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

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July 31, 2004

anti-Clean Elections initiative tossed off the ballot

The Arizona Republic reports: A judge on Thursday rejected a ballot initiative designed to end public funding for state election campaigns in Arizona.

Judge Margaret Downie of Maricopa County Superior Court ruled that Proposition 106 violated the "single-subject rule" for making changes to the state Constitution.

The measure would get rid of public financing for campaigns, but would also prevent the Clean Elections Commission from pursuing other duties such as scheduling debates, publishing a voters guide and regulating campaign-finance laws.

The judge concluded that a voter might reasonably agree with one part of the initiative, such as getting rid of publicly financed political campaigns, but might support the commission's other duties. ...

The institute's suit also contended that petitions used to explain the purpose of the anti-Clean Elections initiative were "highly partisan" and "designed to mislead voters." Downie tossed out that complaint, saying that the Legislature only requires an impartial description of an initiative in the actual ballot language, not on the petitions used to qualify. -- Ruling helps boost Clean Elections (Arizona Republic)

I believe the public financing of the Clean Elections program and the other duties of the Commission were adopted in one initiative. If so, wasn't that a violation of the "one subject" rule?

How "social welfare" equals campaign ads

The Texas Observer reports on a group called the Law Enforcement Alliance of america: One agency tasked with policing groups like the LEAA is the Internal Revenue Service. But the IRS doesn't appear to be interested. It has designated the non-profit LEAA as "a social welfare organization." Under this tax designation, the LEAA can legally "educate" voters about issues but, it cannot advocate for the election or defeat of a candidate. The IRS forbids such organizations from "direct or indirect participation or intervention in political campaigns on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate for public office." When big money is the key to demolishing political opponents, the biggest advantage that any "social welfare" group like the LEAA enjoys is that it is legally allowed to keep all its donors, even the largest ones, hidden.

Currently, the LEAA is under investigation by a Travis County grand jury as part of a wide-ranging inquiry into the 2002 campaign. Did the LEAA cross the line between "education" and "advocacy?" Did the LEAA serve as a key component in a coordinated GOP plan to skirt campaign finance laws and funnel prohibited corporate money into Texas politics? Was the author of that plan U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Sugar Land), whose principle objective was to redraw congressional lines so that more Republicans would be elected?

Those who track campaign money believe that the LEAA represents a troubling trend. “LEAA is one of a new breed of shadowy front groups that is willing to serve as a corporate money conduit and attack dog to benefit GOP candidates,” says Craig McDonald of the public policy organization Texans for Public Justice. “Its ‘issue ads’ are a mere hoax. When GOP candidates need a political attack from a so-called law-and-order group, they appear to funnel money to the LEAA to carry it out. “ -- Bankrolling Beltway Badges (Texas Observer)

Dems to challenge Nader petitions in Pennsylvania

The Philadelphia Daily News reports: Democrats from the state House of Representatives on Monday will challenge Ralph Nader's petitions for a place on the Pennsylvania presidential ballot in November.

Mike Manzo, chief of staff to House Minority Leader Bill DeWeese, said party volunteers are prepared to comb through the thousands of petition signatures Nader is expected to submit Monday, the state deadline.

They will be looking for any violations of state election law.

Nader needs 25,697 signatures from registered voters statewide to qualify for the ballot. His campaign says it is shooting to collect 40,000 signatures to be safe.

"There will be a challenge, no question about it," Manzo said. "If he has enough valid signatures to stay on the ballot, then God bless him. If he doesn't, he's off." -- Dems challenging Nader's bid in Pa. (Philadelphia Daily News)

Nader's petitions attacked in South Carolina

AP reports: Groups of S.C. residents and attorneys are questioning pro-Nader petitions in various counties -- including York, election workers confirmed Thursday.

If the groups convince officials to toss out more than 1,000 of the 11,000 signatures supporting Nader statewide, he could be booted from the ballot.

Simon Demory, Nader's S.C. coordinator, said it's alarming that state Democrats are working to suppress Nader's candidacy.

"Personally, I think it's a very, very scary thing," he said. "That's a pretty dangerous precedent to set."

Organizers said they are trying only to make sure the signatures are legally valid, because they could affect the election. -- Groups in S.C. attack petitions favoring Nader (AP via Charlotte Observer)

Why Judge Minge should be on the ballot

AP reports: Blocking Judge David Minge from seeking re-election to his Minnesota Court of Appeals seat would allow his opponent to manipulate the election process, a state lawyer argued in response to a lawsuit challenging Minge's ballot qualifications.

Deputy Attorney General Kris Eiden asked the Supreme Court to dismiss a petition attempting to remove Minge from the ballot on residency grounds. The lawsuit was filed by a Republican activist who is upset that Minge no longer lives in the region for which the seat is reserved. ...

Eiden wrote that the activist, Bonn Clayton, has ties to Minge's sole challenger, Shakopee attorney Paul Ross. She alleges that the two conspired with others to ensure Ross' election. Clayton didn't sue until after the window for filing for offices closed, Eiden noted. ...

Eiden responded that the new political map was meant to apply to future elections and didn't cover Minge at the time of his appointment.

The Supreme Court, which referees election law disputes, has not set a date for hearing or acting on the lawsuit. -- Court given pro-Minge argument (AP via St. Paul Pioneer Press)

For background on this story, see my earlier post.

Common Cause pushes for Massachusetts redistricting commission

AP reports: Activists say they have collected enough signatures to put a nonbinding referendum question on the ballot in 15 [Massachusetts] state representative districts asking voters if they support turning the authority to draw new district lines over to an independent commission.

The move is the first step in a strategy to deny lawmakers in the House and Senate the authority to draw new district maps every 10 years after the federal census.

Advocates from the government watchdog group Common Cause eventually hope to change the state constitution by pushing for an amendment establishing a special redistricting commission. That question wouldn't reach voters until at least 2008.

The goal is to take the politics out of the task of redistricting by putting it in the hands of a commission, according to Pam Wilmot, executive director of Common Cause of Massachusetts. Legislative leaders would likely oppose the proposal. -- Activists push to deny lawmakers power to redraw district lines (AP via Worcester Telegram & Gazette Online)

Rep. Frost cleared in campaign finance probe

HoustonChronicle.com reports: U.S. Rep. Martin Frost has been cleared of an allegation that he illegally funneled more than $100,000 in corporate donations to Texas legislative candidates in 2000, Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle announced Friday.

Earle cleared Frost, D-Dallas, after investigating a complaint filed by state Sen. Robert Deuell, R-Greenville.

Deuell had raised questions about campaign finance activity carried out by a Frost political committee called the Lone Star Fund. ...

In a letter to Deuell, Earle, a Democrat, said that during the 2000 and 2002 election cycles Frost operated two Lone Star Funds, which shared the same federal employer identification number but maintained separate bank accounts and kept their financial activities separate.

He said he found no evidence after examining bank records and campaign finance reports that the Lone Star Fund-Texas, the only one of the two committees subject to Texas law, had ever been used to deposit or illegally spend corporate or labor union funds on political races. -- U.S. Rep. Frost cleared in campaign fund inquiry (HoustonChronicle.com)

July 29, 2004

Ickes party-man and Ickes 527-man

The New York Times reports: Harold M. Ickes is a founder of an organization created to help defeat President Bush this fall, a group that he emphasizes operates wholly independently of the campaign of Senator John Kerry and the Democratic National Committee.

But that has not stopped him from courting some of the Democrats' wealthiest donors here at the Four Seasons, a nexus of party operatives, Kerry campaign officials and friendly celebrities gathered for the party's convention this week. In a luxurious suite where guests nibble on chocolate ganache tarts and sip espresso, he asks them to give and give more.

Then, in the evenings, this onetime White House deputy chief of staff throws on his credentials as a Democratic Party superdelegate and joins party functionaries gathered for the Democratic convention at the FleetCenter as one of their own.

Just how precisely this squares with the new campaign finance law that allows such groups, known as 527 organizations, to raise unlimited sums for politics so long as they do not coordinate with the candidates or the national parties depends on how much one takes Mr. Ickes's word about the distance between him and the Democrats. -- A Delegate, a Fund-Raiser, and a Very Fine Line

July 28, 2004

"The best election system you never heard of"

Steven Hill and Rob Richie write in the American Prospect: The spoiler dilemma of Ralph Nader's candidacy is back, like the hockey-masked villain from a Friday the 13th horror movie that refuses to die. And unfortunately, Democratic Party leaders have done little over the past four years to change the outcome of this movie.

What could Democrats have done? As advocated by the likes of Howard Dean and Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr., they could have passed state laws implementing instant-runoff voting for use in presidential elections. The problem is not candidates like Nader but our plurality electoral system, which does not require a majority of votes to win our highest offices. Consequently, popular majorities can fracture their support if there are more than two candidates in a race. ... Fixing Elections (American Prospect Online)

Nader sues Illinois over petition rules

The Chicago Tribune reports: The Nader for President 2004 campaign, saying it expects Illinois election officials to try to throw the third-party candidate off the November ballot, filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday challenging state election requirements as unconstitutional.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago, said that by a June 21 deadline the campaign filed about 32,250 signatures on nominating petitions, above the 25,000 requirement, but that objections had been raised about 19,000 of them.

About 90 percent of those objections question whether the signer was registered to vote at the same address as shown on the petition sheet, according to the suit.

The suit called that definition of a qualified voter "narrow" and said it represents "a severe burden" on the 1st Amendment rights of Nader's presidential campaign.

The suit also assails the state's deadline for signatures--the third-earliest of any state--and the 25,000-signature requirement as unconstitutional infringements. -- Backers sue to keep Nader on fall ballot (Chicago Tribune)

Nader says Illinois state workers were checking his petitions illegally

The Illinois Leader reports: Charged with possible violation of state laws prohibiting use of state employees to do political work, House Speaker Mike Madigan (D-Chicago) refuses to provide state employee time sheets to the Nader for President campaign.

Nader's campaign alleges state workers were used to challenge signatures on their presidential candidate's petition for placement on the November ballot. The campaign filed a freedom of information request to obtain documentation, but was denied. ...

In her letter to Madigan, [Christina] Tobin wrote, “I am making this request because these employees signed into either the Chicago Board of Elections’ Office or the Cook County Clerk’s Office to check the validity of petition signatures for Mr. Nader. The Nader petition defense team would like to know if these individuals were or were not being paid by the Illinois taxpayers to do this political work."

“Since it is in the public interest for outsiders to know whether employees of the Speaker’s Office have violated state law, I ask that any fees be waived in that public interest,” she said. -- Nader campaign denied access to state employee time sheets (Illinois Leader)

Nader sues Michigan

AP reports: Ralph Nader's campaign has sued in federal court in an attempt to be placed on the Michigan ballot as the Reform Party's presidential candidate.

A suit was also filed in Illinois to gain ballot access there, the Nader campaign said.

The Nader campaign said the Michigan suit was filed late Tuesday in federal court in Detroit.

"Ralph Nader is the nominee of the Reform Party and he is entitled to appear on the Reform Party's ballot line in Michigan," Nader's attorney, Bruce Afran, said in a written statement. "Anything less is a violation of Nader's constitutional rights." -- Nader Files Suit to Gain Mich. Ballot Spot (AP via Newsday.com)

Punch card suit suspended till November

AP reports: The nation's first trial challenging punch-card voting was postponed Wednesday, removing the possibility of a ruling before the presidential election.

The American Civil Liberties Union had wanted a federal judge to declare Ohio's punch-card system unconstitutional, even if there was no hope of getting the system changed before November.

The trial opened on Monday. But U.S. District Judge David D. Dowd suspended the proceedings until Nov. 1 - one day before the presidential election - to allow the ACLU time to examine an expert report the state filed last Friday.

Kim Norris, a spokeswoman for the state attorney general's office, said the expert's conclusions were identical to a previous version filed, and alleged the ACLU was using the report as "an excuse to regroup."

ACLU lawyer Dan Tokaji said even if the conclusions are the same, the ACLU must review any new information in the report. -- Nation's First Punch-Card Trial Postponed (AP via Biloxi Sun Herald)

Texas responds to Dems' re-redistricting suit

AP reports: Lawyers for Texas asked the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold a lower court's ruling that declared the state's redrawn congressional districts constitutional.

The state's attorneys filed responses late Wednesday to five lawsuits pending before the Supreme Court. The lawsuits challenge the GOP-engineered congressional district boundaries, redrawn in 2003, saying they are unfair to minority voters. The new districts could help Republicans gain several more seats in the U.S. House after the fall elections. ...

Plaintiffs' attorney Gerry Hebert said the new map is unconstitutional because it was drawn for partisan purposes and it takes voting power away from minorities and rural residents.

"The lower court's decision conflicts with decisions of other federal courts on some of the Voting Rights Act issues and the Supreme Court should make the decision as to how the Voting Rights Act is going to be interpreted. That's their role," Hebert said. -- State responds to Democrats, minorities' Supreme Court appeal of redistricting (AP via Ft. Worth Star-Telegram)

Michigan GOP'er suggests "suppressing the Detroit vote"

AP reported last week: Democrats on Wednesday denounced a Republican lawmaker quoted in a newspaper as saying the GOP would fare poorly in this year's elections if it failed to "suppress the Detroit vote."

State Rep. John Pappageorge, R-Troy, acknowledged using "a bad choice of words" but said his remark shouldn't be construed as racist.

Pappageorge, 73, was quoted in July 16 editions of the Detroit Free Press as saying, "If we do not suppress the Detroit vote, we're going to have a tough time in this election." ...

"In the context that we were talking about, I said we've got to get the vote up in Oakland (County) and the vote down in Detroit. You get it down with a good message. I don't know how we got them from there to "racist,"' Pappageorge said. "If I have given offense in any way to my colleagues in Detroit or anywhere, I apologize." -- Democrats blast GOP lawmaker's 'suppress the Detroit vote' remark (AP via freep.com)

And the wolf said, "It was a bad choice of words to say I wanted a mutton sandwich, but mutton sure is tasty."

Wisconsin Right To Life sues over ad blackout in BCRA

The New York Times reports: In the first major challenge to the new campaign finance law's restrictions on political advertising around elections, a Milwaukee group opposed to abortion rights plans to seek an injunction on Wednesday that would let it run radio and television spots during a time the law prohibits. ...

The law restricts interest groups that accept unrestricted donations called soft money from buying television or radio commercials that mention or depict a candidate within 30 days of a primary, or 60 days within a general election. In a motion expected to be filed against the Federal Election Commission with the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, lawyers for the anti-abortion group, Wisconsin Right to Life, argue that the ban violates the First Amendment rights of a grass-roots organization seeking to influence policy, not politics.

The group has already begun running advertisements that encourage Wisconsin voters to contact Mr. Feingold and the state's other Democratic senator, Herb Kohl, to urge them to drop their opposition to some of Mr. Bush's judicial nominations.

Under the McCain-Feingold law, which was upheld by the Supreme Court late last year, the commercials could no longer mention Mr. Feingold by name by mid-August, 30 days before he is a candidate in a primary election on Sept. 14. -- Group Plans to Challenge Law on Blackout Period for Ads (New York Times) ***

Will Florida be the "next Florida"?

The New York Times reports: Almost all the electronic records from the first widespread use of touch-screen voting in Miami-Dade County have been lost, stoking concerns that the machines are unreliable as the presidential election draws near.

The records disappeared after two computer system crashes last year, county elections officials said, leaving no audit trail for the 2002 gubernatorial primary. A citizens group uncovered the loss this month after requesting all audit data from that election.

A county official said a new backup system would prevent electronic voting data from being lost in the future. But members of the citizens group, the Miami-Dade Election Reform Coalition, said the malfunction underscored the vulnerability of electronic voting records and wiped out data that might have shed light on what problems, if any, still existed with touch-screen machines here. The group supplied the results of its request to The New York Times.

"This shows that unless we do something now - or it may very well be too late - Florida is headed toward being the next Florida," said Lida Rodriguez-Taseff, a lawyer who is the chairwoman of the coalition. -- Lost Record of Vote in '02 Florida Race Raises '04 Concern (New York Times)

Thanks to LaweyerNews for the link.

July 27, 2004

Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party honored

The Dallas Morning News reports: Emma Sanders has been surrounded this week by food, music, flowers and friendly faces - a far different scene from her first Democratic convention in 1964. Back then, she and other black delegates were roughly booted from the festivities.

"They wanted to hurt us," said Sanders, one of the original members and now a convention delegate. "All we wanted was to be a part of the political system."

It's been 40 years since the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, led by the irrepressible Fannie Lou Hamer, confronted the all-white party regulars and insisted that they be seated within the Mississippi delegation at the national convention in Atlantic City, N.J.

The tumultuous standoff was one of the most enduring memories of 1964's Freedom Summer. Democrats today say it resulted in their party - and conventions - being more inclusive and added momentum to the growing demand for equality in civil rights and public life.

The 19 surviving members of the original Freedom Party, as well as the late Hamer, were honored Tuesday night in festivities featuring poet Maya Angelou. -- KRT Wire | 07/27/2004 | Freedom Party reunites in Boston at convention (Dallas Morning News via The State)

NPR had a great audio report on the MFDP this morning.

Virginia Dems go after Kilgore, who responds "Bring it on"

The Free Lance-Star reports: The man running Republican Jerry Kilgore's gubernatorial campaign acknowledged yesterday that he knew that a state GOP operative had eavesdropped on a Democratic teleconference within 24 hours of the call.

Ken Hutcheson said in an interview that he discussed the March 22, 2002, call with Edmund A. Matricardi III, a Spotsylvania County resident who was then the executive director of the Republican Party of Virginia.

Documents filed as part of a pending Democratic civil suit also reveal that Anne P. Petera, Attorney General Kilgore's chief of staff, listened to a tape Matricardi made of the call.

The 30-plus Democratic plaintiffs have asked a judge for permission to question Hutcheson, Petera and others in preparation for a December trial. --
Dem suit targets Kilgore (Free Lance-Star)


AP reports: Attorney General Jerry W. Kilgore volunteered Tuesday to submit himself for questioning by lawyers for Democratic state legislators who are suing the state Republican Party and seeking to question some of Kilgore's top aides and advisers.

Kilgore made the offer, good for two weeks, after the Democrats filed a petition Monday seeking federal court permission to broaden their questioning in a political eavesdropping case to include the political adviser for his 2005 Republican campaign for governor.

"I stand ready to give a deposition in this case. I'm waiting," Kilgore said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. -- Kilgore volunteers for questioning in Dems' lawsuit (AP via WVEC.com)

ACLU sues Florida over the lack of paper trail

AP reports: Election reform groups asked a judge Tuesday to strike down a state rule preventing counties that use touchscreen voting machines from conducting manual recounts from the machines.

State election officers say manual recounts are not needed since the machines tell each voter if they are skipping a race, known as an undervote, and will not let them vote twice for the same race, known as an overvote. The officials also maintain that the computer systems running the machines can be trusted to count the votes accurately as they're cast, and give the final numbers when needed.

But lawyers representing the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups said the state should require a paper trail in case a physical recount is needed, as it was in the 2000 presidential race in Florida.

"I have concern about votes that are cast but not recorded," said Howard Simon, executive director for ACLU of Florida. -- Groups Challenge Florida Ban on Recounts (AP via Ledger-Enquirer)

Thanks to LawyerNews.com for the link. I recommend LawyerNews for ... well, lawyer news.

Campaign Legal Center sues Falwell over endorsement

The New York Times reports: A nonpartisan group has filed a complaint with election regulators accusing a lobbying organization controlled by the Rev. Jerry Falwell of violating campaign finance laws by using its Web site to urge the re-election of President Bush and to solicit money for a political action committee.

The complaint, by the Campaign Legal Center, follows one filed this month with the Internal Revenue Service by Americans United for Separation of Church and State asserting that the site, falwell .com, may have violated its tax-exempt status by endorsing a candidate.

Mr. Falwell said his group had not broken any rules. "This is just another Democratic National Committee surrogate organization attempting to intimidate conservative pastors and their church members to prevent them from exercising their First Amendment rights," he said in a statement. -- The New York Times > Washington > Campaign 2004 > Campaign Finance: New Complaint Is Filed Against Falwell Web Site (The New York Times) ***

To read the Campaign Legal Center's complaint to the FEC and letter to the IRS Commissioner, go here.

July 26, 2004

A profile of George Soros

Peter Overby on NPR reports: Over the past year, billionaire businessman and philanthropist George Soros has given millions of dollars to progressive groups seeking President Bush's defeat in November. Republicans charge such funding efforts are illegal, but so far, no judge or agency has agreed. NPR's Peter Overby reports. -- Soros Spending Millions to Defeat Bush (NPR)

Prop. 64 is simple: you're either for the greedy lawyers or the consumer-cheating companies

AP reports: A wave of large corporations that have been sued under California's Unfair Competition Act -- including Microsoft, Nike, General Motors, Bank of America, Blue Cross and State Farm -- are now pushing a November ballot initiative to weaken the law.

They're among at least 22 companies that have contributed almost $1.34 million of more than $7 million in donations to the campaign behind Proposition 64, according to campaign finance documents and consumer groups fighting the initiative.

"It's pretty clear to us that the largest corporate donors to this are attempting to limit their liability, their accountability, for unfair practices," said Carmen Balber, a consumer advocate for the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, based in Santa Monica. "Their donations are just a small investment compared to having to return millions to consumers that they cheat."

But John Sullivan, president of the Civil Justice Association of California, a coalition of businesses and local governments that fights what it considers wasteful lawsuits, said the companies are backing the initiative because they've been victimized by greedy lawyers. ...

The [unfair competition] law allows individuals, interest groups, companies and prosecutors to sue to stop businesses from using practices that would allegedly give them an unfair advantage over competitors or defraud consumers. In many cases, suits are brought by public interest groups with no direct connection to an alleged abuse, such as misleading advertising, other than their interests as citizens. -- Corporations use ballot to fight Unfair Competition Act (AP via SeattlePI.com)

While Dems raise money for 527's, GOP'ers keep the money and the message in the company

AdAge.com reports: ExxonMobil, PPG Industries, Caterpillar, Household International and half the Fortune 100 corporations have signed on with a program that pushes their
companies' views of political candidates to employees via Web sites and interoffice e-mails.

The Business Industry Political Action Committee's "Prosperity Project" program targets 20 million employees in battleground states. The committee is especially concerned about confirmation of pro-business judges and has focused most of its attention on congressional races.

Greg Casey, president-CEO of BIPAC, said the group does not tell employees to vote for a particular candidate. "We tell [businesses]: 'Don't tell [employees] how to vote. Tell them how the issues impact them.'"

"A person's employer is the single most credible source of job-related information," Mr. Casey said, adding that "there is an affinity between working folks and their employer." -- OFFICE E-MAIL USED TO MARKET POLITICAL VIEWS TO EMPLOYEES (AdAge.com)

D.C. Democrats re-enact the Tea Party

Reuters reports: Washington Democrats reenacted the "Boston Tea Party" protest during the Democratic convention on Monday to make their case for a vote in Congress for the nation's capital.

Like their colonial forebears in 1773 who pitched tea into Boston's harbor rather than pay taxes to Britain, advocates of voting rights in Washington complain of "taxation without representation" -- a slogan emblazoned on tens of thousands of city license plates.

Washington's nonvoting delegate in Congress, Democrat Eleanor Holmes Norton, and Democratic Party Chairman Terry McAuliffe led the "Second Boston Tea Party" at the Charles River on the opening day of the Democratic convention in the New England city.

This year, Democrats plan to drop a plank from their national party platforms of previous years seeking statehood for Washington. Instead, the party is expected to limit the call to a vote in Congress for the city. -- U.S. Capital Makes Vote-Rights Case at Convention (Reuters.com)

A good round-up of opinions pro and con on Instant Runoff Voting

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports: If Jerry Cronk's political dream were reality, Al Gore would probably be running for re-election as president, and Slade Gorton would probably still be a U.S. senator.

Not that Cronk voted for either. In 2000, he supported Green Party nominee Ralph Nader for president and Maria Cantwell, the Democrat who unseated Republican Gorton, for the Senate.

But while Washington voters might have to navigate three different primary election systems in three consecutive years now that the state's popular "blanket primary" has been invalidated, Cronk is promoting a fourth option: no primary.

The 72-year-old Shoreline lawyer, whose clients include the Green Party of Washington, is pushing an "instant runoff voting," or IRV, system. It would eliminate primaries altogether, have all candidates run in the general election, and guarantee that nobody wins an election with less than a majority of the vote. -- OK, how about no primary? Lawyer pushes instant runoff election (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)

Rodriguez seeks Texas Supreme Court of his recount loss

AP reports: U.S. Rep. Ciro Rodriguez, who has alleged vote fraud during the Democratic primary in March, will make a last-ditch effort to retain his seat.

Rodriguez plans to file a petition with the Texas Supreme Court on Monday asking the nine-member court to review his recent legal loss.

"We recognize that it's a long shot, but we're optimistic," he is quoted as saying in Saturday's San Antonio Express-News.

Two weeks ago, a state appeals court ruled against Rodriguez in his bid to overturn the 58-vote lead held by his opponent, Henry Cuellar. ...

Cuellar, a Laredo lawyer, said Friday that he was "not at all" worried about Rodriguez's plans.

"The Election Code says specifically that you cannot appeal to the Supreme Court," he said. "I think it's now getting to the point where we're talking about being frivolous. Ciro needs to accept the fact that he lost and move on." -- Congressman to petition state's high court (AP via Star-Telegram)

July 25, 2004

Make plans now to be in Hayneville, Alabama, on 14 August

Update: Jonathan Myrick Daniels was an Episcopal Seminarian who was shot and killed in Hayneville, Alabama, while working for voter registration in 1965. He saved the life of a young girl, Ruby Sales, while taking the shotgun blast himself. The Episcopal Dioceses of Alabama and of the Central Gulf Coast will celebrate his life and those of other martyrs of Alabama, on Saturday, 14 August 2004, beginning at 11:00 a.m in the Courthouse Square in Hayneville. The procession to the old jail and the site of Daniels' shooting will be followed by a Eucharist and lunch (available for $6.00).

Directions: from I-65, take exit 151 (about 12 miles south of Montgomery) and go west on Highway 97 to Hayneville (about 8 miles).

===

Update: The Diocese of Alabama has announced that the Rt. Rev. Steven Charleston, a Native American and Dean of the Episcopal Divinity School (formerly the Episcopal Theological Seminary), will be the homilist at the service in Hayneville. Also, Horace Boyer, the compiler of the "Lift Every Voice and Sing" hymnal used in many Episcopal churces, will direct the music. Boyer will also offer a music workshop on Friday, 13 August, for those who will form the choir the next day.

For more details, call the Diocese of Alabama at 205-715-2060.

===

Make plans now to join me in Hayneville, Alabama, for the Annual Pilgrimage in honor of Jonathan Daniels who was murdered there in 1965. Daniels was a student at Episcopal Theological Seminary, Cambridge, Mass., who answered the call of Dr. Martin Luther King to come to Alabama to help on the civil rights struggle. For more on Jonathan, see this page.

Please note that this is a religious ceremony. As this article from the Episcopal News Service reports,

The pilgrimage [in 2004] will be held on August 14, the day that Daniels is remembered in Lesser Feasts and Fasts. Already, bishops from Louisiana, West Tennessee, and North Carolina have promised to attend and bring pilgrims with them.

For those unfamiliar with Episcopal practice, the book of Lesser Feasts and Fasts includes commemoration of many saints and more modern folks the Episcopal Church has decided to honor. We put "Blessed" in front of their names.

For the last 5 or 6 years, this Pilgrimage has been a joint project of the Episcopal Dioceses of Alabama and the Central Gulf Coast (which includes the lower quarter of Alabama).

I will have more details later, but plan on getting to Hayneville about 10 or 11 a.m. Hayneville is 24 miles SW of Montgomery and 156 miles from Mobile, so you can easily drive from Birmingham, Montgomery, or Mobile that morning.

Y'all come.

Instant runoff voting ready to go in San Francisco

KTVU reports: A new type of voting system has been given final certification and will be implemented in the November election in San Francisco, officials announced Thursday.

San Francisco Board of Supervisors President Matt Gonzalez announced that rank choice voting will be implemented for the first time in the Nov. 2 election. The new system will allow voters to pick their first, second and third choices in this fall's board of supervisors election.

The new technology behind the voting system finished testing and the Voting Systems Panel of the Secretary of State unanimously voted to accept the final test results on July 12.

Gonzalez said the voting system will have national implications and eliminate the question of who should be allowed to run. It would allow voters to rank each candidate so that if their first choice was the lowest vote receiver, their vote would then go to their second choice and if that candidate was eliminated, the vote would go to the third choice. Candidates are eliminated by receiving the lowest amount of votes. -- Instant Runoff Approved For San Francisco (KTVU.com)

ACLU suit against Ohio punch cards begins Monday

AP reports: Four years after Florida's hanging chads captivated a nation and less than 100 days before what could be another tight presidential race, this swing state's punch-card voting system is being challenged in court.

The trial, set to begin Monday, is the first in the nation, voting experts say. Lawsuits filed by the American Civil Liberties Union against several other states have been settled with agreements that punch-card ballots will be replaced.

But even a victory by the ACLU in Ohio would be unlikely to bring change before this year's presidential election because there would be too little time to make a conversion, experts said.

The ACLU wants all punch-card ballots in the state removed before November, saying the system is antiquated and causes errors that lead to undercounting of minority group votes. -- ACLU Punch Card Lawsuit Goes to Trial (AP via TimesDaily.com)

Defenders of Arizona 'clean elections' file suit over ballot description

Capitol Media Services reports: Supporters of public financing of [Arizona] campaigns have gone to court to force a new description of a ballot measure which would defund the system.

Legal papers filed Tuesday in Maricopa County Superior Court contend that the description of Proposition 106 uses the "politically charged and inflammatory term 'taxpayer money' " to describe what sources of cash the measure would eliminate for funding political races. That, according to the the lawsuit, violates the legal requirement to provide an impartial analysis of all ballot measures.

Charles Blanchard, who represents the group working to defeat Proposition 106 also says the description, prepared by the Legislative Council, "inaccurately and misleadingly describes the effect of one of the key provisions of Proposition 106."

The lawsuit asks the court to direct the council, made up of state lawmakers, to recraft the description and delete the words the attorneys find offensive.

Whatever the trial judge decides is unlikely to be the final word: Prior disputes over ballot wording traditionally have had to be resolved ultimately by the Arizona Supreme Court. -- Lawsuit filed over ballot description of Prop 106 (Capitol Media Services via Arizona Daily Sun)

Nader seeks Pennsylvania ballot spot

AP reports: Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader needs at least 25,697 signatures to get on Pennsylvania's ballot for the Nov. 2 general election, and his campaign workers say they are on track to get there. ...

[Dan Hayward, executive director of Pennsylvania's Republican Party] Hayward said that, to his knowledge, there is no organized effort among Pennsylvania's Republicans to get Nader on the ballot, although he said he wouldn't be surprised if Republicans sign a Nader petition.

The state's Democratic party will not mount an organized challenge to a Nader petition, [T.J.] Rooney [chairman of Pennsylvania's Democratic Party] said, but he expects Democratic-leaning groups to challenge it.

The Nader campaign faces an Aug.2 deadline to submit its signatures, and campaign spokesman Dan Martino said he expects to compile at least 40,000. After that, there's a week to file a protest of the petition to the state's appellate Commonwealth Court. -- Nader could play role in Pa. election (AP via Centre Daily Times)

Michael Steele, R.I.P

A high school friend died earlier this month. Mike Steele and I had known each other all this time and had kept in touch, even though we had gone to different colleges and law schools, had practiced law in different states, and had practiced in different fields. Yet Mike's sense of humor made it easy to want to stay in touch.

I had the good fortune to see Mike after his brain cancer was diagnosed. I drove over to Kosciusko, Mississippi, to see him. We visited for about 4 hours. He was funny even then. He told me he had instructed the doctors, before his therapy began, to leave him with at least an 85 IQ ... so he could continue to practice law successfully.

Mike's main practice was workers' comp, although in a small town a lawyer does lots of things. (In fact, one his hilarious stories on our last visit was about a client calling in the middle of the night about wanting to get his gun back from the police.) Another practictioner in the field, John Jones of Jackson, Mississippi, wrote this euology. It says so much about what Mike meant to people.

On behalf of Commissioner Lydia Quarles, the Administrative Judges from the Mississippi Worker’s Compensation Commission who are here, and Mike’s colleagues in the compensation bar, I wanted to say something so that his wife and family, and mainly his children, will know how respected Mike was in his profession, because he truly was. For those of us who knew him mainly through his work, the loss of Mike Steele takes away the one person among us all who made our little world of lawyers and law practice unique, serious, challenging and fun, always fun. We want Nell, Gunter and the rest of the family to know that among his colleagues in the Bar, Mike Steele can never be replaced or even closely imitated, and that our hearts are broken, too.

There was simply nobody like Mike. At our worker’s compensation seminars, Mike was always the best, wittiest and most-sought-after speaker because he always combined dogged advocacy for the side of the little guy for whom he was the constant champion with a singular vision of the absurd and ironic. Who can forget Mike’s overhead-projector presentations where he’d display ancient drawings from Milton’s Paradise Lost or Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels to portray the plight of the lowly worker claiming benefits, and then pencil in a drawing of Andy Taggart or Kirk Fordice sitting beside the Mayor of Lilliput or Satan himself whipping the worker? I once asked him to submit an article on doctor shopping to the section newsletter, and what I got was a poem in perfect iambic pentameter based on John Donne’s A Valediction Forbidding Mourning. For those who took the time to read and understand what Mike was really saying, it was perfect. Like always, when Mike said something in that way he had of expressing himself, there really wasn’t anything else worth saying about the issue.

What Mike was, really, was a poet, an artist, and a highly refined intellectual, living among the people up here in Attala County. We became fast friends years and years ago because he started quoting poetry over the phone to me and I said, “So, what’s Dover Beach got to do with whether my guy is permanently and totally disabled?” And Mike said, “If you really know about Matthew Arnold … everything.” I learned later that he and my wife shared the same mentor, the late professor Bill Durratt from Belhaven College, and because I was also an English major, we understood each other in a way that comes so rarely in law practice that you never take it for granted. Because Mike was never motivated by money or competition for the sake of competition, and because Mike always looked for something ennobling in all of us, he could tell me with a sly and knowing look, “With the poor people of this world, I cast my lot,” and I would know in an instant he meant it and was giving me a way to look at what I chose to do for a living that would always inspire me to do my best. I think Mike had that effect on everyone, and we wanted his family and mainly his children to know—although I’m sure they know better than the rest of us—how honestly rare and inspiring were the gifts he gave so freely to everyone he met.

For those of us who knew him through his work as a lawyer, his family should know that our profession cannot follow John Donne’s advice about forbidding mourning when it comes to Mike Steele. We are much diminished by his loss, to the extent that I wonder whether the practice of compensation law will ever be as fun and as rewarding as it has been when we had Mike Steele among us. He was that rarest of lawyers: one who did what he did with absolute integrity and total commitment to doing the right thing or not doing it at all. And because Mike knew and appreciated the concept of the claim, I personally feel sure that when God reclaimed Mike's soul on Saturday, Mike rested his case with all the grace and dignity he brought to evertything, plus a bit of irony that the claimant appreciated. As John Donne himself said scorning death:

One short sleep past, we wake eternally
And death shall be no more; Death thou shalt die.

None of us who knew him as a lawyer and friend have ever met anyone remotely like Mike Steele, and none of us will ever forget what a blessing he was to our profession and our lives.

July 24, 2004

House ethics committee will consider charges against DeLay further

AP reports: The House ethics committee on Friday declined to dismiss a complaint accusing House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of misusing his office to raise money for Republicans and to marshal government resources against Democrats.

The committee said it would extend a preliminary inquiry into the charges made against the Texas Republican lawmaker for up to 45 days. The extension could push a decision on whether the accusations warrant a formal investigation to past Labor Day, when the fall election campaigns are in high gear.

DeLay has denied the allegations and labeled as frivolous the complaint filed last month month by freshman Rep. Chris Bell, D-Texas. The complaint is the first filed against a House leader by a member of Congress since the ethics committee took up a case against former House Speaker Newt Gingrich in 1997. -- Ethics panel extends review of Delay complaint (AP via Star-Telegram.com)

July 22, 2004

Florida Secretary of State asks for review of entire voter database

AP reports: Florida's top elections official Thursday ordered a review of the state's voter database after a list used by county officials to remove felons from voting rolls came under heavy criticism.

Secretary of State Glenda Hood acknowledged the list of 48,000 potential felons was flawed and scrapped it: It contained thousands of people who are eligible to vote, such as people who had their charges reduced, and was flawed by a technical glitch that excluded many possible Hispanic felons.

Hood said she now wants her inspector general to review how the overall database was put together to ensure there are no other problems. -- Reviewed Ordered of Fla. Voting Database (AP via Miami Herald)

Nader sues over Texas petition law

The Austin Chronicle reports: Today (Thursday) at 9am, the Ralph Nader campaign is scheduled to appear in federal court (200 W. Eighth) in a lawsuit (Nader et al. v. Connor) charging that the Texas ballot access law is unconstitutional on three grounds:

The May 10 deadline for signatures, earlier than any other state, is unnecessary and discriminatory;

The requirement that independent candidates collect more than 64,000 signatures -- nearly 20,000 more than the requirement for third party candidates -- is also discriminatory; and

The accelerated schedule for independent candidates (60 days to collect signatures vs. 75 days for third parties) has the same effect.

The Nader campaign charged that it was often hindered in gathering signatures in public places. Said Nader, "Democracy is under assault in Texas. Through unconstitutional laws and denial of access to public places, Texas voters are being denied more voices and more choices. One of the goals of this campaign is to open up the ballot in Texas not only for this campaign but for future campaigns by other candidates." -- Naked City: Nader sues Texas (The Austin Chronicle)

A lawyer for independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader asked a federal judge Thursday to rule Texas' ballot-access rules unconstitutional because they limit the speech and voting rights of minor-party hopefuls and their supporters.

But, in a hearing to determine whether the name of the consumer advocate appears on the Texas presidential ballot in November, the state's lawyer argued that only Nader and his backers can be faulted for failing to have his candidacy certified.

Nader is suing Texas because the secretary of state's office ruled that he did not submit enough petition signatures from qualified voters by the May 10 deadline for independent candidates seeking the presidency. Texas Deputy Attorney General Ed Burbachc told U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel that other independent candidates had become certified in the past three presidential election cycles operating under the same rules being challenged by Nader.

"We submit that this candidate was not reasonably diligent in the state of Texas," Burbach told the judge, noting that billionaire businessman Ross Perot was certified as an independent president candidate on the Texas ballot in 1992 and 1996, and conservative commentator Pat Buchanan won Texas ballot access in 2000. --
Quick ruling promised in Nader's Texas case (Fort Worth Star-Telegram)

Is the judge eligible to run for re-election or was he appointed improperly?

AP reports: Minnesota's highest court is being asked to determine if Court of Appeals Judge David Minge is eligible to seek re-election because of a complicated residency dispute.

A Republican activist sued Wednesday to keep Minge's name off the fall ballot. Bonn Clayton, of Chanhassen, said Minge should be excluded because he doesn't live in the region for which the seat is reserved.

The issue is whether Minge, a former congressman from the old 2nd Congressional District in southwestern Minnesota, can run for re-election as a judge from a new 2nd District in the Twin Cities' southern suburbs. It could hinge on the timing of Minge's appointment by former Gov. Jesse Ventura more than two years ago. ...

Six days before the redistricting plan was issued, Ventura held a news conference to appoint Minge to fill a 2nd District vacancy. But by the time Ventura signed an order implementing the appointment, on April 24, 2002, Minge's home in rural Montevideo no longer was part of the 2nd District. Montevideo was put into a redrawn 7th District.

State law allows appellate judges to move from the congressional districts they were originally elected or appointed to represent. They also can continue to serve on the court if their districts change. The lawsuit asserts that Minge was never qualified to serve on the court because the boundaries of the 2nd District changed before his appointment. -- Republican activist tries to force appeals judge from election (AP via duluthsuperior.com)

Am I right in understanding that Minge could run for a district he no longer lives in (if he had been appointed properly from it), but anyone else wanting to run would have to live in the district? If so, it sounds like a denial of equal protection to me.

July 21, 2004

Groups claim pro-GOP 527 is acting illegally

AP reports: Campaign finance watchdogs are adding a pro-Republican group to the list of partisan interest groups they contend are illegally raising unlimited donations to spend in this fall's presidential election.

Democracy 21, the Center for Responsive Politics and the Campaign Legal Center filed a complaint Wednesday with the Federal Election Commission accusing the Progress for America Voter Fund of breaking a law banning the use of soft money - which can include corporate, union and unlimited donations - for federal election activity.

The complaint says the group is breaking the law by failing to register with the FEC as a political action committee and by raising so-called soft money to spend on federal election activity.

The complaint also says the group's leaders are too closely tied to President Bush's campaign. -- Lawyers' Group Tired of Political Slams (AP via Tallahassee.com)

Selling cars, or helping a campaign?

AP reports: The Russ Darrow Group asked the Federal Election Commission Wednesday to allow it to continue running car commercials, despite a new law banning corporate-funded advertisements that mention political candidates during the final days of a campaign.

The Darrow Group's chairman, Russ Darrow Jr., is a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate. Under a literal reading of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform law, the Russ Darrow Group would be barred from running commercials within 30 days of a primary or 60 days of a general election.

In a 21-page request for an advisory opinion filed by the Washington office of the Foley & Lardner law firm, the Menomonee Falls holding company claims it would lose about $58 million in revenue if forced to cease advertising during these two periods.

That would translate to more than $3 million in lost sales tax revenue to the state - and to reduced employee commissions and possibly layoffs as well, the company said. -- Darrow Group seeks exemption from McCain-Feingold (AP via DuluthNewsTribune.com)

Nader on the Nevada ballot

AP reports: Ralph Nader has qualified as an independent presidential candidate in Nevada, with election officials determining his supporters turned in 8,681 valid petition signatures. He needed at least 5,000 signatures.

Secretary of State Dean Heller said Wednesday Nader needed a minimum of 5,000 signatures to gain ballot access in Nevada. His backers turned in 11,888 names in Washoe and Clark counties - Nevada's largest - but more than 3,000 were rejected as invalid.

Nader now must pay a $250 filing fee and complete a declaration of candidacy by Aug. 13. Heller said there's an Aug. 24 deadline for any challenges to his candidacy. Those challenges have to be filed in Carson City District Court. ...

Republican political consultant Steve Wark has said he helped to raise money for Nader to qualify, and did so solely to help President Bush's re-election campaign. -- Nader qualifies for Nevada ballot (AP via Las Vegas SUN)

Arizona commission charges that judge reached a "predetermined result"

AP reports: The battle over what legislative districts will be used [in Arizona] the rest of the decade has resumed with a state commission launching a broad assault on a trial court's ruling, contending in an appeal that the judge apparently arranged a "predetermined result."

The Independent Redistricting Commission's appeal said Judge Kenneth Fields of Maricopa County Superior Court trampled over the commission's authority, failed to provide a fair trial and practically gave the ruling to a coalition of Hispanic Democrats who challenged the commission's map.

Fields erred on numerous issues involving both the law and evidence, the commission said. "One possible explanation of the number and quality of the trial court's errors is a predetermination to reach a preferred result."

In considering some issues, Fields' ruling "appears to work backward to reach the coalition's preferred result," the appeal said. -- Appeal says redistricting order 'predetermined' (AP via AZcentral.com)

I was counsel for another set of plaintiffs suing over the congressional districts. We lost, while the legislative plaintiffs won. I certainly never saw anything in that five-week trial to make me think that the results were predetermined. Judge Fields handled that long trial with fairness and good humor. I'm sorry to see the counsel for the Commission attacking Judge Fields.

July 20, 2004

Kerry will take FEC funds, repay his mortgage

Boston Globe reports: John F. Kerry is poised to take federal campaign money once he is nominated for the presidency next week, according to top campaign finance advisers, a move that will allow him to disburse millions of dollars in leftover campaign cash to Democratic Party operations, effectively augmenting the $75 million he will receive in federal funds.

Aides expect the Kerry campaign committee to end up with enough money to make sizable transfers to the Democratic National Committee, state Democratic committees, and possibly the committees working to elect a Democratic Congress. The aim would be to have the committees, especially those in battleground states, air television ads on Kerry's behalf this fall, and finance get-out-the-vote operations on Election Day.

Such efforts at the national and state levels will help mitigate the spending advantage that President Bush has by virtue of his later nomination date. Candidates accepting federal financing must stop using their campaign's privately raised funds once they have accepted the nomination. Because Kerry's nomination will come on July 29 -- five weeks before President Bush's -- the Massachusetts senator's $75 million must cover 13 weeks, while Bush's $75 million will cover just eight weeks.

Kerry also plans to repay himself for a $6.4 million loan he gave to his cash-strapped organization last December, according to one adviser. -- Kerry set to disburse millions, get US funds (Boston.com)

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

Florida election officials knew of the glitch in felon purge list in 1998

AP reports: State election officials knew since at least 1998 that a recently scrapped felons list designed to clear convicted felons from voter rolls would have a glitch and exclude Hispanics, according to a company that helped create the list.

Private company DBT helped build the felons list for the 2000 election. DBT, which was later bought by ChoicePoint, discussed the difficulties involving Hispanic felons with experts in the secretary of state's office in late 1997 or early 1998, ChoicePoint spokesman Chuck Jones said Monday.

ChoicePoint and state officials analyzed the data together and realized that using race would create an inaccurate list because of the problems with Hispanic or Latinos, he said.

"We determined jointly that it was not reliable," Jones told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune for a story in Tuesday's editions. -- State Knew Of Problems With Felons List Since 1998 (AP via WFTV.com)

Michigan candidate may have misused the Millionaire's Amendment

AP reports: Brad Smith, who is one of six Republicans running for a Michigan congressional seat, may have violated campaign finance law when he used a new provision called the Millionaire's Amendment to boost fund-raising.

A legal opinion written by the Federal Election Commission suggests Smith loaned his campaign too much money to be eligible for the Millionaire's Amendment. ...

One of Smith's opponents, former state Sen. John "Joe" Schwarz, soon filed a complaint with the FEC. The FEC hasn't yet ruled on that complaint, but FEC spokeswoman Kelly Huff said an advisory opinion written for a Senate case last year says a candidate's eligibility is based on the total amount loaned, not the amount reached when the candidate repays some of the loan.

"The fact that (the candidate) may subsequently receive reimbursement ... for those expenses does not change their character as expenditures from personal funds," the opinion said. -- Smith may have violated campaign finance law (AP via Lansing State Journal)

"Wal-Mart Funds Bush Campaign, Costco Prefers Kerry"

Bloomberg.com reports: Executives at Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Costco Wholesale Corp., competitors in the $76 billion U.S. warehouse-club market, have taken their rivalry to a new level: national politics.

Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer and owner of Sam's Club warehouse stores, gives more money to Republican candidates than any other company. Its top three managers, including Chief Executive Officer H. Lee Scott, donated the individual maximum $2,000 to President George W. Bush, and Jay Allen, vice president for corporate affairs, raised at least $100,000 to re-elect the president, earning him the Bush campaign's designation of ``Pioneer.''

Wal-Mart -- two-thirds of whose 3,580 stores are in the ``red states'' that voted for Bush in 2000 -- is backing White House policies on everything from trade to limiting overtime pay.

Costco CEO Jim Sinegal, 68, is a Democrat who says Bush's $1.7 trillion in tax cuts unfairly benefit the wealthy. He opposed the Iraq war and supports Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts for president. And he's the only chief executive of a company in the Standard & Poor's 500 Index to donate money to independent political groups formed to oust Bush, Internal Revenue Service records show. -- Wal-Mart Funds Bush Campaign, Costco Prefers Kerry (Bloomberg.com)

Nader accepts GOP signatures in Michigan

AP reports: In an about face, Ralph Nader decided Monday to accept thousands of petition signatures collected by Michigan Republicans if that is the only way he can qualify for the state's presidential ballot.

Last Thursday, Michigan Republican Party officials submitted 43,000 signatures -- far more than the 30,000 needed -- to ensure Nader could appear on the ballot as an independent.

Republicans began collecting signatures after it appeared that Nader might not get on the ballot as the Reform Party's candidate for president.

Nader's campaign had turned in about 5,400 signatures. But spokesman Kevin Zeese said it stopped collecting them a month ago after the national Reform Party endorsed Nader and it looked as though he could get on the ballot as its candidate. -- Nader accepting GOP signatures in Michigan (AP via CNN.com)

GOP accuses Michigan Dems of "off-shoring" the Nader petition-checking

AP reports: The state Republican Party on Tuesday said a contractor working for the Michigan Democratic Party is outsourcing work to India as he checks the validity of signatures putting presidential candidate Ralph Nader on the ballot.

The accusation came on the same day that Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry released new ads pledging his economic plan would begin by "putting an end to tax incentives that are encouraging American companies to ship jobs overseas."

In Tuesday's salvo, the state GOP said Mark Grebner of Practical Political Consulting in East Lansing has sent digital copies of the Nader petitions to a data entry firm in India. Grebner refused to confirm or deny the accusation, or to say where the work is being done on the Nader petitions. -- Republicans say Democratic contractor outsourced work on Nader petitions (AP via freep.com)

King Co., Wash., to vote on smaller council

The Seattle Times reports: Brushing aside warnings that it could be courting a legal challenge, the Metropolitan King County Council voted yesterday to delay the effective date of a citizen initiative that would reduce the size of the council from 13 members to nine.

The changes, described by proponents as "technical" corrections to Initiative 18, will change language on the Nov. 2 ballot. If the initiative passes, the changes would push back the election of a smaller council from 2005 to 2007 and would restructure three regional committees.

Critics of the changes said they are substantive, not technical, and could leave the initiative vulnerable to legal claims that it improperly deals with more than one issue.

County Council President Larry Phillips, D-Seattle, defended the council action, saying, "The fundamental proposition is before the voters unchanged."

Phillips said there wouldn't be enough time to redistrict the council between the November vote on I-18 and the original redistricting deadline of the end of the year. -- Vote alters initiative on council size (Seattle Times)

Shoe leather and number crunching

The Washington Post reports: The 2004 election will be the first presidential election in which both national parties use their database and number-crunching skills to shape their organizing and get-out-the-vote strategies.

Marketers have used databases to target customers for years -- they know enough about your credit history to offer you that low-interest credit card -- but the political world is just becoming acquainted. For several years, largely out of public view, the two major parties have been assembling their infobanks, each with the same daunting goal. By tracking the electorate, and employing ever more sophisticated statistical models through the field called "data mining," the parties and their candidates hope to zero in on who will vote, how they might vote, and how to persuade them to vote for Republicans or Democrats. ...

Using little more than an off-the-shelf program and the desktop computer in his Washington office, Democratic consultant Hal Malchow shows how to predict turnout and target pools of supporters. Using the 2002 gubernatorial race in Arizona as his example, Malchow is able to match the poll responses of 5,778 likely voters against their database profiles. The program then slices and dices the data to uncover the characteristics -- in this case, middle-aged Hispanic men living in two metropolitan areas -- that defined the biggest groups of people likely to support Malchow's client but still uncertain about voting. A quick search of a voter database would return the names of those who fit this profile, making them the likely recipients of phone calls or a knock on the door by a candidate's field staff.

"This doesn't improve [a candidate's] message one bit," said Malchow, a direct-mail expert who has been a pioneer in such targeting techniques. "It doesn't change the way a candidate looks or his personality or where he started in the polls. . . . But it can be a very, very powerful tool. In the end, it's about having knowledge that allows you to use your resources in the smartest and most efficient way." -- Parties Square Off In a Database Duel (washingtonpost.com)

Nader, the Michigan GOP, and FECA contribution limits

Benjamin Rahn of ActBlue.com raised an interesting point in an email to me. First, the background.

AP reports: Michigan Democratic executive chairman Mark Brewer said he thinks the state GOP exceeded a state political party campaign limit of $5,000 in helping Nader get on the ballot.

"The staff costs and administrative expenses incurred by the Michigan GOP in spending several weeks collecting 43,000 signatures for Nader clearly exceed that limit," Brewer said in a release. ...

GOP executive director Greg McNeilly said the party didn't exceed any campaign spending limits.

"At this point, I'm not sure the party spent a single dime on it. Internet activity is exempt. The petitions were downloaded from votenader.org, and the bulk of the work was done by volunteers," he said. -- Democrats give Nader ultimatum (AP via Detroit Free Press)

If the Michigan GOP had spent its funds on the petition drive, then that would be a contribution. Here's what the FEC said in an Advisory Opinion:

Because NCPAC's proposed solicitation, while directing that the contributions be made in the form of checks payable to the candidates, specifically asks that the checks be forwarded to NCPAC for gathering and transmittal to the candidates, the acceptance of the checks by the candidate constitutes acceptance of the costs incurred by NCPAC in connection with the solicitation. This situation in analogous, for example, to the printing of campaign materials by an individual or multicandidate committee advocating the election or defeat of a candidate. If those materials are distributed by the multicandidate committee, no in-kind contribution results. On the other hand, if the multicandidate committee provides the materials to the campaign committee, acceptance of the materials constitutes an in-kind contribution in the amount of the costs of their production. -- AO 1980-46

Ben poses this question:

So similarly, it seems that if Nader "accepts" the signatures collected by the GOP, he is also accepting the value of the work put into collecting them -- thereby exceeding the GOP's permitted contribution to him.

It seems to me that, if the GOP is correct in saying that the work was done by volunteers, it may get a pass. Any thoughts?

July 19, 2004

Expatriate voter registration

The Washington Post reports: The votes of U.S. citizens living abroad are being courted by the Democratic and Republican parties more aggressively than in any previous election, officials from both parties said. They said the narrow outcome of the 2000 election, which George W. Bush won with a 537-vote margin in Florida over Democrat Al Gore, has motivated them to register every voter possible, including the millions of citizens who live abroad and are often overlooked.

Sharon Manitta, a spokeswoman for Democrats Abroad, who lives in Salisbury, England, said her group had chapters in fewer than 30 countries for the 2000 election but has them in more than 70 countries now. She said one chapter, Donkeys in the Desert, was opened in Iraq by employees of the recently disbanded Coalition Provisional Authority.

"It's just been incredible, just remarkable," said Manitta, who added that four months before the election, her group has already registered more than 8,000 voters in Britain.

Republicans are also meeting with expatriates. California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has met with Americans in Israel, and former vice president Dan Quayle has visited Germany. Ryan King, deputy director of Republicans Abroad in Washington, said the son of Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, George P. Bush, would travel to France, Germany and Switzerland in September to drum up votes, and hopes to visit Mexico. -- Signing Up a Remote Electorate for November (washingtonpost.com)

House votes against UN election monitors

The Washington Post reports: House Republicans view a recent move by 11 Democrats to have United Nations observers monitor U.S. elections as a politically motivated stunt, and last week they moved to nip the idea in the bud.

But after an unusually rancorous skirmish that brought proceedings on the House floor to a standstill late Thursday, the issue may have received more publicity than even Democrats hoped for.

It pitted Rep. Steve Buyer (R-Ind.), author of an amendment to the 2005 foreign aid bill aimed at blocking U.N. involvement in U.S. elections, against Rep. Corrine Brown (D-Fla.), who had harsh words for Buyer.

Buyer had been describing a July 1 letter from Democrats to U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, requesting that he send observers to "monitor" this fall's elections, as "rather foolish, nonsense and silly." -- Proposal to Have U.N. Monitor Elections Ends in Partisan Clash (washingtonpost.com)

Kerry's legal "SWAT teams"

The New York Times reports: Mindful of the election problems in Florida four years ago, aides to Senator John Kerry, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, say his campaign is putting together a far more intricate set of legal safeguards than any presidential candidate before him to monitor the election.

Aides to Mr. Kerry say the campaign is taking the unusual step of setting up a nationwide legal network under its own umbrella, rather than relying, as in the past, on lawyers associated with state Democratic parties. The aides said they were recruiting people based on their skills as litigators and election lawyers, rather than rewarding political connections or big donors.

Lawyers for the campaign are gathering intelligence and preparing litigation over the ballot machines being used and the rules concerning how voters will be registered or their votes disqualified. In some cases, the lawyers are compiling dossiers on the people involved and their track records on enforcing voting rights. The disputed 2000 presidential election remains a fresh wound for Democrats, and Mr. Kerry has been referring to it on the stump while assuring his audiences that he will not let this year's election be a repeat of the 2000 vote. ...

The Kerry campaign's legal efforts are hardly occurring in a vacuum.

The Bush-Cheney campaign says it will have party lawyers in every state, covering 30,000 precincts. An affiliated group, the Republican National Lawyers Association, held a two-day training session in Milwaukee over the weekend on "how to promote ballot access to all qualified voters," according to the group's Web site.

Lawyers for nonpartisan advocacy groups conducting voter registration drives are also working behind the scenes and in court to ensure that their new registrants make it onto the rolls and that their ballots are counted. -- Kerry Building Legal Network for Vote Fights (The New York Times)

A comment on the GOP's WebVoter

A reader comments on my post about WebVoter: Washington Post picked up the story ('Minn. GOP Asks Activists to Report on Neighbors' Politics' The Washington Post Sunday, July 18, 2004; Page A05). But I think it is a mistake to characterize it as grass-roots organizing, and a mistake to gloss over the ethical import. I certainly hope this isn't the future of grassroots poliics. What the Minn. State GOP party is asking is that its 'activist' report information of their neighbors' politics, not empowering citizens to engage in politics within their communities in any democratic way. Rather, what's happening in Minnesota is simply a more fine tuned media campaign using data of its target audience without its consent. Worse still, it intend to pass on the information it has gleaned over to the administration, porportedly to help sway the presidential election. Its a more than a little discomforting to think of some database your political beliefs collected by your neighbors, given the history (recent or otherwise) of this country.

I see this as pretty much the same thing that American Coming Together is doing with paid workers -- except the GOP is doing it with volunteers. Or am I missing something?

July 18, 2004

Nader may challenge lack of Camejo in Oregon

The Oregonian reports: Independent Ralph Nader launched a new petition drive Friday in his troubled quest to make the presidential ballot in Oregon.

The Nader campaign submitted the new petition after a weeklong legal dispute with state elections officials over whether his vice presidential candidate, Peter Camejo, also could be listed on the ballot.

The Nader campaign agreed finally to include instead a stand-in for Camejo in Oregon -- a legal assistant who works for Nader's chief organizer here. ...

State Elections Director John Lindback said Camejo could not be listed as Nader's running mate because he has not been a registered independent for the last 180 days. Camejo has instead been a prominent member of the Green Party in California, where he ran for governor under the party's banner last year.

Kafoury said the Nader campaign thinks the requirement is unconstitutional and indicated he would challenge it legally. Meanwhile, Kafoury said one of his legal assistants, Sandra Kucera, will be listed in Oregon as Nader's running mate. --
Oregon Nader backers begin ballot signature campaign (The Oregonian)

Thanks to Richard Winger for pointing me to this article.

Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner: when there be justice in their murders?

Michael Kelley writes in the Memphis Commercial Appeal: On June 19, 1964, the U.S. Senate passed the Civil Rights Act, guaranteeing that the legislation would soon become law over President Lyndon Johnson's signature.

On the night of June 21, a Ku Klux Klan mob pulled civil rights workers Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman and James Chaney from their car in Neshoba County, Mississippi, and made them pay for interfering in the state's affairs.

The trio had been trying to help African-Americans secure the right to vote in what was considered the country's most resistant state. "Sir, I know just how you feel," Schwerner told one member of the mob, according to Seth Cagin and Philip Dray's book on the murders, "We Are Not Afraid."

Schwerner's effort to reason with his executioners was emblematic of what was happening in America at the time. The killings awakened many Americans to the difficulties of a reasoned, cautious approach toward civil rights reform in the South. ...

The prospects for a final resolution of their case are fair. Twelve men implicated in their murders are still alive. ...

Support for the prosecution is coming from what at one time was the most unlikely of sources, however - the citizens of Neshoba County. "Come hell or high water," the Neshoba Democrat newspaper editorialized four years ago, "it's time for an accounting."

These are significant signs of progress. But one glaring fact must be reported in any review of racial history and progress in Mississippi: Three young men were robbed of their futures on a dark night on a lonely road 40 years ago in Neshoba County, and their assassins have gotten away with it so far. -- 40 years later: Time for an accounting (commercialappeal.com)

ABA President calls for restoration of ex-felons' voting rights

Dennis Archer, ABA President, writes in the Miami Herald: It is time for Florida to do away with laws that permanently bar people with convictions from participating in our democratic process.

One of the most important privileges we enjoy in America is our right to vote. When we were students, we all learned that, as citizens of a representative democracy, our vote is our voice. Florida's on-going efforts to purge ''suspected felons'' from state voter rolls threatens to silence not only those that have served time in prison, but also thousands of eligible voters with no criminal records -- the vast majority of whom appear to be African Americans.

As President Bush said in his 2004 State of the Union address, ''America is the land of the second chance.'' In this country, we have a deep appreciation of the idea that everyone deserves a chance at redemption. It is a central theme of our collective literary, spiritual, political and cultural traditions. It is who we are, and a big part of the reason that 80 percent of the American public favors restoring people's right to vote at some point after they get out of prison.

Most states now restore voting rights automatically upon completion of sentence, and have reported no administrative or other problems as a result. In contrast, Florida's discredited exclusionary system has proven a continuing drain on state resources. The federal court of appeals has allowed a challenge to Florida's felony disenfranchisement law under the Voting Rights Act. The governor's cumbersome clemency board process moves at a snail's pace in handling the hundreds of requests for restoration of rights it receives each year. And Florida prison officials have dragged their feet in responding to a court order directing them to help exoffenders regain their rights. -- Herald.com | 07/18/2004 | ABA president: Restore vote to all ex-felons

July 17, 2004

Nader minus Camejo petitioning in Oregon

AP reports: Ralph Nader's Oregon campaign was cleared Friday to circulate petitions statewide, the third effort to get him on the state's presidential election ballot.

State elections officials gave the go-ahead after Nader supporters picked a "stand-in" running mate in Oregon for the independent presidential candidate because of the state's election requirements.

Backers now have to collect and turn in 15,306 validated voter signatures by Aug. 24 to put Nader on the Nov. 2 ballot.

State Elections Director John Lindback refused to approve a proposed petition Friday that included Nader's national vice presidential running mate, Peter Camejo, because Camejo is a Green Party member.

Oregon law requires that independent candidates be registered as independents at least 180 days before the Aug. 24 deadline, Lindback said. -- Nader ballot effort in Oregon gets green light (AP via The Olympian)

Arizona petitions filed on Monday after Sunday deadline are OK

The East Valley Tribune Online reports: A Maricopa County [Arizona] Superior Court judge ruled Wednesday that petitions opposing a proposed sevenstory building in Chandler were filed in a timely manner -- allowing voters to decide on whether the building belongs near a residential area.

Judge Mark Armstrong ruled that because the final day for filing the referendum petitions landed on Sunday, June 13, and state law considers Sundays as holidays, then June 14 became the deadline.

Attorney Lisa Hauser filed the lawsuit June 29 on behalf of Chandler resident Charles Shipley alleging City Clerk Marla Paddock had accepted the petitions a day after the 30-day deadline.

Hauser, who was paid by the building's developer J.F. McKinney, said she was not expecting the ruling.

"We're pretty stunned, surprised and disappointed," Hauser said. "I think the law is clearer than the judge's order lets on." -- Seven-story building on ballot in Chandler (East Valley Tribune Online)

Redistricting cuts competitive Florida districts

The Orlando Sentinel reports: In the 40-member [Florida] Senate, where 22 seats are up this year, 11 incumbents drew no challenger, while three others face either a Libertarian Party challenger or write-in opponent, usually long shots in Florida.

In the House, where all 120 seats are up for grabs, 51 incumbents drew no opposition for the Aug. 31 primary or Nov. 2 general election. Two other incumbents will face Libertarian opponents. And like Baker, another well-known contender, Pinellas County Sheriff Everett Rice, captured a House seat outright when no opponent emerged.

While Friday's easy winners celebrated, not everybody was hailing the trend toward legislative walkovers. Scot Schraufnagel, a University of Central Florida political scientist, said the Legislature's 2002 redrawing of district lines created many safe seats for incumbents, particularly Republicans who dominate both the House and Senate.

Democratic voters, by contrast, have been packed into a smaller number of districts, resulting in few races proving truly competitive, he said. ...

The UCF study found that, after the latest redistricting, which occurs every 10 years, 67percent of House races and 65ƒ|percent of Senate races had a Democrat or Republican elected without major party opposition. -- Incumbent power chills challengers (OrlandoSentinel.com)

Alabama GOP considers suit against legislative districts

AP reports: Alabama Republicans are taking a look at the success of their counterparts in Georgia, where a GOP lawsuit over legislative districts may give the party its greatest influence in peach state politics since Reconstruction.

Georgia Republicans fought all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn legislative districts designed by Democrats. New legislative districts, designed by a federal court, will get their first use in Georgia's primary election Tuesday.

Republicans are predicting the districts will help the GOP build on gains it made in the 2002 election, when the party took a majority in the Senate for the first time since the Reconstruction era after the Civil War.

Marty Connors, chairman of the Alabama Republican Party, said he is talking with some business groups about helping the party fund a similar legal challenge to Alabama's legislative districts. -- Republicans eye challenge to Alabama legislative districts (AP via Tuscaloosa News)

The article quotes me toward the end.

Dem groups out-raise GOP groups

Washington Post reports: Over the past four months, Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) has raised more money than the Bush campaign and substantially eroded the president's once-huge cash advantage.

Now, President Bush and his GOP allies have suffered another serious setback: Independent pro-Republican groups that recently vowed to challenge pro-Democratic organizations for supremacy in spending unregulated or "soft" money on campaign ads and voter mobilization are getting their clocks cleaned by their rivals.

One of the most heavily publicized pro-GOP groups, Progress for America, raised $2.3 million in the second quarter of this year, most of it from three of Bush's major fundraisers, according to new filings with the Internal Revenue Service. Another, the Leadership Forum, backed by some of Washington's most prominent Republican lobbyists and the GOP congressional leadership, raised $15,719.

The two top pro-Democratic groups, the Media Fund and America Coming Together, raised nearly nine times as much in the past quarter, or a combined $20 million, according to IRS filings. ...

Almost all of the money raised by the Leadership Forum was a $15,000 contribution from the American Spirit Fund, a PAC associated with former senator Jesse Helms (R-N.C.). -- Pro-GOP Groups Outpaced In Funds (washingtonpost.com)

People United complains about Falwell's tax exempt status while campaigning

The New York Times reports: Hoping to send a warning to churches helping the Bush campaign turn out conservative voters, a liberal group has filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service charging that an organization run by the Rev. Jerry Falwell has violated the requirements of its tax-exempt status by endorsing Mr. Bush's re-election.

"For conservative people of faith, voting for principle this year means voting for the re-election of George W. Bush," Mr. Falwell wrote in the July 1 issue of his e-mail newsletter "Falwell Confidential'' and on his Web site, falwell.com. "The alternative, in my mind, is simply unthinkable. To the pro-life, pro-family, pro-traditional marriage, pro-America voters in this nation, we must determine that President Bush is the man with our interests at heart. It is that simple." ...

Mr. Falwell, who helped lead conservative evangelical Protestants into politics 20 years ago as the founder of the Moral Majority, also asked for contributions to a political action committee run by the social conservative Gary Bauer. "It is the organization that I believe can have the greatest impact in re-electing Mr. Bush to the Oval Office," he wrote.

Yesterday, the Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, argued in a letter to the I.R.S. that one of Mr. Falwell's religious organizations, Jerry Falwell Ministries, had disseminated the message in violation of tax rules, which restrict tax-exempt religious groups and charitable organizations from engaging in politics. -- Citing Falwell's Endorsement of Bush, Group Challenges His Tax-Exempt Status (The New York Times)

July 16, 2004

Short hiatus

I will taking a few days off from this weblog. My father Wilson Edward Still Sr. , of Tuscaloosa, AL, died in his sleep this morning. As you know, my mother died in March. May they both rest in peace.

July 15, 2004

Indians ask for repeal of South Dakota voter I.D. law

AP reports: South Dakota's new voter-identification law should be repealed because it could prevent some Indians from voting, a state legislative committee was told Thursday.

The State-Tribal Relations Committee heard testimony on the new law, which requires voters to show a driver's license or other identification that includes a photograph. But registered voters who do not have photo IDs can vote after signing an affidavit affirming their identity.

Some people in various areas complained after the June 1 election that they had not been informed about the option of signing an affidavit.

Critics of the law argued Thursday that Indians are more likely than white people to be harmed by the identification requirement because many Indians have no driver's license and some tribal identification cards do not include photos. -- Lawmakers asked to repeal voter identification law (AP via AberdeenNews.com)

Criminal vote fraud probe in Napa Valley

NapaNews.com reports: The California Secretary of State's office is investigating charges of criminal elections fraud and ballot tampering in connection with Napa County's District 5 supervisorial election held in March.

"I've got about a three-inch pile of paperwork on my desk," said lead investigator Ric Ciaramella of the Secretary of State's elections fraud unit. "John (Tuteur) has asked us to take a look at this."

Tuteur is Napa County's Registrar of Voters and was one of the defendants, along with Supervisor-elect Harold Moskowite, in the case recently wrapped up in Napa Superior Court.

On June 30, visiting judge Peter Allen Smith found in favor of Moskowite, who in April was certified as the victor in the race over three-term incumbent Mike Rippey by 108 votes. But Rippey maintains there was ballot tampering. -- State opens fraud probe in Napa election (NapaNews.com)

Will Nader be on the Michigan ballot?

AP reports: Presidential candidate Ralph Nader still plans to get on the state ballot through the Reform Party's nomination despite a disagreement over who represents the Reform Party in Michigan, a spokesman for Nader's campaign said Thursday.

Kevin Zeese also said the Nader campaign will not accept petition signatures gathered by state Republicans to put Nader on the ballot as an independent presidential candidate.

The Michigan Republican Party had submitted 34,000 signatures to the state Bureau of Elections by mid-afternoon Thursday, more than the 30,000 Nader needed to have filed by 4 p.m. to qualify for the ballot. GOP Executive Director Greg McNeilly said the party planned to turn in 43,000 signatures by the end of the day. -- Nader still plans to get on Michigan ballot through Reform Party (AP via Detroit Free Press)

Florida jailers must hand out voter registration info

Reuters reports: Florida jailers must give felons the applications they need to get their voting rights back before releasing them from prison, a court ruled on Wednesday in the latest election-year battle over Florida voting rules.

Florida is one of only seven states that does not automatically restore voting rights to felons once they have finished their sentences. To get the vote back, released felons must petition a clemency board headed by the governor.

The 1st District Court of Appeal ordered the state Department of Corrections to give soon-to-be released prisoners all the forms needed to obtain a clemency review and to help them fill the papers out if asked.

Florida law already required that, and voting rights advocates sued to have it enforced in 2001. They argued that many former felons had no idea the clemency process was needed before voting, or how to start it. -- Florida Must Help Prisoners Regain Vote, Court Says (Reuters via Yahoo! News)

Thanks to Paul Levine of LawyerNews.com for the link. More about LawyerNews.com later.

July 14, 2004

"Clean Money" proposal in Leon County

The Tallahassee Democrat reports: People packed the [Leon County, Florida] courthouse Tuesday for a debate on whether to change the county charter to enact a host of local election changes, including reducing the amount someone can contribute to a candidate.

Members of a group called the Clean Money/Clean Elections Steering Committee urged Leon County commissioners to place the charter amendments on the November ballot so voters can decide whether the changes are needed.

However, members of the business community asked commissioners to vote against placing the measures on the ballot. One provision of the initiative would bar corporations and businesses from giving money to candidates.

After a debate lasting several hours, commissioners voted unanimously to create a panel to study the issue of election reform - an idea first suggested by Chairwoman Jane Sauls. Even if commissioners had decided to put the initiative before voters, the changes wouldn't have taken effect until the 2006 election cycle. -- Election-reform plan heard (Tallahassee Democrat)

He shoulda listened to Nixon about coverups

Charles Kushner, a wealthy New Jersey developer and one of the country's biggest political contributors, was charged yesterday with obstructing a federal investigation of his finances and retaliating against a witness by luring him into a videotaped encounter with a prostitute.

A criminal complaint filed in Newark said Kushner paid $25,000 to two conspirators and a prostitute to seduce one of his former employees, then ordered them to videotape the tryst and mail the tape to the man's wife.

The rendezvous took place last December, and Kushner allegedly waited until May to send the tape and accompanying photos. The tapes were sent two days after prosecutors notified the man that he might face criminal charges related to his work for Kushner's companies.

The complaint said Kushner planned to intimidate another associate the same way, but that plot failed when the man rebuffed the call girl's advances.

Both of the targets had provided information to FBI agents who have been investigating Kushner since February 2003 for possible campaign finance violations and tax fraud. -- Kushner undercut inquiry, U.S. says (Star Ledger)

Trent Lott and Trevor Potter agree (almost) on FEC

AP reports: A key senator expressed support Wednesday for efforts to overhaul the Federal Election Commission, saying he may propose legislation aimed at ending deadlocks on the panel.

Sen. Trent Lott, chairman of the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration, said he is considering introducing a bill that would reduce the six-member commission to five members.

"That will guarantee a result in every case," Lott, R-Miss., said at a committee hearing on the FEC. -- Trent Lott May Propose Trimming FEC (AP via Newsday.com)

The Campaign Legal Center quotes Trevor Potter's testimony: "First, the agency could move to a system like the one used by the International Trade Commission, where tie votes result in a matter going forward, rather than being dropped. Second, we could move to a system with an odd number of Commissioners, or one with a tie-breaking chair. Third, we could have a system in which ties at the Commission would be subject to immediate, de novo review by federal courts.

"Any of these proposals would be an improvement over the current system." -- Legal Center: Senate Hearing "An Important Step Toward FEC Reform" (Campaign Legal Center)

(By the way, on this one, I invite essays about why some or all of these are stupid ideas. Please click on the "comments" link below.)

Millionaire's amendment in California

AP reports: Trailing in fund-raising and polls, [California] Republican U.S. Senate candidate Bill Jones said Wednesday he will spend $2 million of his own money on his race to unseat Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer this November.

Made on the eve of the release of quarterly fund-raising reports expected to show him far behind Boxer in campaign cash, Jones told a luncheon gathering of the Sacramento Press Club he would spend the money because "this election is as critical as any election in generations." ...

Analysts called the gesture a sign of fund-raising trouble.

"Candidates dip into their own pocket when they can't raise the money," said Robert Stern, president of the Los Angeles-based Center for Governmental Studies. "It's a little bit of desperation, frankly."

Jones, a Fresno-area businessman, former secretary of state and 1990s Republican Assembly leader, can make the donation without triggering the new "millionaire's rule" that would allow Boxer to double amounts she can receive from individuals and political action committees. -- AP Wire | 07/14/2004 | Jones pledges $2 million in personal funds for race against Boxer (AP via sanluisobispo.com)

Pro-GOP group raises first million

AP reports: A pro-Republican get-out-the-vote group aimed at counteracting multimillion-dollar organizations that oppose President Bush has logged its first $1 million donation.

The Progress for America Voter Fund received $1 million in June from Jerry Perenchio, chief executive of the Univision Communications Inc. Spanish-language media company. Perenchio, a volunteer GOP fund-raiser, has also raised at least $100,000 for Bush's re-election effort.

Perenchio's donation was among three accounting for nearly all the $2.26 million the Progress for America Voter Fund raised in the second quarter, a report by the group to the Internal Revenue Service shows.

The group also received $500,000 each from Carl Lindner, chairman of Ohio-based American Financial Corp., and Paul Singer of the Elliott Capital Partners investment firm in New York. Lindner raised more than $200,000 for Bush's campaign. Singer collected at least $100,000 for Bush. -- Pro-Republican 'Soft Money' Group Gets $1M (AP via philly.com)

Judge blocks annexation because district discarded 1/3 of petition signatures

San Jose Mercury News reports: A judge on Tuesday temporarily blocked one of the region's largest land preservation districts from annexing the San Mateo County [California] coast, citing concerns that officials discarded too many protest signatures from residents who want the issue placed on the November ballot.

The decision comes just before the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District was to add 140,000 coastal acres to its territory. It sets up a showdown in court later this month that could ultimately put the issue on the ballot -- or scuttle the protest effort.

After a six-year campaign that included advisory votes, aggressive campaigning and legislative wooing, San Mateo County Superior Court Judge Mark Forcum ordered a hearing July 22 to consider the disputed protest petitions.

Forcum was troubled that county officials disqualified nearly 33 percent of the 5,340 protests submitted -- a ``staggering number,'' he said -- and called for a more ``inclusive'' process that wouldn't disenfranchise voters. Several dismissed protest petitions had technical problems, such as listing post office boxes instead of home addresses. -- Annexation of coastal land put on hold (MercuryNews.com)

Black radio and the civil rights movement

The University of Florida says in a press release: Like Radio Free Europe was to those behind the Iron Curtain during the Cold War, black radio stations and disc jockeys often were as important as ministers and politicians in mobilizing support for the civil rights movement of the 1960s, says a University of Florida researcher.

Not only did black DJs encourage a sense of common identity, pride and purpose, they also passed along strategies on how to combat racial discrimination, defeat police roadblocks and counter disinformation from segregationist authorities, said Brian Ward, a UF history professor who explores the themes for the first time in his book "Radio and the Struggle for Civil Rights in the South," published this month, 40 years to the month after President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act. ...

In the book, published by University Press of Florida, Ward talks about how black-oriented radio stations offered valuable tactical guidance in the nation’s great civil rights battles. During the1963 Birmingham protests, for example, DJs at several black radio stations moved black residents around the city by sending coded messages in their broadcasts revealing times and locations where marches would occur while also alerting participants of any obstacles they may encounter, he said.

“One station, WENN, hired one of the first traffic helicopters and broadcast traffic reports to the African-American community, which had little to do with the volume of traffic and a lot to do with where police roadblocks were,” said Ward, who used newspapers, trade journals and magazines; dozens of interviews with DJs, station executives and civil rights activists; and thousands of archival documents from the Federal Communications Commission, the FBI, local and state law enforcement agencies, and local and national civil rights organizations and leaders.

Blacks gathered in dozens of Birmingham churches with radios turned up, waiting to hear a particular gospel song, which was their signal to leave the congregation halls and begin marching downtown, Ward said. -- Black Radio Played Strong Role In Shaping Civil Rights (Newswise)

July 13, 2004

Candidate using his bakery's dough in campaign ads

The South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports: A television ad for congressional candidate Jim Stork's bakery could run afoul of federal campaign laws.

Stork, 37, the photogenic former mayor of Wilton Manors who is challenging District 22 incumbent Clay Shaw, 65, has been running commercials with his face and name, and that of his bakery, on cable TV. They are airing smack within the congressional district, but far from the locations of the Wilton Manors and downtown Fort Lauderdale bakeries.

Shaw's campaign said Stork is using bakery money to boost his name recognition in the congressional district. They called the commercials tantamount to a "crime," using corporate money from the bakery to promote a congressional campaign. -- Congressional candidate challenged for running ads for his bakery (South Florida Sun-Sentinel)

Criminal charges in Mississippi for failure to report campaign contribution

AP reports: Tupelo teacher Jeremy Martin has pleaded innocent to a campaign finance violation charge stemming from his unsuccessful bid for a seat in the Mississippi House.

The 25-year-old Republican is accused of failing to disclose within 48 hours a $2,466 contribution received only days before the election last year. He lost the election to Rep. Jamie Franks, D-Mooreville.

Martin entered the plea Monday during an arraignment in Hinds County Circuit Court. If convicted, he faces up to six months in jail and a $3,000 fine.

While candidates are routinely assessed civil fines for late reports, it is rare for the state's attorney general to prosecute alleged campaign finance violations. -- Teacher pleads innocent to violating campaign finance law (AP via Biloxi Sun Herald)

Car dealership asks, must it stop advertising because it is named after candidate?

AP reports: The Russ Darrow car dealership company plans to ask the Federal Election Commission whether it should stop running ads within 30 days of the [Wisconsin] Senate Republican primary because its chairman is a candidate.

Russ Darrow III, the son of Senate candidate Russ Darrow Jr., said Tuesday the Wisconsin company will comply with whatever the FEC rules in its advisory opinion.

At issue is a provision of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform law, which bars corporate-funded advertisements that mention a candidate within 30 days of a primary, or within 60 days of a general election.

That provision was aimed at preventing corporations and labor unions from funding advertisements paid for by unregulated "soft money," aimed at helping candidates in the final days of a campaign. -- Wisconsin's Darrow Group to seek FEC opinion on advertising (AP via GMtoday)

DOJ sues Georgia over late absentee ballots

UPI reports: The U.S. Justice Department said Tuesday it has filed suit to ensure Georgia absentee voters get a chance to vote, despite late absentee ballots.

The department said "numerous" Georgia counties failed to mail requested absentee ballots to citizens living overseas in time for them to vote in the July 20 primary for members of Congress.

The suit asks a federal judge for an emergency order requiring state officials to make sure qualified voters are allowed to cast ballots. Specifically, the department is asking for a 14-day extension of the state deadline for overseas ballots; to allow overseas voters to return ballots by fax and express mail at no charge ot the voters and to allow voters to use a special ballot available at U.S. embassies and military bases. -- Suit seeks to protect Ga. overseas voters - (United Press International via the Washington Times)

New Hampshire Dems sue GOP over phone jamming

AP reports: The [New Hampshire] state Democratic Party is suing the Republican State Committee and its former executive director over jamming six phone banks on Election Day 2002.

"Dirty politics has no place in our electoral process," said Democratic state Sen. Lou D'Allesandro at a news conference Tuesday.

Democrats called on their Republican counterparts to "come clean" and reveal who did it, who knew about it and how much money was spent. ...

The computer-generated calls went to lines set up for voters who needed rides to the polls. More than 800 hang-up calls were made to volunteers offering rides, tying up phones for about 1 1/2 hours, according to a federal prosecutor. -- Democrats sue GOP over phone-jamming (AP via The Herald News)

Nader gathers petitions in West Virginia

The Charleston Gazette reports: A mysterious pair of men were gathering signatures on a petition Monday outside the Kroger store on Charleston's West Side -- apparently in an effort to get independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader on West Virginia's ballot in November.

One of the men told at least two people, including a Gazette reporter, that the petitions were not for Nader. But Nader supporters were gathering signatures outside a Dunbar Kroger store on Sunday, and one woman at the West Side Kroger said she saw the petitions, and they were for Nader.

Helen Lanham said one of the men asked her if she was a registered voter and whether she would sign a petition to "get a minority on the ballot." She asked who it was, and they "hemmed and hawed" and wouldn't tell her.

They had the name of the candidate covered up with a pencil on the petition, Lanham said. She said she moved the pencil aside and saw it was for Nader. -- Signature gatherers try to hide Nader’s name on petitions (The Charleston Gazette)

Michigan roadblock for Nader

The Detroit Free Press reports: Ralph Nader's presidential campaign thought it was on track to put him on Michigan's ballot as the Reform Party candidate.

But there's more than one Reform Party. And until they decide who's in charge, Nader can't be the candidate of either, says Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land.

The confusion means that for now, Nader is out of the presidential race in Michigan, unless supporters, including state Republicans,gather the minimum 30,000 petition signatures to put the consumer activist on the November ballot. The state GOP admits it hopes having Nader on the ballot siphons votes away from Democrat John Kerry. ...

Nader's name was submitted on June 25 to Land as the official candidate of the Reform Party of Michigan. The document was signed by John Muntz, who identified himself as the Reform Party chairman. The letter also was signed by Eleanor Renfrew as the Reform Party secretary.

But Matthew Crehan, not Muntz, is the Reform Party of Michigan chairman. Muntz is chairman of the Independence Party of Michigan, according to Secretary of State records. -- 2 Reform parties, but no candidate (Detroit Free Press)

Nader seeking 15,000 petitions in Oregon

AP reports: Worried that Ralph Nader's most recent attempt to qualify for the Oregon presidential ballot might fail, his backers are switching tactics - but they are running out of time.

At a one-day convention in Portland on June 26, under state election law Nader needed 1,000 signatures to make it onto the state's presidential ballot.

The assembly attracted about 1,150 people, but Nader's backers are worried they won't be able to come up with 1,000 valid signatures from among those who attended.

As a fall-back position, his Oregon campaign said Monday it is about to try another option available under state law - a petition effort across the state to gather 15,000 signatures for his independent candidacy, or 18,900 signatures for him to form a new party that could nominate him for the ballot.

The 15,000-signature option is legally questionable, however, because Nader's running mate, Peter Camejo, is a member of the Green Party. Under that option of Oregon law, both Nader and his running mate are supposed to be political independents. -- Worried about failure, Nader backers try another tactic (AP via Albany Democrat-Herald)

Bell will ask Ethics Committee to review Enron emails about DeLay

AP reports: Rep. Chris Bell, D-Texas, who filed an ethics complaint against House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, says e-mails between Enron officials bolster his charges that DeLay illegally solicited and accepted political contributions and should be investigated.

Bell said he will ask House ethics committee members to review the e-mails before deciding whether to launch a formal investigation of the Texas Republican based on the complaint Bell filed last month.

DeLay has repeatedly dismissed Bell's charges, saying Bell is bitter because he lost his re-election bid in March. Republicans have said Democrats are behind the complaint. ...

Bell said the e-mail to Lay, and another sent July 24, 2000 to another senior Enron official, "point to Mr. DeLay's very hands-on involvement" in raising corporate money for his effort to redraw Texas' congressional district boundaries so more Republicans could be elected to the U.S. House.

DeLay has not been accused of wrongdoing by prosecutors nor has he been subpoenaed. The Texas prosecutor leading the investigation has said DeLay is not its target, but he also has said no corporation or individual has been cleared. -- Lawmaker says Enron e-mails bolster case against DeLay (AP via DallasNews.com)

Arizona Supreme Court will hear challenge to ballot pamphlet language on anti-Clean Elections initiative

The Arizona Republic: Arizona's highest court will decide how an initiative that would strip the funding for Clean Elections will be described in a guide seen by more than 1 million voters before they go to the polls this fall.

Attorney Paul Eckstein, who represents groups supporting publicly funded elections, said the wording approved by a special legislative panel last week is biased and doesn't let Arizonans know it was created by a vote of the people in 1998. He will file his challenge with the Arizona Supreme Court next week, likely proposing new language. If the court agrees that the analysis is not impartial, it can order Secretary of State Jan Brewer to adopt new wording.

After three hours of nitpicking over wording, the Republican-controlled Legislative Council last week agreed on a two-paragraph explanation of an initiative that could ultimately end Clean Elections. There was more than 30 minutes of debate over the words "public money" vs. "taxpayer money." Eventually, the term taxpayer money was used to describe how the election system is funded.

A group called No Taxpayer Money for Politicians wants to end publicly funded campaigns and put that money into state coffers. The group filed 275,000 signatures, far more than needed for a constitutional amendment. The essence of the argument is that no taxpayer money should go to politicians for political campaigns. -- Top court will judge Clean Elections text (Arizona Republic)

Small minority group cannot seek Cumulative Voting as remedy

The Eleventh Circuit: We hold that a protected minority group pursuing a vote dilution claim under section 2 of the Voting Rights Act has no right to relief unless it can demonstrate that, in the absence of the challenged voting structure or practice, its members would have the ability to elect the candidate of its choice. If the group is too small to elect candidates of its choice in the absence of a challenged structure or practice, then it is the size of the minority population that results in the plaintiff’s injury, and not the challenged structure or practice. Accordingly, we conclude that the district court did not abuse its discretion in declining to grant additional relief in this case, because it correctly found that no further relief was available. --Dillard v. Baldwin County Commission (13 July 2004)

The plaintiffs had sought to have the 7-SMD plan converted to a Cumulative Voting plan when the intervenors challenged the SMD plan under the doctrine of Holder v. Hall. Disclosure: I was co-counsel for the plaintiffs when the SMD plan was adopted, but was not involved in the latest round of litigation.

July 12, 2004

CREW files FOIA request with FEC over Westar report

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington announces: Earlier today, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed a Freedom of Information Act Request (FOIA) with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) asking the FEC to produce a report detailing the illegal campaign contributions made by former Westar employees to Members of Congress in exchange for an amendment to the energy bill beneficial to Westar.

In 2003, Westar's board of directors retained campaign finance law expert Tim Jenkins of the law firm O'Connor & Hannan to investigate the campaign finance issues raised in an earlier report. Jenkins' probe focused on a 2002 plan to influence pending federal legislation by making political donations, including a $25,000 donation made to one of Majority Leader Tom DeLay's PACS, Texans for a Republican Majority -- an organization also the subject of a criminal inquiry in Texas. Westar voluntarily forwarded Jenkins' report to the FEC earlier this year.

Upon learning of its existence, CREW FOIA'd the Westar report so that the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct could take the report's findings into account when considering an ethics complaint filed by Cong. Chris Bell (D-Texas) against Tom DeLay last month. The Westar contribution is a major focus of Bell's complaint. CREW has asked the FEC to provide the report on an expedited basis so that the Ethics Committee has time to review the report before it decides whether or not to conduct a full- fledged investigation, a decision which may be made as early as Aug. 6, 2004. -- Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington FOIAs Report on Westar Campaign Contributions from FEC (U.S. Newswire)

DeLay sought Enron money for TRMPAC

The Washington Post reports: In May 2001, Enron's top lobbyists in Washington advised the company chairman that then-House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) was pressing for a $100,000 contribution to his political action committee, in addition to the $250,000 the company had already pledged to the Republican Party that year.

DeLay requested that the new donation come from "a combination of corporate and personal money from Enron's executives," with the understanding that it would be partly spent on "the redistricting effort in Texas," said the e-mail to Kenneth L. Lay from lobbyists Rick Shapiro and Linda Robertson.

The e-mail, which surfaced in a subsequent federal probe of Houston-based Enron, is one of at least a dozen documents obtained by The Washington Post that show DeLay and his associates directed money from corporations and Washington lobbyists to Republican campaign coffers in Texas in 2001 and 2002 as part of a plan to redraw the state's congressional districts. ...

But DeLay and his colleagues also face serious legal challenges: Texas law bars corporate financing of state legislature campaigns, and a Texas criminal prosecutor is in the 20th month of digging through records of the fundraising, looking at possible violations of at least three statutes. A parallel lawsuit, also in the midst of discovery, is seeking $1.5 million in damages from DeLay's aides and one of his political action committees -- Texans for a Republican Majority (TRMPAC) -- on behalf of four defeated Democratic lawmakers. -- DeLay's Corporate Fundraising Investigated (washingtonpost.com)

GOP to pay 30% commission on donations thru websites

The New York Times reports: Howard Dean, move over. In a nod to the successful online fund-raising of Mr. Dean and other Democrats, the Republican National Committee will this month start paying Web site owners who raise donations for the party through their sites.

The program is open to operators of Web sites registered at Commission Junction, a technology company that helps advertisers reach Web page publishers. The committee will pay Web sites amounts equal to 30 percent of the donations they raise as a commission, according to Commission Junction's Web site.

The arrangement is the latest effort by political parties to expand fund-raising on the Internet. Internet sites and e-mail messages as political fund-raising vehicles are often cheaper and faster than traditional mass mailings and telephone campaigns. At times, they can be more effective.

The Republican National Committee will decide whether to maintain the program after comparing the results with other fund-raising efforts, a spokeswoman for the committee, Christine Iverson, said. She did not say when that comparison would be made. -- The New York Times > Business > G.O.P. Hopes Web Sites Will Be a Link to the Small Donor (New York Times)

What happens if the presidential candidate is killed?

Charlie Savage wrote on 9 May in the Boston Globe: WORST-CASE SCENARIO number one: It's the night before Election Day. Across America, voters turn on their televisions hoping to catch the final hours of the presidential campaign and instead hear the awful news. In coordinated attacks, terrorists have killed their favored candidates for both president and vice president. Now what?

Worst-case scenario number two: It's the day after Election Day and voters have clearly chosen the next president. Across America, local party members are making plans to travel to their state capitals and cast their usually ceremonial Electoral College votes when both members of the winning ticket are assassinated. What happens next?

The answer in both cases -- and several equally unpleasant variants: Nobody knows. ...

A small but growing group of constitutional scholars, election specialists, and lawmakers argue that we need to extend that sober conversation to include the almost unspeakable: a direct attack on the candidates themselves. -- Chaos theory (Boston Globe)


July 11, 2004

Stop the election! I want to get off

Michael Isikoff reports in Newsweek: American counterterrorism officials, citing what they call "alarming" intelligence about a possible Qaeda strike inside the United States this fall, are reviewing a proposal that could allow for the postponement of the November presidential election in the event of such an attack, NEWSWEEK has learned. ...

As a result, sources tell NEWSWEEK, Ridge's department last week asked the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel to analyze what legal steps would be needed to permit the postponement of the election were an attack to take place. Justice was specifically asked to review a recent letter to Ridge from DeForest B. Soaries Jr., chairman of the newly created U.S. Election Assistance Commission. Soaries noted that, while a primary election in New York on September 11, 2001, was quickly suspended by that state's Board of Elections after the attacks that morning, "the federal government has no agency that has the statutory authority to cancel and reschedule a federal election." -- Exclusive: Election Day Worries (Newsweek via MSNBC)

In the months leading up the 1972 election, I remember the rumors were that Nixon planned to "cancel the election" on some pretext or other. I wonder what chatter this item will cause.

Instant runoff voting proposed for Washington State

The Olympian reports: Another alternative to Washington's election system was unveiled Saturday by activists hoping to encourage more voter participation and ensure that winners truly garner a majority to get elected.

Backers of Initiative 318, which would install instant runoff elections in Washington, will be trying to gather enough signatures by December to present the measure to the state Legislature.

Instant runoff voting sends two candidates to a second round if at least one doesn't grab a 50 percent majority. It allows voters to rank their choices instead of just selecting one person, so that the losing candidates' votes can be dispersed according to how voters ranked their second and third choices.

It's designed to eliminate situations where a candidate wins the election even if he or she receives less than 50 percent of the vote. It would also allow voters to "vote their heart" for third-party candidates without "spoiling" elections, supporters say. -- Group unveils I-318 for instant runoff elections (The Olympian)

Andrew Reynolds defends the UN plan for Iraqi elections

Andrew Reynolds writes in the Washington Post: In recent weeks conservatives have criticized the choice of a proportional representation system for Iraq's elections and have disparaged the U.N. electoral assistance department and its director, Carina Perelli. But the plan these critics propose for Iraq -- rejection of proportional voting in favor of an Anglo-American-style, winner-take-all system -- is not a recipe for stability.

According to critics of the United Nations, most notably Michael Rubin on this page [June 19] and Richard Perle in a speech to the American Enterprise Institute, the U.N. plan for Iraq's January elections ignores the desire of liberal Iraqis for constituency-based elections and is likely to bring disastrous consequences, along the lines of those produced by Lebanon's failed communal system. Others claim that the U.N. plan will harm the Shiite majority, breeding more instability. ...

Why is [the UN] correct in recommending proportional representation for the constituent assembly elections in Iraq? First and foremost, proportional representation will avoid the anomalies that are prevalent when single-member districts or some variant thereof are used in emerging democracies. In 1998 the Lesotho Congress for Democracy won all but one seat in parliament with 60 percent of the vote; rioting and state collapse ensued. In the 2000 Mongolian elections, the ruling party took 95 percent of the seats with 58 percent of the vote. In Iraq such a system would most likely give a significant "seat bonus" to Shiite parties, to the detriment of Sunni-based groups and embryonic multiethnic movements. -- The Right Plan for Iraqi Voters (washingtonpost.com)

Ohio candidates using blogs

AP reports: Political newcomer Jeff Seemann didn't have a campaign phone number, office or staff when he started his House race three months ago against longtime Republican incumbent Ralph Regula.

Then the Ohio Democrat started posting comments on Internet journals, known as Web logs or "blogs," and paid to advertise on a popular Democratic Web log.

Now Seemann has more than $25,000, an office -- with a phone number -- and a staff of 10, including four people who were attracted to his campaign through the Internet. While Regula has nearly four times as much, despite not having a campaign Web site, the money gives Seemann a chance to get his message out.

A small but growing number of candidates, political parties and activists across the country are using the new technology of blogging to recruit volunteers, raise money and connect with voters. -- Candidates, parties use ‘blogs’ to gain voters, money (AP via cantonrep.com)

International monitors for US elections proposed

Weekend Edition Sunday on NPR reports: NPR's Brian Naylor speaks with Ted Lewis, director of the Fair Elections Project, about his group's plan to bring election monitors from around the world to the U.S. to observe elections in the fall. -- Monitoring Elections in the United States (NPR)

Did Florida drop the felon purge list because of this letter?

Brennan Center press release, 8 July: A letter sent today to Florida Secretary of State Glenda Hood details numerous legal violations in connection with the State's identification of over 47,000 "potential felons" and instructions to county election officials to take steps to purge these voters from the rolls. A previous study by the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, one of the legal groups responsible for the letter, found that the purge list likely includes thousands of people who are eligible to vote because the State restored their voting rights, after they served their sentences.

Said senior attorney Monique Dixon of the Advancement Project, "With this list, Florida makes voters jump through hoops to exercise the most basic right of American citizenship."

"Florida officials apparently are ready to sacrifice thousands of eligible voters' rights to keep "potential felons" away from the polls," says Jessie Allen co-counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law.

In addition to other issues, the letter asserts that State election officials violated federal and state law by:

Distributing the inaccurate potential felon purge list to county election supervisors accompanied by misleading information about the list's accuracy;

Instructing the supervisors to notify those on the purge list that they will be removed from the voter rolls if they fail to respond; and

Failing to correct those instructions after their illegality was specifically pointed out. -- Brennan Center for Justice - Press Release

The press release has a link to the text of the letter (which will reward careful readers with lots of knowledge about the NVRA and Florida law). Thanks to Deborah Goldberg for link.

Partial redistricting in Bexar County angers some

San Antonio Express-News reports: Residents of two Bexar County neighborhoods are fuming over a redrawing of voting districts by the Bexar Metropolitan Water District, accusing the utility of deliberately diluting their influence at the ballot box. ...

Instead of being able to vote this year on a representative for a six-year term, those moved to new districts would have to wait two or four years to vote, meaning it will be 10 years between votes for some.

The board adopted its attorneys' recommendation to shift 6,475 residents from its Castle Hills service area in the North Side's District 6 into the South Side's District 1 and move the Heritage Park area from District 6 to the Northwest Side's District 2.

Bexar Met's redistricting attorneys, Rolando Rios and Associates, took their recommendation to the board June 28.

For reasons not addressed by the board or its attorneys, instead of redistricting all seven of the utility's voting districts, the redistricting was limited only to equalizing population in the two districts scheduled for Nov. 2 elections.

They needed to shed population to get closer to the ideal number of 28,346 residents in each district, Rios said.

But in shedding the 16,370 residents of Heritage Park from the 59,801-resident District 6, he admitted he was "parking" them in the already ideally populated District 2, which would have to be redistricted before its scheduled vote in two years. -- Bexar Met remap draws fire (MySA.com)

Florida scraps the felon purge list

AP reports: Florida elections officials said Saturday that they would not use a disputed list that was intended to keep felons from voting, acknowledging a flaw that could have allowed Hispanic felons to cast ballots in November.

The problem could have been significant in Florida, which President Bush won by just 537 votes in 2000. The state has a sizable Cuban population, and Hispanics in Florida have tended to vote Republican more than Hispanics nationally. The list had about 28,000 Democrats and around 9,500 Republicans, with most of the rest unaffiliated.

Gov. Jeb Bush said that not including Hispanic felons on the list "was an oversight and a mistake." He added, "We accept responsibility, and that's why we're pulling it back."

Governor Bush said the mistake occurred because two databases that were merged to form the disputed list were incompatible.

When voters register in Florida, they can identify themselves as Hispanic. But the felons database has no Hispanic category, which excluded many people from the list.

Secretary of State Glenda Hood said elections supervisors would find other ways to ensure that felons were removed from the rolls. -- Florida Won't Use a Flawed Felon List (AP via New York Times)

July 10, 2004

Millionaires' Amendment in Oklahoma Senate race

AP reports: Republican U.S. Senate candidate Kirk Humphreys is pumping $731,000 of his own money into his primary campaign for the U.S. Senate.

Humphreys, the former Oklahoma City mayor, made the announcement Friday, saying he is trying to counter out-of-state contributions -- particularly from one group -- to Tom Coburn, the former congressman from Muskogee. ...

He referred to reports that Club for Growth spent almost $200,000 on a television campaign that benefited Coburn. ...

Under the new federal campaign finance law, Humphreys' announcement means supporters of his opponents may now donate $6,000 each. They were limited to $2,000 per election cycle. -- Humphreys Pumps Personal Funds Into Senate Race (AP via ChannelOklahoma.com)

Nader petitions offered for sale to Nevada Democratic Party

AP reports: Signed petitions to put Ralph Nader on the presidential ballot in Nevada were offered for sale to the state's Democratic Party in a ploy to keep the independent candidate out of the race, the party claimed Thursday.

Democratic Party spokesman Jon Summers said the party was offered the signatures by Stan Vaughan, an independent candidate for the state Assembly. Vaughan had been freelancing a petition-gathering effort without the Nader campaign's knowledge and later became upset when the national campaign wouldn't accept his efforts.

Vaughan offered to sell 14,000 signatures to the Democrats in a move "to keep Nader off the ballot," Summers said. "We rejected it. ... We weren't comfortable with it."

In an initial interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Vaughan denied offering to sell his signatures. However, e-mails sent from his personal address to both the Nader campaign and the state Democratic Party suggest otherwise. -- Claims focus on Nevada petitions for Nader (AP via Reno Gazette-Journal)

For background on the Nevada-Nader saga, see Politics1 (scroll down to "Nader rolls snake eyes in big Nevada gamble" on 8 July.

The background on Florida's decision

Florida's decision "to err on the side of the voter" was based in part on a letter from the ACLU and Florida Justice Institute. The state's response is here.

Thanks to Neil Bradley for sending the letters.

July 9, 2004

Joe Hadfield predicts Kerry-Edwards to accept public funding

Joe Hadfield writes on Campaigns and Elections website: Despite the prospect that forgoing public funding would be more profitable, John Kerry will accept public funding along with the official Democratic Party nomination in a few weeks.

Once nominated, Kerry and new running mate John Edwards qualify for public funds set at $75 million. A condition to the public money is that the campaign stops accepting private donations, which have come into Kerry's account at a rate of $36 million a month since March.

By sustaining that pace in the three months between the Democratic convention and Election Day, the campaign could bring in $108 million. Michael Meehan, a Kerry-Edwards spokesman said a lesson they learned in the Democratic primaries is that fund raising efforts come at the cost of candidates' time. -- Campaigns and Elections magazine

almost no Hispanics on Florida's purge list

Tom Lyons writes in the Herald Tribune: About 11 percent of Florida's prison population is Hispanic. So, what percentage of the voter purge list is Hispanic?

Rounded off to the nearest percentage point, it is: zero.

No kidding. Of 47,763 people on the list, only a smattering are Hispanic. They add up to about a tenth of a percent.

That adamantly shouts that, at best, a huge mistake was made. Hispanics aren't just under-represented, or even amazingly under-represented. Statistically, they are gone.

I can't blame anyone who thinks this was engineered purposely. Florida's Hispanic voters traditionally tend to vote Republican in presidential elections, almost as reliably as black voters tend to support Democrats. A purge list with the expected percentage of black felons that omits almost all Hispanic felons is highly suspect. -- More Fla. democracy: Hispanic felons get to vote, and Jeb stays mum (heraldtribune.com)

Thanks to Gerry Hebert for the link.

July 8, 2004

Federal judge does not buy the "big chill" argument

AP reports: A federal judge refused to block a provision in Arizona's "Clean Elections" campaign finance law that helps publicly funded candidates keep up with privately funded opponents.

Current and former Republican candidates and a political action committee for physicians filed a lawsuit in January challenging several provisions of the campaign finance law, including one that provides matching funds to publicly funded candidates.

Participating candidates get extra dollars above their basic allotments if privately funded opponents spend more and if independent expenditures are made either in support of the privately funded opponents or against the participating candidates.

The lawsuit plaintiffs, including 2002 Republican gubernatorial nominee Matt Salmon, argued that the matching funds chill the free speech rights of privately funded candidates and their supporters. -- Judge won't block matching funds for 'Clean Election' candidates (AP via AZcentral.com)

Florida decides "to err on the side of the voter"

AP reports: The Florida Division of Elections has done an about-face and decided it will allow voting by almost 2,500 former felons whose restored voting rights had been threatened with revocation.

The agency initially said state law required that former felons be deleted from the voter rolls because they had registered to vote before they were granted clemency. Florida is one of seven states that do not automatically restore felons' civil rights after they finish their prison sentences.

Secretary of State Glenda Hood backtracked on the issue Wednesday.

"It goes without saying that our guiding principle throughout this process will be to err on the side of the voter," Hood said in a statement. -- Florida reverses, says it won't strip 2,500 ex-felons of voting rights (AP via OrlandoSentinel.com)

Montana's online voter lookup system

Business Wire reports: Technology is helping Montanans exercise their right to vote. As part of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) that took effect in October 2002, citizens are required to present legal identification at polling stations. A new electronic service in Montana allows voting officials to verify the identify of voters through the state's driver record database, and more than 600 citizens who arrived without identification during the state's June 8 primary were able to vote as a result.

Montana's Voter Verification Service is believed to be the first of its kind in the nation. Voters who failed to present a driver's license or state-issued ID at a polling station were referred to a resolutions table. Once the voter provided a full name, date of birth, address, and driver's license number or last four digits of a social security number, an election staffer could query the Voter Verification Service. If the provided information matched what appeared in the Montana Department of Justice's driver record and state identification database, the voter was eligible to proceed to the polls.

All 56 Montana counties signed up for the Voter Verification Service, which will also be available for the general election on November 2, 2004. -- Montana's New Online Voter Lookup Service Delivers Results in Recent Primary; Electronic System Confirms Voting Eligibility for Citizens without Legal Identification (Bisiness Wire via Internet Telephony Magazine)

GOP helping Nader in Michigan

AP reports: State Democratic Party officials on Thursday said Republicans are helping third-party presidential candidate Ralph Nader collect enough signatures to qualify for Michigan's ballot.

"It's another example of state Republicans willing to try every unethical trick in the book to hold power," Democratic Executive Chairman Mark Brewer said during a news conference. "This clearly shows that a vote for Ralph Nader is a vote to re-elect George Bush. The Republicans know that, and that's why they are desperate to have Nader on the Michigan ballot."

Greg McNeilly of the state Republican Party said the GOP is doing nothing wrong.

"I and the Republican Party don't take ethics lessons from the trifecta of trial lawyers leading the Democratic Party," he said, referring to Brewer, Michigan Democratic Chairman Melvin "Butch" Hollowell and Democratic vice presidential pick John Edwards. -- Michigan Democrats complain GOP helping Nader collect signatures (AP via Detroit Free Press)

The Mongolian Shuffle

The New York Times reports: Voters in this literate, sparsely populated country [Mongolia] between China and Russia have handed their governing party of former Communists an uncommon lesson that indicates that a young democracy may have come of age.

In a boisterous election 10 days ago that pitted guile against might, the country's 1.5 million voters cut the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party numbers in the 76-seat Parliament from 72 to 36. On Wednesday, the General Election Commission confirmed that the opposition, the Motherland Democratic Coalition, known as the Democrats, won 34 seats. The Democrats claim to have won two more seats, and have taken their argument to an administrative court. They are also wooing three independents in the hope of forming a government. ...

But a good dose of political ingenuity proved to be the tugriks' [the local currency] match. In the 2000 election, the vote difference nationwide was only a few percentage points. The opposition lost dozens of seats by tight margins. So this time around, the opposition carried out a homemade election-day redistricting program.

With voters scattered over an area twice the size of Texas, Mongolian law generously allows voting out of one's home district with minimum paperwork and advance notice. On election day, it quickly dawned on the governing party that the opposition was employing fleets of minibuses to shuttle voters from opposition strongholds to swing districts.

But even as the governing party scrambled to deploy its own fleets of minibuses, it watched in disbelief as safe seat after safe seat fell to bused-in voters. -- A Cunning Opposition Turns Tables in Mongolia (New York Times) *** (alternate link via the International Herald Tribune)

Does the Electoral College need a new curriculum?

Cox News Service reports: The prospect of presidential campaigns neglecting much of the country while focusing on electoral battlegrounds spurs talk of reform.

Proposals include scrapping the Electoral College in favor of direct election by popular vote. That's unlikely because the Constitution would have to be amended, an unwieldy process.

An alternative would allocate electoral votes by congressional district, a change that could be made at the state level and is already in effect in Maine and Nebraska. Candidates would be awarded one electoral vote for each of the nation's 435 congressional districts in which they win the popular vote, and a two-vote bonus for winning a state's popular vote.

Bob Turner, political scientist at Skidmore College in upstate New York, said that would more closely reflect the popular vote and force the campaigns to "focus on battleground districts instead of battleground states." Three of Georgia's 13 House districts would likely be tossups. -- Presidential campaigns to focus on key states (Cox News Service via News-Journal.com)

An even better method would be a proportional allocation of Electoral College votes in each state. Unfortunately, the "creative districting" that gives us lopsided delegations in most states would also contribute to disproportionate allocations in each state.

Arizona decides on ballot language for "No Taxpayer Money for Politicians" initiative

Michael Bryan at Political State Report: At Wednesday's [Arizona] Legislative Council hearing, the ballot language for the 'No Taxpayer Money for Politicians' initiative was decided. It was determined that the ballot language for the initiative would have to indicate an intent to repeal the Clean Elections system.

Arizona law says descriptions printed on petitions and ballots must describe the principal provisions of the initiative, be accurate, and be free from political argument. The description on the NTMP petitions failed to mention that the initiative will de-fund the Clean Elections system, de-fund the Clean Elections Commission and contained several political arguments about the voter-approved Clean Elections Act. NTMP advocates certainly wished to stay on message on the ballot, but the Legislative Council's decision precludes this. Clean Elections opponent and State Representative Randy Graf (R) reportedly commented that the decision was "a dagger in the heart" of the initiative. He is almost certainly correct.

A large majority of Arizonans support the Clean Elections system, therefore, clear language on the ballot, despite any misleading campaign advertising by the initiative's proponents, will greatly undermine chances of the initiative's passage. A majority of Arizona state office candidates are running under the Clean Elections system this cycle. The appeal of the system crosses partisan lines. There are actually more Republican candidates running clean than are Democrats. Many credit the Clean Elections system with enabling moderate Arizona Republicans to defy the far Right elements of their own caucus to pass a bi-partisan budget with Democrats this year. Of the 31 Representatives who voted for the compromise budget, 26 were Clean Elections candidates. Therein lies a possible motive for NTMP backers. -- Political State Report

I wonder if there is a connection between the support of the Christian Coalition for NTMP and the supposed moderating influence of the Clean Elections program?

July 7, 2004

Federal judge upholds tighter rules on California e-voting machines

AP reports: [California] Secretary of State Kevin Shelley's push for safer electronic voting appears to be gaining momentum with a fresh victory in federal court and new agreements from counties with touch-screen machines to make extra security arrangements.

Shelley, who banned electronic voting in the state's Nov. 2 presidential election unless it met strict new security tests, called anew Wednesday for stronger measures after a federal judge in Los Angeles upheld his actions. His office also announced that more than half the counties affected by the conditional ban have agreed to new rules allowing them to use their machines. Napa County became the newest this week.

On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Florence-Marie Cooper denied requests by disability rights activists and four California counties - Riverside, San Bernardino, Plumas and Kern - to overturn Shelley's conditional April 30 ban on touch screens for the November election.

Cooper's ruling, from a state where 43 percent of voters used touch-screen machines in March and thousands experienced problems, provides new ammunition to critics nationally who call electronic voting untrustworthy without a paper backup. Activists in several states, including Maryland, Ohio, Florida and Texas, are challenging the use of paperless voting in a November presidential election expected to be tight. -- Push for safer electronic voting bolstered by court decision (AP via Tallahassee.com)

Groups sue Florida over recount rule

Reuters reports: Voting rights groups sued Florida election administrators on Wednesday to overturn a rule that prohibits manual recounting of ballots cast with touch-screen machines, a lawsuit with echoes of the state's disputed 2000 presidential election voting.

The lawsuit said the rule was "illogical" and rested on the questionable assumption that electronic voting machines perform flawlessly 100 percent of the time. It also said the rule violated a Florida law that expressly requires manual recounts of certain ballots if the margin in an election is less than 0.25 percent of the votes cast.

Court disputes over how to conduct manual recounts of punch card and absentee ballots delayed Florida's results in the 2000 presidential election, which George W. Bush won after taking the state by 537 votes.

The lawsuit was filed against the Florida Department of State, which oversees elections and which issued the rule in April. -- Groups Sue to Allow Vote Recounts (Reuters via Wired News)

L.A. indicts lawyer for hiding contributions

Los Angeles Daily News reports: The [California] state agency that enforces campaign-finance laws Tuesday formally accused a Los Angeles attorney of making 26 donations to Mayor James Hahn's 2001 mayoral campaign under a series of false identities.

The Fair Political Practices Commission alleged that lawyer Pierce O'Donnell laundered $25,500 in campaign contributions by having employees and their relatives write checks to Hahn's campaign and then reimbursing them for the cost.

The Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office charged O'Donnell last month with 26 misdemeanor counts of laundering contributions to Hahn's campaign in 2000 and 2001. Hahn has said he was unaware of O'Donnell's fund-raising methods.

O'Donnell's lawyers have argued that the case against him is essentially a civil matter that never should have resulted in criminal charges. They repeated that argument in a statement issued Monday in response to the FPPC filing. -- FPPC accuses Hahn contributor of using false identities (L.A. Daily News)

Texas senators use camapign money for living and office expenses

AP reports: Texas state senators spend more of their campaign contributions on living and office expenses than on campaign activities, a non-partisan group reported in a study released Wednesday.

The expenditures are legal under Texas law, but they are part of a flawed system that is riddled with potential conflict of interest for legislators, said Fred Lewis, president of Campaigns for People.

"Senators are trying to cope with a broken system that underfunds their staff, grossly underpays them for their public service and has few enforceable rules regarding the use of campaign contributions," Lewis said.

The group, which wants the state's campaign finance laws changed, found that senators spend only 40 percent of contributions on campaign costs. Of the rest, 35 percent goes toward living expenses, 20 percent for office costs and 5 percent for miscellaneous costs. -- Study shows lawmakers use campaign money for living expenses (A) via Star-Telegram.com)

Virginia GOP could face $330,000 in damages

AP reports: [Virginia] Democratic legislators suing over Republican eavesdropping on two of their conference calls could recover more than $330,000 from the state GOP alone, according to a federal judge's clarified order.

U.S. District Judge James R. Spencer's clarification filed late Tuesday eliminates what [Virginia] Republicans hoped would be an opportunity to put the lingering scandal behind them and focus on next year's governor's race. Had Spencer ruled that total damages would be $10,000, the GOP would have faced a relatively small judgment if found liable.

The one-page order makes clear that Spencer's June 18 ruling limiting plaintiffs to $10,000 means that each of the lawsuit's 33 Democratic plaintiffs could be entitled to as much as $10,000 from the Republican Party of Virginia.

The June order "should not be read as limiting Plaintiffs collectively to a single $10,000 recovery ...," Spencer wrote. It also states that the Democrats could recover other relief, including punitive damages--a distinction that could make a judgment much larger. -- Judge's clarification could subject GOP to $300,000-plus judgment (AP via Hampton Roads Daily Press)

Will Kerry take public funding?

The Hill reports: Some Democratic strategists and fundraisers say Sen. John Kerry should seriously consider opting out of public funding in his bid to defeat President Bush this fall.

They maintain that Kerry's record fundraising efforts in the Democratic presidential primary show that the senator can reap more money through private contributions than through what the government would provide the campaign.

Until now, it has been assumed that both Kerry and Bush would take the $75 million in public funds after they accept their respective nominations. But this places Kerry, who will be nominated five weeks prior to President Bush, at a significant disadvantage. He has to stretch his money for 14 weeks, an average of about $5 million per week, compared to Bush, who has nine weeks, an average of more than $8 million, to spend his public money.

This -- and Kerry's aggressive fundraising operation -- is leading some of his most prolific fundraisers and Democratic strategists to suggest that Kerry should take the historic step of forgoing public funds and keep raising money all the way to the Nov. 2 election. -- Kerry could spurn public cash (The Hill.com

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

CFI study on convention financing

The Campaign Finance Institute says: In the first election cycle after soft money contributions to national political parties were banned, convention city "host committees" are raising at least $103.5 million in unlimited private donations for the party nominating conventions - twelve times what they raised for the 1992 conventions - with much of it coming from traditional soft money sources.

This finding is the starting point for a major new study co-authored by the Campaign Finance Institute's Steve Weissman and Ruth Hassan, "The $100 Million Exemption: Soft Money and the 2004 National Party Conventions." The study challenges the assumptions that underlie the Federal Election Commission's exemption of political convention host committees from restrictions in federal campaign finance law.

New research findings show that this money - contrary to the FEC's rationale - does not flow only from the apolitical civic or commercial motives of host city givers. A significant portion of the fundraisers and donors are major political players who are making substantial political contributions to parties and candidates. -- Press release of Campaign Finance Institute

July 6, 2004

Second anniversary

I let the 4th of July slip by without acknowledging it as my second anniversary of blogging. Oh, well.

The mud machine starts

Dick Morris writes in The Hill: There is evidence that Edwards may have circumvented the campaign-finance law by bundling contributions from law clerks and paralegals who did not actually make the donations from their own funds.

Tab Turner, for example, the eminent Little Rock trial lawyer, donated $200,000 to Edwards's campaign and his 527 committees. Investigators interviewed the clerks in his firm in whose names many of the donations were made. Slate magazine reported, on Aug. 29, 2003, that "one clerk who gave $2,000 to Edwards said that Turner had 'asked for people to support Edwards' and assured them that 'he would reimburse us.'"

Edwards had to return $10,000 to several Turner employees and attorney Tab claimed that he did not know it was illegal to reimburse his employees for their donations.

One or two illegal contributions will not bring Edwards down, but it is easy to speculate that his donor list may be rife with such tales. The pressure on trial lawyers to come up with funds for the struggling Edwards campaign was intense, and many trial lawyers may have fallen victim to the temptation to use straw donors to make their contributions. -- Look for the dirty laundry in Edwards's closet (The Hill.com)

Where's the evidence that Edwards suggested this or even knew it was going on?

Mass. Dems claim Romney violated state law

AP reports: [Massachusetts] Democratic state lawmakers said Tuesday they would file an ethics complaint against Republican Gov. Mitt Romney for using state time, employees and equipment to campaign for President Bush.

Romney held a news conference outside his office Tuesday to discuss Democrat John Kerry's choice of North Carolina Sen. John Edwards as his vice presidential nominee. Romney, who is chairman of the Bush-Cheney campaign in Massachusetts, said Edwards and Kerry are too liberal for this country and that he would continue to campaign for President Bush. ...

That news conference was a clear violation of conflict of interest and ethics guidelines, according to state Rep. Jim Marzilli, an Arlington Democrat, who joined several other Democrats down the hall from the governor's office to call on him to apologize. ...

The state's campaign finance law prohibits the use of public resources for political campaign purposes. Public resources include anything from the use of state equipment, such as a sound system or microphone, to the paid time of public employees, such as press liaisons. -- Democrats say Romney violated state law by campaigning for Bush (AP via Boston.com)

Granada caught between federal and state law

AP reports: The Mississippi Supreme Court upheld a chancellor's refusal to allow the city of Grenada to de-annex an area to get federal approval for new ward lines.

The city wanted to void an annexation approved in 1993 that brought in several hundred white residents.

Chancellor Percy Lynchard, a DeSoto County judge appointed to oversee the annexation case, ruled the city could not void the annexation. Lynchard also ordered the city to submit information to the U.S. Department of Justice showing the annexation was not along racial lines.

The Justice Department objected to both the city's 1993 annexation plan and 1999 changes.

In approving the de-annexation in 2001, Grenada officials claimed removing 1,160 whites and 125 blacks from the city limits would bring racial percentage figures back to the standards suggested by the Justice Department in 2000. -- Mississippi high court upholds block on Grenada's attempt to de-annex area (AP via Picayune Item)

Background on the Napa Valley election contest

The New York Times reports: These are uncertain times in California's Napa County, a pastoral region of fertile hills that produces some of the world's best cabernet and, recently, accusations of voting fraud.

At stake is not just the county board of supervisors seat that Mike Rippey, the incumbent, apparently lost to Harold Moskowite. The pace of development and the very face of Napa Valley, on the edge of one of the hottest real estate markets in the United States, could be in the balance.

"Growth is the pressure that will never go away," said Moira Johnson Block, a writer and supporter of Mr. Rippey. "It's absolutely centered right now on those two men."

Mr. Rippey, a Democrat and soft-spoken biologist intent on preserving open space, streams and the Napa River, has held the seat for 12 years. In an upset, he lost on March 2 to Mr. Moskowite, a Republican third-generation rancher and former county supervisor who favors property rights over environmental regulation. -- A Wine Region's Future Is Centered on 2 Rivals (New York Times)

Thanks to C. Bell for the link.

$100 million GOTV effort

The Washington Post reports: Rosenthal has $100 million at his disposal, no boss and only one job: to find, track and deliver Democrats to the polls come November. "Hopefully, a byproduct of this is that George Bush will end up back in Crawford and," he adds sardonically, "spend the next several years trying to figure out if he really did make mistakes."

Usually, get-out-the-vote operations start after Labor Day. Money gets spread. Precinct captains get their big day to swagger around. Not this time. The difference is that Rosenthal, the former political director of the AFL-CIO, is already prowling around out there. He is setting up an elaborate war plan that has more than a thousand paid foot soldiers marching up to doors in 17 battleground states. They come armed with Palm handhelds loaded with voter registration data and streaming video about education and jobs.

As head of America Coming Together, one of the best-funded political interest groups created after campaign finance reform, Rosenthal -- like the Republican National Committee -- has been at this for months. Like all ruthless fighters, he is not always nice.

"He is as mean and tough and vicious as they come," says Donna Brazile, Al Gore's campaign manager in 2000, "and that makes him more attractive. He's the last great hope of the Democratic Party." -- Ground War (washingtonpost.com)

July 5, 2004

Pix of the prez nixed in campaign ads

As he readies his first political ads this month, Mel Martinez could have one less tool to advertise that he's the White House's chosen one in Florida's U.S. Senate race.

Thanks to a confusing new campaign-finance law, candidates like Martinez are finding it tougher to use what was once a staple image for presidential pals: made-for-TV shots of the commander-in-chief strolling with the candidate on the White House grounds.

From now on, this type of Bush-approved endorsement ad for another candidate could be considered a contribution to the president's own campaign -- because the president also benefits from it. That could exceed contribution limits, since the ads are hugely expensive.

A don't-ask-don't tell interpretation of the law will still allow Martinez, Bush's former housing secretary, to run ads of old footage of him and the president. But that's only if the two campaigns don't coordinate with each other. -- New law restricts ads for Martinez campaign (Miami Herald)

How to give 20x the legal limit

Democrats and Republicans alike have found a clever way to get around Missouri's campaign contribution limits. And as the 2004 campaigns heat up, the practice appears to becoming more popular.

Here's how it works: State law limits individuals, businesses and political action committees to giving a total of $1,200 per election to a statewide candidate, such as someone running for governor. Smaller limits apply to other races, such as Senate or House contests.

But the law allows political party committees to give 20 times that amount - $12,000 in cash for a gubernatorial candidate plus $12,000 in in-kind contributions such as staff help or printed campaign materials.

Recognizing the loophole, people can give a maximum amount to a candidate's campaign, then write additional checks to various political committees, which pass the extra money on to the candidate.

The practice apparently is legal. -- Campaign finance laws spur PAC proliferation (AP via Columbia Daily Tribune)

Marketplace report on campaign finance in Europe

Kerry and Bush's $400 million campaign finance totals are almost enough to fund all of the campaigns in Europe. Marketplace's Stephen Beard looks at campaign financing on a budget. Frugal Elections? Head to Europe (Marketplace, audio report)

Is giving to corporate PACs really volutary?

According to the findings of a survey in CFO Magazine, some executives feel obligated to give personal dollars to their companies' political action committees. The findings rekindle long-standing questions about whether corporate PACs are as voluntary as they're supposed to be. NPR's Peter Overby reports. -- Report: Execs Feel Pressured to Give to Corporate PACS (NPR Morning Edition)

Nader off the Arizona ballot; will try write-in

Bump and update: Richard Winger reminds me that the lede of this Arizona Republic article is incorrect: Michael Badnarik, the Libertarian nominee, is the third name on the Arizona ballot.

===

Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader removed his name from the Nov. 2 ballot, turning the Grand Canyon State into a one-on-one fight between President Bush and Democratic Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry.

The surprising move in court Friday should make Arizona even more of a battleground state this fall where both parties will campaign aggressively for swing voters.

Nader's legal team conceded that because of too many "technical errors," he would not have the required 14,694 signatures needed to get on the Arizona ballot. A Nader volunteer said the litigious battle would have been too expensive. ...

Mike Spreadbury, the Maricopa County coordinator for Nader ... said that the Nader campaign will now try to get the longtime consumer advocate on the ballot with a write-in campaign. He remains on the ballot in six other states, according to his campaign. -- Nader off Arizona ballot (Arizona Republic)

July 4, 2004

Florida ex-felons must re-register

More than 1,600 Florida felons whose right to vote was legally restored remain on a state list of potentially ineligible voters because they have yet to re-register to vote, a hurdle that critics say is sure to create confusion as the national election looms.

State officials have directed county election supervisors to make each of the voters -- some of whom have been voting legally for decades -- register again before the November presidential election.

The move is drawing fire from several fronts -- from local election supervisors forced to deal with the bureaucratic morass, from black politicians who believe that the list unfairly targets minorities, and from voting rights activists who say it skirts the spirit of open voting.

''It's a throwback to a very ugly period in American history -- a time when state officials in the deep South threw up irrelevant stumbling blocks to keep black people from voting,'' said Randall Marshall, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida. -- Felon voting rights face a new hurdle (Miami Herald)

Florida "purge list" angering Dems

As thousands of Floridians learn that a state list could wrongly bar them from voting, Democrats have found a rallying point for the November elections and proof, they say, of long-held suspicions that Gov. Jeb Bush's elections machinery is rigged against them.

More than 2,100 people, many of them black Democrats, remain on the list of potentially ineligible ex-con voters despite winning clemency - and the right to vote - after their crimes, The Miami Herald reported Friday.

Democrats and activists call it a "purge list" - a phrase that deeply irks the governor.

That phrase, and the sinister plot it suggests, is rapidly becoming an article of faith among some Democrats, already fired up by the sensational "Fahrenheit 9/11" conspiracy film that begins with Florida's voting woes four years ago. -- Questions over felon 'purge list' threaten Florida governor (KRT Wire via tallahasse.com)

Can an Army captain run for civilian office?

The [North Carolina] state Board of Elections is investigating whether a Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor is qualified to run for the office, a board attorney says.

Curtis Hert Jr., who is challenging Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue in the July 20 primary, lists his mother's street address in High Point as his home. Hert, 35, however, is actually an Army captain and assistant chaplain stationed at Fort Benning, Ga., according to his mother, Georgia Hert.

Nothing in North Carolina law prevents an active duty serviceman from filing or holding state office, but federal language appears to have such restrictions.

Don Wright, the election board attorney, said a section of the U.S. Code prohibits active military officers from holding elective office. He also cited a Department of Defense directive that he said prohibits any member of the military from being a candidate or from holding civil office. -- N.C. elections board investigating lieutenant governor candidate (AP via WVEC.com)

Fill-in absentee ballot mailed by Davidson County

A Nashville man stationed with the Navy in Texas says he was taken aback yesterday when he received his absentee ballot to vote in the Aug. 5 election.

The makeshift nature of the mailing left him wondering whether his vote would be counted.
''It's a bit of a joke,'' said Lt. Benjamin Whitehouse, 27, a Navy judge advocate general, or JAG, lawyer who has voted absentee many times.

''They've photocopied the ballot. It's not even an actual ballot. I'm supposed to write in the names of the people I want to vote for.''

The packet he received from the Davidson County Election Commission was a result of the absentee ballot foul-up that led to Thursday's dismissal of Administrator of Elections Michael McDonald.

Whitehouse's ballots had blank lines for him to fill in his choices and separate sheets with instructions and lists of candidates in various races in which Whitehouse is eligible to vote. -- Absentee voters get makeshift ballot packets (Nashville Tennessean)

Blue helmets at the polling place?

Still smarting from the 2000 Florida recount, a group of congressional Democrats led by Dallas Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson has asked the United Nations to monitor this year's presidential election.

"We are deeply concerned that the right of U.S. citizens to vote in free and fair elections is again in jeopardy," the lawmakers wrote to Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

While the request might evoke images of blue-helmeted peacekeepers outside the local library, the request won't be granted.

"Generally, the United Nations does not intervene in electoral affairs unless the request comes from a national government or an electoral authority -- not the legislative branch," said U.N. spokeswoman Marie Okabe. -- U.N. monitors sought for U.S. (DallasNews.com)

Harder to put initiative on the ballot in Oregon

Despite [Oregon's] new rules and barriers imposed on ballot-measure signature gatherers, Friday's petition turn-in deadline still saw several campaigns deliver petitions by the boxful.

But it wasn't cheap or easy, according to the apparently successful campaigns.

And the initiative activists who came up short said the new requirements are putting ballot access out of reach for all but the most financially well-off and well-organized interests. ..

Groups that tried to rely on tradition found the job tougher than ever because:

Voters in 2002 passed a measure banning per-signature payment of circulators. That means payments must be hourly, which initiative activists say is costlier.

Rules that determine whether signatures have been properly gathered, and how many will count, have become more stringent. A new anti-fraud rule requiring petition circulators to sign and date each page of voter petitioners is being legally challenged by petitioners who say it has led to the unreasonable disqualification of thousands of signatures.

An earlier Oregon Supreme Court ruling lets property owners such as shopping centers bar access to petition circulators. Even post offices and other public property owners have made access difficult, petitioners say. -- New rules put ballot access out of reach for some groups (Register-Guard)


Independence Day

One of my favorite things to do on the 4th of July is listen to Morning Edition's reading of the Declaration of Independence. They read it this year on Friday. Bob Edwards is still there, but reading the end rather than the beginning.

If you want a visual to go along with the reading, listen and watch as Morgan Freeman introduces a group of Hollywood stars read the Declaration. (Click on "Declaration Reading.") Watch for Graham Greene reading the accusation that King George had caused the Indian tribes to attack the colonists.

"Let the people decide"

The theme on this weekend's "Studio 360" was democracy and how it feeds creative expression. While the whole show is worth a listen, I suggest you pay particular attention to the segment, Let the People Decide, which includes a connection between voting for American Idol and voting in "real" elections. The piece is described this way on the Studio 360 website:

With the success of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s governorship in California, we may be increasingly comfortable choosing our leaders from the ranks of pop culture and entertainment. At the same time museum curators and television producers are letting us vote to guide things they used to do on their own. Jake Warga looks at the merging of entertainment culture and democracy, and wonders whether he really wants art made through a popularity contest.

Listen here. By the way, the guest co-host is former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

Registering young voters

With the war in Iraq, the economy, rising tuition costs and iffy job prospects all weighing heavily on young folks, the youngest voters are ready to engage, polls suggest. A March poll by the Harvard Institute of Politics found that 62 percent of college students definitely planned to vote in November, compared with 50 percent of those polled in April 2000. The candidates have responded. Last Tuesday, for example, Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) outlined a plan for helping minority and poor students pay for college. But with college students making up only one-third of young potential voters, groups targeting that demographic group are not taking any chances.

The stakes are enormous. Campaign strategists believe that if mobilized, the 24 million young people eligible to vote could turn the election for either major candidate. But young people, the conventional wisdom goes, don't do politics. In 2000, only 36 percent of eligible voters ages 18 to 24 voted, the lowest percentage of any age group and a new low for that age group. And as young people have been tuning out politics, politics has been tuning out young people. ...

More organizations are working to engage and register young voters than ever, running the gamut from long-established groups such as the League of Women Voters and the NAACP to groups created specifically for young voters, such as Rock the Vote, formed in 1990, and the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network, in 2001. The newest groups, such as Punk Voter, the League of Independent Voters -- more commonly known as the League of Pissed Off Voters -- and Plea for Peace, were formed by young people themselves, who chose the attention-getting names. Most of the groups say they are nonpartisan, and by law none can tell anyone to register with a particular party. While conservative groups are certainly involved in targeting young voters, there seems to be an especially energetic response by the left.

Voter registration and mobilization is a common goal of all these groups, and the main one for many. But some are setting their sights higher, trying to create a new generation of activists. They are hoping to get young people to not only vote, but to campaign, organize, even run for office. -- A Rallying Try For Young Voters (washingtonpost.com)

July 3, 2004

Bush-Cheney may have gone too far with the churches

The Southern Baptist Convention, a conservative denomination closely aligned with President Bush (news - web sites), said it was offended by the Bush-Cheney campaign's effort to use church rosters for campaign purposes.

"I'm appalled that the Bush-Cheney campaign would intrude on a local congregation in this way," said Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

"The bottom line is, when a church does it, it's nonpartisan and appropriate. When a campaign does it, it's partisan and inappropriate," he said. "I suspect that this will rub a lot of pastors' fur the wrong way." ...

On Friday, Land said: "It's one thing for a church member motivated by exhortations to exercise his Christian citizenship to go out and decide to work on the Bush campaign or the Kerry campaign. It's another and totally inappropriate thing for a political campaign to ask workers who may be church members to provide church member information through the use of directories to solicit partisan support." -- Baptists Angry at Bush Campaign Tactics (AP via Yahoo! News)

Thanks to Daily Kos for the link (and some good commentary on the growth of this story).

Florida: felon list is just a starting point

State elections officials Friday angrily defended the integrity of their list of nearly 48,000 "potential felons" who could be purged from the voting rolls amid mounting evidence that thousands of names were put on the list by mistake.

And elections supervisors throughout the state -- many of whom reported being inundated with calls from concerned voters -- said they were moving carefully to check out every name on the list. Many said they didn't expect to finish before the August primaries or even the November general election.

"It's easier for a judge to tell me somebody shouldn't have voted than it is for the judge to say I should have let so-and-so vote," said Orange County Supervisor of Elections Bill Cowles. "That's why the supervisors are going to go very slow in doing their research."

A computer analysis by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel and the Orlando Sentinel that compared the names on the Elections Division list with a list of more than 180,000 names of convicted felons who have had their voting rights restored showed more than 2,000 names appearing on both lists. Of those, more than 350 were from the seven-county Central Florida area. -- State officials defend list of felon voters (OrlandoSentinel.com)

Georgia must accept bundles of voter registration cards

Bump and Update: The complaint, motion for preliminary relief, brief, and the preliminary injunction are at the website of the Heard Law Offices.

Neil Bradley (ACLU Southern Regional Office) has informed me that in Chas. H. Wesley Ed. Fdn. Inc v. Cathy Cox, No. 1:04-CV-1780-WCO (ND Ga. July 1, 2004), a preliminary injunction issued against Secretary of State for rejecting NVRA forms not mailed or delivered by individual voter registration applicants. The plaintiffs did a voter registration drive and then mailed the forms in one "bundle." The opinion mainly interprets the NVRA to require acceptance, no matter the mode of delivery. The state, in an effort to "protect" the privacy of applicant's social security numbers, which Georgia now requires for registration, took the position that allowing someone to mail in a form for someone else violated state law protecting the confidentiality of the social security number.

Neil does not have an electronic copy yet, but I hope to get one soon.

July 1, 2004

A day off

By the way, I probably won't be posting anything on Friday. I'm going to watch my younger son compete in Scottish games. I think he will be putting the stone, tossing the sheaf, and tossing the caber (that's throwing big rocks, bags of hay, and telephone poles for distance or height).

Phone jamming by the GOP

The former head of a Republican consulting group has pleaded guilty to jamming Democratic telephone lines in several New Hampshire cities on Election Day two years ago.

The jamming involved more than 800 computer-generated calls and lasted for about 1 1/2 hours on Nov. 5, 2002, the day voters decided several races, including a close Senate contest between outgoing Gov. Jeanne Shaheen and GOP Rep. John E. Sununu, who won by fewer than 20,000 votes.

The lines that were jammed were set up so voters could call for rides to the polls. Democrats say the jamming was an organized, statewide effort that may have even affected the outcome of some local races. -- Ex-GOP Consultant Pleads to Phone-Jamming (AP via Yahoo! News)

Thanks to Rick Klau for the link.

Former soft money not flowing as much to 527's

Contributions to political nonprofits active in federal elections have not kept pace with soft money donations to national party committees in previous election cycles, the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics reported [last Friday].

So-called 527 groups, named for the section of the tax code that governs them, raised fewer funds through the first 15 months of the current election cycle than the national political parties raised in soft money over the same amount of time during each of the past two election cycles, the Center's figures show.

From January of last year through March of this year, 527 groups active in federal elections raised $146.4 million, compared to the $212.4 million in soft money the national political parties raised over the same period during the 2002 election cycle. The parties raised $159.3 million in soft money during the first 15 months of the 2000 cycle.

The disparity would be even greater if contributions to 527s in 2002 and 2000 were coupled with party soft money raised during those cycles. The Center's calculations include 527 contributions only in the current cycle, the first in which such groups have been required to file financial reports electronically. -- Post-BCRA Analysis (OpenSecrets.org press release)

Thanks to Daily Kos for the link.

Minnesota offers fast, fast, fast relief

Over the years, Minnesota has prided itself on clean political campaigns. We expect our candidates to be honest and to play fair. A bill passed by the 2004 Legislature that takes effect today promises to bolster that important tradition.

The law ensures swift action on complaints involving illegal campaign practices in state and local elections. This involves everything from distributing false campaign literature to claiming bogus endorsements. Violations of campaign finance reporting requirements in local elections also are covered.

Here's how it works: All campaign complaints will be filed with the state Office of Administrative Hearings. When a complaint is filed, an administrative law judge must make a preliminary decision within one business day whenever possible -- and always within three days at the most. A hearing is required within three days if the complaint is filed close to an election and alleges false statements in campaign material.

These are very fast turn-around times. As a result, candidates who violate the law can expect to be held accountable in time for voters to consider their actions at the polls. Just as importantly, unfounded complaints will be disposed of in a timely manner so candidates who did nothing wrong won't be damaged. This quick timetable for sorting out the truth is expected to discourage violations and keep campaigns on the straight and narrow. -- New approach to campaign shenanigans makes sense (St. Paul Pioneer Press)

Calls for campaign finance reform in Ohio

Voters [in Ohio] who want to see who's giving to now-secret campaign accounts could get their wish by the end of this year.

A burgeoning Statehouse fund-raising scandal has prompted some Ohio officials to push for quick passage of campaign finance reforms and caused others who once opposed the reforms to embrace them.

"I'm confident that the legislature will pass needed campaign finance reforms before the end of this session," Senate President Doug White, an Adams County Republican, said in a written statement Wednesday.

His comments followed Secretary of State Ken Blackwell's call for Gov. Bob Taft to convene a special session of the General Assembly, which is on summer recess, to pass wholesale changes to Ohio's campaign finance laws. -- Scandal aids call for campaign finance reform (Cleveland Plain Dealer)

"Indicted Pines worker accused of funneling campaign contributions"

A man who worked for the city [of Pembroke Pines, FL] at a senior housing complex was indicted on charges that he funneled $8,000 in illegal campaign contributions to U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson through the complex's elderly residents.

Albert Maloof Sr., a property manager at the Pembroke Pines Senior Residence, is accused of convincing several seniors to write $1,000 checks to Nelson's campaign in 1999 and 2000, and reimbursing them in cash.

He was indicted on two counts of aiding false campaign finance reports in March, and faces up to five years in prison.

Maloof pleaded not guilty, and was released on $20,000 bond. His trial is set for July 26 in U.S. District Court. -- Indicted Pines worker accused of funneling campaign contributions (AP via South Florida Sun-Sentinel)

"Cyberspace is changing political advertising"

Want to see the edgiest ad yet from the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign? Don't bother to look on television.

The video, called "Kerry's Coalition of the Wild-Eyed," is available only at www.georgewbush.com. It features rabid denunciations of President Bush from Democratic stalwarts Al Gore, Howard Dean and Dick Gephardt. It shows likely Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry shouting that Bush will "kick your ass and tell you there is no promised land." It even includes clips of an ad from MoveOn.org, a group working to defeat Bush, comparing Bush to Hitler and Bush's foreign policy to the war crimes of the Third Reich.

The video is only the latest manifestation of the Internet as a political frontier. At a time when the Internet has changed how campaigns raise money and organize supporters, both sides are going online - where the normal rules of political advertising don't apply - rather than over the airwaves to get out their harshest messages in the most clever ways.

"There are certain established standards for what goes on television," said Brooks Jackson, the director of the Annenberg Political Fact Check, a nonpartisan watchdog of political ads. "Voters know what to look for. We're not used to anything on the Web, so anything goes." -- Cyberspace is changing political advertising (KRT Wire via Biloxi Sun-Herald)

Michigan candidates squabbling over Millionaire's Amendment

One of the six Republicans in the race for Michigan's 7th District congressional seat is asking the Federal Election Commission to investigate whether a rival candidate is violating campaign fund-raising limits.

Sen. John "Joe" Schwarz of Battle Creek said Thursday that a fund-raising e-mail sent on behalf of Brad Smith implied donors could give more than the limit of $2,000 for individuals and $5,000 for political action committees because of the so-called "Millionaire's Amendment" in the new campaign finance law.

Under the amendment, which is designed to help candidates compete with wealthy rivals, Smith could collect up to $6,000 from individuals and $15,000 from political action committees.

Schwarz said Smith isn't eligible because he has loaned his own campaign $140,000. But according to FEC filings, all of the candidates became eligible after state Rep. Gene DeRossett spent more than $350,000 of his own money. DeRossett, of Manchester, has loaned his campaign $451,000 so far. -- Dingell planning to run for re-election (AP via MLive)

FEC levies big fines in Oklahoma

After an investigation that lasted more than five years and implicated dozens of people connected to Gene Stipe and his former law firm, the Federal Election Commission announced Thursday that it had levied $569,500 in fines against those most involved in illegally funneling Stipe's money to Walt Roberts' 1998 congressional campaign.

Stipe, who resigned his state Senate seat and gave up his law license last year after being charged criminally in the case, paid the largest fine, $267,000. Combined with his fine in the criminal case, Stipe paid $1,002,567 to the federal government for his schemes to get around the federal limits on campaign contributions.

The Stipe Law Firm, which illegally helped Roberts' campaign in numerous ways, paid a fine of $101,000. -- Stipe hit with additional fines from FEC(NewsOK.com)

CNN reports on its suit against Florida on felon purge lists

A state court judge in Florida ordered Thursday that the board of elections immediately release a list of nearly 50,000 suspected felons to CNN and other news organizations that last month sued the state for access to copies of the list.

The list is used to determine who will be eligible to vote in November's presidential election in the state.

In a statement issued shortly after the ruling was announced, Secretary of State Glenda Hood accepted the ruling as final.

"Now that the court has ruled that statute to be unconstitutional, we will make these records accessible to all interested parties," she said. -- Judge rules for media on Florida voter list (CNN.com)

CNN wins right to copy felon purge list

Neil Bradley has sent the Flordia state trial court opinion in CNN v. Florida Dept. of State holding that the state must allow copying of list of suspected felons compiled for voting purge effort. The opinion is here.

Bringing in the sheaves

The Bush-Cheney reelection campaign has sent a detailed plan of action to religious volunteers across the country asking them to turn over church directories to the campaign, distribute issue guides in their churches and persuade their pastors to hold voter registration drives.

Campaign officials said the instructions are part of an accelerating effort to mobilize President Bush's base of religious supporters. They said the suggested activities are intended to help churchgoers rally support for Bush without violating tax rules that prohibit churches from engaging in partisan activity.

"We strongly believe that our religious outreach program is well within the framework of the law," said Terry Holt, spokesman for the Bush-Cheney campaign.

But tax experts said the campaign is walking a fine line between permissible activity by individual congregants and impermissible activity by congregations. Supporters of Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.), the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, charged that the Bush-Cheney campaign is luring churches into risking their tax status. -- Churchgoers Get Direction From Bush Campaign (washingtonpost.com)

"The Living Room Candidate"

The New York Times reports on "The Living Room Candidate," an online exhibition on presidential campaign ads (movingimage.us).

Created four years ago by the American Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, Queens, the updated 2004 version, which is scheduled to go online today, allows Internet users to browse through a far richer collection of TV and Web campaign ads from 1952 to the present.

It is a truism that political campaigns nowadays are fought and won on television, but it is also true that at this point in the campaign some of the most talked-about ads are being shown only in swing states like Ohio or Florida. The Web site allows New Yorkers and Californians to see how the other half are being wooed. ...

"The Living Room Candidate" is more than just a helpful tool for news addicts and journalists. Campaign ads are "mini-movies," as David Schwartz, the museum's chief curator of film and a co-curator of "The Living Room Candidate," put it: they do not just deliver the message of the moment but also reflect the mood and tastes of their era. -- The > Arts > Television > The TV Watch: Showing Candidates, as They Praise Themselves and Bury Others

Update: I should have thanked Taegan Goddard's Political Wire for the link.

Political games

When it comes to creating political games, of course, more than one can play, and the Democrats are having their go at it as well. The recipe is simple: mix one part political message, one part 1990's new-media optimism and one part computer animation, then bake until the money runs out.

Some skeptics say the partisan games are mere election-year novelties. "The games are anecdotes," said Andrew Rasiej, an Internet impresario who organized a recent conference on digital democracy at the New School for Social Research in New York. "They're cute and nice, and people will send them to each other, but they're not going to capture their imagination because that populace will recognize that the culture that's creating these games isn't a natural Net culture. It's a typical political machine using it to showcase itself."

But advocates say the game format offers a powerful new political vehicle. Traditional forms of political communication like advertising treat voters as passive recipients of rhetoric, they say, while games entice the potential voter to interact with the message. -- In These Games, the Points Are All Political (New York Times)

NYT on Georgia redistricting

In a judgment that could eventually affect the composition of legislative districts in many states, including New York, the Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld a lower-court redistricting plan for the Georgia legislature that benefited Republicans.

The judgment seemed to upset a decades-old understanding that election districts were automatically safe from challenge under the court's one-person, one-vote doctrine if the largest district was no more than 10 percent larger than the smallest.

The action, on the day after the court ended its official session, was called a summary affirmance; the justices' rationale could not be evaluated, since they issued no controlling majority opinion. The vote was 8 to 1, with Justice Antonin Scalia dissenting.

Earlier this year, ruling on different grounds, the court supported the boundaries of Congressional districts in Pennsylvania against Democratic accusations of political gerrymandering and refused to hear a Colorado case in which a state court invalidated an unusual second redistricting plan that favored Republicans. -- Justices Allow Redistricting in Georgia (New York Times)