon a time, the chemical industry, the railroads and the manufacturers routinely anointed Speakers of the Texas House. Finally, in the spirit of reform, the Legislature passed a very restrictive and specific law about what was and was not permitted in a Speaker's race.

For instance, campaign contributions to House members based on their support or opposition of a specific speaker candidate is a felony punishable by up to 10 years in the penitentiary.

Arizona IRC redrawing everything

It isn't just the state's two biggest urban areas that could see redrawing of legislative districts as state officials try to create additional districts winnable by either major party.

Hispanic Democrats whose lawsuit resulted in court-ordered redrawing of the state's legislative districts have urged the Independent Redistricting Commission to concentrate on the Phoenix and Tucson areas while adding additional competitive districts.

As reviewed Sunday by the commission, the latest work-in-progress includes changes in rural areas of the state -- mostly in counties north and west of Phoenix -- in addition to the two major desert cities. -- Panel eyes rural changes in Ariz. redistricting map (AP)

Georgia AG seeks stay of redistricting decision

Georgia's attorney general asked the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday to stay a federal appeals courts order requiring that new legislative districts be drawn in time for this years elections.

Last week, three judges of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned redistricting maps for Georgias state House and Senate, saying Democrats who drew them didnt try to make the populations of districts equal. -- Stay sought for legislative redistricting order (AP)

Thanks to Jeff Wice for the link.

How hard will getting on 51 ballots be for Nader?

I asked Richard Winger, editor of Ballot Access News, for his assessment of Nader's task in getting on the ballot in 51 jurisdictions. Here is his answer:

The big media tend to think it's harder to get on the ballot, than it really is. A Libertarian presidential candidate appeared on all 51 ballots in 2000, 1996 and 1992. And Libertarians never received any form of federal election funding.

I have seen Reform Party e-mails today, which suggest that many Reform Party people are enthusiastic about Nader. If Nader can motivate volunteers to carry out petitioning, I don't think he will have any particular trouble. Since he won't pay people to petition, though, if he doesn't have a devoted core of volunteers, he is in trouble.

Still to be ascertained is whether various state Green Parties will put him on the ballot. Also, the Natural Law Party is on in eleven states, including California, and it might nominate him. It seems very likely that the New York Independence Party will nominate him. The Peace & Freedom Party of California might nominate him. The Mountain Party of West Virginia seems likely to nominate him.

Sharpton runs up big debt

Democratic presidential candidate Al Sharpton, who has billed his campaign for hotel stays of more than $1,000 a night, has campaign debts totaling $485,696, including unpaid staff salaries dating to last May, finance reports show.

As of Jan. 31, Sharpton's campaign had just $1,039 in the bank, according to Federal Election Commission reports. -- Sharpton Debts Top $485,000, FEC Says (Washington Post)

Supreme Court rips the blanket primary

The state of Washington on Monday lost an appeal to the Supreme Court to save its wide-open primary election system, an expected setback that forces state leaders to find a new way for political parties to choose candidates for office.

The high court had already ruled that so-called "blanket primaries," which had also been used in Alaska and California, are unconstitutional..

Washington, the last holdout for blanket primaries, argued its system was different and urged the court to intervene to keep it intact. Justices declined, without comment. -- Court Won't Take Primary Election Case (AP)

The "parallel world" of the Web

The New York Times discussed the Bush campaign's recent attack ad.

The Bush Web ad offered all of the emotional impact of a television commercial without all of the political impact.

For one, a Web ad, unlike a television commercial, does not fall under new election rules requiring candidates to appear in their own advertisements to voice approval of them. By not having to take direct responsibility for his anti-Kerry spot, Mr. Bush got some distance from it — even though it is on his Web site.

But perhaps most significantly, the Web has evolved as a relatively permissive environment. A negative advertisement that might rub viewers the wrong way in their living rooms is apparently less likely to do so when they are at their computers. -- Internet Ad Attack: In Politics, the Web Is a Parallel World With Its Own Rules (New York Times)

Pennsylvania and Georgia redistricting cases may cause a paradigm shift

Both cases are almost certain to be decided by the Supreme Court. The court heard arguments on the Pennsylvania case in December, and a decision is scheduled before this summer.

When the dust has settled, the country may have new rules on partisan gerrymandering, an issue that politicians, scholars and judges have fretted over since the early days of the country.

"It could have the same force as a Class 5 hurricane," said Tim Storey, an expert on redistricting at the National Conference of State Legislatures, "altering the landscape in a way not seen since Baker v. Carr." That was the 1962 case that imposed the one-person, one-vote rule on legislative bodies. -- Congressional Redistricting Battle Could Lead to New Rules (New York Times)

Do you like my headline or the NYT's better?

Campaign Finance Institute's analysis of Dem's campaign spending

The Campaign Finance Institute has just released a study of the contributions and spending so far in the Democratic presidential primaries. The major findings are summarized in its headlines:



$2000 DONORS DOMINATED MAJOR PARTY FUNDRAISING But small donors became more important in January

February 22, 2004

Does an Indian tribe have to obey state campaign finance laws?

The Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, which spent $14 million on California political campaigns in recent years, wants a state appellate court to rule that tribal sovereignty exempts it from campaign donation disclosure laws. -- AP Wire

Thanks to Denise Howell of Bag and Baggage for the link. Her firm is representing the Agua Caliente.

Will Kerry keep the $45 million pledge?

Jerome Armstrong, writing on Daily Kos, does the math on Kerry's spending to date and thinks he may have already exceeded the $45 million cap on primary campaign spending he agreed to.

E.J. Dionne wonders about big bucks and small donors

It was a strange juxtaposition that showed how important Howard Dean's campaign really was.

While Dean was in Vermont announcing the end of his presidential quest, the Federal Election Commission in Washington was voting to regulate political committees set up -- mostly by Democrats -- to raise lots of money from big donors and get around the new campaign finance rules.

So what will it be, Democrats, big bucks or small donors? Broad-based fundraising -- Dean had 318,884 contributors -- or rounding up the usual wealthy suspects? -- Dean and the Power That Lives On (

George Will does not like McCain-Feingold

Today McCain-Feingold itself does not just appear to be corrupting. It is demonstrably and comprehensively so. -- Rendering Politics Speechless (

How an Hawaiian pol spends his campaign money

State Sen. Cal Kawamoto spent thousands of dollars in campaign money on car repairs, auto insurance premiums, traffic tickets and gasoline, according to a Star-Bulletin analysis.

Between 1996 and 2003, Kawamoto (D, Waipahu) spent more than $21,000 in campaign funds to fix, insure and gas up a Dodge 1992 van he personally owned. The Kawamoto campaign also spent $22,500 in January 2003 to buy a Subaru truck to replace his van.

The questionable expenditures represent about 14 percent of Kawamoto's $312,000 campaign war chest. They are also a focus of a state Campaign Spending Commission investigation into Kawamoto's possible personal uses of campaign funds.

"This reeks of the appearance of corruption, if not actual corruption," said Craig Holman, a campaign finance expert at Public Citizen, a Washington, D.C.-based consumer advocacy group. "This officeholder is using campaign funds to pay for personal expenses." -- Senator diverts election funds (Honolulu Star-Bulletin)

Read the rest of the story to get Sen. Kawamoto's side of the story.

How California pols used their campaign money

California lawmakers also used campaign money in 2003 to buy softball equipment, choreograph a dance routine, support family members' political ambitions and travel to locations that ranged from Iceland to Taiwan.

Most of the approximately $30 million that legislators spent in campaign funds last year went for traditional, election-related expenses, including campaign consultants, postage, telephone bills, office supplies and more fund-raising.

But there was also spending that had a less obvious connection to the business of winning office, including dozens of expenditures at Sacramento restaurants that were listed as meetings.

State law gives lawmakers and other elected officials broad latitude in how they use their donors' money. It requires that campaign funds be used for an election or governmental purpose and bars officials from tapping their campaign accounts for personal expenses outside of politics. -- Lawmakers used campaign cash for Las Vegas, softball, dancing (AP)

How can Teresa help John?

Teresa Heinz Kerry can explore two possibilities: financing "independent" ads and other political activities benefiting her husband's presidential bid, or contributing to some of the pro-Democratic independent groups planning to spend millions of dollars to defeat Bush. Both options, however, face significant legal obstacles, according to Democratic, GOP and independent lawyers, none of whom would speak on the record about a hypothetical case involving the Kerry campaign.

Foremost is whether Teresa Heinz Kerry's relationship to the candidate would bar her from making independent expenditures of her own or financing one or more of the Democratic groups. An unresolved issue is whether she has become an "agent" of her husband's campaign. FEC regulations prohibit "agents" of federal candidates from "soliciting, receiving, directing, transferring or spending" large, unregulated contributions known as "soft money." The FEC defines an agent as "any person who has actual authority, either express or implied . . . to solicit, receive, direct, transfer or spend funds" in a federal campaign.

Lewis said Teresa Heinz Kerry's lawyers will try to determine whether she is an agent of the Kerry campaign, but the FEC would have the final say. If she is, it would appear to bar her from an independent effort and from giving large sums to the pro-Democratic groups. -- Major Kerry Asset Could Become Liability (

Justice Diaz faces new charges in Mississippi

A federal grand jury added extortion and attempted bribery charges Friday against Justice Oliver Diaz Jr. and trial lawyer Paul Minor, postponing their March 1 trial.

Minor's lawyer, Abbe Lowell of Washington, D.C., called the new charges outrageous, saying his client will plead innocent to them.

"After investigating for two years and on the eve of trial, they bring new charges only after our motions have revealed the U.S. attorney's conflicts of interest and political affiliations," he said in a statement. "This smacks of retribution that is not allowed under the law." ...

The new charges allege Minor in 2001 tried to extort $20,000 for Diaz from trial lawyers representing Dawn Bradshaw, who was awarded $9 million after poor hospital care led to pneumonia and brain damage.

The high court upheld the $9 million verdict Oct. 11, 2001. According to the indictment, 14 days later, Minor told two unnamed lawyers that Diaz "helped swing the vote ... in favor of their client, Dawn Bradshaw, and that the vote could have gone either way but for ... Diaz's influence," pointing out the justice would soon be voting on the motion for rehearing their case. -- Diaz, Minor face additional counts (Jackson Clarion-Ledger)

February 21, 2004

Why we (my readers and I) now matter to the Democrats

Daily Kos says that the passage of the McCain-Feingold bill forced the Democrats to pay attention to the rank and file -- and particularly to opinion leaders like bloggers:

I hope you all realize the significance of all of this. Having lost the million dollar checks that previously funded the party, they suddenly look to people like us for answers. For the first time in decades, we matter more than the party's special interest groups. And the party and candidates (see the Blogads on this site) are now trying to figure out how to earn our support.

I firmly believe that Dean is getting too much credit for this. The blogosphere existed, and was healthy, before Dean came along. And it's healthy and still existing post Dean. What Trippi did was simply recognize the value of the blogosphere and harnessed it for his campaign. He didn't create it. In exchange for $20 million raised online the Dean campaign gave the blogosphere political legitimacy.

But the circle wasn't complete until Chandler [Ben Chandler, the successful Democratic candidate in the special congressional election this week] came around. Pre-Chandler, the most common question I would get was, "Can all of this 'netroots' stuff work for candidates other than Dean?" Chandler put that question to rest.

Texas Speaker: "nothing to hide"

House Speaker Tom Craddick told a newspaper that he would have turned over records related to his election without the subpoena issued earlier this week by the Travis County District Attorney's Office.

"We would have been willing to give them any of those records they wanted," he told the Tyler Morning Telegraph on Friday after a reception in Tyler for a state representative. "No one asked us. They just showed up and hit us with a subpoena. We would have given them to them anyway. I have nothing to hide. I'll be glad to give them to them."

On Tuesday, Craddick rejected a plea from two watchdog groups that he make the documents public. But on Thursday he hired a defense attorney and agreed to turn the documents over to the district attorney's office. -- Craddick says he would have turned records over (AP)

Georgia Senate approves districts

With the General Assembly under federal court order to draw new election districts for legislators, the state Senate passed a new map for itself Friday.

On the same day, a federal judge in Washington decided to throw out a separate redistricting case to help avoid confusion with the more recent lawsuit in Atlanta.

Democrats argued that news of the pending dismissal of the case in Washington just added more confusion to an already tangled situation.

"It certainly muddied things up," Senate Democratic Leader Michael Meyer von Bremen (D-Albany) said Friday. Meyer von Bremen is one of three senators whose districts were at issue in that case, over a Senate map drawn in a special legislative session in 2001.

Despite the reference to "a judge," it appears that this is the remanded Georgia v. Ashcroft pending before a three-judge court. The article goes on to say ...

That case had gone to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled in June that Georgia's Senate districts did not violate the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The high court then sent the case back to a three-judge federal panel in Washington.

Recently, attorneys for the state of Georgia and for the U.S. Department of Justice asked that panel to delay taking any further action until the more recent case in Atlanta had been resolved. -- Senate approves revision of districts (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

NAACP does not like North Carolina's primary date

The state NAACP has filed a complaint over North Carolina's delayed primary elections, saying the July 20 date will disenfranchise thousands of college students, particularly those at historically black schools.

The voting also falls in a period when many families take vacations, leaving them out as well, state NAACP President Melvin "Skip" Alston said Thursday.

"That's the worst month they could have chosen," Alston said.

He said his organization has lodged a complaint with the U.S. Justice Department. -- NAACP objects to delayed N.C. voting (AP)

FEC Chair Smith scolds GOP

The national Republican Party has alienated its base and is using a "boneheaded strategy" in its attempt to stymie special interest groups that are raising money to influence this year's presidential election, the Republican chairman of the Federal Election Commission said yesterday.

"[T]he [Republican National Committee] is out of sync with the rank-and-file Republicans in the U.S. ... the base is alienated," Commission Chairman Bradley Smith told The Washington Times.

Mr. Smith's comments came two days after he scolded the Republican Party at a public meeting for its attempt to shut down specially created, tax-exempt groups, known as 527s, that are raising millions of dollars, primarily in unlimited "soft money" donations from corporations, labor unions and wealthy individuals, for get-out-the-vote efforts and issue ads. -- GOP-funding fight seen as wrong move (Washington Times)

Bush has $104 million in the bank

President Bush raised nearly $12.9 million for his re-election campaign last month and spent more than $7.5 million as he stepped up appeals to voters in the face of attacks from Democratic presidential contenders.

According to a campaign finance report filed with the Federal Election Commission on Friday, Bush ended January with more than $104 million in his campaign war chest, a huge cash advantage over the Democratic candidates combined. -- Bush raised $12 million in January (Chicago Tribune)

Kerry in the red; Edwards in the black

John Kerry spent more than he raised from donors last month as the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination relied on a $3.5 million infusion of personal cash to keep his campaign financially afloat.

Kerry raised about $4.1 million from contributors and spent $7.1 million, according to his campaign finance report for January, which was released Saturday.

Kerry mortgaged his family's Boston home to finance campaign loans. The campaign began February with $2.1 million in the bank and $7.2 million in debts. ...

Through January, Edwards has raised $22.5 million, including $5 million in public financing.

Edwards has blended campaigning in early primary states with fund raising in profitable places such as New York and Los Angeles. He has additional fund-raisers scheduled in both places before March 2.

Edwards has spent his money as he takes it in; his campaign ended January with $501,163 in the bank and $382,666 in bills to pay. -- Personal loans kept campaign alive (AP)

Self-help paper ballots

Activists in two states launched campaigns to urge voters to cast paper absentee ballots in their March primaries, warning that the electronic, paperless voting machines used in those states are open to fraud and may not count votes accurately.

The California Voter Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan voter education organization, and the Campaign for Verifiable Voting, a Maryland citizens group, cited concerns about insecurities of the electronic voting systems and the lack of paper audit trails to assure voters that their ballots are cast and counted correctly. -- E-Voting Activists: Vote Absentee (Wired News)

February 20, 2004

Bill Pryor is now Judge Pryor

Bypassing Senate Democrats who have stalled his judicial nominations, President Bush installed Alabama Attorney General William Pryor on the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday. ...

Pryor, 41, is a founder of the Republican Attorneys General Association, which raises money for GOP attorneys general. At his confirmation hearing, he said he had not lobbied tobacco companies or companies under investigation by his office, but Democrats said they had documents showing Pryor may have been involved in some fund-raising activities. -- Bush Sidesteps Congress, Installs Judge (AP)

The New York Times and the Washington Post have small articles on this appointment, but do not cover the campaign finance issue. I posted several items on this last year. Use the "search" feature on the right side of the main page to find them.

Dean's legacy

Howard Dean's presidential campaign ended this week much as it began: lagging in the polls and nearly broke. But along the way, the campaign used the Internet in sometimes radically new ways -- a legacy that experts predict will live on as they try to divine the lessons of Dean's innovative if, ultimately, unsuccessful bid.

Was it the political equivalent of, the widely mocked Internet start-up from the late 1990s that ran on little more than hype? Was it a glimpse into the future of campaigning -- a blueprint that other candidates will someday adopt as a matter of course? Or was it something else entirely?

Few quibble with Dean's success raising money online. The former Vermont governor entered the race a virtual unknown, with little in the way of a national fundraising network. But he raised $41 million in 2003 -- much of it online -- eclipsing all his Democratic rivals and breaking former president Bill Clinton's party record for money raised in a quarter. -- Dean Leaves Legacy of Online Campaign (

February 19, 2004

Injunction on touch-screen voting rejected

A Superior Court judge rejected a legal challenge Wednesday to California's March 2 primary, ruling there wasn't enough evidence that new touch-screen voting machines are vulnerable to hackers.

Judge Raymond Cadei denied a temporary restraining order sought by a group of California voters against electronic voter machine maker Diebold Election Systems. The judge said there wasn't enough proof of security threats to justify interfering in an election just 13 days away.

The plaintiffs, joined by a group of computer programmers, alleged that the voting machines being used in at least 14 counties on March 2 are insecure and could be manipulated to disrupt election results.

County officials expressed relief over the ruling. Many had predicted greater chaos from the proposed last-minute security improvements sought by the legal challenge than from risks of doing nothing. -- Judge rejects Calif. voting challenge (AP)

Surprising results in Michigan's Internet voting

More than 46,000 people took advantage of high-tech voting options for the Feb. 7 Democratic presidential caucuses in Michigan, but not necessarily the people party officials expected.

While Internet voting was thought to be a tool to attract younger voters, an early analysis of the online option shows that wasn't the case, party leaders said Tuesday.

The average age of those voting early and online was between 50 and 60, said state party Chairman Mark Brewer.

"And John Kerry won the Internet vote," he said. "That goes counter to what people previously thought." -- Web vote turnout brought surprises (Detroit Free Press)

FEC did/did not clamp down on 527's

The ledes in two of America's leading papers would lead their readers in different interpretations.

The Federal Election Commission said on Wednesday that advocacy groups that were established to get around fund-raising restrictions in the new campaign finance law could continue to spend unlimited contributions for television commercials and other communications, though they must do so under far more restrictive rules.

The commission's ruling on so-called 527 committees could have profound effects on the 2004 election by helping Democrats, who have been much more aggressive than Republicans in creating these committees to help the party compete with the Republicans' overall 2-to-1 fund-raising advantage. None of this money winds up in the candidates' hands but it can be used to raise issues and attack or promote candidates by name. -- Advocacy Groups Allowed to Raise Unlimited Funds (New York Times)

The Federal Election Commission decided yesterday that many of the political committees raising "soft" money to campaign against President Bush are subject to regulation, but it postponed deciding how tough the restrictions should be.

The FEC voted 4 to 2 to warn Americans for a Better Country that activities that "promote, attack, support or oppose" a federal candidate must be paid for with hard money, a type of political donation that, unlike soft money, has tight restrictions on sources and amounts. This is a broader standard than used in the past. Activities that benefit a mix of federal, state and local candidates are to be paid for with a mix of hard and soft money, the commission determined. -- FEC Moves to Regulate Groups Opposing Bush (Thomas Edsall, Washington Post)

FEC admonishes Sen. Cantwell

The Federal Elections Commission admonished Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell for failing to disclose more than $3 million in loans to her 2000 Senate campaign until Jan. 30, 2001.

The FEC cleared Cantwell of allegations she benefited from favorable interest rates as charged in a complaint filed by the National Legal and Policy Center, a conservative watchdog group based in Falls Church, Va.

The group complained to the FEC after news reports revealed Cantwell received two bank loans in the waning days of the 2000 election. By law, she should have disclosed the source of the loans before the election. -- Cantwell admonished for belatedly disclosing campaign loans (Seattle Times)

Sharpton barred from Louisiana ballot

The Rev. Al Sharpton will remain off the ballot for Louisiana's presidential primary, after a judge Thursday upheld election officials who said Sharpton's application package was riddled with problems that were not corrected before the sign-up deadline.

"The court believes if the candidate's name is not on the ballot, it is because the candidate did not follow the statute," said State District Judge Curtis Calloway, adding that he believed elections officials did everything possible to include Sharpton in the March 9 election. ...

Elections officials said Sharpton didn't follow state law when his campaign sent in the $1,125 filing fee to sign up for the election.

Frances Sims, director of elections, said the candidacy form included only a partial address. It was missing the city, state, zip code, phone number, date of the election and name to appear on the ballot.

However, McKeithen, who didn't attend the hearing, said the major stumbling block involved the campaign check sent to pay the filing fee: it was postdated for Feb. 29, made for the wrong amount and was the wrong type of check. -- Judge refuses to add Sharpton to La. primary ballot (AP)

NYC prisoners = more power for Upstate

Criminals are among New York City's most popular exports. According to a recent study, about 44,000 state prisoners, or two-thirds of the entire state prison population, are from New York City. Yet only 3,000 of these inmates are in state-run jails that are actually located in New York City. The rest are trucked up to state-run prisons upstate. While inconvenient to their relatives, their relocation is a huge benefit, both economically and politically, to rural counties upstate -- at the expense of New York City. ...

The prisoners also supply another unique benefit to the upstate region. They allow it to have more voting power than its population would merit if prisoners were not there. Since prisoners cannot vote but are counted in redistricting, they give upstate the benefits of extra people (and cash) without the locality being obligated to address any of their needs. Legally, residency is generally determined based upon both where one is domiciled and the intent to remain there. So a prisoner taken from his home in New York City and counted in an upstate prison, which he expects to leave as soon as he can, is not really an upstate resident. The census could count such individuals where they once lived, as they do overseas military troops. -- Imprisoned In New York (Gotham Gazette. February, 2004)

Georgia wants more time from federal court

[Georgia] State officials want more time to draw new election districts, arguing that the July 20th party primaries might have to be delayed under the current deadline.

A three-judge federal panel judges us expected to hear the Georgia attorney general's request for a stay in the redistricting case this afternoon. Last week, the panel ruled the state's existing legislative districts unconstitutional and gave the General Assembly a March first deadline for drawing new maps. -- Judges to hear state's argument for redistricting delay

UPDATE: A federal appeals panel refused Thursday to allow a disputed voting map to be used in Georgia legislative elections this year, despite pleas from state officials who say there may not be time to put new districts in place.

The ruling was a victory for Republican state legislators, who now will have input in trying to redraw the voting maps in time for the July 20 primary election.

The three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decided there was no reason to put a hold on an earlier ruling that said the state's voting maps for federal officeholders -- drawn when the state Legislature was controlled by Democrats -- unfairly put more people in some districts than in others.

David Walbert, an attorney for Georgia Secretary of State Cathy Cox, said he would appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court. -- Panel refuses to allow unconstitutional map to be used (AP)

Georgia Senate committee approves redistricting map

[Georgia] State legislators have less than two weeks to re-draw political maps. On Thursday, a Senate committee approved a revised version. -- WALB, Albany, Ga.

Texas speaker lawyers up

[Texas] House Speaker Tom Craddick has hired a defense attorney and agreed to turn over to the Travis County district attorney's office documents related to his quest for the speakership and fund-raising efforts.

The move came two days after Craddick said he would not make the documents public. Prominent criminal defense attorney Roy Minton said Thursday he had been hired by Craddick, R-Midland.

"There was a summons issued for him to come up with the pledge cards he received and other documents and he will cooperate completely and comply with the district attorney's office," Minton said.

Gregg Cox of the prosecutor's public integrity unit said his office is investigating alleged violations of state law regarding ethics issues of House speaker candidates. -- House speaker hires defense attorney, turns over documents (AP)

February 18, 2004

Yet another source for news junkies

I chanced upon WhiteHouse '04 (a guide to Web sites) this evening. It won't dazzle you with fancy graphics, but you will spend hours clicking on all the links. It covers finances, logistics, candidates (even a link to a site with their horoscopes), latest news, and history.

FEC opinion on 527's

The Federal Election Commission (FEC) today approved by a 4-2 vote an advisory opinion that would limit how much soft money certain 527 fundraising organizations could spend on federal elections.

However, the commission made clear that the opinion was narrowly tailored for Americans for a Better Country, the GOP-allied group that asked for the opinion. Commissioners said they would not issue broader regulations for soft money fundraising groups until next month when they initiate a more formal rulemaking process.

Yesterday's advisory opinion applies to 527 groups that have a federal
component and are registered with the commission. For example, Americans Coming Together, one of the biggest liberal 527s with a projected budget of $98 million, would be substantially affected by the opinion because it
has a federal component. But Clinton advisor Harold Ickes' Media Fund, with a budget of $95 million, has no such federal component and is untouched by the opinion, said an campaign finance experts who filed comments with the commission. -- FEC takes modest step toward restricting 527s (The

Ellen Weintraub, a Democratic commissioner, said Wednesday's ruling gives plenty of room for groups on both sides to collect and spend so-called soft money donations from companies, wealthy people and unions despite Congress' effort in 2002 to root out big money from politics.

"I think there's still a lot of room out there for people to operate," Weintraub said. "You can't stop the flow of money." -- FEC Imposes New Restrictions on Political Donations (AP)

And for Bob Bauer's more detailed explanation, go to More Soft Money Hard Law.

Voting equipment survey

Kim Brace of Election Data Services, Inc., writes, "We've updated our study of voting equipment usage in the United States for the 2004 general election and have put a press release and related tables on our website While we didn't note it in the press release, we have subsequently calculated that 74.2% of the nation's registered voters will be using the same equipment that they used in the 2000 election. Like before, we have updated our voting equipment map and are offering a special combo price on our historical 1980-2002 poster with the 2004 map."

Felony Disfranchisement Resources

Marc Mauer of the Sentencing Project sends these links and resources:

Report on Latino Disenfranchisement
MALDEF has just released a new report, Diminished Voting Power in the Latino Community, that provides the first estimates of Latino disenfranchisement in the U.S. The report examines rates of disenfranchisement in ten states and finds that Latinos are generally disenfranchised at higher rates than their presence in the population. See the report at:

Legal and Political Analysis
A working paper by Stanford Law Professor Pamela Karlan assesses the legal and philosophical framework of disenfranchisement laws, and proposes a legal strategy for attacking these policies. See Convictions and Doubts: Retribution, Representation, and the Debate Over Felon Disenfranchisement at:

Disenfranchisement Impact on African Americans
A new study published in the Virginia Journal of Social Policy and the Law finds that laws in the states with the most restrictive disenfranchisement policies produce diminished voter turnout among non-disenfranchised African Americans as well. “The Locked Ballot Box: The Impact of State Criminal Disenfranchisement Laws on African American Voting Behavior and Implications for Reform,” by Aman McLeod, Ismail White, and Amelia Gavin, appears in the Fall 2003 issue of the journal but is not available on-line.

February 17, 2004

California group sues for paper trail

Two weeks before California's March 2 primary, a group alleging widespread potential security glitches in electronic voting machines is asking a judge to make counties install new safeguards before voting begins.

Citizens from Solano, Sacramento, San Diego and Stanislaus counties filed their request for a temporary restraining order Tuesday in Sacramento County Superior Court. It asks that up to 18 counties using machines made by Ohio-based Diebold Election Systems add more safeguards to protect them against hackers.

Court officials scheduled a hearing on the issue at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, along with an accompanying lawsuit seeking to stop the state and Diebold from using "insecure" voting machinery. California counties are using three versions of Diebold systems to register votes and the company's software to tally them. -- Group wants judge to order upgrades to e-vote machines (AP)

Irish government gives a litte on electronic voting

The [Irish] Government has been forced to make significant concessions to its plans to introduce electronic voting throughout the State in June, following Opposition objections. However, Fine Gael, the Labour Party and the Greens last night jointly insisted that a paper record of each vote would have to be kept for their concerns to be met, writes Mark Hennessy, Political Correspondent

Under the changes proposed last night, an independent statutory panel will be set up to verify the security of the system in advance of the elections. In addition, it will monitor the operation of the 6,500 NEDAP/Powervote voting machines and the counting of the votes cast in all elections to come.

Despite repeated declarations that it was not necessary, new legislation will be rushed through the Oireachtas to ensure that electronic voting results cannot be challenged. -- Opposition forces changes to electronic voting plan (The Irish Times)

Texas Speaker clams up and hunkers down

Texas House Speaker Tom Craddick rejected a plea today from two watchdog groups that he make public documents connected to his run for speaker and to his fund-raising efforts with a political action committee.

Campaigns for People and Public Citizen, two nonprofit groups, said Craddick should voluntarily make public all speaker pledge cards and related communications and all documentation of his activities on behalf of the political action committee Texans for a Republican Majority.

The committee, formed by U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, is under investigation by a Travis County grand jury. -- Craddick refuses to release records sought by watchdogs (AP)

Money and the Pres. campaign

During this presidential campaign, the question of money and politics has resurfaced. The McCain-Feingold Act was supposed to limit the amount of money politicians could raise, but by November, the political parties will have raised and spent tens of millions of dollars. Join NPR's Neal Conan to discuss the role of money in presidential elections.


Charles Lewis
*Executive Director, The Center for Public Integrity
*Author of The Buying of the President 2004

Michael Cornfield
*Research director at George Washington University Institute for Politics, Democracy and the Internet
*Associate professor of political management at George Washington University

Ted Welch
*Owner of Ted Welch Investments
*Contributor to President Bush's re-election campaign (has raised $150,000 for campaign)
*Finance chair of the Republican National Committee (1977-78)
*Chaired presidential campaigns of Lamar Alexander and Howard Baker

-- Funding and Presidential Campaigns (Talk of the Nation)

Senate hearings on 527's

Senate Rules Committee Chairman Trent Lott (R-Miss.) plans to hold hearings on the emergence of 527 soft-money fundraising groups, significantly expanding the GOP assault on what has become known as the Democratic “shadow party.”

Lott’s plans will enhance the position of Republican leaders and their unlikely allies in the campaign finance reform community who want strict curbs on these groups, which plan to spend over $300 million this year to influence federal races. -- Senate to enter 527 battle (The Hill)

Alabama closer to banning PAC to PAC transfers

The Alabama House passed a bill Tuesday that would prohibit political action committees from transferring political contributions to another PAC.

The process, known as PAC to PAC transfers, is often used to make it difficult for members of the public to know exactly who is giving money to political candidates, said the sponsor of the bill, Rep. Jeff McLaughlin, D-Guntersville.

"This will help us get started dealing with the worst excesses in the campaign finance system," McLaughlin said.

After passing the PAC to PAC bill, the House bogged down on a bill to require the disclosure of the source of contributions over $100 to issue-oriented campaigns, such as the campaign several years ago for a statewide lottery. Opponents, mostly Republicans, said the bill was trying to intimidate members of churches or religious organizations that oppose issues like gambling. -- House passes bill banning PAC to PAC transfers (AP)

"Prairie View students file another voting rights suit"

Some Prairie View A&M students Tuesday filed another lawsuit over voting in local elections.
The second lawsuit, filed in federal court in Houston, is in response to a recent decision by Waller County officials.

County authorities reduced the number of days and hours for early voting at a satellite location: a community center on the Prairie View campus.

An attorney for the students says any voting change in Texas must be approved by the Justice Department to show that it doesn't worsen the position of minority voters. -- Prairie View students file another voting rights suit (AP)

The Empire (GOP) strikes back

A proposed map of the [Georgia] state senate districts unveiled Tuesday would force some incumbent Democrats into districts with each other and hand others considerably more Republican-leaning turf to defend.

Members of the GOP-dominated Senate's leadership say their plan is more fair than one approved by a Democratic majority two years ago, splitting fewer counties and creating smaller population differences from one district to the next.

A Senate committee will consider the plan Wednesday. -- AP

Election Assistance Commission

After a drawn-out Senate confirmation process, the four-member commission came into existence last month and had a coming-out event yesterday at the National Association of Secretaries of State conference, despite the federal holiday.

Commission Chairman DeForest "Buster" Soaries Jr. told the states what they most wanted to hear: The commission has a speedy plan to distribute $2.3 billion for technology upgrades.
The 2002 Help America Vote Act required states to file plans to be published in the Federal Register before they could get their money. But without the commission, there was no one to do the publishing. Soaries said the commissioners intend to finish reading the plans by the end of February, send them for printing and have checks cut as soon as mid-May.

But the states don't just want money. They also want guidance on the thorniest problem in elections today, voting security. -- Election Panel Tells States Money Will Be Coming (

North Carolina Democrats' caucus plan

Here is the North Carolina Democratic Party's new plan for selecting delegates using precinct caucuses and county conventions.

February 16, 2004

FEC chairman against most regulation of 527's

Defying Republican Party demands to rule illegal the plans of a network of pro-Democratic political committees, Federal Election Commission Chairman Bradley A. Smith now argues that these committees should remain free to raise and spend large contributions known as "soft money."

Smith's argument, spelled out in a 37-page proposal to his five FEC colleagues, sharply increases, but does not guarantee, the likelihood that new pro-Democratic groups with multimillion-dollar budgets will become significant forces in the 2004 election and become what amounts to a "shadow" Democratic Party. -- Washington Post, Tom Edsall

Smith's draft proposal is here.

Influence of

The biggest powerhouse in progressive politics had decidedly inauspicious beginnings: an overheard conversation at a local Chinese restaurant, a high-tech chain letter, and $89.

Five years ago, tech entrepreneurs Joan Blades and her husband, Wes Boyd -- whose company gave the world the flying-toaster screen saver -- were eating lunch and listening to a group at a nearby table lamenting the time and energy wasted on the President Clinton-Monica Lewinsky scandal. Blades and Boyd decided to start a petition urging Congress to forgo impeachment, censure Clinton instead, and move on. They e-mailed it to their friends, asked them to pass it on, and paid $89 to set up a website where people could register their support.

Within a week, more than 100,000 people had put their names on the petition, flooring Blades and Boyd. They decided to make their new network of like-minded folks permanent. was born.

Today, the organization has 1.7 million members -- as many as the Christian Coalition at its height. Its members discuss issues and set the group's priorities on the site, and MoveOn sends regular news updates. It has raised millions of dollars in small contributions from those members -- for Democratic candidates, full-page newspaper advertisements, and prime-time television spots that criticize the Bush administration. -- Boston Globe

Web ads

President Bush and Democratic front-runner John Kerry are engaged in a high-tech political showdown that combines the targeting power of direct mail with the glossy appearance of a television commercial.

The format is a Web video message e-mailed to millions of the Democratic and Republican rank-and-file.

"It's animated direct mail," said Michael Cornfield, research director of the Institute for Politics, Democracy and the Internet at George Washington University. "It's meant to mobilize supporters, raise money and create buzz."
Thanks to advances in technology, campaigns are making widespread use of Web videos that are quicker to produce and cheaper to distribute than direct-mail literature sent to voters' homes or television commercials.

And unlike those TV ads, the videos that appear on the Internet face none of the content regulations of the 2002 campaign finance law, including the statement by the candidate of "I approved this ad" that has given some campaigns pause before launching negative political ads. Web videos have the potential to be nastier than the typical TV ad. -- AP

For an example, see the "Ralph don't run" campaign I mentioned yesterday -- which is being spread by email.

Liberal 527's

A confederation of left-leaning interest groups is angling to raise hundreds of millions of dollars and target President Bush in a handful of key swing states, including Florida.

But a ruling that could come as early as this week by elections regulators examining whether the practice violates new federal fundraising restrictions could undercut the strategy and render Democrats weaker against a powerful GOP money machine that has thrived even under the new limits. ...

The action will intensify within days of a candidate wrapping up the Democratic presidential nomination, possibly during the first week of March, and is aimed at countering an anticipated onslaught of advertising by the president's reelection campaign and the Republican National Committee -- which had raised a combined $240 million as of the end of 2003.

The Bush campaign has already begun its assault on the likely Democratic nominee, assailing Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts in a web video last week for his history of taking money from corporate interests.

''The Republicans have a bucket of money,'' said Harold Ickes, the longtime confidant of former President Bill Clinton, who is trying to raise more than $100 million for two newly formed groups planning TV ads and grass-roots efforts. -- The Miami Herald

Dean may morph campaign into a 527

[Howard Dean] planned to speak with Kerry as soon as today to discuss their relationship, a top Democratic Party operative said on the condition of anonymity. And Neel is exploring converting Dean's presidential apparatus into a political action group like the one that attacked Dean before he lost Iowa's caucuses.

But in Dean's case, the group's purpose would not be to harm other Democratic candidates, but to help the party defeat President Bush, elect a Democratic Congress, and advance the agenda that the former Vermont governor has pushed during his two-year presidential campaign: health care for all Americans, a balanced budget, and foreign policies based on diplomatic cooperation.
Such groups are known as 527s, named for the section of the federal tax code that defines such entities. The groups are exempt from taxation so long as they are aimed at voter mobilization.

They recently have come under review by the Federal Election Commission after protests that they are being used to advocate for specific candidates, in violation of a campaign finance law that took effect in November 2002.

One 527, Americans for Jobs, Health Care & Progressive Values, aired ads critical of Dean before the Iowa caucuses, including one with an image of Osama bin Laden that questioned Dean's national security credentials.

According to Democratic Party operatives speaking on the condition of anonymity, Dean's group -- which probably would be named in consultation with his supporters -- would be funded through appeals to the core of donors who helped Dean raise $41 million last year for his presidential campaign, a record for any Democrat during a primary season. Dean burned through much of that money as he sought unsuccessfully to win the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary, which were then followed by 14 losses in nomination contests. --
Boston Globe

"English Votes on English Laws"

THERE were renewed calls last night for Scots MPs to be prevented from voting on laws that only affect England, after a study found that a majority of the British public support a ban.

A poll by YouGov on the so-called West Lothian Question found that 66 per cent of English and Welsh voters - and 78 per cent of Scots - thought Scotland’s MPs should only vote on legislation relevant to their constituents.

The issue, which has sparked repeated arguments at Westminster, has come to the fore in recent months with the passage through Parliament of a number of controversial Labour policies. -- The Scotsman

North Carolina drops presidential primary

The state Board of Elections removed the requirement for political parties to hold presidential primaries Monday, clearing the way for North Carolina Democrats to hold April caucuses.

With the state's primary election delayed until July by a battle over legislative districts, the board voted that each recognized political party - Republicans, Democrats and Libertarians - is free to do whatever it needs to select its presidential preference.

"We're getting the state out of the presidential primary," elections board chairman Larry Leake said after a unanimous vote by the five-member panel. "I think it would be within our authority to say that, within this election cycle, it would be impractical or impossible to hold a presidential primary." -- AP Wire

DeLay's PAC under investigation

A political action committee created by Tom DeLay, the House majority leader, enjoyed tremendous success here in 2002: all but 3 of 21 Republican candidates the committee backed for state representative won their races, helping the party take control of the Texas House.

Last year, the Republicans used that clout to carve Texas into new Congressional districts under a plan that political analysts say will bring them at least five new seats in Congressional elections this year.

But local prosecutors and a grand jury here have been investigating the committee, Texans for a Republican Majority, including its use of corporate donations in the election, lawyers close to the case said.

Investigators are also examining whether there were violations of a law intended to curb the ability of outside groups to influence the race for House speaker, the lawyers said. The investigation follows a complaint filed with prosecutors last year by Texans for Public Justice, a campaign watchdog group.

The extent to which Texans for a Republican Majority used corporate money in the 2002 races is laid out in a trail of recently obtained documents. Under Texas law, political action committees are generally prohibited from using corporate and union donations for anything other than administrative expenses. -- New York Times

The political action committee Texans for a Republican Majority, which was created by U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay and is under investigation by a grand jury, often coordinated its efforts with Republican Tom Craddick before the 2002 election, The New York Times reported Monday.

Craddick, a state representative who was vying for Texas House speaker in late 2002 and was elected to the post by legislators in January 2003, worked closely with officials from the committee to raise money, the newspaper reported.

In turn, the committee sent Craddick campaign checks that he then distributed to individual state House candidates. The newspaper cited documents and interviews in its report.

On Oct. 18, 2002, John Colyandro, who was the committee's executive director, wrote an e-mail message instructing the committee's accountant to send Craddick, via Federal Express, $152,000 in checks made out to 14 Republican House candidates, records show. -- AP

February 15, 2004

New Jersey's first emancipation

Today commemorates the passage of the state's first law emancipating slaves - a little remembered emancipation event overshadowed by the national one declared by President Lincoln during the Civil War in 1862.

Rutgers University professor and author Clement Price calls the act on Feb. 15, 1804, significant even though it did not free all of the state's slaves. ...

New Jersey was the last of the Northern states to pass a major emancipation law.

When the act was adopted with little comment from public officials, records show there were about 12,000 slaves living in New Jersey - approximately 75 percent of the state's total black population of 16,824. The remainder were already free blacks.

New York was the only Northern state with more blacks. ...

However, he described the law as "flawed" because it did not abolish slavery for children and young adults. He said that encouraged the continued sale of slaves.

The professor said the law did not free male slaves until they were 25 and women until they were 21. It also gave them voting rights when they were freed.

He said many of those younger slaves were sold to Southern states, especially Louisiana, often splitting up families. -- Cherry Hill (NJ) Courier-Post

Escambia County (FL) voting on charter

The Pensacola News Journal has two articles today about the proposed charter for Escambia County. The county would change from 5 commissioners elected from single-member districts to 10 members, 7 from single-member districts and 3 at-large. While an illustrative districting plan has been drawn, the county commission does not have to draw the final plan till the charter passes.

Ralph Nader

Ralph Nader is thinking of running for President again. Take a look at the Nader 2004 Presidential Exploratory Committee website to get more details.

In the meanwhile, a group called Ralph Don't Run is urging emails to Nader urging him not to run. Their website makes the point that if Gore had received 1% of Nader's Florida vote, Gore would be President now.

February 14, 2004

Torricelli's "trust fund for Democrats"

Robert G. Torricelli, the former United States senator from New Jersey, is once again emerging as a principal fund-raiser for Democratic candidates and, as overseer of $2.3 million left from his own campaign fund, as a donor as well.

The ex-senator has come under scrutiny this week as his fund-raising efforts for Senator John Kerry's presidential campaign have drawn attention, leading some Democrats to distance themselves from Mr. Torricelli. Many others, however, are seeking support and receiving money from Mr. Torricelli, who dropped his 2002 re-election bid after accusations of ethical missteps and an admonishment from the Senate ethics committee for his relationship with a wealthy campaign donor. -- New York Times

February 13, 2004

Kerry's fundraising

Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.) is setting in motion one of the most ambitious fundraising plans in Democratic Party history, fearful that without tens of millions of dollars' worth of television advertising this spring, his candidacy will be overpowered by the $100 million-plus bank account of President Bush.

Expecting to lock up the Democratic nomination shortly, Kerry plans to spend much of next month traveling coast-to-coast, aggressively wooing the donors who sat on the sidelines in 2003 or who bankrolled Democratic rivals Rep. Richard A. Gephardt (Mo.), Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (Conn.) and retired Army Gen. Wesley K. Clark, aides said. The courtship is well underway -- at least a dozen major fundraisers from other camps say they have agreed to work for Kerry -- and the campaign collected $6.5 million in the 23 days after his Iowa victory.

The greater challenge for Kerry will be tapping into former Vermont governor Howard Dean's donor base, a collection of 300,000 fiercely loyal supporters who gave more than $41 million. "We don't know the answer yet," said one Kerry strategist, who marveled at the number of Dean contributors and their willingness to keep sending money despite a string of Dean defeats. ...

Kerry's wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, heiress to the Heinz ketchup fortune, has the option of contributing unlimited sums to finance "independent" expenditures on behalf of her husband's candidacy as long as she does not coordinate the effort with his campaign. -- Washington Post

"Will electronic systems be more secure than what we've got now?"

Fear of change is a universal human emotion, and it often erupts when new technology comes along to alter an established and comfortable way of doing things.

This fear can sway people away from thoughtful consideration of risks and rewards, pushing them into panic reactions where new ideas are weighed down by unfair expectations.

That's happening right now with electronic voting. ...

Of course, it's essential that elections are protected from malicious interference.

Does that mean we should wait for electronic voting systems that are absolutely secure?

No. But it's the wrong question to ask.

The right question is: Will electronic systems, when implemented with a reasonable degree of caution, be more secure than what we've got now?

The answer is yes. -- Mike Langberg in Mercury News

Electronic voting coming to Ireland, but opposition parties object

The Fine Gael, Labour and Green parties have agreed the text of a motion opposing the Government's plans for the extension of electronic voting. The motion will be debated during Fine Gael's Private Members' time on Tuesday and Wednesday next week.

In recent months, the three main opposition parties have expressed concern at the failure of the Government to consult with, or seek the agreement of, the other parties in Dáil Eireann for the fundamental change in our electoral system.

The motion calls on the Government to immediately defer plans for the use of electronic voting in the European and local elections and to suspend any further related expenditure until an Independent Electoral Commission has been established and has addressed the legitimate concerns of political parties and the public on this issue. ...

The three party leaders said that they were taking this joint initiative to highlight the failure of the Government to ensure public and political confidence in the extension of electronic voting.
-- - The Irish Politics Website

But the Government appears to be going full steam ahead.

WATERFORD’s voters will have their chance to get up to speed on using the new electronic voting system from the beginning of next month, when 200 ballot machines will be distributed around the constituency.

Niall Rooney, Returning Officer for the Waterford Constituency, told the Waterford News & Star that he expected to receive the 200 electronic voting machines in the first week of March. ...

Environment Minister Martin Cullen, whose department is responsible for introducing the electronic voting system, said the campaign aimed to show people how voting with the new system is as easy as switching on a light or a kettle.

He said the experience of using electronic voting in a number of pilot constituencies in the last general election had shown that the system was easier, more efficient and gave improved electoral accuracy and administration. -- Waterford News & Star

Colorado GOP rejects request to drop appeal

Republicans rejected two requests from Democrats to drop the court battle over congressional redistricting Friday and vowed to pursue their claims to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Resolutions sponsored in both houses by Democrats failed on party line votes, except for Rep. Carl Miller, D-Leadville, who joined Republicans in the House to defeat it.

House Minority Leader Andrew Romanoff, D-Denver, said Republicans are wasting taxpayer money because the state Supreme Court has rejected a GOP-drawn map and restored boundaries drawn by a judge that are more favorable to Democrats.

The court battle has already cost $214,000 and is expected to go higher. -- AP

Georgia AG appeals redistricting decision

The state [of Georgia] will appeal a federal ruling that its state House and Senate maps must be redrawn.

Attorney General Thurbert Baker, a Democrat, notified the Republican governor Friday that he would appeal. The two parties clashed over the maps, which Democrats drew in 2001 to boost their numbers and try to reduce Republican gains in Congress and the Legislature.

Democrats want to challenge the ruling because earlier court rulings have let stand districts that varied less than 10 percent. Democrats say 23 states have legislative districts that vary as much as Georgias.

"The issues presented are not frivolous," Baker wrote in his letter to Perdue. "The court has announced what appears to be a new standard to be applied in redistricting cases." -- AP

You may view the documents at the House Republican Caucus site.

Selling "shares" in a campaign

A self-proclaimed carpetbagger who brought the Web savvy from his surfside home south of San Francisco to take on a Central Valley congressman has put his campaign on the virtual auction block.

Jeffrey Vance, a carpenter by trade and political neophyte, is selling out - literally - offering shares in his fledgling campaign on eBay, the online marketplace.

The Web site boasts 20 million items for sale at a time, including scores of political memorabilia, but no campaigns that eBay is aware of, said a company spokesman.

But his platform is also grounded in the belief that special interests are to blame for some of the nation's problems.

"Congress is pretty much bought and sold," Vance said. "If you look at the funding sources you'll see why we don't have a utopia."

For believers in a future paradise, he is offering $20 certificates "of Democratic freedom" that carry the following disclaimer: "No undue rights or privileges or access or undue influence are accorded the bearer." But Vance does promise he will be "unfettered by corporate and special interest control." -- AP

February 12, 2004

Effort to repeal part of McCain-Feingold

A House Republican on Thursday began a legislative effort to allow special interest groups to target congressional candidates with ads close to elections, a move that would undo a key part of the nation's new campaign finance law.

Maryland Rep. Roscoe Bartlett's proposal would rescind restrictions barring the use of corporate or union money on ads mentioning federal candidates in their districts within 30 days of a primary and 60 days of a general election.

-- AP

The third-ranking member of the House Republican leadership is a co-sponsor of a bill to repeal the anti-free-speech sections of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance "reform" law.

House Majority Whip Roy Blunt, R-Mo., has signed on to the measure, just introduced, to "restore Americans' First Amendment rights," in the words of the prime sponsor of the repeal, Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Md.

The very fact that a major player in the House GOP leadership would affix his name to Bartlett's bill sends an unmistakable signal to the rank-and-file Republican lawmakers, i.e., let's get rid of this turkey now before it does us in.

-- NewsMax

February 11, 2004

Whither (whether) Internet voting?

Days before the Michigan Democratic Party announced a wildly successful primary election with the help of Internet voting this weekend, a panel of experts issued the most blunt criticism yet of the state of casting ballots online.

In a report that effectively ended the Pentagon's plan to offer online absentee ballots to more than 100,000 Americans overseas this year, the experts concluded, "There really is no good way to build such a voting system without a radical change in overall architecture of the Internet and the PC."

Avi Rubin, one of the authors of the report and an associate professor at Johns Hopkins University, said recent viruses only heighten concerns.

"Just look at all the worms spreading on the Internet all the time," he said. "Clearly Windows machines are too insecure for voting." --

Maryland considers bill for paper trails

Taking up one of the most contentious election reform issues facing states around the country, a House of Delegates committee heard a bill yesterday that would force Maryland to upgrade its 16,000 new electronic voting machines to allow voters to verify that their ballots were cast accurately.

Proponents say the legislation would ensure that the $55 million voting system can be trusted when it is rolled out in nearly every precinct in the state in the Democratic presidential primary in three weeks. Opponents say it would add unnecessary expense and extra work to a cumbersome new process.

Del. Kumar P. Barve, a sponsor of the bill that requires a "voter-verified paper trail," said that as an accountant, he finds it imperative to have something tangible to prove the accuracy of votes if the computerized results should be questioned.

"So if there's any reason to doubt an election," the Montgomery County Democrat told the House Ways and Means Committee, "you have a backup." -- Baltimore Sun

BuzzFlash interview on paper trails for electronic voting

BuzzFlash has an interview with Representative Rush Holt on the bill he has introduced to require a paper trail for electronic voting machines.

Wexler's suit on paper trail dismissed

A congressman's lawsuit seeking to require electronic voting machines to produce a paper trail was dismissed Wednesday when a Palm Beach County judge ruled he did not have the standing to sue.

U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler, D-Boca Raton, filed the lawsuit against Florida Secretary of State Glenda E. Hood and Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Theresa LePore, claiming the use of machines that do not produce paper duplicates of the votes cast violates voters' rights.

Without that paper trail, a manual recount isn't possible, Wexler argued.

But Circuit Judge Karen Miller ruled Wexler did not have the standing to file the suit, since he could not prove, either as a citizen or a public official, he had been hurt by the voting system. Wexler's complaints would be better addressed through legislative remedies, her order said.

Wexler said the judge's order seemed to erase Florida voters' ability to challenge the system.

"I see this as the judge dismissing Florida's voters and ... their voting rights," he said. -- AP

DOJ wants more information from North Carolina

The federal government doesn't have enough information yet from North Carolina to determine whether it will challenge state legislative districts, U.S. government lawyers say.

State officials have asked a three-judge panel in the District of Columbia to determine if the latest House and Senate district boundaries comply with the Voting Rights Act.

All election law provisions must be cleared by the U.S. Department of Justice or federal courts to make sure they don't harm the rights of minority voters.

Civil rights attorneys for the U.S. Justice Department said they had no problem using the three-judge panel to decide the case. They also said this week they haven't seen enough documents from state lawyers trying to persuade the panel that the boundaries are lawful.
Justice Department attorneys, in a filing late Monday, "anticipate that they will very soon be in a position to determine whether the state can meet its burden of proving that the plans are not retrogressive."

-- AP

Redoing redistricting in California

This article from the Oakland Tribune discusses 3 or 4 -- I can't tell which -- proposed initiatives to revamp redistricting in California.

Two mileposts in the Arizona redistricting appeal

AP reports:

The Arizona Supreme Court on Wednesday refused to accept a transfer of the Independent Redistricting Commission's appeal of a judge's order requiring the drawing of new legislative districts.

The Supreme Court refused to hear the case without comment.

The high court's order leaves the commission's appeal pending before the state Court of Appeals. However, an eventual ruling by that court almost certainly would be appealed to the Supreme Court.

The Court of Appeals refused to block the Jan. 16 order by Judge Kenneth Fields of Maricopa County Superior Court on Monday.

Georgia works on new redistricting

AP reports:

Republicans in the [Georgia] state Senate said Wednesday that they will draw up a new legislative map to replace the one that three federal judges said gave unfair advantage to Democrats. The Democrat-controlled House, meanwhile, was weighing whether to draw a new map or pin its hopes on a possible court appeal of Tuesday's ruling.

The court barred the state from using the House and Senate maps in upcoming legislative elections and gave the Legislature until March 1 to draw new boundaries or face the possibility that the court might do it.

A decision on whether to appeal would come from Democratic Attorney General Thurbert Baker. A spokesman said early Wednesday that no decision had been made.

Gov. Sonny Perdue, a Republican, has said an appeal would be a waste of money, but he cannot order Baker not to challenge the ruling.

OAS court rules DC residents should have seats in Congress

The New York Times reports

In a case brought by voting rights activists from Washington, an international human rights commission has ruled that the United States is violating international law by refusing to give residents of the nation's capital the power to elect members of Congress.

The ruling, issued on Dec. 29 by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, an agency of the Organization of American States, is not binding. But it brings the moral authority of a major international organization - one the United States belongs to and helps finance - to bear on Capitol Hill, which for 200 years has rebuffed proposals to give Congressional seats to Washington.

"No other federal state in the Western Hemisphere denies the residents of its federal capital the right to vote for representatives in their national legislature," the ruling said. The commission called on Congress to provide "an effective remedy" that would guarantee this city's residents representation in Congress.

Analysis of 527 receipts and spending

The Center for Responsive Politics has released an analysis of the money raised and spent by 527 organizations. Here is the Center's press release which has links to tables.

Fred Gray's office destroyed

AP reports that the Tuskegee, Alabama, law offices of Fred Gray, a newspaper, and a community action agency have been destroyed by fire -- apparently from a space heater left on by someone in one of the offices.

Gray represented Rosa Parks in her landmark Montgomery bus desegregation case and later the victims of the infamous Tuskegee syphilis study. He and his wife watched as the building and historical documents from the civil rights era were consumed.

``We talked just last week about moving those documents to another location so that the records of the civil rights movement would be preserved forever,'' Gray told The Auburn Bulletin. ``Now, they're all gone.''

Gray also was an attorney for Dr. Martin Luther King while he lived in Montgomery, where Gray was practicing at the time. He later represented the plaintiffs in the Tuskegee gerrymander case.

February 10, 2004

Kerry's mortgage

Gannett News Service has this article on Sen. Kerry's $6.4 million problem:

Once written off as a Democratic presidential contender, John Kerry survived to become the front-runner, thanks to a $6.4 million Christmas Eve loan he made to his campaign.

The loan allowed Kerry's campaign, which was struggling to raise money, to put ads on the air and pay staff until victories in Iowa and New Hampshire produced new funds. But now the loan, which he got using his home in Boston's exclusive Beacon Hill neighborhood as collateral, places a financial burden on the Massachusetts senator, with no easy way to pay it off:

  • Kerry's financial disclosures show no assets sufficient to pay the loan or even to keep up with the interest payments. Aides say he has assets that aren't listed on the forms but decline to reveal them.
  • His wife, heiress Teresa Heinz Kerry, has a fortune estimated at more than $500 million. But the law forbids her from paying off a campaign loan for her husband.
  • If he wins the nomination, Kerry could pay himself back from campaign contributions made before the Democratic convention in late July. But doing so would siphon off money at a time when he would be running against President Bush, who will have a projected $200 million to spend.
  • "Democrats' soft money running low"

    The Hill reports in tomorrow's edition:

    The network of soft-money fundraising groups known as the "shadow" Democratic Party has fallen significantly short of its fundraising goals even as the presumptive Democratic nominee, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), faces heavy Republican attacks in coming months.

    Eight of the largest and most prominent liberal soft-money funds - known as 527s after a section of the federal tax code - have raised less than 10 percent of their expected outlays for the 2004 election.

    "My view is that most soft-money donors are not going to move money to outside groups to keep it flowing into federal campaigns because the incentives for giving this money are not there," said Fred Wertheimer, the president of Democracy 21, who spearheaded the lobbying effort to pass the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act.

    "The two biggest reasons this money was contributed was either to seek influence with federal office holders, who were soliciting money and to gain access to them in the process. That's now gone because federal officeholders can't solicit money."

    Did I hear a nyah-nyah-nyah?

    "E-Vote Machines Drop More Ballots"

    Wired News reports:

    Six electronic voting machines used in two North Carolina counties lost 436 absentee ballot votes in the 2002 general election because of a software problem, raising increasing doubts about the accuracy and integrity of voting equipment in a presidential election year.

    Election Systems & Software said problems with the firmware of its iVotronic touch-screen machines, used in a trial run, lost ballots in two North Carolina precincts during the state's early voting in 2002. ES&S, the largest U.S. maker of election equipment, is also the focus of attention into lost votes last month in Florida during a special election.


    I apparently have fallen behind. I need a Really Long Law Firm Website Legal Disclaimer.

    More on the North Carolina primary

    Richard Winger, editor/owner/guru of Ballot Access News, emailed:

    North Carolina State Board of Elections not only postponed the primary, it postponed the petition deadline for independent candidates. I verified this with a phone call to the Board's legal guy. They were smart to do that, since they didn't do it in 2002 and got sued over it.

    As usual, Richard would be the one to ask, if one had only thought of the question.

    Kids with big bucks to give to campaigns

    The New York Times has the heart-warming story of a first grader who gave $1,000 to a political campaign. See Too Young to Vote, Old Enough to Donate. (It's sorta the opposite of the old joke, "I want to be buried in Chicago so I can stay active in politics.")

    The McCain-Feingold campaign finance law, which took effect more than a year ago, included a ban on donations by those under 18. But in December, the Supreme Court struck down the prohibition, saying it trampled free-speech rights.

    The result is that people who are too young to drink, drive or vote can again contribute to presidential and Congressional campaigns, a practice that political strategists and fund-raisers say may intensify as competition for donations heats up. This in turn gives greater influence to families with political interests who want to funnel large amounts to politicians, campaign finance experts say.

    The Supreme Court decision opens the way for donor families to continue "bundling" their money, as many have in years past.

    Federal court strikes Georgia legislative redistricting plan

    The United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia has voided Georgia's legislative redistricting plan and upheld its congressional plan -- each was attacked for violation of the one-person-one-vote standard. The opinion is here.

    On the legislative plan, the court held that it violated one-person-one-vote because it had a 9.98% deviation and "there are no legitimate, consistently applied state policies which justify these population deviations." Instead the plan consistently under-populated districts in inner-city Atlanta and south Georgia (both likely to elect Democrats), as well as districts of incumbent Democrats.

    The congressional plan's 72-person deviation was approved because it was supported by a policy of avoiding additional precinct splits and using easily recognizable boundaries.

    Thanks to Tim Storey for the link.

    UPDATE: and thanks to Bryan Tyson for reminding me that nearly all the pleadings and briefs in the case are here.

    February 9, 2004

    10 Commandments -- 10 questions

    AP reports:

    A Christian activist group wants to ask candidates for the Alabama Supreme Court where they attend church, what actions they have taken on anti-abortion issues and whether marriage should be defined as being between a man and a woman.

    The League of Christian Voters - hoping to capitalize on momentum seized during last summer's protests of a Ten Commandments monument's removal from the state judicial building - has proposed the 10-question list for the three seats up for election this fall.

    "You've got ten commandments, you've got ten questions," said Jim Zeigler, a Mobile attorney and chairman of the league, a political action committee.

    A U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June 2002 gave judicial candidates greater leeway to talk about issues such as abortion and school prayer while campaigning. But Zeigler said it's unclear whether his group's questionnaire is permissible, and he has asked the state Judicial Inquiry Commission for an opinion.

    Lest you think the AP has mischaracterized the League, check out its website.

    UPDATE: Here are the 10 questions (and as Dave Barry says, "I'm not making this up."):

    1. Are you a born-again Christian? Please give your testimony.

    2. In what church or other Christian ministries are you active? What are your areas of service in each?

    3. Please describe your family situation.

    4. What actions did you take about the display of the Ten Commandments in the Alabama Judicial Building?

    5. What actions did you take regarding the removal of Chief Justice Roy Moore?

    6. If the special Supreme Court affirms the Court of the Judiciary's decision to remove Roy Moore as chief justice, will you support efforts to get Gov. Bob Riley to appoint Roy Moore as chief justice? Why or why not? What will you actually do either way?

    7. What actions have you personally taken on the issue of pro-life?

    8. Do you believe marriage should be defined as a union between one man and one woman? Please discuss. Have you actually done anything on this issue?

    9. Would you describe yourself as a conservative Christian? What actions have you taken on conservative issues?

    10. If you are endorsed by the League of Christian Voters, are you willing to have your campaign organization (not you personally) distribute hundreds of marked sample ballots with all the league's endorsed candidates marked, including yourself? If so, how many such fliers would your organization be able to distribute?

    The questionnaire also asks for candidates' party affiliation, campaign contact information and present employment.

    North Carolina primary delayed till July

    AP reports on the delay in North Carolina's primary:

    North Carolina's primary election will be held July 20, the state Elections Board decided Monday, because federal judges haven't finished reviewing proposed new districts for General Assembly seats.

    Larry Leake, the board's chairman, said July 20 was the latest date that the primary could be held and still meet requirements for organizing an election, such as printing ballots.

    "The earliest time that we have a decent shot at getting the primary off is July," Leake said.

    The board had to set a new date by Monday, the date that candidates for state and local offices in North Carolina were supposed to begin filing. The state's primary originally was scheduled for May 4.

    Pelosi committee fined by FEC

    AP reports:

    A fund-raising committee run by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi was fined $21,000 for improperly accepting donations over federal limits, according to records and interviews. The political action committee, Team Majority, was one of two PACs Pelosi used to support candidates during the 2002 campaign. She stopped raising and donating money through the committee more than a year ago, after complaints that she was using the multiple PACs improperly to exceed limits.

    The fine, paid in October, was reported in Team Majority's year-end campaign finance records, released recently. The case is still open, and the Federal Election Commission would not comment.

    Pelosi spokesman Brendan Daly said the fine involved donations made to more than two dozen candidates from both of Pelosi's leadership PACs, Team Majority and PAC to the Future, that together exceeded federal limits.

    February 8, 2004

    46,000 Internet voters in Michigan primary

    AP reports:

    More than 46,000 people voted in Michigan's Democratic caucuses via the Internet, a showing party officials called a success.

    "We're pleased not only with the number, but with the security and integrity of the Internet voting system," Mark Brewer, executive chairman of the state Democratic Party, said Saturday night.

    The Democratic National Committee agreed last November to let the state party offer Internet voting, and Michigan is the only state offering that option this year. Michigan Democrats also voted in person and by mail.

    People had until 4 p.m. EST Saturday to vote on the Internet, though they needed to apply to vote online a week ago.

    Politics in the workplace

    The New York Times has an article today asking, Should Campaign Buttons Be Part of the Boss's Wardrobe?

    For politically active business leaders, navigating between the campaign and workplace worlds can be tricky, especially in a presidential election year.

    "We're living in a very emotionally charged political environment," said Morris L. Reid, a political consultant who was an assistant to Ronald H. Brown, the secretary of commerce in the Clinton administration who died in a plane crash in 1996. "If you're leading a company, you don't want people to feel pressured to support a cause that they might not believe in."

    But Mr. Reid said some chief executives may feel compelled to introduce their political beliefs at work, particularly at heavily regulated companies. "Executives who have a business reason for supporting a candidate may feel the need to educate their employees," he said.

    Indeed, new campaign finance laws, which force candidates to rely more on individual contributions, are leading some business leaders to work harder than ever to solicit donations from employees for candidates and political action committees, said Larry Noble, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonprofit research group in Washington that tracks campaign donations. "It's becoming standard operating procedure for chief executives in some industries to send out letters soliciting donations to a PAC or a candidate," he said.

    February 7, 2004

    McCain-Feingold helps GOP more than Dems

    Tom Edsall writes in the Washington Post:

    After one full year in effect, the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law has helped the Republican Party extend its fundraising advantage over Democrats.

    As many strategists had predicted, disclosure records confirm that Republicans have done a better job of collecting thousands of limited "hard money" donations, a type of giving that soared in importance when the law took effect. The national parties no longer may accept unlimited "soft money" donations, which, proportionately, were more vital to Democrats than to the GOP.

    As a result, the major Republican campaign committees ended 2003 with a huge cash advantage over their Democratic counterparts. The GOP's cash on hand minus debts exceeded $52 million on Dec. 31, far outdistancing the Democrats' $19 million, according to PoliticalMoneyLine, which tracks campaign money.

    The new law has taken a bite from both parties' fundraising, but Democrats have been hit harder.

    Strong mayor for Richmond

    The Richmond Times Dispatch reports on action in the Virginia Legislature:

    In a surprise, the House Committee on Counties, Cities and Towns yesterday rejected a mayoral-election proposal overwhelmingly approved by Richmond voters last fall.

    That plan required a successful mayoral candidate to win at least five of the nine City Council districts and kept a city manager to be appointed by the mayor with the consent of council.

    Instead, the committee sent to the House of Delegates floor a bill allowing the citywide election of a strong mayor without the five-of-nine requirement.

    The 12-8 vote was a triumph for Del. Bradley P. Marrs, R-Chesterfield, who has argued that the proposal approved overwhelmingly by Richmond voters was a vote for a strong mayor, not about how the mayor is elected.

    Some confusion in Michigan caucuses

    AP reports on some caucus sites being closed on short notice. The usual suspects are complaining about disenfranchisement.

    NLPC files FEC complaint against Sharpton

    The New York Times reports:

    A nonprofit Washington-area group has filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission, seeking to block the Rev. Al Sharpton's presidential campaign from receiving tax dollars. It is a potentially crippling blow to a candidacy already deep in debt and facing increasing criticism over its relationship with the Republican operative Roger Stone.

    The group, the National Legal and Policy Center, which says it promotes ethics in government, filed its complaint on Thursday, charging that Mr. Sharpton's campaign expenses have been improperly subsidized by his not-for-profit civil rights group, the National Action Network, and by Mr. Stone, who has a reputation for questionable political tactics.

    "The F.E.C. has an obligation to safeguard the integrity of the matching-funds process," said Ken Boehm, chairman of the National Legal and Policy Center. "If there is an effort to defraud the taxpayer, we seek to stop it."

    The complaint comes at a difficult time for Mr. Sharpton, whose success at the Democratic presidential debates has not been followed by success at the polls. He has so far failed to pick up more than one delegate in the states that have held primaries, his campaign is about half a million dollars in debt and his relationship with Mr. Stone has even supporters questioning his credibility.

    Mr. Sharpton's campaign manager, Charles Halloran, said yesterday that the complaint was without merit and amounted to "harassment by a right-wing demagogue group."

    The NLPC website is here and its complaint is here.

    Prairie View students sue

    AP reports:

    Civil rights groups and students at Prairie View A&M University filed a federal suit on Thursday in response to what they say were threats by the local district attorney to prevent students from voting.

    The district attorney, Oliver S. Kitzman of Waller County, has said students at Prairie View, a predominantly black university, are not necessarily entitled to vote where they attend school. Students and other voters like military personnel must meet state-mandated residency standards, he said.

    Hundreds of students marched last month to protest his position.

    On Thursday, the state attorney general, Greg Abbott, issued an opinion that students could vote in their university towns if they designated their campus addresses as residences.

    On Wednesday, Mr. Kitzman said that no discrimination had been intended and that he agreed with Mr. Abbott. He repeated that students must meet residency standards.

    Yolanda Smith, executive director of the N.A.A.C.P. branch in Houston, 40 miles southeast of Prairie View, said the suit was filed because students feared that Mr. Kitzman would not adhere to the ruling and would prosecute students after they voted.

    February 6, 2004

    Big Money vs. Clean Money

    Associated Press reports:

    An initiative drive to dry up funding for Arizona's system of public campaign financing is getting five-figure contributions from developers and other big names in Arizona business.

    The first regular disclosure report filed by the campaign committee for the "No Taxpayer Money for Politicians Act" lists $144,900 in contributions through Dec. 31 - four-fifths of it in contributions of $5,000 or more.

    The proposed initiative would ask voters to amend the Arizona Constitution to bar taxpayer money - including the traffic and criminal fine surcharges that provide most of the campaign system's financing - from being used for candidates' campaigns.

    Arizona voters approved creation of the "Clean Election" campaign finance system in 1998. It provides financing to participating candidates and imposes new reporting requirements and contribution limits on candidates receiving traditional, private financing.

    Irish Green leader calls for a paper trail on e-voting

    It's not just paranoid Americans or can't-get-over-2000 Democrats who are concerned about a paper trail for electronic voting. - The Irish Politics Website reports:

    Green Party Leader, Trevor Sargent TD, has called on the Minister for the Environment, Martin Cullen, to include safeguards to the new electronic voting system by including a paper trail.

    ... Mr. Sargent said that the Green Party will now consider a legal challenge to the new e voting system to ensure that a paper trail component is included to allow for a recount if requested.

    Wexler sues to require paper trail

    The Miami Daily Business Review reports:

    Seeking to prevent a replay of the 2000 presidential election debacle, U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler is seeking a court order today to require election officials to create a paper trail for electronic voting machines.

    In his politically charged Palm Beach Circuit Court suit filed last month, Wexler alleges that the paperless, touch-screen voting machines used in Palm Beach County and 14 other Florida counties are illegal because they don't produce an individual, verifiable record of each person's vote. He contends that such a paper trail is needed to allow manual recounts in close elections.

    Miami-Dade and Broward counties also have machines that don't produce paper ballots. So if the judge agrees with Wexler, the suit will impact those counties and any others in Florida with touch-screen systems.

    The Democratic congressman from Boca Raton claims that the absence of paper ballots leaves county elections supervisors unable to comply with state law that requires hand recounts of ballots in elections with narrow margins of victory. That, he said, poses a grave risk in the upcoming primary and general elections this year.

    Circuit Judge Karen Miller is slated to rule today on the defendants' motions to summarily dismiss or transfer the case to Leon Circuit Court in Tallahassee.

    But the Miami Herald reports today:

    Touch-screen voting technology, on the cutting edge of election innovation just a few years ago, now is regarded with growing unease by voters who worry their choices won't be correctly counted.

    Despite mounting pressure for change, Florida lawmakers are unlikely to require the paper receipts that some experts insist are the only way to ensure voting security.

    Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach county leaders agreed last week to press the Legislature to let them add printers that would create a paper record of each ballot. Voters could review the record before they press the ''vote'' button on touch-screen machines.

    But Gov. Jeb Bush and lawmakers who have the authority to back such legislation say they're not interested.

    February 5, 2004

    Alabama county commission complains about its probate judge

    The Columbus (Ga) Ledger-Inquirer reports about a kerfuffle just across the river in Alabama:

    Russell County Probate Judge Al Howard is facing his second judicial ethics complaint in recent weeks.

    The Russell County Commission approved 4-2 at its meeting Wednesday to ask County Attorney Billy Benton to file a complaint against Howard "for his interference in the legal duty of the commission to implement a required redistricting plan."

    Commissioner Gentry Lee read the motion for the complaint, which will be filed with the Judicial Inquiry Commission of Alabama, with copies sent to the secretary of state and the state attorney general.

    Howard told the commission at a recent meeting that the redistricting plan was approved too late by the Justice Department and it could not be put in place by the June 1 primary. The commission asked for an opinion from the attorney general's office, which said the election could proceed. The commission then directed the registrar's office to implement the redistricting and notify voters of the changes.

    Outlaw single-member districts

    Guy-Uriel Charles has a column in Findlaw's Writ entitled, Should Single-Member Districting Be Held Unconstitutional? He argues that single-member districts allow for gerrymandering and that cumulative voting would undercut gerrymandering.

    Our society is too heterogeneous and we have too many cross-cutting political identities to tolerate political gerrymandering in its present form. Yet politicians will never, on their own, be able to resist the temptation to manipulate the lines for their own benefits -- any more than they could restrain themselves from creating districts that violated the one person-one vote principle before Baker v. Carr.

    FEC deadlocks; soft money still allowed for redistricting fights

    AP reports:

    A New York congressman can raise corporate and union money to help cover legal fees in a redistricting case, according to the Federal Election Commission.

    Democratic Rep. Eliot Engel asked the agency's advice on whether he could use such monies. The panel reached a 3-3 deadlock on the question Thursday, meaning past FEC decisions allowing the use of such ``soft money'' for redistricting fights apply. The commission issued those opinions before a new law banned the use of corporate and union money for federal election activity.

    Engel was involved in a lawsuit over the redrawing of New York's congressional map after the 2000 Census. He asked the FEC whether the new campaign finance law would restrict fund raising by a redistricting committee he planned to form to pay his legal fees.

    Pentagon drops its Internet voting system

    AP has just reported Pentagon Cancels Internet Voting System:

    Citing security concerns, the Pentagon (news - web sites) has canceled Internet voting that would have involved as many as 100,000 military and overseas citizens from seven states in November, a Defense Department official said Thursday.

    The announcement comes two weeks after outside security experts urged the program's cancellation in a scathing report. They said hackers or terrorists could penetrate the system and change votes or gather information about users. At the time, the Pentagon said it felt confident enough to proceed.

    But Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz has since decided to scrap the system because Pentagon officials were not certain they could "assure the legitimacy of votes that would be cast," said a Pentagon official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

    The official said alternative voting systems will now be considered, possibly using the Internet as well. The official could not say when, if ever, such a system would be ready.

    Internet fund raising for the Dem candidates

    Tom Edsall has another report, As Money Flows to Kerry, Challengers Must Scrimp, in today's Washington Post. A couple of excerpts:

    Victories on Tuesday night by Clark in Oklahoma and Edwards in South Carolina may not have persuaded high-dollar fundraisers who specialize in collecting $1,000 and $2,000 checks, but they did help both candidates with Internet fundraising. Clark's campaign said daily Internet contributions rose from $30,000 to $50,000 before Tuesday to more than $100,000 in the 24 hours since the Oklahoma results were announced.

    ... Kerry is still operating "hand to mouth," a fundraiser said, "but there is a lot more in each handful." In the two weeks since Kerry won the New Hampshire primary, his Internet fundraising has totaled $2.35 million, as much as he raised during the last three months of 2003.

    Disclosure: I give legal advice to an independent group backing Gen. Clark.

    Profile of Bradley Smith

    Tom Edsall at the Washington Post has a profile of FEC Chairman Bradley Smith and the discussion today of 527 organizations.

    Arizona IRC to re-draw from scratch

    As if to prove its point that the process of complying with Judge Fields' order will be time-consuming, the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission has voted to start over rather than just correcting the problems. The Arizona Republic reports:

    Moving to start over virtually from scratch, the Independent Redistricting Commission has voted to begin redrawing the legislative districts map that a judge threw out as unconstitutional.

    The commission voted 4-0 Tuesday to have consultants present the panel with a starting-point map of equal-population districts adjusted to create as many competitive districts as possible, Chairman Steve Lynn said Wednesday.

    A critic responded that the panel instead should work from an alternative that would create more competitive districts in the Phoenix and Tucson areas but not change most of the overturned statewide map.

    February 4, 2004

    Group files FEC camplaint against Bush-Cheney

    The title of this newsrelease tells it all: U.S. Newswire - CREW Files FEC Compliant Against Grover Norquist, Ken Mehlman; Alleges Violation of Federal Campaign Laws Over 'Master Contact List'

    Thanks to Alfredo Garcia for the tip.

    Public interest groups comment on proposed AO

    I received the following by email:

    The Alliance for Justice, joined by over 300 other organizations, filed
    comments that criticize a proposed Federal Election Commission advisory
    opinion that could fundamentally alter the ability of nonprofits to advocate
    for the causes they care about.

    The heart of the draft AO states that any communication that "promotes,
    supports, attacks, or opposes" any federal candidate must be paid for using
    funds raised under the restrictions of the federal election laws - so-called
    "hard money." If the FEC adopts the reasoning of this draft AO,
    incorporated 501(c)(3)s and 501(c)(4)s would effectively be banned from
    doing anything that "promotes, supports, attacks, or opposes" a federal
    candidate, even if the message focuses only on policy issues.

    Here is the comment letter.

    February 3, 2004

    Start giving when you're young

    The Washington Post has an article on the efforts to attract young campaign contributors:

    Nonetheless, presidential campaigns, party activists and professional fundraisers from both major parties are targeting these folks because today's $50 donors could be $2,000-big fish in 2008, and hitting them now goes a long way in terms of future political development. "The best way to get people into giving," explained Andrew Langer, a lobbyist and young Republican backer, "is start them early and not ask them for what they can't give."

    Candidates make most of their money from those who can give the legal limit of $2,000. But the majority of individual donors are low-dollar contributors, according to Michael Malbin, executive director of the nonpartisan Campaign Finance Institute.

    A sidebar on the article has reports on campaign financial statements of the Democratic presidential candidates and President Bush.

    Monitor: 527's bad for democracy

    The Christian Science Monitor says today in its editorial, New Conduit for Money Politics, "If the FEC can find a legal way to close the 527 loophole, it will help reduce the ability of a few to influence the outcome of elections."

    Maine considering dropping the voting age

    AP reports:

    A bill to give 17-year-olds the right to vote in Maine primary elections has just received initial approval by the House of Representatives.

    ... the amended version that was approved this morning allows someone who is not yet 18, but will be at the time of a general election, to vote in the preceding primary.

    Can someone send me the bill number?

    Israeli trial ballon may affect Arab voting rights

    Arab News reports"

    One day after announcing his intention to dismantle all Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon dropped another bombshell yesterday, saying Israel was considering redrawing Israel's borders to place parts of the country's Arab population under Palestinian control in exchange for settlements.

    A senior Israeli official stressed that any such move would have to be accepted by Israeli Arabs and come only as part of a final treaty with the Palestinians.

    How would that affect voting rights?

    Many Israeli Arabs, while supporting the Palestinian cause, want to remain in Israel, both because of the higher standard of living and concerns that a future Palestinian state may not be democratic.

    Roughly 20 percent of Israel’s 6.6 million citizens are Arabs. Unlike their Palestinian counterparts in the West Bank and Gaza, which Israel captured in 1967, Israeli Arabs have the right to vote, receive Israeli social services and can work inside Israel.

    AP has a similar story.

    North Carolina approves $ for redistricting fight

    News 14 Carolina reports:

    The state's top elected leaders steered another $100,000 toward the court fight over redistricting on Tuesday. Democrats and some Republicans have been fighting over redistricting for three years but some lawmakers hope the fight will end soon.

    "This group especially understands that it is in litigation, that you've got to have lawyers to defend both sides of the issue and so they were ready to move forward," Lt. Governor Beverly Perdue said. "I was glad to see the vote."

    The money will pay a Washington law firm to help North Carolina win federal approval for new election maps.

    New election ordered in Albany County

    The Albany Times Union reported today:

    A federal judge on Monday scheduled April 27 for a special election of the Albany County Legislature and set up a process for new candidates to run in 10 districts whose boundaries have changed since last fall.

    In an order issued shortly after 7 p.m. from his office in Syracuse, U.S. District Court Judge Norman Mordue accepted most changes the county had requested to a plan he proposed on Friday.

    Primaries will be limited to the 20 districts in which intraparty contests already were expected -- including so-called "opportunity to ballot" primaries in which write-in candidates can run and minor party contests -- and to 10 districts where boundaries were changed in a revised voting map based on the 2000 census. Primaries already were planned in some districts with new boundaries, and at least two districts will have multiple primaries.

    NC Supreme Court refuses to stay the redistricting plan

    The Sun News | 02/03/2004 | Court rejects GOP redistricting request

    The state Supreme Court has denied a request to hold this year's legislative elections using temporary district maps imposed by a judge in 2002.

    The court issued an order late Friday refusing to grant an injunction requested by a group of Republicans who want to block the use of maps drawn by the General Assembly last fall.

    The justices did agree to an expedited schedule to hear a broader complaint brought by the Republican plaintiffs, setting a hearing date for March 18.

    With state lawmakers still waiting for the new maps to be given federal approval, Republican lawyer Tom Farr said Monday that using the old maps could avoid having to delay this year's primary election, which is scheduled for May 4.

    Arizona IRC seeks stay in appeals court

    The Arizona Capitol Times reports on the motion filed by the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission:

    Saying it can't comply with both a judge's order and federal law, the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission is asking the state Court of Appeals for temporary relief from having to come up with a new legislative map.

    Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Kenneth Fields has ordered the Redistricting Commission to produce a new set of legislative boundaries by March 5, but federal law requires that the state submit any changes to district boundaries to the U.S. Department of Justice for approval, a process that can take up to 60 days, commission Chairman Steve Lynn said.

    Judge Fields did, however, sign an order Jan. 28 stating that the commission's map as it now stands will be good for the purposes of candidates gathering nominating petition signatures and, for those who choose to participate, $5 qualifying contributions for those seeking public campaign funding.

    February 2, 2004

    GOP voter intimidation program

    So Far, So Left has plucked an interesting excerpt from an article in the American Prospect. While the article is about the Bush-Cheney 2004 campaign organization, So Far found the part dealing with voter intimidation:

    To begin, according to Democratic consultant Tom Lindenfeld, who ran the counter-intimidation program for the campaign of Democrat John Street, the Republicans assembled a fleet of 300 cars driven by men with clipboards bearing insignias or decals resembling those of such federal agencies as Drug Enforcement Agency and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Thus arrayed, says Lindenfeld, these pseudo-cops spent election day cruising Philadelphia's African American neighborhoods and asking prospective voters to show them some identification -- an age-old method of voter intimidation. "What occurred in Philadelphia was much more expansive and expensive than anything I'd seen before, and I'd seen a lot," says Lindenfeld, who ran similar programs for the campaigns of Harvey Gantt in North Carolina and other prominent Democrats. In a post-election poll of 1,000 black voters, 7 percent of them said they had encountered these efforts (this being Philadelphia, there were allegations of violence and intimidation against Street supporters as well). Lindenfeld employed 800 people to confront the GOP's faux-agents at polling places.

    February 1, 2004

    Special election to be held in Albany County

    The Albany Times Union reports today on the special election to be called for the Albany County Legislature:

    Here's the drill [U.S. District Judge Norman] Mordue is expected to sign off on at 2 p.m. Monday.

    On Super Tuesday, March 2, in Albany County, the primary will feature not only a raft of national Democrats seeking New York's endorsement for the White House, but also a separate paper ballot primary run-off for county legislative candidates.
    Only five weeks later, on April 13, a special election will be held throughout the county to elect legislators for the remainder of a four-year term that would have started a month ago if elections had been held last November.

    "Any person interested in seeking such an office should contact the Albany County Board of the Elections to obtain the requirements to qualify for a spot on the ballot before Feb. 6," the judge's order states.

    Florida should have an independent redistricting commission, columnist says

    Martin Dyckman, St. Petersburg Times columnist suggests today that voters in Florida should support the initiative petition drive for an independent redistricting commission.

    The bottom line is not who gets to control the Legislature and the Congress, but who gets to decide. That someone ought to be the voter, not the politician. It's about restoring your right to cast a vote that counts.

    Money (or lack of it) in the bank

    AP reports Several Democrats Began Year Nearly Broke. No, the article is not about you and I, but about the presidential campaigns.

    Several Democratic presidential hopefuls began 2004 on the financial edge, skirting the edges of solvency as they spent nearly every dollar of campaign cash they took in.

    Some wouldn't have had enough money to pay up had every bill collector come calling on New Year's Eve.