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

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March 31, 2004

Florida bill to bar manual recounts of touchscreen voting

Daily Kos has a little rant on the bill in the Florida Senate to prohibit manual recounts of touchscreen voting machines.

GOP files FEC complaint against Kerry and 527's

The Republican National Committee and President Bush's campaign opened a new field of fire Wednesday on Democratic "soft money" groups that are raising millions of dollars to air anti-Bush ads and do grass-roots organizing to defeat him.

In an unprecedented move, the RNC and the Bush campaign filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) accusing anti-Bush Democratic "527" groups such as the Media Fund and America Coming Together (ACT) of a conspiracy to violate federal election laws.

The Republicans will ask the FEC to immediately dismiss the complaint, a legal gambit which would allow the Republicans to immediately go before a federal judge and seek an order blocking the 527 groups from using the unlimited contributions on which they now rely for the funding. -- Battling over anti-Bush donors (MSNBC)

For the Republican press release with lots of background information, including the full text of the 67-page FEC complaint, go here.

GOP donors hitting the political committee max

President Bush's fundraising juggernaut appears to be taking a toll on Senate Republicans.

The problem, several top Republicans said, is that a number of the GOP's heavy hitters are bumping up against the $57,500 cap that the campaign finance law places on cumulative individual contributions to all party committees.

"That is the most difficult impediment to raising funds for us," said Sen. George Allen (R-Va.), who chairs the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC). "This year, the focus is on the presidency. The [Republican National Committee] gets a lot of that cash."

"It's a big problem," echoed Sen. Rick Santorum (Pa.), the Republican Conference chairman. "I'm finding this in my state. RNC, Bush-Cheney -- people are hitting max and can't give to us. So we'll have to work a little harder." -- Bush siphons GOP Senate money (The Hill.com)

Does this relate to the problem I noted a couple of days ago about the Bush donors maxing out?

South Texas congressional recount -- more votes than voters

In a dramatic turnaround certain to add to the lore of South Texas politics, Laredo lawyer Henry Cuellar first took a 197-vote lead over U.S. Rep. Ciro Rodriguez after recounts in Webb and Zapata counties Tuesday.

Then, just a few hours later, state Democratic Party officials said the final recount tally in Webb County showed 115 more votes than there were ballots cast. A re-recount won't be done until Sunday, officials said. ...

"I've been doing this for over 30 years and I've never seen 300 or so ballots appear suddenly," said Rodriguez attorney Buck Wood, a former elections director for the Texas secretary of state's office.

"To tell you that I'm suspicious and baffled is an understatement." -- So who is the winner? (San Antonio Express-News)

North Carolina gets preclearance of its redistricting plan

North Carolina's legislative districts have received final clearance from the federal government, two weeks after U.S. attorneys determined the maps didn't weaken minority voting strength.

U.S. Justice Department attorneys again told the state late Tuesday that they wouldn't object to the boundaries, thus clearing the maps for use through the 2010 elections. ...

Barring a late decision by the state courts, which also will review the state House and Senate maps, the election season should formally begin April 26 with the start of candidate filing.

"Unless something happens from the state court ... it looks like that there will be a July 20 primary," said Gary Bartlett with the State Board of Elections. Any runoffs would be held Aug. 17. -- U.S. Justice Department clears N.C. legislative maps (AP via WCNC.com)


No Internet voting at the Pentagon

The Pentagon has decided to drop a $22 million pilot plan to test Internet voting for 100,000 American military personnel and civilians living overseas after lingering security concerns, officials said yesterday.

The program ran into trouble late in January when a group of academics who had been invited to review the system released a report saying the Internet was so insecure that the integrity of the entire election could be undermined by online voting. Two weeks later, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz decided not to allow Internet ballots to be counted in the presidential tally. At the time, the Pentagon said the program would go forward on an experimental basis.

Now, the Pentagon has decided that even the experiment is over.

"It's not that it's never going to go in test mode," said Pentagon spokesman Glenn Flood. "It's that right now we're not going to do it. We have to step back and look at everything that we've done for two or three years in this thing. But right now we're not going forward." -- Pentagon Drops Plan To Test Internet Voting (TechNews.com)

March 30, 2004

"Right to Vote" website pushes the re-enfranchisement of felons

Right to Vote is an umbrella group of eight national organizations and five state-level groups working for the re-enfranchisement of ex-felons. Looks like a useful site.

Presidential campaigns advertising heavily in battleground states

It may be seven months until Election Day, but as viewers of "The Oprah Winfrey Show," "Jeopardy" and even college basketball have discovered, an unprecedented television air war is under way between President Bush and Sen. John Kerry.

In 17 battleground states and on specialty cable channels nationwide, the candidates and independent Democratic groups have spent nearly $29 million to promote themselves and define their opponent in the opening weeks of the general election campaign. And like for a new brand of cold medicine or the latest model of a sport-utility vehicle, the campaigns are beginning to target segments of voters with surgical-like precision.

That's why in St. Louis recently, viewers of shows as varied as "American Idol" and "America's Most Wanted" have seen a campaign ad from Bush, but not Kerry. At the same time, Democratic commercials criticizing the Bush have appeared on shows ranging from "The Simpsons" to "Judge Judy."

On television screens, the 2004 presidential race is off to a furiously fast start, with political pitches being broadcast months earlier than in previous campaigns. More than ever before, niche marketing is being blended with political strategy, hoping to win over a slice of undecided voters that analysts believe will decide the election. -- Politicians tuning in to voters' favorite shows (Chicago Tribune)

DeLay says he is not stepping down

Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) yesterday dismissed reports that he has discussed stepping aside if indicted.

He said the idea that he would relinquish his position as majority leader is "ridiculous," and he brushed off a question about discussions he had with his supporters earlier this month about starting a new legal defense fund to pay future legal bills.

"The reports are wrong, and the reports in Washington are particularly wrong," DeLay told reporters. -- DeLay dismisses stepping down (The Hill.com)

Rhode Island redistricting case remanded for more factual development

The 1st Circuit Court of Appeals today vacated a decision to dismiss a lawsuit that claimed Rhode Island's legislative redistricting process was unfair to black voters.

The case was sent back to U.S. District Court in Providence, R.I., for further proceedings.

"The reason for our remand is to allow a fuller development of the evidence, and further legal analysis based on that evidence, before any final determination is made," the appeals court justices wrote. Two of the justices [sic] disagreed with the majority opinion. ...

The suit claims Rhode Island's plan to redraw state boundaries made it harder for voters in the newly-mapped District 2 to elect a black candidate in South Providence. The Senate map created a district that pitted Rhode Island's first and only black senator, Charles Walton, against Juan Pichardo, who was elected the state's first and only Hispanic senator. -- Appeals court vacates decision to dismiss R.I. redistricting lawsuit (AP via Providence Journal)

The case is Metts v. Murphy. Thanks to Sam Hirsch, Brenda Wright, and Sunil Kulkarni for sending me the opinion. You can download it here.

Here is the Lawyers' Committee press release on the decision.

134th anniversary of the 15th Amendment

Today is Tuesday, March 30, the 90th day of 2004. There are 276 days left in the year.

On this date:

In 1870, the 15th amendment to the Constitution, giving black men the right to vote, was declared in effect. -- Today in History - March 30 (AP via dfw.com)


March 29, 2004

Immigrants vote for Rome city council

Immigrants living in Rome voted Sunday to elect city and district representatives from their own ranks in the first such election here. The vote was designed to give non-Italians a greater say in Italian affairs.

Fifty-one candidates from across the globe vied for four nonvoting seats on Rome's city council -- one each to represent Africa, Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe. Another 172 others were bidding for 19 nonvoting district council seats, representing each of Rome's 19 municipal neighborhoods. -- Immigrants vote for representatives to Rome city council, municipal districts (AP via Contra Costa Times)

Maine's 17-year olds get the right to vote in primaries

[Maine] Gov. John Baldacci has signed a bill giving 17-year-olds the right to vote in Maine primaries, provided they turn 18 in time for the general election. Baldacci signed the bill Friday. ...

The bill was scaled back from a constitutional amendment that was introduced last year. In its original form, the bill sought to give unqualified voting rights to 17-year-olds. -- Bill gives 17-year-olds vote in primaries (AP via wmtw.com)

Many Bush donors now maxed out

I was fiddling around with Fundrace's Neighbor Search to get a report on the folks who lived closest to me and to whom they had been giving. I noticed an interesting pattern. While there were everything from $200 to $2000 listed, the people who were "maxed out" -- given $2000 to one candidate -- were mostly Bush donors. Bush had 23 such donors (of a total of 43), Clark 1 (of 5), Edwards 6 (of 18), Graham 1 (of 1), Kerry 0 (of 12).

Fundraisers for charities and candidates will tell you that the folks who are most likely to give are those who have recently given to the same group or candidate. But, if the donor has given the legal limit, he/she is a dry hole.

Take a look at your neighborhood and see if this pattern holds up across the country.

GOP accuses Kerry and 527's of coordination

Senator John Kerry's advertising campaign is so closely complemented by those of two major liberal groups running commercials against President Bush that Republicans are accusing the Democrats of trying to evade campaign finance laws.

An analysis of advertising data provided by Republicans, Democrats and an independent group shows a striking synchronicity between the advertising campaigns of Mr. Kerry and Moveon.org and the Media Fund, which flatly deny any illegal consultations. They have been advertising in the same 17 swing states, in most of the same markets while almost uniformly ignoring others. ...

Ken Goldstein, director of the Advertising Project of the University of Wisconsin, ... said it was entirely possible to devise advertising strategies that correlate this closely without speaking directly by monitoring purchases, highlighting the difficulty such cases will have before regulators or judges. Fred Wertheimer, president of the advocacy group Democracy 21 and a vocal critic of the Media Fund, said while the correlation in the campaigns did not "constitute coordination" it did reinforce "the fact that the purpose of these 527 groups is to help defeat a presidential candidate." -- Democrats' Ads in Tandem Provoke G.O.P. (nytimes.com)

iPundit's suggestions for campaign finance reform

My last post illustrated the problem of campaign finance reform and how money seems to be pervasive throughout our system with no end in sight. The American people deserve better. They deserve a system which encourages informed public participation in the election process. They deserve a system which keeps reasonable checks on corruption without unreasonable restrictions on their First Amendment rights. The American people deserve a system which will put the power of Democracy back into the hands of the people, and out of the hands of the special interests. ...

1) Eliminate Bundling ...

2) Democracy Dollars Accounts for Federal Candidates - While taking the bundling route is a safer alternative, the Democracty Dollars Accounts(DDA) is downright revolutionary. I'm not sure if it has been proposed before but the idea may save our campaign finance system. Currently checks from individuals go straight to candidates. I'm not suggesting that $2,000 will buy a candidate's support, if it did, we would be in much bigger trouble than we had thought. However, 100 donations from an energy companies employees sent to the candidate can certainly be considered substantial. DDA would be accounts managed by the Federal Government but owned by the candidate. The only difference is that checks would be sent to the DDA in the name of the candidate, the name of the donor(s) would never be disclosed to the candidate. -- iPundit.com: Solution: Campaign Finance Reform

The Sloganator

So, perhaps you've heard about the Bush/Cheney campaign's pioneering effort to bring democracy to the people -- the Slogantor! A little while back, the duo's Web site allowed users to write their own campaign slogans for Bush/Cheney posters. Nevermind that this idiot-savant approach to Web organizing was an attempt to subvert campaign-finance laws (The posters say "Paid for by Bush/Cheney '04, Inc.", even though the campaign ISN'T paying for materials or printing). No, the real story here is that hundreds or thousands of right-thinking progressives used the opportunity to offer campaign advice to Dick 'n' Bush. Someone must have caught on, because the feature was quickly disabled. However, I managed to print up a couple I'm proud of before the laughter died... Here's one (available in full-res PDF if you'd like to print one for your cubicle) -- The Mighty Pen

That's a bit harsh. The Sloganator was no more an attempt to "subvert" the campaign finance laws than all the web sites Howard Dean linked from his site. But, follow the link above to get lots of slogans.

Milwaukee mayor charged

Prosecutors on Monday alleged campaign finance violations by the acting mayor [of Milwaukee], eight days before voters will decide between him and another candidate for mayor.

Acting Mayor Marvin Pratt admitted that he made careless mistakes, but denounced the investigation as politically motivated and said he hopes voters judge him on issues like jobs, crime and education. ...

Pratt was accused of four civil counts of filing a false campaign finance report and one civil count of failing to deposit personal campaign contributions in a campaign account. He faces a forfeiture of $2,500, which Pratt said he will pay.

District Attorney Michael McCann said Pratt's campaign finance reports did not match up with bank statements for his campaign account. Documents show the figures were off by about $116,000 at the end of 2003. -- Milwaukee Mayor Hit With 5 Civil Counts (AP via GoUpstate.com)

Thank you

Thank you, to the many folks who sent an email to me consoling me on the loss of my mother. Your prayers, your thoughts, your concerns have been a comfort.

March 26, 2004

Short Hiatus

I am going to take a few days off from this weblog because of the death of my mother, Ollie Williams Still of Tuscaloosa. She died early this morning in her sleep after five years of Alzheimer's robbing her of memories, speech, and finally comprehension. May she rest in peace.

March 25, 2004

Dems out-collected GOP in last cycle

State parties raised nearly $823 million in the 2001-2002 election cycle, bolstered by millions from labor unions, corporations, wealthy individuals and the national parties, according to a new study by the Center for Public Integrity. About 53 percent of the total went to Democrats and 47 percent went to Republicans.

The parties also reported spending more than $790 million during the same time period.

While Democrats out-raised the GOP at the state level, it was no contest at the national level, where Republicans were about even with Democrats in now-banned "soft money" contributions, but held a tremendous 2-1 advantage in hard money contributions.

The Center collected disclosure records from 229 state party and caucus committees over the past year, making it possible to calculate the combined total of state and national party contributions in an election cycle--more than $1.6 billion, a staggering amount, especially given that 2002 was an off-year, non-presidential election. -- The Center for Public Integrity

Arizona IRC gets more money

Legislators are moving to provide the state's redistricting commission with an additional $2.5 million, though some lawmakers complain that higher-priority programs may suffer as a result.

The Independent Redistricting Commission will use the money to pay legal bills and other expenses related to its drawing of new legislative and congressional districts and fighting to defend them from court challenges.

The commission was authorized to spend $6 million when it was created in 2000, and it had used nearly all of that money by last fall. The commission then requested an additional $4.2 million for its continuing legal fight and other expenses, but lawmakers late last year provided only $1.7 million. -- Redistrict effort may get $2.5 mil (Arizona Republic)

Federal court adopts Georgia plan

A three-judge federal panel signed off Thursday on redistricting maps it ordered drawn independently for the Georgia Legislature after lawmakers failed to draw new maps for themselves.

The three judges ordered the state to "promptly implement" the maps for this year's elections.

Drawn for the court under the direction of former U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Joseph W. Hatchett, the maps will replace those drawn by lawmakers in 2001 and used in the 2002 elections but invalidated last month by the court. -- Federal panel signs off on legislative redistricting maps (AP via AccessNorthGa.com)

DeLay might step aside if indicted

Aides to House GOP leader Tom DeLay denied a report that DeLay is discussing temporarily leaving his post if he is indicted for campaign finance abuses.

Roll Call, a Capitol Hill newspaper, reported Thursday that DeLay, R-Texas, has begun quiet talks with a handful of colleagues about the possibility of stepping down, which would be required under Republican conference rules.
Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle, a Democrat, has been investigating whether Texans for a Republican Majority, a non-profit group and related political action committee with ties to DeLay, broke Texas law during the 2002 state legislative elections by using corporate donations.

Even if he is indicted, DeLay could return to his leadership post if he is cleared of the allegations, the charges are dismissed or reduced to a non-felony. -- Probe may force DeLay to step down - (United Press International via Washington Times)

I love this story. They give the denial first and contradict their own headline.

March 24, 2004

Georgia redistricting plan now final

The three federal judges who relented and considered incumbency in redrawing Georgia's legislative districts refused Tuesday to make other political adjustments.

The panel rejected efforts by lawmakers who were seeking special tweaks to their districts in order to improve their chances at the polls.

The judicial panel had ruled in February that the state's House and Senate election districts are unconstitutional, after a group of Republicans filed a lawsuit a year ago.

On Tuesday, the various parties — Republicans who sued, black lawmakers, House Democrats and the state Democratic Party — asked the judges' map-drawing team to protect "communities of interest" or to separate some of the nearly 50 incumbents still placed in the same districts. ...

The judges did agree to shorten from 45 days to 30 the time that election officials have to mail out absentee ballots before the scheduled July 20 party primaries. The starting date to qualify for the primaries remained April 26. -- Judges reject more redistricting changes (Atlanta Journal Constitution)

March 23, 2004

National Voice seeks progressive change

A meeting of diverse non-profits in Washington, D.C. on March 15-16 helped breathe life into often-frustrated activists pushing to improve the plight of the downtrodden, increase peace, economic and racial justice and champion assorted social justice causes.

But the gathering of progressives-to-moderates, civil rights and faith-based groups doing voter registration, education and mobilization called by the non-profit National Voice was more than a progressive love fest. It was a chance for an often-fractious bunch to consider the broad canvas of social good they paint upon -- and a common concern.

That common concern is a vast one: the state of American democracy. Several hundred people attended the summit for discussions, workshops, speeches and Ben & Jerry's ice cream breaks. National Voice is a 10-month-old group based in Minneapolis that is devoted to assisting non-partisan, non-profit and community groups with civic participation. It will not exist after this election season.

The task for 2004 will be getting more folks engaged in the political process and breaking through cynical messages at a time when people want change and want to be connected, activists and analysts asserted. The participating groups do not endorse candidates, but they clearly envision a world with protections for workers and the environment, a less antagonistic foreign policy, and different federal spending priorities. -- Speaking With Many Voices (Alternet)

DeLay's PAC gave money to Texas state legislative candidates

U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's national fund-raising committee contributed to 15 Texas legislative candidates whose campaign finances are under a state criminal investigation because of possible improper contributions during the 2002 election.

While Delay's national fund-raising committee is not the focus of the investigation, he helped found the probe's target, Texans for a Republican Majority, and records obtained by The Associated Press show the breadth of his influence in providing financial support to Republican candidates in Texas.

Americans for a Republican Majority Political Action Committee made contributions totaling $24,000 to the candidates in 2002. The checks sent to them bear DeLay's name and title as the PAC's chairman and were dated Oct. 22, 2002, according to records obtained by The Associated Press and filed with the Federal Election Commission. ...

Twelve of the Republican candidates who got contributions from Americans for a Republican Majority also got separate checks from the Texas group. Those were hand-delivered to the candidates by state House Speaker Tom Craddick while he was vying for the speaker's job.

The grand jury is also examining whether Craddick influenced his race for speaker by giving out those checks. Civil lawsuits have been filed by some of the candidates who lost, including one which names Ellis as a defendant. -- National PAC gave money to House candidates (AP via Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Virginia Dems sue GOP leaders for wiretapping

Democratic lawmakers have filed a lawsuit against several former prominent Republicans over eavesdropping on Democratic conference calls two years ago that led to the downfall of the state Republican Party executive director.

The suit was filed in U.S. District Court in Richmond. It lists as defendants former state GOP executive director Edmund Matricardi, former state party chairman Gary Thomson, former House of Delegates Speaker Vance Wilkins and former Wilkins aide Claudia Tucker.

The suit accuses the former GOP officials of "wanton, willful, reckless and malicious" behavior by listening to and recording the two conference calls during which Democrats discussed legal strategy over the Republicans' 2001 redistricting plan. -- Democrats file suit over eavesdropping (AP via Fredericksburg.com)

Another protest over redistricting in Arizona

The Mohave County Board of Supervisors officially denounced Monday a proposed redistricting that would split Mohave County into three districts.

Acting during a special meeting, the three-member board unanimously voted for a resolution to send to the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission urging the commission to keep the existing state legislature map.

Bullhead City and Kingman city councils also recently voted to keep the existing district boundaries. -- Supervisors vote against redistricting (Mohave Daily News)

Cuellar asks for recount

Laredo lawyer and businessman Henry Cuellar on Monday asked for a ballot recount in the Democratic primary in U.S. House District 28, saying many questions remain unanswered in a race in which he trails incumbent Ciro Rodriguez by a mere 145 votes.

Cuellar, a former Texas legislator and secretary of state, made the announcement in his hometown of Laredo.

"Until every eligible vote is accurately counted, the voters cannot be certain of the outcome of this election," he said in a news statement. "I'm sure that U.S. Rep.Rodriguez agrees with me that there is no higher priority than ensuring credible elections with accurate results."

The Texas Democratic Party's final canvass of votes in the March 9 primary showed Rodriguez with 24,363, or 50.1 percent, and Cuellar at 24,218, or 49.9 percent. -- Cuellar asks for recount in tight District 28 primary (AP via Fort Worth Star-Telegram)

Glenn Koepp is new Senate Secretary in Louisiana

Looking back over his 58 years, it seems almost as if Glenn Koepp was destined to be where he is today.

The Bogalusa area native had a hereditary interest in the law and politics, and Koepp's new job is secretary of the Louisiana state Senate, where he will allow him to help politicians shape the law.

Senators turned to the steady, capable Koepp last week after firing former Secretary Mike Baer, a 32-year employee who in January sent a sexually explicit e-mail to everyone on the Capitol's e-mail server. ...

In 1981, Koepp became assistant Senate secretary and was put in charge of legislative and other redistricting matters by then-Senate President Michael O’Keefe of New Orleans, who later went to federal prison on personal business fraud charges unrelated to his public duties.

Delving into the complexities of census data, Koepp became a redistricting expert and developed a computer system to simplify the arduous political job. He consults with governments in Oklahoma, West Virginia, North Carolina, Alabama, Nevada and Washington state. -- Koepp looks ahead to new challenge (Lafayette Advertiser)

Georgia Sec of State and federal court back up on prior statements

Georgia elections officials say they won't need to delay the July 20 primary elections _ or candidate qualifying for those races _ because of new legislative maps being drawn by a federal court this week.

As recently as last month, representatives of Secretary of State Cathy Cox _ who oversees elections _ argued it would be difficult for new maps to be drawn and voting computers reprogrammed in time for the election.

But a state attorney on Tuesday told a three-judge federal panel that merely shortening the period for absentee voting would be enough to get Georgia polls ready for the elections. ...

The special master's map, which did not consider the addresses of incumbents, put 87 representatives and senators in districts with at least one other incumbent.

After hearing formal complaints, the judges released a new map Monday freeing about two-thirds of the pairings and promising to consider more. -- Federal redistricting maps won't delay elections (AP via AccessNorthGa.com)


March 21, 2004

California primary and redistricting proposals

Moderate voters [in California] may soon be given more clout in deciding primary brawls, but Greens and Libertarians could find themselves shut out when November rolls around.

An initiative that seems certain to qualify for the November ballot would open now-closed primaries by allowing voters to choose any candidate regardless of party affiliation. Only the top two vote-getters in the primary would move on, raising the prospect of an all-Democrat general election in San Francisco or a Republican-only field in Orange County, under the measure, which is sponsored by an influential bipartisan team and backed by wealthy patrons. ...

Maverick lawmakers are crafting legislation that could end the Legislature's established means of self-preservation: the once-a-decade process of drawing new political boundary lines, or reapportionment.

Over the years, the Legislature's creative cartographers have drawn cradle-, fettuccine-, and fingertip-shaped districts, using party registration as the dominant consideration. The differences in party registration are narrower than 8 percent in only about a dozen of 120 legislative districts. As a result, critics say, most races are decided during the primary.

"If you win in the primary, you win in the general," said Assembly Republican leader Kevin McCarthy, who is carrying legislation to give an independent panel the district-drawing job. -- State initiatives push for open primaries, redistricting reform (Copley News Service)


Georgia party-switchers in peril

When four [Georgia] Senate Democrats switched parties last year, they cited the new legislative district maps drawn up by members of their own party as one of the reasons for their change in party affiliation.

Their switch threw control of the chamber to Republicans and landed most of them powerful positions in the new majority. But a map drawn by federal courts to replace that Democratic plan has put all four of the freshly minted Republicans into at least some degree of political peril.

Two of them are paired with incumbent Republicans under the map handed down last week by a federal judge. A third would compete with the Senate's longest-serving Democrat for re-election and the fourth already has both Democrats and Republicans spoiling to face him at the polls.

Ironically all four of the party-switching senators _ Rooney Bowen of Cordele, Don Cheeks of Augusta, Jack Hill of Reidsville and Dan Lee of LaGrange _ would have had relatively safe seats under the Democratic maps the court threw out. -- Senate party switchers face uncertain fate on map (AP)


Wilkes-Barre City Council redistricting

Several members of Wilkes-Barre City Council on Saturday responded to Tuesday's state appellate court ruling regarding the possible redistricting of the city.

The court denied a request to rehear arguments on the redistricting referendum, which, if adopted, would reduce the size of city council from seven to five members and split the city of into five voting districts, each with one council member.

The ruling reaffirmed a January decision to reinstate the referendum approved by city residents in 2001. Luzerne County Judge Joseph Augello initially negated the vote. Augello argued there was not a plain English version of the referendum posted at polling places, as required by law. -- End of the line for 2 council seats? (The Citizens Voice)

Allegheny County pays for defending

[Allegheny] County [Pennsylvania] Chief Executive Dan Onorato has authorized payment of a total of $328,273 to the three law firms that represented County Council's Democratic majority in reapportionment litigation.

The county Republican Party sued the Democrat-controlled council after members of the majority party drew new council districts that will put the GOP at a disadvantage in upcoming elections.

In a legal battle that dragged on for more than a year, the Republicans paid their lawyers with campaign funds, while the council Democrats sent their legal bills to the county government.

Last August, after the Democrats prevailed in court, council voted 11-3 to pay the party's bills with taxpayer money. But Republican Jim Roddey, the county executive at the time, did not send payment.

Onorato, a Democrat, has now paid the bills submitted by the legal team of Edward Still, David Armstrong and Jack Cambest. -- Democrats' lawyers paid in reapportionment litigation (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

Thanks to Jeff Wice for the link.

Changes to Indiana election law

Potential voters [in Indiana] now will have to show proof of residency if their names are on an inactive voter list; county voter registration offices will be required to keep their voter registration list up to date; and an absentee ballot signature must be compared with the person's voter registration signature.

The law addresses some of the concerns the Lake County Election Board's Subcommittee on Public Integrity was forced to deal with as a result of the absentee ballot scandals that led to trials over the fraudulent use of absentee ballots in East Chicago and Schererville. ...

One important provision of Landske's bill was left on the cutting room floor of an unenlightened General Assembly. It would have required that voters show a photo ID at the polls. But opponents worried it would be an invasion of privacy.

That is ridiculous. People cannot apply for a check-cashing card at the supermarket or get on a plane without having to show a photo ID. -- One small step toward honest elections (NW Indiana Times, editorial)

Thanks to Indiana Law Blog for the link. The ILB also has links to the 118-page bill and its digest.

March 20, 2004

Protest of Taiwan's presidential election

The presidential candidate of the opposition Nationalist Party [of Taiwan] refused on Saturday night to accept results showing that he narrowly lost an election to President Chen Shui-bian, and demanded that ballot boxes from all 13,000 polling places nationwide be impounded and recounted.

"This is an unfair election with a lot of question marks," Lien Chan, the Nationalist Party candidate, told a huge crowd of supporters, while appealing for calm. ...

The Central Election Commission declared that President Chen had 29,518 more votes than Mr. Lien out of 13.25 million ballots cast. But Mr. Lien called for the election's annulment an hour before the commission finished its count, and the commission did not actually declare a winner.

The commission declared 337,297 ballots to be invalid more than 11 times President Chen's apparent margin of victory. In a development echoing the controversy four years ago over the vote count in Florida, there was uncertainty tonight over whether polling places had followed consistent standards in declaring votes to be invalid.

A coalition of non-profit groups had called on voters to file invalid ballots, contending that the main political parties were too interested in relations with China and the concerns of the affluent, and had not paid enough attention to the plight of the poor and the disabled.

Voters in Taiwan are given a paper ballot, a stamp and an ink pad, and asked to mark the candidate they prefer. The ballots are counted by hand. -- Taiwan's President Appears to Win Election (nytimes.com)

March 19, 2004

Massachusetts redistricting plan unveiled, attacked, defended

Massachusetts House leaders unveiled a new redistricting map Tuesday designed to boost the number of districts in Boston with a majority of black voters.

The action follows a ruling by a federal appeals court that tossed out an earlier version of the map. The judges said legislative leaders sought to protect incumbent lawmakers at the expense of black voters by ''packing'' blacks into as few districts as possible, weakening their political clout. ...

The new map is better even than a proposal by the activists, according to Steven Perlmutter, a lawyer for House leaders.

''This plan actually provides more majority black districts than the plaintiff's plan,'' said Perlmutter. -- House leaders unveil new redistricting map (Boston Globe, 16 March 2004)

Plaintiffs in a federal suit that struck down a 2001 legislative redistricting plan yesterday denounced the remedy proposed by legislators, saying the new plan does little to increase the political clout of Boston's growing minority population and continues to protect incumbents at the expense of black and Latino voters.

"They're twisting this court decision to do this racial gerrymandering and incumbent protection," said George Pillsbury, policy director for Boston VOTE, one of the organizations that brought the suit in 2002. "Bizarrely, it maintains these 12 majority-white districts out of Boston's 17 House seats, and to do that, you really have to twist district lines. . . . Dr. Seuss couldn't have dreamed this one up." ...

"We had two districts, minority opportunity districts, in Jamaica Plain and Mission Hill, which happens to be the place where the majority of Latinos live in Boston in addition to East Boston," [Rep. Elizabeth] Negretti said. "And they completely dilute the opportunity of Latinos gaining political power in those seats by pushing the whole community into one district and whitening the other. They're robbing Peter to pay Paul. It's really audacious of them to do this. They're completely cracking the fastest-growing community in Massachusetts." -- Redistricting fix rebuffed (Boston Globe, 18 March 2004)

Massachusetts House Speaker Thomas M. Finneran yesterday defended a new redistricting plan for Boston's 17 legislative districts as "a good effort" that "increases in a significant way the number of African-American seats," but minority advocates continued to express their "grave" disappointment with it.

Finneran, in his first comments since House leaders unveiled their plan Tuesday, said they had been "very specifically responsive" to the recent orders of a three-judge panel in US District Court, which found that the House's 2001 map unlawfully deprived blacks equal voting opportunities in favor of protecting incumbents. -- Finneran defends new redistricting plan (Boston Globe, 19 March 2004)

Many oxen gored in Georgia

As a federal court prepares to hear complaints about its new district lines for the state House and Senate, both parties have a wish list they want judges to consider.

Democrats say the court's maps _ drawn because judges ruled the current maps were illegally drawn to hurt the GOP _ would dilute black voting power. Like most Southern states, Georgia must get federal permission to tweak district lines to make sure black voters aren't hurt.

Republicans don't have the same complaints, but they also want to see changes. The court-ordered maps would force a third of current lawmakers to run against a fellow incumbent. ...

Among other things, Democrats say the maps unfairly hurt black lawmakers. Although the court maps stick together more white incumbents than black incumbents, a greater proportion of black lawmakers would have to defeat another incumbent to return to the Capitol.

The Legislative Black Caucus filed its own response to the court complaining about the effect on black lawmakers. Democratic Attorney General Thurbert Baker, who is black, also talked about the matter in his court filing. -- Both parties have complaints about court maps (AP)

If you see this ...

then the Domain Name Server has pointed you to my new "home."

Or you followed the link from the old site.

March 18, 2004

Georgia Dems still working on their response to federal court plan

[Georgia] House leaders continued Wednesday to struggle with their redistricting dilemma: Should Democrats try to push through their own version of legislative maps or just accept their fate at the hands of three federal judges? ...

Legislators have one way to avoid the plan that creates four dozen open seats and lumps more than 85 incumbents into districts with their colleagues. They must unite a divided House and Senate on their own maps and win Department of Justice approval in time for election officials to design ballots and meet their own statutory deadlines.

Candidates for the 180-member House and 56-member Senate are to begin qualifying the week of April 26. Party primaries are scheduled for July 20, with the general election Nov. 2. ...

Seventeen black legislators were put into districts with caucus colleagues.

"The leadership and experience it has taken us years to acquire has been wiped away with the click of a mouse," said Sen. Ed Harbison (D-Columbus), chairman of the caucus, referring to the computer-produced plans.

Harbison said an attorney for the caucus would argue in written comments that pairing African-American lawmakers with other legislators, especially other members of the black caucus, would be a step back for minority constituencies. -- Democrats stall maps decision (Atlanta Journal Constitution)

Georgia Dems still working on their response to federal court plan

[Georgia] House leaders continued Wednesday to struggle with their redistricting dilemma: Should Democrats try to push through their own version of legislative maps or just accept their fate at the hands of three federal judges? ...

Legislators have one way to avoid the plan that creates four dozen open seats and lumps more than 85 incumbents into districts with their colleagues. They must unite a divided House and Senate on their own maps and win Department of Justice approval in time for election officials to design ballots and meet their own statutory deadlines.

Candidates for the 180-member House and 56-member Senate are to begin qualifying the week of April 26. Party primaries are scheduled for July 20, with the general election Nov. 2. ...

Seventeen black legislators were put into districts with caucus colleagues.

"The leadership and experience it has taken us years to acquire has been wiped away with the click of a mouse," said Sen. Ed Harbison (D-Columbus), chairman of the caucus, referring to the computer-produced plans.

Harbison said an attorney for the caucus would argue in written comments that pairing African-American lawmakers with other legislators, especially other members of the black caucus, would be a step back for minority constituencies. -- Democrats stall maps decision (Atlanta Journal Constitution)

Argument in NC Supreme Court over venue

State Supreme Court justices heard arguments Thursday over whether the General Assembly acted correctly when it ordered the current round of legal fighting over redistricting moved to Wake County.

Republicans accuse the Democrats who control the state Senate and share control of the House of intentionally moving the case away from Johnston County Judge Knox Jenkins, who since December 2001 has twice rejected maps for legislative districts that were drawn by Democratic leaders.

Democrats say Republicans shouldn't be able to "shop" their case to a judge they know is sympathetic to their arguments.

When the General Assembly passed its latest set of maps in November, they also decided that a three-judge panel, chosen by the state's chief justice but led by a Wake County judge, should review maps if they are challenged. A trial judge upheld the law in December. -- Attorneys argue before N.C. justices over proper venue for redistricting (AP)

Argument in NC Supreme Court over venue

State Supreme Court justices heard arguments Thursday over whether the General Assembly acted correctly when it ordered the current round of legal fighting over redistricting moved to Wake County.

Republicans accuse the Democrats who control the state Senate and share control of the House of intentionally moving the case away from Johnston County Judge Knox Jenkins, who since December 2001 has twice rejected maps for legislative districts that were drawn by Democratic leaders.

Democrats say Republicans shouldn't be able to "shop" their case to a judge they know is sympathetic to their arguments.

When the General Assembly passed its latest set of maps in November, they also decided that a three-judge panel, chosen by the state's chief justice but led by a Wake County judge, should review maps if they are challenged. A trial judge upheld the law in December. -- Attorneys argue before N.C. justices over proper venue for redistricting (AP)

Slow blogging

I worked last evening to install my website on a new hosting company and have not finished. I have meetings over the next few days that will prevent me from completing the transition. In the meanwhile, blogging may be slow.

Slow blogging

I worked last evening to install my website on a new hosting company and have not finished. I have meetings over the next few days that will prevent me from completing the transition. In the meanwhile, blogging may be slow.

March 16, 2004

Harvard-led group will watch polls

A group founded by Harvard law students announced plans Tuesday to send observers to 49 states this November to help ensure voters in the fall election are not improperly turned away from the polls.

The group, called Just Democracy, plans to dispatch at least 1,000 students from across the country to polls in every state with a law school, which includes all but Alaska.

Student leaders want to help ease the bureaucratic mistakes or ignorance of the law they say were to blame for much of the confusion in the disputed 2000 presidential election.

They plan to enlist a mix of Republican, Democratic and independent volunteers to watch over polls on Nov. 2. -- Harvard Group Plans to Watch Over Polls (AP)

Harvard-led group will watch polls

A group founded by Harvard law students announced plans Tuesday to send observers to 49 states this November to help ensure voters in the fall election are not improperly turned away from the polls.

The group, called Just Democracy, plans to dispatch at least 1,000 students from across the country to polls in every state with a law school, which includes all but Alaska.

Student leaders want to help ease the bureaucratic mistakes or ignorance of the law they say were to blame for much of the confusion in the disputed 2000 presidential election.

They plan to enlist a mix of Republican, Democratic and independent volunteers to watch over polls on Nov. 2. -- Harvard Group Plans to Watch Over Polls (AP)

E J Dionne on the Shadow Democratic Strategy

Harold Ickes has put reform-minded Democrats in a spot -- and on the spot. ...

Along comes Ickes with a new idea. Under Section 527 of the tax code, political committees get special tax treatment as not-for-profit operations. Ickes created a special 527 committee to raise money for ads directed at Bush. With Bush saturating swing states with his own media spots, Ickes asked, shouldn't Democrats find a way to respond? ...

A lot of Democratic reformers would prefer not to talk about the Media Fund. They're grateful for its work and don't want to challenge efforts to beat Bush on the basis of what they see as a close legal question. Such Democrats say that many Republicans who have opposed limits on campaign fundraising are now being hypocritical in going after Ickes. That's true but, I fear, shortsighted. My hunch is that in the long run, the country -- and, yes, especially Democrats -- will regret opening a new loophole in the campaign money system so soon after some of the more notorious of the old ones were shut down. -- E. J. Dionne, Jr, Playing With Fire on 'Soft Money' (washingtonpost.com)

E J Dionne on the Shadow Democratic Strategy

Harold Ickes has put reform-minded Democrats in a spot -- and on the spot. ...

Along comes Ickes with a new idea. Under Section 527 of the tax code, political committees get special tax treatment as not-for-profit operations. Ickes created a special 527 committee to raise money for ads directed at Bush. With Bush saturating swing states with his own media spots, Ickes asked, shouldn't Democrats find a way to respond? ...

A lot of Democratic reformers would prefer not to talk about the Media Fund. They're grateful for its work and don't want to challenge efforts to beat Bush on the basis of what they see as a close legal question. Such Democrats say that many Republicans who have opposed limits on campaign fundraising are now being hypocritical in going after Ickes. That's true but, I fear, shortsighted. My hunch is that in the long run, the country -- and, yes, especially Democrats -- will regret opening a new loophole in the campaign money system so soon after some of the more notorious of the old ones were shut down. -- E. J. Dionne, Jr, Playing With Fire on 'Soft Money' (washingtonpost.com)

"Redistricting Disputes"

Sam Hirsch wrote, "I thought you might be interested in knowing that the latest CQ Researcher (Vol. 14, No. 10, dated March 12) is a 28-page special issue on "Redistricting Disputes," with a focus on potential judicial limits to partisan gerrymandering. I haven't finished reading it yet, but at first glance it seems quite well done -- written in a style that law students or undergrads could easily digest. It was put together by Ken Jost, who is an adjunct law professor at Georgetown and the author of The Supreme Court Yearbook."

I have just checked CQpress.com and this issue is not yet listed. Recent editions have been $10 for a single paper copy or downloadable as PDF. This looks like something that we ought to check at our local research library or take the plunge and order.

"Redistricting Disputes"

Sam Hirsch wrote, "I thought you might be interested in knowing that the latest CQ Researcher (Vol. 14, No. 10, dated March 12) is a 28-page special issue on "Redistricting Disputes," with a focus on potential judicial limits to partisan gerrymandering. I haven't finished reading it yet, but at first glance it seems quite well done -- written in a style that law students or undergrads could easily digest. It was put together by Ken Jost, who is an adjunct law professor at Georgetown and the author of The Supreme Court Yearbook."

I have just checked CQpress.com and this issue is not yet listed. Recent editions have been $10 for a single paper copy or downloadable as PDF. This looks like something that we ought to check at our local research library or take the plunge and order.

March 15, 2004

South African court allows prisoners to vote

Prisoners sentenced without the option of a fine will also be allowed to vote in the general election in April, the [South African] Constitutional Court ruled on Wednesday.

Last month the court heard an application by the South African Institute for Crime Prevention and the Reintegration of Offenders (Nicro) and two prisoners serving sentences without an option of a fine.

They argued that an amendment to the Electoral Act promulgated in December 2003 violated two constitutional rights of prisoners: the right to vote and the right to equality. -- Prisoners allowed to vote (SAPA)

Thanks to the Sentencing Project for alerting me to this decision. The Project has the decision and the media summary on its website.

South African court allows prisoners to vote

Prisoners sentenced without the option of a fine will also be allowed to vote in the general election in April, the [South African] Constitutional Court ruled on Wednesday.

Last month the court heard an application by the South African Institute for Crime Prevention and the Reintegration of Offenders (Nicro) and two prisoners serving sentences without an option of a fine.

They argued that an amendment to the Electoral Act promulgated in December 2003 violated two constitutional rights of prisoners: the right to vote and the right to equality. -- Prisoners allowed to vote (SAPA)

Thanks to the Sentencing Project for alerting me to this decision. The Project has the decision and the media summary on its website.

Deatils about TRMPAC

Prosecutors are looking into how TRMPAC and the Texas Association of Business, the state's leading business lobby group, spent millions of corporate dollars to launch a powerful wave of partisan change. The wave could peak in November, with Republicans possibly winning a 22-10 margin in the Texas congressional delegation thanks to the contours of U.S. House districts redrawn by the GOP-led 2003 Legislature.

TRMPAC and TAB "made the difference," said lobbyist Bill Clayton, a former Democratic House speaker. "With big money, they got it done."

Critics contend the groups subverted state law forbidding political action committees from using corporate money for anything other than getting started and administrative expenses. ...

Neither group disputes they spent more than $2 million in corporate aid.

TAB, which spent corporate funds on leaflets praising GOP legislative candidates and criticizing their Democratic foes, say the mailouts to voters in more than 20 House districts were protected free speech, not illegal expenditures, because none directly urged a vote for or against a candidate.

TRMPAC's organizers say no items or services - ranging from group fund raising to a poll to legal bills, travel, entertainment, printing, stationery and postage - ran beyond permitted administrative expenses.

Depositions show TRMPAC succeeded with no employees. Everyone aboard - including two fund-raisers - was a contractor or volunteer. -- Group is no ordinary PAC (MySA.com)

Lots of details.

Deatils about TRMPAC

Prosecutors are looking into how TRMPAC and the Texas Association of Business, the state's leading business lobby group, spent millions of corporate dollars to launch a powerful wave of partisan change. The wave could peak in November, with Republicans possibly winning a 22-10 margin in the Texas congressional delegation thanks to the contours of U.S. House districts redrawn by the GOP-led 2003 Legislature.

TRMPAC and TAB "made the difference," said lobbyist Bill Clayton, a former Democratic House speaker. "With big money, they got it done."

Critics contend the groups subverted state law forbidding political action committees from using corporate money for anything other than getting started and administrative expenses. ...

Neither group disputes they spent more than $2 million in corporate aid.

TAB, which spent corporate funds on leaflets praising GOP legislative candidates and criticizing their Democratic foes, say the mailouts to voters in more than 20 House districts were protected free speech, not illegal expenditures, because none directly urged a vote for or against a candidate.

TRMPAC's organizers say no items or services - ranging from group fund raising to a poll to legal bills, travel, entertainment, printing, stationery and postage - ran beyond permitted administrative expenses.

Depositions show TRMPAC succeeded with no employees. Everyone aboard - including two fund-raisers - was a contractor or volunteer. -- Group is no ordinary PAC (MySA.com)

Lots of details.

Federal court releases Georgia legislative plan

A legislative redistricting map drawn for a federal court could give Republicans control of the Georgia House after more than 130 years of Democratic rule, but also puts top leaders of the new majority-Republican Senate in jeopardy.

Drawn by a court-appointed mapmaker and made public Monday, the map guarantees House Democrats only 88 "safe" seats -- three votes short of majority control -- according to a rushed analysis by Democratic staffers.

In the House, Democrats now hold a 108-71 edge with one independent who usually votes Republican. ...

But Rep. DuBose Porter, D-Dublin, the speaker pro tem of the House, said the map is "much better than we anticipated" and will likely leave Democrats in control.

He said the calculation of just 88 "safe" seats fails to take into account the incumbent Democrats who regularly win election from districts considered to lean Republican.

The Senate map appears to leave Republicans with enough safe seats to retain control, which they assumed only last year. But some of their leaders would be forced to run against each other under a map which purposely did not consider where incumbents lived. -- Court-ordered remap could give GOP control of House (AP)

Federal court releases Georgia legislative plan

A legislative redistricting map drawn for a federal court could give Republicans control of the Georgia House after more than 130 years of Democratic rule, but also puts top leaders of the new majority-Republican Senate in jeopardy.

Drawn by a court-appointed mapmaker and made public Monday, the map guarantees House Democrats only 88 "safe" seats -- three votes short of majority control -- according to a rushed analysis by Democratic staffers.

In the House, Democrats now hold a 108-71 edge with one independent who usually votes Republican. ...

But Rep. DuBose Porter, D-Dublin, the speaker pro tem of the House, said the map is "much better than we anticipated" and will likely leave Democrats in control.

He said the calculation of just 88 "safe" seats fails to take into account the incumbent Democrats who regularly win election from districts considered to lean Republican.

The Senate map appears to leave Republicans with enough safe seats to retain control, which they assumed only last year. But some of their leaders would be forced to run against each other under a map which purposely did not consider where incumbents lived. -- Court-ordered remap could give GOP control of House (AP)

Federal court upholds New York Senate plan

A federal judicial panel Monday upheld State Senate district lines that were drawn in 2002 to preserve a Republican majority in an increasingly Democratic state. ...

A panel of three judges from the Southern District of New York wrote that while "politics surely played a role in redistricting in New York in 2002 -- as it does in most every jurisdiction," the district lines did not disenfranchise minority voters or jettison the basic requirements of elective districts. The panel also said the alternative lines proposed by the plaintiffs were riddled with problems.

Richard Emery, a Manhattan civil rights lawyer who brought the case, said, "It's discouraging that the Senate Republicans are able to reverse the effects of the census" by designing districts that minimize the political impact of the population growth in the southern part of the state, which votes more strongly for Democrats than upstate.

Emery said that the case would be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court and that he was heartened by a judicial ruling out of Georgia that he said supported some of the New York lawsuits' contentions. -- U.S. judges uphold Senate districts; Lines would preserve GOP majority (Newsday)

Thanks to Jeff Wice for sending this link to the 191-page decision.

Federal court upholds New York Senate plan

A federal judicial panel Monday upheld State Senate district lines that were drawn in 2002 to preserve a Republican majority in an increasingly Democratic state. ...

A panel of three judges from the Southern District of New York wrote that while "politics surely played a role in redistricting in New York in 2002 -- as it does in most every jurisdiction," the district lines did not disenfranchise minority voters or jettison the basic requirements of elective districts. The panel also said the alternative lines proposed by the plaintiffs were riddled with problems.

Richard Emery, a Manhattan civil rights lawyer who brought the case, said, "It's discouraging that the Senate Republicans are able to reverse the effects of the census" by designing districts that minimize the political impact of the population growth in the southern part of the state, which votes more strongly for Democrats than upstate.

Emery said that the case would be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court and that he was heartened by a judicial ruling out of Georgia that he said supported some of the New York lawsuits' contentions. -- U.S. judges uphold Senate districts; Lines would preserve GOP majority (Newsday)

Thanks to Jeff Wice for sending this link to the 191-page decision.

March 14, 2004

Problems with the site

I am rapidly running out of server room, and this is causing (apparently) some problems: the Search feature returns no results and the Monthly Archives have disappeared. I am making arrangement to move to another hosting company ASAP. I hope to have things running well in a few days.

Problems with the site

I am rapidly running out of server room, and this is causing (apparently) some problems: the Search feature returns no results and the Monthly Archives have disappeared. I am making arrangement to move to another hosting company ASAP. I hope to have things running well in a few days.

More on the power of weblogs

Far from being a refuge for nose-picking narcissists, blogs have speedily matured into the most vivifying, talent-swapping, socializing breakthrough in popular journalism since the burst of coffeehouse periodicals and political pamphleteering in the 18th century, when The Spectator, The Tatler, and sundry other sheets liberated writing from literary patronage. If Adison and Steele, the editors of The Spectator and The Tatler, were alive and holding court at Starbucks, they'd be WiFi-ing into a joint blog. -- James Wolcott in Vanity Fair (emphasis added) via First Draft by Tim Porter.

Porter has some interesting comments wrapped around that quote, so follow the link.

More on the power of weblogs

Far from being a refuge for nose-picking narcissists, blogs have speedily matured into the most vivifying, talent-swapping, socializing breakthrough in popular journalism since the burst of coffeehouse periodicals and political pamphleteering in the 18th century, when The Spectator, The Tatler, and sundry other sheets liberated writing from literary patronage. If Adison and Steele, the editors of The Spectator and The Tatler, were alive and holding court at Starbucks, they'd be WiFi-ing into a joint blog. -- James Wolcott in Vanity Fair (emphasis added) via First Draft by Tim Porter.

Porter has some interesting comments wrapped around that quote, so follow the link.

Voting news from Indiana

The Indiana Law Blog has a couple of stories about election law today:

The Indiana Supreme Court, in an order issued 3/9/04, has scheduled oral arguments in the East Chicago mayor's election vote-fraud case, Pabey v. Pastrick, for Tuesday, April 13, 2004 at 1:45 p.m. in Fort Wayne, Indiana, in the City Council Chambers of the City-County Building. [More here]

This morning I have discovered that Indianapolis WISHTV's I-Team 8 has done a number of stories on electronic voting in Indiana, all of which are posted on an excellent webpage titled "Will Your Vote count?" [More here]

Voting news from Indiana

The Indiana Law Blog has a couple of stories about election law today:

The Indiana Supreme Court, in an order issued 3/9/04, has scheduled oral arguments in the East Chicago mayor's election vote-fraud case, Pabey v. Pastrick, for Tuesday, April 13, 2004 at 1:45 p.m. in Fort Wayne, Indiana, in the City Council Chambers of the City-County Building. [More here]

This morning I have discovered that Indianapolis WISHTV's I-Team 8 has done a number of stories on electronic voting in Indiana, all of which are posted on an excellent webpage titled "Will Your Vote count?" [More here]

Why 527's can be the "shadow Democratic Party"

The Supreme Court has said it is fine to limit the amount of contributions to candidates (and to committees that make contributions to candidates) in order to prevent corruption and the appearance of corruption. But it is unconstitutional to limit the amount that individuals may spend independent of candidates on advertising that supports or opposes the candidates. The court has said the link to the possibility of corruption is too weak and the free speech costs too great to allow regulation of these "independent" expenditures. ...

The 527s do not coordinate with candidates or parties. Unlike the political parties, 527s are not selling access to elected officials in exchange for large donations.

Under the Supreme Court cases that say one cannot limit spending on campaigns independent of candidates, it is hard to see how contributions to these groups could constitutionally be regulated. -- Rick Hasen, A GOP Flip-Flop on Political Ads (latimes.com)

Why 527's can be the "shadow Democratic Party"

The Supreme Court has said it is fine to limit the amount of contributions to candidates (and to committees that make contributions to candidates) in order to prevent corruption and the appearance of corruption. But it is unconstitutional to limit the amount that individuals may spend independent of candidates on advertising that supports or opposes the candidates. The court has said the link to the possibility of corruption is too weak and the free speech costs too great to allow regulation of these "independent" expenditures. ...

The 527s do not coordinate with candidates or parties. Unlike the political parties, 527s are not selling access to elected officials in exchange for large donations.

Under the Supreme Court cases that say one cannot limit spending on campaigns independent of candidates, it is hard to see how contributions to these groups could constitutionally be regulated. -- Rick Hasen, A GOP Flip-Flop on Political Ads (latimes.com)

Milwaukee mayor under investigation

A secret John Doe investigation has been launched into irregularities involving campaign finance reports of Acting Mayor Marvin Pratt, sources with knowledge of the probe said Friday.

The investigation was approved by Milwaukee County Chief District Court Judge Michael Sullivan, the sources said, and was assigned to Circuit Judge Victor Manian.

The move follows attempts by the district attorney's office to obtain documentation from the Pratt campaign for certain campaign finance entries on Pratt's publicly filed reports. ...

A John Doe hearing is an investigative tool used infrequently by prosecutors to help determine whether a crime has been committed and, if so, who might have committed it. Prosecutors can subpoena witnesses to testify during the hearings, and proceedings can be held behind closed doors, but they don't have to be, according to state law.

A Doe investigation can result in a criminal complaint, or no action. The judge can appoint a special prosecutor if the district attorney has a conflict of interest. -- Inquiry targets Pratt's finances (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

Milwaukee mayor under investigation

A secret John Doe investigation has been launched into irregularities involving campaign finance reports of Acting Mayor Marvin Pratt, sources with knowledge of the probe said Friday.

The investigation was approved by Milwaukee County Chief District Court Judge Michael Sullivan, the sources said, and was assigned to Circuit Judge Victor Manian.

The move follows attempts by the district attorney's office to obtain documentation from the Pratt campaign for certain campaign finance entries on Pratt's publicly filed reports. ...

A John Doe hearing is an investigative tool used infrequently by prosecutors to help determine whether a crime has been committed and, if so, who might have committed it. Prosecutors can subpoena witnesses to testify during the hearings, and proceedings can be held behind closed doors, but they don't have to be, according to state law.

A Doe investigation can result in a criminal complaint, or no action. The judge can appoint a special prosecutor if the district attorney has a conflict of interest. -- Inquiry targets Pratt's finances (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

The power of a meme

If you doubt the power of the Internet to spread an idea -- a meme -- just consider this little opinion piece in today's Paragould (AR)Daily Press

It's ironic that President Bush has based his campaign on John Kerry's "flip flops," when he is the sole proprietor of the nation's largest IHOP.

No, our beloved Dubya doesn't own an International House of Pancakes franchise, but he does have an affinity for flapjacks. From the war on terror to his domestic policies, Bush can flip political pancakes with the best of them.

Sample a few of these, if you will. There are plenty to go around.

There follows a list of flip flops by Bush. The same list was in a letter to the editor in the Birmingham News this last week. I have seen it several other places on the Web. Where did it come from?

From a post on Daily Kos exactly one week ago.

The power of a meme

If you doubt the power of the Internet to spread an idea -- a meme -- just consider this little opinion piece in today's Paragould (AR)Daily Press

It's ironic that President Bush has based his campaign on John Kerry's "flip flops," when he is the sole proprietor of the nation's largest IHOP.

No, our beloved Dubya doesn't own an International House of Pancakes franchise, but he does have an affinity for flapjacks. From the war on terror to his domestic policies, Bush can flip political pancakes with the best of them.

Sample a few of these, if you will. There are plenty to go around.

There follows a list of flip flops by Bush. The same list was in a letter to the editor in the Birmingham News this last week. I have seen it several other places on the Web. Where did it come from?

From a post on Daily Kos exactly one week ago.

Orange County considers repealing limits on campaign funds

Orange County voters may be asked in November to repeal a groundbreaking political-reform law that for 25 years has restricted campaign donations to local candidates.

In the absence of the Orange County law, donations would be regulated by more generous state limits that allow, for instance, married couples to contribute 10 times as much.

Supervisor Chris Norby floated the idea of a repeal last week as the Board of Supervisors discussed an August deadline to put matters on the November ballot.

He suggested that recent court decisions have undercut the effectiveness of the county law, which he said restricts speech and aids well-heeled candidates and incumbents who need less outside financial help. ...

Repealing Orange County's law - known as TIN CUP for the election reform motto "Time Is Now, Clean Up Politics" - would start a flood of money to candidates. -- Campaign Limits May Face Repeal (latimes.com)

Orange County considers repealing limits on campaign funds

Orange County voters may be asked in November to repeal a groundbreaking political-reform law that for 25 years has restricted campaign donations to local candidates.

In the absence of the Orange County law, donations would be regulated by more generous state limits that allow, for instance, married couples to contribute 10 times as much.

Supervisor Chris Norby floated the idea of a repeal last week as the Board of Supervisors discussed an August deadline to put matters on the November ballot.

He suggested that recent court decisions have undercut the effectiveness of the county law, which he said restricts speech and aids well-heeled candidates and incumbents who need less outside financial help. ...

Repealing Orange County's law - known as TIN CUP for the election reform motto "Time Is Now, Clean Up Politics" - would start a flood of money to candidates. -- Campaign Limits May Face Repeal (latimes.com)

Sheriff sentenced to jail on campaign finance lies

Former Charlotte County [Florida] Sheriff William Clement was sentenced to seven months in jail Friday for lying on a campaign finance report during his 2000 election campaign. ...

Although the official misconduct charge was a third-degree felony, Clement and many observers thought the former sheriff would receive probation and avoid a sentence to the jail he used to run. He appeared dejected and emotionally drained after Circuit Judge James Thompson read the sentence. ...

Clement was arrested in October on accusations that he accepted a $5,000 loan from former sheriff's candidate Barbara Hunt and illegally funneled $2,500 of the money into his campaign treasury through his sister's business during that campaign, state records said.

Clement reached a settlement with the state elections commission last fall in which he paid $38,500 for failing to report more than $5,000 in political contributions and improperly making political signs. -- Ex-Charlotte Sheriff Sentenced to Jail (Lakeland Ledger)

Sheriff sentenced to jail on campaign finance lies

Former Charlotte County [Florida] Sheriff William Clement was sentenced to seven months in jail Friday for lying on a campaign finance report during his 2000 election campaign. ...

Although the official misconduct charge was a third-degree felony, Clement and many observers thought the former sheriff would receive probation and avoid a sentence to the jail he used to run. He appeared dejected and emotionally drained after Circuit Judge James Thompson read the sentence. ...

Clement was arrested in October on accusations that he accepted a $5,000 loan from former sheriff's candidate Barbara Hunt and illegally funneled $2,500 of the money into his campaign treasury through his sister's business during that campaign, state records said.

Clement reached a settlement with the state elections commission last fall in which he paid $38,500 for failing to report more than $5,000 in political contributions and improperly making political signs. -- Ex-Charlotte Sheriff Sentenced to Jail (Lakeland Ledger)

Mississippi campaign finance reform bill

The Biloxi Sun Herald has an analysis, Tuck faces campaign finance dilemma, about the problems the lieutenant governor faces in Mississippi. Does she stick by her "tort reform" buddies and kill campaign finance reform to help get the "right" kind of state Supreme Court elected -- or does she keep faith with the voters and help the campaign finance bill?

Mississippi campaign finance reform bill

The Biloxi Sun Herald has an analysis, Tuck faces campaign finance dilemma, about the problems the lieutenant governor faces in Mississippi. Does she stick by her "tort reform" buddies and kill campaign finance reform to help get the "right" kind of state Supreme Court elected -- or does she keep faith with the voters and help the campaign finance bill?

Socialist Party wins in Spain

Voters ousted Spain's ruling party in elections Sunday, with many saying they were shaken by bombings in Madrid and furious with the government for backing the Iraq war and making their country a target for al-Qaida.

The Socialist Party declared victory with 79 percent of the votes counted, as results showed it winning 164 seats in the 350-member parliament and the ruling Popular Party taking 147. The latter had 183 seats in the outgoing legislature. ...

Turnout was high at 76 percent. Many voters said Thursday's bombings, which killed 200 people and wounded 1,500, was a decisive factor, along with the government's much-criticized handling of the initial investigation. ...

Until the bombing, the conservative Popular Party was projected by most polls to beat the Socialists, although perhaps without retaining their majority in the 350-seat Congress of Deputies.

But the disaster, which the government initially blamed on the Basque separatist group ETA, threw the election wide open. The attack was followed by emotional rallies across the country.

Critics accused the government, which had trumpeted its crackdown on ETA, of manipulating the investigation for political gain. That struck a chord with voters. -- Spain's Socialists Claim Victory (AP)

Spain's lower house is elected by proportional representation using a closed list. Elections are held in each of the 50 provinces which have a population-based share of the 350 deputies. See Election Resources on the Internet.

Socialist Party wins in Spain

Voters ousted Spain's ruling party in elections Sunday, with many saying they were shaken by bombings in Madrid and furious with the government for backing the Iraq war and making their country a target for al-Qaida.

The Socialist Party declared victory with 79 percent of the votes counted, as results showed it winning 164 seats in the 350-member parliament and the ruling Popular Party taking 147. The latter had 183 seats in the outgoing legislature. ...

Turnout was high at 76 percent. Many voters said Thursday's bombings, which killed 200 people and wounded 1,500, was a decisive factor, along with the government's much-criticized handling of the initial investigation. ...

Until the bombing, the conservative Popular Party was projected by most polls to beat the Socialists, although perhaps without retaining their majority in the 350-seat Congress of Deputies.

But the disaster, which the government initially blamed on the Basque separatist group ETA, threw the election wide open. The attack was followed by emotional rallies across the country.

Critics accused the government, which had trumpeted its crackdown on ETA, of manipulating the investigation for political gain. That struck a chord with voters. -- Spain's Socialists Claim Victory (AP)

Spain's lower house is elected by proportional representation using a closed list. Elections are held in each of the 50 provinces which have a population-based share of the 350 deputies. See Election Resources on the Internet.

Voter registration fraud alleged in Chicago

The Chicago Board of Election Commissioners is investigating what it says is the largest case of voter registration fraud in recent years -- 1,000 to 2,000 suspect voter registrations, mostly from the 26th Ward on the Near Northwest Side, over a 17-month period.

The registrations are among 10,000 filed between Aug. 12, 2002, and Jan. 29, 2004. The election board used handwriting analysis to determine that 10 percent to 20 percent of the registrations are apparently for nonexistent people or addresses, or vacant lots.

The bogus registrations are believed to have been submitted by two deputy registrars who claim to be associated with the Puerto Rican Federal Affairs Commission, according to board Chairman Langdon D. Neal. The board expects to hand over its findings to prosecutors, he said. -- Massive voter registration fraud case probed (Chicago Sun-Times)

Who knew that handwriting analysis can tell you an address is a vacant lot? I learn something everyday from putting this stuff together.

Voter registration fraud alleged in Chicago

The Chicago Board of Election Commissioners is investigating what it says is the largest case of voter registration fraud in recent years -- 1,000 to 2,000 suspect voter registrations, mostly from the 26th Ward on the Near Northwest Side, over a 17-month period.

The registrations are among 10,000 filed between Aug. 12, 2002, and Jan. 29, 2004. The election board used handwriting analysis to determine that 10 percent to 20 percent of the registrations are apparently for nonexistent people or addresses, or vacant lots.

The bogus registrations are believed to have been submitted by two deputy registrars who claim to be associated with the Puerto Rican Federal Affairs Commission, according to board Chairman Langdon D. Neal. The board expects to hand over its findings to prosecutors, he said. -- Massive voter registration fraud case probed (Chicago Sun-Times)

Who knew that handwriting analysis can tell you an address is a vacant lot? I learn something everyday from putting this stuff together.

Bush wins Florida Democratic Primary

In spite of not being on the ballot US President "Boy" George W. Bush secured the Florida Democrat nomination votes earlier today following a surprise recount ordered by his brother, Jeb Bush, Governor of the State.

Frontrunner Democrat candidate John Kerry had initially been declared the victor in a landslide, but his victory was short-lived after "anomalies" were found in votes that had been cast using newly-installed electronic voting machines.

Martha W. Bush, the principal election scrutineer appointed by the governor to oversee the process, became suspicious while the electronic votes were tallied and the vast majority were seen to be going to Mr. Kerry. After the ballots closed she brought in Albert W. Bush, an electronics specialist from Tampa, to examine the voting machines, and it is understood that he found software glitches that he was unable to describe to the press, citing confidentiality arising from the proprietary nature of the software. He did say, however, that the glitches caused votes to be assigned to the wrong person. -- Bush sweeps Florida after recount in Democrat primary (DeadBrain)

For the humo-impaired, let me point out that DeadBrain's site is labeled "News · Satire · Spoof · Parody · Humour."

Bush wins Florida Democratic Primary

In spite of not being on the ballot US President "Boy" George W. Bush secured the Florida Democrat nomination votes earlier today following a surprise recount ordered by his brother, Jeb Bush, Governor of the State.

Frontrunner Democrat candidate John Kerry had initially been declared the victor in a landslide, but his victory was short-lived after "anomalies" were found in votes that had been cast using newly-installed electronic voting machines.

Martha W. Bush, the principal election scrutineer appointed by the governor to oversee the process, became suspicious while the electronic votes were tallied and the vast majority were seen to be going to Mr. Kerry. After the ballots closed she brought in Albert W. Bush, an electronics specialist from Tampa, to examine the voting machines, and it is understood that he found software glitches that he was unable to describe to the press, citing confidentiality arising from the proprietary nature of the software. He did say, however, that the glitches caused votes to be assigned to the wrong person. -- Bush sweeps Florida after recount in Democrat primary (DeadBrain)

For the humo-impaired, let me point out that DeadBrain's site is labeled "News · Satire · Spoof · Parody · Humour."

Shifting arguments on paper trails

Has anyone noticed that the defense of electronic voting machines seems to have moved in a new direction? We started with the "don't worry your pretty little heads" argument, implying that only paranoids and conspiracy nuts worried about twenty percent of Americans -- and more in a few key states -- voting in this year's presidential election on machines that offered no hard evidence that the votes cast were the ones counted, and that denied voters the possibility of a recount in a close election (which this one almost certainly will be). ...

Argument B: Oh, sure, it would be nice to have a paper record, but it's all too complicated. ...

Argument C: Fine. You want a paper trail, it's gonna cost you. -- Machiavelli's Prints (Body and Soul)

Body & Soul figures it ought to cost $30 per machine for a printer, in contrast to the $1000 estimate quoted by Diebold.

Shifting arguments on paper trails

Has anyone noticed that the defense of electronic voting machines seems to have moved in a new direction? We started with the "don't worry your pretty little heads" argument, implying that only paranoids and conspiracy nuts worried about twenty percent of Americans -- and more in a few key states -- voting in this year's presidential election on machines that offered no hard evidence that the votes cast were the ones counted, and that denied voters the possibility of a recount in a close election (which this one almost certainly will be). ...

Argument B: Oh, sure, it would be nice to have a paper record, but it's all too complicated. ...

Argument C: Fine. You want a paper trail, it's gonna cost you. -- Machiavelli's Prints (Body and Soul)

Body & Soul figures it ought to cost $30 per machine for a printer, in contrast to the $1000 estimate quoted by Diebold.

March 13, 2004

"Offshorers" gives lots to Bush and GOP

On the eve of his trip to Ohio to "focus on jobs,"[1] President Bush claimed yesterday that "we're creating jobs - good, high-paying jobs for the American citizen."[2] His comments come despite the country having lost more than 2 million manufacturing jobs since he was elected. In Ohio, which lost 270,000 manufacturing jobs alone, the economic crisis has raised questions about why the president last month strongly endorsed the outsourcing of U.S. jobs to cheap overseas labor markets. A look at the president's donors offers an answer.[3]

Misleader compared the companies that outsource the most U.S. jobs (referred to as "captive remote services companies" on page 11 of the trade association report noted below) with the president's campaign finance records.[4] The analysis shows that the president's campaign has pocketed more than $440,000 and his party more than $3.6 million in just 4 years. These companies have a direct stake in the president publicly supporting outsourcing and doing everything he can to water down or oppose legislation to curb the practice.[5] -- Why Bush Supports Outsourcing (Misleader.org)

The numbers in square brackets are footnotes to source material.

Remember when I complained about the report that lumped everyone who worked for a company into one group? Misleader also does so, but never has any fine print to explain that the company did not give the funds -- its employees and officers did. Only when you click on a link and get to a table does it say "donor occupation" and list individuals.

"Offshorers" gives lots to Bush and GOP

On the eve of his trip to Ohio to "focus on jobs,"[1] President Bush claimed yesterday that "we're creating jobs - good, high-paying jobs for the American citizen."[2] His comments come despite the country having lost more than 2 million manufacturing jobs since he was elected. In Ohio, which lost 270,000 manufacturing jobs alone, the economic crisis has raised questions about why the president last month strongly endorsed the outsourcing of U.S. jobs to cheap overseas labor markets. A look at the president's donors offers an answer.[3]

Misleader compared the companies that outsource the most U.S. jobs (referred to as "captive remote services companies" on page 11 of the trade association report noted below) with the president's campaign finance records.[4] The analysis shows that the president's campaign has pocketed more than $440,000 and his party more than $3.6 million in just 4 years. These companies have a direct stake in the president publicly supporting outsourcing and doing everything he can to water down or oppose legislation to curb the practice.[5] -- Why Bush Supports Outsourcing (Misleader.org)

The numbers in square brackets are footnotes to source material.

Remember when I complained about the report that lumped everyone who worked for a company into one group? Misleader also does so, but never has any fine print to explain that the company did not give the funds -- its employees and officers did. Only when you click on a link and get to a table does it say "donor occupation" and list individuals.

Locke may veto part of primary bill

[Washington] Gov. Gary Locke on Friday signaled that he's likely to veto a "Top 2" primary system and leave in place a "Montana Plan" that will restrict voters to taking only one party's primary ballot.

Secretary of State Sam Reed, Senate Majority Leader Bill Finkbeiner and other advocates of the Top 2 system were upset at that prospect, but the political parties and legislative backers of the backup plan were delighted.

The primary fix -- and the strange choice the Legislature dumped in Locke's lap -- was among the top accomplishments of the just-concluded 60-day legislative session. ...

[Locke] said his lawyers say the partial veto is "very doable. The Constitution allows the governor to veto entire sections. We will look at our constitutional authority and we will exercise it." -- Locke opposes "top two" primary bill (AP)

Locke may veto part of primary bill

[Washington] Gov. Gary Locke on Friday signaled that he's likely to veto a "Top 2" primary system and leave in place a "Montana Plan" that will restrict voters to taking only one party's primary ballot.

Secretary of State Sam Reed, Senate Majority Leader Bill Finkbeiner and other advocates of the Top 2 system were upset at that prospect, but the political parties and legislative backers of the backup plan were delighted.

The primary fix -- and the strange choice the Legislature dumped in Locke's lap -- was among the top accomplishments of the just-concluded 60-day legislative session. ...

[Locke] said his lawyers say the partial veto is "very doable. The Constitution allows the governor to veto entire sections. We will look at our constitutional authority and we will exercise it." -- Locke opposes "top two" primary bill (AP)

Registered, yes; on the ballot, no

A College of William and Mary student who won the right to vote in Williamsburg but then was denied his bid to run for City Council lost his appeal to the city's Electoral Board on Friday. ...

Assistant Registrar David Andrews ... said four of Lowe's petitions, containing a total of 28 signatures, could not be considered because the people who circulated them were not registered to vote in the city or eligible to be registered in the city as required by state law.

The signatures were collected by William and Mary students Zayd Khoury and Serene Maria Alami. Khoury is registered to vote in James City County, while Alami's bid to register to vote in Williamsburg was denied earlier this month. Alami, who also wants to run for City Council, plans to appeal the ruling to the Virginia Supreme Court. -- Electoral board denies W&M student's appeal (AP)

Registered, yes; on the ballot, no

A College of William and Mary student who won the right to vote in Williamsburg but then was denied his bid to run for City Council lost his appeal to the city's Electoral Board on Friday. ...

Assistant Registrar David Andrews ... said four of Lowe's petitions, containing a total of 28 signatures, could not be considered because the people who circulated them were not registered to vote in the city or eligible to be registered in the city as required by state law.

The signatures were collected by William and Mary students Zayd Khoury and Serene Maria Alami. Khoury is registered to vote in James City County, while Alami's bid to register to vote in Williamsburg was denied earlier this month. Alami, who also wants to run for City Council, plans to appeal the ruling to the Virginia Supreme Court. -- Electoral board denies W&M student's appeal (AP)

Virginia to decide when redistricting takes effect

Virginians will vote in November whether to address the constitutional confusion that led to Northern Virginia residents' choosing who would complete the term of a retiring New River Valley state senator.

The ballot question, which received final approval from the General Assembly this week, would essentially clarify when redrawn legislative districts take effect and how to fill a vacancy that occurs before the effective date.

The problem came to light after the 2001 redistricting session, when the Republican-controlled legislature moved the 39th District, which had stretched from Montgomery County to the North Carolina border, to Northern Virginia. -- Who votes on vacancy when districts change? Voters to say (Roanoke.com)

Virginia to decide when redistricting takes effect

Virginians will vote in November whether to address the constitutional confusion that led to Northern Virginia residents' choosing who would complete the term of a retiring New River Valley state senator.

The ballot question, which received final approval from the General Assembly this week, would essentially clarify when redrawn legislative districts take effect and how to fill a vacancy that occurs before the effective date.

The problem came to light after the 2001 redistricting session, when the Republican-controlled legislature moved the 39th District, which had stretched from Montgomery County to the North Carolina border, to Northern Virginia. -- Who votes on vacancy when districts change? Voters to say (Roanoke.com)

Youth: We are interested

Young adults are substantially more involved in the 2004 presidential race than they were in the 2000 race. If the trend continues, higher turnout in November is nearly a certainty.

In our national survey the week of Super Tuesday in 2004, nearly half of adults between the ages of 18 and 30 said they had read, seen, or heard an election news story within the past day. In our survey during the same week in 2000, only slightly more than a third made this claim. Compared with 2000, younger adults were also more likely (39 percent versus 29 percent) to say they had talked about the campaign within the past day and more likely (43 percent to 26 percent) to say they had spent time in the past day thinking about the campaign.

Campaign involvement among adults over 30 was also higher this year than during the comparable period of the 2000 campaign, but by only a small margin.

A key to understanding the heightened interest of young adults in this year's election is their belief that the stakes are high. At the time of the Super Tuesday contests, nearly three in five (57 percent) of younger adults felt the election would have "a great deal" or "quite a bit" of impact on the future of the country. In fact, younger adults were more likely than older adults (51 percent) to have this belief. In 2000, only a third (33 percent) of young adults felt that the election’s outcome would have a substantial influence on the country’s future. -- John F. Kennedy School of Goverment, Vanishing Voter Project

Youth: We are interested

Young adults are substantially more involved in the 2004 presidential race than they were in the 2000 race. If the trend continues, higher turnout in November is nearly a certainty.

In our national survey the week of Super Tuesday in 2004, nearly half of adults between the ages of 18 and 30 said they had read, seen, or heard an election news story within the past day. In our survey during the same week in 2000, only slightly more than a third made this claim. Compared with 2000, younger adults were also more likely (39 percent versus 29 percent) to say they had talked about the campaign within the past day and more likely (43 percent to 26 percent) to say they had spent time in the past day thinking about the campaign.

Campaign involvement among adults over 30 was also higher this year than during the comparable period of the 2000 campaign, but by only a small margin.

A key to understanding the heightened interest of young adults in this year's election is their belief that the stakes are high. At the time of the Super Tuesday contests, nearly three in five (57 percent) of younger adults felt the election would have "a great deal" or "quite a bit" of impact on the future of the country. In fact, younger adults were more likely than older adults (51 percent) to have this belief. In 2000, only a third (33 percent) of young adults felt that the election’s outcome would have a substantial influence on the country’s future. -- John F. Kennedy School of Goverment, Vanishing Voter Project

"The Rise and Fall of the First Internet President"

Recently, I have been excerpting the first four paragraphs of news stories, but this post on Dowbrigade News defies easy excerpting.

Superficially, it is about President Roh of South Korea, but it has lessons for this country. He concludes:

Finally, political planners should approach the internet with a note of caution. While its potential to raise money and awareness may be awesome, it can tear a candidate down as quickly as it builds him up. In the final analysis, it is no substitute for the tried and true tools of political success; a sound and extensive face-to-face organization on the ground, a solid support network in the bureaucratic and administrative corridors of power, and the ability to seek consensus and compromise among traditional power centers rather than forcing them into the opposition.

Wow! What a piece of analysis. Read it yourself.

"The Rise and Fall of the First Internet President"

Recently, I have been excerpting the first four paragraphs of news stories, but this post on Dowbrigade News defies easy excerpting.

Superficially, it is about President Roh of South Korea, but it has lessons for this country. He concludes:

Finally, political planners should approach the internet with a note of caution. While its potential to raise money and awareness may be awesome, it can tear a candidate down as quickly as it builds him up. In the final analysis, it is no substitute for the tried and true tools of political success; a sound and extensive face-to-face organization on the ground, a solid support network in the bureaucratic and administrative corridors of power, and the ability to seek consensus and compromise among traditional power centers rather than forcing them into the opposition.

Wow! What a piece of analysis. Read it yourself.

Bush may be able to pour excess "primary" funds into general election campaign

Due to record-breaking fundraising and a recent court ruling, President Bush may be able to give the Republican Party millions of dollars that he would be legally barred from spending this fall but the party could spend on his behalf, election analysts say.

Party strategists acknowledge they are exploring the creation of an independent division that could take millions from Bush to air advertisements in September and October--when Bush's own spending, like that of likely opponent John Kerry, will otherwise be restricted under federal campaign finance laws.

By allowing the Bush team to dump millions more into advertising than Kerry during the campaign's crucial final stretch, the maneuver could upset a carefully designed financial balance between the two major parties.

Campaign finance experts say it would represent another evolution of the well-worn practice of political campaigns finding a way around financing limits set by Congress and the Federal Election Commission. -- Yahoo! News - Loophole may let GOP spend Bush cash in fall

Any official of the GOP or Bush-Cheney '04 is welcome to leave a comment explaining or denying.

Bush may be able to pour excess "primary" funds into general election campaign

Due to record-breaking fundraising and a recent court ruling, President Bush may be able to give the Republican Party millions of dollars that he would be legally barred from spending this fall but the party could spend on his behalf, election analysts say.

Party strategists acknowledge they are exploring the creation of an independent division that could take millions from Bush to air advertisements in September and October--when Bush's own spending, like that of likely opponent John Kerry, will otherwise be restricted under federal campaign finance laws.

By allowing the Bush team to dump millions more into advertising than Kerry during the campaign's crucial final stretch, the maneuver could upset a carefully designed financial balance between the two major parties.

Campaign finance experts say it would represent another evolution of the well-worn practice of political campaigns finding a way around financing limits set by Congress and the Federal Election Commission. -- Yahoo! News - Loophole may let GOP spend Bush cash in fall

Any official of the GOP or Bush-Cheney '04 is welcome to leave a comment explaining or denying.

What is negative?

A couple of self-described "boneheads" at Cuz We Said So are debating negative and attack ads.

David Gaw says in Is Negative Always Negative?:

"Attack ad" carries a negative connotation beyond simply that implied by its contrarian content, doesn't it? Why is that? For example, I don't have any problem with Kerry criticizing Bush on policy issues. On the contrary, how are you supposed to debate an issue in any depth without not only exchanging differing viewpoints, but replying to points made by your opponents. ... I take issue if Kerry lies about his opponent--and of course I think his policies border on the insane--but I'm critical of specifically what he's saying, not that he's saying something negative.

Russell Lutz responds in Notes on Negative Advertising:

I've always differentiated between "negative" ads, which mention the opponent and point out the faults with his/her policies, and "attack" ads, which target the character of the opponent.

(Ads which are based on lies fall into another category entirely, which I have tentatively titled "garbage".)

He goes on to point out that non-political advertising rarely uses negative advertising. Doonesbury made the same point in this comic from 15 December 2002. (I think you can view this, but you may have to have a subscription to My Comics Page.)

What is negative?

A couple of self-described "boneheads" at Cuz We Said So are debating negative and attack ads.

David Gaw says in Is Negative Always Negative?:

"Attack ad" carries a negative connotation beyond simply that implied by its contrarian content, doesn't it? Why is that? For example, I don't have any problem with Kerry criticizing Bush on policy issues. On the contrary, how are you supposed to debate an issue in any depth without not only exchanging differing viewpoints, but replying to points made by your opponents. ... I take issue if Kerry lies about his opponent--and of course I think his policies border on the insane--but I'm critical of specifically what he's saying, not that he's saying something negative.

Russell Lutz responds in Notes on Negative Advertising:

I've always differentiated between "negative" ads, which mention the opponent and point out the faults with his/her policies, and "attack" ads, which target the character of the opponent.

(Ads which are based on lies fall into another category entirely, which I have tentatively titled "garbage".)

He goes on to point out that non-political advertising rarely uses negative advertising. Doonesbury made the same point in this comic from 15 December 2002. (I think you can view this, but you may have to have a subscription to My Comics Page.)

Can a pardon make a candidate/felon retroactively eligible?

The Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Friday that candidates cannot assume office if they have felony convictions at the time of their candidacy, even if a governor's pardon later erases the convictions.

At issue is the Madison County Council race in 2002, in which Franklin E. Patterson defeated incumbent Daniel W. Dykes. After the election, it was learned that Patterson had a 1974 felony conviction that should have barred him from running for office. The Madison Superior Court barred him from taking office and ordered Dykes to continue in the spot until the next election in 2006. -- Court rules felon ineligible for office despite pardon (Indianapolis Star)

Thanks to Marci Oddi who allerted me to this (via an early morning email) and posted excerpts from the decision on her Indiana Law Blog (2nd case summary) yesterday.

Can a pardon make a candidate/felon retroactively eligible?

The Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Friday that candidates cannot assume office if they have felony convictions at the time of their candidacy, even if a governor's pardon later erases the convictions.

At issue is the Madison County Council race in 2002, in which Franklin E. Patterson defeated incumbent Daniel W. Dykes. After the election, it was learned that Patterson had a 1974 felony conviction that should have barred him from running for office. The Madison Superior Court barred him from taking office and ordered Dykes to continue in the spot until the next election in 2006. -- Court rules felon ineligible for office despite pardon (Indianapolis Star)

Thanks to Marci Oddi who allerted me to this (via an early morning email) and posted excerpts from the decision on her Indiana Law Blog (2nd case summary) yesterday.

March 12, 2004

"Inside The Dems' Shadow Party"

In 2002, as campaign-finance reform was about to become law, a few savvy Democratic activists saw the future -- and it was potentially devastating. The problem: While the Democratic Party raised $520 million in the 2000 election cycle, nearly half of it came in big-buck "soft-money" donations that the McCain-Feingold Act would all but eliminate. In the upcoming Presidential election, the Dems would be even more badly outgunned by the GOP, which in 2000 pulled in $712 million -- but only $246 million of it in soft money. To make an end run around the new campaign law, these behind-the-scenes players rushed to set up political committees that can legally collect soft money, pay for issue ads, and encourage voter turnout.

The downside: They cannot give to candidates or be directly connected to a political party. Known as 527s after a provision of the federal code that grants them tax-exempt status, the committees have been spectacularly successful since they got under way last year, having already raised almost $100 million in soft money. More important than the dollars, though, is the highly sophisticated political machine under construction -- a web of interlocking, like-minded organizations that could at once save and partly supplant the Democratic Party. And if the 527s don't give presumptive nominee Senator John Kerry an edge against George W. Bush, they will at least help level the playing field. -- Inside The Dems' Shadow Party (Business Week)

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

"Inside The Dems' Shadow Party"

In 2002, as campaign-finance reform was about to become law, a few savvy Democratic activists saw the future -- and it was potentially devastating. The problem: While the Democratic Party raised $520 million in the 2000 election cycle, nearly half of it came in big-buck "soft-money" donations that the McCain-Feingold Act would all but eliminate. In the upcoming Presidential election, the Dems would be even more badly outgunned by the GOP, which in 2000 pulled in $712 million -- but only $246 million of it in soft money. To make an end run around the new campaign law, these behind-the-scenes players rushed to set up political committees that can legally collect soft money, pay for issue ads, and encourage voter turnout.

The downside: They cannot give to candidates or be directly connected to a political party. Known as 527s after a provision of the federal code that grants them tax-exempt status, the committees have been spectacularly successful since they got under way last year, having already raised almost $100 million in soft money. More important than the dollars, though, is the highly sophisticated political machine under construction -- a web of interlocking, like-minded organizations that could at once save and partly supplant the Democratic Party. And if the 527s don't give presumptive nominee Senator John Kerry an edge against George W. Bush, they will at least help level the playing field. -- Inside The Dems' Shadow Party (Business Week)

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

Prisoners of the Census

Peter Wagner an Open Society Institute Soros Justice Fellow working to quantify the impact on legislative redistricting of the Census Bureau counting urban prisoners as residents of the rural towns that host the prisons. He has emailed me, "You might be interested in my website: (http://www.prisonersofthecensus.org/index.shtml). It has more information including maps showing the impact of prisoner counts on legislative districts and a weekly fact of the week column. Model legislation and research on how this plays out in additional states is now underway." Looks like an interesting site. Check it out.

Prisoners of the Census

Peter Wagner an Open Society Institute Soros Justice Fellow working to quantify the impact on legislative redistricting of the Census Bureau counting urban prisoners as residents of the rural towns that host the prisons. He has emailed me, "You might be interested in my website: (http://www.prisonersofthecensus.org/index.shtml). It has more information including maps showing the impact of prisoner counts on legislative districts and a weekly fact of the week column. Model legislation and research on how this plays out in additional states is now underway." Looks like an interesting site. Check it out.

"Lawmakers press against touchscreens"

Two California lawmakers' call Thursday for a halt to touchscreen voting -- the nation's first such step back from e-voting -- probably comes too late.

With more than 40 percent of California voters casting ballots on touchscreen machines, electronic voting already may be too deeply rooted in the state's elections for a wholesale switch to other voting systems by November.

Local elections officials and consultants said they doubted that the voting industry could supply thousands of new optical-scanning machines for California precincts now equipped with touchscreens.

"You don't have a lot of time. To try to decertify and get something new is putting a lot of strain on the election process," said Kimball Brace, president of Election Data Services, a Washington, D.C.-based consultant on voting systems. -- Lawmakers press against touchscreens (Oakland Tribune Online)

Yes, that was the headline. I'm not making this up, as Dave Barry says.

"Lawmakers press against touchscreens"

Two California lawmakers' call Thursday for a halt to touchscreen voting -- the nation's first such step back from e-voting -- probably comes too late.

With more than 40 percent of California voters casting ballots on touchscreen machines, electronic voting already may be too deeply rooted in the state's elections for a wholesale switch to other voting systems by November.

Local elections officials and consultants said they doubted that the voting industry could supply thousands of new optical-scanning machines for California precincts now equipped with touchscreens.

"You don't have a lot of time. To try to decertify and get something new is putting a lot of strain on the election process," said Kimball Brace, president of Election Data Services, a Washington, D.C.-based consultant on voting systems. -- Lawmakers press against touchscreens (Oakland Tribune Online)

Yes, that was the headline. I'm not making this up, as Dave Barry says.

Maybe we should "offshore" the election to India

Thanks to electronic voting machines (EVMs), which are to be used countrywide [in India] in this election, invalid votes will be just about eliminated. As compared to a total 1.91% invalid votes recorded in the 1999 Lok Sabha election, 1.86% in 1998 and 2.44% in 1996 parliamentary poll, the invalid vote percentage this time may be as low as 0.01 or 0.02% of the total votes polled.

While EVM machines will make sure there are no invalid votes -- they record the first vote even if two or more buttons are pressed at a time with the help of in-built micro sensors -- the minuscule percentage of invalid votes will be on account of postal ballots to be used by diplomats and personnel on poll duty.

The success of the EVMs in eliminating invalid votes is evident from the experience in constituencies that voted electronically in the last two Lok Sabha election. Take for example, Delhi , where use of EVMs in all 7 parliamentary constituencies in 1999 recorded no invalid votes or Pondicherry which also had nil invalid votes. -- No more invalid votes (Economic Times)

Maybe we should "offshore" the election to India

Thanks to electronic voting machines (EVMs), which are to be used countrywide [in India] in this election, invalid votes will be just about eliminated. As compared to a total 1.91% invalid votes recorded in the 1999 Lok Sabha election, 1.86% in 1998 and 2.44% in 1996 parliamentary poll, the invalid vote percentage this time may be as low as 0.01 or 0.02% of the total votes polled.

While EVM machines will make sure there are no invalid votes -- they record the first vote even if two or more buttons are pressed at a time with the help of in-built micro sensors -- the minuscule percentage of invalid votes will be on account of postal ballots to be used by diplomats and personnel on poll duty.

The success of the EVMs in eliminating invalid votes is evident from the experience in constituencies that voted electronically in the last two Lok Sabha election. Take for example, Delhi , where use of EVMs in all 7 parliamentary constituencies in 1999 recorded no invalid votes or Pondicherry which also had nil invalid votes. -- No more invalid votes (Economic Times)

Maximum givers

Hundreds of people have given the maximum $25,000 per year they can send to the national party committees since a law capped their donations.

The Republican National Committee has landed the most maximum donors - at least 700 since a ban on corporate, union and unlimited donations known as soft money took effect starting with the 2003-04 election cycle, separate reviews by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics and campaign finance tracking service Political Money Line found.

Under the new law, parties can accept up to $25,000 a year from individuals and political action committees.

Among the Democrats, the Democratic National Committee has logged roughly 220 maxed-out individual donors; the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, about 190; and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, about 105. -- AP Wire | 03/12/2004 | Hundreds reach campaign donation maximum (AP)

Maximum givers

Hundreds of people have given the maximum $25,000 per year they can send to the national party committees since a law capped their donations.

The Republican National Committee has landed the most maximum donors - at least 700 since a ban on corporate, union and unlimited donations known as soft money took effect starting with the 2003-04 election cycle, separate reviews by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics and campaign finance tracking service Political Money Line found.

Under the new law, parties can accept up to $25,000 a year from individuals and political action committees.

Among the Democrats, the Democratic National Committee has logged roughly 220 maxed-out individual donors; the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, about 190; and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, about 105. -- AP Wire | 03/12/2004 | Hundreds reach campaign donation maximum (AP)

Richmond mayoral bill passes

The [Virginia] House of Delegates and Senate approved a compromise bill Friday that would allow Richmond residents to elect their mayor directly, a proposal that overwhelmingly passed a voter referendum in the fall.

The legislation also lays out specific duties for the office that would make Richmond's mayor the strongest such city leader in the state, supporters said. The mayor is currently a largely ceremonial position filled by members of the city council. ...

The voter referendum, which passed in November by a wide margin, was opposed by many of the city's black leaders. Councilman Walter T. Kenney Sr., a former mayor, warned that direct election of the mayor could bring to power a well-financed white candidate in a city that is nearly 60 percent black.

However, former Gov. L. Douglas Wilder, the nation's first black elected governor, said that having a strong mayor was necessary to bring more accountability to "the cesspool of corruption and inefficiency" in city government.

The legislation was drawn to protect the black vote by requiring a mayor to win the most votes in at least five of the nine city council districts. A run-off election would be held if nobody wins five districts. -- House, Senate approve Richmond mayor proposal (fredericksburg.com)

Richmond mayoral bill passes

The [Virginia] House of Delegates and Senate approved a compromise bill Friday that would allow Richmond residents to elect their mayor directly, a proposal that overwhelmingly passed a voter referendum in the fall.

The legislation also lays out specific duties for the office that would make Richmond's mayor the strongest such city leader in the state, supporters said. The mayor is currently a largely ceremonial position filled by members of the city council. ...

The voter referendum, which passed in November by a wide margin, was opposed by many of the city's black leaders. Councilman Walter T. Kenney Sr., a former mayor, warned that direct election of the mayor could bring to power a well-financed white candidate in a city that is nearly 60 percent black.

However, former Gov. L. Douglas Wilder, the nation's first black elected governor, said that having a strong mayor was necessary to bring more accountability to "the cesspool of corruption and inefficiency" in city government.

The legislation was drawn to protect the black vote by requiring a mayor to win the most votes in at least five of the nine city council districts. A run-off election would be held if nobody wins five districts. -- House, Senate approve Richmond mayor proposal (fredericksburg.com)

Molly Ivins on the Texas Speaker investigation

Gosh, we are having such a swell time here in Texas. For starters, once again the speaker of the Texas House is under investigation by a grand jury. We're so proud. We have nothing against this guy personally, we're just rooting for an indictment as a matter of Texas tradition. This would make five out of the last six House speakers indicted for one thing or another, and you must admit, that's some record.

(As a matter of strict accuracy, I should note that there was one speaker in there who was not indicted, but rather was shot to death by his wife. However, she was indicted -- although not convicted, because in Texas we recognize public service when we see it.) -- Molly Ivins: We're having a grand old time here in Texas (Creators Syndicate)

Molly Ivins on the Texas Speaker investigation

Gosh, we are having such a swell time here in Texas. For starters, once again the speaker of the Texas House is under investigation by a grand jury. We're so proud. We have nothing against this guy personally, we're just rooting for an indictment as a matter of Texas tradition. This would make five out of the last six House speakers indicted for one thing or another, and you must admit, that's some record.

(As a matter of strict accuracy, I should note that there was one speaker in there who was not indicted, but rather was shot to death by his wife. However, she was indicted -- although not convicted, because in Texas we recognize public service when we see it.) -- Molly Ivins: We're having a grand old time here in Texas (Creators Syndicate)

Lake Havasu City objects to Arizona plan

Lake Havasu City will join a fight against a plan to redraw Arizona's legislative districts.

The City Council on Tuesday agreed to have attorneys participate in proceedings before the Independent Redistricting Commission, which adopted a proposed map March 1 after receiving a court order.

The proposed new map splits Lake Havasu City into two districts, with about 5,000 people on the south side joining a district with Peoria and parts of La Paz County. The remainder of the city would share a district with Flagstaff.

"This is a really bad situation the redistricting commission has put us in," said Mayor Bob Whelan during Tuesday's meeting. "It looks like they are gerrymandering the whole northwest part of the state." -- City joins district map fight (Today's News-Herald)

From several hundred miles away (and reading only newspapers and not the transcripts), it is beginning to appear to me that the Independent Redistricting Commission essentially said, "OK, judge, you want competitive districts. We'll give you competitive districts, but we will cause as much havoc as we can everyplace else." The Commission had considered (and rejected) a plan which was very close to the one it adopted everyplace except Maricopa County (Phoenix). Rather than go back and adopt that plan -- which is what the plaintiffs would have preferred -- the Commission embarked on a complete rewrite.

Lake Havasu City objects to Arizona plan

Lake Havasu City will join a fight against a plan to redraw Arizona's legislative districts.

The City Council on Tuesday agreed to have attorneys participate in proceedings before the Independent Redistricting Commission, which adopted a proposed map March 1 after receiving a court order.

The proposed new map splits Lake Havasu City into two districts, with about 5,000 people on the south side joining a district with Peoria and parts of La Paz County. The remainder of the city would share a district with Flagstaff.

"This is a really bad situation the redistricting commission has put us in," said Mayor Bob Whelan during Tuesday's meeting. "It looks like they are gerrymandering the whole northwest part of the state." -- City joins district map fight (Today's News-Herald)

From several hundred miles away (and reading only newspapers and not the transcripts), it is beginning to appear to me that the Independent Redistricting Commission essentially said, "OK, judge, you want competitive districts. We'll give you competitive districts, but we will cause as much havoc as we can everyplace else." The Commission had considered (and rejected) a plan which was very close to the one it adopted everyplace except Maricopa County (Phoenix). Rather than go back and adopt that plan -- which is what the plaintiffs would have preferred -- the Commission embarked on a complete rewrite.

March 11, 2004

"Bush releases first negative ads against Kerry in swing states"

Starting today, President Bush's re-election campaign is running its first negative ads against Sen. John Kerry in seven swing states. It's a good bet the tone goes down hill from here, on both sides. The major parties and their supporters are raising mountains of money to duke it out on the nation's airwaves. But are these ads effective? Some say they can make the difference in a close race. But the ads rarely give either side a significant advantage. Regardless, the sure winners this election season are Madison Avenue and TV stations. -- Marketplace for March 11, 2004

"Bush releases first negative ads against Kerry in swing states"

Starting today, President Bush's re-election campaign is running its first negative ads against Sen. John Kerry in seven swing states. It's a good bet the tone goes down hill from here, on both sides. The major parties and their supporters are raising mountains of money to duke it out on the nation's airwaves. But are these ads effective? Some say they can make the difference in a close race. But the ads rarely give either side a significant advantage. Regardless, the sure winners this election season are Madison Avenue and TV stations. -- Marketplace for March 11, 2004

Mississippi Supreme Court: no reconsideration

The Mississippi Supreme Court refused Thursday to reconsider its ruling that state judges cannot redraw congressional district lines.

The justices, last December, said the Mississippi Constitution, state law and past court rulings give that authority only to the Legislature.

The Supreme Court's ruling vacated a decision by a Hinds County chancellor who drew congressional districts for the 2002 election after the Legislature could not agree on how the districts should look. -- Court refuses to revisit congressional redistricting case (AP)

Mississippi Supreme Court: no reconsideration

The Mississippi Supreme Court refused Thursday to reconsider its ruling that state judges cannot redraw congressional district lines.

The justices, last December, said the Mississippi Constitution, state law and past court rulings give that authority only to the Legislature.

The Supreme Court's ruling vacated a decision by a Hinds County chancellor who drew congressional districts for the 2002 election after the Legislature could not agree on how the districts should look. -- Court refuses to revisit congressional redistricting case (AP)

Texas DA widens the probe to include Dems

A Travis County grand jury investigation into the Republicans' 2002 takeover of the Texas House has expanded to the other side of the aisle.

According to subpoenas released Thursday, the grand jury is seeking records related to a Democratic political action committee, Texas Partnership. The subpoenas request information related to donations to the group from corporations and labor groups.

Another political action committee, Texans for a Republican Majority, is being investigated for allegedly using corporate money to influence the 2002 election, in which Republicans took control of the Texas Legislature for the first time since Reconstruction. It is illegal in Texas to use corporate money to influence legislative races.

"The Travis County grand jury is currently conducting an investigation into alleged irregularities in the campaign for speaker of the Texas House of Representatives of current Speaker Tom Craddick," according to a statement from the office of District Attorney Ronnie Earle. "It has been suggested that former House Speaker Pete Laney and former speaker candidate Edmund Kuempel conducted their campaigns in the same way.

"It is important that the grand jury have access to all the facts." -- Democratic PAC targeted in DA investigation (AP)

The campaign records of former House Speaker Pete Laney were turned over to a Travis County grand jury Thursday - part of a new document sweep in an investigation of whether illegal corporate contributions and improper outside interests influenced 2002 legislative races.

Also subpoenaed were records from Rep. Edmund Kuempel, R-Seguin, an unsuccessful House Speaker candidate, and people associated with the Texas Partnership political action committee, which was closely associated with Mr. Laney.

The Partnership PAC contributed more than $365,000 to the state Democratic Party in the final weeks of the 2002 races and also provided political research, campaign strategy and legal assistance to Democratic House members. -- Laney turns over campaign records from '02 (AP)

Texas DA widens the probe to include Dems

A Travis County grand jury investigation into the Republicans' 2002 takeover of the Texas House has expanded to the other side of the aisle.

According to subpoenas released Thursday, the grand jury is seeking records related to a Democratic political action committee, Texas Partnership. The subpoenas request information related to donations to the group from corporations and labor groups.

Another political action committee, Texans for a Republican Majority, is being investigated for allegedly using corporate money to influence the 2002 election, in which Republicans took control of the Texas Legislature for the first time since Reconstruction. It is illegal in Texas to use corporate money to influence legislative races.

"The Travis County grand jury is currently conducting an investigation into alleged irregularities in the campaign for speaker of the Texas House of Representatives of current Speaker Tom Craddick," according to a statement from the office of District Attorney Ronnie Earle. "It has been suggested that former House Speaker Pete Laney and former speaker candidate Edmund Kuempel conducted their campaigns in the same way.

"It is important that the grand jury have access to all the facts." -- Democratic PAC targeted in DA investigation (AP)

The campaign records of former House Speaker Pete Laney were turned over to a Travis County grand jury Thursday - part of a new document sweep in an investigation of whether illegal corporate contributions and improper outside interests influenced 2002 legislative races.

Also subpoenaed were records from Rep. Edmund Kuempel, R-Seguin, an unsuccessful House Speaker candidate, and people associated with the Texas Partnership political action committee, which was closely associated with Mr. Laney.

The Partnership PAC contributed more than $365,000 to the state Democratic Party in the final weeks of the 2002 races and also provided political research, campaign strategy and legal assistance to Democratic House members. -- Laney turns over campaign records from '02 (AP)

Mohave County legislators don't like new Arizona redistricting plan

Mohave County legislators are urging a Phoenix judge to rule against a restricting plan that would split the county into three legislative districts.

Maricopa County Judge Kenneth Fields authorized the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission to receive pubic comments until the end of March until a legislature map is finalized for presentation to Fields.

Fields is then expected to issue an order in a hearing held April 15-16 in Maricopa County Superior Court to identify a finalized map to be used in the 2004 state elections.

The map under proposal would split Mohave County into three districts. Kingman, Meadview, Dolan Springs and the Arizona Strip would be part of a district that covers all of Northern Arizona. -- Lawmakers urge public comment on redistricting plan (Mohave Valley News)

Mohave County legislators don't like new Arizona redistricting plan

Mohave County legislators are urging a Phoenix judge to rule against a restricting plan that would split the county into three legislative districts.

Maricopa County Judge Kenneth Fields authorized the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission to receive pubic comments until the end of March until a legislature map is finalized for presentation to Fields.

Fields is then expected to issue an order in a hearing held April 15-16 in Maricopa County Superior Court to identify a finalized map to be used in the 2004 state elections.

The map under proposal would split Mohave County into three districts. Kingman, Meadview, Dolan Springs and the Arizona Strip would be part of a district that covers all of Northern Arizona. -- Lawmakers urge public comment on redistricting plan (Mohave Valley News)

Center for Responsive Politics responds

The Center for Responsive Politics has sent a long comment about my "Misleading Lede" post. I still think I am right, but in the interest of fair play, I want to call the comment to your attention.

(Thanks to an alert reader who pointed out the incorrect link, now corrected.)

Center for Responsive Politics responds

The Center for Responsive Politics has sent a long comment about my "Misleading Lede" post. I still think I am right, but in the interest of fair play, I want to call the comment to your attention.

(Thanks to an alert reader who pointed out the incorrect link, now corrected.)

Campaign Finance Institute video available online

On February 27th, The Campaign Finance Institute held a luncheon forum "Money and Politics in the 2004 Primaries." For those who could not attend the event, streaming video and a transcript are now available on the CFI website.

The panelists were:

Anthony Corrado, Colby College

Kenneth Goldstein, Univ. of Wisconsin; Wisconsin Advertising Project

William Mayer, Northeastern U., co-author, The Frontloading Problem

Zephyr Teachout, Director of Internet Organizing and Outreach, Dean for America

Moderator: Michael J. Malbin, Executive Director, Campaign Finance Institute

Nonprofit Advocacy web site

Five organizations -- the Alliance for Justice, Charity Lobbying the Public Interest, National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, National Council of Nonprofit Associations, and OMB Watch -- have joined together to create NonprofitAdvocacy.org. Their first issue is the pending FEC rulemaking on 527's and 501(c)'s.

"Political Party Finance under BCRA: An Initial Assessment"

Brookings Institution has sent an announcement for this paper: Political Party Finance under BCRA: An Initial Assessment by Anthony Corrado, Visiting Fellow, Governance Studies.

How will campaign finance reform affect the role of political parties in federal elections? Will parties be able to maintain their status as principal actors in the electoral process? Will they have the resources needed to provide meaningful assistance to candidates, as well as to turn out party supporters on Election Day? These are the questions at the heart of the debate over the merits of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA), Congress's most recent attempt to control the influence of money in electoral politics. This paper offers an initial response to these questions by presenting an analysis of party finances after the first year under BCRA and offering an early assessment of the role of party money in the 2004 elections.

Vermont towns complain about redistricting

It's a decennial fight. When Vermont's legislative map is redrawn every 10 years, a small number of towns complain that the geography of their new district doesn't make sense.

On Tuesday, Woodbury and Worcester went before the Vermont Supreme Court to say of Elmore and Morrisville, the two towns with which they now share a House district, you can't get there from here.

The two W towns, both in Washington County, argued that some big things come between themselves and the two Lamoille County communities - namely, the Green Mountains. -- Towns protest 2002 redistricting lines (The Times Argus Online)

Thanks to Jeff Wice for the link.

Disappearing entries

Something weird is happening with this weblog. The entries are disappearing from the main page, but they are still there. If you see nothing below this entry, please go to the right margin and click on indivdual titles under Recent Entries to see the most recent posts.

I am working to get the problem resolved. Thanks.

March 10, 2004

Misleading lede

You may have seen the article in New York Times with the headline, "Major Kerry Donors Actually Give More to Bush." It begins:

Senator John Kerry is beginning his drive to compete financially against President Bush with a disadvantage: almost half of his campaign's largest sources of money have given more money to Mr. Bush, according to a new study.

I actually read the study by the Center for Responsive Politics a few days ago and found it too misleading to bother with. Now, CJR Campaign Desk has put my disgust into words:

The reality is newsworthy; large corporations have mechanisms that encourage employees to contribute, and that can add up. But employees are contributing only on behalf of themselves, not their employer. And, since individual donors can't give more than $2,000 to any presidential campaign (or more than $5,000 to any presidential candidate's PAC), that would make impossible for a "major Kerry donor" who had given the maximum allowable amount to the Democrat to have given more to Bush.

But readers don't necessarily know that. When they read that, "9 of Mr. Kerry's top 20 donors favored Bush," it's reasonable -- but wrong -- for them to conclude that the word "donors" refers to individual people.

In cases like this, words matter -- those of both the reporter and the headline writer. And, as Mark Twain once noted, the difference between the right word and the almost-right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.

By the way, "lede" is newspaperese for the lead paragraph of a story. I think it is written that way to prevent confusion with lead, the stuff type used to be made of and also the spacing between lines of type.

TalkLeft on ex-felon voting

TalkLeft has an interesting item,
Disenfranchised Felons: Fox Mentions TalkLeft.

Blue State Digital

tins ::: Rick Klau's weblog reports that some of the former Dean Team have formed "Blue State Digital, a for-profit consulting firm that will apply the lessons learned from the Dean campaign to communications, fundraising, tech support, etc."

I looked at the Blue State Digital website and found that this little item: "mTrack -- We also conceived and built a tool to track how many recipients opened email from the campaign, when they opened it, and compare across emails to determine effectiveness."

In other words, "I know what you did last summer."

Is this scary, or what?

Liberal trouble in Canada

[Canadian] Liberal former deputy prime minister Sheila Copps has filed a formal appeal of the bruising nomination battle she lost to Transport Minister Tony Valeri on the weekend.

Ms. Copps alleges that she lost because of dirty tricks by her opponent, and has asked the Liberal Party to hear her appeal. The party's permanent appeals committee will decide whether she met the deadline for appealing the result. If so, they will appoint three people to assess her case. ...

Saturday's nomination meeting, which lasted 12 hours, was chaotic. More than 5,000 ballots were cast, with Mr. Valeri eventually declared winner by 300 votes. Both sides have alleged dirty tricks by their opponents.

Mr. Valeri's campaign manager Chris Phillips said that Valeri supporters received calls from Copps workers telling them not to go to the meeting because they would face huge lineups. For her part, Ms. Copps said that about 1,000 of her supporters were denied the right to vote. -- Copps files formal appeal to Liberal party panel (The Globe and Mail)

Will the European Union founder on the question of voting rights for member states?

The European Union's Irish presidency warned Wednesday that time is running out on the EU's stalled bid to forge a constitution, amid signs of a potential breakthrough in the divisive debate. ...

The unprecedented EU charter is supposed to introduce major changes to how the bloc runs its affairs to get it in shape for its enlargement in May to 25 member states.

But an intergovernmental conference in December that was supposed to agree the text collapsed in acrimony. Since then, the Irish have been taking soundings on how to unblock the main sticking point -- voting rights in the enlarging bloc. ...

The EU's draft constitution envisages that laws would require the support of at least 50 percent of EU member states representing at least 60 percent of the bloc's population.

Two German MEPs who helped draft the constitution said that under a new compromise, these figures could be tweaked to 55 percent on both counts -- which would give a slightly greater say to smaller member states. -- EU's presidency warns of race against time on constitution (EUBusiness.com)

Texas Democrats "realign priorities"

The Texas primary election took its toll on state House Democrats who had aligned with the Republican leadership during the bitter partisan fights last year.

Seven House Democrats, including longtime maverick lawmaker Rep. Ron Wilson of Houston, were defeated or headed for runoffs. Five had supported GOP-backed legislation and Republican House Speaker Tom Craddick.

"I'm tickled pink," said Texas Democratic Party Chairman Charles Soechting. "I don't describe it as a purge. I describe it as a realignment of priorities." -- Democrats oust party members who supported GOP (AP)

Eastern Idaho claims northern Idaho favored

Eastern Idaho challengers to the Legislature's 2002 redistricting rule have won the attention of the Idaho Supreme Court.

The high court has appointed Senior Judge George Carey to hear evidence in the case and then present the facts to the Supreme Justices. ...

The challengers claim the legislative map gives more than its fair share of districts to northern Idaho. -- Supreme Court will consider redistricting (AP)

North Carolina legislature defended in state Supreme Court

The [North Carolina] General Assembly had the constitutional power to transfer the authority to review House and Senate maps to a three-judge panel, attorneys for the state and legislative leaders said Wednesday.

The filing with the state Supreme Court comes a week before the justices hold a hearing on whether redistricting litigation should have remained before Johnston County Judge Knox Jenkins.

Jenkins has thrown out two previous sets of legislative maps - in 2001 and 2002 - after determining they failed to meet requirements of the state constitution.

In November, the Legislature approved a third set of boundary lines but passed a law that all future redistricting challenges would be heard in Wake County Superior Court before three judges. -- N.C. attorneys argue to uphold new redistricting rules (StarNewsOnline.com)

The Media Fund's first ad

The New York Times has the text and an analysis of the Media Fund ad now running 17 states. Go to The Ad Campaign: Anti-Bush, but Also Oblique (nytimes.com)

To see the ad, go to www.makeamericaworkforus.org.

Shadow Democratic Party

Led by veterans of presidential and congressional campaigns, a coalition of Democratic Party interest groups, armed with millions of dollars in soft money, is rapidly constructing an unprecedented political operation designed to supplement the activities of Sen. John F. Kerry's campaign in the effort to defeat President Bush.

The newest visible sign of the coalition's activities will be seen beginning today, when a $5 million advertising campaign begins in 17 battleground states. But behind the scenes, Democratic operatives are moving to set up coordinated national and state-by-state operations that amount to the equivalent of a full presidential campaign, minus the candidate.

The Democratic groups have created five organizations to oversee facets of the campaign: paid advertising; voter identification and turnout; communications, polling, research and rapid response; fundraising; and the coordination of the operations of more than two dozen liberal organizations. ...

Most of these new organizations have been established as "527s," shorthand for the provision of the tax law that covers their activities. The 527s are controversial because they accept soft money from corporations and unions, which critics say represents an evasion of the ban on large, unregulated contributions in the new campaign finance law known as the McCain-Feingold Act, and because they operate under less stringent disclosure regulations. ...

The Democratic groups have created an operation that combines close coordination with a division of labor designed to avoid duplication of effort and maximize resources. Beyond the Media Fund, the entities include Americans Coming Together (ACT), which is responsible for get-out-the-vote efforts; America Votes, the umbrella organization that will stitch together the activities of various progressive organizations; the Thunder Road Group, which will concentrate on research and rapid response; and the Joint Victory Campaign 2004, a combined fundraising committee. -- Democrats Forming Parallel Campaign (washingtonpost.com)

How the Russians encourage voter registration

Speaking of great democracies, here's this item from Russia noted Monday by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

A Russian press account reported: "In order to assure a sufficiently high turnout for the 14 March presidential election, the health care directorate of the Khabarovsk Krai administration has ordered local hospitals not to admit patients who do not have certificates of voter registration from the local election commission."

Vote or die? -- At the FCC, They Ought to Be in Pictures (washingtonpost.com)

Votewatch

Votewatchis a nonprofit non-partisan organization of citizen volunteers, statisticians, lawyers, technologists, journalists and election officials who monitor public elections in the U.S.A., analyze patterns, and make their findings public prior to the certification of the election.

Votewatch seeks citizen observers and reports from voters who have problems. If you are interested, go to the web site and sign up.

March 9, 2004

Washington House adopts another open primary

The [Washington] state House, in another setback for the state's political parties, last night approved a Louisiana-style primary system that would let voters cast ballots for any candidate and would send the top two finishers to the general election.

The House, by a 51-46 vote, went for the same system that passed the state Senate last week over the objections of the parties and Gov. Gary Locke.

The House proposal adds a twist, however -- requiring the state to revert to a much-different election system patterned after Montana's if the Louisiana plan doesn't pass muster in court. ...

The Louisiana-style primary is similar to the blanket primary in that voters can cast votes for any candidate, regardless of party. But instead of one candidate from each party advancing, only the two people with the most votes would appear on the November ballot.

The fallback "open primary, private choice" system used in Montana lets voters pick one party's ballot for the primary, but no record is kept of their party choice. -- House approves Louisiana-style primary (Seattle Times)

Sharpton may get FEC matching funds and an investigation

Election officials are recommending that Democratic presidential candidate Al Sharpton receive $100,000 in federal matching funds -- and be the subject of an investigation into whether he deserves the money.

The mixed recommendation by lawyers for the Federal Election Commission will be presented to the six commissioners Thursday for a likely vote, after an internal back-and-forth over whether the outspoken reverend may have violated campaign finance rules. ...

At issue are loans and out-of-pocket payments made by Sharpton, the activist preacher, to Sharpton, the candidate. The New Yorker's campaign is low on cash and is carrying heavy debts, but FEC rules prohibit federal matching funds to any candidate who loans his own campaign more than $50,000.

In reviewing Sharpton's FEC filings, auditors found Sharpton is owed $47,821.13 in loans or debts outstanding for more than 60 days. At the end of the 2003 filing period, Sharpton claimed he was owed an additional $53,981.25, but the auditors said they could not determine if any of that debt was outstanding for more than 60 days.

"A question exists as to whether Rev. Sharpton has exceeded his personal expenditure limitation," the audit staff wrote. "The evidence is not sufficient to recommend an initial determination that matching fund eligibility be denied; however, it appears that a further review of this matter is warranted." -- FEC urges funds, probe of Al Sharpton (AP)

The FEC report is here.

Suit challenges Maryland judicial primaries

A three-judge panel [in Maryland] is considering a request to nullify last week's primary election results for Anne Arundel County Circuit Court after an independent voter alleged that it was unconstitutional to exclude him from casting a ballot.

If the challenge is successful, the case could transform procedures statewide for electing judges.

The lawsuit, filed by Gregory Care of Linthicum with assistance from the American Civil Liberties Union, argues that because candidates for circuit judge are listed on both Democratic and Republican ballots, the contests are nonpartisan. And therefore, the suit says, judicial elections should be open to all registered voters regardless of party affiliation. ...

Of the eight candidates, the top three chosen by Democratic voters were incumbents David S. Bruce, Michele D. Jaklitsch and Rodney C. Warren, while Republicans voters supported challengers Paul Goetzke and Paul F. Harris in addition to Jaklitsch. The top three contenders from each party will face off for three judgeships in November.

On the Republican ballot, Jaklitsch finished in the top three ahead of challenger Scott A. Conwell by 89 votes, according to unofficial results. ACLU attorneys argue that if independent voters had been allowed to participate, they could have represented the margin of victory for a candidate. -- Lawsuit seeks to nullify primary (baltimoresun.com)

Kerry to be proactive on election problems

John Kerry is determined not to lose Florida's 27 electoral votes in a swamp of recounts and recriminations this fall, vowing to mount an early legal challenge in any district that might repeat the problems that bedeviled Democratic supporters in 2000.

"Not only do we want a record level of turnout to vote, we want to guarantee that every vote is counted," the presumptive Democratic nominee told about 500 people at a town hall meeting Monday.

Kerry rarely mentions the legal battle over the 2000 election, but he did so repeatedly in the state that was the epicenter four years ago. Responding to a voter who asked, "What can you do to prevent them from stealing the election again?", Kerry, a lawyer and former Massachusetts prosecutor, said his campaign was assembling a legal team to examine districts that had problems.

"We're going to pre-check it, we're going to have the legal team in place. ... We're going to take injunctions where necessary ahead of time. We'll pre-challenge if necessary," the four-term Massachusetts senator said. -- Kerry prepared in case of Fla. problems (AP)

International monitors for Florida election

For the first time, international monitors will be in the United States to make sure votes are cast and counted correctly. Members of the Catholic peace movement Pax Christi announced Monday that they will post monitors at polling places in four Florida during the Nov. 2 general election.

"We have assisted groups in other nations who fear that their voices will not be heard and that the powerful will manipulate the process to suit their own aspirations unless the eyes of the world are watching," said Dave Robinson, national coordinator of Pax Christi USA. "But as evident in the elections of 2000, particularly in the state of Florida, we in the United States have our own difficulties in assuring an election atmosphere that is transparent, open, honest and free of controversy."

Gov. Jeb Bush bristled at the comparison and said such monitors aren't needed. -- International monitors will watch election (Tallahassee Democrat)

Pennsylvania high court voids most third-party delivery of absentee ballots

Voters who aren't disabled or ill shouldn't plan on anyone but a postal worker turning in their absentee ballots.

The [Pennsylvania] state Supreme Court has struck down a long-standing practice by election boards across the state that allowed able-bodied absentee voters to have someone else turn in their ballots if they couldn't mail them or deliver them in person.

In its ruling Monday, the Supreme Court said that a lower state court's ruling allowed the third-party delivery of votes for the disabled or people too ill to vote, but that there was no such provision for non-disabled voters.

The prohibition of the so-called third-party deliveries was needed as a safeguard against fraud, the court said. -- State's highest court bars some deliveries of absentee ballots (AP)

Prairie View students vote

Election monitors are overseeing voting in Waller County this Election Day. This comes after months of controversy over whether students at Prairie View A&M University have the right to vote.

All was quiet at Prairie View A&M Tuesday with no classes, very few students on campus because of Spring Break, but it is also election day.

And the limousines are rolling to the polls. "It was nice," says one student. "I mean, it was really nice to get a ride to come vote."

To encourage the students who are on campus to vote, the limousines were shuttling them from a barbecue to the polls, courtesy of the three African-American candidates who are running on the Republican ticket. -- After lengthy struggle Prairie View A&M students hit the polls (KHOU.com)

Votes for minors?

In California

Teenagers too young to drive would be able to vote in California -- under a proposed state constitutional amendment.

The measure would grant 16-year-olds a half vote and 14-year-olds a quarter of a vote in state elections beginning in 2006.

State Senator John Vasconcellos is one of four co-sponsors of the proposal.

The 71-year-old Democrat says the Internet, cell phones and multi-channel T-V make today's teenagers the best informed ever. -- Calif. teens could get half of a vote in state elections (AP)

In Maine

Without debate, the [Maine] Senate decided to go along with the House and approve a bill allowing 17-year-olds to vote in Maine primary elections, provided they turn 18 in time for the general election. -- Senate agrees to lower voting age in primaries (AP)

In the United Kingdom

Ministers came under cross party pressure tonight to lower the voting age from 18 to 16.

The call came in a Commons debate launched jointly by the Scottish and Welsh nationalist parties.

Opening for the SNP, Angus Robertson (Moray) described the right to vote as “the biggest outstanding issue which disconnects younger people from active democracy”. -- Lower Voting Age to 16, Say Nationalists (PA News, UK)

Georgia ruling might affect Montana, or maybe not

A court ruling in Georgia has rocked the arcane world of legislative "redistricting," and the winner's complaints resemble those raised by Montana Republicans about Montana's new legislative districts.

But it's unlikely the ruling will have any immediate effect on Montana's new district boundaries for the 2004 elections -- and may not affect them in the long run, either. ...

[Republican] House Majority Leader Roy Brown of Billings said a federal court case could take years to get resolved, and that he'd rather concentrate now on winning seats in the 2004 election in the new districts.

"I think our money would be better spent helping candidates get elected," he said. "It would be such a long process (in court) that it might not be worthwhile in the long run." -- Georgia ruling intriguing but probably won't affect Montana redistricting (greatfallstribune.com)

Georgia redistricting stalemate

In a [Georgia] state office building across the street from the Capitol, the sign on a 4th floor door reads: "Room Closed to Public Access. Do Not Enter Under Any Circumstances." What happens there could set the course of Georgia politics for a decade.

A court-appointed special master has taken over that space to draw new election maps for the state House and Senate, in case the Legislature is unable to draw new maps for itself.

Lawmakers missed one deadline but leaders insist they haven't abandoned the task. Still, some see a growing likelihood that the Legislature will fail to redistrict itself and that politically blind, court-drawn maps will be used for the crucial elections this summer and fall. -- Redistricting Hits a Stalemate (AP)

Perjury charges for Finneran?

A government watchdog group called on U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan to launch a probe into whether House Speaker Thomas Finneran perjured himself in his testimony about the House's redistricting plan.

Common Cause Executive Director Pam Wilmot said she met briefly with Sullivan on Monday.

''In this case it appears the speaker was not truthful,'' she said. ''These are substantial allegations.'' ...

Wilmot pointed to comments Finneran made during his testimony on the redistricting plan last November. The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals tossed out a portion of that map, including Finneran's own district, saying lawmakers packed black voters into as few House districts as possible, diluting their political clout. -- Watchdog group calls for perjury investigation against Finneran (AP)

Arizona Secretary of State objects to court-ordered redistricting timetable

[Arizona] Secretary of State Jan Brewer wants this year's legislative elections run under last year's redistricting map -- one that gives the advantage to Republicans.

Brewer filed an affidavit Monday with Maricopa County Superior Court saying there is not enough time to finalize the proposed new districts and actually conduct the Sept. 7 primary. She said that, in a worst-case scenario, all the legal issues surrounding who can run for office would not be resolved until July 21 -- only 15 days before early voting begins.

But the move will get a fight from Democrats who successfully fought to get Judge Kenneth Fields to rule that the current district lines are illegal. Rep. Steve Gallardo, D-Phoenix, a plaintiff in that lawsuit, said the record of prior elections shows there is enough time. ...

Attorney Paul Eckstein who represented the successful challengers said Brewer and the county officials are being overly alarmist.

He pointed out that in 2002 it took until May 30 for a panel of three federal judges to approve the maps used that year and yet the election managed to come off without incident. Eckstein said the state can follow a similar procedure this time, eliminating the need for a 60-day Department of Justice Review. -- State elections chief says not enough time to use redrawn legislative map (Arizona Daily Sun)

ACLU sues South Dakota over redistricting

The American Civil Liberties Union is suing South Dakota over political redistricting. Plaintiffs say the plan limits Native American representation in state government. Many tribal leaders support the lawsuit, but some fear a victory could create a backlash against their voting rights campaign. Hear Brian Bull of South Dakota Public Radio. --
Suit Charges S.D. Plan Disenfranchises Indian Voters (NPR)

March 8, 2004

Disability groups sue California, four counties over access to voting services

Disabled voters and three advocacy groups on Monday sued California Secretary of State Kevin Shelley and four counties, alleging they violated federal and state laws by failing to provide touchscreen services for those most in need.

Eleven disabled voters were joined by the American Association of People with Disabilities, the California Council of the Blind Inc., and California Foundation for Independent Living Centers in the lawsuit filed in federal court.

They demanded that disabled voters have access to voting services in the November election unlike the March 2 primary where they needed help from other people to cast their ballot.

"The point of this lawsuit is to remedy the violations of federal law that occurred on March 2 and make sure they don't happen again this November," attorney John McDermott said. -- SignOnSanDiego.com >Lawsuit claims Shelley, four Calif. counties denied voting rights to disabled (AP)

"And isn't a vote a bit more valuable than a sausage biscuit?"

That's the way business works these days. If a transaction takes place there's a record, and a customer gets a record of that transaction.

Currently across the nation, in many places, you don't get a record for one very important transaction: your vote. ...

Reforms could cause a lot of headaches for election officials, who only want to see a fair and accurate vote. A paper receipt could be one of those headaches. But in the end our system absolutely depends on faith, faith that a vote cast reflects the intent of the voter and is counted. If we lose that, we're going to have a lot more problems than a headache.

A paper receipt seems to be a step in the right direction.

You get them for everything else.

And isn't a vote a bit more valuable than a sausage biscuit? -- editorial, Asheville (NC) Citizen-Times

Media Fund starts running ads; GOP unhappy

A Democratic-leaning group funded in part by billionaire George Soros plans to run $4.5 million worth of TV ads in 17 presidential battleground states beginning Wednesday, criticizing President Bush's policies and priorities.

The Media Fund is the second outside group to go on the air in as many weeks to counter Bush's multimillion-dollar ad campaign and ensure a Democratic presence on the airwaves.

Bush's re-election campaign branded the group's activity illegal and said it would seek a Federal Election Commission investigation.

The Media Fund bought at least $1 million worth of airtime on Monday, and expects to buy more this week for its initial ad run. The group expects to raise tens of millions of dollars to run ads this election year. The ads also mention Bush by name, a point of contention among GOP lawyers who argue that they violate federal law. ...

Bush-Cheney officials said they won't ask for the ads to be pulled off the air because the FEC doesn't have that authority, and because a court is unlikely to act before the FEC finishes its review of the new campaign finance laws. The object of the complaint is to highlight what Bush campaign officials say are Democratic hypocrisies and to prod the FEC to act more quickly than it has in the past, the officials said. --
Media Fund to start running ads Wednesday, Bush campaign to challenge legality (AP)

If anyone knows of a link to the ads online, let me know.

Inquiring minds want to know -- how much did the CEO contribute to pols?

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission told American International Group Inc., Citigroup Inc. and Time Warner Inc. in the last month not to ignore demands by labor unions to disclose more information on campaign donations.
Almost two dozen companies asked the SEC for permission to omit from proxy ballots union-drafted resolutions seeking to know how much top executives gave to political candidates.

Organized labor, led by the AFL-CIO, which must comply with similar disclosure rules imposed by the administration of President George W. Bush last year, is targeting executives who have contributed to his 2004 re-election campaign.

Companies that received the union resolutions include New York-based AIG, the world's largest insurer, SBC Communications Inc. and Safeway Inc., whose chief executive officers have all been named Bush ``Rangers'' for collecting at least $200,000 for his campaign. Comcast Corp., whose cable unit president, Stephen Burke, 45, was named a ``Ranger'' last month, also faces a resolution.

``It's a campaign of harassment,'' said Larry Sabato, who heads the center for politics at the University of Virginia. ``Their goal is to cause publicity-shy executives to avoid this kind of thing by saying, `We're not going to give.''' -- AIG, Citigroup Battle Unions on Political Donation Disclosure (Bloomberg.com)

March 7, 2004

Ashcroft's committee raised money to pay the FEC fines

Attorney General John D. Ashcroft's 1998 leadership political action committee, Spirit of America, and his Senate reelection campaign committee, Ashcroft 2000, raised more than $100,000 last year in order to pay a fine and legal costs for violating campaign finance laws, according to Federal Election Commission records and Garrett Lott, treasurer of both committees.

The funds raised last year included individual contributions and income the leadership PAC derived from renting out a political mailing list, according to Lott and FEC records. -- Ashcroft Funds Under Scrutiny (washingtonpost.com)

And TalkLeft wants to know ...

Did John Ashcoft tell a fib to the Federal Election Commission?

By renting out a political mailing list, Ashcroft's Spirit of America PAC made $165,000 in 1999 and 2000. It transferred $112,000 of those funds to Ashcroft's 2000 Senate reelection campaign committee. But the PAC had already donated the maximum permitted by law, so the FEC wondered whether the transfer was illegal. Ashcroft's campaign committee insisted that Ashcroft owned the mailing list that generated the funds, exempting the fund transfers from contribution limits. After a two year investigation, the FEC disageed.

"Millionaire or fund-raiser: Which is worse?"

Such is the choice [Illinois] voters will have to make when they pick from among the seven millionaires and eight non-millionaires running in the March 16 Democratic and Republican primaries. The central questions voters must consider are these: Do they nominate a wealthy candidate who might be less beholden to special interests but who also might be more aloof from the concerns of average people? Or do they pick a candidate whose campaign fund-raising means they might be beholden to special interests but who also might be more likely to feel their everyday pain?

The answer offered by two leading campaign finance experts is somewhat surprising: Those who raise money might be the better option. -- Millionaire or fund-raiser: Which is worse? (Daily Herald)

"Welcome to Albany's underbelly"

While silver plates of cheese and crackers and bacon-wrapped hors' dourves circulate, lobbyists for special interests from unions to corporations to mental health workers methodically hobnob with state lawmakers _ after, of course, the $500 contribution changes hands.

Welcome to Albany's underbelly, where cash buys access to lawmakers in after-dark fund-raisers that can affect lawmakers' votes the next day. But those on both sides argue that the legal events far more often result in better understandings of perspectives that lead to better public policy down the road.

In 2002, lobbyists spent $92 million trying to influence legislators. Much of it was raised on what is sometimes called "the circuit" of fund-raisers during the legislative session, according to the state lobbying commission's 2003 report. Odds are that the ever-climbing total approached or exceeded the $100 million mark in 2003.

Take last Tuesday. At least seven fund-raisers around the capital trumped even Super Tuesday and New York's primary for legislators. But then, the need to host or attend fund-raisers has been known to dictate when a legislative session ends for the day or when some closed-door budget negotiations between legislative leaders and the governor conclude. -- Private parties, secret alliances, cash drive public Albany (AP)

Arizona map pleases the judge

A judge who ordered the state's map of legislative districts redrawn signaled likely approval of a new version that includes twice as many districts winnable by either major party.

However, Judge Kenneth Fields of Maricopa County Superior Court on Friday delayed formal acceptance of the new map until mid-April to first allow more public comment.

Fields had overturned the old map on Jan. 16, ruling that it was unconstitutional because the Independent Redistricting Commission did not put enough emphasis on creating competitive districts.

Even though it is appealing Fields' ruling, the commission on Monday adopted a new map with eight competitive districts. That's up from four in the old map and one more than the minimum set by Fields in January. -- Judge: New legislative map apparently satisfies ruling (AP)

March 6, 2004

GOP complains about MoveOn ad

The Republican National Committee on Friday asked about 250 TV stations, including eight in Arizona, to pull a liberal group's ads critical of President Bush.

The RNC sent the stations a letter Friday suggesting the outlets may be complicit in breaking campaign finance laws if they air the MoveOn.org ads. It asked them to decline to broadcast the ads.

The RNC said the group is spending "soft money," on ads to influence a federal election. The campaign finance law broadly bars the use of such donations to influence federal elections.

MoveOn began airing ads Thursday critical of Bush's policies. MoveOn founder Wes Boyd said the ads are legal, and added that the group is not concerned by the RNC's letter. -- GOP asks TV stations to pull ads (AP)

Here is the text of the GOP's letter.

MoveOn.org Voter Fund's response was to buy more ads.

The bail bondsman and the judges

Louis Marcotte III, the bail bonds mogul whose ties to Jefferson Parish judges sparked a 4 ½-year federal investigation of courthouse corruption, has agreed with prosecutors to plead guilty to an expansive racketeering charge implicating several judges, defense attorneys monitoring the inquiry said Friday.

They said Marcotte signed an agreement with the government to confess to a charge under the powerful Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act, known as RICO, and to cooperate with the investigation at the 24th District Court in Gretna. Marcotte would face what one source called "a substantial" prison term.

Court observers said a plea from Marcotte would give the government its biggest break so far in an investigation that already has netted ex-Judge Ronald Bodenheimer and five other defendants, because Marcotte is in a position to testify against more judges.

"This is a typical wheel-and-spoke conspiracy," said Shaun Clarke, a former federal prosecutor. "Marcotte is at the center of the wheel, while Bodenheimer was just a spoke. This is definitely the largest break in the case." -- Bail bondsman to enter guilty plea on RICO charge (New Orleans Times-Picayune)

Just a little dinner among friends

Lobbyists close to Sen. Ted Stevens are organizing a $5,000-a-plate dinner here on Wednesday to benefit a charity called the Ted Stevens Foundation.

Bill Canfield, a former Stevens aide turned Washington lobbyist, said the organization is primarily devoted to preserving the papers of Alaska's senior senator, who is also chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee. ...

Some critics see these nonprofits as yet another way for moneyed interests to influence lawmakers, beyond the campaign contribution limits.

"Anytime you have a situation where somebody can contribute vast amounts of money to a politician who is still in office, even if it's not directed to a campaign but going into a foundation with his name on it, it's a concern," said Bill Allison, a spokesman for the Center for Public Integrity. "What you've essentially done is bought a certain amount of access to that person. He's going to be grateful." -- Lobbyists flock to nonprofit (Anchorage Daily News)

New wine into old bottles

Confusion in Orange County that led to some voters receiving the wrong ballots on Tuesday highlights a problem election officials have been struggling with for years: recruiting and training temporary poll workers.

With the advent of high-tech voting, the problem is only going to get worse, some analysts say.

In Orange County, poll workers -- including some who said they received inadequate training -- gave some voters incorrect access numbers that led some of them to vote for candidates in the wrong political party or in the wrong election district.

Officials are investigating the problem, but say they may never know how many votes may have gone astray. -- New Voting Hitch Had Old Cause (latimes.com)

Boston redistricting suit will be costly

Taxpayers will pick up an estimated $3 million in legal fees to draw and defend the state's redistricting plan, including a House map that a panel of federal judges rejected last week as a textbook case of politicians attempting to dilute minority voting strength.

Nearly $600,000 went to Nixon Peabody, the firm that employs Lawrence S. DiCara, a boyhood friend of House Speaker Thomas M. Finneran. Another firm, Robinson & Cole, received $1.3 million to defend the House, according to state records. ...

The plaintiffs' team includes the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and the firms of Petrucelly and Nadler and Foley Hoag. The Lawyers Committee and Petrucelly and Nadler said they had not yet calculated their bills and expenses, but Richard Belin, the lead lawyer for Foley Hoag, said his firm's time charges total "more than a million." Belin said Foley Hoag would most probably donate its share of the money to the Foley Hoag Foundation, which combats racism. -- Redistricting suit to cost $3m in fees (Boston Globe)

DOJ objects to partisan elections for Charleston SC school board

Charleston County School Board candidates won't have to declare a political party or run in a primary in November now that the U.S. Justice Department has determined it would be harder for minority candidates to win seats under partisan elections.

The Justice Department decision prevents the state from implementing a law passed last year making school board elections partisan. The state has the option to appeal.

School board members celebrated the decision Friday. -- Decision prevents partisan school vote (Charleston Post & Courier)

The letter of objection is here. The letter is worth reading.

One wins, one loses right to register in Williamsburg

A College of William and Mary student won the right Friday to file for the Williamsburg City Council race after a judge ruled in his favor, but a second student was rejected by the same judge.

Williamsburg-James City County Circuit Court Judge Samuel Powell ordered the city's voter registrar, R. Wythe Davis, to allow Luther Lowe to file for the May 4 election. ...

But Powell said Lowe's contract with the Virginia National Guard was evidence of his intention to stay in the area indefinitely, qualifying him to vote here. ...

The judge ruled against Serene Maria Alami, however. Alami, 20, a junior from Roanoke majoring in sociology and religion, testified that she also planned to stay in Williamsburg indefinitely and hopes to attend law school at W&M.

She conceded that she would have to move out of her dorm at the end of the semester, but said she hoped to find an internship in Williamsburg and rent an apartment. She acknowledged that she might accept an internship elsewhere.

Powell said that didn't meet the standard of intending to stay indefinitely. -- One W&M student wins vote chance; 2nd turned down (Hampton Roads Daily Press)

Voter registrations drives -- and phone calls

Republicans have stepped up their push to register three million voters this year with the help of an election-year prop -- an 18-wheel truck full of laptops, plasma TV's and multimedia equipment -- designed to help communicate the party's message.

Not to be outdone, the Democrats have also begun an effort to appeal to new voters. They say they are planning to register one million of them, and this week volunteers for a new political action committee, started calling unregistered Pennsylvania residents.

The truck, known as Reggie the Registration Rig, will travel around the Southeast from March 6 through March 13 with the goal of registering one million voters. On Friday, the truck made its first stop, at Marshall University in Huntington, W.Va. ...

Volunteers for the Democratic PAC, ReDefeatBush.com, are using a more personal and direct approach. On Tuesday night, 95 of them gathered in a cozy bar in the Adams Morgan section of Washington, using their own cellphones to reach out to nearly 1,000 unregistered voters in swing states, starting with Pennsylvania. They said they used a list of potential voters in Luzerne County — an area pinned down through the ZIP codes of those most likely to be Democrats, based on voters currently registered with the party. -- Republicans and Democrats Step Up Efforts to Register Millions of Voters (nytimes.com)

March 5, 2004

The big papers on the FEC's proposed 527 rule

The Federal Election Commission yesterday set in motion regulatory proceedings that could severely restrict new pro-Democratic groups seeking to defeat President Bush.

The proposed regulations, drafted by the agency's general counsel, would severely crimp the fundraising and spending activities of "527" groups, named for the section of the tax code that governs their activities. But advocates of the tough regulations suffered a setback when a Democratic commissioner in a position to cast the key swing vote said she is likely to oppose any changes in the rules that would take effect before the November elections.

The FEC, normally a backwater among Washington agencies, has become a battlefield pitting a flush Republican Party and a Bush campaign with a $100 million-plus war chest against a Democratic Party suffering from a 2 to 1 financial disadvantage. The Republican National Committee, joined by a number of campaign watchdog groups, is pressing the six-member commission to rule that a network of pro-Democratic organizations with a plan to spend as much as $300 million this year, most of it "soft money," is breaking the law.

These groups, collectively functioning as a "shadow" Democratic Party, are a key part of a Democratic presidential campaign strategy that seeks to fill the vacuum created by a new ban on the raising of large soft-money contributions from unions, corporations and rich people imposed by the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law. -- Reining In Anti-Bush Groups (washingtonpost.com)


The primary issue is whether 527 committees should be regulated the same way as other political groups, which are subject to contribution limits and other campaign finance restrictions. Such restrictions could effectively put the committees out of the soft-money business.

The commission's complex, 108-page document contained a menu of options for regulating the 527 committees, rather than committing to a single approach. One major question, which commissioners say has yet to be answered, is whether the rules will apply in this year's election.

"I think the commission faces a pretty blank slate," said Bob Biersack, a commission spokesman.

The commission invited the public to weigh in on the matter in the next 30 days, and a two-day hearing will be held in April before a decision is reached in May.

In February, the commission issued an opinion saying certain 527 committees could continue to use soft money for some types of advertising, though it narrowed the circumstances. Most large regulatory questions were put off for the current rule making.

Though a decision is still months away, the proposal has groups that are often ideological opposites, like the conservative Club for Growth and the left-leaning Sierra Club, united in criticism. -- Election Rules Proposed by Panel May Curb Interest Groups' Work (nytimes.com)

Tribes subject to political regulation in California

In a ruling that could shake up California politics, a Sacramento appeal court ruled Wednesday that the state could sue Indian tribes to force disclosure of lobbying activities and campaign contributions.

The 2-1 ruling by the 3rd District Court of Appeal held that the state's right to preserve its political process trumps tribal immunity.

"The state's resort to the judicial process is a procedure essential to enforce its reserved right and duty to maintain a republican form of government," Justice Richard Sims III wrote. "What else is it to do, call out its 'well-regulated militia'? We daresay no one would sanction such a remedy." -- California Can Force Tribes to Reveal Lobbying Activity (The Recorder)

The case is Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians v. Superior Court (Fair Political Practices Commission).

March 4, 2004

Texas GOP wants to strip Ronnie Earle of the power to investigate state officials

The Republican Party of Texas has launched a petition drive in hopes of stripping Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle and his Public Integrity Unit of his power to investigate state officials.

The call to strip the DA of his power comes after months of revalations concerning the Texas Association of Business and the political action committee Texans for a Republican Majority, both of which are accused of illegally using corporate contributions to directly assist political candidates, which is illegal in Texas. -- Political State Report

Ronnie must really be getting close to the bone.

"Stealth PACs" still pretty stealthy

As a counterpoint to the fear that independent organizations feel from the FEC's proposed rulemaking (see below), consider the Center for Public Integrity's " href="http://www.publicintegrity.org/dtaweb/report.asp?ReportID=557&L1=10&L2=10&L3=0&L4=0&L5=0">Political Mugging In America: Anatomy of an "independent" smear campaign, which tells the story of Americans for Jobs & Healthcare, an independent group that trashed Howard Dean right before the Iowa caucuses.

FEC publishes Notice of Proposed Rulemaking regulating 527's and 501(c) organizations

The Federal Election Commission voted today to publish a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking dealing with expanding the definition of a "political committee" and how those committees can raise and spend money (that is, allocate it among various activities).

Bob Bauer's website, More Soft Money Hard Law has a lengthy analysis of the proposal along with statements by two of the commissioners.

If you are hungry for more details, the Office of General Counsel's draft is here. Warning, it is 112 pages long.

Here is how the AP explains the FEC action:

Some groups facing possible new restrictions on their fund-raising and spending said Thursday they are prepared to go to court to overturn any broad limits federal election officials might impose.

The threat came as the Federal Election Commission began work on a proposal that could quash plans by several partisan groups to spend millions of dollars in big donations on this year's elections -- or give them the go-ahead.

Freddie Mac lobbyist will quit

Mortgage finance giant Freddie Mac has asked its top lobbyist, R. Mitchell Delk, to resign because of alleged improprieties in his political fundraising for members of Congress, sources who have been briefed on the matter said yesterday. ...

Until the press accounts last summer, Delk had hosted a fundraising dinner at Galileo [a restaurant in the West End of Washington] every other week or so for the past few years. What caught the eye of Freddie Mac's board was the unusual discount arrangement he had with the Italian restaurant, which charged him just $25 a person for a three-course dinner, wine, drinks, tax and tip for up to 20 dinners.

Each dinner would have cost $2,000 or more at the prices the restaurant charged most of its customers. Delk reported his payment for each dinner as an "in-kind" donation of $500 or $750 to the House member he hosted.

Under campaign law for most of the period, an individual could donate as much as $1,000 per election to a candidate. Usually, contributions are in the form of checks, but they also can be a donation of something of value, such as stamps or flowers, or in Delk's case, dinners.

Campaign law says candidates cannot benefit from discounts that are not generally available to the public. Last summer, Delk's lawyer at the time, Jan W. Baran, said in an e-mail, "Mr. Delk is fully compliant with all legal and reporting requirements." -- Freddie Mac Lobbyist Told to Quit (washingtonpost.com)

Thanks to Alfredo Garcia for the link.

The article also says that the FEC is investigating this. Let me speculate for a moment: Delk had a deal with Galileo so that he was billed $500 for a $2000 meal. If Galileo was providing these meals at lower than its cost, it would be making a contribution. But if Delk was paying Galileo under the table, then Delk was making the contribution. Just speculation, but what else would the FEC be investigating?

New Massachusetts-focused voting site

MassVOTE sent me an email today. They describe themselves thusly:

MassVOTE is a non-partisan organization dedicated to increasing voter participation in urban communities. We are part of statewide efforts to promote voting rights and electoral reform. Our goal: a more participatory democracy -- with equal opportunity for all voters and candidates.

MassVOTE was one of the plaintiffs in the recent redistricting suit in Massachusetts.

Kerry's money vs. Bush's

Senator John Kerry fought his way through a tough and expensive Democratic primary season only to find himself on Wednesday with relatively little cash and facing an advertising onslaught by President Bush, whose campaign has roughly 10 times more money.

Kerry aides and fund-raisers plan to capitalize on their victories in Tuesday's elections by starting a 20-city fund-raising tour in the weeks ahead. Some fund-raisers say they hope the effort will yield at least $20 million. ...

Democratic strategists said the Kerry campaign would probably rely on advertisements paid for by the Democratic Party and independent outside groups to counter the Bush messages. Counting on those outside groups could be risky because some organizations are prohibited from coordinating with the campaign itself, so their messages may not be consistent. -- Kerry Faces a New Climb: Bush's Mountain of Cash

At the same time, Kerry's aides say he brought in a record $1.2 million over the Internet in less than 24 hours after locking up the Democratic presidential nomination with a near-sweep of the Super Tuesday primaries and caucuses.

They cite that as evidence the Massachusetts senator can raise additional millions quickly and compete financially with Bush through this summer's political conventions. Federal spending restrictions take effect for the general election campaign in the fall. -- Kerry Lags Behind Bush in Fund Raising (AP)

March 3, 2004

FEC reports record fundraising

Congressional campaign fundraising totaled $390.1 million in 2003, an increase of 32.2% when compared to 2001, as reflected in year-end reports analyzed by the Federal Election Commission (FEC). This is the first year of fundraising under the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (BCRA), often referred to as the McCain-Feingold bill. One of the changes in the new law doubled the individual contribution limit to $2,000 per candidate per election.

Much of the increase was found in U.S. Senate campaigns, where candidates raised a total of $166.7 million in 2003, up 72% from 2001 levels. During 2003 Senate candidates reported disbursements of $66.5 million, more than twice what was spent during the off year of the previous cycle. Senate candidates ended 2003 with a cash balance of $153.3 million. -- FEC News Release

Fannie Mae, RNC settle suit with FEC

The Federal Election Commission (FEC) has entered into conciliation agreements with the Republican National Committee (RNC), the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), and the Federal National Mortgage Association ("Fannie Mae") resolving violations of the Federal Election Campaign Act (the Act).

The conciliation agreement resulted in total civil penalties of $132,000. Fannie Mae will pay $10,000, the NRSC will pay $24,000, and the RNC will pay a penalty of $98,000.

The Commission found that certain donations from Fannie Mae during the period from 1998 through 2000 were made to or deposited in nonfederal accounts of the party committees that were not "building funds." The Act prohibits contributions or expenditures from Congressionally chartered corporations in connection with any election. The law in effect at the time provided for a specific exception for contributions to building fund accounts. -- FEC News Release

More controversy in Ireland over e-voting

In response to feedback from society members and the general public on the ICS's [Irish Computer Society] statement of 20 February regarding electronic voting, the ICS Council has appointed a panel of serving and former Council members to consider the points raised and review its position. -- Irish Computer Society calls for audit trail in e-voting system (Politics.ie)


The Fine Gael Leader, Enda Kenny T.D., today challenged the Taoiseach on the exclusion of the Ombudsman from the Commission announced to examine and report on the accuracy and secrecy of the proposed new Electronic Voting system. The Taoiseach refused to give the reasons behind the omission of the Ombudsman, despite the inclusion of other members of the Standards in Public Office Commission on the new body.

"The exclusion of the Ombudsman from this new Commission is the latest in a line of decisions by this Government that undermines rather than reinforces confidence in the new Electronic Voting system for June. At every stage of the rushed process to introduce a new voting system this Government have acted in a way that raises questions about their handling of the matter." -- E-Voting : Kenny Challenges Taoiseach on Exclusion of Ombudsman from New Voting Commission (Politics.ie)

A little translation is in order. The Taoiseach is the Prime Minister. T.D.'s are members of the lower house of parliament.

Electronic voting problems reported from Super Tuesday

Frozen screens and malfunctioning computers plagued some Super Tuesday voters who tried to cast electronic ballots, and experts predict such problems will be repeated on a national scale in November. ...

Kimball Brace, president of Washington, D.C.-based political consulting firm Election Data Services, said it's unrealistic to expect thousands of poll workers nationwide to get up to speed on complicated equipment immediately.

"Eventually, things will go smoother, but the first couple times will have bugs, no matter what system you switch to," Brace said.

In November, at least 50 million people will vote on touch screens, compared with 55 million using paper, punch cards or lever machines, according to Election Data Services. --
Snafus Aplenty in E-Voting (AP)

Court starts work on Georgia redistricting plan

When court-appointed redistricting experts draw new election districts for state House and Senate seats, they will not take into account where incumbents live, according to an order filed Tuesday.

The three federal judges overseeing the crafting of new legislative maps said the House plan could include some supersized districts represented by more than one person — but only if they did not cause an imbalance in population.

The judges wrote that courts are "forbidden" to consider politics, so "the protection of incumbents [has] no place in a [legislative] plan formulated by the courts." ...

Even though the court's experts started working Monday on new districts, the judges stressed again that the Legislature should keep trying to come up with its own maps. -- Lawmakers, court's experts work on remap (Atlanta Journal Constitution)

Indians will control Buffalo County, SD


The majority population of Buffalo county will now have a say in how the county is run, thanks to a court settlement.

For the first time in decades, Buffalo county could be under the control of the large number of American Indians that populate the county. The Crow Creek Reservation is largely in Buffalo county. It is the poorest county in the United States. ...

"The districts for county commissioners were unequal. All Indians were placed in one district, the other two controlled by whites," said Bryan Sells, staff attorney for the ACLU. ...

"After the next election all the commissioners will be tribal members," said Duane Big Eagle, chairman of the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe.

In the new drawing the highest district will have 90 percent American Indian and the lowest, 65 percent. -- Court Settlement Gives Buffalo County, S.D., Control over Reservation (Knight Ridder/Tribune wire

Arizona redistricting commission chairman criticizes plan just adopted

The Tucson area has a new map of proposed legislative districts - but won't for long if the people who drew the map have anything to say about it.

The Arizona's Independent Redistricting Commission approved the map Monday, but only because a judge had ordered it to create more "swing" districts that do not heavily favor either party.

The commission plans to appeal the order by Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Kenneth Fields.

The new state map doubles the number of swing districts to eight, including two in Tucson.

"I don't like the maps at all," said the chairman of the commission, Tucsonan Steve Lynn. "They do significant harm to the things we should be taking into account, primarily the communities of interest. Our hope is that this map and this methodology will be overturned." Redrawn legislative map adds 'swing' areas(Tucson Citizen)

The article is wrong in one particular: the Commission has already appealed Judge Fields' order.

The Web version is not necessarily the Print version

The New York Times Online is not the same as the New York Times. The same holds true for the web sites of the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, and the Wall Street Journal. To be sure, many of the stories are the same and the newspaper's banner may appear atop the Web page. But according to online editors at all the news organizations, online users are reading a different publication than the ink-and-paper product. -- CJR Campaign Desk

This long story has a lot of interesting details about the way in which online and print editions of the major papers are put together.

Who counts but cannot vote?

In the University of Pennsylvania Law Review, Rosanna Taormina describes how disenfranchisement “laws affect the constitutionality of redistricting procedures in state and federal elections” and calls on Congress or the Court to “protect law-abiding citizens from state legislatures that unfairly take advantage of the existence of a disenfranchised population.” Her article is Defying One-Person, One-Vote: Prisoners and the "Usual Residence" Principle. She argues,

At year end 2002, the Department of Justice estimated that 6.7 million people were on probation, in jail or prison, or on parole—one in every thirty-two adults.108 The Census Bureau also determined that approximately two million people resided in correctional institutions at the time of the 2000 Census.109 Although these individuals cannot vote in most states, they are nonetheless included in the population figures used to calculate the size and location of congressional districts throughout the state. The number of prisoners, in effect, inflates the population of the congressional district in which they are counted. As a result, an individual’s vote in a rural congressional district that contains a densely populated correctional institution is weighted more heavily than an individual’s vote in a prisonless district. 110 The inflation of one citizen’s voting power at the expense of another’s is precisely what the Supreme Court’s one-person, one-vote jurisprudence forbids.

Thanks to Marc Mauer of the Sentencing Project for the link.

British campaign for prisoners' voting rights

A campaign has been lauched to try to overturn a 134-year-old law which deprives prisoners of the vote.

Mark Oaten is backing the campaign
Politicians from the three major parties were joined by church leaders and prison reform groups in the call to reverse the ban.

Mark Oaten, Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, said: "If we want people to return to their communities as law-abiding citizens, we must encourage them to play a positive part in shaping their futures by their own efforts and commitment."

He was joined in calls to restore the vote by Peter Bottomley, a former Conservative minister, and senior Labour MP David Winnick. Ex-offenders' charity Unlock and the Prison Reform Trust are also backing the campaign. -- Prisoners 'should be allowed to vote' (Telegraph)

Thanks to Marc Mauer of the Sentencing Project for the link.

March 2, 2004

Phipps sentenced to four years

A judge sentenced former state Agriculture Commissioner Meg Scott Phipps to four years in federal prison Tuesday for her role in taking more than $82,500 in illegal campaign contributions from state fair carnival operators.

U.S. District Judge Malcolm Howard also ordered Phipps, 48, whose father and grandfather were North Carolina governors, to pay a $25,000 fine and serve two years of supervised probation following her release.

Phipps, a Democrat, previously had agreed to forfeit $25,000 that the government said she received illegally. -- Phipps sentenced to four years for campaign finance scandal (AP)

MoveOn will run ads attacking Bush

A Democratic-leaning online group will run television commercials in Wisconsin and 16 other presidential battleground states starting Thursday to counter President Bush's multimillion-dollar advertising blitz that will begin the same day.

The MoveOn.org Voter Fund has been airing commercials assailing Bush for months in several swing states, but this $1.9 million, five-day effort will be its most far-reaching. The ads will ensure there is a Democratic presence on the TV airwaves in key states as Bush begins to make his case for re-election. ...

Ed Gillespie, chairman of the Republican National Committee, issued a statement saying MoveOn's plans indicate among Democrats "a willingness to blatantly violate the new campaign finance laws."

"Coordinating ad strategy with a presidential campaign and using non-federal dollars to pay for ads to defeat a candidate for federal office is a defiant, knowing and willful violation of the law," Gillespie said. "Does John Kerry believe the law he voted for is meant to be broken?"

Stephanie Cutter, Kerry's spokeswoman, said the campaign has not coordinated with MoveOn or any other outside group. -- MoveOn.org Voter Fund to provide Democratic voice when Bush ads air (AP)

Colorado GOP proposes restrictions on court redistricting

Republican lawmakers, still fuming about a congressional redistricting battle, gave committee approval Monday to a bill that would tell the courts what to consider if they draw new boundary lines again.

More importantly, the bill would tell the courts what they couldn't consider: political party registration and election performance. Those are two factors that a Denver judge considered in 2002 when he approved the current boundary lines, said Sen. Doug Lamborn, a Colorado Springs Republican.

Lamborn's bill outlining the six factors courts could consider was approved on a 4-3 party-line vote in the Senate State Affairs Committee.

Sen. Moe Keller, a Wheat Ridge Democrat, questioned why it was OK for the legislature, but not the courts, to look at party affiliations in redistricting. -- GOP sets boundaries (Rocky Mountain News)

Party registration and electoral performance are exactly what the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission must consider (in addition to several other factors). See the story posted a few positions below.

Federal bill to ban mid-decade redistricting

A week away from Texas' first elections under redrawn congressional districts, a Houston Democrat has introduced a federal bill that would prohibit mid-decade redistricting.

Rep. Gene Green, a Houston Democrat, said Tuesday that mid-decade redistricting has "become a gross abuse of power in our current political climate."

He has introduced a bill that would limit redistricting, the redrawing of political voting boundaries to adjust for population shifts, to once a decade.

The bill was introduced late last week and all members of Texas Democratic congressional delegation are co-sponsoring the bill. -- Texas lawmaker proposes ban on mid-decade redistricting (AP)

The bill is HR 3856. It would add the following language to 2 USC 2c:

A State which has been redistricted in the manner provided by law after an apportionment under section 22(a) of the Act entitled `An Act to provide for the fifteenth and subsequent decennial censuses and to provide for an apportionment of Representatives in Congress', approved June 18, 1929 (2 U.S.C. 2a), may not be redistricted again until after the next apportionment of Representatives under such section, unless a Federal court requires the State to conduct such subsequent redistricting to comply with the Constitution or to enforce the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (42 U.S.C. 1973 et seq.).'.

Arizona commission approves new legislative districts

Working under protest, the Independent Redistricting Commission approved new legislative maps late Monday, doubling the number of competitive "swing" districts to eight.

A judge ruled in January that the previous maps were unconstitutional, saying that not enough of the state's 30 districts were competitive. Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Kenneth Fields gave the commission until Friday to redraw the map.

"These maps are promising," said Michael Mandell, attorney for the Arizona Minority Coalition, which backed the court challenge. "The fact that the commission was able to increase the number of competitive districts by 100 percent shows the judge was right in ruling that the commission failed to favor competitiveness." ...

The new maps have 13 "safe" Republican-leaning districts, nine Democratic districts and eight competitive districts.

The competitive districts are evenly split, with Democrats and Republicans holding a slight advantage in four each. -- New legislative maps drawn up (Arizona Republic)

However, the plan drew a mixed reaction in the northern part of the state.

Flagstaff-area officials said they like the proposed map because it would put their area in a district with Mohave County communities, not with the much more populous Navajo Reservation. That would give Flagstaff an improved chance of seeing lawmakers elected from that area.

However, a Navajo Nation official criticized the change, saying the swap of Flagstaff for Kingman would slightly reduce the percentage of voting-age American Indians in the Navajos' district.

That percentage already is significantly below the percentage of voting-age American Indians in the 1990s map that included the Navajo Reservation, Chief of Staff Leonard Gorman said. -- Map panel cuts Flag ties to Rez (Arizona Daily Sun)

FEC proposal on 527's

The general counsel's office of the Federal Election Commission has proposed new rules that would threaten plans by Democratic strategists to build a "shadow party" to mobilize voters and run ads this year, according to lawyers and political operatives.

The proposed regulations -- subject to revision by the FEC over a three-month rulemaking process -- deal with "527" groups, named for the section of the tax code that governs their activities. These groups are allowed to raise and spend "soft money" on campaign activities once handled by the political parties. Democrats have been more active in raising money for the 527 groups, while Republicans have been more successful at raising "hard money" for individual candidates. -- FEC to Consider 'Soft Money' Curbs (washingtonpost.com)

March 1, 2004

"Trust no one"

More than two centuries of elections in the United States have resulted in paper-based voting systems secured by a multitude of checks and procedures. New electronic voting systems require voters to trust computers and the people who program them, a trust that computer security experts say is unwarranted.

The subject is not hypothetical. Millions of voters will cast ballots on electronic machines today in the biggest test so far of the technology. To address security concerns, researchers are proposing new ways of voting that do not require voter trust in people or software.

"A trustworthy system of elections must rest on one central principle: trust no one," said Dr. Douglas W. Jones, a professor of computer science at the University of Iowa and a member of the Iowa Board of Examiners for Voting Machines and Electronic Voting Systems. -- Did Your Vote Count? New Coded Ballots May Prove It Did (New York Times)

The article describes several proposals for electronic systems that would provide increased security for electronic voting.

More security tomorrow

With a record number of voters casting electronic ballots on Super Tuesday, election officials from California to Maryland are beefing up security to prevent problems ranging from software glitches to hackers.

In California, new security measures range from random tests of touch-screen machines by independent computer experts to a recommendation that poll workers prevent voters from carrying cell phones or other wireless devices into voting booths.

At least 10 million people in at least two dozen states are expected to cast primary ballots on machines built by Diebold, Sequoia Voting Systems, Electronic Systems & Software and other vendors.

And the electronic voting trend is accelerating: By November's presidential election, at least 50 million people will vote on touch-screens, compared with 55 million using paper, punch cards or lever machines, according to Washington-based Election Data Services. -- Security Increased for Tuesday's E-Voting (AP)

Finneran's sensitive side

The portrait of House Speaker Thomas M. Finneran that emerged from the written decision last week in the federal redistricting case was one of a duplicitous "political powerhouse" who had sacrificed minority political advancement on the altar of incumbent protection.

It was a very different Finneran in his office Friday morning. The ruling, it appeared, troubled him relatively little. The implication that his machinations had been guided by racial insensitivity, that was quite a different matter.

"It's bothering me a great deal," he said, as he choked up, eyes watering. "It's bothering me a lot.

"Race has never, ever been a factor in my life. My neighbors, where I choose to live, what I've done in that district, and the inferences created by that decision -- I don't know if it's a defeat, but it's bothering the [expletive] out of me." -- To Finneran, it crosses line (Boston Globe)

Georgia fails to pass redistricting plan

Turmoil among Democrats was blamed for the Legislature missing a court-imposed deadline for drawing new district lines Monday.

A federal panel of judges ordered new state House and Senate district maps last month, siding with Republicans who sued over the maps. The court said it wanted a proposal for new districts by March 1.

The Senate, now led by Republicans, easily passed its new map, but the House delayed a vote on its new maps several times. Democratic leaders insisted they had enough support to pass a new map, but wanted to proceed slowly so they wouldn't make any errors. ...

[Democratic] Party leaders conceded they couldn't make the March 1 deadline but said the court would probably accept a new map as long as they finished it within a week or so. -- Deadline Passes With No House Map (AP)

NC Black Caucus attacks redistricting plan in court

Having struck out with the NC Supreme Court in its effort oppose the latest legislative redistricting plans, the NC Black Leadership Caucus (NCBLC) is now going to federal court, arguing that the Democrat-drawn maps decimate majority-Black voting districts, and put Black representation in the General Assembly at risk. ...

A three-judge panel is reviewing the redistricting maps per a Republican lawsuit alleging that Democrats illegally slashed Black voting populations in several majority-minority districts, shifting those voters to predominately white Democratic districts, in order to protect white Democrats against GOP challengers.

If the panel finds evidence of “retrogression,” neither the maps nor the delayed primary schedule will be approved by the Justice officials. -- LEADERSHIP CAUCUS GOES TO COURT (Wilmington Journal)

Wisconsin Campaign Finance Project

If you are interested in public financing of politican campaigns at the state and local level, look at The Wisconsin Campaign Finance Project.

Our purpose is to provide researchers with authoritative data on public election funding programs throughout the U.S. We focus on state legislative races and the New York City Council. As of February 2004, we have posted campaign spending and election data for Arizona, Hawaii (partial), Maine, Minnesota, Nebraska, New York City, and Wisconsin. We will update the data frequently.