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

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May 31, 2004

Campaigns without internal controls may find the checks are being embezzled and balances are going down

From Hawaii to Delaware, more and more candidates and political action committees are becoming victims of embezzlers. As record amounts of money are donated to political groups, the temptation to steal is greater than ever.

House and Senate campaigns have become multimillion-dollar enterprises, but the money going in and out is often controlled by one person -- usually a trusted aide or friend of the candidate who works as the campaign treasurer. And financial controls, commonplace in business, are frequently nonexistent in the world of politics.

Campaign embezzlers can go undetected for years. And when they're caught, it's a problem members of Congress and political committees would rather not publicize. -- Campaigns Catching Hands in the Till (Los Angeles Times)

One of the Times' typically good articles with lots of examples.

California 3-strikes law to face the voters

A Sacramento insurance broker has spent $1.56 million in an effort to qualify an initiative for the November ballot that would weaken California's three-strikes law and could lead to the release of the man's son, who is serving an eight-year prison sentence for a car crash that killed two people.

Jerry Keenan spent the money to gather petition signatures to place the initiative on the ballot, the Los Angeles Times reported Monday, citing campaign finance records. Keenan declined to discuss the issue.

Both proponents and opponents of the effort say they expect the initiative to qualify for the ballot within the next few days. -- AP Wire | 05/31/2004 | California insurance broker spends $1.56 million to weaken Three-Strikes law (AP via Monterey Herald)

Mississippi Governor vetoes campaign finance bill

THUMBS DOWN: To Gov. Haley Barbour, who torpedoed several months' worth of outstanding work by state lawmakers Friday when he vetoed an important campaign finance reform bill.

In the process, Barbour has effectually ended any efforts this year to revamp Mississippi's campaign finance laws.

House Bill 1244 would have initiated a number of important reforms. In particular, it would have required political candidates to disclose the source of loans to their campaigns, and required all nonprofit groups that name candidates in their political ads to disclose the source of contributions of $200 or more.

But Barbour found fault with one particular provision in the bill - the requirement that would have limited what businesses can give to political action committees. -- Governor vetoes key reform bill (

Foreign money may flow to 527's

A crucial omission by the drafters of the new campaign-finance law and the Federal Election Commission's (FEC) decision not to regulate 527 and other tax-exempt groups this year may have opened the door for foreign nationals to contribute millions of dollars that could influence the election, experts in campaign-finance law say.

Several prominent election-law lawyers say a loophole may allow foreign citizens to make unlimited donations to 527s and 501(c)4s, both named after the sections of the tax code under which they are organized. ...

A large infusion of foreign money could significantly alter the relative power and influence of emerging soft-money organizations, and maybe even the balance of federal races, giving independent operators the incentive to accept hundreds of thousands, or millions, of dollars from foreigners.

While well-connected operatives such as former Clinton adviser Harold Ickes, who is heading the liberal Media Fund, or former Rep. Bill Paxon (R-N.Y.), vice president of the conservative Leadership Forum, would likely avoid the controversy of accepting foreign money, low-profile rivals struggling to raise soft money may be tempted to vault quickly into political power. -- Overseas campaign cash OK (The

Congratulations, Henry

Henry Flores, a political scientist at St. Mary's University [in San Antonio, Texas] for more than 20 years, has been named dean of the graduate school.

Flores, whose term begins Tuesday, has been an expert witness in more than 50 voting rights cases and has a special focus on redistricting and reapportionment.

He is the author of scholarly articles on urban politics, elections, Hispanic politics and voting rights. Flores was director of the graduate programs in political science and public administration at St. Mary's. --

New Hampshire Supreme Court stays candidate qualifying to consider redistricting suit

The [New Hampshire] Supreme Court yesterday issued an injunction blocking candidates for the House and Senate from filing for office.

The filing period was set to begin Wednesday at 8 a.m. and end June 11 at 5 p.m.

Democrats filed suit Thursday against Secretary of State William Gardner, seeking to stop him from conducting the 2004 elections under new House and Senate districts redrawn this past session.

Three bills passed this year changing the political boundaries of some House and Senate districts. The bill redrawing the political boundaries for nine Senate districts was signed by Gov. Craig Benson yesterday.

Democrats claim the changes favor incumbents and lower the number of districts where they could be competitive. -- Court blocks candidate filings over redistricting (Manchester Union Leader)

Thanks to Jeff Wice for the link.

May 30, 2004

California Governor proposes cuts to FPPC budget

The state agency that polices the flow of money into California political campaigns has been targeted for deep cuts by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, even as the agency is looking into the governors' own use of campaign funds.

The cuts could force the Fair Political Practices Commission, formed in the aftermath of Watergate, to halt investigations. And watchdog groups that have criticized the agency as toothless in the past are now rushing to its defense.

"The public should take pause when elected officials are significantly cutting an agency that watches over their behavior," said Andy Draheim, spokesman for California Common Cause.

The controversy is erupting at a time when more money is flowing into state politics than ever. Ballot initiative campaigns with tabs of $10 million are routine. Once-obscure groups such as the state prison guards union have won significant contract gains. And Indian tribes flush with cash from casinos have been using it to curry favor in the Capitol as they seek to expand their gambling operations. -- Cuts at FPPC May Halt Probes (Los Angeles Times)

Former Alabama Governor indicted

Former [Alabama] Gov. Don Siegelman and his chief of staff conspired to rig bids and steer a multimillion-dollar contract to care for poor pregnant women to a Siegelman supporter in Tuscaloosa, according to a federal indictment returned Thursday in Birmingham.

A grand jury indicted Siegelman and Paul Hamrick, along with Tuscaloosa physician Phillip Kelley Bobo, on charges of conspiracy, health care fraud and theft from a federally funded program.

Bobo faces additional charges of perjury, making a false statement to the FBI, wire fraud and witness tampering.

Siegelman and Hamrick are accused of having $550,000 moved from the Special Education Trust Fund to the State Fire College in Tuscaloosa so Bobo could attempt to use that money through bogus contracts to offer payoffs to a competitor in the Maternity Care Program bid process. ...

The charges stem from an earlier prosecution against Bobo on charges he conspired to fraudulently secure a contract to provide maternity care, using means similar to those described in the current indictment. Bobo was convicted in 2001 and sentenced to 27 months in prison.

A federal appeals court tossed out the conviction, saying the government's indictment lacked specifics on what prosecutors contended was criminal about Bobo's conduct. Bobo's medical license subsequently was restored.

Bobo's lawyers called the new charges "outrageous," and said the indictment "primarily follows the same script and scenario used previously, which the 11th Circuit rejected on appeal."

"Much of the charge contained in the new indictment is due to be thrown out under the principle of double jeopardy," his lawyers said. -- Siegelman indicted (Birmingham News).

See also TIMELINE: Building a case against a governor

Here is the indictement and the prosecutor's press release.

Siegelman and I were friends in college and have remained friends to this day.

Frist raising money for GOP candidates

Bill Frist has taken advantage of his position as the top Republican in the Senate to build a vast network of campaign donors that could provide a solid base of financial support for a 2008 presidential run.

Since rising to Senate majority leader in January 2003, Frist has raked in more than $2.7 million through March 31 for his leadership political action committee, Volunteer PAC. That is the second-highest total among such committees. By comparison, Frist's PAC ranked 60th in total fund raising at the close of the 1999-2000 election cycle.

"One of the reasons he's able to raise a lot of money is he's one of the people being talked about for 2008," said John Geer, an expert on campaign finance at Vanderbilt University. "A lot of people think he'd be a very formidable candidate" for the presidency. -- Frist PAC funneling funds to aid GOP (Gannett News Service via

Candidate tries to stiff printer by claiming an unreported campaign contribution

Larry "Kite" Johnson said he will probably appeal a Justice Court decision that he pay a Carroll County [Mississippi] printing company for campaign materials the Leflore County supervisor used during last year's campaign.

Justice Court Judge James L. Littleton Thursday ordered Johnson to pay Mississippi Printing Co. $1,092.18 and $54 in court fees in a lawsuit filed by the firm's owner, Robert Hardin Jr.

Hardin said he printed 15,000 campaign cards for Johnson in July of 2003 and never received a payment. ...

Johnson claimed that the cards were a donation to his campaign and that Hardin did not send him a bill for more than eight months after the work was done.

Although the law requires that any campaign contribution over $200 be recorded in the candidate's campaign finance report, Johnson said he did not report Mississippi Printing's contribution because he was not made aware of the cost of the cards the company printed for him. -- Supervisor likely to appeal decision on printing charges (Greenwood Commonwealth)

Republican Governors Association is a biggest GOP 527

The Republican Governors Association, chaired by Ohio Gov. Bob Taft, doesn't get much attention because it doesn't contribute to federal campaigns.

But consider this: In 2003, an off year for federal elections, it raised more money than any other "soft money" political committee - even more than two of the best-known groups, the left-leaning Media Fund and Voter Fund.

All told, it's the third largest of the so-called "527" political committees now bombarding the airwaves with ads, and the largest one to support Republicans.

This year, the committee raised more than $5 million in the first quarter in what it hopes will be a record-breaking year - thanks in part to its new chairman. -- GOP governors show influence (

Judge accused of hiding campaign loan from her partner

A [California] Superior Court judge convicted of misdemeanor drunk driving last year now faces eight misdemeanor campaign finance charges as the result of a disputed loan that came to light during her first trial.

Judge Diana R. Hall was to be arraigned Tuesday in Santa Maria Superior Court on charges of failing to properly report a $20,000 campaign loan prosecutors say she received from her domestic partner, Deidra Dykeman, during her 2002 re-election campaign. ...

The $20,000 came to light during trial testimony that Hall had reported it as a loan from herself in order to keep her relationship with Dykeman private.

Prosecutors say Hall deposited a check from Dykeman into her bank account, then used the money as part of a $25,000 loan she made from herself to her campaign. They say she also failed to report that she was repaying Dykeman by covering her lover's share of their monthly mortgage payments. -- Judge convicted of drunk driving now charged with campaign violations (AP via

Ohio fails to regulate outside groups' judicial ads

The Ohio House approved 32 bills on Wednesday in a final whirlwind session before lawmakers bolted town for a long summer break. ...

But when voters are watching what is sure to be a seemingly endless string of political ads this fall, they are likely to be reminded of the bill that didn't pass.

Legislation that would finally allow Ohioans to learn who is paying for all those nasty Supreme Court ads run by third-party issue advocacy groups was bottled up in a House committee for the last remaining weeks before the summer break.

For those not familiar with these groups -- they are the ones responsible for Ohio leading the nation in spending on state Supreme Court races. They collect unlimited anonymous donations and run scathing ads that often distort a court candidate's judicial record. -- Lack of action means more anonymous Supreme Court ads (Gannett News Service via

Ohio county GOP turns down money

As Republican parties in surrounding counties raise hundreds of thousands of dollars through fund-raising tactics employed by powerful politicians, Licking County [Ohio] GOP leaders want none of it.

At least not anymore. ...

And while big campaign donations continue to flow into rural GOP operations in Muskingum, Perry and Hocking counties, the checks stopped coming to Licking County nearly two years ago. At the end of April, county GOP officials emptied the last $14,000 from their state candidate fund.

"I really don't like the state candidate fund," said Curtis Johnson, who took over as county GOP chairman in June 2002. "I think it's only an excuse to skirt campaign finance laws." -- Licking GOP stops state fund-raising (

Trips on Air Force One -- guess who pays

President Bush is using Air Force One for re-election travel more heavily than any predecessor, wringing maximum political mileage from a perk of office paid for by taxpayers.

While Democratic rival John Kerry digs into his campaign bank account to charter a plane to roam the country, Bush often travels at no cost to his campaign simply by declaring a trip "official" travel rather than "political."

Even when the White House deems a trip as political, the cost to Bush's campaign is minimal. In such instances, the campaign must only pay the government the equivalent of a comparable first-class fare for each political traveler on each leg, Federal Election Commission guidelines say.

Usually, that means paying a few hundred or a few thousand dollars for the president and a handful of aides. It's a minuscule sum, compared to the $56,800-per-hour the Air Force estimates it costs to run Air Force One. -- Bush enjoys travel advantage on taxpayer-financed Air Force One (AP via

Open Source Voting

Electronic voting has much to offer, but will we ever be able to trust these buggy machines? Yes, we will -- but only if we adopt the techniques of the ''open source'' geeks.

One reason it's difficult to trust the voting software of companies like Diebold is that the source code remains a trade secret. A few federally approved software experts are allowed to examine the code and verify that it works as intended, and in some cases, states are allowed to keep a copy in escrow. But the public has no access, and this is troublesome. When the Diebold source code was accidentally posted online last year, a computer-science professor looked at it and found it was dangerously hackable. Diebold may have fixed its bugs, but since the firm won't share the code publicly, there's no way of knowing. Just trust us, the company says.

But is the counting of votes -- a fundamental of democracy -- something you want to take on faith? No, this problem requires a more definitive solution: ending the secrecy around the machines.

First off, the government should ditch the private-sector software makers. Then it should hire a crack team of programmers to write new code. Then -- and this is the crucial part -- it should put the source code online publicly, where anyone can critique or debug it. This honors the genius of the open-source movement. If you show something to a large enough group of critics, they'll notice (and find a way to remove) almost any possible flaw. If tens of thousands of programmers are scrutinizing the country's voting software, it's highly unlikely a serious bug will go uncaught. The government's programming team would then take the recommendations, incorporate them into an improved code and put that online, too. This is how the famous programmer Linus Torvalds developed his Linux operating system, and that's precisely why it's so rock solid -- while Microsoft's secretly developed operating systems, Linux proponents say, crash far more often and are easier to hack. Already, Australians have used the open-source strategy to build voting software for a state election, and it ran like a well-oiled Chevy. A group of civic-minded programmers known as the Open Voting Consortium has written its own open-source code. -- Idea Lab: A Really Open Election (New York Times) **

Leadership Forum promotes its ties to GOP leadership

In a bid to overcome GOP donors' reluctance to contribute large amounts of "soft money," the pro-Republican Leadership Forum has begun promoting its ties to House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) and other prominent party leaders.

The Leadership Forum, along with Progress for America, the Club for Growth and the Republican Governors Association, is engaged in a hurried drive to try to catch up with the millions of dollars already raised and spent by pro-Democratic groups.

But Hastert's involvement -- along with that of Sen. Rick Santorum (Pa.), chairman of the Senate Republican Conference -- appears to run counter to a warning issued two years ago by the Federal Election Commission that the group was too closely linked to GOP lawmakers, according to campaign watchdog groups.

Many corporations and wealthy individuals have shied away from contributing to these groups, known as "527s" for the section of the tax code governing their activities -- fearing they might violate campaign finance law. Even after the FEC's May 13 decision to put off adopting tough new regulations on soft-money fundraising and spending, some of these donors have held back. -- Soft-Money Group Promotes Ties to GOP Leaders Despite Warnings (

"Unclean money"

Roy S. Moore's coattails would not seem to have much to recommend them. He is not on any ballot. He is, by his own description, unemployed. He was booted from his last job, chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, by an ethics panel.

But a group of candidates in the June 1 Republican primaries in Alabama is scrambling to show devotion to Mr. Moore, who became a hero to many Christian conservatives last year when he refused to remove a monument to the Ten Commandments from the rotunda of the state courthouse. Mr. Moore is appearing in other people's campaign commercials. He is quoted in their brochures. And on the trail, candidates wear glinting lapel pins in the shape of two stone tablets. ...

But the Business Council of Alabama, which supports Justice Brown, opposes the Moore slate. And the business council's traditional antagonists, the trial lawyers, have poured nearly $1 million into the coffers of the three Moore advocates running for the Supreme Court, said the Alabama Civil Justice Reform Committee, a group in favor of tort reform. The trial lawyers generally do not spend much money in Republican primaries. A spokesman for the Alabama Trial Lawyers Association did not return calls for comment.

Dr. Larry Powell, a professor at the University of Alabama, Birmingham who studies political campaigns, said that alliance was a marriage of convenience: the trial lawyers, he said, were spoilers trying to help candidates more likely to lose in the general election. And the public will not much care whom the candidates took money from, he said. "It just cuts into their credibility in terms of their ideological purity within the party itself," he said.

John W. Giles, president of the Christian Coalition of Alabama, said he was disappointed by the contributions. "I have told them all along that if they take this money they are no longer the Judge Roy Moore slate; they will be publicized as the personal injury trial lawyers' slate," he said. "These are very fine Christian people and they are my friends, but they're taking unclean money." -- The Big Name in Alabama's Primary Isn't on the Ballot (New York Times)

Correction to the Arizona redistricting story

Doug Johnson, one of the expert witnesses for the Arizona Redistricting Commission emailed me, "The AP writer whose article ran in the AZ Republic has a key detail (and thus most of his story) wrong. Rather than the lines used in 2002, the Appeals Court decision removes the stay on the plan adopted by the IRC in August 2002 for use in the 2004 election. These are NOT the lines used in the 2002 election."

You can't tell the players without a program. In 2001 the IRC adopted a plan to be used in the 2002 election. When the Justice Department denied preclearance, the IRC and the Minority Coaliation agreed on an interim plan to be used in the 2002 elections only. In 2002 the Commission adopted a plan for use in 2004-2010. The Minority Coalition again attacked the plan, and Judge Fields held it unconstitutional. The IRC adopted another plan for use in 2004 but appealed. The DOJ has not yet precleared the newest plan

So the choice for the Appeals Court was either to use the precleared plan or the unprecleared plan. Easy choice.

Arizona will elect its next legislators using district lines that a lower court judge found unconstitutional.

The Arizona Court of Appeals on Friday agreed to stay an order issued in January that forced the Independent Redistricting Commission to recraft the boundaries it had established for this year's elections.

Judge Donn Kessler, writing for the three-judge panel, said there just isn't any more time to wait to see whether the new lines, crafted under protest by the commission following the trial judge's order, will get the necessary approval from the U.S. Department of Justice.

Friday's order, unless overturned soon, will affect the makeup of the Legislature for the next two years. That is because the revised maps -- the ones awaiting federal approval -- are considered by some to be more favorable to Democrats than the current ones that the appellate court ordered to be used, the ones that were used in the 2002 election. -- Appeals Court sends Flag back to Rez (Arizona Daily Sun)

The headline refers to the inclusion of Flagstaff in the same district with the Navajo Reservation.

May 29, 2004

American Taxpayers Alliance supports two judicial candidates in Alabama

A conservative advocacy group running television and radio ads supporting two candidates for the Alabama Supreme Court has not registered with the state, and the ads do not provide information about the group as required by state law.

But an attorney for the American Taxpayers Alliance said the commercials about judges Mike Bolin and Patti M. Smith are legal because they do not "expressly advocate" the election of the two candidates.

"I don't think there is anything in this ad that would be considered express advocacy," said Alan P. Dye, a Washington-based attorney for the alliance. ...

The ad does not mention any of the candidates' opponents. But an expert on political advertising said the ad's intent is clear, regardless of the group's claims that it is not an advocacy ad.

"I'm sorry, but that's still a political ad, and it's still a positive political ad," said Karen Cartee, a professor of advertising, public relations and speech communication at the University of Alabama. "I think that the lawyer needs to check up on the law. That clearly would be considered a positive spot endorsing someone." -- Secretive conservative group runs ads for Bolin, Smith (AP via

I caught the TV ad the other evening, and I sure thought it was a candidate-sponsored ad.

Notice these two candidates are opponents of the "Ten Commandments slate" mentioned in the post just below this one.

Trial lawyers support Alabama Republican judicial candidates

The so-called "Ten Commandments slate" of candidates for the Alabama Supreme Court apparently heeded an 11th directive while raising funds for Tuesday's Republican primary: Thou shalt get thy money from trial lawyers.

Seven high-profile law firms that specialize in suing big corporations — and typically support Democrats — contributed $935,000 to the campaigns of Republicans Tom Parker, Pam Baschab and Jerry Stokes, according to an Associated Press review of campaign finance disclosures filed Thursday.

The lawyers did not give directly to the candidates' campaigns. Instead, they gave money to a series of political action committees, or PACs, which in turn donated to other PACs that passed the money along to the candidates.

The gifts made up significant portions of the three candidates' bankrolls — about 44 percent in Parker's case, and more than 98 percent in the cases of Baschab and Stokes. -- Parker, Baschab, Stokes get nearly $1 million from trial lawyers (AP via

A collaborative encyclopedia of political issues

Daily Kos, one of the most read weblogs, announced Friday.

Ahh, this is a cool day in dKos history -- a team of Kosmopolitans has put together the dKosopedia -- a Daily Kos wiki.

I can almost hear you all thinking, "what the heck is a wiki?" It's a collaborative website that will allow this community to build a political encyclopedia (from a liberal standpoint, of course). In short, anyone will be able to contribute encyclopedia entries on a variety of political subjects. ...

We hope the dKosopedia will become the progressive-political version of the Wikipedia, a political FAQ so to speak -- a repository of answers to questions such as "how do I calculate a Margin of Error", and "How are superdelegates selected?" and "What is a 527?". It's currently just a skeletal shell, but we hope it'll grow into a main resource for community members and the general public at large. That's where you guys come into play.

Looks pretty interesting. Of course, everybody who reads this weblog knows something interesting in the political realm. So, if you are progressive, add something to the DKosopedia.

Candidates on the wrong ballots

Jefferson County [Alabama] officials are reprinting Democratic primary ballots and resetting voting machines at 185 locations for Tuesday's vote after an error involving a county school board seat.

The election in question is for the Jefferson County Board of Education seat occupied by Jacqueline Smith and contested by Sonja Lynae Banks, both Democrats. There is no Republican opponent so the primary election will decide the race. And it's the only contested seat on the school board.

The seat is voted on only by people living in cities in Jefferson County, such as Birmingham, that have their own school boards.

The race was not printed on ballots going to cities and was instead printed on the ballots to be used in unincorporated Jefferson County. Residents there are to vote only for the other four school board seats. ...

Some absentee ballots already have been collected; votes in that race will be thrown out, [Probate Judge] Bolin said. If the race comes down to those votes, the losing candidate may be able to contest the election, he said. -- Ballot error forces reprint (Birmingham News)

I'm not exactly sure what Bolin means. The votes he is going to trhow out are from ineligible voters. If the margin of victory is less than the number of absentee ballots received from people who live in the Smith-Banks district, then the loser may have grounds for a challenge.

GOP 527's are raising money; Dems start 'trustee' program

After months spent trying to shut down Democratic advocacy groups that have raised tens of millions of dollars in unlimited contributions to support Senator John Kerry, Republicans are scrambling to set up similar organizations to collect donations to help President Bush.

The Federal Election Commission's decision earlier this month to postpone new campaign finance rules that would have restricted these groups sent Republican operatives rushing to recruit fund-raisers and schedule events.

"We have started to reach out to folks and be aggressive right out of the blocks," said Brian McCabe, president of Progress for America, which is forming a group to raise money for television commercials, voter mobilization programs or whatever else is needed. "Our goal is to match what the liberals have done in the last year and counter their message." ...

Mr. Kerry placed members of his financial team at the Democratic National Committee earlier this year. Mr. Maroney said the goal was to get major Kerry supporters to work on behalf of the party. "Our job is to be as creative as possible bringing all these donors to the D.N.C.,'' Mr. Maroney said.

Part of that effort is the trustees program. Created by Bob Farmer, the Kerry campaign's national treasurer, it is intended to capitalize on an outpouring of Democratic money and enthusiasm in recent weeks.

Programs have existed for years to entice wealthy fund-raisers and donors to work for the party, setting goals and often offering special benefits to those who meet them.

Mr. Maroney said the same was planned for the trustees, but he had no specifics because the program was still so new; no one has yet officially qualified for the title. Perhaps a special event at the convention will be held for them, he said, like a dinner with Mr. Kerry and his wife, Teresa. -- Republicans Rush to Form New Finance Groups (New York Times)

May 28, 2004

Arizona to use 2002 districts despite unconstitutionality

[An Arizona] state appellate court on Friday ordered that legislative districts first used in 2002 be used again this year though a trial judge ruled them unconstitutional.

The trial judge had ruled that new legislative districts be used instead this year, but the Court of Appeals said Friday it was too late in the election process to make a switch or to leave uncertainty about which map will be used.

Also, while the U.S. Justice Department is reviewing the new map for compliance with federal minority voting rights protections, only the 2002 map has already received that certification so far, said the Court of Appeals. It said further delays in deciding what map will be used risks disrupting the election process and disenfranchising voters.

While Hispanic Democrats had said they may take the case to the Arizona Supreme Court, the stay issued by a three-judge Court of Appeals panel increases the likelihood that the districts used in 2002 will be used again. -- Court orders use of 2002 legislative districts (AP via

Long essays on new blog

I received a nice fan letter this evening from the proprietor of an interesting blog, SLEEPER 2004. The name is an acronym for Socially Liberal Electorate Economics and Politics Encountering Resistance: Preparing for the 2004 election. The blog has longish essays abot once a week, so you won't be overwhelmed by the trivia you get here. Stop by SLEEPER 2004.

Rodriguez v Pataki appealled

Jeff Wice writes, "Notice of appeal filed with US Supreme Court in NY Senate challenge of Rodriguez v Pataki. USDC SDNY held for state defendants on sec 2, influence districts, 1p1v, and reverse Shaw. Not sure yet what appeal will encompass, but the notice was filed 5/14. I am working with Rodriguez parties."

May 27, 2004

State parties collecting Levin funds

California leads the way as state and local parties in at least 10 states are using an exemption in the campaign finance law to raise so-called "soft money'' for election activities.

The California Republican Party raised at least $400,000 and the state Democratic Party about $320,000 through March, according to a Federal Election Commission review of campaign finance reports.

The federal law bans national party committees from raising corporate or union money and limits their donations from individuals and political action committees to $25,000 a year. The law allows state and local party committees to raise contributions from any source up to $10,000 per donor per year for voter registration, get-out-the-vote efforts and non-candidate-specific activities in the weeks before elections when federal candidates are on the ballot. They can only do so if state and local campaign finance rules allow it.

Several states ban corporate or union contributions or have other donation limits. -- Ten States Using Fund-Raising Exemption (Atlanta Journal Constitution)

Did crossover Republicans swing the Democratic primary?

Subpoenas to voters will stop until an [Ohio] appeals court rules on a request to dismiss Judge Ann B. Maschari's petition contesting the March 2 primary election, according to a court ruling yesterday. ...

Maschari's petition claims ''crossover'' voters -- Republicans who switched parties to vote in the Democratic primary -- created an irregularity that caused her loss to Sandusky lawyer Tygh M. Tone. She is asking the appeals court to declare her the winner or throw out the results of the election, according to her petition. ...

In the March 2 election, Maschari received 6,118 votes, or 46.56 percent, while Tone received 7,022 votes, or 53.44 percent, according to official election results.

Maschari's petition cited 1,400 crossover votes by Republicans who asked for Democratic ballots. That number could be as high as 2,659 people, according to a precinct voter change report compiled by staff at the Erie County Board of Elections. -- Court stops voter subpoenas (Lorain Morning Journal)

Florida closes a big loophole in campaign finance laws

Florida lawmakers approved on Friday a measure that will force some shadowy political groups and committees to disclose their contributors and give voters an idea about who is paying for last-minute stealth attack against candidates.

The legislation, which now goes to Gov. Jeb Bush for approval, gives Florida some of the same restrictions that Congress adopted in 2002 for federal campaigns and applies them to candidates for state and local office. ...

One of the biggest changes: The law will force ''committees of continuous existence'' to disclose the source of all contributors that give more than $250 in a year.

A quirk of Florida law, CCE's were first set up as a way to let unions and professional groups collect money from members to then give to candidates. CCE's were not required to disclose the names of their members.

In the past four years, legislators started using CCE's as a way to bankroll leadership bids. Between 1999 and the end of 2003, CCE's set up by or controlled by state legislators collected more than $3 million. But many legislators shielded from state elections officials the identities of those who contributed nearly $1.27 million. -- Voters to learn who gave cash (Miami Herald)

Washington State court interprets compactness requirement

The [Washington] state Supreme Court on Thursday upheld Franklin County's new county commissioner districts, rejecting a challenge that argued the votes of city dwellers, Hispanics and Democrats are diluted.

The unanimous opinion upholds a plan drawn by a local redistricting commission and adopted by county commissioners after the last census. The plan made few changes in the old districts, leaving a small urban district centered in Pasco and two large, rural-dominated districts in the rest of the county.

The local Democratic Party chairman, Charles Kilbury, and Hispanic voters had persuaded a Franklin County Superior Court judge in 2002 that the plan failed the state legal requirement for compact districts. That decision was appealed.

An alternative plan would have created two small districts dominated by Pasco and a large rural district taking in the rest of the population. ...

"No district in the adopted plan has a grotesque, absurd, tortured or strangely elongated shape," the court said. -- High court upholds new Franklin County districts (AP via Seattle Post-Intelligencer)

Americans United files complaint with IRS over Catholic bishop's "campaigning"

Bump and Update:

I made a stupid mistake with the name of the organization this morning. It's corrected in the title, but I left my original message.

A watchdog group asked the IRS on Thursday to revoke the tax-exempt status of the Roman Catholic diocese in Colorado Springs over the bishop's threat to withhold communion from those who disagree with the church.

Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, said the church should lose its tax-exempt status because it used church resources for political purposes.

Bishop Michael Sheridan wrote in a Catholic newspaper this month that Catholics should not receive communion if they vote for politicians who disagree with the church by backing abortion rights and other topics.

"I believe that Bishop Sheridan, by issuing this document in a church publication in his official capacity as head of a religious organization, may have violated federal tax law and jeopardized the tax-exempt status of the Diocese of Colorado Springs," Lynn said in a letter to the IRS. -- A watchdog group asked the IRS on Thursday to revoke the tax-exempt status of the Roman Catholic diocese in Colorado Springs over the bishop's threat to withhold communion from those who disagree with the church.

Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, said the church should lose its tax-exempt status because it used church resources for political purposes.

Bishop Michael Sheridan wrote in a Catholic newspaper this month that Catholics should not receive communion if they vote for politicians who disagree with the church by backing abortion rights and other topics.

"I believe that Bishop Sheridan, by issuing this document in a church publication in his official capacity as head of a religious organization, may have violated federal tax law and jeopardized the tax-exempt status of the Diocese of Colorado Springs," Lynn said in a letter to the IRS. -- Group Asks IRS to Probe Colo. Diocese (AP via Biloxi Sun Herald)

The Americans United website has a long press release on the letter. It quotes from a guideline of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The USCCB's Office of Governmental Affairs earlier this year warned Catholic churches that "issue advocacy communication may constitute intervention in a political campaign through the use of code words, such as 'conservative', 'liberal', 'pro-life', 'pro-choice', 'anti-choice', 'Republican', or 'Democrat', coupled with a discussion of a candidacy or election, even if no candidate is specifically named."


I just heard on NPR's Morning Edition that People United for Separation of Church and State has submitted a letter to the Internal Revenue Service complaining about the recent statements of the Catholic Bishop of Colorado Springs. Bishop Michael Sheridan recently said that any Catholic who votes for a candidate who supports abortion, gay marriage, or stem-cell research is “outside the full communion of the church” and may not receive the Eucharist (Communion).

I have not been able to find a written news story on this yet.

1 million more Hispanic voters predicted

Hispanics could account for 1 million new voters in the presidential election, giving the fast-growing group additional clout in hotly contested states like Arizona and Florida, according to a study by Latino group.

The National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, a nonpartisan group representing about 6,000 Hispanic officials, expects a record 7 million Hispanics to vote in November, or 6.1 percent of the total electorate, according to its voter projections, released Tuesday.

In 2000, when Republican George W. Bush won, Latino participation was 5.4 percent, or just about 6 million voters.

''We believe this election year will be historic for Latinos," Arturo Vargas, executive director for the NALEO Educational Fund, said during a press conference. -- 1 million new Hispanic voters seen (Reuters via Boston Globe)

NPR's history lesson on acceptance of the nomination

Until Franklin Delano Roosevelt's first nomination as the Democratic candidate in 1932, no candidates attended their parties' conventions, and they waited weeks before getting the news and accepting. So John Kerry's consideration of the idea of not formally accept his party's nomination at the convention would be a throwback, not a precedent. Producer John McDonough has a report. -- NPR : History of Delaying Acceptance of Nomination

May 26, 2004

Kerry will accept nomination at the convention -- no delay

Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.) announced today that he will formally accept the Democratic presidential nomination at his party's convention in Boston this summer, jettisoning the idea of delaying acceptance to try to narrow a perceived fundraising gap with President Bush.

Less than a week after the unorthodox idea became public -- to decidedly mixed reviews -- Kerry buried consideration of the plan as his campaign weighed other options for the continuation of what has been a record-breaking period of fundraising by a Democratic presidential candidate.

Although many Kerry loyalists lined up behind the idea, other Democrats expressed fears that it would create a controversy that might have dominated the convention and led to diminished coverage, particularly by the major broadcast television networks. -- Kerry to Accept Nomination at Democratic Convention (

Right-est wing group tries to disqualify right wing judge

Mobile [Alabama] lawyer Jim Zeigler said Tuesday he will file an ethics complaint today against Justice Jean Brown for running what he says are false and misleading campaign commercials [in the Republican primary] about her vote to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the state judicial building.

Zeigler said he will ask the state Judicial Inquiry Commission to oust Brown from office and to disqualify her from seeking re-election to the Alabama Supreme Court.

"The purpose of the Jean Brown TV commercial is to mislead the voters into thinking that Jean Brown was against removing the Ten Commandments when the truth was just the opposite," Zeigler said. ...

[T]he text of Brown's ad states, "It was such a sad day when we had to comply with a federal judge's order to remove the Ten Commandments from our courts, and that's why I led the effort to bring them back." -- Lawyer seeks justice's ouster, disqualification (Birmingham News)

Roy Moore, the now-removed Chief Justice of Alabama, is campaigning in the Republican primary for several candidates -- one for Congress, and three for appellate judgeships -- who stood up for his right to defy a federal court order to remove the graven image of the Ten Commandments from the lobby of the state Judicial Building. Justice Brown was one of the eight Justices who voted to remove the monument after the federal court ordered it to be removed.

Tuscaloosa Co, Alabama, will allow late military ballots

The U.S. Justice Department has approved a circuit court order that will allow the ballots of military personnel from Tuscaloosa County [Alabama] to be counted even if they arrive up to 20 days after the June 1 Republican and Democratic primaries.

Tuscaloosa County did not send out ballots to overseas military personnel until last week, almost a month beyond the April 22 deadline for having the ballots ready to be mailed. ...

"This injunction should ensure that Tuscaloosa County voters overseas — including members of the armed forces and their families — will be able to exercise their right to vote," said R. Alexander Acosta, assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division.

The Tuscaloosa County ballots were late being sent out because the county commission was waiting for Justice Department approval of new commission district lines. -- Justice Department OKs plan to count military ballots (AP via

Florida has still not undone the improper purge of 2000

With less than six months to go before the presidential election, thousands of Florida voters who may have been improperly removed from the voter rolls in 2000 have yet to have their eligibility restored.

Records obtained by The Herald show that just 33 of 67 counties have responded to a request by state election officials to check whether or not nearly 20,000 voters should be reinstated as required under a legal settlement reached between the state, the NAACP and other groups nearly two years ago.

Some of the counties that have failed to respond to the state include many of Florida's largest, including Broward, Miami-Dade, Orange and Palm Beach.

Those counties that have responded told the state that they have restored 679 voters to the rolls so far -- more than enough to have tipped the balance of the 2000 election had they voted for Al Gore. President Bush won Florida and the presidency by 537 votes. -- Many voters not yet back on rolls (Miami Herald)

Voter registration drive in the Twin Cities on Juneteenth

For 140 years, African-Americans have honored the date -- June 19, 1865 -- when Texan slaves were first told of the end of the Civil War and their newfound freedom. Originally intended as an African-American event, the Minneapolis celebration now attracts tens of thousands of diverse people to honor the spirit of Juneteenth representing freedom, revival, rebirth, creativity and above all -- harmony.

This year, Juneteenth will take on a new dimension -- the kickoff of an extensive bottom-up effort to help underserved Minnesotans take charge of their democracy. Juneteenth Twin Cities will launch the Freedom to Vote Project, a coalition of some 90 local organizations working to get minorities and other underrepresented groups to the voting booth and into the electoral process.

The Freedom to Vote project is one of many grassroots efforts in Minnesota and nationwide operating outside of traditional political party structures to increase voter turnout for the upcoming fall election. From established, nonpartisan groups like the League of Women Voters, to the more obscure, in-your-face League of Pissed Off Voters, these projects make up what appears to be the largest and most aggressive voter participation campaign in Minnesota history. -- Grassroots groups launch major election campaigns (Pulse of the Twin Cities)

I can't find a website for the League of Pissed Off Voters, but I got plenty of links on Google. Here is one that explains their goals.

Civil rights groups see more election problems

Civil rights groups warned Wednesday that the same problems with voter access and ballot confusion that plagued the 2000 election will happen again in November unless election officials act now. ...

They cited:

_Voter registration problems

_Voters being wrongly purged from rolls

_Improper implementation of a new requirement that newly registered voters show ID on Election Day if the state hasn't verified their identity

_Difficulties with voting machines and ballots

_Potential failure to count newly required provisional ballots.

They proposed better education for voters and poll workers, notifying people before removing them from voter lists and setting statewide standards for counting provisional ballots, which are supposed to be available for people who think they're eligible to vote but don't find their name listed at a polling place. -- Nov. Election Worries Civil Rights Groups (AP via

Virginia GOP asks dismissal of eavesdropping suit

Lawyers for the Republican Party of Virginia asked a federal judge Wednesday to dismiss the party from a lawsuit Democratic lawmakers filed over eavesdropping on Democratic conference calls by key GOP operatives.

The Republican Party officials involved in the intercepts were not carrying out party policy or practices when they illegally monitored the Democrats, the attorneys said. Nor are they associated with the party any longer, they said.

"They were not acting within the scope of their employment," John Holloway, an attorney for RPV, told U.S. District Judge James R. Spencer. ...

The lawsuit, filed March 19, seeks unspecified damages against the party and other former top Republicans, including the state party's former executive director, Edmund A. Matricardi III. -- GOP asks to be dismissed from Democrats' eavesdropping lawsuit (AP via

Federal suit dismissed on Arizona redistricting

A federal judge on Wednesday dealt Hispanic Democrats a setback by dismissing their lawsuit seeking to force use of new legislative districts in this year's state elections.

U.S. District Judge Roslyn Silver granted a request by the state Independent Redistricting Commission to dismiss the Arizona Minority Coalition for Fair Redistricting's lawsuit.

The Democrats had asked the federal court to order use of the new districts even though the districts have not yet received federal voting-rights clearance.

Silver noted that related proceedings are underway in the state Court of Appeals, where the commission and Secretary of State Jan Brewer are trying to block a judge's order requiring use of the new districts in place of a map he previously overturned as unconstitutional.

A state Court of Appeals three-judge panel is scheduled to hear the request by the commission and Brewer on Thursday, and Silver said she was ruling Wednesday "to expedite the resolution" of the case. -- Federal judge throws out Arizona Democrats' suit on new legislative maps (AP via

May 25, 2004

Hastert and Santorum to appear at Leadership Forum events

House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) and Senate Republican Conference Chairman Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) have agreed to participate in events this summer for the Leadership Forum, a GOP-allied 527 group.

By doing so, Hastert and Santorum will place their imprimaturs on the group, reassuring donors that it is a legitimate fundraising venture.

Their support will give the Leadership Forum a leg up in a competition among emerging Republican-leaning groups, making it likely to become the main soft-money vehicle for congressional Republicans.

However, the announcement that Hastert and Santorum will affiliate themselves with the soft-money group already has generated controversy among campaign-finance-reform organizations, which say that the lawmakers are walking a fine legal line. They note that under the new campaign-finance law known as McCain-Feingold, federal lawmakers are not allowed to solicit soft money. Such funds are largely unregulated and may be raised in unlimited amounts.

However, Susan Hirschmann, Majority Leader Tom DeLay's (R-Texas) former chief of staff, who is heading the group with former Rep. Bill Paxon (R-N.Y.), said Hastert and Santorum will only appear at Leadership Forum events and will not raise soft money. -- Leaders back Republican 527 (The

Sins of omission and commission

A record year for political advertising has brought with it a hail of televised exaggerations, omissions and mischaracterizations that pollsters say seem to be leaving voters with mistaken impressions of Senator John Kerry and President Bush.

The degree to which the advertisements push the facts, or go beyond them, varies by commercial. While Mr. Bush's campaign has been singled out as going particularly far with some of its claims, Mr. Kerry's campaign has also been criticized as frequently going beyond the bounds of truth.
In three of its advertisements, Mr. Bush's campaign has said Mr. Kerry would raise taxes by at least $900 billion in his first 100 days in office. Mr. Kerry has no such plan.

In an advertisement for Mr. Kerry, an announcer said, "George Bush says sending jobs overseas makes sense for America." Mr. Bush never said that. A report to Congress by his top economic adviser said cheaper production of goods overseas had long-term benefits but did not make the plain case that domestic job losses were a good thing. -- Campaign Ads Are Under Fire for Inaccuracy (New York Times)

A GOP group may have to register as a charity in New York

A tax-exempt organization associated with the chairman of the United States House Committee on Financial Services may have to register with the New York State attorney general's office before it can stage a party during the Republican National Convention in New York, state officials said.

The organization, called the American Council for Excellence and Opportunity, had solicited donations from various businesses, including Wall Street firms, for a convention night party at the Rainbow Room in honor of the committee chairman, Representative Michael G. Oxley of Ohio, and other members of the committee. Mr. Oxley is also honorary chairman of the council.

The Charities Bureau of the state attorney general's office sent a letter to the council on Friday that said the organization might have to register with the bureau - and then meet New York's disclosure requirements, which include making public exactly how the money it raised was spent, including staff salaries. -- Organization Tied to G.O.P. Gets Warning on Donations (New York Times)

Republican 527's being formed

Top Republican operatives have launched an effort to compete with Democratic groups for large sums of unregulated presidential campaign funds by designating a group with close ties to the Bush administration to serve as the main conduit.

Republicans who once vigorously opposed the fundraising and spending activities of mostly liberal groups who have been working to defeat President Bush are developing ambitious plans to raise unregulated "soft money" before the November election. The Federal Election Commission earlier this month cleared the way for liberal groups to continue raising millions in unrestricted contributions, and now GOP groups are joining in.

James Francis Jr., who put together the 1999 to 2000 Bush Pioneers, one of the most successful fundraising operations in U.S. history, has been asked to chair the lead GOP organization, called Progress for America (PFA), Francis and other Republican activists said yesterday.

Officials of the organization indicated they are actively considering major purchases of television ads in roughly 18 key battleground states that praise Bush administration policies. PFA and other conservative organizations are vowing to match or exceed fundraising by liberal groups that did not wait for FEC clearance, and which have spent millions to elect the Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.). -- GOP Creating Own '527' Groups (

"A return to tradition"

Politics1 has more historical details on the dealyed nomination point I raised over the weekend.

Until [1940], the convention was held and concluded without ever hearing from the person who won the nomination. The big tradition back then was a huge "Notification Day" rally in the nominee's hometown with parades and marching bands. The party's national leaders would arrive for the event -- usually held a few weeks post-convention -- and "officially" notify the person that they won the nomination. Only then would the nominee give an acceptance speech. The vintage picture at right is from William Howard Taft's Notification Day festivities in his hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio in September 1908. Think of the Kerry move -- if it even happens -- as "a return to tradition."

Look for the item headed "A History Lesson" on 05.25.04.

May 24, 2004

Florida purge causes concern

Florida is once again purging voter rolls of thousands of suspected felons who are ineligible to vote in the state. But opponents note that when Florida last purged voter rolls in 2000, thousands of residents were erroneously listed as felons. Many are still trying to get their voting rights restored. Hear NPR's Philip Davis. -- NPR : Florida Voter-Purge Stirs Debate

Alabama AG will not sue -- yet -- over late absentee ballots

[Alabama] Attorney General Troy King says he will not take immediate legal action against officials in Tuscaloosa County for being late in mailing absentee ballots to military personnel.

King said in a letter to Secretary of State Nancy Worley last week that he made the decision not to take legal action after being assured by Tuscaloosa County officials that no voters would be denied the right to vote because of the late ballots. -- A.G. Says He Won't Take Action Over Late Ballots To Military (AP via

Recount completed in Arkansas judicial primary

A recount by hand in Pope County [Arkansas] Saturday determined Russellville attorney Timm Murdoch will meet Gordon "Mack" McCain Jr. in a runoff for the open Fifth Judicial District judge position.
Saturday's recount affirmed what computerized machines ultimately told election officials on election night, only wavering from the computer-tallied total by a very few votes. Iva Nell Gibbons, who finished third overall behind Murdoch, had requested the recount after irregularities in computerized vote tallies were detected -- and corrected -- in Pope County on Tuesday. -- Recount places Murdoch in runoff (The Courier, Russellville, Ark.)

Wexler suit on touch screen dismissed again

A judge threw out Monday a Democratic congessman's lawsuit [in Florida] that sought to require that electronic voting machines produce a paper trail.

It's the second time U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler has been denied in his challenge of the legality of paperless touchscreen voting machines. A similar case filed in state courts was dismissed in February, although that ruling is being appeal.

In dismissing the federal complaint, U.S. District Judge James Cohn said he can't get involved because the issue is being considered by state courts.

Also, Cohn ruled that the lawsuit would require the federal courts to become deeply involved with election procedures, which typically are left to the states. -- Congressman's suit seeking touchscreen voting printouts dismissed (AP via

FBI quizzes Mass. legislators

In a sign that federal prosecutors are pressing their perjury probe of [Massachusetts] House Speaker Thomas M. Finneran, the FBI recently quizzed two state representatives about conversations they had with the speaker about the House redistricting plan, according to two well-placed legislative sources.

State Representative Kay Khan, a five-term Democrat from Newton, confirmed she met with several agents at the Boston FBI office several weeks ago, but declined to comment on the questions she was asked. She was interviewed at the Boston FBI headquarters at One Center Plaza.

Also two weeks ago, an FBI agent came to the State House to meet with Democratic Representative Ruth B. Balser of Newton, one of the sources said. Balser declined to comment.

Federal prosecutors have launched a criminal probe into whether Finneran perjured himself when he testified last year he was uninvolved in developing the plan that reshaped district boundaries. -- FBI seen querying on Finneran (Boston Globe)

May 23, 2004

NPR interview on the "delayed nomination" trial balloon

NPR's Scott Simon talks with Dan Payne, a Democratic media consultant and a former Kerry Senate strategist, about the possibility that John Kerry might try and delay accepting his party's nomination this summer in order to try and circumvent federal campaign finance restrictions. -- NPR : Kerry Strategy (requires RealAudio)

Willie Velásquez

Willie Velásquez was a genuine American hero. Through his tireless efforts over more than 21/2 decades, he irrevocably changed the Latino political condition in the United States.

Nearly 1,000 voter registration and education drives and 85 successful voting rights lawsuits had put Willie and his organization, the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project, at the forefront of an almost unnoticed revolution taking place across the country by the mid-1980s. The body of work that Velásquez and Southwest Voter accomplished resulted in a doubling of the number of Latino voters and elected officials during this period. ...

Willie and Southwest Voter's stories need to be told because their low-key, research-based, grass-roots-led voter registration and education work helped dramatically alter the political map of the Southwest. This work brought unprecedented numbers of Latino Americans into the ballot box and, more importantly, into American political life.

Willie used to say that Southwest Voter did not do voter registration by press conference, and for that reason, its highly successful approach consistently took place under the radar screen. Southwest Voter and Willie were not common household names. -- Champion of Latinos and democracy (

This is an excerpt from the preface to the recently published book "The Life and Times of Willie Velásquez: Su Voto Es Su Voz" by Juan A. Sepúlveda Jr.

Australian government proposes restrictions on right to vote

AS MANY as 100,000 people will be locked out of polling stations at this year's [Australian] federal election, under proposed changes to laws.

And almost 300,000 more face election-day confusion because of Federal Government plans to close the electoral rolls on the day the election is called by Prime Minister John Howard.

The changes fly in the face of unanimous recommendations from a parliamentary committee, which said voters should be able to enrol up to one week after the election is announced. ...

The Government also plans to remove the right to vote of everyone serving a prison sentence on election day - around 18,000 nationwide.

Presently, only those serving sentences of five years or more lose their voting rights. -- Young voters facing lockout (The Courier Mail, Australia)

Profiles of the lawyers in the Napa Valley election contest

Aim your Internet search engine at "Find a Republican Lawyer" and one of the first people you'll find is Charles Bell, a senior partner at Bell, McAndrews, Hiltachk & Davidian in Sacramento.

Bell was picked for the Moskowite-Rippey duel early on, when supervisorial challenger Harold Moskowite's supporters sensed there could be the need for a sharp legal mind. He was recommended by Moskowite's political consultant, Victor Ajlouny.

"He came highly recommended from people at all levels," said Ajlouny. "He's probably the best in the business." ...

Taking on candidate Arnold Schwarzenegger, playing a role in the Gore-Bush Florida election debacle, being quoted as an expert in nationwide election journals and taking the complex matter of sorting out Napa County's District 5 supervisorial race.

These all describe Lowell Finley, attorney to Democrats and the lawyer representing Supervisor Mike Rippey in the legal challenge to the March 2 election. Finley has a long list of credentials qualifying him for the challenge ahead. Rippey is contesting his 108-vote loss to Harold Moskowite, alleging that votes were tampered with and that voting officials did not do their job adequately, issues that Finley has worked on before.

"I became familiar with hanging and dimpled chads long before Florida," Finley said.

Finley says cases involving election law are almost always unique, so there's no way to predict the outcome based on past cases. -- Lawyers square off over contentious supes election (

Paper trails

A coalition of computer scientists, voter groups and state officials, led by California's secretary of state, Kevin Shelley, is trying to force the makers of electronic voting machines to equip those machines with voter-verifiable paper trails.

Following the problems of the 2000 election in Florida, a number of states and hundreds of counties rushed to dump their punch card ballot systems and to buy the electronic touch screens. Election Data Services, a consulting firm that specializes in election administration, estimates that this November 50 million Americans - about 29 percent of the electorate - may be voting on touch screens, up from 12 percent in 2000.

But in the last year election analysts have documented so many malfunctions, including the disappearance of names from the ballot, and computer experts have shown that the machines are so vulnerable to hackers, that critics have organized to counter the rush toward touch screens with a move to require paper trails.

Paper trails - ballot receipts - would let voters verify that they had cast their votes as they intended and let election officials conduct recounts in close races. -- Demand Grows to Require Paper Trails for Electronic Votes (New York Times)

May 22, 2004

Rodriguez files appeal

U.S. Rep. Ciro Rodriguez filed a 38-page appeal Friday, asking a San Antonio-based appellate court to reverse a ruling that favored his opponent Henry Cuellar in the grueling battle for the Democratic nomination in Congressional District 28.

The appeal comes after 2-1/2 months of recounts, court hearings and legal bickering over the contentious outcome of the March 9 Democratic primary. ...

In the appeal, Rodriguez argues that visiting District Court Judge Joseph Hart erred earlier this month in tossing out key portions of his legal challenge, which sought to introduce evidence of possible ballot tampering and illegally cast votes.

Cuellar contends that Rodriguez filed certain court pleadings too late for consideration, and does not have the factual evidence to back up his claim of a faulty election outcome. -- Rodriguez's appeal is now in court's hands (

Bloomberg: ban contributions by city contractors

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg [of New York City] called yesterday for a law to prohibit individuals or companies that do business with the New York City government from making contributions to candidates for city offices.

"It's just too obvious a conflict of interest," the mayor said on his weekly radio show on WABC-AM. "If you do business with the city, you shouldn't be allowed to contribute to any campaign. It doesn't take away your rights; you don't have to do business with the city."

Mayor Bloomberg, who spent $73 million of his own money to finance his election campaign in 2001, has been critical of aspects of the city's campaign finance system, but this was the first time that he called for an outright ban on contributions from individuals or companies because of perceived conflicts of interest. -- Mayor Backs New Limits on Donations to Campaigns (New York Times)

Voter registration suit against VA hospital

Maybe it was the John Kerry button that turned staffers in the Menlo Park [California] Veterans Affairs health care facility against Scott Rafferty.

The Mountain View attorney says he only wanted to practice his right to register voters -- of any political persuasion. Three times he was turned away, according to a federal lawsuit Rafferty filed Friday, claiming the Menlo Park VA violated the federal Voting Rights Act.

``This is not some novel theory, that people have the right to vote,'' he said. ...

``I told him to `work with our staff and they can ID vets for you.' He wanted to go into every room and we would not allow that,'' Ball said Friday. ``That's pretty much the gist of it. He feels we were not allowing vets to register to vote, and that is not the case.'' -- Voting lawsuit against hospital (Mercury News)

Florida Dems double-check the purge

Florida has begun another purge of felons from its voter rolls, and state Democratic leaders want no glitches that could stop law-abiding citizens from voting.

So they're going to double-check the state's work.

The Florida Democratic Party on Friday asked for all public records relating to how the state Division of Elections developed its list of nearly 50,000 "potential felons," which was transmitted to the state's 67 election supervisors last week. ...

The information will be made available to the party as early as Monday, said Jenny Nash, a spokeswoman for the Florida Department of State. -- Democrats to 'verify' purge of voter rolls (

More news and thoughts on delaying the "nomination" of Kerry

I have thought about the proposal to delay Kerry's acceptance of the nomination to delay the point at which the general election begins -- and Kerry must stop spending privately raised money and use public funds. The Republicans are already complaining about this ploy turning the nominating convention into a multi-day political rally at public expense. Instead, I suggest that Kerry be nominated at the convention but his formal acceptance would be later. Or the nomination and acceptance could become effective on 1 September.

Democratic Party officials and lawyers said they see no significant legal bar to postponing the formal designation of their presidential nominee. Donald L. Fowler, former Democratic National Committee chairman, said that the national convention is the ultimate authority for party rules and that an "appropriately drawn resolution" could be approved at the July convention that sets out what constitutes formal acceptance of the nomination.

"I don't think it's a big legal thing," Fowler said. "The convention can do what it wants."

Another lawyer working with the party said, "This is a decision the party makes and it makes it pursuant to its own rules," adding that there are no other regulatory or statutory limitations.

Democratic officials said they are exploring a number of possibilities. One would be to reconvene the delegates to the convention, although trying to physically reconvene them appears unlikely. Instead, officials said, there is talk of convening through the Internet or through a conference call.

Fowler said the convention could give authority to the national committee, which could convene around Sept. 1 and designate Kerry as the nominee. In 1972, when presidential nominee George McGovern had to dump his vice presidential nominee, Sen. Thomas F. Eagleton (Mo.), the DNC convened to pick R. Sargent Shriver as his replacement. -- Kerry Ponders Delay in Party Nod (

Stephanie Cutter, Mr. Kerry's spokeswoman, said a delay in the nomination was "not a fait accompli," and said the campaign was also discussing a second option: encouraging Democrats and supporters of Mr. Kerry to steer their contributions to the Democratic National Committee and to state party committees to buoy the campaign during the five-week gap between the conventions.

"We will find a way to level the playing field," Ms. Cutter said. "It very well may not be this option. But given the amount of money we've raised — $89 million over 80 days since Super Tuesday, the average donation is $200 — there's significant support out there, but we've only begun to see that support, and it can only improve from here. And we've got to find a way to continue to tap that momentum in those five weeks." -- Kerry Considers Strategic Delay for Democratic Nomination (New York Times)

During the 19th Century, it was not uncommon for the eventual nominee not even to attend the convention. Then, as now, the convention appointed a small group to take the word of the nomination to the candidate. Then, the candidate might be a day or two away by train. Now, he or she is in a nearby hotel. (The first major party candidate to accept the nomination in person by addressing the convention was Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1932.)

May 21, 2004

Will this move by Kerry be seen as too cute, or will the public care?

Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry may delay accepting his party's nomination to gain time to raise and spend private contributions and lessen President Bush's multimillion-dollar financial advantage, campaign officials said Friday.

The proposal would let Kerry hold off on spending his $75 million general-election budget for an extra month. The Democratic Party would still stage its national convention in Boston at the end of July, five weeks before the Republican National Convention in New York.

Kerry and Bush both are expected to accept $75 million in full federal funding for their general election campaigns. Once nominated, the candidates will be limited to spending the government money and can no longer raise or spend private contributions on the campaign. ...

A Democratic official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said one possibility would be to change the rules so the nomination takes place Sept. 1. Kerry could give a convention speech that stops short of accepting the nomination, and the convention could be recessed until Sept. 1, when delegates could vote by Internet or proxy. -- Kerry considers delaying nomination vote to extend fund-raising time (AP via

Judicial race recount in Arkansas

Pope County [Arkansas] election officials will recount more than 6,900 votes by hand Saturday to ensure results in a circuit judge election are accurate.

Unofficial totals have Gordon "Mack" McCain Jr. of Ozark meeting Russellville attorney Timm Murdoch in a runoff election in November. But Iva Nell Gibbons of Clarksville, the third-place finisher in the race, is challenging the results from Pope County because of vote-tallying irregularities. ...

Pope County election officials have said vote-tallying machines did not originally count all of the votes, and the latest count is the most accurate. Brown said he called for the recount when he saw results coming from the machine were not in line with the number of votes cast.

The machine problems and the necessity for the early-morning recount prompted Gibbons to request a recount by hand. She paid just under $1,800 for the recount. -- Judge recount set for Saturday (The Courier, Russellville, Ark.)

Human counters will recheck the machine totals. Luckily, they have the paper to count.

Vote fraud charges in Napa Valley

The attorney who will represent Harold Moskowite in court beginning Monday responded to the latest claims from Supervisor Mike Rippey, calling the allegation of massive voter fraud in the election case "outrageous" and saying he looks forward to meeting his adversaries next week in Napa Superior Court.

Charles Bell, an election law specialist from Sacramento, said the assertions leveled Wednesday by Rippey's attorney, Lowell Finley, were "without any basis." ...

Rippey and Moskowite will face off in court because Rippey, a three-term incumbent supervisor, contested Moskowite's apparent 108 vote victory on March 2.

At a news conference Wednesday on the courthouse steps in Napa, Finley showed examples of what a documents expert has termed evidence of systematic ballot tampering and criminal activity. -- Lawyer refutes voter fraud as 'outrageous' (

Rhode Island case near settlement

Senate leaders have agreed to redraw district lines to settle a lawsuit that claimed Rhode Island's 2002 legislative redistricting was unfair to black voters, a move prompted in part by the resignations of two state senators earlier this year.

Today, minority leaders hailed the settlement, which changes the configuration of 12 Senate districts in and around the state's capital city, as a step toward more inclusive government.

"Our goals have always been to ensure that black voters and Latino voters each have a voice in the state Senate," said Harold Metts, a plaintiff in the case. "The new redistricting plan will help make Rhode Island more democratic."

The plan still must be approved by the General Assembly and the governor. -- Senate leaders agree to redraw district lines (AP via

Christian radio host fails again to get on the ballot

Richard Winger has informed me that Kelly McGinley's application for a stay of the order removing her from the Republican Primary ballot in Alabama has been denied by Justice Kennedy.

Kerry raising more than Bush

Sen. John F. Kerry's fundraising receipts surged strongly ahead of President Bush's last month, with the presumptive Democratic nominee pulling in almost twice what the president raised.

At the same time, Bush's campaign is spending money at an unprecedented rate. In part because of a $50 million ad blitz in March and early April, Bush has spent nearly $130 million on his reelection effort, a record amount, according to reports that the campaign filed yesterday with the Federal Election Commission. In April alone, his campaign spent almost $31 million to help counteract a series of negative news reports that have hurt the president's standing in the polls.

Kerry's fundraising haul of $30 million in April -- compared with the Bush campaign's $15.6 million -- marked the second consecutive month in which the Massachusetts senator's receipts have exceeded the president's, according to the two campaigns. Over the past two months, Kerry has attracted about $30 million more than Bush. The president did much of his fundraising last year and has stopped attending events to raise more for his campaign.

Bush still has a big advantage over Kerry in cash on hand -- about $71.6 million at the end of April, compared with Kerry's $28 million. But several independent observers say two factors could work in Kerry's favor: the accelerated pace of his fundraising and a likely decline in spending by the president over the next few months. Kerry's success in attracting donations has, in any case, obliterated the conventional wisdom of just a few months ago that the president would use his enormous financial strength to clobber his opponent with advertising, as President Bill Clinton did in 1996 against Robert J. Dole and as Bush did in 2000 against a cash-strapped Al Gore. -- In April, Kerry's Fundraising Nearly Doubled Bush's (

Another Alabama candidate booted for disloyalty to party

The chairman of the Alabama Democratic Party announced Thursday he has rejected the appeal of Johnny Swanson, who was disqualified as a U.S. Senate candidate in the party's June 1 primary.

Party chairman Redding Pitt ruled that a subcommittee was correct in April when it disqualified Swanson because he had run as a "write-in" independent candidate in the general election in 2002 for the U.S. Senate.

He said party rules bar candidates from running in the Democratic primary if they ran against Democrats in the previous election.

"The record shows that Mr. Swanson was in fact an active, if low-profile, independent write-in candidate for the United States Senate in 2002, receiving 1,350 votes, and opposed the election of the Democratic nominee," Pitt said in his three-page ruling. -- Democratic Party chief turns down Swanson appeal in Senate bid (AP via

Overseas ballots delayed in Tuscaloosa County

[Alabama] Secretary of State Nancy Worley says military personnel from Tuscaloosa County may not have their ballots counted in the June 1 Democratic and Republican Party primaries because county officials were late mailing the ballots.

Worley sent a letter Thursday asking Attorney General Troy King to consider taking legal action to assure that the ballots of military personnel in Tuscaloosa County are counted.

King's executive assistant, Chris Bence, said the attorney general would have no comment until his staff had a chance to study the issue.

The Tuscaloosa County Commission recently redrew its county commission district lines and had delayed sending out the ballots while waiting for the U.S. Justice Department to approve the new district lines. -- Worley says Tuscaloosa County ballots late being sent to troops (AP via

Christian Coalition vs. trial lawyers

While the Catholic Bishop of Colorado Springs can threaten Catholic politicians with withholding Eucharist, the Christian Coalition decided to withhold something else.

A candidate survey by the Christian Coalition of Alabama asks judicial candidates in this year's elections to pledge not to accept campaign donations from personal injury trial lawyers.

Coalition President John Giles said he doesn't consider it unfair that the survey doesn't ask candidates also to pledge not to accept contributions from lawyers for businesses and corporations that are sued by plaintiff trial lawyers.

"What we want in judges are strict constructionists who believe in the separation of powers and are not judicial activists," said Giles. "There is a trend among personal injury trial lawyer-backed judges toward judicial activism." Constructionists believe in strict interpretation of the law.

Giles said the Christian Coalition strongly opposes abortion, and the U.S. Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion is "a judicial activist decision," he said.

"Trial lawyer-backed judges have a higher propensity to judicial activism," Giles said. -- Candidates asked to spurn trial lawyer gifts (Birmingham News)

May 20, 2004

Billboards attack e-voting

Billboards popped up around town [Austin, Texas] last week warning of the alleged dangers of electronic voting. Austin activists Susan Bright, Abbe Waldman Delozier, Vickie Karp, and Genevieve Vaughan say they designed the billboards in what they intend to be a national advertising campaign, beginning in Austin. Naked City (Austin Chronicle)

There is a picture of the billboard with the article.

Bush's campaign finance report

The Republican [President Bush] started May with nearly $72 million in the bank after using up nearly $31 million in April, a campaign finance report filed Thursday with the Federal Election Commission showed. Bush's spending declined after March, when he spent roughly $50 million on his first wave of campaign ads.

Bush spent roughly $21 million on ads in April, his biggest expense last month. Among other major campaign costs, the campaign devoted more than $4 million to mailings, about $1.6 million to staff salaries, consultants and related costs, and $555,000 to phone banks. ...

Bush must make his campaign fortune last until early September, when he is officially nominated at the Republican National Convention in New York and receives about $75 million in full government financing for the general-election phase of his campaign.

To sustain his spending at last month's rate through the summer, Bush would need to raise at least $50 million more. That would be possible at his current fundraising rate: He took in about $15 million last month, with roughly two-thirds of that in donations of under $1,000 coming in through the mail or over the Internet. -- Bush Campaign Spending Hits Record $126M (AP via

Charity cancels GOP convention event

A charity associated with Representative Tom DeLay of Texas, the House majority leader, has canceled plans to stage a series of gala events around the Republican National Convention in New York this summer, saying the city is too expensive.

Aides also suggested that Mr. DeLay, a lightning rod for criticism, was trying to lower his profile. "We are very cognizant of the fact that the convention is about re-electing George Bush and not being a distraction to that goal is a large priority of the majority leader," said Stuart Roy, Mr. DeLay's director of communications. -- Charity Tied to DeLay Cancels New York Convention Events Citing Cost (New York Times)

Congressional Democrats write archbishop re withholding Eucharist

Forty-eight Roman Catholic members of Congress who are Democrats have signed a letter to the cardinal archbishop of Washington, D.C., saying the threats by some bishops to deny communion to politicians who support abortion rights were "deeply hurtful," counterproductive and "miring the Church in partisan politics."

The letter is the first organized counter-punch by Democratic legislators since a handful of Catholic bishops set off an uproar in the church by declaring that they would withhold communion from politicians who favor abortion rights.

The letter's signers, including about a dozen who are considered anti-abortion Democrats, said the bishops are "allowing the church to be used for partisan purposes.'' They also question why these bishops made abortion a litmus test while ignoring politicians who voted counter to the church by endorsing the death penalty and the war in Iraq.

"They're helping destroy the church by dividing it on issues, and they're politicizing the Eucharist," said Representative Bart Stupak of Michigan, one of the anti-abortion Democrats who signed the letter. "The bishops came out against the war, and I don't see them saying to all the people who voted for it, you can't receive communion because you voted for an unjust war." -- Democrats Criticize Denial of Communion by Bishops (New York Times)

May 19, 2004

Spending money before its time

About 25 percent of the money Democratic U.S. Rep. Peter Deutsch has raised for his U.S. Senate bid -- $447,850 -- is earmarked for the Nov. 2 general election. For Republican House Speaker Johnnie Byrd, it's 12 percent.

But what if these candidates don't win their respective Aug. 31 primaries?

No matter. Federal law allows donors to give the maximum $2,000 for the primary -- and at the same time kick in another $2,000 for the general -- even though there's no guarantee that their candidate will make it to the second election.

It's illegal, in many cases, to spend general election money before the primary. But some candidates flout the law and spend all their money, essentially double dipping from the same contributor, says Dwight L. Morris, president of a nonpartisan campaign finance consulting firm. -- Skirting law, some shift use of campaign funds for primary (Miami Herald)

Montgomery Advertiser calls for PAC reform

The conscientious Alabama voter looking at candidates in the June 1 primaries and then again in the November general election will recall with regret the death of an important campaign reform measure in this year's legislative session. When the session ended on Monday, so did the chance to give voters a better grasp of the financial backing of candidates.

Among the bills that died on the last day of the session was a measure that would have limited transfers of funds among political action committees. In Alabama, there are no restrictions now, and that is an invitation to deception.

The demise of this bill means that it likely will be at least another year until this reform gets another shot at passage. The Legislature will not convene again until February unless Gov. Bob Riley calls a special session.

Allowing PAC-to-PAC transfers is a serious flaw in Alabama's campaign finance laws. A voter should be able to tell -- and tell easily -- which interests or individuals are contributing to a candidate. Instead, these transfers make it easy to hide the source of campaign funds. -- Editorial, PAC measure deserved vote (Montgomery Advertiser)

My what is online?

For proof that all politics is local, look no further than, which follows the political money to your front door. While records of campaign contributions have long been available online, Fundrace has a twist: plug in any address and retrieve a list of all the donors in the neighborhood, the names of their favored candidates and the amount bestowed.

For Melissa Kramer, a Democrat in Oakwood, Ohio, it was a part of the political process she had not anticipated. "I got an e-mail from a friend that said, 'Take a look at this site; it'll blow your mind,' " Ms. Kramer said. "I took a look and I thought, 'Oh, my goodness.' "

The site noted her $1,983 in contributions to Gen. Wesley K. Clark's presidential campaign and her home address.

"It really bothered me," said Ms. Kramer, 36. "I live in a community that's overwhelmingly Republican; all the moms have Bush-Cheney bumper stickers on their minivans. I'm literally one of two Democrats on my entire street. So even if it's a very small possibility, I think there could be repercussions in some neighborhoods - petty vandalism, a slashed tire or graffiti." -- Street Maps in Political Hues (New York Times)

Pingree looks on the bright side

The Federal Election Commission (FEC) yesterday released an audit of Chellie Pingree, president of Common Cause, which is a potential source of embarrassment for the prominent government and ethics watchdog that prides itself on adhering to campaign finance regulations and ethical mores.

The audit found that Pingree failed to properly disclose conduit contributions from a range of special interest groups, as well as a $18,000 transfer from a joint fundraising committee during her 2002 campaign for Senate. Pingree ran as a Democrat against Sen. Susan Collins (R) in Maine.

The FEC left open the possibility of future penalties, stating in its report that "the Commission may initiate enforcement action, at a later time, with respect to any of the matters discussed in this report."

Pingree said the report vindicated her by failing to find evidence of illegal fundraising. -- Ethics watchdog faulted on campaign lapses (

Feds "vacuumed" Mass. House computers

Federal investigators have seized files from some [Massachusetts] State House computers that were used in legislative redistricting, according to two senior legislative sources. The agents were gathering data, including deleted e-mails and other documents, as part of their probe into the veracity of House Speaker Thomas M. Finneran's testimony in a federal civil court case.

The FBI, using a subpoena it had delivered to the Special Committee on Redistricting on March 10, went to Beacon Hill last month and removed the information from the computers used by the Senate to draw districts for the 2002 election, said the sources, who asked not to be identified.

The agents were particularly seeking any documents, either e-mails or letters, that showed Finneran was in contact with the Senate map-makers over redistricting. Such documents do not exist, according to one of the legislative sources.

"They vacuumed everything in the computer," he said, noting that the FBI was able to collect from the computer hard drives e-mails and other information that had been previously deleted. -- US investigators seize State House records in Finneran probe (

Christian talk show host ruled ineligible to run as Republican

The Alabama Supreme Court ruled Tuesday against a Christian radio talk show host seeking a place on the ballot in the June 1 Republican primary for a south Alabama state school board seat.

The court ruled 6-0 that the Alabama Republican Party had the "legal discretion, authority and power" to disqualify Kelly McGinley from running for the state school board in the district that includes Mobile, Baldwin and Escambia counties.

McGinley is an outspoken supporter of ousted Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, who has been urged by some supporters to run for president under the banner of the Constitution Party. Republican Party officials had argued that McGinley was disqualified because she had endorsed the Constitution Party on her talk radio show. -- Court rules against talk show hosting seeking spot on ballot (AP via

Registration before graduation

Principal Van Phillips is the law at Minor High School [in Birmingham, Alabama]. And the law says graduating seniors must be registered to vote.

Phillips recently held the last of four school-year registration drives to get seniors at the Jefferson County system school on the rolls before the Thursday graduation ceremony.

Although many high school principals promote voter registration, Phillips said, he goes "out on a limb" in making it a condition for getting a diploma. -- Minor principal makes registering to vote the law for his seniors (Birmingham News)

May 18, 2004

Coming attractions: the "shadow GOP"

Republican Party leaders are attempting the difficult maneuver of reversing themselves 180 degrees on the use of 527 soft-money groups in an effort to convince skeptical GOP lobbyists, lawyers, donors and other party allies to build a network to rival the fundraising structure known as the "Shadow Democratic Party."

Ironically, one of the biggest obstacles party leaders face is their own effort for much of this election cycle to declare illegal the fundraising activity of 527s, tax-exempt groups named after the section of the tax code under which they are organized. ...

However, Republican leaders began switching to Plan B — an effort to encourage conservatives to replicate the liberal soft-money network — even before the FEC voted late last week not to implement any regulations on 527s for this election year.

Ken Mehlman, the manager of the Bush-Cheney campaign, told a group of approximately 20 lobbyists at a private breakfast meeting May 11 that if the FEC failed to regulate 527s, Republican soft-money groups would immediately emerge and launch an ambitious soft-money fundraising drive to catch up with Democrats. -- GOP leaders reverse field, build a new 527 network=The

Utah newspaper editorializes in favor of instant runoff

Amid the political machinery known as Utah's caucus-convention system, there is only one part that could reinvigorate politics and let people know their vote really counts.

It's so-called "instant runoff" voting. The state Republican Party has used it for the past four years in selecting party officers and candidates. The system is efficient and would bypass the silly and wasteful caucus-convention system, which allows an easily manipulated oligarchy to anoint candidates.

The Republicans' recent selection of candidates for governor shows how the instant runoff system works. Each delegate makes first- and second-choice votes on a ballot. If no candidate gets 60 percent of the votes in the first round, the lowest candidate on the ballot is eliminated, and the votes for that candidate are redistributed to candidates selected as second choices on the loser's ballots. The process is repeated until one candidate gets a 60 percent majority or until two candidates are left for a primary runoff.

It was this system that allowed Nolan Karras, the Republican convention's dark horse, to force Jon M. Huntsman Jr. into a primary runoff in the seventh round of counting. -- IN OUR VIEW An instant improvement :: The Daily Herald, Provo Utah

Watch out, Albany

An Arbor Hill activist who won a court battle against the Albany County [New York] Legislature to increase political clout for the city's growing number of minorities is bringing that same fight to the city.

Aaron Mair took aim at the all-Democratic Common Council by releasing a plan to create another two predominantly minority election wards, something the city claimed wasn't possible when it redrew these districts two years ago.

Mair, who beat the county in federal court last year on the same voting rights issue, said Monday he's ready to sue again if the city doesn't increase the number of wards in which minority voters hold sway in time for the 2005 city elections.

"This is about geography and political choice," said Mair, president of Arbor Hill Concerned Citizens. "How do we get the council to wake up that the urban environment has changed?" -- Activist pushes to redraw city lines (Albany

11th Circuit: Georgia Democrats may not sue over open primary

On Monday, the 11th Circuit affirmed the dismissal of a suit brought by the supporters of former U.S. Rep. Cynthia McKinney who claimed that McKinney's loss in the 2002 Democratic primary to now-Rep. Denise Majette was because of Republican "cross-over" votes. The Republicans were able to vote in the Democratic primary because Georgia has an open primary. The complaint alleged that the open primary violated (1) the equal protection clause; (2) the Plaintiffs’ associational rights under the First Amendment; and (3) Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. The court held that voters (as opposed to the party) do not have standing to complain about the open primary; that the plaintiffs had failed to state a claim of violation of the equal protection clause; and had not shown a violation of the VRA. Osburn v. Cox.

Group files FEC complaint against Bicardi PAC

Citing a "pattern of flagrantly violating campaign finance laws," a watchdog group yesterday filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) against the political action committee (PAC) of rum maker Bacardi.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), a nonpartisan and nonprofit watchdog group, filed the complaint against the PAC and its Treasurer Robert Higdon, for failing to provide campaign finance reports and for not disclosing contributions made to lawmakers.

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas), Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) are among the lawmakers to receive money from the Bacardi PAC. -- FEC complaint filed against PAC (The

To see the CREW press release and complaint, go here.

May 17, 2004

Group calls for VVAT in Ireland

The terms of reference of the [Irish] Commission on Electronic Voting (CEV) do not allow it to examine the issue of a VVAT (Voter Verified paper Audit Trail), and this must change according to Irish Citizens for Trustworthy Evoting (ICTE).

In the Seanad on Wednesday, Deputy Pat "The Cope" Gallagher, speaking about the inclusion of an VVAT [1] said "There are arguments on both sides but the commission will consider the matter. We should await its further report." [2] yet the CEV stated in their report that the matter did not fall within their terms of reference, but that it has "a bearing on the successful implementation of the chosen system" [3]. The secretariat of the CEV has confirmed that that the Commission has not been asked to consider VVAT and it still remains outside their terms of reference.

"It is clear from the report", said Margaret McGaley, spokesperson for ICTE, "that the commission considers this to be an important question. It is also clear, however, that they believe it falls outside their terms of reference. The commission should be allowed to consider the merits of a paper audit trail." -- Electronic voting commission must be allowed to examine VVAT - ICTE (

Miami-Dade redistricting suit settled

North Miami has settled its federal lawsuit against Miami-Dade County over its 2001 County Commission redistricting, which carved North Miami into four districts.

The city sued because it said redistricting ''disenfranchised'' the power of the Haitian-American vote by splitting up the city, from two to four county commissioners. ...

Under the settlement, Miami-Dade will hold workshops across the county in various languages to inform the public on impending redistricting efforts.

The county will also create a 13-member ''citizens redistricting advisory board'' to help the county figure out new districts. -- City reaches agreement on redistricting lawsuit (Miami Herald)

May 15, 2004

County officials worry about felon purge in Florida

The state's push to remove thousands of "potential felons" from voter rolls [in Florida] is causing angst among local election officials, who worry about inaccurate information, unfair results and yet another round of election-year lawsuits.

Orange County Elections Supervisor Bill Cowles, who has almost 2,200 potential felons to verify, said computer data supplied to counties by the state is riddled with problems, including wrong names and criminal charges that may have been reduced.

Under state law, it is county election officials, not the state, who must verify convictions and notify people who would be dropped from voter rolls. ...

Already, the American Civil Liberties Union, NAACP and other groups are pressuring county voting supervisors not to purge any voters unless there is hard proof they are felons, who by law cannot vote.

The ACLU also is threatening lawsuits. In a letter to all 67 county election officials, ACLU of Florida Executive Director Howard Simon warned that counties must be careful because they're the last line of defense. -- Counties fear errors in plan to cut felons from local voter lists (

Kerry will not support member of Congress for DC if Utah gets one too

Presumptive Democratic nominee Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.) said yesterday that if elected president, he would not sign legislation to give the District a vote in the House of Representatives as proposed by Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.).

Kerry's declaration, made after he spoke with top city Democrats including Mayor Anthony A. Williams and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, marked a rare break between the national Democratic Party's standard-bearer and District aspirations for congressional voting rights. ...

Kerry otherwise reaffirmed his support for District voting rights.

"I believe that people deserve representation," Kerry said. "I intend to fight to see that representation occurs somehow, and I can't tell you what possibly will pass, but I know what I believe." A vote in the House and two votes in the U.S. Senate for the District have been a part of the national Democratic Party platform. -- Kerry Skeptical of Bill on D.C. Vote (

FEC says Sharpton must return $100,000

Al Sharpton's unsuccessful presidential campaign said Friday it will keep fighting a Federal Election Commission determination that it must pay back $100,000 in matching funds.

The FEC found Sharpton improperly spent more than $110,000 of his own money on the campaign, more than double the amount allowed for someone who receives matching money.

The commission voted 6-0 Thursday that Sharpton's campaign must repay the $100,000 in taxpayer money.

"We have been expecting this for a while, and we plan on fighting this all the way," said Sharpton campaign manager Charles Halloran. -- FEC: Sharpton must return $100K in matching funds (AP via

IRS warns charities and churches about campaigning

The Internal Revenue Service has warned churches and other houses of worship they risk losing their tax-exempt status if they engage in partisan election-year politics.

The IRS, in a routine advisory issued every four years since 1992, said religious groups are "prohibited from participating or intervening in any political campaign on behalf of, or in opposition to, any candidate for public office."

Churches, charities and schools--known as 501(c)3 groups for their section of the tax code--may hold nonpartisan voter-education forums or voter-registration drives, but may not endorse any candidate.

Nonprofit groups may not make donations to campaigns, raise funds for candidates, distribute campaign literature or "become involved in any other activities that may be beneficial or detrimental to any candidate," the IRS said in a recent notice. -- Church electioneering could cost tax exemption (Baptist Standard)

The IRS notice is Charities May Not Engage in Political Campaign Activities.

If you can't lick'em, join'em

The House Republican most closely identified with legislation to reduce the influence of big money in politics signaled his support Friday for GOP groups that begin raising donations in unlimited amounts to aid President Bush's re-election.

"I can't tell the Republicans to disarm when the Democrats aren't," said Rep. Christopher Shays of Connecticut, one day after the Federal Election Commission declined to restrain Democratic-aligned organizations that have poured millions into television advertising designed to defeat President Bush.

His remarks were largely symbolic because senior GOP officials responded to the FEC's decision by signaling their eagerness for Bush's supporters to begin doing what the president's opponents have done for months. At the same time, Shays' comments underscored the slow-motion collapse of the most sweeping effort in a generation to rein in the political influence of big money.

Senior Republican officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said two existing organizations are well-positioned to assume a prominent role for Republicans. They include Progress for America and the Leadership Forum. The latter group's key officials are former Rep. Bill Paxon of New York, who once headed the House GOP campaign organization, and Susan Hirschmann, a former chief of staff to House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas. -- Shays Tells GOP Groups to Aid in Bush Bid (AP via Biloxi Sun Herald)

California has misplaced certifications of e-voting systems

As state prosecutors weigh criminal and civil cases against Diebold Election Systems Inc. for using uncertified software in California elections, the state faces a potentially bigger problem: Other brands of voting software that record and count more than a million Californians' votes also may lack state or federal approval.

State elections officials acknowledge that the state failed to maintain a master list of tested and certified voting software from as early as 1999 to the spring of 2003, a period of rapid evolution for computerized voting systems in California.

In those years, the administration of then-Secretary of State and current U.S. Senate candidate Bill Jones approved new generations of voting machines. But scant record of state certification has been found for the all-important software inside, running everything from touchscreens and optical scanning machines for vote tallying and reporting of election results.

During a two- to four-year gap -- from a vague series of approvals in late 1999, 2000 and 2001 to none from 2002 to April 2003 -- the nation's largest suppliers of voting systems, Elections Systems & Software and Diebold Election Systems Inc., flooded California with new versions of voting software without a clear record of whether they were nationally tested or certified for use in state elections, as required by state law. -- E-voting software problem worsens (Oakland Tribune)

May 14, 2004

Redistricting data program for 2010

The Census Bureau has announced the general outlines of its Redistricting Data Program for 2010. You can view the 2-page announcement in 69 Fed. Reg. 26547.

CORRECTION: Morgan Kousser has pointed out the link gets a blank page. Instead, go to the Federal Register main page and enter "redistricting data program" in the search box.

Christian Coalition surveys Georgia judicial candidate

The Christian Coalition of Georgia is putting statewide judicial candidates on the spot, asking them to declare their positions on abortion, school prayer, homosexual conduct and other hot-button issues.

The group's effort puts it at odds with a private organization that has been asking candidates to sign a pledge to follow old rules on campaign behavior and to refrain from filling out the surveys.

Thanks to a federal court ruling in 2002, this is the first election in Georgia where judicial candidates have been allowed to declare positions on issues and offer unfettered criticism of their opponents.

That's good news for the Christian Coalition, which thinks voters are entitled to know a judicial candidate's position on broad social issues that may come before the courts.

But the Georgia Committee for Ethical Judicial Campaigns believes it's unethical for judicial candidates to commit themselves to positions on issues that may come before them in court. The latter group mailed letters to the candidates on Thursday, requesting them to conduct their campaigns in an ethical manner and to refrain from announcing positions on matters that may come before them if they are elected to the bench. -- Christian Coalition Tests Judicial Candidates (Fulton County Daily Report)

May 13, 2004

DC Council backs Rep. Davis's plan to expand U.S. House

D.C. Council members are preparing to endorse a congressional proposal to give the city a vote in the House of Representatives -- even if it means adding a seat for Utah at the same time.

Twelve members signed on to a non-binding, sense-of-the-council resolution Friday that is scheduled to come up for a May 19 public hearing and a June 1 vote.

It would put District elected leaders on record as supporting a proposal by Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.) to temporarily expand the House by two seats by adding a voting representative for the nation's capital and another seat for Utah. Utah was next in line to gain another member after the 2000 U.S. Census.

Under the Davis plan, the House would revert to its current size, 435 seats, after the 2010 census and redistricting, but the District would keep its voting member. ...

House Democrats object to giving away at least one seat to the GOP majority -- at a time when Republican control hangs on a 12-vote margin -- and another vote in the Electoral College, which selects the president, however temporarily. -- Council Backs Compromise to Get House Vote (

Judge refuses to delay redistricting order

A judge on Thursday refused to delay use of new legislative districts, a step which the state's top election official has said could interfere with ballot preparations and early voting [in Arizona].

Judge Kenneth Fields of Maricopa County Superior Court in January overturned legislative districts first used in 2002 as unconstitutional. He ordered the state to draw and use a new map with additional districts deemed competitive between the two major parties.

In Thursday's ruling, Fields rejected requests by the state Independent Redistricting Commission and Secretary of State Jan Brewer to put his January order on hold and to allow use of the old districts.

Commission Chairman Steve Lynn said the panel will appeal Fields' latest ruling to either the state Court of Appeals or the Arizona Supreme Court. -- Judge Refuses to Delay Use of New Legislative Dist. (AP via

Here is the order.

FEC will not give answer to hypothetical question about Schwartz v. Brown race

The Federal Election Commission on Thursday threw out a request to examine how much of her own money Republican Melissa Brown could spend in her U.S. House campaign against Democrat Allyson Y. Schwartz [in PA-13].

The race is expected to be one of the most competitive House seats in the country this year.

Schwartz's campaign had asked the FEC to determine whether Brown could transfer personal funds from her primary campaign account to her general account. If Brown put more than $350,000 of her own money into the race, she would trigger the so-called "Millionaire's Amendment" - which would allow Schwartz to accept higher contributions, including from state and national party organizations, than what federal campaign finance law generally allows.

But Brown said - and the FEC agreed - that since she will not transfer personal funds from her primary account to the general election campaign, the point is moot. -- FEC dismisses Schwartz campaign finance query against Brown (AP via

NYC election board fines Ferrer

Former and future mayoral contender Fernando Ferrer got socked with a $47,000 fine Thursday for violating campaign finance rules, bringing the total amount of his fines for his 2001 mayoral race to more than $220,000.

The 2005 mayoral campaign of Ferrer, the former Bronx borough president, said it accepted the lastest fine of $47,602 for exceeding spending limits and other violations in 2001.

The campaign blamed the problems on the frantic events surrounding the 2001 primary election, which took place on the Sept. 11 and was cancelled in midday after the attacks on the World Trade Center. --
Ferrer fined for campaign violations (New York Newsday)

FEC delays 527 regulations for at least 90 days

The Federal Election Commission today refused, for now, to put limits on independent political groups that collect and spend millions in unlimited contributions, opening the way for advocacy groups supported by Democrats and Republicans to play a dramatic role in the 2004 elections.

The decision to postpone the rules for 90 days was a victory for a group of Democratic organizations that have played a critical role supporting Senator John Kerry, spending tens of millions to bolster his campaign as he emerged from the primaries. ...

"The 2004 election is going to be the wild west," said Michael Toner, a Republican commissioner whose efforts to introduce tighter regulations were defeated by a vote of 4-2. "We are going to see Democratic groups and Republican groups taking full advantage of the legal landscape. Tremendous sums of soft money are going to be raised and spent on both sides." -- Election Panel Won't Impose New Spending Limits on Groups (New York Times) **

The agency followed the advice of its lawyers, who on Tuesday had recommended a delay of at least three months. The panel reached its decision after a five-hour meeting.

The debate is built around whether limits should be imposed on organizations — known as 527s, for the section of the tax code that governs their activities — that raise and spend campaign money independent of candidate organizations and the political parties. -- New Campaign Spending Rules Rejected (Los Angeles Times)

These new Democratic organizations have drawn support from some wealthy liberals determined to defeat Bush -- including financier George Soros and his wife, Susan Weber Soros, who have given $7.5 million to two of the most prominent groups, America Coming Together (ACT) and

Pro-Republican groups immediately vowed to try to match the liberal organizations. But Republicans have been under less pressure to raise nonparty money because of the success of the Bush campaign, which has already raised $200 million, while the Republican National Committee had raised $157.4 million through the end of March. -- In Boost for Democrats, FEC Rejects Proposed Limits on Small Donors (Washington Post)

Residency requirement for city office voided

An ousted City Council candidate could get a second chance to run for office after a judge declared Friday that part of the Bonita Springs [Florida] City Charter is unconstitutional.

By requiring candidates to live in their districts for two years before taking office, the charter violates their right to be treated equally, said Lee County Circuit Judge William McIver.

The city's reasons for having the provision -- to ward off carpetbaggers and promote knowledgeable candidates -- are legally insufficient, the judge ruled. -- Judge declares part of city charter unconstitutional (

Thanks to Richard Winger for the link.

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Nader endorsed by Reform Party, gets ballot access in 7 states

Ralph Nader won the endorsement of the Reform Party on Wednesday, giving him access, if he accepts, to the presidential ballot in the seven states where the party still has legal status.

The states include the crucial battlegrounds of Florida and Michigan, where Mr. Nader would not have to collect signatures and where he could conceivably swing the presidential election if the voting was close. He would have had to collect more than 92,000 signatures to get on the Florida ballot alone, and the Reform Party's action, which is essentially the party's nomination, relieves him of that requirement.

Mr. Nader is not yet on the ballot in any state. The Reform Party's endorsement means that he will automatically qualify for the ballot in the seven states, which include five -- Colorado, Kansas, Mississippi, Montana and South Carolina --- that voted for George W. Bush in 2000 and are likely to do so again. -- Reform Party Backs Nader, Offering Line on Ballots (New York Times)

Bringing in the big bucks for the Dems

In the first election under the sweeping McCain-Feingold campaign finance law, perhaps no fund-raiser has been more successful than Ms. [Ellen] Malcolm at collecting millions of dollars by turning the new rules to her advantage.

The success of her efforts hangs on a decision on Thursday by the Federal Election Commission, which is expected to delay or abandon new campaign finance rules -- an outcome that would most likely keep Ms. Malcolm and fund-raisers like her in business through this year's elections.

Ms. Malcolm has become a major fund-raiser for so-called 527 committees -- groups named for their section of the tax code that were not addressed by the new law and remain one of the last avenues for contributing six- and seven-figure checks. Her work has put her at the center of a battle over whether these groups should be further regulated by the commission.

Barring any new restrictions, Ms. Malcolm will continue to raise tens of millions for the Media Fund and America Coming Together, two of the wealthiest 527 committees dedicated to defeating President Bush. She poses a double threat to Republicans as the founder of Emily's List, a group that pioneered small-contributor fund-raising in the 1980's to help female Democrats. Emily's List is now the nation's largest political action committee. -- For '04 Democratic Campaigns, She's Queen of the Hat-Passers (New York Times)

May 12, 2004

Florida felon purge draws fire

Election officials in Florida have ordered local election supervisors to once again begin purging convicted felons from voting lists. The move, which comes just six months before a presidential election expected to be very close in Florida, has angered civil rights groups. They say state officials have not yet reinstated the voting rights of all the people who were illegally kept from voting in 2000 and they warn of another election fiasco in the works.

"Here we go again," said Ralph G. Neas, President of the People for the American Way Foundation "Even before they have corrected the mistakes of four years ago, before they have restored the rights to the people who were wronged in 2000, they're starting this process yet again. It's mind-boggling." Neas' organization is a nonprofit civil rights group working to strengthen democratic institutions.

In what state election officials say is an attempt to comply with Florida law, which denies convicted felons the right to vote, the Florida state Division of Elections sent a memo to local election supervisors directing them to take convicted felons off the voting rolls, reports the Miami Herald.

"As part of our quality assurance testing, felon and clemency information was run against a copy of the current voter registration database and has identified over 40,000 potential felon matches statewide," wrote Ed Kast, director of the state Division of Elections, in a the memo, according to the Herald. -- Civil Rights Groups Criticize Renewed Florida Felon Voter Purges (the New Standard)

GOP candidate asks for recount in Indiana

Longtime [Indiana] Senate Finance Committee Chairman Larry Borst asked state election officials yesterday for a recount in his 48-vote loss in last week's Republican primary.

Borst decided against a more drastic option -- petitioning for a new election -- saying state Republican leaders should be the ones to decide whether voting irregularities in Marion County were so serious that voters were disenfranchised. ...

Marion County GOP Chairman Mike Murphy said he will not seek a new election either, despite problems that include some voters leaving the polls after precincts ran out of ballots.

Borst's attorney, David Brooks of Indianapolis, said yesterday that he believes there are a number of absentee and provisional ballots that were not counted in many Marion County precincts. ...

In part, that's because election officials provided unclear instructions about how to handle the provisional ballots — which were used in last week's election for the first time — making many of them invalid.

Also, Brooks said, some precinct inspectors have reported that they did not run their absentee ballots through the voting machines, as required by state law. -- Borst asks for primary recount (Louisville Courier-Journal)

Failure to preclear = good news for one candidate

Henry County [Georgia] Commissioner Gary Freedman can keep his post while running for the chairman's seat, the county elections board ruled Wednesday.

Hampton resident Sharon Sagon, a vocal critic of Freedman, filed a complaint, citing a 1987 Legislature act aimed at preventing Henry commissioners from simultaneously campaigning for another position. Chairman candidate Jason Harper cited the law when he resigned his county commission seat on April 30, the last day of qualifying.

"Mr. Freedman should have resigned before he qualified [to run for chairman]," said Sagon's attorney, W. Donald Patten Jr.

Freedman's attorney, Joe M. Harris, said the 1987 law was never approved by the U.S. Justice Department, which is required under the Voting Rights Act. -- Election board: Freedman can run without resigning (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

EAC asks for more money

Members of a new federal voting commission appealed to Congress Wednesday to double their budget, arguing that the extra cash would allow them to help states run more efficient elections.

"We've promulgated no rules. We've worked hard to get stationery, office space, business cards. We've had one public hearing," DeForest B. Soaries, chairman of the Election Assistance Commission, told a House Appropriations subcommittee.

President Bush's budget proposal gives the fledgling commission $10 million for operations in fiscal 2005. Soaries asked lawmakers for an additional $10 million for research and data collection so the commission could provide states with guidelines on voting systems in time for the 2006 elections.

"Those standards cannot be established without proper research," said Soaries, who noted that the extra money could come from $40 million in Bush's fiscal 2005 budget request for states to spend on election reforms. --
New Voting Commission Seeks More Funding (AP via

California to vote on non-partisan primary initiative

Voters may be able to choose any candidate in state primaries regardless of their party affiliation.

The California Secretary of State's office announced May 3 that an initiative to make California's primaries nonpartisan - allowing voters to choose any candidate regardless of party affiliation - has collected enough signatures for the November 2004 ballot.

If voters approve the new system, races for the U.S. Senate, House of Representatives, the state Legislature, governor, attorney general, treasurer, controller, lieutenant governor, insurance commissioner and secretary of state will all be changed to open primary elections.

Proponents of the initiative said it will help bridge the gap between the two parties and increase voter turnout by making primaries more competitive. -- Initiative to make primary nonpartisan on state ballot (California Aggie)

New Rochelle back in court over its redistricting plan

New Rochelle [New York]'s long and twisting redistricting case is headed back to a federal judge, but that doesn't necessarily mean a resolution of the lawsuit is near.

The city today must file its redistricting plan with the U.S. District Court in White Plains and with the case's major remaining plaintiff, the New Rochelle Republican City Committee.

The New Rochelle Voter Rights Defense Fund, an organization set up by the city's NAACP chapter to protest to the city's redrawing of District 3, dropped its challenge earlier this year after agreeing to a new redistricting plan with the city. The Republicans have until May 26 to formally respond to the new plan and, barring a settlement, all parties are due in court before Judge Charles Brieant on June 3. The new schedule was set in court last week.

New Rochelle's special attorney in the case, Alan Scheinkman, and the fund's attorney, Randolph McLaughlin, said they were confident of success in the case. -- Judge to examine new redistricting plan (

Cuellar wins Texas recount suit

Former Secretary of State Henry Cuellar claimed another victory Tuesday in his race for Congress when a [Texas state court] judge ruled that after two months and two recounts, Cuellar is the Democratic nominee.

The battle moves to an appeals court, which will have the last word, in the next few weeks.

Judge Joe Hart decided that Cuellar's opponent, U.S. Rep. Ciro Rodriguez, had run out of time to build his case on allegations of illegal voting and ballot tampering. ...

During the second recount last week, document experts for both sides inspected about 10 percent of the ballots for fraud. The Rodriguez expert said he found 29 questionable ballots in Webb County. The Cuellar expert said she found none.

On Tuesday, Rodriguez's attorneys asked for more time, saying their expert had only inspected about 2,000 of nearly 20,000 ballots cast in Webb and Zapata counties.

Hart, a retired San Antonio judge, denied the request, saying they were only expected to investigate a "sample" of the ballots anyway. -- Judge rules Cuellar is Democratic nominee (Star Telegram)

I don't know Texas election law, so I don't understand the standard being used. However, there was a final margin of 58 for Cuellar. Finding 29 "questionable" ballots while checking 1/10 would probably yield 290 in the universe of all the ballots. Why did the judge not allow more time to check the rest of the ballots if Rodriguez had found that many he questioned? Did the judge hear any evidence about these 29 ballots? if anyone knows the answers, leave a comment.

Election Assistance Commission

The Election Assistance Commission's website is up and running, although some parts are still under construction. I was disappointed to find that the Best Practices in Election Administration link on the first page leads to this: "The Election Assistance Commission is presently gathering information to be included in this section of the website."

How 501(c)'s on the right match the left's 527's

To the average person, it might seem that if the Democratic 527s are a cynical mechanism for evading the ban on soft money, then surely the GOP-leaning 501(c)s are even more so. How, then, does the Republican shadow party get away with it? First, while the 527s admit that their ads are meant to affect elections, the 501(c)s do not. Instead, they insist that they're running "issue ads" intended merely to rouse debate about specific issues, not get anyone elected or defeated. Legally, this is considered "grassroots lobbying," an activity on which 501(c)s can spend unlimited amounts of money.

Now, the IRS code wisely allows 501(c)s to spend some of their money on ads meant to affect elections. Otherwise, traditional membership groups like the NAACP or Concerned Women for America wouldn't be allowed to make their voices heard on a candidate's position on, say, voting rights or gay marriage. So the second legal test is whether a group's "primary purpose" is to affect elections. The Democratic 527s admit up front that electioneering is their primary purpose; indeed, that fact is built into the legal definition of a 527. But to merit 501(c) status, the GOP groups must--and do--insist that electioneering is not their primary purpose. Indeed, like most of the GOP shadow groups, AJS reports on its 2000 returns spending zero dollars on political activity.

This is a curious claim for a group like AJS [Americans for Job Security] to make, considering it spends 95 percent of its budget on campaign-season ads that mention candidates. Indeed, were you to compare almost any Democratic 527 spot to one run by the Republican 501(c), you would be hard pressed to explain why one is intended to influence an election and the other is not. Following the 2000 elections, University of Wisconsin political scientist Kenneth Goldstein surveyed the issue-ad campaigns run by dozens of outside groups. As part of the study, his student volunteers viewed a series of AJS spots and answered the question, "In your opinion, is the purpose of the ad to provide information about or urge action on a bill or issue, or is it to generate support or opposition for a particular candidate?" They found without exception that what they had seen fell into the second category. When I mentioned the study to [AJS's president] Mike Dubke, he responded, "I think that's ridiculous." -- "Bush's Secret Stash" by Nicholas Confessore (Washington Monthly)

Thanks to Craig Holman (who is quoted in the article) for the link.

Show your colors


On my drive to work this morning, a guy pulled up beside me and motioned for me to roll down my window. I cut off my Steve Earl CD and put the window down. "Where did you get that wonderful bumper sticker?" he asked. "I've got to have one."

Well, you can get one too (plus lots of other goodies) at

The 22-front campaign

President Bush and Senator John Kerry are pouring resources into more than 20 states in a struggle to master what both sides describe as one of the largest and most complex electoral playing fields in nearly 20 years.

The broad map, including such unusual additions as Arizona, Colorado and Louisiana as well as the traditionally contested states like Ohio, is partly the result of the vast amount of money each candidate has raised and their decision to quit a campaign finance system that would put a ceiling on their spending. That has allowed Mr. Bush and Mr. Kerry to spend - and experiment - in states they might otherwise have been forced to ignore, campaign aides said.

The new map also reflects demographic shifts that have put places like Arizona, a nominally Republican state, in play because of its growing Hispanic population, as well as polling that has found an increasing number of states that are nearly evenly divided. Campaign aides also say they feel pressure not to repeat what they view as Al Gore's mistake of abandoning states that ended up being decided by a few thousand votes.

The two campaigns are, as of now, looking at 22 states between them, a playing field that is about one-third larger than it was at this point in 2000. Analysts say it could expand even more in the months ahead, before undergoing the contraction that inevitably takes place after Labor Day, as the campaigns take stock of where they stand for the remaining 60 days of the contest. -- Candidates Face Sprawling and Complex Electoral Map (New York Times)

Here is a graphic showing the states in play.

May 11, 2004

Alabama Legislature repairs zoning referendum law

Shelby County [Alabama] is back in the zoning business, with a few modifications.

A bill approved Thursday by the Alabama Legislature and sent to the governor clears up a legal technicality that since last summer.

It also makes it easier for residents to call such an election by reducing the number of signatures required on petitions for that purpose.

Under state law, Shelby County is divided into geographical beats for zoning. The unincorporated land in each beat has no zoning classifications unless property owners in that beat submit a qualified petition to the probate judge and then vote in a public referendum to establish zoning. -- Shelby zoning votes revived by legislature (Birmingham News)

The "technicality" was Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, and "last summer" refers to a suit I brought to block a referendum.

Residency suit filed by Jefferson County, Alabama, candidate

A Birmingham lawyer is suing the Alabama Republican Party to get her name back on the ballot in time for the June primary.

The party ruled in April that Amanda Lewis did not meet residency requirements to run against a Bessemer Division district judge because she did not live in the Bessemer Cutoff for the required one year before the primary. Lewis lives in Quinton, near the Walker County line, but still in the Cutoff. ...

Her living in Jefferson County period was enough for her to qualify, Lewis says in her lawsuit.

"Judges of the 10th Judicial Circuit, which consists of Jefferson County, are elected by the voters of the entire county," the lawsuit says. "Nowhere in the law of Alabama, either in the Code or in the uncodified Acts is there any requirement enacted by the Legislature that requires residency in the Bessemer Division of Jefferson County or in the Birmingham Division of Jefferson County for service as a district judge in either division." -- Lawyer sues to get name back on ballot for primary (Birmingham News)

The 10th Judicial Circuit is divided into two divisions, Bessemer and Birmingham, with each division having "jurisdiction" (rather than venue) to hear certain cases. My recollection is that Ms. Lewis moved into the Bessemer "Cutoff" from the Birmingham Division.

May 10, 2004

I get by with a little help from my friends

The political donations of company employees of companies that won the prescription cards overwhelmingly favored Bush - at least $280,000 of their contributions went to the president's campaign compared to about $60,000 for Kerry's campaign, Federal Election Commission records show. Among the donations:

_United Healthcare employees donated roughly $59,000 to Bush, $5,500 to Kerry.

_Employees of the Kaiser Foundation Health Plan or its parent, Kaiser Permanente, have given about $17,000 to Bush and roughly $21,000 to Kerry.

_WellCare employees gave roughly $22,000 to Bush's campaign and no money to Kerry.

_Aetna workers gave at least $16,000 to Bush and $1,000 to Kerry.

_Medco or Merck employees donated at least $12,000 to Bush and $10,000 to Kerry. -- Medicare Contractor Firm Donates to GOP (

State parties seeking PAC's hard money in DC

State party officials, facing leaner times because of the strict new campaign-finance law, are coming to town to raise money from inside-the-Beltway lobbyists, corporations, labor unions and other interest groups.

The immediate impact is that members of Congress are facing stiffer competition as they try to raise coveted hard dollars from political action committees (PACs).

Federal politicians still can collect limited hard-money contributions under the new McCain-Feingold law, which prohibits them and national party committees from soliciting unlimited soft-money contributions. -- States sharpen race for PAC money (The

More footdragging in San Francisco IRV launch

S.F. Examiner: Ready to roll

Despite assertions that the Department of Elections is moving forward with a plan to implement a new voting system in November, voter-education groups are concerned officials are lagging on conducting crucial outreach.

The concerns come as The City moves to implement ranked-choice voting, a system that allows voters to rank three candidates in order of preference so that a costly runoff election, typically priced upwards of $2 million annually, can be avoided.

Known as "instant runoff voting," voters approved the idea in 2001, but legal hang-ups and sluggish bureaucracy have left it languishing.

After months of dormancy on the subject following a frenzy of hearings meant to get the system in place for last year's mayor race, the Elections Department will today go before the Board of Supervisors Rules Committee and the Elections Commission to discuss plans for implementing and educating voters on the ranked-choice voting system. --

Keep Arizona Clean Elections

A pro-Clean Elections coalition called Keep Arizona Clean Elections has been established in Arizona to counter the "No Taxpayer Money for Politicians" committee.

Thanks to Demos for the link.

NYTimes: provisional ballots may disenfranchise many

n 2000, untold thousands of eligible voters were prevented from voting because of flawed voting lists and other errors by election officials. This November, voters who show up and say they are eligible cannot be turned away. Instead, they must be given provisional ballots, which election officials will review after the polls close to determine their validity. This is an important reform, but unless it is done right, provisional ballots could actually disenfranchise many of the voters they were intended to help. ...

Provisional balloting has great potential, but it is complicated, and the election system does not handle complexity well. State officials should be working now to put in place procedures to ensure that the ballots live up to their fullest potential, and do not make things worse. -- The New York Times > Opinion > Making Votes Count: Voting Reform Could Backfire

May 9, 2004


So that you can see what posts have drawn comments recently, I have added an index on the right side showing "Entries with Recent Comments." Just click on the title and you will see the entry and the comments.

Search warrant for missing donations

El Paso County sheriff's detectives executed three search warrants at the home of County Commissioner Betti Flores on Friday seeking election campaign records based on a criminal complaint that she allegedly failed to report three $500 campaign contributions.

Flores said that she has done nothing wrong and that if the contributions were not listed in her campaign finance reports, it was an accidental oversight.

"If I made a mistake leaving something off my financial statements, I apologize and will fix it," Flores said. "This is a total of $1,500, and it is nothing more than a simple clerical error."

She said the sheriff's detectives came to her home with warrants to search for her campaign bank statements, receipts and copies of any other campaign finance records she had. -- Commissioner's home searched for campaign finance records (El Paso Times)

Mississippi campaign finance bill passes

Legislation passed Friday by the [Mississippi] House and Senate will make it easier for people to access campaign finance reports and harder for politicians to hide contributors. ...

The bill will require politicians to disclose who co-signs for debts. Lt. Gov. Amy Tuck promised to work for this legislation while campaigning for re-election last year after questions arose over old campaign loans.

The bill would also require disclosure of sources of soft-money television ads 60 days before an election that mention any candidate's name.

The Senate passed the bill by a unanimous roll call vote, despite some reservations about an electronic filing requirement. The bill requires candidates who receive more than $75,000 in contributions to file reports on "software prescribed by" the Secretary of State. -- Campaign finance bill passes (Biiloxi Sun Herald)

Dems to drop charity event in Boston

Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., has pulled the plug on a July 28 fund-raiser for the Democratic National Convention in Boston. The event was supposed to raise money for the National Childhood Cancer Foundation, but it was criticized by campaign finance watchdog groups because it had a corporate sponsor and used members of Congress as drawing cards. Lincoln said she didn't want the event compared to the much-criticized charity fund-raiser Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Texas, has organized during the Republican convention in August in New York City. DeLay set up his own charity, and $500,000 donors will get a package of rewards, including Broadway tickets, a yacht cruise and a private meal with the House majority leader. AFLAC, an insurance company based in Georgia, was organizing the Boston event, had put in $100,000 in seed money and was soliciting corporate donors to do the same before it was canceled. The company said a similar event it planned in New York will go on as scheduled. -- ON THE HILL: News from the Louisiana delegation in the nation's capital (New Orleans Times-Picayune)

Britain considers voting for 16-year olds

Has life at 16 ever been sweet? Not really, and especially not now. Today's 16-year-olds are a generation in turmoil. In some ways, of course, it was ever thus: what is adolescence about if not working through a maelstrom of emotions? When has life at 16 not involved a muddle of contradictions and embryonic big ideas bound together in a big bravado shell?

Last week The Independent revealed, exclusively, that the Prime Minister intends to add to the modern teenage burden by giving 16-year-olds the right to vote. Labour will pledge to do so in its next election manifesto, against the advice of the Electoral Commission. But any politicians who eventually tout their wares to this generation will have to understand the ways in which it has been dealt a tough hand. -- Focus: Sweet 16 - Would you give the vote to them?
Tony Blair would. He wants to lower the voting age and allow 1.3 million teenagers their say. But are they ready - and will they bother - to vote? Joanna Moorhead knocks on the bedroom door of a generation to find out (The Independent, UK)

Winson Hudson, rest in peace

Winson Hudson, 87, a civil-rights campaigner in rural Mississippi who flaunted her contempt for Ku Klux Klan intimidation by wearing a bright red dress the many times she marched up to the courthouse to try to register to vote, died on April 24.

Her grandson, Kempton Horton, said she died at a hospital in Jackson, Miss., that she had fought to desegregate.

In 1963, Mrs. Hudson brought the first suit to desegregate schools in a rural Mississippi county and won the case the next year. In 1965, a black child attended a previously all-white school.

She began trying to register to vote at the Leake County courthouse in 1937 and finally succeeded in 1962, but not before repeatedly having to write out and then explain a lengthy passage from the state Constitution. (White registrants merely had to explain this clause: "All elections shall be by ballot.")

In Mrs. Hudson's failed attempt to register in 1961, someone slipped a small card to her. It read: "The Eyes of the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan Are Upon You." -- Winson Hudson, one of civil rights' 'heroes,' dies at 87 (New York Times via Seattle Times)

Katherine Harris: Oops

It sounds like something from the 2000 presidential election -- an absentee ballot isn't counted because it isn't filled out properly. And this disenfranchised voter was no stranger to election debacles -- U.S. Rep. Katherine Harris.

Harris, who as Florida's secretary of state oversaw the presidential recount, forgot to sign her absentee ballot when she voted in Longboat Key's local election March 9.

"I feel terrible," Harris said Friday. "It's a mistake. I regret it."

Harris, now a member of Congress, said she was in a rush to catch a flight to Washington, D.C., when she handed the unsigned absentee ballot to her husband to send in. She said she usually votes in person and has never had trouble before. -- Harris forgets to sign her absentee ballot (

Seems to me that I remember the Republicans claiming that any undervotes in 2000 were the fault of voters too stupid to follow instructions.

Malapportionment suit filed in Indiana county

A southern Indiana woman has filed a federal lawsuit aimed at forcing the Washington County Commissioners to redraw the county's districts.

Angela Mead's lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court at New Albany, cites an Indiana law that required all counties to perform redistricting in 2001. It claims Washington County has not done so, and that the populations of its districts are not equal. ...

Mead says in her lawsuit that District 2, represented by Phillip Lofton, has the largest population, at 13,916, while District 3, represented by Jerry Roberts, is the smallest, with 5,663 people. District 1 has 7,644 residents.

If the districts were equal in population, each would have about 9,000 people, the lawsuit says. -- Woman sues to have Washington County redraw districts (Indianapolis Star)

May 7, 2004

Former N.C. official sentenced for state campaign finance violations

Former state Agriculture Commissioner Meg Scott Phipps, already serving a four-year federal prison sentence for campaign finance violations, was sentenced Friday to as much as 20 months in prison on related state convictions.

Phipps, the daughter and granddaughter of former governors, is serving her federal sentence at the Alderson, W.Va., Federal Prison Camp for women.

Wake County Superior Court Judge Donald Stephens sentenced Phipps to 16 to 20 months in prison and ordered that the sentence be served concurrently with the federal sentence. ...

According to the federal charges, Phipps accepted two illegal cash contributions. One, totaling $10,000, was received in the spring of 2002; the other was $2,000 that a state fair food concessionaire gave to Phipps at the 2001 state fair.

Federal and state indictments said Phipps took the illegal contributions in exchange for midway contracts at the North Carolina State Fair. Phipps also acknowledged that some of that money was converted to her personal use, and that she falsely testified to state elections officials. -- Phipps sentenced in state court for campaign scandal (AP via Winston-Salem Journal)

U.S. Senate candidate transfers leftover funds to his state senate campaign

Veteran state Sen. Dan Webster dropped out of the race for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate on Friday and said he would instead seek re-election to his central Florida seat.

Webster said he decided Friday, the qualifying deadline for U.S. Senate candidates, that he would have more influence in the Legislature than he would in Washington. He said he wasn't daunted by bad poll numbers, that had him trailing behind the other Republicans in the race. ...

Deutsch and Penelas lead in fund-raising, with Federal Elections Commission records showing them both having raised about $2.9 million through the end of March. On the Republican side, Byrd and McCollum have also topped $2 million. By contrast, Webster had raised $782,000 through the same period, and had spent more than a half million, leaving him with only about $270,000 in the bank, FEC records show.

Although new federal campaign finance law on the matter isn't completely clear, transferring the money to a state Senate campaign isn't one of the generally accepted items the money could be spent on, said FEC spokesman Bob Biersak.

Leftover federal campaign money generally must be spent on leftover campaign expenses, given to a political party or donated to charity. -- Florida state senator dropping out of U.S. Senate race (AP via

Feds disclose some of their case against Paul Minor

Federal prosecutors in court papers filed this week said defense lawyers' claims that the government is engaging in a vindictive and selective prosecution of prominent [Mississippi] trial lawyer Paul Minor are based "upon nothing more than unsupported and inaccurate speculation." ...

Media coverage about the selective prosecution argument led two lawyers to step forward with the extortion allegations, federal prosecutors said. The lawyers, Bobby L. Dallas and Brad Sessums, were contacted by Minor shortly after Diaz had written an opinion upholding a $9 million verdict for their client and solicited $20,000, the government alleges. The government identified the lawyers only by their initials in its indictment, but The Sun Herald determined their identity from state court records.

"Minor provided detailed, inside information to the two attorneys regarding defendant Diaz's role in the decision of the case," federal prosecutors said in the court papers.

"He informed them that the vote on their case could have gone either way in the Supreme Court and that Justice Diaz had helped swing the vote in favor of their client. Minor went on to discuss the fact that defendant Diaz would be voting on a motion for rehearing that had been filed in the case... There was nothing subtle about the extortion." -- The Sun Herald | 05/07/2004 | Prosecutors: Minor used inside info in extortion scheme (Biloxi Sun Herald)

New Jersey seeks dismissal of felon voting rights case

The state [of New Jersey] is seeking to dismiss a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union and other civil rights groups that would allow ex-convicts to vote while they are on probation or parole.

The lawsuit, filed in January in state Superior Court in Elizabeth, claims that because most of those on parole or probation in New Jersey are black or Latino, denying them the right to vote violates the state constitution's guarantee of equal protection under the law.

At a hearing Friday, the state Attorney General's Office asked Superior Court Judge Miriam Span to dismiss the suit, but the judge did not issue a ruling. It is expected within the next few weeks, said Frank Askin, director of Rutgers Law School's Constitutional Litigation Clinic.

"Our argument is that because of the disparate impact of the disenfranchisement law, it becomes an issue of equal protection under the law," he said. "It weakens the voting power of the entire minority community in New Jersey." --
State seeks dismissal of voting rights lawsuit for ex-cons (AP via

Texas candidate's lead shrinking in recount

Democratic nominee Henry Cuellar's lead over U.S. Rep. Ciro Rodriguez shrunk to 58 votes Friday after a court-ordered recount of more than 15,000 disputed Webb County [Texas] ballots cast in the March 9 primary.

Ballot counters here spent the better part of two days counting the ballots that have become the focal point of a lawsuit filed by Rodriguez to overturn the results of a previous recount that gave Cuellar a 203-vote margin of victory in the Congressional District 28 Democratic primary. -- UPDATE: Cuellar's lead shrinks in District 28 recount (

Mississippi voter ID bill dead for this session

A proposed voter identification bill appeared doomed after [Mississippi] House and Senate negotiators failed to reach a compromise during talks Wednesday.

Agitated after senators made major changes in the House bill, Rep. Willie Bailey, D-Greenville, said he refuses to return to the bargaining table for more discussions. ...

Bailey was among Black Caucus members who fought the issue earlier this session, but he had a change of heart when the House agreed to exclude older Mississippians from having to show identification at the polls.

Bailey said Wednesday voter ID is being used as an issue to help the Republican Party recruit members.

Since he and other House negotiators won't sign the conference report, Gov. Haley Barbour can put voter ID in a special session, he said. -- Negotiators unable to reach compromise on voter ID bill (Jackson Clarion-Ledger)

Arizona language minorities object to voting equipment plan

Hispanic and Native American state lawmakers on Tuesday sent a letter to [Arizona] Secretary of State Jan Brewer opposing her $44.7 million voting-system plan.

Some will meet today with federal officials to discuss objections. They argue that part of the $44.7 million should go to hire bilingual workers and to encourage Hispanic voting.

The U.S. government is providing most of the money for such upgrades as new optical-scan ballot systems, more frequent checkups on voting equipment and better access for disabled voters.

"We need to recruit more bilingual election workers to help the mostly monolingual voters," said Rep. Steve Gallardo, D-Phoenix, one of 15 legislators who signed the letter. -- Hispanic, Native American legislators dislike voting plan (Arizona Republic)

The campaign had confused books; the candidate on trial

Mobile County [Alabama] Commissioner Freeman Jockisch was not repaid more money than he was entitled to from his campaign fund, his finance chairman testified.

John Gavin testified Thursday at Jockisch's trial on four counts of filing false tax returns and two dozen counts of mail fraud in connection with his campaign fund and the sprinkler company, Reed Fire Protection.

Billy Kimbrough, Jockisch's lead attorney, called Gavin, a former stockbroker, to rebut testimony from a state investigator who testified Jockisch had repaid himself and his family at least $19,000 more from his campaign fund than he should have.

Gavin said he did his own analysis of the campaign fund at Jockisch's request and concluded the campaign still owed "$38,651 and change" to the commissioner. -- Finance chairman says Jockisch wasn't overpaid by campaign (AP via

Warning: this vote may not count

Absentee ballots in southwestern Alabama would include a disqualified candidate under an agreement reached Thursday by the candidate and the state Republican Party.

But votes for Christian talk show host Kelly McGinley would not be counted if the Alabama Supreme Court decides party officials were following the law when they removed her from the ballot over questions about her loyalty to the party. ...

Montgomery County Circuit Judge William Shashy last week ordered the party to put McGinley back on the ballot but later froze his order while Republicans appeal to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court also froze Shashy's order until it decides on the matter. The agreement reached by McGinley and the party would ask the court to modify its stay so that absentee ballots can be distributed. ...

The agreement was reached during a hearing before U.S. District Judge Harold W. Albritton on a second suit filed by McGinley.

Albritton said he would reserve judgment on that suit — essentially the same as the first one, except that it was filed in federal court — unless the Alabama Supreme Court takes too long to rule on the appeal. -- McGinley, GOP ask Supreme Court to release absentee ballots (AP via

May 6, 2004

Internet ads virtually unregulated

When it comes to pushing harsh political attack ads, election campaign managers are discovering that few other media compare to the Web.

For example, thanks to changes in campaign law that have largely taken effect this year, candidates do not have to endorse their own Internet spots--something that's mandated in radio and television under a measure known as the "stand by your ad" requirement.

The exemption is one of several campaign loopholes carved out for the Internet that are contributing to a surge in blistering Web ads from both Republicans and Democrats that would be illegal almost anywhere else, election experts said.

"The FEC has sought to give the Internet a pass," said Paul Sanford, a former Federal Elections Commission attorney now at the Center for Responsive Politics (CFRP), a nonpartisan election-finance watchdog. "They've sort of sought to establish this free-fire zone." -- Liberal Net rules spawn political attack ads (CNET News via

Ads by outside groups in judicial elections

A new report from Justice at Stake shows how the threat to fair and impartial courts spread to more states in the 2002 Supreme Court elections. According to the report - THE NEW POLITICS OF JUDICIAL ELECTIONS 2002 - the number of interest groups that ran TV ads in state judicial elections doubled since the 2000 campaigns, and ten high court candidates raised more than $1 million for their campaigns. And a new nationwide poll conducted by Zogby International and commissioned by Justice at Stake shows that Americans are alarmed by the increasing power of money and special interest politics in judicial elections --and that they want reforms. -- Special Interest Pressure on Courts Spreading, Warns Sen. John McCain & New Justice at Stake Report (Justice At Stake)

The site has a press release, a complete copy of the report, and a national public opinion poll.

Election Assistance Commission hearings

Passions ran high Wednesday at the first public hearing of the Election Assistance Commission, where activists and manufacturers of electronic voting machines clashed over whether new e-voting systems should include a voter-verifiable paper trail that auditors could use to recount votes if necessary.

The newly formed commission, which is just beginning to oversee the certification of voting systems and the standardization of elections across the country, held its first meeting to examine the state of elections and voting systems. The commissioners were collecting testimony from special-interest groups, election officials, computer scientists and voting-machine makers. -- Wired News: E-Voting Commission Gets Earful

IT security researchers have uncovered significant vulnerabilities in the electronic voting systems that nearly 30% of all registered voters will use in the upcoming presidential election, raising concerns about what already looks to be one of the most divisive elections in U.S. history.

In testimony before the U.S. Election Assistance Commission yesterday, security researchers said that without voter-verifiable paper receipts, the 50 million Americans who will use electronic voting machines this fall will have no way of knowing if their votes were recorded properly. Even worse, the code base powering the systems is so large and complex that there's little way for election officials to be sure it is free of malicious code designed to manipulate election results. -- E-voting system security, integrity under fire (Computerworld)

With TV cameras and a standing-room-only crowd watching, the newly-formed U.S. Election Assistance Commission held its first public hearing Wednesday and agreed to look closely at using open source software to do the job in the future. ...

To address this issue [if voter-verified audit trails], the EAC assembled five panels of experts to testify at Wednesday's hearing. The panels covered e-voting from the perspectives of diverse groups: technologists, voting system vendors, election administrators, human/computer interation researchers, and advocacy groups. -- New federal commission begins examining e-voting issues (NewsForge)

Texas recount continues on Friday

The court-ordered recount of disputed Webb County [Texas] ballots in the Congressional District 28 race won't likely be completed until Friday, officials with the campaigns of U.S. Rep. Ciro Rodriguez and Democratic nominee Henry Cuellar said today.

Early today, counters began by sorting the more than 10,000 early votes cast here by precinct. The actual counting and inspecting of the ballots began shortly after noon and was expected to continue until 5:30 p.m. today.

Officials are expected to pick up the counting of all the nearly 15,000 primary ballots cast here at 8 a.m. Friday.

The recount, which was ordered by visiting District Court Judge Joseph Hart earlier this week, could bring the issue of who won the Democratic nomination in the March 9 primary nearer to resolution. -- District 28 recount likely to continue Friday (San Antonio Express-News)

Felon purge in Florida

Florida elections officials have ordered local supervisors to begin purging their voter rolls of felons - an election-year directive that some say would remove up to 40,000 people, many of them likely black Democrats. ...

Lt. Gov. Toni Jennings said Thursday the administration had no choice in ordering the purge, that it was complying with the federal election law. ...

Jenny Nash, a spokeswoman for Secretary of State Glenda Hood, said it's mandatory under state law and that the list has the approval the U.S. Department of Justice and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, which sued the state in 2001 over the list used in 2000.

"We feel confident that the same mistakes made in 2000 will not be repeated," Nash said Wednesday. -- State wants felons purged from voter list (AP via

Another re-redistricting

Roughly 20 towns [in New Hampshire] would change Senate districts in a plan approved by the Senate Thursday, a move that may trigger a lawsuit from Democrats.

"This feels like one of those occasions when the heavy hammer of partisan politics comes down hard," said Sen. Sylvia Larsen, D-Concord, whose district would lose Loudon and gain Hopkinton under the plan. The bill has to go before the House.

Democratic Sen. Clifton Below, of Lebanon, said the new lines would make three districts "distinctly more Republican" and corral Democrats within two other districts.

Below called it "partisan gerrymandering" and said the bill was designed "to tip the playing field in favor of incumbents." -- Changing Senate districts draw Democrats ire (AP via

Testimony before the EAC

Ludovic Blain III, Associate Director of the Democracy Program of "Demos: A Network for Ideas and Action" (that is pronounced DEE-mos) has sent his organization's testimony for the U. S. Election Assistance Commission's May 5 public hearing on the use, security, and reliability of electronic voting systems.

If other organizations would like to send their testimony (or better yet, a link to their testimony), I will be happy to post them.

Comments: love'm and leave'm

Several thoughtful comments have been left on recent posts in the past few days. I appreciate my readers taking the time to do so.

This weblog can be a source of conversation, not simply a one-sided presentation by me. I hope you will take the time to leave comments and to read those of others. In the next few days, I will add a notice to one of the side bars of recent comments to aid you in finding new comments.

House committee "unfavorably recommends" bill to appoint replacement members

A House committee chairman and his GOP colleagues voted yesterday to send legislation they strongly oppose to the House floor.

Democrats who might support the bill, or one like it, argued for hearings instead. ...

The amendment, by Rep. Brian Baird (D-Wash.), calls for changing the Constitution to allow governors to appoint temporary replacements if a majority of the House's 435 members perish or are incapacitated in a terrorist strike or another disaster.

Baird and other Democrats argue that temporary lawmakers would be needed until special elections could be held to ensure that the House could function in the aftermath of a calamity.

Most Republicans, however, ardently oppose wiping out the constitutional requirement that all House members win their positions through elections, a requirement they believe makes the chamber uniquely reflective of the people's will. (Governors can appoint temporary replacements if a senator dies, and the line of presidential succession includes Cabinet members who are not elected.) -- GOP Hopes Roll Call Will Bury Democrat's Bill (

May 5, 2004

One step forward, one back for Rodriguez

U.S. Rep. Ciro Rodriguez's legal case against challenger Henry Cuellar was severely hobbled Tuesday when a [Texas] judge denied his attempt to raise the issue of possible illegal votes cast in Webb County in the disputed Congressional District 28 race.

But the blow was tempered by visiting District Court Judge Joseph Hart's ruling to order another recount of the nearly 15,000 Democratic primary ballots cast here -- a process that will take place Thursday and, if necessary, Friday.

The recount could bring the issue of who won the Democratic nomination nearer to resolution, although Rodriguez's attorney, Buck Wood, said he still plans to appeal the issue of illegal voting to the 4th Court of Appeals in San Antonio. ...

A trial still is slated to begin Tuesday in Laredo, although the substance of the case will depend on what happens during the recount, lawyers for both sides said. -- Another District 28 recount set (San Antonio Express-News)

Ballot shortage in Indiana

Marion County [Indiana] election officials are trying to determine why 45 voting precincts ran out of Republican primary election ballots late Tuesday afternoon, and if it will have any effect on close races.

Some voters, either unable or unwilling to wait, left before they were able to cast their ballots, and several thousand extra ballots that were printed in an attempt to make up for the shortfall came too late for some, RTV6 reported.

Early indications Wednesday were that there would be no legal recourse for the losing side in a race, because voters weren't turned away from the polls -- they left by their own choice, RTV6's Norman Cox reported. Officials said if the voters had waited, they would have been able to vote eventually.

Two of the precincts that were affected by the shortage were in Senate District 36, where incumbent Sen. Larry Borst appeared to lose to Brent Waltz by 49 votes. -- Politics - Ballot Shortage May Be Settled Through Legal Means (

4th Circuit hears challenge to Virginia congressional district

A lawyer for nine black citizens urged a federal appeals court Tuesday to reinstate a lawsuit claiming the [Virginia] General Assembly's 2001 redistricting plan illegally diluted black voting strength in the 4th Congressional District.

The plaintiffs claim that the reapportionment illegally "packed" blacks into the black-majority 3rd District while decreasing the adjacent 4th District's black population from 39.4 percent to 33.6 percent.

J. Gerald Hebert, an attorney for the black citizens, argued that the Republican-led redistricting violated the 1965 Voting Rights Act by hurting the ability to black voters to elect a candidate of their choice in the 4th District.

"They had a district before where their vote really mattered," he told a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. "Now it doesn't matter as much."

Michael Carvin, a lawyer for former state Republican Party chairman Gary Thomson, said blacks would have to form a coalition with whites to elect a candidate even if the black population was boosted back to near 40 percent as the plaintiffs preferred.

"A political coalition isn't protected under the Voting Rights Act," he said. -- Court hears congressional redistricting challenge (AP via Hampton Roads Daily Press)

Arizona's "Clean Election" campaigns

As the spending in the presidential campaign escalates toward $1 billion for the election year, some reformers are wondering whether any law can ever make the system less dependent on fundraising. In Arizona, there's a drastic alternative already in place for state offices, and NPR's Peter Overby reports on how it's working. -- Arizona Tries New Approach to Campaigning (NPR, All Things Considered)

May 4, 2004

Voting Rights for kids

No, I'm not talking about lowering the voting age. Brenda Wright has sent me the March issue of Cobblestone magazine -- a theme issue on Voting Rights. Brenda was consulting editor on this issue. Cobblestone is for grades 4-8.

You can order this issue from Cobblestone Publishing.

May 3, 2004

A view from law school

Skydiver Salad has a 2L at Stanford's take on Vieth v. Jubelirer. [Spelling corrected --thanks to Mike P for pointing it out.]

Louisiana may change election schedule

Local and state elections [in Louisiana] would be pushed back in certain years, if the Senate agrees to a bill that received unanimous approval Monday from the House.

The measure by Rep. Arthur Morrell, D-New Orleans, attempts to end the confusion created among Louisiana voters every two years when state and federal elections overlap.

A federal court said Louisiana could not have its congressional elections in October with a runoff in November, because with the state's unique open primary system, voters often were electing congressmen in October - before the recognized November federal election date. ...

Under Morrell's bill, state and local elections would run on the federal November-December schedule, starting in 2006 and saving the state $2.8 million. -- Elections calendar would change under House-backed bill (AP via

Thanks to Richard Winger for the link.


Once the domain of the stereotypical fat cat, campaign contributions are now flowing from deep within the grass roots. Driven by partisanship, technology and changes in campaign-finance laws -- the 2002 McCain-Feingold law banned large direct contributions to the political parties -- campaign cash has become democratized.

Bush's reelection team said it has received a donation from at least one person in every county in America. Although the majority of Bush's contributions have come from people who have given the maximum ($2,000) allowed by law, smaller donors are playing a role, too. Campaign officials say about 833,000 individuals have contributed some money to Bush's reelection effort, compared with 345,000 during the 2000 election.

The Republican National Committee said it received donations from more than a million first-time contributors during the first three years of Bush's presidency (average contribution: $29.80). "Our small-donor base has just mushroomed," said Ed Gillespie, the RNC chairman. ...

[Terence McAuliffe, chairman of the Democratic National Committee] estimated that 70 percent of the people who gave money to the DNC in the past three years were first-time contributors. This has helped the DNC wipe out its debts and wean itself of now-banned large "soft-money" contributions from unions, corporations and wealthy individuals. --
Small Donors Grow Into Big Political Force (

FEC cuts off Sharpton's funds

Al Sharpton's financially struggling campaign has lost one valuable source of money _ at least for now.

The Federal Election Commission has cut off government financing for the Democrat's campaign. The FEC ruled Sharpton spent too much of his own money on his campaign, exceeding the $50,000 personal spending limit imposed on candidates who accept public funding.

Sharpton is considering going to court to challenge the commission, campaign spokesman Charles Halloran said Monday. Sharpton contends that when his personal spending on non-campaign travel is subtracted he is well within the spending limit. -- FEC cuts off government money for Sharpton campaign (AP via

Mississippi Legislature near to passage of campaign reform law

Just minutes before a legislative deadline, [Mississippi] House and Senate negotiators reached a compromise on a campaign finance bill.

The conference report filed late Monday would require political action committees that make contributions of $10,000 or more to other PACs to disclose the original source of the money.

"If this passes and becomes law, then it will be one of the most significant pieces of election legislation we've ever passed," said Senate Elections Chairman Bobby Chamberlin, R-Hernando, one of the six negotiators on the bill.

The bill also would require any nonprofit group such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce or any other 501(c) entity to disclose the source of contributions of $200 or more if the organization names specific candidates in advertisements purchased during an election cycle. -- Conferees reach compromise on campaign finance bill (AP via Biloxi Sun Herald)

Thinking people are for Sen. John Edwards

IMAGINE there's no Iowa. No New Hampshire, too. Imagine the Democratic Party, instead of relying on a few unrepresentative voters to quickly anoint John Kerry, had allowed people across America to vet the candidates and contemplate the issues.

Then Mr. Kerry might well not be the nominee, and the Democrats would stand a better chance of reaching the White House, at least according to the results of a novel experiment during the primary season.
After choosing a representative national sample of more than 700 people, political scientists conducted what is called a deliberative poll. They created a group of well-informed voters by giving them home computers and exposing them to the candidates' commercials and policy positions.

These voters, using microphones with the computers, discussed the candidates and the issues in small groups that met online once a week, starting in January on the day of the Iowa caucuses.

Over the next five weeks, as Mr. Kerry built up momentum among both real-life primary voters and the control group in the experiment, Senator John Edwards enjoyed the biggest surge in the well-informed test group, which was won over by his personal traits as well as by his policies, notably his protectionism on trade. Besides appealing to the Democrats in the test group, Mr. Edwards did better among the group's independents and Republicans, and he emerged as the strongest candidate against Mr. Bush. -- The New York Times > Washington > Campaign 2004 > Political Points: Edwards Wins: A Theory Tested

That reminds me of a story Scott Simon repeated on NPR's Weekend Edition a few years ago:

A supporter once called out, "Governor Stevenson, all thinking people are for you!" And Adlai Stevenson answered, "That's not enough. I need a majority."

Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts ...

The fix was in, and it was devilishly hard to detect. Software within electronic voting machines had been corrupted with malicious code squirreled away in images on the touch screen. When activated with a specific series of voting choices, the rogue program would tip the results of a precinct toward a certain candidate. Then the program would disappear without a trace.

Luckily, the setting was not an election but a classroom exercise; the conspirators were students of Aviel D. Rubin, a professor at Johns Hopkins University. It might seem unusual to teach computer security through hacking, but a lot of what Professor Rubin does is unusual. He has become the face of a growing revolt against high-technology voting systems. His critiques have earned him a measure of fame, the enmity of the companies and their supporters among election officials, and laurels: in April, the Electronic Frontier Foundation gave him its Pioneer Award, one of the highest honors among the geekerati. -- Who Hacked the Voting System? The Teacher (New York Times)


It's a rare day indeed when the Supreme Court takes a case involving a building block of democracy and then throws up its hands, deciding voters and their legislators are the best ones to act.

Such a day occurred last week when the high court decided, in a 5-4 ruling, that the redrawing of voting districts by state legislatures to benefit one political party over another may be unfair, but it's more a matter left to politics than a concern of constitutional justice.

Gerrymandering is almost as old as the republic, and yet it's become worse in recent years as polling techniques and computer software make it easier for incumbent legislators or dominant parties to carve up districts in convoluted ways to create "safe" districts or a virtual one-party statehouse. -- Gerry-meandering (Christian Science Monitor)

Finneran's lawyer says he never denied role in redistricting

A criminal defense lawyer representing [Massachusetts] House Speaker Thomas Finneran challenged claims made by a panel of federal judges who said the powerful Boston Democrat denied playing a role in the redrawing of legislative districts.

The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals stated in a footnote to its February decision on the House redistricting plan that ''Although Speaker Finneran denied any involvement in the redistricting process, the circumstantial evidence strongly suggests the opposite conclusion.'' ...

''With all due respect to the court, we strongly believe that the language quoted above is simply wrong,'' Attorney Richard Egbert said. ''Without a doubt, it is entirely contrary to the evidence presented in court. Speaker Finneran never denied any involvement in the redistricting process.''

Finneran testified that he had multiple conversations about the plan's progression with key members of the House Redistricting Committee, Egbert said. -- Lawyer: Finneran never denied a role in drawing redistricting map (AP via

It was a three-judge district court, damn it, AP, not the court of appeals.

May 2, 2004

Liquid List's take on the Colorado redistricting case

Sometime in the next week, the Supreme Court will decide whether to hear the third redistricting case of the session, coming to them from the Republicans of The Centennial State. The court handed a redistricting victory to Texas Republicans on April 18 by upholding a lower court ruling that rejected a Democratic appeal and allowed the Republicans to gerrymander at their whim. Eight days later, a "deeply divided" high court upheld a Republican gerrymander proposal in Pennsylvania. -- The Liquid List: Politics: Third Time's The Charm.

Thanks to TalkLeft for the link.

UK Electoral Commission finds public confidence increased in Northern Ireland elections because of Electoral Fraud Act

The body that regulates UK elections has set out a substantive list of ways in which the vote-counting process in Northern Ireland could be improved.

The Electoral Commission said in its 200-page report, published in Belfast on Thursday, that fraud was not an issue in last autumn's assembly poll. ...

Electoral Commissioner Karamjit Singh said that the assembly election provided them with an opportunity to gauge at first hand the impact of the Electoral Fraud Act at Northern Ireland-wide elections.

"We have concluded that confidence generally in the democratic process has improved as a result of the new legislation, a view shared by most of the political parties, presiding officers and members of the public," he said.

Last November's election was the first province-wide poll to be held under the Electoral Fraud Act. ...

Overall, the report stated that more than 10,200 invalid votes were cast at the elections, the majority caused by a lack of understanding about the Single Transferable Vote system.

Seamus Magee, head of the Electoral Commission's office in Northern Ireland, said: "This is an issue which needs to be addressed, alongside others in the report including the privacy and secrecy of the ballot, access to polling stations for people with disabilities and the administration of the count." -- Report critical of voting process (BBC News)

"Home is where heart of dispute is"

The truth of what really happened in the race between U.S. Rep. Ciro Rodriguez and challenger Henry Cuellar lies in some of the poorest neighborhoods in this politically charged border city [Laredo, Texas].

Hired guns from both camps have been combing the area for weeks, some searching for households where improper votes may have been cast and others seeking to prove that nothing strange is going on. ...

Rodriguez attorney Buck Wood acknowledges family ties are at the heart of many of his examples of alleged illegal voting, such as a son or daughter who moves from his or her parents' home but maintains voter registration there.

"The tradition of people maintaining an address other than where they live seems to be very prevalent here " in Laredo, he said. "It's very family-oriented and people maintain their connections."

While it may not be fraud, it's certainly not legal, he said.

"If you go to a poll and you claim you still live at an address, that's illegal," Wood said. "That vote's going to be thrown out."

Cuellar attorney Steve Bickerstaff disputes that.

"It's very, very common for the registration to remain at the residence of the parents," he said. "Any ruling that would say that's a violation of the law would have implications statewide for minority voting." -- Home is where heart of dispute is (San Antonio Express-News)

Does Wal-Mart think public approval is on sale too?

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has gotten more headlines lately for aggressive electioneering than for discount retailing.

The company has championed a series of voter initiatives in hopes of overturning local ordinances that block its expansion. In the San Francisco Bay area county of Contra Costa, Wal-Mart spent more than a half-million dollars to gather enough signatures to put a county ban on big-box stores before voters. They ultimately defeated the ban.

A Wal-Mart lawsuit was enough to prompt officials in nearby Alameda County to repeal a similar ban. And, most notably, voters in the Los Angeles suburb of Inglewood earlier this month rejected a Wal-Mart ballot initiative that would have bypassed local government and allowed a Wal-Mart-anchored shopping center to be built.

Wal-Mart's more assertive tactics might become commonplace as the Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer moves to open or expand scores of stores nationwide during the next 10 months, particularly in metropolitan areas. That includes plans for up to 240 of its 200,000-square-foot SuperCenters - discount store-supermarket hybrids which many communities have sought to block. -- Wal-Mart takes a page from politics in combating community opponents ( AP via

A long story on the defeat of a Wal-Mart initiative in 1999 in Eureka, California, is in the Eureka Times-Standard.

"Probe angers Texas GOP"

A prolonged investigation by a state grand jury has angered Republicans and helped turn a once-friendly, bipartisan atmosphere into one of distrust.

Fueling the investigation is Ronnie Earle, a Democratic district attorney. His staff has fed several grand juries information and testimony about the possible illegal use of corporate funds by Republican Party leaders in key 2002 elections.

Critics say Mr. Earle wants to destroy the momentum that the Republican Party built up in recent years across Texas. ...

"You don't see him going after Democrats do you?" asked Tina Benkiser, state Republican chairman. -- Probe angers Texas GOP (The Washington Times)

Most repubtable newspapers would have followed the Benkiser charge with the fact found only in the 25th paragraph:

In defense of Mr. Earle, Democrats point to his two decades of prosecuting politicians through his office's Public Integrity Unit. They say the District Attorney's Office has taken on far more Democrats than Republicans.

And the 23rd paragraph of the story points out that the partisan bickering started earlier than Earle's criminal investigation:

After the sweep, the 2003 legislative sessions became brutally partisan, with Democrat lawmakers twice leaving the state in an effort to block a redistricting bill that they knew would likely assure Republicans at least a half dozen more congressional seats next year.

I suppose the only way for a prosecutor to avoid angering those in power is not to investigate allegations of criminal conduct.

Texas columnist recommends Louisiana primary system to California

The last thing that California imported from Louisiana was probably some ersatz Cajun joint in Malibu. Blackened tofu? Bean sprouts étouffée? Kiwis Foster?

But California voters are almost certain to be asked this fall if they want to adopt an electoral system similar to Louisiana's free-for-all hybrid.

It might seem unlikely that Californians, despite lingering pre-Schwarzenegger distaste for gridlock, will adopt a moss-draped election system. This may be in no small part because party leaders, in mortal fear of the phrase "regardless of party," are already in full-cry opposition.

But can anything that party hacks oppose be all bad? Short answer: No. -- Hines: If party hacks hate it, can it be all bad? (

California considers a bill for an independent redistricting commission

We've used much ink on these pages in the past several years writing on the evils of redistricting, the cynical power play of 2000 that has stifled political competition and virtually guaranteed that incumbent lawmakers would be reelected. Now, finally, state lawmakers have a chance to do something about it. But will they?

When party leaders carved up political districts in ways that entirely benefited themselves, it helped solidify a feeling among many Californians that their political representatives cared more about their own power than they did about voters and good public policy. Both parties were equally guilty. Redistricting has been one of the key reasons that voters have become so disenfranchised with the Legislature, which had a dismal 21 percent approval rating at last count.

On Tuesday the Legislature has a chance to change course, with the potential to restore some of that lost trust and confidence. A bill by Long Beach Assemblyman Alan Lowenthal, which would put the task of redistricting into the hands of an independent commission instead of politicians, faces its first hearing, by the Assembly Elections Committee.

Approval is something of a long shot, but we sincerely hope that committee members will surprise us and push the bill forward. And we tip our hat to Lowenthal for his efforts to do right by voters and bring some fairness back to the political process. -- Editorial, A cure for redistricting (Long Beach Press-Telegram)

Competitive districts = more moderate legislature

Arizona's newly drawn legislative districts could turn a conservative-dominated Legislature into a more moderate body in the November elections, which would mean good things for Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano's more liberal political agenda.

A handful of hot races under the more competitive maps could decide whether the Legislature remains largely conservative, as is its current leadership, or takes a step toward the political center. A power shift could break Arizona's political gridlock over divisive and pricey programs that could affect millions of Arizonans, such as all-day kindergarten and child-care subsidies.

Former Attorney General Grant Woods, a Republican, said electing more moderates would make the Legislature more reflective of the state. -- New districts could give Legislature a more moderate look (Arizona Republic)

May 1, 2004

Arizona: which districts will it use?

[Arizona] Secretary of State Jan Brewer and the Independent Redistricting Commission are going to court to ask that this year's legislative elections be run using the existing boundaries -- boundaries the same court has found illegal.

Brewer said she fears that there will not be enough time for counties to align the new legislative districts and the voting precincts by the time the new plan gets the required approval from the U.S. Department of Justice. She said that makes having the election under the 2002 lines the most logical conclusion.

And commission attorney Lisa Hauser, in legal papers filed late Friday in Maricopa County Superior Court, said the state should not be forced to use new districts when the legality of the ruling throwing out the old ones remains on appeal. ...

Sen. Peter Rios, D-Dudleyville, a member of the coalition that brought successful suit, suggested a political motive for Brewer's decision to go to court.

"The Republican Party realizes the new district maps make the legislative districts more competitive, thereby enhancing the chances of more Democrats being elected," he said. "If they can save one more term in the Legislature that clearly would be controlled by Republicans, that's clearly what they are shooting for." -- Secretary of state: Use old district boundaries in next election (Arizona Daily Sun)

These folks know how to run a voter registration drive

Joe Herbrand's eyes shifted from the document on the cocktail table in front of him.

The woman on stage at The Isabella Queen peeled off her top, arched her back against the pole and swung her hips side to side as she stepped out of her thong.

Herbrand put down his pen, took a pull off his beer and strutted up to the stage, bobbing his head with the blaring music. With $2 tucked in his mouth he stood before the stripper as she pulled his head to her chest and clasped the money between her breasts. The 23-year-old from Janesville then sauntered back to his table and picked up his pen.

When he answered the few questions on the form and signed his name, his voter registration was complete.

"I was pretty amped about the situation," Herbrand said. "I've never been asked if I want to vote." -- Strip clubs focusing on va-va-va-voter drives (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

Thanks for the link to How Appealing.