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

« August 2004 | Main | October 2004 »

September 30, 2004

Blogging recess

I heading out of town WITHOUT my computer for 3 days. See ya when I get back.

Alabama candidate disqualified for late campaign finance report

The Ledger-Enquirer reports: On Nov. 2, Russell County [Alabama] voters will pick between Republicans, Democrats and Independents for county commission seats -- except in District 5, where the ballot will be blank.

Commission Chairwoman Cattie Epps, the current District 5 commissioner, will not be on the ballot after a judge ruled against her Friday.

Specially appointed Judge Dale Segrest ruled that Epps did not turn in her required campaign finance reports on time for the June primary, and therefore was not a valid candidate in the November general election. -- Epps won't be on ballot (Columbus GA Ledger-Enquirer )

Presidential candidates can use legal compliance funds for recount expenses

AP reports: Federal election regulators have given President Bush and Democratic rival John Kerry another fund-raising option should either of them pursue a recount like Florida's expensive 2000 ballot dispute.

The Federal Election Commission said Thursday the two can use their legal compliance funds to cover any recount costs. Both candidates are raising money for such funds.

The Kerry campaign had asked the FEC whether it could use its legal compliance fund to tide itself over in the early days of any recount.

The campaign stopped short of asking whether it could establish a separate recount fund financed with unlimited individual contributions, as Bush and Democrat Al Gore did in 2000. The Kerry campaign's Marc Elias said it would not explore that question until after the election.

Several commissioners said Bush and Kerry should not draw conclusions one way or the other on whether they could use unlimited individual money for recount costs. -- FEC: Bush, Kerry can use recount funds (AP via Boston.com)

Nader on the Wisconsin ballot

WisPolitics.com has the full text of the order from the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Here are the important holdings:

5. The court determines that this residency requirement is directory in nature.

6. Under the undisputed facts and circumstances of this case, and mindful of the importance of ballot access and voting, this court concludes that there has been substantial compliance by the petitioners regarding this requirement. See Wis.Stat. §§5.01(1) and 8.30(1).

Instant Runoff Voting affects campaign styles in San Francisco

The New York Times reports: Eugene C. Wong is running for an office that typically does not draw the national spotlight. Yet Mr. Wong and the 64 others seeking seats on the County Board of Supervisors here are being closely watched by advocates for election reform around the country.

In Mr. Wong's case, the reason was evident on Wednesday, at one of his first big fund-raisers in the third district, an ethnically mixed area that straddles North Beach and Chinatown. The evening was unconventional, to say the least, with Mr. Wong sharing top billing with two principal rivals in the race, Sal Busalacchi and Brian Murphy O'Flynn.

"We are going to have more joint fund-raisers," Mr. Wong said. "I am not opposed to saying that if I don't win, then I hope one of these other guys wins."

The cooperation is in response to a new election system, instant-runoff voting. The system, which voters approved in 2002 and is having its first run, is viewed by critics of winner-take-all elections as the start of a long-overdue overhaul of the way Americans choose elected officials. -- New Runoff System in San Francisco Has the Rival Candidates Cooperating (New York Times)

September 29, 2004

Alaska judge orders state to recall and reprint ballots

AP reports: A Superior Court judge on Wednesday ordered the state to rewrite, reprint and redistribute all of its ballots for the Nov. 2 election, saying the wording of a ballot initiative was inaccurate and biased. ...

The ballot initiative concerns how the state fills its U.S. Senate vacancies.

Currently, the governor can appoint a replacement to a vacant Senate seat. The initiative would abolish appointments and require a special election in all cases except when the vacancy occurs within 60 days of a primary election.

The four-sentence summary on the ballot wrongly estimates how long a Senate seat would be vacant under the initiative, Judge Moorage Christen wrote in her order. The summary also says the measure would leave Alaska without full representation in the Senate, wording which is not impartial, she said.

"Emphasizing one consequence to the exclusion of others is impermissible advocacy," Christen wrote. -- Alaska judge orders 517,000 ballots reprinted, redistributed for Nov. 2 election (AP via USATODAY.com)

Thanks to Jurist's Paper Chase for the link.

"That stuff goes on at the NRCC"

The Hill reports: At the House Republican Conference weekly meeting inside the Capitol yesterday, conference Chairwoman Deborah Pryce (R-Ohio) handed a $500,000 check to her party's fundraising committee.

A bit of political business was conducted at the meeting's end as well, when Rep. Tom Reynolds (R-N.Y.), chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), recognized several GOP challengers who were here raising money, including Larry Diedrich from South Dakota, who had lost a special election in June.

House Republicans usually meet at the Capitol Hill Club, across from the Capitol South Metro stop on First Street S.E., if they plan to talk about politics, including polling, fundraising and candidate recruitment. Pryce told The Hill that she checked with her lawyers before handing over the check inside room HC-5 of the Capitol and that the meeting complied with House ethics rules because legislative business made up the majority of the conference’s agenda.

“That stuff goes on at the NRCC,” Reynolds said when asked whether fundraising or polling were discussed. ...

House ethics rules say: “Among the specific activities that clearly may not be undertaken in a congressional office or using House resources (including official staff time) are, for example, the solicitation of contributions; the drafting of campaign … statements … the completion of Federal Election Commission reports … campaign mailing; or the holding of a meeting on campaign business. The same applies to any activity that is funded to any extent with campaign funds, even if the activity is not overtly political in nature.” -- Meeting in Capitol included some GOP political business (The Hill.com)

Briefs filed in Nader litigation in Arkansas Supreme Court

The Fort Smith, Arkansas, Times Record reports: In briefs leading up to Thursday's arguments before the state Supreme Court, attorneys for the state Democratic Party on Tuesday asked the court to uphold a circuit judge's order keeping Ralph Nader off the Nov. 2 general election ballot, while Nader's lawyer said leaving the order intact would deprive Nader of his right to run for president.

Democratic Party lawyers said Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox was correct when he ruled that the people who signed petitions to get Nader on the ballot did not formally name him as their personal choice for president. ...

Fox “made much of the use of the possessive pronominal adjective ‘their’ preceding the object ‘candidate’ and ruled that the petition failed to comply with the requirement that the candidate named be “their candidates for president and vice president of every elector that signs the petition,” Hilburn wrote in the brief. ...

State Democratic Party attorney Robin Carroll argued that the circuit court judge’s ruling should be upheld because Nader supporters did not comply with the political group nominating process designed by the Legislature “and instead attempted an end run around Arkansas’ prohibition on independent candidates gaining access to the presidential ballot.” -- Briefs Filed In Nader Challenge (The Times Record - Fort Smith, Arkansas)

Wisconsin Supreme Court to hear Nader suit on Thursday

WisPolitics.com reports: The Wisconsin Supreme Court said it will hear oral arguments Thursday on the decision to kick independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader off Wisconsin's ballot.

Nader was knocked off the Wisconsin ballot Tuesday when Dane County Circuit Judge Michael Nowakowski reversed a state Elections Board ruling from last week.

In reaction, Nader attorney Robert Bernhoft filed an emergency petition with the state Supreme Court for the board to certify Nader and Peter Camejo as independent candidates for president and vice president, respectively. Democrats' response to that petition was due Wednesday at noon, but they received extra time to complete the filing.

Oral arguments before the Supreme Court are scheduled for 8 a.m. Thursday. The court also delayed the Elections Board's ballot certification pending notice from the court. -- Supreme Court to Hear Nader Arguments Thursday (WisPolitics.com)

Nader's Pennsylvania manager describes his attempts to stop fraudulent signatures

AP reports: The last-minute frenzy to submit nominating petitions by the state's Aug. 2 deadline prevented Ralph Nader's campaign from closely reviewing them, Nader's state campaign coordinator testified Wednesday.

Coordinator Dan Martino said he lacked the staff or time to review the more than 52,000 signatures submitted, many of which are now being tossed out as Nader fights to stay on Pennsylvania's Nov. 2 presidential ballot.

Martino said he did what he could to weed out dubious signatures, once drawing large black X's over all but six of 110 names on a petition.

"I would say I crossed out 104 scribbles," Martino told a three-judge Commonwealth Court panel in Philadelphia on Wednesday.

He said he also witnessed paid signature collectors repeatedly signing each others' petitions - a practice that opposing lawyer Gregory Harvey called "round-robin forgeries" - and scolded them. -- Nader campaign manager describes frenzy to file petitions(AP via TimesLeader.com)

Indiana GOP tries a little creative movement -- and loses

William Groth, attorney for the Indiana Democratic Party, emailed: Thought you might be interested in these findings that were entered yesterday in litigation in which I represent the Indiana Democratic Party. The case involves a transparent attempt by the Indiana Republican Party to incentivize its nominated candidate in House District 46, Jeffrey Lee, to move himself, his wife and 3 children 15 miles across the county line so as to "vacate" the ballot slot and allow the party elites to replace him with the incumbent, Brooks Laplante, best known for the unpaid $10,000 fine imposed by the Indiana Election Commission for his violation of Indiana's campaing financing laws. The Repubs think this district, which includes Terre Haute, can't be won by Lee and that it may be the Democrats 51st seat, assuring that the Dems would retain the majority. The case has some mirror-like resemblance to the Repubs attempt in 1988 to argue that Evan Bayh had lost his residency in Indiana, but this time the shoe is on the other foot in that we are arguing that Lee never lost his domicile in the district and that any relocation on his part was only a temporary expedient to allow his party to replace him on the ballot.

Every vote counts ... unless the mail is late

The New York Times reports: Four years after overseas voting became a battleground in the presidential election in Florida, millions of civilians and soldiers living abroad still face a bewildering and unwieldy system of absentee balloting that could prevent their votes from being counted.

Election officials concede that tens of thousands of Americans overseas might not get ballots in time to cast votes. Late primaries and legal wrangling caused election offices in at least 8 of the 15 swing states to fail to mail absentee ballots by Sept. 19, a cutoff date officials say is necessary to ensure that they can be returned on time, a survey by The New York Times shows. In Florida in 2000, late-arriving ballots became a divisive issue when some were counted and others were disqualified.

The tardy ballots are just one of several setbacks or missteps that have affected the ability of the estimated 4.4 million eligible voters overseas to participate in the presidential election. Some have been unable to send their registrations to a Pentagon contractor's computers, which are clogged by thousands of voter forms. Others were denied access to a Web site designed to help Americans abroad vote. And many voters simply have had trouble navigating the rules and methods that determine how and when to register and vote and that vary by state. ...

To help speed the balloting process, federal officials activated a new system last week in which voters can obtain absentee ballots instantly through the Internet. But the Web site, myballot.mil, will be offered only to members of the military and their families, quickly raising concerns about fairness in a program that the Pentagon has been directed to run for civilians as well. In addition, 23 states have already declined to join the system for various reasons, including security, according to Pentagon and state officials.

People on both sides vying for the overseas vote say the balloting system remains so flawed that some predict legal battles if these votes prove crucial to the outcome of the presidential race. -- Absentee Votes: Hurdles Remain for American Voters Who Live Overseas

September 28, 2004

Supreme Court to hear Libertarian party challenge to Oklahoma law

Reuters reports: The U.S. Supreme Court said on Tuesday that it would decide a constitutional challenge to a state election law that allows a political party to invite only its own members and independent voters to vote in its primary.

The high court agreed to decide a case from Oklahoma. Under that state's system, a party may not invite voters registered with another political party to vote in its primary.

The state Libertarian Party sued. It claimed the Oklahoma election law violated its constitutional rights to freedom of political association and free speech by preventing it from inviting members of other parties to vote in its primaries.

A federal judge upheld the state's system, but a U.S. appeals court declared it unconstitutional. -- Court to Decide Limits on State Primary Voting (Reuters.com)

3rd Circuit expedites suit seeking special election to fill McGreevey's term

AP reports: The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will hear arguments that a federal judge was wrong when he dismissed a lawsuit seeking a special election to replace Gov. James E. McGreevey, lawyers who filed the suit said Tuesday.

The court will hear arguments Oct. 7 in Philadelphia. A state Superior Court judge will hold a hearing Oct. 4 on a similar lawsuit.

U.S. District Judge Garrett E. Brown Jr. rejected the argument that McGreevey had effectively created a vacancy by saying he would step down on Nov. 15.

The governor has not left office, and there is no vacancy to fill by a special election, Brown said in his Sept. 15 ruling. -- Appeal set for lawsuit seeking special election (AP via Newsday.com)

Thanks to Howard Bashman for the link to the order.

Complaint accuses Kentucky governor and water company of election fraud

AP reports: A former [Lexington-Fayette] Urban County Council candidate filed a complaint accusing Kentucky American Water and others of fraud and interference in city council elections.

Robert Moreland, who was defeated in the May primary, filed his complaint Monday with the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance.

The complaint accuses water company officials and their wives, as well as Gov. Ernie Fletcher, of conspiring to illegally influence past and present Urban County Council elections.

"I'm tired of our government being corrupted by corporate entities that are basically just stifling the voice of the people with their deep pockets," Moreland said.

He claims that three state campaign finance laws have been violated by the water company and more than 30 individuals. Those laws prohibit corporate contributions from aiding candidates running for public office. -- Complaint accuses water company, others of interfering in races (AP via Kentucky.com)

FEC will appeal voiding of its regulations

AP reports: The Federal Election Commission said Tuesday it will appeal a federal judge's decision to strike down more than a dozen of the government's current rules on political fund raising.

In a statement, however, the commission said it had not decided whether to ask the U.S. Court of Appeals to review all or some of the rules sent back to the agency by U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly.

Last week, Kollar-Kotelly ordered the FEC to write new rules to govern key aspects of fund raising, including when candidates and outside parties can coordinate activities.

Kollar-Kotelly ruled that some of the regulations the FEC devised after passage of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act in 2002 would "create an immense loophole" and allow for abuses that lawmakers who wrote the law never intended.

FEC commissioner Michael Toner, a Republican, said the appeal was necessary. "The commission's regulations clearly and effectively implemented the law," Toner said. -- FEC to appeal campaign finance ruling (AP via Boston.com)

2 Texas Dems sue Virginia group for violating state campaign finance laws

The Austin American-Statesman reports: In a new assault on corporate spending in politics, former Texas attorney general candidate Kirk Watson on Monday sued an out-of-state group to unearth the identity of the corporations he said secretly financed illegal campaign ads.

Watson and East Texas legislative candidate Mike Head, both Democrats, filed the lawsuit in state District Court in Travis County against the Law Enforcement Alliance of America, based in Falls Church, Va.; its undisclosed corporate donors; "John Doe conspirators" who assisted in the ad campaigns; and John Colyandro, the former executive director of Texans for a Republican Majority, who also advised Watson's opponent, Greg Abbott, during the 2002 elections.

The lawsuit, opening another front in the escalating campaign finance controversy, says corporate-financed advertising tainted the 2002 elections and says that the alliance violated Texas law by not disclosing its donors. State law generally prohibits corporate or labor money from being spent on political expenditures.

A lawyer for the pro-gun, pro-police group, Richard Gardiner, said Monday that the ads did not violate Texas law because they did not advocate the election or defeat of a candidate. It's the same First Amendment defense offered by the Texas Association of Business, which, like the law enforcement group, is being investigated on the question of whether corporate money was illegally spent on political ads. -- Kirk Watson sues Law Enforcement Alliance of America (statesman.com)

"Time to vote"

The following states have laws giving employees the right to take time off from work to vote. Many states require employees to give employers notice about taking leave before Election Day and some states require employees to provide employers with proof of voting. In addition, while employers cannot prevent employees from voting, most states give employers the right to specify the time during the day that leave can be taken.

For the list and lots of other information, go to Time To Vote | Voter Leave Laws.

Nader hearings in Pennsylvania plod along

The Philadelphia Daily News reports: Ralph Nader continued to cling to the Pennsylvania ballot yesterday as his nominating petitions were arduously examined in 13 courtrooms across the state.

The Reform Party candidate for president, running as an independent in Pennsylvania, submitted 47,000 signatures in August to get on the ballot. He needs 25,697 of them to be valid.

Democrats say that 85 percent of the signatures, many collected by homeless people in Philadelphia working for a Nader contractor, are flawed or forged. ...

Nader spokesman Kevin Zeese yesterday accused the Commonwealth Court of bias, calling its expected ruling a "foregone conclusion" that will be appealed to the state Supreme Court. -- Will lack of petitions finally knock Nader off? (Philadelphia Daily News)

Nader wins in Maine, stays on the ballot

AP reports: Maine Democrats lost a bid to keep independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader's name off the Nov. 2 ballot as a judge upheld the state's petition review procedures.

``We expected logic and common sense to prevail, and they did,'' Nancy Oden, a Nader elector from Jonesboro, said after Superior Court Justice S. Kirk Studstrup's ruling was made public Tuesday.

Maine Democratic Party Chairwoman Dorothy Melanson had appealed to Superior Court after Secretary of State Dan Gwadosky brushed aside a challenge, ruling Nader's name should appear on the ballot. -- Judge rejects bid to keep Nader off Maine ballot (AP via BostonHerald.com)

Nader is on the New Mexico ballot

The Albuquerque Tribune Online reports: The state Supreme Court today ordered Ralph Nader's name to be placed on New Mexico's Nov. 2 ballot as an independent presidential candidate, turning back a Democratic challenge to his candidacy.

The court announced its decision after deliberating for about 90 minutes after oral arguments in the case this morning. Chief Justice Petra Maes said a written opinion would be issued later. ...

Three state Supreme Court justices disqualified themselves from the dispute. Justices Edward Chavez and Richard Bosson are seeking re-election, and Justice Pamela Minzner did not participate because one lawyer in the case works in an Albuquerque firm with her husband.

Court of Appeals Judges James Wechsler and Michael Bustamante and District Judge Thomas Fitch of Socorro heard the appeal along with Chief Justice Petra Maes and Justice Patricio Serna. -- Nader wins ballot spot (AP via Albuquerque Tribune Online)

Nader qualifies as write-in in Georgia

AP reports: Third-party candidate Ralph Nader - whose status in several states was decided Tuesday - won't be appearing on Georgia ballots in next month's presidential election.

A spokeswoman for Georgia Secretary of State Cathy Cox said Tuesday that Nader supporters had contacted her office, but never submitted the just over 38,000 signatures that would have been required for him to appear on the Nov. 2 ballot.

"They had inquired about how to go about it, but they never submitted anything," said Cox spokeswoman Cara Hodgson.

Instead, Hodgson said Nader has qualified in Georgia as a write-in candidate. Qualifying as such, which does not require signatures, means any votes written in for Nader will count. -- Nader won't appear on Georgia ballots (AP via Tallahassee.com)

Nader appeals loss in Wisconsin

WisPolitics.com reports: Presidential hopeful Ralph Nader was knocked off the Wisconsin ballot today when Dane County Circuit Judge Michael Nowakowski reversed a state Elections Board ruling from last week.

In reaction, Nader attorney Robert Bernhoft filed an emergency petition with the state Supreme Court for the board to certify Nader and Peter Camejo as independent candidates for president and vice president, respectively.

Nowakowski's ruling Tuesday would stop the Elections Board from notifying county clerks to include Nader's name on the ballot.

The state Democratic Party filed the suit Friday seeking to keep Nader off the ballot saying Nader didn't comply with a state law requiring presidential candidates to list 10 electors, each of whom cast ballots for the candidate in the Electoral College: one for each of Wisconsin's eight congressional districts and two at-large. -- Nader Immediately Appeals Decision Keeping Him Off Ballot (WisPolitics.com)

Nader off the Ohio ballot because of fraud

AP reports: Independent candidate Ralph Nader won't appear on Ohio's presidential ballot because forged signatures on petition forms and on petitions circulated by non-Ohioans left him short of the 5,000 required to qualify, Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell ruled Tuesday.

Nader's campaign promised a fight to get back on the ballot. ...

Blackwell, a Republican, said Nader's backers wound up with 3,708 valid signatures.

They had turned in nearly 15,000 signatures, but just 6,464 were declared valid after review by local elections boards. An additional 2,756 were invalidated following testimony at a hearing last week at Blackwell's office. -- Blackwell says Nader off Ohio ballot (AP via SunHerald.com)

Nader loses in the US Supreme Court

AP reports: The [U.S.] Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected a last-ditch bid to put Ralph Nader on Oregon's presidential ballot.

Nader supporters had asked the court last week to block Oregon from printing ballots that lack Nader's name. The court declined, although Justice Stephen Breyer noted that he supported the stay. ...

Last week, the Oregon Supreme Court sided with state election officials who found flawed petitions left Nader short of the 15,306 signatures needed to put him on the Nov. 2 ballot.

Richard Hasen, an election law expert at Loyola Law School, said that disputes over petition signatures are common. "These kind of bread and butter issues are not the kind of thing the court gets involved in," he said. -- Nader supporters lose Supreme Court appeal (AP via OregonLive.com)

September 27, 2004

Center for Individual Freedom files FEC complaint against Kerry campaign and CBS

The Center for Individual Freedom issued this press release last Thursday: The Center for Individual Freedom today filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission charging that CBS and Kerry-Edwards 2004, Inc., illegally coordinated election communications.

The complaint charges that CBS and the Kerry campaign violated federal campaign finance laws when they colluded to attack President Bush based on claims and documents now believed to be fake. ...

The complaint centers on a September 8 segment on the CBS program "60 Minutes II." In the segment, CBS correspondent Dan Rather attacked President Bush’s record of service in the National Guard. CBS’s charges relied on a number of documents which it later admitted were not reliable.

As a condition for handing over the documents, CBS’s source, Bill Burkett, required that CBS arrange for a conversation between him and a senior advisor of the Kerry campaign. On September 4, just four days before the segment aired, a CBS producer spoke with Joe Lockhart, a senior advisor to the Kerry campaign. Lockhart admits that during the conversation he and the CBS employee discussed the upcoming segment attacking President Bush. Lockhart also admits that he later called Burkett at CBS’s urging. -- CFIF Files FEC Complaint Against CBS, Kerry Campaign (cfif.org)

North Carolina GOP files complaint over ads

AP reports: The [North Carolina] state Republican Party has lodged a formal complaint against a third-party group that ran a television advertisement that criticized Republican gubernatorial nominee Patrick Ballantine.

The state GOP contends the commercial by the Washington-based State Capitol Media Project was unlawful because the group is not registered as a political committee in North Carolina.

The ad was also illegal because it attacked Ballantine's jobs record as a state senator, according to a filing the GOP said it gave to the State Board of Elections last Friday. ...

The new filing by the state Republican Party says that because the State Capitol Media Project receives corporate contributions and doesn't limit their amount, the group is violating the law by running ads that advocate "for a vote against a policy position beneath the name of a clearly identified candidate."

"They violated the law because they were clearly, explicitly opposing Patrick Ballantine for governor," Chris Mears, legal counsel for the state GOP, said Monday, when the complaint was made public. -- N.C. GOP files complaint over third-party ad in governor's race (AP via TheState.com)

501(c) organizations active in the campaign

The Washington Post reports: Unlike the campaigns of President Bush and Kerry, the two major parties, political action committees and the Swift Boat Veterans -- one of the "527" advocacy groups that have become part of the 2004 campaign lexicon -- Citizens United and Project Vote operate under the radar of regulation and public disclosure in what campaign finance expert Anthony Corrado of the Brookings Institution and Colby College described as "a real black hole."

Known as 501c groups, for a statute in the tax code, these tax-exempt advocacy and charitable organizations are conduits for a steady stream of secretive cash flowing into the election, in many respects unaffected by the McCain-Feingold legislation enacted in 2002. Unlike other political groups, 501c organizations are not governed by the Federal Election Commission but by the Internal Revenue Service, which in a complex set of regulations delineates a range of allowable activities that are subject to minimal disclosure long after Election Day.

A 501c (3) group can register voters, and donations to it are tax deductible, but it is prohibited from engaging in partisan or electioneering work. A 501c (4), (5) or (6) group can be involved in elections, but the cost of doing so must be less than one-half the group's total budget. Public Citizen, in a report last week titled "The New Stealth PACs," contended that many of the politically active 501c (4) groups regularly spend more than half their budgets on political activities in violation of IRS rules. -- New Routes for Money to Sway Voters (washingtonpost.com)


Wisconsin ballots on hold till tomorrow (title corrected)

AP reports: A Dane County judge Monday temporarily forbid the [Wisconsin] state Elections Board from telling county clerks which presidential candidates to list for this fall's election until he decides whether independent Ralph Nader should be on the ballot.

Dane County Judge Michael Nowakowski said he would issue his ruling on Nader's candidacy Tuesday afternoon. Until then, he forbid the Elections Board from formally notifying county clerks which presidential candidates should be on the ballot.

Elections Board executive director Kevin Kennedy said clerks will have enough time to get ballots printed if they receive word Tuesday whether Nader is on the ballot. Still, appeals by either side could complicate the process.

The state Democratic Party filed suit Friday seeking to keep Nader off the ballot, claiming he did not meet the necessary requirements to qualify. Some Democrats still blame Nader for President Bush's victory four years ago and fear he could siphon votes away from their nominee, John Kerry. Democrat Al Gore won Wisconsin four years ago by 5,708 votes while Nader received 94,070. -- Judge puts hold on presidential ballot while deciding Nader case (AP via DuluthSuperior.com)

Nader hearings start in Pennsylvania

AP reports: A Pennsylvania court Monday opened eight simultaneous hearings across the state on Ralph Nader's nomination papers, while a Nader lawyer attacked a central premise of the review by arguing that officials should accept the signatures of people who are not registered to vote.

Nader, who is on the ballot in more than 30 states, is trying to fend off a challenge to more than 30,000 of his 47,000 signatures as he seeks to run for president in Pennsylvania as an independent.

In a motion filed in Commonwealth Court in Harrisburg, Nader attorney Basil C. Culyba said state law allows only registered voters to sign the nominating petitions for major-party candidates, but permits any "qualified elector" to sign the nomination papers of independent candidates like Nader.

Culyba, a Washington, D.C., lawyer brought in after Nader's original Pennsylvania lawyer quit last week, reportedly after a dispute over money and strategy, said a qualified elector is anyone who will be 18 and a Pennsylvania resident by the Nov. 2 election. -- Nader challenge focus of statewide court hearings in Pa. (AP via PennLive.com)

Nader still not on the North Carolina ballot

AP reports: Presidential candidate Ralph Nader's chances for getting his name on the Nov. 2 ballot in North Carolina are dwindling.

A federal judge has rejected motions filed by the Nader campaign that sought to have his and running-mate Peter Miguel Camejo's names placed on the ballot as unaffiliated candidates. They also sought the halting of ballots being printed without their names. ...

In August, a federal judge struck down the state's requirements to be listed on the ballot as an unaffiliated candidate. In response, Nader's campaign asked the State Board of Elections to add his name to the ballot as an unaffiliated candidate.

Without a new law authorizing new ballot requirements, the federal courts have the authority to list his name on the ballot, Nader's attorneys argued. They said because Nader is often seen as the most viable independent candidate for president, the courts should exercise that authority.

In general, the judge rejected Nader's motions for preliminary and temporary restraining order because he can still run as a write-in candidate. Britt also said Nader made minimal efforts to get on the ballot then tried to resolve his concerns in the "11th hour." -- Judge's Ruling Hurts Nader's Bid For Getting On N.C. Ballot (AP via WRAL.com)

Provisional ballot rule in Ohio is challenged

Update
AP reports: The Ohio Democratic Party sued Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell on Monday to allow voters to be able to cast ballots - even at the wrong polling place - as long as they are in the county where they are registered. -- Democrats sue over ballot access (AP via TheState.com)

====

AP reports (25 Sept): [Ohio] Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell recently issued a directive to county election officials saying they are allowed to count provisional ballots only from voters who go to the correct polling location for their home address.

Blackwell has ordered that if residents go to the wrong precinct, poll workers must find their correct precinct and tell them where to go, Blackwell's spokesman Carlo LoParo said. They also may cast provisional ballots at their county election board. ...

The Ohio Voter Protection Project, a coalition of voting-rights groups, is considering a lawsuit to challenge Blackwell's directive before the Nov. 2 election, project attorney Sean Grayson said.

Similar lawsuits have been filed in Colorado and Missouri. A lawsuit in Florida was rejected this week.

Ohio is one of 29 states that will not count provisional ballots cast in the wrong precinct, said Dan Seligson, editor of electionline.org, a nonpartisan Web site covering voting procedures. -- Provisional ballots could pose Election Day problems (AP via Ohio News Now)

Kenneth Blackwell and the Voting Rights Act

Earlier today, MyDD.com carried a story about Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell refusing to allow registration if the registration form was not on 80 pound card stock. In other words, none of those "print directly from the FEC site" forms would be good enough. DailyKos now has the latest on this (I am shortening it considerably):

Atrios dug this up:

Sec. 1971. - Voting rights

(2) No person acting under color of law shall -

(B) deny the right of any individual to vote in any election because of an error or omission on any record or paper relating to any application, registration, or other act requisite to voting, if such error or omission is not material in determining whether such individual is qualified under State law to vote in such election.

So what the hell are they thinking about in Ohio, supressing thousands of new voter registrations because they are printed in the wrong card stock?
Because the Sec of State is a Republican. And because he read this NY Times piece. ...

And remember, these new voters aren't being counted in "likely voter" polls (which ACT will work to get to the polls on election day). This is not good news for Republicans, hence the desperation tactics we're seeing in Ohio.

Wexler's case on touch-screen voting gets a reprieve

The Eleventh Circuit today vacated and remanded the decision of a district court to abstain from deciding Rep. Robert Wexler's claim that Florida's 15 counties using touch-screen voting must have a paper trail. The district court had abstained from deciding the federal claim because Wexler also had brought a state court suit seeking the same relief (on different grounds).

Thanks to Howard Bashman for the link to the decision.

Ohio should have held a special election when Trafficant was sentenced

AP reports: A federal appeals court ruled Monday that Gov. Bob Taft should have ordered a special election to fill the vacancy created when James A. Traficant Jr. was kicked out of Congress for a bribery and racketeering conviction.

The Constitution requires special elections when a seat becomes open during a congressional term, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said in a 2-1 ruling.

Traficant was expelled from Congress in July 2002 after his conviction, but his seat was left empty until after the November election. He is serving an eight-year prison sentence.

Taft decided it was not worth the expense or possible voter confusion to hold a special election for a new lawmaker who could end up serving just a few weeks. He was challenged in court by the American Civil Liberties Union. -- Court: Ohio Should Have Held Election (AP via TheState.com)

Thanks to Howard Bashman for the link. The opinion is here.

Nader loses again in Illinois

Marci Oddi has slapped me upside the head that I missed Nader's loss in the Seventh Circuit last week. Here is an excerpt from the decision as reported on the Indiana Law Blog:

Ralph Nader v. John Keith, et al. (ND Ill.)

Before POSNER, WOOD, and EVANS, Circuit Judges.
POSNER, Circuit Judge. Ralph Nader, joined by his campaign committee and two registered Illinois voters who support his candidacy, brought this suit to require the State of Illinois to place his name on the ballot for the forthcoming Presidential election. He appeals to us from the district court’s denial of a preliminary injunction that would order the state to do that. We have expedited the parties’ briefing and our consideration of the appeal because of the short time remaining to the election. * * *

By waiting as long as he did to sue, and despite the strenuous efforts by the district court and this court to expedite the litigation, Nader created a situation in which any remedial order would throw the state’s preparations for the election into turmoil. * * * At argument Nader’s lawyer offered no reason for the delay in filing the suit. * * *

So, all things considered, we cannot say that the district judge abused his discretion in refusing to issue a preliminary injunction. AFFIRMED.

September 26, 2004

The perils of shipping to the office

AP reports: A complaint alleging the Utah Boys Ranch illegally aided in the re-election campaign of state Sen. Chris Buttars has been filed with the Internal Revenue Service.

Salt Lake City attorney Thomas Thompson requested the IRS undertake a formal investigation of the private, nonprofit school for troubled youth in West Jordan. Buttars, R-West Jordan, is the tax-exempt school's executive director.

Thompson filed the complaint on behalf of a client, who requested anonymity.

A sworn statement included with the complaint claims boxes of Buttars' Senate campaign brochures were "maintained" in his Boys Ranch office. It also alleges the school's telephones were used for "campaign purposes."

Buttars, who will retire Thursday after 15 years as Boys Ranch director, acknowledged having campaign materials delivered to the school and talking to constituents and campaign supporters on office phones. -- Complaint Against Buttars Filed with IRS (AP via KSL News)

Nader stays on the New Hampshire ballot

Update
AP reports: New Hampshire's Democratic Party announced Saturday night it will not appeal a Ballot Law Commission decision placing Ralph Nader on the state's Nov. 2 ballot. -- Democrats Won't Appeal Nader Petition Case (AP via TheState.com)

====

AP reports: The state Ballot Law Commission voted 5-0 yesterday to keep independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader on the Nov. 2 ballot.

The commission rejected a Democratic challenge to some of Nader's petition signatures. ...

Emily Rice, who represented the state Democratic party, argued that Nader's campaign workers collected petition signatures this year through widespread fraud and deceit. She said many people were deceived about what they were signing.

State law makes no provision for appeals from the commission's decisions. But lawyers for Nader said they expected Democrats to ask the state Supreme Court to consider the issue. -- State Ballot Law Commission says Nader can stay in mix (AP via TheUnionLeader.com)

Dems ahead in new voter registration

The New York Times reports: A sweeping voter registration campaign in heavily Democratic areas has added tens of thousands of new voters to the rolls in the swing states of Ohio and Florida, a surge that has far exceeded the efforts of Republicans in both states, a review of registration data shows.

The analysis by The New York Times of county-by-county data shows that in Democratic areas of Ohio - primarily low-income and minority neighborhoods - new registrations since January have risen 250 percent over the same period in 2000. In comparison, new registrations have increased just 25 percent in Republican areas. A similar pattern is apparent in Florida: in the strongest Democratic areas, the pace of new registration is 60 percent higher than in 2000, while it has risen just 12 percent in the heaviest Republican areas.

While comparable data could not be obtained for other swing states, similar registration drives have been mounted in them as well, and party officials on both sides say record numbers of new voters are being registered nationwide. This largely hidden but deadly earnest battle is widely believed by campaign professionals and political scientists to be potentially decisive in the presidential election. -- A Big Increase of New Voters in Swing States

September 25, 2004

New Mexico federal court decision on Nader case delayed

Albuquerque Journal reports: A federal judge on Friday delayed ruling on a lawsuit to keep presidential candidate Ralph Nader on the New Mexico ballot, saying he would wait for a state Supreme Court decision next week.

"I'll put out an opinion after the Supreme Court does, if it's necessary," Senior U.S. District Court Judge John Edwards Conway said.

The state Supreme Court on Tuesday is scheduled to hear an appeal from Nader supporters seeking to keep him on the Nov. 2 ballot.

Nader was kicked off the New Mexico ballot earlier this week when a state District Court judge ruled he can't run as an independent presidential candidate here while running with minor party affiliations in other states. For instance, the longtime consumer advocate is a Reform Party candidate in Florida. ...

Conway also referred to the earlier state District Court decision. "I can tell you now I don't think much of that statute," he said. -- Nader Ruling Delayed, Fed Judge Waiting on N.M. Justices (ABQjournal.com)

Naderites appeal in Oregon

Update:
A later edition of this AP story makes it clear that the "Supreme Court" is the U.S. Supreme Court.

===

AP reports: A group of Ralph Nader supporters asked the Supreme Court on Friday to keep the presidential candidate on Oregon's general election ballot.

In a late evening filing, the supporters asked the high court to review Oregon's decision to remove Nader because of flawed voter petition sheets. They argued that Secretary of State Bill Bradbury, a Democrat, improperly used unwritten rules to decide the validity of the petitions.

"His actions in applying unwritten rules, without notice or opportunity for the Nader campaign to comply with those rules, violated the right" to free speech and due process, the 52-page filing argues.

On Wednesday, the Oregon Supreme Court unanimously upheld Bradbury's determination that flawed petitions left Nader 218 signatures short of the 15,306 needed to put him on the Nov. 2 ballot, saying Bradbury acted within his authority. -- Supporters turn to high court to keep Nader on state’s ballot (AP via StatesmanJournal.com)

Wisconsin Dems sue to have a Nader-free ballot

Update:
AP reports: The state Democratic Party filed a lawsuit Friday asking a judge to throw independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader off Wisconsin’s ballot.

The lawsuit, filed in Dane County Circuit Court, requests emergency review of a state Elections Board decision to leave Nader on the ballot. A hearing was set for Monday. -- Dems to file suit to kick Nader off Wis. ballot (AP via gmtoday.com)

=====

AP reports: The Wisconsin Democratic Party said Thursday it will file a lawsuit in a last-ditch attempt to keep independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader off the state ballot.

The state Elections Board earlier this week rejected a complaint the party filed claiming Nader failed to meet requirements under Wisconsin statutes to qualify for the ballot.

The suit Democrats plan to file Friday raises a similar issue, said party spokesman Seth Boffeli. He provided an advance copy to The Associated Press. -- Wis. Democrats to sue to knock Nader off ballot (AP via SunHerald.com)

Nader will not appeal Virginia decision not to put him on ballot

AP reports: Ralph Nader will not appeal a decision by the State Board of Elections to keep his independent candidacy off the presidential ballot in Virginia.

Nader instead plans to ask supporters to write in his name on the ballot, the campaign said Saturday.

Nader is on the ballot in more than 30 states and is suing for ballot access in several others.

A count by the Virginia elections panel found that Nader fell well short of the 10,000 signatures of registered voters needed to qualify as a presidential candidate. Although his campaign filed more than 13,000 names, only 7,342 were qualified, the board concluded. -- Campaign: Nader will not appeal Virginia ballot ruling (AP via dailypress.com)

"How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Electoral College"

Randym writes on DailyKos: I recently had a heated argument with a friend, about the wisdom of splitting Colorado's electoral votes. I argued against it, for obvious reasons: it would reduce Colorado's power, effectively giving them one electoral vote, instead of nine. They would cease being a battleground state.

My friend thinks it's a price worth paying, because it's a step toward the popular vote. I do not agree. Not only that - I think the popular vote is a bad idea. We are better off with the electoral college, flaws and all, than we would be with a raw, popular vote. Yes, even though it gave us four years of Dubya, the worst president in the history of the United States.

No, I am not anti-democracy. I am very much pro-democracy. And I am convinced that the electoral college creates a better democracy than a raw vote would. -- Daily Kos :: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Electoral College

Nader roundup

GoKeever has a very detailed roundup on the status of Nader's ballot access quest around the country. Take a look at Daily Kos :: Nader Ballot News Roundup: 269 or Bust!.

More on Virginia redistricting

I asked Gerry Hebert, the plaintiffs' counsel, for a comment on the decision of the Fourth Circuit against his clients. Gerry responded:

I believe that having an artificial and inflexible 50% threshold for minority voters to cross over before they can establish a prima facie case of vote dilution makes little sense. As the Justice Department has noted each time this issue has come up, a functional approach is more consistent with the intent of Congress. There is now a clear conflict between the 1st circuit and the 4th (as well as the 5th and 11th,). The supreme court has a chance to resolve this issue in the pending TX appeal and we should know this week if the Court intends to take the issue up.

September 23, 2004

Groups claim that localities block student voting

The Washington Post reports: ... Their argument reflects a new approach in the push to encourage youthful political participation. Despite the well-publicized efforts by Rock the Vote and other groups, voter turnout among eligible 18-to-24 year olds hit only 32.3 percent in the 2000 presidential election, the lowest point in a decades-long decline, according to U.S. Census data.

Now, some of those groups are identifying the registration policies and voting systems in college towns as part of the problem.

Callahan and others said the resistance to student voters appears to have less to do with party politics than local politics -- officials who don't want short-term and often non-tax-paying residents to hold sway over local matters. But they acknowledged that such trends could affect presidential elections as well, especially in small states with large college towns.

States have varying standards for what qualifies a person to declare a certain place a permanent home for voting purposes. Yet voting-rights advocates allege that many jurisdictions apply different standards to students. -- Vote Policies Impeding Students, Groups Say (washingtonpost.com)

Advocates claim Ohio reneging on promise to notify released felons of right to vote

AP reports: Advocates who contend that Ohio elections officials haven't properly informed released felons about their right to vote said Thursday that the state has backed away from a promise that led to the settlement of a lawsuit.

State officials denied the claim by the Prison Reform Advocacy Center, which had filed the lawsuit in August in an effort to inform ex-convicts that they can register to vote in the Nov. 2 presidential election. State spokesmen said Ohio had not made any commitment or reached any settlement of the lawsuit against Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell and 21 county boards of election. ...

The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction did not reach a settlement because it was not named as a defendant in the suit, department spokeswoman JoEllen Culp said.

But the Prison Reform Advocacy Center said it dismissed its lawsuit against Blackwell this month based on a promise by a lawyer who spoke for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. The prisoners' advocacy organization released a court transcript in which a state attorney told a federal judge on Sept. 3 that the state prisons department could help by having parole officers give written notice to ex-convicts saying that state law allows them to vote after being released. -- Advocates: Ohio backing away from vow to tell released felons of voting rights (AP via Ohio News Now)

Cree Indian from Canada claims US citizenship and right to run for office in Hawaii

The Maui News reports: Legislative candidate Cort Gallup is facing a formal challenge to his eligibility to run for office, on the grounds that he is not a U.S. citizen.

Gallup, who was born in Canada in the Cree tribe, said he believes a federal law that allows Native Americans to cross the border and live in the United States gives him the right to citizenship and the right to hold public office.

"I am a U.S. citizen because I am a Native American," he said. "I was born as a native of America. Look at the word: 'Native American.'"

But Kihei retiree Steve Riford, who filed the formal challenge, said that while Gallup does seem to be a legal resident of the United States, his status as a Native American does not appear to automatically make him a citizen. -- Candidate’s eligibility for office questioned (Maui News)

Pentagon re-opens online absentee voting site

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports: The Pentagon has restored access to a Web site that assists soldiers and other Americans living overseas in voting, after receiving complaints that its security measures were preventing legitimate voters from using it.

The site, www.fvap.gov, had been closed to users of certain Internet service providers, because some hackers were using those providers to launch attacks on U.S. government sites, military officials said. But that had the effect of restricting legitimate traffic from those providers, as well.

The move prompted criticism from overseas voter advocates and a few Democratic members of Congress, who said the security interfered with the voting rights of Americans overseas.

In a statement, the Pentagon said the changes will open the Web site, run by the Foreign Voting Assistance Program, to most, but not all, users. The site assists U.S. citizens overseas in casting absentee ballots. -- Pentagon restores voting Web site access (AP via Seattle Post-Intelligencer)

Florida judge rejects request to broaden provisional ballot law

The Palm Beach Post reports: A Leon Counjudge rejected a challenge to the state's provisional ballots Wednesday, ignoring lawyers' arguments that some voters will be so confused by precinct changes caused by hurricanes and redistricting that they won't know where to vote in November.

Circuit Judge L. Ralph Smith Jr. also refused to certify the suit as a class action on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union, the AFL-CIO, and the union representing state and municipal workers.

Attorneys for the unions said they plan to ask the District Court of Appeal to send the case directly to the Florida Supreme Court so a final decision can be issued before the Nov. 2 presidential election on whether voters must cast provisional ballots in their own precincts as state law requires. ...

Opponents of the current law want Floridians to be able to cast provisional ballots in any precinct and have the canvassing boards later count only the votes in the races in which that voter was eligible to cast a ballot. -- Judge rejects challenge to provisional-ballot law (Palm Beach Post)

Nader's Pennsylvania lawyer quits

AP reports: The lawyer representing independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader in his bid to get on Pennsylvania's ballot asked a court for permission to withdraw from the case Thursday, saying the campaign didn't have enough money to pay him.

Samuel C. Stretton, who earlier said he was offering the Nader campaign a discount from his usual fee, said there were also disagreements over strategy as well as finances, but declined to elaborate.

Nader campaign spokesman Kevin Zeese said a Washington-based lawyer would take over the case.

Stretton's resignation came shortly before a marathon set of 10 hearings in 10 separate venues scheduled for Monday. He had argued that the simultaneous hearings and orders to rapidly examine more than 30,000 Nader petition signatures placed an undue burden on a low-budget presidential campaign. -- Nader's ballot-access lawyer seeks permission to withdraw (AP via philly.com)

Naderites sue in New Mexico federal court

The Albuquerque Tribune reports: Three voters who want a chance to vote for Ralph Nader took their desires to federal court today.

Attorney Paul Kienzle, who is also representing Nader in an appeal before the New Mexico Supreme Court, said he filed the lawsuit in Albuquerque naming New Mexico Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron. ..

A hearing on the matter could come as early as Friday morning, Kienzle said. He said the case had been assigned to U.S. District Judge John Conway.

The case asks Vigil-Giron to preserve the estimated 25,000 ballots that have been printed with Nader's name on them and to send them to voters. -- Three sue over vote (Albuquerque Tribune Online)

Thanks to Richard Winger for the link.

September 22, 2004

4th Circuit upholds Virginia congressional districting plan

AP reports: A federal appeals court Wednesday upheld state lawmakers' 2001 congressional redistricting, rejecting a claim the plan illegally diluted black voting strength in one district.

Nine black citizens claimed the Republican-authored plan violated the 1965 Voting Rights Act by hindering the ability of black voters to forge a coalition with other groups to elect a candidate of their choice.

A three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, however, ruled such coalitions are not protected by law. The plan would be illegal only if blacks had been denied an opportunity to form a numerical majority in the district, the court said. But even before the maps were redrawn, blacks did not hold a numerical majority.

The ruling upheld a decision by a federal judge.

The plaintiffs had claimed the General Assembly's plan illegally "packed" blacks into the black-majority 3rd District, encompassing Newport News, while decreasing the black population of the adjacent 4th District, encompassing Chesapeake, from 39.4 percent to 33.6 percent. The black voting-age population went from 37.8 percent to 32.3 percent. -- Court Upholds Va. Congress Redistricting (AP via SunHerald.com)

The decision is Hall v. Commonwealth of Virginia.

Studies find felon disfranchisement has racial impact

The New York Times reports: As many as one of every seven black men in Atlanta who have been convicted of a felony, and one of every four in Providence, R.I., cannot vote in this year's election, according to a pair of studies released yesterday.

The studies, the first to look at felon disenfranchisement laws' effect on voting in individual cities, add to a growing body of evidence that those laws have a disproportionate effect on African-Americans because the percentage of black men sentenced to prison is much larger than their share of the general population.

The study in Atlanta concluded that two-thirds of the gap in voter registration between black males and other ethnic and gender groups was attributable to Georgia's felon disenfranchisement law.

"We have the conventional wisdom that African-American males register to vote at lower rates because of political apathy," said the study's author, Ryan King of the Sentencing Project, a research and prisoners' rights group based in Washington. But the new data clearly indicate that "their registration is artificially suppressed by the disproportionate effect of their disenfranchisement." -- 2 Studies Find Laws on Felons Forbid Many Black Men to Vote **

The Sentencing Project's Atlanta report is here.

3 Democratic representatives ask Pentagon to reopen voting web site

AP reports: Three Congress members urged the Pentagon on Wednesday to restore access to a Web site designed to help soldiers and other Americans living abroad to cast absentee ballots in the Nov. 2 elections.

Democratic Reps. Henry Waxman of California, Carolyn Maloney of New York, and William Lacy Clay of Missouri said closing off some avenues of access to the site interferes with the voting rights of U.S. citizens overseas.

"Our government should make it as easy as possible for all Americans to exercise their most basic right, rather than making them navigate an obstacle course just to apply for a ballot," they said in a letter to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

The site, http://www.fvap.gov, belongs to the Federal Voting Assistance Program, which was designed to make it easier for expatriate Americans - including those serving in the U.S. military - to vote by absentee ballot. -- Congress members want overseas voting Web site restored (AP via TheState.com)

McCain et al introduce bill to regulate 527s

AP reports: The sponsors of the nation's campaign finance law introduced legislation Wednesday that they said would end the millions spent by outside groups in the presidential race.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., one of the sponsors, said it was unlikely Congress would act in the remaining days of the session and six weeks before the election. McCain was hopeful about the bill's prospect next year in a new Congress.

The sponsors - McCain, Sen. Russell Feingold, D-Wis., and Reps. Christopher Shays, R-Conn., and Martin Meehan, D-Mass. - said the legislation would require that all groups that register with the IRS as partisan political organizations accept only limited donations from individuals and disclose their donations and spending to the Federal Election Commission.

The proposal exempts groups that raise less than $25,000 or spend only in nonfederal elections, on state or local ballot initiatives or on the nomination or confirmation of people to non-elective offices such as judgeships. -- Campaign Finance Legislation Introduced (AP via TheState.com)

Here are the statements of Sen. Feingold and Sen. Lieberman about the bill. I cannot find the bill yet.

"Pastor policy briefings"

The Knight Ridder Newspapers report: "A pastor who really believes in being salt and light should be ministering to his representatives and senators. He should know them." That's the message Johnston and the Rev. Jerry Falwell are taking to hundreds of Christian leaders across Kansas City as they try to energize them in advance of the Nov. 2 election.

Johnston's event is the latest incarnation of how churches and Christian conservatives are mobilizing as the election approaches. The so-called "pastor policy briefings" got underway this week with Falwell speaking at Johnston's 3,000-member First Family Church in south Overland Park.

"I am going to try to motivate the pastors to do something, to not be silent and to become engaged in a long-term process," Johnston said. "The big deal is getting people informed, targeting that 50 percent of the evangelical vote that is not voting." Others across the country are just as eager as Johnston to fire up Christian voters. For example, James Dobson, founder of the Christian ministry Focus on the Family, has been holding "Stand for the Family" rallies across the country. A recent rally held in Springdale, Ark., was attended by 3,000 people. ...

Last month, more than a dozen Christian ethics scholars wrote a letter to the president rebuking his campaign for asking for the church directories.

"It is proper for church leaders to address social issues, but it is improper, and even illegal, for them to get their churches to endorse candidates or align their churches with a specific political party," the letter states. -- Preaching political involvement (Knight Ridder via Newsday.com)

Bush team coordinating ads with RNC

AP reports: President Bush's political team is orchestrating a vastly larger advertising campaign than thought possible under federal law, taking control of millions in Republican Party funds simply by inserting the phrase "our leaders in Congress" in selected commercials.

The GOP strategy had gone unnoticed for weeks by Sen. John Kerry and the Democrats, who now may abandon their own less cost-efficient approach to advertising.

Ken Mehlman, Bush's campaign manager, said in an interview that federal election law allows the campaign access to party money "provided that your message is broader than the individual candidate and includes a discussion of the overall agenda and the message of the party." The Republican National Committee has $93 million on hand.

This month the Republicans began airing television and radio commercials paid for jointly by the president's re-election campaign and the RNC and including the words "our leaders in Congress." -- Bush Team Orchestrates Larger Ad Campaign (AP via sunherald.com)

CREW files FEC complaint against Chamber of Commerce group

AP reports: A group funded in part by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that plans to run ads criticizing Democratic ties to trial lawyers is the target of a complaint filed with election officials Wednesday.

The complaint to the Federal Election Commission is against The November Fund by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a group headed by Melanie Sloan, a former aide to congressional Democrats and former federal prosecutor.

It accuses the U.S. Chamber of making an improper corporate donation of $500,000 to the fund and says the group plans to run ads targeting Democratic vice presidential nominee and former trial lawyer John Edwards despite a ban on the use of corporate contributions for such TV and radio ads within two months of the Nov. 2 election.

The complaint also accuses Republicans, including President Bush's campaign, of coordinating with the group. It says three of the fund's leaders have ties to the GOP or the Bush administration: director Ken Rietz was an adviser to Bush's 2000 campaign; fund co-chairman Craig Fuller has worked with the administration to block the importing of prescription drugs from Canada; and Bush named co-chairman and former Sen. Bill Brock to a panel on the West Coast port worker lockout, the complaint says. -- Group Targeting Dems Prompts FEC Complaint (AP via statesman.com)

CREW's press release has a copy of the complaint and its attachments.

Bush and Kerry agree -- on fundraising for a recount

AP reports: President Bush's campaign is urging election regulators to allow it and rival John Kerry to raise unlimited individual donations to cover costs for a possible recount, as Bush and rival Al Gore could in 2000.

In a letter to the Federal Election Commission made public Wednesday, the Bush campaign argued that nothing in the campaign finance laws has changed on recount fund raising since 2000.

Bush campaign attorney Tom Josefiak wrote the commission after Kerry's campaign asked the FEC for guidance on its fund-raising options should either campaign pursue a recount like the 2000 Florida ballot dispute that made Bush president. The commission is expected to give Kerry its opinion Sept. 30. -- Bush Campaign: Gifts Should Cover Recount (AP via philly.com)

Nader appeals in New Mexico

The Albuquerque Journal reports: Ralph Nader has asked the state Supreme Court to place him on the general election ballot as an independent candidate for president.

Nader's campaign filed an appeal Wednesday to a judge's decision that knocked him off the ballot.

State District Judge Theresa Baca ruled Monday that Nader didn't qualify under state law as an independent candidate in New Mexico because he's running in other states as the nominee for minor parties, including the Reform Party. -- Nader Files Appeal To Get Back on Ballot (ABQjournal)

Nader off in Oregon

Bend.com reports: The Oregon Supreme Court on Wednesday overturned a lower-court ruling that would have put independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader on the Nov. 2 general election ballot, backing the secretary of state's decision to keep him off.

Secretary of State Bill Bradbury, clearly gratified by the court ruling, said the court upheld the authority of the secretary of state to use reasonable rules to prevent fraud in the petition process.

The Court's ruling means that Nader and vice-presidential candidate Sandra Kucera will not appear on the ballot. ...

In considering the numbering and signature rules that govern petition sheets, the state's high court found that "the review procedures were not, as the trial court's comments appear to suggest, yet another layer of unannounced legal barriers. They were, instead, the methodology by which the Secretary of State enforced existing legal standards." -- Bend.com - News Article "Nader off Oregon ballot; high court backs Bradbury (Bend.com)

Secret addendum to the debate agreement

Madeleine Kane says: As most people know by now, President Bush and Senator Kerry have signed on to a 32 page debate agreement. But few are aware that they also signed a secret addendum to that agreement. Fortunately, MadKane.com has an exclusive copy of that secret addendum, provided by a DC insider whom I will identify only as "Debate Throat."

TOP SECRET ADDENDUM TO ELECTION 2004 DEBATE AGREEMENT, entered into on September 20, 2004 by President George W. Bush (hereinafter referred to as "Bush") and Senator John F. Kerry (hereinafter referred to as "Kerry")

WHEREAS, The interesting thing about being the President is you don't have to explain things;

WHEREAS, If this were a dictatorship, it would be a heck of a lot easier; and

WHEREAS, Bush and Kerry have entered into a Debate Agreement and wish to modify it and memorialize certain secret debate terms. -- Madeleine Begun Kane, Humor Columnist, Notables Weblog , Political Commentary with Sardonic Twist, July through September 2004, including Bush Birthday Haiku

September 21, 2004

Instant access to more political news

121 Communications says: Vote121 is an innovative new browser toolbar that brings all the latest campaign news and opinion straight to your browser. Without interrupting your normal browsing routine, you can learn more about the presidential candidates, get an active countdown to the election and an up-to-the-minute display of the projected election results – and it’s all free! -- Vote121 Toolbar

Thanks to TalkLeft for the link. (TalkLeft is one of the RSS feeds carried on Vote121.)

GOP practices "voter terrrorism"

Salon.com reports: Amid the general ugliness of the [Philadelphia mayor's] race, though, there's one incident that Democrats in the city remember with a distinct sense of unease. The story, which was first reported by The American Prospect in February, and has since been broadcast by activist groups like MoveOn.org, goes like this: In an attempt to intimidate African-Americans and deter them from showing up at the polls, the Katz campaign, or one of its associates, put together a team of men dressed in official-looking attire -- dark suits, lapel pins bearing insignia of federal or local law-enforcement agencies -- and sent them into areas of the city with large black populations. According to Sherry Swirsky, a local antitrust attorney who is active in Democratic politics and who worked as an election monitor that day, the men carried clipboards and drove around in unmarked black vans.

"Some of them were just driving around neighborhoods, looking menacing," Swirsky recalls. "But others were going up to voters and giving them misinformation about the kind of I.D. they needed in order to vote. The truth is, you don't need any I.D. to vote. But they were telling them they needed a major credit card, a passport or driver's license. They were telling them it was risky to vote if they had any outstanding child support bills. Imagine the menacing presence of a bunch of big white guys in black cars who look like they're law-enforcement people telling you all these things."

Swirsky has monitored several elections in Philadelphia and elsewhere and headed the Democrats' presidential recount effort in New Mexico in 2000. But what happened in Philadelphia, she says, is the most sophisticated election intimidation campaign she's ever seen. It was not a sick prank by one or two racists but instead a systematic effort that required planning and not-insignificant outlays of money (the uniforms, the vehicles and the men, some of whom were reportedly recruited from out of state). "There was such a level of coordination there that if its objectives were not improper, I would say I admired it for the professionalism," she says. -- "Voter terrorism" (Salon.com)

Pentagon shuts out overseas civilians from voting site

Salon.com reports: Over the past year, the Federal Voting Assistance Program Web site has been widely advertised all over the foreign press as the way for Americans to get help on how to vote in the upcoming election. The site, which is maintained by the Department of Defense, is a nonpartisan, comprehensive, and official clearinghouse for voting registration information. Now that it's been put off-limits to many Americans just before registration deadlines kick in, activists fear that Americans will be unfairly barred from voting this year.

Why would the Pentagon do this? Officials at the Voting Assistance Program have told some Americans living abroad that the blocked ISPs were havens for "hack" attacks against the voting site; the Pentagon had no choice but to block them in order to keep the voting site secure from attack. But that explanation is extremely fishy, say critics who see something more nefarious at work. The Defense Department maintains all manner of sensitive Web sites -- for instance, MyPay, which allows military personnel to manage their compensation online -- and it's had no problem protecting those from hackers while keeping them open for legitimate uses.

"This is a completely partisan thing," one Defense Department voting official told Salon. The official, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of being fired, is one of the many people in the department assigned to help both uniformed military personnel as well as American civilians register to vote. The offical described the Pentagon as extremely diligent in its efforts to register soldiers stationed overseas -- for instance, voting assistance officers have been told by the department to personally meet with all of the soldiers in their units in order to help them register. But the department has ignored its mandate to help overseas civilians who want to vote, the official said. -- The Pentagon doesn't want you to vote overseas (Salon.com)

Nader on the Wisconsin ballot

TheMilwaukeeChannel.com reports: The state Elections Board has decided to keep independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader on the Wisconsin ballot.

A split board voted Tuesday to reject two motions seeking to kick Nader (pictured, right) off the ballot.

The Democratic Party of Wisconsin filed a complaint with the Elections Board earlier this month.

Democrats argued that Nader's petitions didn't include an elector from the 7th Congressional District, and there has to be one from every congressional district in the state.

Nader's attorneys argued that there wasn't one because the boundaries were redrawn, moving that person from the district. The board decided that wasn't enough to keep Nader off the ballot. -- Nader Will Appear On Wisconsin Ballot (TheMilwaukeeChannel.com)

According to this site, the congressional redistricting plan was adopted in 2001. If there has not been a later plan, then what kind of excuse can Nader's backers have for being three years out of date? Or am I missing something?

5th Circuit overturns lower court decision on Bexar County precinct redistricting

The San Antonio Express-News reports: A federal appeals court has ruled that Bexar County did not violate the Voting Rights Act when it cut back the number of precincts as part of a cost-cutting redistricting plan in 2001.

In a ruling Friday, a three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans reversed a lower court decision, saying a judge erred last year in throwing out the county's plan.
The lower court ruling had reinstated Constable Ruben Tejeda and Precinct 5 and voided the elections of two justices of the peace and another constable.

Besides ruling for the county, the appeals court said federal district court judges should give local governments a reasonable opportunity to propose constitutionally permissible redistricting plans. -- Appeals court clears Bexar of bias charge (MySA.com)

The opinion is here. Thanks to Bob Heath for the link and the tip on the story.

DeLay aides and 8 corporations indicted in Texas

The San Antonio Express-News reports: Eight corporations, including retail giant Sears-Roebuck and the makers of Bacardi rum, along with three individuals associated with a political action committee founded by U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, were named in multiple indictments by a Travis County grand jury today.

The indictment named John Colyandro, executive director of a political action committee founded by DeLay - Texans for a Republican Majority PAC; Warren Robold, a Washington fund-raiser; and Jim Ellis a DeLay aide who directs the congressman's Washington PAC. ...

Since early 2003, the Travis County grand jury had been investigating whether corporate funds were used illegally to help some of those Republicans win their elections and allow the GOP to win a majority in the state House for the first time since Reconstruction.

During the 2002 election cycle, Texans for a Republican Majority, whose efforts focused on getting Republicans elected to the Texas House, gave $190,000 in corporate donations, some from out-of-state sources, to the Republican National State Elections Committee.

About two weeks later, the Republican committee wrote seven separate checks for a total of $190,000 to seven state House candidates. -- UPDATED: Corporations, DeLay PAC officials indicted (MySA.com)

One of the charges against two individuals was money laundering, for transferring the money to the RNSEC.

September 20, 2004

Wanna swap?

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports: Pssst! Want your vote to count? In Ohio? Or Florida?

You can now arrange to trade votes with a voter in another state, under a plan created by activists who don't want Ralph Nader to siphon off votes from John Kerry in vital swing states.

Today, a group called VotePair.org will start hooking up Kerry voters in "safe" Democratic or Republican states with third-party voters in hotly contested states. The goal: to get would-be third-party voters to vote for Kerry in swing states, in exchange for Kerry voters' voting for Nader or Green Party candidate David Cobb in secure states.

That way, they figure, third-party candidates would get as many popular votes as otherwise, while Kerry would maximize his votes in states where they matter most. For instance, a voter in "safe" New Jersey could agree to vote for Nader, in exchange for a voter in "swing" Ohio agreeing to vote for Kerry. -- | 09/20/2004 | A Kerry for a Nader? Vote-trading gears up (Philadelphia Inquirer)

Thanks to Jamin Raskin for the link to this story. The site is VotePair.org.

List of pending cases

Last week after I made such a mess of confusing two challenges to the FEC's actions and inactions, I suggested to Trevor Potter that the Campaign Legal Center ought to keep a list of the pending cases. Trevor sent word this morning that the CLC does indeed keep up with Court Cases of Interest.

Thanks for the gentle reminder, Trevor. I owe you another one.

Federal court voids 15 FEC regulations adopted under BCRA

The Hill reports: U.S. District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly has struck down 15 Federal Election Commission (FEC) regulations governing activities ranging from political coordination to state party fundraising, throwing candidates and election lawyers into confusion 43 days before the election.

The judge ruled in a lawsuit against the FEC filed by Reps. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.) and Martin Meehan (D-Mass.), who spearheaded passage of campaign-finance reform in the House two years ago.

Campaign-finance reformers heralded the sweeping opinion as a stinging rebuke to an agency that many of them want to replace with a single-administrator agency akin to the FBI. -- FEC is left in limbo by ruling (The Hill.com)

The opinion is available here on Bob Bauer's More Soft Money Hard Law. Commentary is available from Bauer and Democracy 21.

Nader off the Arkansas ballot

AP reports: A circuit judge ordered third-party presidential candidate Ralph Nader's name taken off the Arkansas ballot Monday.

Circuit Judge Timothy Fox concluded that a political group attempting to certify Nader's name for the ballot did not meet state criteria to get a candidate on the ballot.

Fox ordered Secretary of State Charlie Daniels to immediately recall the list of candidates so that Nader and running mate Peter Camejo no longer appear.

The judge ruled that supporters of the former Green Party presidential candidate didn't follow Arkansas' rules for nominating Nader as the candidate of their political group -- the Populist Party of Arkansas. Official forms from the Secretary of State did not have a space for identifying the party name. -- Nader's Name Stricken From Arkansas Ballot (AP via TheHometownChannel.com)

Nader on the Maryland ballot

The Washington Post reports: Presidential candidate Ralph Nader secured a spot on Maryland's November ballot today as the state's highest court ruled that elections officials improperly rejected hundreds of signatures on petitions filed in support of his candidacy.

The Court of Appeals ordered that 542 disputed signatures be accepted, giving the Nader campaign and his Populist Party five more signatures than were required to win a spot on the ballot. Those signatures had been rejected because they belonged to voters residing in counties other than the counties listed on the petitions they signed, a decision the Nader campaign challenged in court.

State Elections Administrator Linda H. Lamone, a Democrat, said today that her office had "no vested interest" in the outcome of the case and that the ruling would not be appealed. A spokesman for the Nader campaign, Kevin Zeese, said that "the court made the right decision" and that Nader plans to campaign in Maryland on Friday.

Nader's campaign filed petitions Aug. 2 to create a Populist Party, but Lamone and local elections officials invalidated about one-third of the signatures. The rejection left Nader supporters 537 short of the 10,000 valid signatures needed to qualify a new party for the ballot. -- Court Forces Maryland to Place Nader on Ballot (washingtonpost.com)

Nader off the New Mexico ballot again

AP reports: A judge Monday blocked Ralph Nader from appearing on New Mexico's ballot in a legal and political tug-of-war that has kept the candidate's status in limbo for days.

State District Judge Theresa Baca ruled that Nader does not qualify as an independent candidate in New Mexico because he is running as the nominee for minor parties in other states.

"He is not without party affiliation," Baca said.

The judge did not rule on another point of contention in the lawsuit filed by state Democrats -- whether Nader's nominating petitions had enough valid signatures of registered voters. -- On Again, Off Again: New Judge Blocks Nader From N.M. Ballot (AP via ABQjournal.com)

Judge York recused herself after a ruling barring Nader, and Judge entered pretty much the same order.

Pennsylvania Supreme Court voids one order, remands case for hearings in Commonwealth Court

AP reports: Pennsylvania's highest court Monday kept alive Ralph Nader's bid to run as an independent candidate for president in the state, and a lower court scheduled more than a dozen hearings in courtrooms across the state next week to review challenges to Nader's nominating petitions.

In a one-page order, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturned a state Commonwealth Court ruling barring Nader from running as an independent because he had accepted the nomination of the national Reform Party as its candidate in some other states.

Shortly afterward, the Commonwealth Court sent an order to lawyers in the case outlining an ambitious schedule of hearings in Philadelphia, Doylestown, Pittsburgh, Erie, Greensburg and Harrisburg to consider challenges to Nader's petitions in 48 counties.

The court ordered lawyers for both sides to meet as soon as possible with elections officials from most of the counties to compare the signatures on Nader's petition with voter registration records. Slightly different procedures were set for the Philadelphia and Allegheny county reviews. -- Top Pa. court gives hope to Nader (AP via phillyBurbs.com)

September 19, 2004

Briefs in Nader's Florida case

Here are the briefs in the Florida Nader case, decided on Friday:

Brief of Secretary of State Hood

Brief of the Reform Party

Brief of the Appellees (Black)

Brief of the Appellees (Democratic Party)

"Voter Probes Raise Partisan Suspicions"

The Washington Post reports: Earlier this month, U.S. Attorney David Iglesias in New Mexico launched a statewide criminal task force to investigate allegations of voter fraud in the upcoming presidential election. The probe came after a sheriff who co-chairs President Bush's campaign in the state's largest county complained about thousands of questionable registrations turned in by Democratic-leaning groups.

"It appears that mischief is afoot and questions are lurking in the shadows," Iglesias told local reporters.

But Democratic Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron, named to the task force to allay concerns that the probe was politically motivated, said the investigation is unnecessary.

"This is just an attempt to let people know that big brother is watching," Vigil-Giron, New Mexico's chief election official, said in an interview. "It may well be aimed at trying to keep people away from the polls." -- Voter Probes Raise Partisan Suspicions (washingtonpost.com)

Compare this story to the one about the DOJ investigation of the same behavior by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Gimme those old-fashioned ballots

The New York Times reports: After the pandemonium over dimpled and pregnant chads in the 2000 election, nearly everyone agreed it was time to rethink old vote-counting ways. But the stampede to touch-screen voting was not inevitable.

Another, demonstrably more reliable technology was already on the rise: optical scan voting, introduced in some parts of the country in the late 1970's. By the 2000 election, optical scanning - which involves marking a paper ballot that is ultimately read and counted by a computer - had overtaken all other voting methods as the most common way to vote in the United States. This year, optical scan systems will be used in more than 45 percent of all counties, according to Election Data Services, a political consulting firm in Washington.

After the 2000 election, a study by the Voting Technology Project, a joint effort by the California Institute of Technology and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, took a hard look at the nation's voting systems. Using a measure of what they called "residual votes" - overcounting, undercounting or not counting votes for any reason - researchers found that two existing voting methods had produced relatively low error rates in the last four presidential elections: old-fashioned hand-counted paper ballots and optical scan systems.

The study found that the mechanical lever system, which dominated the market in 1980 and has been in decline ever since, performed considerably worse. In overall performance, electronic voting - both the older push-button variety and the newer touch-screen units - performed scarcely better than punch cards. -- > Washington > Campaign 2004 > The Hand-Marked Ballot Wins for Accuracy (New York Times)

Look at the map attached to this story. I am pround to note that all but three of Alabama's counties use optical scan equipment.

"Grassroots Democrats" steers the money to state parties

The New York Times reports: When Robert and Mary Lloyd Estrin decided to give money to state Democratic parties this year, they sent a total of at least $20,000 to Arizona, Colorado and Nevada - unexpected choices, perhaps, for a couple from California.

The selections, though, were anything but arbitrary. They were made on the advice of Amy Chapman, a Democratic operative whose job is to steer money and resources to state political parties, which were hit hard by the federal restrictions in the new campaign finance law. The process is known as donor direction: Ms. Chapman recommends where to give, and they write the checks.

"This is what campaign finance reform has wrought," said Ms. Chapman, executive director of Grassroots Democrats. "People are trying to work the system as they know it."

State parties have been grappling for months with how to gather the money needed to do the critical work of registering and turning out voters, after the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law imposed tough new rules that limited how parties can raise and spend money on federal races. -- Campaign Finance: Following New Rules, Parties Steer Money to the States (New York Times)

Colorado considers dropping pass-fail in the Electoral College

The New York Times reports: Colorado voters have delivered the state for the Republican presidential candidate in every election in the last half century, except when Bill Clinton won by a whisker in 1992 and Lyndon B. Johnson swamped Barry Goldwater in 1964.

But if a ballot initiative called Amendment 36 is approved by the voters here on Election Day, the facade of unanimity will shatter, and in one stroke a new small state's worth of definitively Democratic Electoral College votes will be created in the heart of what has been the solidly Republican West.

Amendment 36 would make Colorado the first state to distribute its electoral votes on the basis of its popular vote. The change would take effect immediately with this year's election, which means that President Bush and Senator John Kerry would share Colorado's nine electoral votes, but neither would get all.

Political experts say the implications for the election are deeply uncertain. A Rocky Mountain News/News 4 poll released Friday showed Mr. Bush and Mr. Kerry in a statistical dead heat here. -- Coloradans to Consider Splitting Electoral College Votes (New York Times)

Here come the e-voting machines

The New York Times reports: Just over six weeks before the nation holds the first general election in which touch-screen voting will play a major role, specialists agree that whatever the remaining questions about the technology's readiness, it is now too late to make any significant changes.

Whether or not the machines are ready for the election - or the electorate ready for the machines - there is no turning back. In what may turn out to be one of the most scrutinized general elections in the country's history, nearly one-third of the more than 150 million registered voters in the United States will be asked to cast their ballots on machines whose accuracy and security against fraud have yet to be tested on such a grand scale.

Because of the uncertainties, experts say there is potential for post-election challenges in any precincts where the machines may malfunction, or where the margin of victory is thin. Sorting out such disputes could prove difficult.

"The possibility for erroneous votes or malicious programming is not as great as critics would have you believe," said Doug Chapin, the director of Electionline.org, a nonpartisan group tracking election reform. "But it's more than defenders of the technology want to admit. The truth lies somewhere in between." -- Ready or Not (and Maybe Not), Electronic Voting Goes National (New York Times)

There's a nice map in the side bar showing how each county in the country votes.

September 18, 2004

DOJ investigating charges of intimidation of black voters in Florida

AP reports: The U.S. Department of Justice has launched an investigation into whether Florida law-enforcement officers intimidated elderly black voters as part of a probe into March's Orlando mayoral election.

A top attorney with the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division revealed the investigation during a hearing Friday in Washington, D.C., The Associated Press reported. A Justice Department spokesman confirmed it Friday night, though he said he could offer no other details.

The controversy began after the Florida Department of Law Enforcement started interviewing voters in response to a complaint by Ken Mulvaney, who lost to Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer in the March 9 election. Dyer avoided a runoff with Mulvaney by just 234 votes out of more than 24,000 cast.

After the election, Mulvaney, a registered Republican, accused Ezzie Thomas, whom Dyer paid $10,000 to rally voters in the city's predominantly black precincts, of manipulating absentee ballots in Dyer's favor. Dyer is a Democrat. That charge led FDLE officers to interview about 50 voters, an FDLE spokesman said.

Thomas, president of a nonpartisan group in Orange County that encourages minority voting, then charged that some voters on Orlando's west side are afraid to vote this fall because of the interviews. -- Feds to determine if FDLE intimidated black voters (AP via OrlandoSentinel.com)

Bush files same suit that lost earlier in the week

Update:
Trevor Potter emails: Actually, it is NOT the same suit as the A-8 complaint filed earlier, and rejected by the District Court this week. Rather, it is an "arbitrary and capricious" APA complaint based on the FEC's refusal to issue 527 regs (not based on any particular enforcement matter and the 120 day standard). It is thus in fact very similiar to the suit filed by Shays and Meehan last week.

Thanks, Trevor, and my apologies for the confusion.

====

AP reports: President Bush's campaign on Friday filed its second lawsuit in a month against the Federal Election Commission in federal court in Washington, this time accusing the commission of failing to enforce the nation's campaign finance laws.

The Bush-Cheney lawsuit asked the court to order the FEC to adopt regulations restricting the groups, arguing the campaign laws require the commission to do so.

Its earlier case asked the court to order the FEC to act within 30 days on complaints the campaign filed in March against anti-Bush groups spending millions of dollars in unlimited donations in the presidential race, despite a law broadly banning the use of such "soft money" in federal races. U.S. District Judge James Robertson rejected that request Wednesday. -- Bush Campaign Files Lawsuit Against FEC (AP via TheState.com)

Why did Bush file essentially the same suit as the one that was dismissed earlier in the week? Maybe this is his way of intervening in the Shays and Meehan case.

September 17, 2004

South Dakota will probably appeal redistricting case

AP reports: A decision is days away but the state likely will appeal a federal ruling that legislative district boundaries violate the federal Voting Rights Act, according to [South Dakota] Attorney General Larry Long.

U.S. District Judge Karen Schreier on Wednesday ruled that districts drawn after the 2000 Census illegally diluted the votes of American Indians by putting a supermajority of them into one district that encompasses the Pine Ridge and Rosebud Indian reservations.

The Indian population should have been divided between that district and a neighboring district so that members of the state's largest racial minority could have a voice in more legislative races, the American Civil Liberties Union argued in the suit it brought. -- Long says appeal of voting rights ruling is likely (AP via Aberdeen News.com)

Ohio Dems attack Nader

The Columbus Dispatch reports: Democrats intensified their attack on Ralph Nader's bid to get on the Ohio's presidential ballot yesterday, accusing his campaign of "the most systematic and widespread fraud the state has ever seen."

Andrew B. Clubok, a Washington lawyer representing Democratic opponents to Nader's petition, said if the challenges are upheld, Nader would fall short of having enough valid signatures to qualify for the Ohio ballot on Nov. 2.

Clubok, one of a trio of lawyers at a Statehouse news conference yesterday, charged that the Nader campaign utilized "a bunch of out-of-state con men" to gather Ohioans' signatures to get him on the ballot. -- Democrats say Nader bid rife with fraud (The Columbus Dispatch)

Nader off the New Mexico ballot

KOB-TV in Albuquerque reports: A state district judge in Albuquerque has ruled that Ralph Nader will not appear on New Mexico's general election ballot as an independent presidential candidate.

State District Judge Wendy York ruled on Friday that Nader is ineligible to appear on the ballot. She said that under New Mexico law, Nader cannot run as an independent candidate here while running under political parties such as the Reform Party in other states.

The state Democratic Party, who filed the lawsuit, also contended Nader didn't submit enough valid signatures of registered voters to qualify for the ballot. York rejected that challenge. -- Judge pulls Nader off ballot (KOBTV.com)

Nader on the Florida ballot

Reuters reports: Florida's highest court today ruled that Reform Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader must be allowed to compete in the 2004 election in the state, delivering a possible boost to President George W Bush's re-election chances.

The Florida Supreme Court ruled on a challenge by the Democratic party against Nader being on the ballot on the grounds the Reform Party, once led by maverick billionaire Ross Perot, was not a genuine national political organisation.

The court said Florida law was not clear enough to justify refusing Nader access to the ballot.

"In making our decision in this case, we are guided by the overriding constitutional principle in favor of ballot access," the Supreme Court said in its ruling. -- In boost for Bush, Florida court puts Nader on ballot (Reuters via New Zealand Herald)

Indians win against South Dakota (updated)

Corrected Update:Daniel Levitas of the ACLU has provided a copy of the decision and the ACLU's press release.

I had linked to an older opinion in the case, which caused Rick Pildes to comment that the newspaper had it wrong.

====

AP reports: The South Dakota Legislature unlawfully diluted the voting strength of American Indians when it redrew legislative district boundaries in 2001, U.S. District Judge Karen Schreier said Wednesday.

Ruling on the behalf of four Indian voters in a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, the judge ordered the state to reconsider Legislative Districts 26 and 27, which include the Pine Ridge and Rosebud Indian reservations. ...

Schreier agreed that the redistricting plan violates the federal Voting Rights Act. She said the plan illegally diluted Indians' voting strength by placing a super majority of Indians in District 27 - resulting in denial of equal political opportunities for Indians on the two reservations.

The federal judge said the Legislature "must afford Indians in both Districts 26 and 27 a realistic and fair opportunity to elect their preferred candidates." -- State loses redistricting lawsuit (AP via AberdeenNews.com)

I hope someone will send me a copy of the opinion. Hint, hint.

September 16, 2004

Ohio judicial candidates now free to tell the truth, the whole truth ...

The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports: Judicial candidates should be free to speak their minds and declare their party affiliations, a federal judge said Tuesday.

The ruling opens the door for all judicial candidates to call themselves Democrats or Republicans, some observers said. Previously, candidates could only claim partisanship after a primary election in personal appearances, not in literature.

U.S. District Judge Ann Aldrich declared unconstitutional the restriction on declaring political identity, as well as a canon that restricts candidates in the way they use the term "judge" in literature if they are running for a different seat from the one they hold. -- Judicial candidates free to reveal their politics (Cleveland Plain Dealer)

Thanks to Howard Bashman's How Appealing for the link. Howard also has a link to the decision.

"Let's all wear neck braces and sunglasses"

Bump and update:
AP reports: A Kentucky businessman was found guilty Thursday of election fraud for orchestrating a scheme to buy votes from impoverished mountain residents in two races in 2002.

The jury deliberated about four hours before returning the verdict against Ross Harris, a Pikeville coal operator whom prosecutors portrayed as the kingpin of the election fraud conspiracy. An associate was also convicted, and both men face about two years in prison. -- Ky. Jury Convicts 2 Men of Election Fraud (AP via Kentucky.com)

=====

AP reports: A jury began deliberations Wednesday in an election fraud case against an eastern Kentucky businessman accused of leading a scheme to buy votes from poor mountain residents.

During the more than three-week trial of eastern Kentucky coal operator Ross Harris and one of his employees, Glen Turner, witnesses told of voters gathering in a church parking lot in rural Pike County to collect $10 bills after leaving the polls in the 2002 election. Others testified about contributions to some candidates before the election, allegedly to buy votes. ...

Defense attorney Larry Mackey, however, said federal prosecutors failed to prove their case. Mackey said Harris was being treated for life-threatening cancer during the period in question and would not have taken time from his hospital bed to help buy votes in the elections.

"Let me translate it," Mackey said in his closing argument. "It's a case with no evidence. If a wink and a nod are enough to convict someone, then I say let's all wear neck braces and sunglasses." -- Kentucky Voter Fraud Case Goes to Jury (AP via Kentucky.com)

You can't tell the players without a program

Politics1 has posted a Presidency 2004 Ballot Access page so you tell who is on the ballot and where.

Thanks Ron, and happy Rosh Hashanah to you.

Rep. Weiner fined $47,000

AP reports: Rep. Anthony Weiner, a potential mayoral candidate in 2005, has been fined $47,000 to settle fundraising violations in his 2000 campaign for Congress.

The civil penalty stems from an audit by the Federal Election Commission, which issued its findings Thursday.

The FEC said Friends of Weiner took "excessive contributions from 183 individual contributors for the 2000 primary and general elections for which they could not produce documentation."

The same audit found the Queens Democrat's campaign had misreported a loan from the candidate and failed to file necessary paperwork for 29 contributions. -- Rep. Weiner fined $47,000 by FEC for 2000 campaign (AP via Newsday.com)

ACLU issues "Voter Empowerment Cards"

Daniel Levitas writes: ACLU Voter Empowerment cards for Florida, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Washington State are now posted to the ACLU web site. Cards for approximately 23 additional states are still being developed. Please check the site periodically for new additions.

These Voter Empowerment Cards are designed to inform voters of their rights and responsibilities, and to help voters avoid problems when casting a ballot. Along with downloadable cards, there is state-specific information on this site about voter registration forms, absentee ballot applications and polling place locations. The site includes contact information for ACLU affiliates, as well as state election authorities.

Cards may be downloaded and printed at no charge, although the text may
not be altered in any way.

Ben & Jerry's "election"

Ben & Jerry's press release: There's no debate necessary: the clear winners in this campaign are the ice cream lovers. Ben & Jerry's at is offering the Confection Election Sundae in honor of the company's partnership with Rock the Vote. The ice cream treat serves up a side of democracy to encourage voter registration and mobilize Americans to turn out at the polls. When consumers "elect" a politically themed chocolate topping for their sundae, they receive information on registering to vote. ...

The Confection Election Sundae combines Primary Berry Graham (strawberry cheesecake ice cream with a graham cracker swirl) and Vanilla with a strawberry sauce core. It's capped with whipped cream, graham crackers and one of five chocolate toppings symbolic of political parties that consumers can "vote" onto their sundaes. The chocolate topping choices include a donkey, elephant, sunflower (Green Party), moose (Progressive Party), and woody cow (the Ben & Jerry's symbol for peace, love and ice cream). -- Ben & Jerry's Scoops Up Delectable, Elect-able New Sundae (FeatureXpress - Online News Distribution)

September 15, 2004

Ivan may disrupt service

Hurricane Ivan continues its course toward LA (Lower Alabama) with Birmingham a likely destination early Friday morning. Thursday afternoon we might get 50 mph winds, according to weather.com.

So, I am expecting power and/or DSL outages.

Judge won't force FEC to regulate 527s

AP reports: A federal judge on Wednesday denied a request to force the Federal Election Commission to act on complaints by President Bush's campaign against anti-Bush groups spending millions of dollars on ads in the presidential race.

District Judge James Robertson told Bush's attorneys that he agreed that the FEC had moved at a "glacial pace" in handling complaints, but he added, "That's the way Congress has set it up and apparently that's the way Congress likes it."

The Bush campaign had wanted the judge to force the FEC to act on complaints dating back to March within 30 days. After that, the campaign would have been able to sue to block the private groups' activities if it didn't agree with the regulators' actions.

The judge said he was ruling from the bench rather than waiting to write a decision because - with Election Day nearing - he wanted the campaign to be able to appeal immediately. -- Judge Denies Bush Effort to Speed Ruling (AP via Tallahassee.com)

Federal judge dismisses suit seeking special election in New Jersey

AP reports: A federal judge on Wednesday refused to order a special election to replace Gov. James E. McGreevey, who announced last month that he is gay and would step down Nov. 15.

U.S. District Judge Garrett E. Brown Jr. dismissed a lawsuit that claimed McGreevey had effectively created a vacancy by announcing his resignation. Brown said there is no vacancy to fill because McGreevey has not left office.

"He clearly intends to hold office until Nov. 15, 2004. The requirement of holding a special election does not arise. The rights of registered voters are not being violated," Brown said.

The lawsuit, filed by two Princeton lawyers, argued that by staying in office until there is not time enough to schedule a special election, McGreevey is depriving voters of their constitutional rights. -- Judge refuses to grant special N.J. election (AP via NYNewsday.com)

The Court's website is up to date through 4 May. Will someone send me a copy of the decision?

Texas congressman asks Gov. Perry to call special session to end winner-take-all electoral vote

AP reports: Texas congressman Gene Green called on Gov. Rick Perry on Wednesday to schedule a special legislative session to end the state's practice of assigning all of its electoral votes to the presidential candidate who wins the state. ...

Green and Rep. Brian Baird, D-Wash., have introduced legislation proposing to amend the U.S. Constitution to abolish the Electoral College and allow for direct popular election of the president. He has drafted a letter to Perry asking for the Legislature to take up the issue saying the presidential campaigns are largely ignoring Texas voters. ...

Baird said the system discourages voting because people, especially those who are younger, think their vote doesn't count. ...

The electoral system helps maintain a stable two-party system by preventing smaller party candidates from controlling the outcome of an election, said David King, a public policy professor at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.

It also helps reduces election fraud at the local level, King said. -- Texas congressman pushes for abolishment of Electoral College (AP via Fort Worth Star-Telegram)

Press reports disagree on whether the Ethics Committee will hear the complaint against Cong. DeLay

The Hill reports: The ethics complaint against Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) about improper fundraising is likely going to be dismissed by the House ethics committee, according to a source familiar with the panel’s internal discussions.

The panel’s chairman and ranking member yesterday denied that any decision had been made, but the well-placed source said the outcome is no longer in doubt; what remains is for at least some of the panel’s five Democrats to agree formally. -- Ethics complaint unravels (TheHill.com)

AP reports: Allegations that House Majority Leader Tom DeLay misused his office will be on the House ethics committee's agenda as early as next week.

After several months of gathering evidence, the committee must decide whether to launch a formal investigation of the Texas Republican or dismiss the case. There is no deadline limiting the time for the committee of five Republicans and five Democrats to act.

A three-part complaint is now before the committee.

Two allegations directly involve use of DeLay's congressional office. One accuses him of soliciting corporate contributions in return for assistance on legislation.

A second contends he improperly used his staff to contact U.S. aviation authorities, asking them to track down Texas Democratic legislators who had fled the state while trying to thwart a DeLay-backed redistricting plan.

The third allegation accuses DeLay of using his political action committees to distribute money from corporations to Texas legislative candidates, in violation of state law. -- Ethics Panel to Discuss DeLay Complaint (AP via statesman.com)

Nader on the Minnesota ballot

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports: Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader will be on the Nov. 2 ballot, the Minnesota Secretary of State's office ruled Tuesday.

The office certified that Nader and running mate Peter Camejo had enough signatures to qualify. His supporters, needing 2,000 signatures, filed 4,781 on Monday. -- Nader secures place on ballot in Minnesota (StarTribune.com)

Nader, Libertarians, and Constitituion on Alabama ballot

AP reports: Presidential candidates Ralph Nader and Michael Badnarik have secured spots on Alabama's general election ballot, which gives voters a choice of five people.

The secretary of state's office announced late Tuesday night that workers had finished verifying voter petitions from both campaigns. State law required independent and third-party candidates to submit the signatures of 5,000 registered Alabama voters by Sept. 7, and their campaigns turned in petitions on the final afternoon.

Badnarik is the candidate of the Libertarian Party, but under state law he will appear on Alabama's ballot without a label.

The Constitution Party turned in signatures for its candidate, Michael Peroutka, last month and won approval to get him on the ballot. Like Badnarik, his name will appear without a party label. -- Nader, Badnarik approved for Alabama ballot (AP via AL.com)

Nader wins in Washington

AP reports: Ralph Nader is back on the presidential ballot in Washington state.

The independent presidential candidate gathered more than 1,000 signatures from voters at conventions this summer. The Secretary of State's office determined Nader met the requirements to get on the ballot.

The state Democratic Party and an Olympia attorney challenged that decision in court. A Pierce County judge on Wednesday ruled that the Secretary of State's office did follow state laws in putting Nader on the ballot. -- (AP via kgw.com)

Oregon appeals Nader's ballot inclusion

AP reports: State officials filed a legal appeal Tuesday seeking to overturn a judge's ruling that independent contender Ralph Nader's name must appear on Oregon's presidential ballot.

The challenge was filed on behalf of Secretary of State Bill Bradbury, who earlier had concluded that irregularities with Nader's petition campaign should keep him off the ballot.

Last week, Marion County Circuit Judge Paul Lipscomb overturned Bradbury's ruling, saying that he had used unwritten rules to disqualify some of Nader's petitions, thus leaving Nader short of signatures.

State Elections Director John Lindback said Lipscomb's ruling opens the door to petition fraud, and that the secretary of state must have latitude to interpret rules to deal with potential fraud. -- State files appeal over Nader's inclusion on presidential ballot (AP via RegisterGuard.com)

Vermont Greens will back Nader

Socialist Worker Online reports: THE VERMONT Green Party voted last weekend not to ratify the national party's presidential nominee David Cobb--and instead endorse Ralph Nader's independent campaign. That means that Cobb and running mate Patricia LaMarche will not appear on the Vermont ballot.

The state party's nominating convention endorsed Nader, but he won't be on the ballot as the Green candidate, either--at Nader's request. Instead, Nader is seeking to qualify as an independent.

The move by the Vermont Greens reflects deep dissatisfaction among members over the outcome of the party's national convention in Milwaukee in June. There, Cobb won the party's presidential nomination, but by a very narrow margin over supporters of Nader and his running mate Peter Camejo, a leading Green Party member.

Pro-Nader Greens say that Cobb--by exploiting a delegate structure that gave disproportionate weight to small states with weak Green Parties--was able to dominate the convention even though he won fewer than 15 percent of the votes cast where open primaries were held. -- Vermont Greens support Nader (SocialistWorker.org)

Nader on, off, on the Florida ballot -- at least till Friday

AP reports: Ralph Nader can stay on Florida's ballot, at least until the end of the week when the state Supreme Court will make a final decision on his attempt to run for president as the Reform Party nominee.

The high court's decision Wednesday came about an hour after Circuit Judge P. Kevin Davey ordered that Nader be removed from the November ballot because the Reform Party isn't a legitimate party under state law.

The state Supreme Court will hear arguments on the issue Friday, and said it would settle the controversy before a Saturday deadline for mailing absentee ballots overseas. ...

Democrats have sued to keep Nader off the ballot, arguing tthe Reform Party is no longer a legitimate national party and that Florida election laws requiring minor candidates to qualify by petition or through a nominating convention weren't followed. -- Judge Orders Nader Name Off Fla. Ballot (AP via Tallahassee.com)

September 14, 2004

New Hampshire Dems challenge Nader

AP reports: Democrats filed a formal challenge yesterday to keep presidential candidate Ralph Nader off the state ballot, alleging widespread fraud and deceit in his petition signatures.

"We know there are people whose signatures were forged; we know people were lied to when they were approached with these petitions," said Kathy Sullivan, state Democratic Party chairwoman. "The integrity of the ballot process must be protected."

Sullivan and three voters filed the challenge at the state Ballot Law Commission, which has scheduled a Sept. 24 hearing for two allegedly forged signatures Sullivan complained about last week. -- Formal petition is filed against Nader (AP via ConcordMonitor.com)

Nader nominated by Independence Party in South Carolina

AP reports: Consumer advocate Ralph Nader will be on the presidential ballot in South Carolina in November.

Nader was approved by the South Carolina Election Commission to represent the Independence Party, the offshoot of the Reform Party made popular by Ross Perot in the 1990s.

Nader was nominated about two weeks ago by the state chapter.

"We reconvened our convention and nominated him," said Wayne Griffin of Greer, state party chairman. "We had been in contact with the Nader people this summer about offering him the line (ballot space) for him to run." -- Nader will be on South Carolina ballot (AP via TheState.com)

Nader loses in Maryland court

AP reports: A state judge on Tuesday rejected Ralph Nader's bid to run for president in Maryland under the banner of a new Populist Party.

Judge Philip Caroom agreed with the decision by state election officials that more than 500 signatures on petitions collected by Nader supporters could not be counted because the voters did not live in the county named on the petition.

Kevin Zeese, spokesman for the Nader campaign in Washington, said an appeal of Caroom's decision was likely.

"It leads to the strange result that we collected enough signatures of registered voters but are still not allowed on the ballot," Zeese said. "I think it's definitely an issue that should be appealed to make ballot access easier not only for our campaign but for future campaigns." -- Nader Loses Bid to Make Md. Ballot (AP via washingtonpost.com)

Federal judge refuses to hear Reform Party's case in Florida

AP reports: A federal judge Tuesday declined to get involved in the legal battle over Ralph Nader and the Florida ballot, clearing the way for a key hearing in state court Wednesday.

U.S. District Judge Stephan Mickle issued an order late Tuesday afternoon refusing to take the case. The Reform Party had moved for the transfer, the state Democrat Party had opposed it. -- Federal Judge Sends Nader Case Back To State Court (AP via nbc6.net)

Whose side is the DOJ on?

Jeffrey Toobin writes in The New Yorker: On October 8, 2002, Attorney General Ashcroft stood before an invited audience in the Great Hall of the Justice Department to outline his vision of voting rights, in words that owed much to the rhetoric used by L.B.J. and Lincoln. "The right of citizens to vote and have their vote count is the cornerstone of our democracy--the necessary precondition of government of the people, by the people, and for the people," Ashcroft told the group, which included several veteran civil-rights lawyers.

The Attorney General had come forward to launch the Voting Access and Integrity Initiative, whose name refers to the two main traditions in voting-rights law. Voter-access efforts, which have long been associated with Democrats, seek to remove barriers that discourage poor and minority voters; the Voting Rights Act itself is the paradigmatic voter-access policy. The voting-integrity movement, which has traditionally been favored by Republicans, targets fraud in the voting process, from voter registration to voting and ballot counting. Despite the title, Ashcroft's proposal favored the "integrity" side of the ledger, mainly by assigning a federal prosecutor to watch for election crimes in each judicial district. These lawyers, Ashcroft said, would "deter and detect discrimination, prevent electoral corruption, and bring violators to justice." -- POLL POSITION: Is the Justice Department poised to stop voter fraud—or to keep voters from voting? (The New Yorker)

This excerpt only touches one issue of several covered by the article.

Pre-Ivan preparations force delay in some Alabama municipal elections

Hurricane Ivan forced some cities and towns in south Alabama to postpone today's municipal runoff elections - an unprecedented move, according to the Alabama League of Municipalities.

But runoffs for mayor and city council seats in most parts of Alabama should still be held today, including 38 runoffs in Jefferson and Shelby counties.

Voters in 210 Alabama cities and towns were scheduled to go to the polls, but some city officials along the coast and other parts of south Alabama have become increasingly concerned about the projected path of Hurricane Ivan, said Perry Roquemore, executive director of the Alabama League of Municipalities.

Alabama Attorney General Troy King on Monday issued an opinion saying it's OK for cities to postpone their elections in circumstances "where the safety of voters is threatened by the imminent danger of a natural disaster." -- Ivan postpones runoffs in southern Alabama (Birmingham News)

I wonder if they precleared this?

September 13, 2004

Common Cause president likes 527s -- sorta

The Press Herald reports: One of the bogeymen - bogey organizations, actually - to emerge from this year's presidential campaigns is something called the "527." But the president of one of the nation's foremost campaign reform organizations said Sunday in Portland that 527s aren't as bad as many people believe.

Speaking to about 150 people at the First Parish Unitarian Universalist Church, the president of Common Cause said that 527s are bad only when they morph into a tool for injecting unrestricted "soft money" into campaigns.

Chellie Pingree, the former majority leader of the Maine Senate, explained that 527 is merely the Internal Revenue Service designation for certain non-political-party groups with political causes, like the Sierra Club or the National Rifle Association. She said the problem arises when a 527 forms merely to fight one particular candidate.

"The desire is to figure out which of the 527s are using this as a back-door way . . . to affect one federal election," Pingree said. -- Common Cause president makes case for political '527s' (MaineToday.com)

Is it an ad or a movie -- it's two in one!

Jennifer Nelson writes on SFGate.com: Hollywood is in the midst of an anti-George W. Bush feeding frenzy. Although the governor of the nation's largest state is an actor and a Republican, the industry is still dominated by liberals. And it is up in arms about the chance that President Bush might be re-elected.

In an unprecedented campaign tactic, the entertainment industry has financed and released a handful of films designed to influence the voters' decision on November 2: Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11"; John Sayles' upcoming "Silver City"; "Bush's Brain," a documentary on Bush strategist Karl Rove; George Butler's ("Pumping Iron") pro-Kerry documentary "Going Upriver: The Long War of John Kerry"; and Robert Greenwald's "Uncovered: The War on Iraq" and "Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism."

At what point will these films be considered political advertising?

The films are not simply works of art by writers and actors making a statement about current events. The people associated with the films are very open about the fact that their intent is to influence the election-just like many other public-interest groups in the nation. The difference is that other public-interest groups and corporations are required to report their campaign spending to the Federal Elections Commission and identify any advertising as political. -- Political Ads Get A Hollywood Disguise (SFGate.com)

Solicitor General opposes Wisconsin RTL request

AP reports: A Bush administration lawyer on Monday urged the Supreme Court to reject a Wisconsin anti-abortion group's effort to run ads that criticize Democrats.

A 2002 campaign finance law restricts election-time commercials. Wisconsin Right to Life contends that its radio and television ads that mention Sen. Russ Feingold, a Wisconsin Democrat up for re-election, are not political campaigning. The ads complain about "gridlock" in the Senate in confirming President Bush's choice of judges.

The group has asked Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist to let the ads air.

Paul Clement, the acting solicitor general, said in a filing on behalf of the Federal Election Commission that many groups would want to get around the law's restrictions. -- Administration opposes Wis. Right to Life effort (AP via philly.com)

Colleges not living up to their responsibility to register voters

AP reports: The semester just started at most schools, but the grade is in for more than one-third of the nation's colleges on the assignment of helping register young voters -- a C or worse.

Harvard University's Institute of Politics and The Chronicle of Higher Education sent surveys to 815 colleges and universities last month to determine whether they met the spirit of the Higher Education Act. The law requires schools that accept federal funds to request enough voter registration forms for their campuses four months before registration deadlines.

Some 249 schools responded to the survey, which was released Monday. Seventeen percent met the requirement and 37 percent said they graded their effectiveness at registering young voters at C or worse.

"It was pretty clear that not all knew what the requirements were under the Higher Education Act," said Philip Sharp, director of the Harvard Institute. -- (AP via NYNewsday.com)

Nader sues to get on Idaho ballot

AP reports: Supporters of independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader asked a state judge on Monday to order Idaho to include Nader's name on the Nov. 2 ballot.

The suit filed in 4th District Court maintained that 897 names on petitions to qualify Nader for the ballot were disqualified as not of registered voters, even though the Nader campaign found the same names listed on computer database of registered voters. ...

In Idaho, Secretary of State Ben Ysursa announced on Aug. 24 that Nader supporters collected only 4,388 valid signatures, as verified by county clerks, when 5,016 were required to gain a spot on the general election ballot.

Nader attorney Matthew Campbell told the court that the additional 897 signatures determined by the campaign to be valid but disqualified by the clerks would be sufficient to put Nader on the ballot. -- Nader backers ask court to order independent on Idaho ballot (AP via kgw.com)

Nader sues to get on Maryland ballot

AP reports: A state judge said he expects to rule Tuesday on a request by Ralph Nader's campaign to put him on the Maryland ballot in November as the presidential candidate of the Populist Party.

Nader supporters filed petitions to create a new party, but state and local election officials invalidated about one-third of the signatures, leaving his supporters 537 short of the 10,000 needed to qualify a new party for the ballot.

During a three-hour hearing today, lawyers for the state and Nader sparred over whether the state illegally rejected signatures of voters who were registered but did not live in the county named at the top of the petitions they signed.

There was a disagreement on how many signatures were involved -- 618 according to Nader's lawyer and 542 according to the state. But either number would be enough to qualify Nader for the ballot. -- Nader asks judge to put him on Maryland ballot (AP via baltimoresun.com)

"Nader back on Florida ballot -- for now"

AP reports: Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader was back on Florida's ballot Monday as a candidate for the Reform Party - but his slot was shaky. ...

The state's top elections official directed local elections supervisors to include Nader's name after she appealed a court order to the contrary.

Although Circuit Judge Kevin Davey ordered Secretary of State Glenda Hood last week to remove Nader's name, her appeal Monday to the 1st District Court of Appeal suspended that order.

However, Davey has the power to reimpose his order and the state Democratic Party, which had challenged Nader's placement on the ballot, immediately asked him to hold an emergency hearing to do just that. -- Nader back on Florida ballot -- for now (AP via The News-Press)

Absentee voting will increase this year

The New York Times reports: As both major political parties intensify their efforts to promote absentee balloting as a way to lock up votes in the presidential race, election officials say they are struggling to cope with coercive tactics and fraudulent vote-gathering involving absentee ballots that have undermined local races across the country.

Some of those officials say they are worried that the brashness of the schemes and the extent to which critical swing states have allowed party operatives to involve themselves in absentee voting - from handling ballot applications to helping voters fill out their ballots - could taint the general election in November.

In the four years since the last presidential election, prosecutors have brought criminal cases in at least 15 states for fraud in absentee voting. One case resulted in the conviction of a voting-rights activist this year for forging absentee ballots in a Wisconsin county race. In another case, a Republican election worker in Ohio was charged with switching the votes of nursing-home residents in the 2000 presidential race. And last year in Michigan, three city council members pleaded guilty in a vote-tampering case that included forged signatures and ballots altered by white-out.

The increasing popularity of absentee voting is reshaping how and when the country votes. Since the last presidential election, a growing number of election officials and party operatives have been promoting absentee balloting as a way to make it easier for people to vote and alleviate the crush of Election Day. At least 26 states now let residents cast absentee ballots without needing the traditional excuse of not being able to make it to polling places. That is six more states than allowed the practice in 2000. -- Fraud: Absentee Votes Worry Officials as Nov. 2 Nears

September 9, 2004

North Carolina board fines Republican Governors Association

AP reports: The State Board of Elections on Thursday fined the Republican Governors Association nearly $200,000 for an illegal television ad it ran on behalf of gubernatorial candidate Patrick Ballantine.

By a 3-2 vote -- the board's three Democrats voting in the majority -- the elections panel assessed a penalty of $196,260 for the ad, which began running Aug. 20. The association also must pay $1,000 to the board for investigation expenses, the panel ruled.

The board unanimously determined last week that the advertisement advocated for Ballantine, a former state senator from Wilmington running against Democratic incumbent Mike Easley. As such, the board decided, the RGA broke state election law because it used corporate contributions to pay for the ad.

Scott Falmlen, executive director of the North Carolina Democratic Party, filed the complaint with the board. He said the penalty, based on how much the RGA said it cost to produce and air the ad, apparently is the largest fine of its kind in state history. -- N.C. election board fines GOP group nearly $200K for illegal ad (AP via WCNC.com)

FBI drops investigation of Maryland Senate president

The Washington Post reports: The FBI has dropped its inquiry into Maryland Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr.'s campaign fundraising, informing the lawmaker yesterday that agents found no evidence that he violated federal laws in arranging more than $200,000 in donations from racetrack owner Joseph A. De Francis.

The federal probe focused on $225,000 in contributions that De Francis, president of the Maryland Jockey Club, gave to the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee in three installments in 2002 and early 2003. Miller (D-Calvert), the campaign committee's chairman, personally solicited money from De Francis during visits to the Laurel Park racetrack. ...

None of the investigations has illuminated Miller's role in persuading De Francis to donate to the legislative campaign committee or answered questions about how the money was distributed.

The legislative campaign committee is an arm of the national Democratic Party with a mission to influence state legislative races nationally. But it spent more money during the 2002 election in Maryland than in any other state. -- FBI Drops Its Probe Of Miller's Fundraising (washingtonpost.com)

FEC rules that Citizens United cannot advertise anti-Kerry film and book

The New York Times reports: The Federal Election Commission on Thursday denied a request by an independent advocacy group to use unregulated contributions to pay for television and radio commercials promoting a documentary and a book critical of Senator John Kerry.

The group, Citizens United, had hoped to get around restrictions in new campaign finance laws that prevent organizations from running commercials that mention a candidate within 60 days of the general election if the commercials are financed with unlimited soft money contributions from corporations or labor unions.

The group argued that it was part of the news media and could therefore take advantage of an exemption that allows news, commentary and editorial content to run freely around elections. But the commission voted 4 to 0 to approve an advisory saying that the group did not qualify.

"You don't want a situation where people are airing campaign commercials and they are exempt from commission rules because they are considered a media event," said Ellen L. Weintraub, the commission's vice chairwoman, a Democrat. "The danger is that the exemption swallows the rules." -- Campaign Finance: Election Board Restricts Ads for Anti-Kerry Film (New York Times)

Michigan Dems file FEC complaint over GOP help to Nader

AP reports: The Michigan Democratic Party has filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission over the petition drive that put Ralph Nader on the Nov. 2 ballot as an independent candidate for president.

About 45,000 of the 50,000 signatures collected for Nader were collected by people with ties to the Michigan Republican Party, Democrats have said.

The value of that work exceeded $5,000, Democrats say, which they say would be a violation of election law regulating campaign contributions. Nader and the Republican Party should be fined, and Nader should not be eligible for presidential campaign matching funds because he failed to report the contributions, Michigan Democratic Party Executive Chairman Mark Brewer said.

"None of this gets him off the ballot. That piece is done," Brewer said Thursday. "But there could be fines that would affect both Republicans and the Nader campaign." -- Michigan Democrats continue protest over Nader candidacy (AP via freep.com)

Nader cannot get stay of Pennsylvania order

AP reports: A state Commonwealth Court panel on Thursday refused to stay its order blocking Ralph Nader from the state's presidential ballot.

Nader's Pennsylvania lawyer requested the stay pending his appeal to the state Supreme Court, but the three-judge panel said in a sharply worded decision that he had failed to make his case.

Last week, the panel upheld a challenge to Nader's candidacy, saying he forfeited his right to run as an independent in Pennsylvania when he accepted the nomination of the national Reform Party in May. The Supreme Court has directed lawyers for both sides to file their briefs on the appeal by Friday. ...

The panel said Nader's lawyer, Samuel Stretton, failed to show there is a strong likelihood that Nader would ultimately prevail and failed to establish that Nader would suffer irreparable harm if the stay were not granted. -- Court refuses to stay order keeping Nader off ballot (AP via Philly.com)

Nader on the Oregon ballot

AP reports: Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader's name should appear on Oregon's ballot this fall, a Marion County Circuit Court judge ruled Thursday, overturning a decision by the state's Democratic secretary of state.

Nader supporters had turned in more than 18,000 signatures, but Secretary of State Bill Bradbury last week invalidated several thousand because of irregularities on petition sheets. That left Nader 218 signatures short of the 15,306 needed to put him on the Nov. 2 ballot, prompting a lawsuit by his supporters.

Nader backers had accused Bradbury of using technicalities to keep Nader off the ballot, because Bradbury is an open supporter of Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry. Democrats fear Nader's candidacy could draw votes from Kerry and tip the election to President Bush.

State Elections Director John Lindback denied that state officials had applied different rules to Nader than they had to other candidates. -- Judge puts Nader on ballot (AP via kgw.com)

Nader probably off the Florida ballot

AP reports: Ralph Nader is well on his way to being kicked off the Florida ballot after a judge ruled that Democrats have a good chance of winning their case against the 2000 presidential election spoiler.

Circuit Judge Kevin Davey issued a temporary order late Wednesday night preventing Secretary of State Glenda Hood from certifying Nader's place on the ballot. He strongly indicated Thursday that that order would become permanent, saying he wouldn't have issued the temporary order if he thought Nader and running mate Peter Camejo properly qualified for the ballot.

"I'm quite confident in the ruling. There's at least 15 reasons as to why they won't qualify, at least 15 that I counted up," Davey said. "If it was one or two, I'd be worried about it, but there's a whole lot of reasons Mr. Nader and Mr. Camejo aren't going to appear on the ballot in Florida."

Hood's office sent a certified ballot to elections supervisors Thursday without Nader's name, but including a memo stating that the list of presidential candidates may change. Her office is pressuring Davey to act quickly on the lawsuit because absentee ballots to military and other citizens overseas must be mailed by Sept. 18. That means printing must begin almost immediately, said Department of State lawyer Richard Perez. -- Judge delays certification of Nader on Florida ballot (AP via Bradenton.com)

September 8, 2004

"Faithless elector" problem looms in West Virginia

The Charleston Daily Mail reports: South Charleston Mayor Richie Robb said today he may vote against George W. Bush in the Electoral College, even if the president carries West Virginia's popular vote.

Robb, long known as a maverick Republican, said he is considering using his position as one of the state's five Republican electors to protest what he believes are misguided policies of the current administration.

"It's not likely that I would vote for Kerry," Robb said. "But I'm looking at what my options are when it comes time to cast my vote." ...

There is no provision in the West Virginia code that controls what an elector does at the Electoral College or provides any punishment for faithless electors. -- Robb's vote may not go to Bush (Charleston Daily Mail)

Millionaire's amendment in Ohio

AP reports: A shopping center heiress contributed $800,000 to her congressional campaign this weekend, triggering an election rule that allows her opponent, U.S. Rep. Steven C. LaTourette to receive $6,000 per donor - three times the allowable amount.

Democrat Capri Cafaro has contributed a total of $1.33 million to her campaign, including $210,560 toward her primary victory in the 14th congressional district.

"It's a very significant investment, but the campaign needs a certain amount of money to compete in this race," Cafaro said. "It's amazing how much money it takes to communicate your message to voters."

Federal Election Commission rules permit congressional candidates to give up to $350,000 of their own money to their general election campaign. Once a candidate goes over that amount, the "Millionaire's Amendment" kicks in, said Kelly Huff, an FEC spokeswoman. -- Shopping center heiress' campaign contributions top $1 million (AP via Ohio.com)

California AG sues Diebold

The Los Angeles Times reports: California Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer on Tuesday said he will join a lawsuit against voting machine manufacturer Diebold Election Systems for allegedly lying to state regulators about the security of some of its equipment.

The lawsuit was filed in November by two voting-rights activists who contend that Texas-based Diebold sold vote-counting equipment to Alameda County that was susceptible to tampering.

The lawsuit seeks damages under the state false claims act, which allows "whistle-blowers" to sue companies for defrauding the state and to share a portion of any damages that the state collects. Lockyer's staff investigated and decided there was enough evidence of misconduct to take on the lawsuit, a spokesman said.

"These cases boil down to allegations of lying to receive taxpayer money," said Lockyer spokesman Tom Dresslar. "The allegations are that they didn't tell the truth to the state or the county in providing electronic voting systems. They misrepresented material facts related to those systems." -- State Joins Suit Over Voting Machines (LATimes.com)

Unconfirmed sources claim NAACP plot to suppress white vote

Unconfirmed Sources reports (with tongue firmly in cheek): Unconfirmed sources report that Republican lawmakers are planning a lawsuit against the NAACP. In a news conference today in Washington D.C. Michigan State Rep. John Pappageorge and Jeb Bush, the governor of Florida, detailed their complaints against the civil rights group. The two lawmakers allege that the NAACP has engaged in a systematic campaign to suppress the white vote. ...

The report describes several plots used by the NAACP and its operative to suppress the white vote. The following are two of the most egregious examples:

The Valet Ballot Service Scam: Workers pretending to represent a new Valet Voting Service cruised wealthy subdivisions in Troy Michigan in the days preceding the 2000 election. For a small fee the valet service would take your ballet to your designated polling station and return with a receipt after the election. After the election voters were shocked to find out the ballets were phony and their votes has never been cast.

The Golf with Tiger Flim-Flam: Voters in wealthy white neighborhoods of Fort Worth Texas were told they had won free tickets to an upcoming pro am golf tournament and would be paired with Tiger Woods. The phony Election Day golf tournament was to be held in Austin, which is several hours from Fort Worth. By the time the Tiger fans found out the tournament was phony polling places back in Fort Worth were closing and their opportunity to vote was lost. -- Democratic Dirty Tricks: NAACP Tries to Suppress White Vote! (Unconfirmedsources.com)

Nader files petitions in New Mexico

The Albuquerque Journal reports: Ralph Nader's campaign on Tuesday turned in signatures of an estimated 31,000 New Mexico voters to try to get on the state's general election ballot as an independent candidate for president.

The Nader campaign is required to submit 14,527 valid signatures of registered voters to qualify for the Nov. 2 general election ballot.

"There's no way we're not going to make it," said Carol Miller, who served as New Mexico's petition coordinator for the Nader campaign. -- Nader Petitions Go to State (ABQjournal.com)

Nader files petitions in Wisconsin

AP reports: Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader filed some 4,000 signatures with Wisconsin election officials Tuesday, twice the number needed to qualify for the state ballot.

Still, Nader's Wisconsin field director Bill Linville said the campaign expects someone to challenge the nomination papers before Friday's deadline, a move Democrats have used in other states to keep the consumer activist off the ballot. ...

[Democratic] Party spokesman Seth Boffeli said it was unlikely the party would challenge the nomination papers because of the difficulty in proving more than 2,000 signatures Nader turned in were invalid.

Linville said the campaign had already scrutinized each signature to ensure it would stand up to review in anticipation of a challenge. -- Nader files signatures to qualify for Wisconsin ballot (AP via GMtoday.com)

Maine Secretary of State leaves Nader on the ballot

AP reports: Maine´s secretary of state ruled Wednesday that Ralph Nader´s name should stay on ballots in Maine as an independent candidate for president in November.

In affirming a recommendation by a staff hearing officer, Secretary of State Dan Gwadosky rejected challenges to ballot listings for Nader and running mate Peter Camejo that had been brought by two Democratic activists, including Maine Democratic Party Chairwoman Dorothy Melanson.

The challengers maintained that the Nader campaign had failed to comply with some of Maine´s ballot access requirements. -- Maine secretary of state affirms Nader´s place on ballot (AP via MaineToday.com)

West Virginia AG argues against Nader's candidacy

AP reports: The Attorney General's office has asked the state Supreme Court to block a lower court ruling that allows independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader's name to appear on West Virginia's November ballot.

The justices were expected to consider the request this week, court spokeswoman Michelle Mensore said Wednesday.

Last week, Kanawha County Circuit Judge Tod Kaufman rejected the state's argument that Nader's ballot petitions should be invalidated because workers hired to obtain signatures from registered voters violated state law or misled people into signing the petitions. ...

"It is clear that a significant likelihood of harm will result to the State and the public's interest in the fair and honest conduct of elections if the plaintiff is directed to place defendant's name on the ballot where defendant utterly failed to comply with statutory requirements of nominating petitions,'' said the petition filed last Friday. -- West Virginia news in brief (AP via The Charleston Gazette)

Nader's court case in Oregon

AP reports: A judge weighing whether Ralph Nader should be on the presidential ballot in Oregon said the state seems inconsistent in applying rules for independent candidates.

Marion Circuit Judge Paul Lipscomb made the comment Wednesday during a hearing on a lawsuit by supporters of Nader. They seek to overturn Secretary of State Bill Bradbury's decision to disqualify Nader from the ballot because of petitioning errors.

Lipscomb said he would issue a ruling Thursday.

Nader supporters turned in more than 18,000 signatures, but Bradbury last week invalidated several thousand because of irregularities on petition sheets. That left Nader 218 signatures short of the 15,306 needed to put him on the Nov. 2 ballot. -- Judge weighs Nader's ballot bid (AP via kgw.com)

"You can't erase this memory"

The New York Times reports in an article on several campaign workers who are moving between 527s and official campaigns: Indeed, campaign finance lawyers in both parties say the regulations were primarily written to address the flow of personnel and strategic information from campaigns to 527 committees and other outside groups, not the other way around.

Advocates say that the rules, as written, do not go far enough to constrain coordination.

"There's a hole in the rules,'' Mr. Wertheimer said. "They only go one way."

Yet officials on both sides say that as long as people are free to move between the committees and the campaigns, there is no way to prohibit them from sharing knowledge they may have gained in old jobs.

"You can't own people's brains," said Wes Boyd, a founder of MoveOn.org. "They have to be able to make a living."

Jan Witold Baran, a Republican election lawyer, said: "You can't prohibit what people have in their heads and their minds. You can't erase this memory." -- The Advisers: Advocacy Groups And Campaigns: An Uneasy Shuttle (New York Times)

September 7, 2004

Minnesota secretary of state seeks removal of fugitive from ballot

AP reports: Minnesota's secretary of state asked the Minnesota Supreme Court on Tuesday to keep an alleged fugitive off the ballot in a congressional primary.

Attorney General Mike Hatch, on behalf of Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer, argued that Jack Shepard is a convicted felon and therefore ineligible to appear on the ballot as a GOP candidate for the 4th District seat held by Democratic U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum.

The secretary of state certified Shepard to appear on the ballot before she learned that Shepard was a fugitive felon, Hatch wrote. Shepard was convicted of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct in 1979 and became a fugitive after failing to comply with the terms of his parole, the attorney general said. ...

The Dakota, Ramsey and Washington county attorneys filed a memo Tuesday elaborating on a petition they filed last week opposing Kiffmeyer's attempt to take Shepard off the ballot. They argued that Kiffmeyer doesn't have the authority to decertify Shepard. They said that would require a court order.

And they argued that the controlling law is the U.S. Constitution, which says the only qualifications required to run for Congress are that an individual must be at least 25 years old, a U.S. citizen for seven years, and be a resident of the state on election day. They said the U.S. Supreme Court has determined that neither Congress nor the states have the power to impose additional qualifications. -- Kiffmeyer asks Supreme Court to keep alleged fugitive off ballot (AP via TwinCities.com)

California GOP hid $1 million donation

The San Francisco Chronicle reports: During a retreat at a luxurious desert resort weeks before the 2002 election, an insurance company lobbyist approached state Republican leaders with a stunning offer: $1 million to defeat Democrats in the last days of the race.

What followed was a complex political donation strategy in which the company, 21st Century Insurance Group, and the Republican Party distributed large donations to candidates in a way that avoided new contribution limits. The plan helped Republicans gain two Assembly seats held by Democrats for at least a dozen years.

After an investigation that spanned more than a year, the Fair Political Practices Commission recently closed the case with minor sanctions against low- level county Republican committees, which received and spent the money, for technical violations of the law.

Elections officials concluded that although the California Republican Party coordinated the plan, there was not enough evidence for a case alleging the party controlled the plan in a way that would have been illegal. Likewise, the commission concluded 21st Century did not violate campaign laws.

But the maneuverings demonstrate that top Republican Party officers, in concert with a wealthy corporate donor, put a remarkable amount of effort into preparing the contributions in a way designed to avoid detection and evade spending regulations. The ultimate disposition of the case by the commission also highlights what critics say is a myopic focus on minor infractions. -- Juggling act helped GOP put 2 in office / Complex strategy to fund candidates avoided new limits (San Francisco Chronicle)

Wisconsin Right to Life asks Chief Justice for stay

AP reports: A Wisconsin anti-abortion group asked the Supreme Court on Tuesday to let it run ads this fall despite a campaign finance law's restrictions on election-time political commercials.

A three-judge panel ruled last month that the law barred Wisconsin Right to Life from running ads that mention Sen. Russell Feingold, a Wisconsin Democrat who is up for re-election. Feingold is also a co-author of the campaign law.

Under the 2002 law, interest group ads like the 30-second television commercial by the Wisconsin group are banned 30 days before the primary and 60 days before the general election. The Supreme Court upheld the law last year. -- Anti-Abortion Group Wants Its Ads to Run (AP via Tallahassee.com)

FEC probing Tauzin to GOP transfer

The Hill reports: The Federal Election Commission (FEC) is investigating a possible violation of money-transfer laws between the campaigns of Rep. Billy Tauzin Jr. (R-La.) and his son, Billy Tauzin III.

The investigation was sparked by a complaint from an assistant district attorney in New Iberia, La., whose father is a friend of one of the younger Tauzin's opponents for the 3rd Congressional District seat, state Sen. Craig Romero. The senior Tauzin is vacating the seat.

The complaint cites an interview between the senior Tauzin's part-time communications director, Ken Johnson, and a Louisiana political reporter. Roger Hamilton, who filed the complaint, alleged that Johnson's remarks -- "there may be some winking and nodding but no deals" -- were made in reference to the recent endorsement by the Louisiana State Republican Party of Tauzin III.

Hamilton charges the party with endorsing Tauzin's son so that it could access his father's campaign coffers -- worth about $900,000, according to the Center for Responsive Politics -- a charge leveled by Romero immediately after the endorsement announcement. -- FEC probes Tauzin money-transfer claim (The Hill.com)

E-mail those votes?

NPR audio report: NPR's Eric Niiler reports on a new effort to let U.S. soldiers serving overseas to vote by e-mail in upcoming elections. While some tout this as a better way to get ballots in a timely fashion, others fear that relying on e-mail will comprise the security of the vote. -- E-Mail Votes by Soldiers Sparks Security Concerns (NPR)

The Kansas City Star reports: Missouri's recently announced plan to allow combat-zone soldiers to vote by e-mail has triggered concerns among voting experts over the secrecy and security of those ballots.

They said the system, which would use both e-mail and fax machines to get ballots from military service people in such places as Iraq and Afghanistan back to local election offices in Missouri, could be subject to hacking, viruses and other chicanery because they would not be encrypted.

“These machines are highly vulnerable,” said Barbara Simons, a member of the nonpartisan National Committee for Voting Integrity and a former president of the Association for Computing Machinery. “We could have a virus that changes ballots and then erases itself. It's certainly feasible technically.”

In addition, voting-rights advocates and other political experts said because the system required that ballots be identified by the voters' names for validation purposes, and because they were handled by others several steps along the way, that people serving in the military would lose the right to a secret ballot. -- Right to vote vs. right to secrecy (Kansas City Star via MaconTelegraph.com)

Nader on the Mississippi ballot

AP reports: Reform Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader and Peter Camejo will appear on Mississippi's November 2 ballot.

The state Board of Election Commissioners on Tuesday rejected a challenge to Nader and his running mate, Peter Camejo, brought by the Mississippi Democratic Party.

Sam Begley, an attorney representing the Democratic Party, had challenged the legitimacy of the Reform Party. He said the party was no longer in existence and that it had not held a national political party convention to nominate the candidates. -- Nader Will Appear on State Ballot (AP via wdam.com)

Nader, Constitution and Libertarian parties file in Kentucky

AP reports: Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader's campaign filed paperwork with state election officials Tuesday to get him on Kentucky's general election ballot.

With about 10 minutes to spare, a group of Nader's campaign workers submitted a petition containing about 10,300 signatures to the Secretary of State's office.

If they're all verified, that's more than double the signatures required under state law.

State election officials must first review them before Nader can officially get on the ballot. They have 24 hours to verify the signatures, according to a Secretary of State news release. ...

Earlier in the day presidential candidates for the Libertarian and Constitution parties were added to Kentucky's general election ballot. -- Nader registers to for Kentucky ballot, Libertarian and Constitution parties (AP via WKYT.com)

Constitution and Libertarian Parties are on the Virginia presidential ballot, but not Nader

AP reports: Independent Ralph Nader will not appear on Virginia's presidential ballot, the State Board of Elections said Tuesday.

Nader fell short of the required 10,000 certified signatures on his qualifying petitions, said Jean Jensen, secretary of the board. "He needed 10,000 and we were able to verify 7,342," Jensen said.

Nader had submitted about 12,900 signatures, and officials checked them against local voter lists.

"We'll review those ourselves the ones they've knocked off and see if they are accurate," said Nader spokesman Kevin Zeese. "But if they're not registered voters, they're not registered voters." ...

The Constitution Party and Libertarian Party candidates did qualify in Virginia, and will join Bush and Kerry on November's ballot, Jensen said. -- Nader Won't Be on Virginia Ballot (AP via ABCNEWS.com)

Nader and Libertarians submit petitions in Alabama

AP reports: Supporters of Ralph Nader and Libertarian Michael Badnarik met Tuesday's deadline to submit voters' signatures that they expect will get the candidates added to Alabama's presidential ballot.

Supporters of the Constitution Party's Michael Peroutka turned in their signatures last month, and Peroutka has already been approved for Alabama's presidential ballot, said Trey Granger, spokesman for the Alabama secretary of state's office.

The Nader and Badnarik campaigns will have to wait a few days for the secretary of state's office to verify whether they submitted sufficient signatures to get on the Nov. 2 ballot.

Jess Brown, a political scientist at Athens State University, said adding candidates to the ballot would be significant in a state where George W. Bush and John Kerry are running close, but it doesn't mean much in Alabama.
-- Alabamians will have more choices than Bush and Kerry (AP via AL.com)