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

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October 31, 2004

Voter suppression efforts by the West Virginia GOP

DailyKos writes: Here's a sampling of what we face nationwide.

In West Virginia -- it was bad enough the first time.

In a letter, Berkeley County clerk John Smalls cites calls from a cell phone were made to Eastern Panhandle democrats telling them that they were not registered to vote. The letter also said the calls informed democrats in some cases they wouldn`t be able to vote on Election Day [...]

It`s considered an improper act because when upset citizens called the voter registration office to make sure they were registered to vote, indeed they were. So, who made these misleading calls? The Berkeley County Clerk`s Office traced the number voters gave as the source back to the Eastern Panhandle Republican Headquarters.

Bad enough the first time, as I said. Problem is, despite their "slap on the wrist" (or because of it), local Republicans are still up to the same dirty tricks. From an email statement today:

Democratic leaders in one of the nation's most hotly-contested battleground states are receiving reports of voter suppression activities that can be traced back to the Republican Party. The suppression activities have continued despite warnings from officials in Berkeley and Jefferson Counties.

Hopefully these WV Republicans face the same fate as those in Ohio who tried to challenge 35,000 new voters for no reason other than disenfranchisement. After hundreds of hearings found zero illegal registrations, the entire lot of challenges was thrown out and the Republican masterminds now face criminal charges. -- Voter fraud and disenfranchisement (Daily Kos)

The story contains much more, plus lots of embedded links.

The GOP's Wisconsin offensive

NewDonkey.com writes: It's no secret that many people in both campaigns think that Wisconsin could turn out to be the ballgame, and that's probably why the GOP is becoming most brazen in the Cheese State in voter supression strategies.

Having been slam-dunked by Milwaukee officials who ruled against their effort to challenge thousands of mainly-minority voters in that city, Republicans have ramped up their claims to argue that 37,000 Milwaukee voters are registered with erroneous or non-existent addresses.

Their case, like the one they lost last week, is based on the very questionable tactic--the one that led to a judicial consent agreement ruling this out back in the 1980s--of sending mail to targeted minority voters and representing undeliverable mail as indicating voter fraud. -- Another Vote Suppression Update (NewDonkey.com)

The story contains embedded links.

More Sardonic Views about Ohio

Sardonic Views writes: Ohio Election -- Sunday, Day of Rest. Well sort of. With no decisions expected today -- and according to some reports one or two might not be decided until Tuesday morning -- there isn't much news on this front. There was one decision that came in under the radar because it wasn't filed in federal courts. Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge John O'Donnell found the Ohio Secretary of State, Ken Blackwell, directive (down near the bottom of that post) allowing as many challengers as there are precincts in a polling location to violate Ohio's law on vote challengers. Blackwell won't challenge the ruling, because he now wants to keep all challengers out of the polling locations. It is unclear whether the Ohio AG Jim Petro will appeal this for reasons of the principle of defending Ohio law. This was not a surprising move, since the Ohio law seemed rather clear that challengers were only limited to one per polling location -- it said nothing about precincts. Where I live, Eastlake, I think there are 6 precincts at the polling location in North High School. ...

The Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department sent Judge Dlott (the litigation in Cinci) a letter (PDF) expressing the view that the Ohio law is not unconstitutional. The plaintiffs and Democrats dismiss it as Bush/Ashcroft playing politics. Articles on the matter do point out something I figured, but hadn't read to confirm yet, about even successfully challenged voters:

The Justice Department said all voters will be eligible to receive a provisional ballot "even if they are unable to answer specific questions posed by election judges."

Provisional ballots, unlike regular ballots, are set aside and tallied later. However, the votes are counted only if the voter is determined to have met Ohio's requirements for residency in the precinct, for age and U.S. citizenship.

This is not a perfect solution, and there are still legitimate questions about how well the use of provisional ballots will be, but it does serve as something of a safety net. -- Ohio Election -- Sunday, Day of Rest (Sardonic Views)

The story contains much more, plus embedded links.

Voter fraud charges

I am listening to This American Life on my local public radio station and this week's program's main story is about an undecided voter. The second story is reported by Jack Hitt about the charges of vote fraud by the two major parties about the other. The best the Republicans can come up with is two stories about a guy who registered 35 times and another who was paid in crack cocaine. On the other hand, the Democrats have the stories of the company which ran "non-partisan" voter drives but either would not register Democrats or would throw away their registration papers.

Listen to it at This American Life's website. The voter fraud story starts about 20 minutes into the program.

"It's just lie, cheat and steal, and ethics be damned"

The Washington Post reports: As if things weren't complicated enough, here comes the dirt.

Registered voters who have been somehow unregistered. Democrats who suddenly find they've been re-registered as Republicans. A flier announcing that Election Day has been extended through Wednesday.

Dirty tricks are a staple of campaigns, but election officials say this year's could achieve new highs in numbers and new lows in scope, especially in key battleground states such as Florida and Ohio, where special-interest groups have poured in to influence the neck-and-neck race between President Bush and Sen. John F. Kerry.

"In my 16 years as an election administrator, I've never seen anything like this," said Ion Sancho, supervisor of elections in Leon County, Fla. "I see it as an expression of a political culture that has evolved in the United States of win at any cost. It's not partisan, but it's just lie, cheat and steal, and ethics be damned." -- Now They're Registered, Now They're Not (washingtonpost.com)

Pennsylvania AG candidate refuses to disclose "original sources" of campaign contributions

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports: Republican attorney general candidate Tom Corbett yesterday could not identify the individuals and PACs who made up a $480,000 campaign contribution.

But Corbett insisted that the contribution from the Republican State Leadership Committee was legal and suggested that his opponent examine IRS documents, which would list all the contributors.

Corbett was responding to a Philadelphia judge who on Friday gave him 12 hours from the 4:30 p.m. ruling to disclose the "original sources" of the hefty contribution, which came from a fund-raising group that supports Republican attorneys general in their campaigns across the country.

Yesterday, Corbett's response failed to pacify his opponent, Democrat Jim Eisenhower, who looked at ways to stop Corbett from spending the money.

Eisenhower had demanded that Corbett show that the contribution did not include corporate money, which is illegal in Pennsylvania. Gifts from individuals, partnerships such as law firms, and political action committees are legal. -- Big contribution legal, Corbett says (Philadelphia Inquirer)

Manatee County elections supervisor will not honor most challenges based on felon list

The Bradenton Herald reports: The general election Tuesday is shaping up in Manatee County and across Florida unlike any other in the aftermath of the 2000 disputed presidential election, when the outcome was challenged in election offices and courts for 36 days before Florida decided the presidency.

"We're going to have some problems at the polls," Manatee County Supervisor of Elections Bob Sweat said Friday. "I'm not naive enough to think we're not." ...

Donna Hayes, chairwoman of the Manatee County Republican Executive Committee, said individual voters may become upset if their eligibility to vote is challenged Tuesday, but that is part of the process of having a fair election. ...

Hayes said Republican poll watchers in Manatee County will join others across Florida in challenging the eligibility of convicted felons based on a list prepared by the Republican Party of Florida, which was based on a list of more than 48,000 felons initially prepared by the Florida Division of Elections. The state elections agency scrapped its list after The Miami Herald discovered more than 2,000 mistakes.

Sweat said any challenge of any voter being a convicted felon will require more proof than the state's former list or a similar list of names - unless the voter admits he or she is a felon who has not had civil rights restored.

"If they challenge somebody and that is all they've got, they don't have a prayer," Sweat said. "I'm not going to honor that list. Unless the voter admits it, that is the only way that list will be valid at all." -- Manatee polls prepare for election dilemmas (Bradenton Herald)

FCC tells Pappas it can't offer free ads to Republicans only

AP reports: A San Joaquin Valley broadcaster cannot aid Republican candidates with free air time unless the same offer is extended to other candidates, the Federal Communications Commission ruled Friday.

Pappas Telecasting Cos., which had donated $325,000 in air time on its radio and TV stations to 13 GOP county committees last week, had insisted for days that the gifts were legal and did not trigger federal equal time rules.

It was not clear whether the company would appeal the staff ruling to the full commission. Phone calls to the Visalia-based company, which operates 28 stations in 11 states, were not immediately returned.

Communications lawyers said they were not surprised by the ruling. -- FCC orders San Joaquin Valley broadcaster to stop free GOP ads (AP via SignOnSanDiego.com)

October 30, 2004

IRS investigates 60 exempt groups for political activity

AP reports: About 60 charities, churches and other tax-exempt groups are being investigated for possibly breaking federal rules that bar them from participating in political activities, the Internal Revenue Service said yesterday. Such violations would threaten their tax-exempt status, the IRS said.

The investigations involve guidelines for 501(c)(3) groups, which are granted tax-exempt status so long as they do not participate in political activities such as endorsing candidates or making campaign donations.

Under the law, the IRS cannot reveal names from or details of its investigations. It did disclose that about 20 of the groups being investigated are churches.

Heightened concerns about improper political activities in this election season warranted the creation of a committee of career civil servants to look into potential political violations by tax-exempt groups, according to the agency. Of more than 100 reports received during the past couple of months, that committee found 60 cases that merited further scrutiny, the IRS said. -- 60 Tax-Exempt Groups Under Investigation (AP via washingtonpost.com)

A debate on Colorado Amendment 36

Richard A. Epstein and Sanford Levinson debate on the Legal Affairs Debate Club: Next Tuesday, Coloradans may well decide the presidential election between Bush and Kerry. If the state's citizens pass Amendment 36, Colorado's nine electoral votes will be divided proportionally among the candidates. Because polls indicate a very close race, the candidate who wins might do so by grabbing five of those votes while the other top candidate scores four.

Colorado wouldn't be the first state to split its votes--Maine and Nebraska already do. But Amendment 36 is freighted with constitutional ambiguities, like whether voters, and not the state's legislature, can change the way its electors are appointed and whether the outcome of the presidential election can rest on an amendment voted on that same day.

Should Colorado be allowed to split its electoral votes?

Richard A. Epstein is the James Parker Hall Distinguished Service Professor of Law at the University of Chicago and the Peter and Kirsten Bedford Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution. Sanford Levinson is the W. St. John Garwood and W. St. John Garwood, Jr. Centennial Chair in Law and Professor of Government at the University of Texas and the editor of Torture: A Collection. -- Should Colorado split its electoral votes? (Legal Affairs Debate Club)

In Ohio Blackwell calls for ban on all challengers, AG disagrees

Sardonic Views continues its in-depth coverage of the Ohio election litigation. Recent posts commented on the announcement by Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell that he was asking the Attorney General to ask the federal court to ban all challengers inside the polls and the AG's refusal to do so. Good stuff.

And read the earlier posts.

"I approve this message"

The New York Times reports: They were four words that were expected to forever change the tone of television politics: "I approve this message."

They were part of a provision of the new campaign finance law that requires candidates to appear in their own commercials to endorse them, in part to discourage outrageous attack advertisements.

And it seemed to work for a time, during the primary season. But advertisements in the presidential and Congressional races are just as harsh, perhaps harsher, than they have ever been, political analysts say. And pollsters are mixed about whether the candidates are paying a price among voters for having their faces in their attack advertisements.

The thing Republicans and Democrats can agree upon this campaign season is that the support provision has not affected the tone and tenor of the advertising war, despite the hopes of so many of its proponents.

Some argue that the partisan lines are drawn so deep this year, the policy differences so serious, that no outside factor could restrain the inevitable hyperbole. Others say the provision did not have a shot anyway. -- Advertising: An Idea, With 4 Words, That Was Supposed to Soothe the Tone of Ads but Did Not (New York Times)

Florida GOP to use the state's abondoned database to challenge voters

The St. Petersburg Times reports: The Florida Republican Party said Thursday that more than 900 felons already have voted illegally or requested absentee ballots, triggering another controversy over the party's aggressive efforts to identify Floridians who might be unqualified to vote.

Using two controversial and flawed state databases, Republicans also said they identified an additional 13,568 felons expected to vote by Election Day, based on their participation in the 2000 or 2002 elections or their recent registration as a new voter. ...

Reporters for the St. Petersburg Times quickly found two Tampa Bay area individuals on the GOP list who say they have had their voting rights restored.

Records show Neal D. Bolinger, 57, of St. Petersburg had his rights restored in 1974, two years after his conviction for grand larceny, and has been voting ever since.

He used an absentee ballot last week to vote straight Republican. -- GOP: Florida felons already voting (St. Petersburg Times)

Thanks to Abstract Appeal for the link.

"Lost in the Political Thicket"

Heather Gerkin writes in Legal Affairs: THE SUPREME COURT'S MOST RECENT VOTING RIGHTS DECISION, Vieth v. Jubelirer, suggests that the court has reached an intellectual dead end in election law. The justices' inability to resolve the case cleanly is unwelcome news in light of the presidential election. With the last election marred by Bush v. Gore, one of the most controversial decisions in the court's history, the country is already aware of how risky it is for the court to intervene in the electoral process without the guidance of a workable analytic framework.

Both Bush v. Gore and Vieth are part of a story that began four decades ago. The court has long tried to use a conventional individual rights framework to resolve election-related claims that are really about the structure of the political process. An individual rights framework is suitable for addressing a concrete and personal harm, such as the disenfranchisement of a voter blocked from the polls by an illegal tax or a literacy test. But the framework does not provide adequate tools for resolving other types of election law cases, including the claim in Vieth challenging the fairness of a redistricting plan. As a result, the court now finds itself mired in a doctrinal holding pattern.

If the justices don't radically change course, we face two unappealing prospects. Either the court will withdraw from the field, leaving the fate of our democracy to self-interested legislators, or it will render more incoherent opinions that do as much harm as good. Fortunately, there are better options. Either the court should develop a new way to decide election law cases, or voters and their representatives should create nonpartisan institutions to regulate the electoral process, thus relieving the court of the need to police the politicians who now make the rules. While these solutions may seem abstract this late in the election season, their consequences are tangible. Factors that could determine the outcome of this election (including where and how George Bush and John Kerry spend money, and whether Ralph Nader gets on most state ballots) depend a great deal on how we have regulated—or have failed to regulate—the democratic process in the past. ...

For this reason, we need a new regulatory strategy. Samuel Issacharoff of Columbia Law School has argued that the court ought to give its stamp of approval only to districting plans that have been drawn by nonpartisan districting commissions like Iowa's, whose members' jobs do not depend on the lines they draw. If every state had a nonpartisan commission, the court might decide to intervene only when necessary to ensure that the process, rather than the outcome, was fair. A more radically democratic solution comes from British Columbia, which is redesigning its electoral process from scratch. The architects of the new design? One hundred and sixty randomly selected citizens of the province, who will spend months analyzing the current process and potentially devising an overhaul that would then be put to a referendum vote in 2005. -- Lost in the Political Thicket (Legal Affairs)


What did you do in the election?

A friend who lives in DC just wrote me that he is "in an undisclosed location in PA working on the Kerry campaign in the voting protection unit." On election day, I will working with the Election Protection Coalition in ... Birmingham, Alabama. No long commute for me.

What are you going to be doing on election day? I would like to have "day in the life" stories from those working in the campaign legal groups -- for any campaign or non-partisan group. So take notes, delete the confidential material, and send them in starting Tuesday evening. Email them to ElectionDay@votelaw.com.

I don't promise to run all of them, and I may run them a few at a time.

If you have friends who are not regular readers of Votelaw Blog, please let them know of this request.

October 29, 2004

IRS investigating NAACP

The Washington Post reports: The Internal Revenue Service has threatened to revoke the NAACP's tax-exempt status because the civil rights group's chairman, Julian Bond, "condemned the administration policies of George W. Bush" during a speech this summer, according to documents the group provided yesterday.

The NAACP, which is based in Baltimore and is the nation's oldest and largest civil rights organization, is incorporated under a tax-code section that prohibits participation in a political campaign. The group has long had a strained relationship with the Bush administration.

An IRS document dated Oct. 8 said that at the group's annual convention in Philadelphia in July, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People may have violated the restriction on political activity because it "distributed statements in opposition of George W. Bush for the office of presidency."

"Specifically in a speech made by Chairman Julian Bond, Mr. Bond condemned the administration policies of George W. Bush on education, the economy and the war in Iraq," said an IRS "information document request" sent with the letter.

The IRS asked for the cost of the convention, including a "listing of all expense," and the "names and addresses of each board member and indicate how each voted." -- NAACP Faces IRS Investigation (washingtonpost.com)

The NAACP statement on the investigation is here.

October 28, 2004

Analysis: get ready for the GOP's "shock and awe" strategy

NewDonkey.com writes: The latest political news from Ohio is important and instructive. A federal judge in Columbus blocked Republican efforts to force county election boards to review tens of thousands of new voter registrations. Before the ink was dry on the judge's order, the Ohio GOP's top lawyer said the action meant the GOP would challenge such voters at the polls on November 2. "We wanted to have all these questions resolved this week," said attorney Mark Weaver. "Now they won't be resolved until Tuesday, when all of these people are trying to vote. It can't help but create chaos, longer lines and frustration."

In other words, the GOP is using the demise of one prong of its voter supression strategy to pre-justify the other. And I wouldn't be surprised if that's exactly the way they planned it. Now they can can get their "volunteers" out to "create chaos, longer lines and frustration" in minority polling places and sadly say that an "activist judge" who didn't care about voter fraud left them no choice. It's going to get worse, too: mark my words, when Democrats, civil rights attorneys, and voters themselves get visibly angry about this gambit, the GOPers will start whining about "potential violence" at the polls, and even pretend their goons are being intimidated and harassed. If nothing else, it will give them an excuse to go to court to contest Ohio's outcome if the state goes for Kerry.

Now I have no direct evidence that Karl Rove has planned and is executing this voter suppression strategy, though it's interesting that every Republican hack and pundit in the universe started singing like a cicada about "voter fraud" about a week before the Ohio story got into the national news. But it sure as hell fits Rove's M.O. like a glove. -- The Rove M.O. (NewDonkey.com)

Thanks to Talking Points Memo for the link.

Federal judge allows RGA to continue running ads in North Carolina governor's race

AP reports: A Republican group can keep running an ad critical of Democratic Gov. Mike Easley through Election Day, a federal judge ruled Thursday, saying the group would suffer too much harm if the commercial was kept on the shelf but it later won in court.

U.S. District Court Judge Terrence Boyle agreed to issue an injunction blocking the State Board of Elections from prohibiting the airing of the ad.

The ruling is a victory for the Republican Governors Association, which is trying to spend campaign money in North Carolina to assist Easley's challenger, GOP candidate Patrick Ballantine. ...

In his order Thursday, Boyle wrote that the state law the elections board used to block the ad doesn't appear to "provide the kind of constitutional notice to the public as to what speech is free of government regulation and protected and what speech is within the sphere of regulation." -- Judge: GOP group can run anti-Easley ad through Election Day (AP via Winston-Salem Journal)

Rep. Wolf charges Socas has violated "millionaire's amendment"

AP reports: A congressman alleged Thursday that his opponent violated a new campaign finance law designed to regulate the spending of millionaires seeking political office.

The campaign of Rep. Frank Wolf, a Republican, complained to the Federal Election Commission that Democrat James Socas failed to notify the commission and Wolf's campaign as required when he contributed an additional $150,000 to his own campaign on Monday.

The Wolf campaign said the $150,000 came on top of $349,000 Socas had already given to his campaign, for a total of $499,000 in self-financing.

Under the new law, a House candidate who lends or contributes more than $350,000 to his own campaign must notify his opponent, the opponent's political party headquarters and the FEC within 24 hours of doing so. -- Va. congressman files FEC complaint (AP via bakersfield.com)

FEC leave the funds-for-recount rule in place

AP reports: Presidential and congressional candidates can raise unlimited donations to finance recounts as President Bush and Al Gore did for their high-stakes Florida dispute in 2000.

Four of the Federal Election Commission's six members said Thursday that the FEC's long-standing rule on recount fund raising remains in effect, which means federal candidates can set up separate recount funds and finance them with unlimited donations from individual contributors. Candidates cannot accept corporate, union or foreign money.

The FEC's guidance was issued informally in comments by a majority of the commission's members. The commission stopped short of issuing a formal advisory opinion on the matter after a Senate candidate withdrew his request for one. -- FEC OKs Unlimited Donations for Recounts (AP via philly.com)

GOP and Ohio appeal to get pre-election hearings on voter eligibility

AP reports: The Ohio Republican Party asked a federal appeals court Thursday to allow hearings on thousands of voters whose registrations have been challenged in this pivotal battleground state.

The request asked the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn a lower-court ruling Wednesday that stopped hearings on about 23,000 voters who were challenged by the GOP around the state.

Republicans say mail to some of the voters came back undelivered, raising the possibility of fraud. Democrats say the GOP is trying to keep poor and minorities, who move more often, from voting. ...

Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro also filed an appeal similar to that of the Republicans, saying Wednesday's order "has just thrown Ohio's electoral process into disarray, and has opened the door to voter fraud." -- Court actions piling up on Ohio voter eligibility (AP via USATODAY.com)

GOP is whipping up a controversy over military absentee ballots

AP reports: Military voters stationed overseas are returning absentee ballots in Pennsylvania at about the same rate as all absentee ballots are coming in, according to electronic reporting by 53 county elections offices.

The 53 counties collectively mailed 15,373 ballots to servicemen and women and their families overseas, and so far 9,522 have been returned, a rate of 62 percent, according to state records obtained by The Associated Press on Thursday. ...

The figures were released as Republicans raise concerns that mailing delays could unfairly reduce the number of military overseas ballots counted in Tuesday's presidential election. Ballots for military families and overseas voters in remote parts of the world were mailed out starting Aug. 24, and all other overseas ballots were mailed out starting Sept. 20. Domestic absentee ballots were mailed starting Oct. 19. ...

A GOP-financed federal lawsuit by two servicemen in Iraq and Kuwait filed Wednesday against Rendell and Secretary of State Pedro Cortes seeks a 15-day extension for their ballots' return. One of the plaintiffs lives in Venango County, where records show that 131 of the 134 overseas ballots mailed out have already come back to the elections office.

Fanned by conservative radio hosts, the issue has erupted over the past week, with thousands of callers jamming phone lines at the governor's office and Rendell facing repeated questions about it from the public during his ongoing bus tour in support of Democratic candidate Sen. John F. Kerry. -- Overseas military returning ballots at same rate as others (AP via philly.com)

Nader will be a write-in in Missouri

The Springfield (MO) News-Leader reports: Ralph Nader has qualified as a write-in candidate for president in Missouri.

Nader's name will not appear on the ballot or be posted at polling places, but people who write in Nader for their vote will have it counted, the secretary of state's office said today. If people write in other candidates who have not followed Missouri's process, those votes won't count.

To qualify as a write-in candidate in Missouri, Nader simply had to submit paperwork to the secretary of state's office by the Oct. 22 deadline declaring his intent to be a write-in candidate. -- Nader qualifies as write-in candidate in Missouri (News-Leader.com)

6th Circuit voids some restrictions on judicial candidate speech

The Lexington Herald-Leader reports: Judicial candidates are free to express their views in the final six days before the Nov. 2 election, a federal appeals court decided Thursday.

The decision by the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the 6th District Thursday allowed the suspension of rules involving judicial candidate speech.

The state's judicial canon says that judicial candidates cannot make statements that commit or appear to commit a candidate to a particular stance or issue that may come before the court.

Earlier this month, U.S. District Court Judge Danny Reeves said the state's rules regarding judicial speech violated a candidate's First Amendment right to free speech. As part of the decision, the state's judicial watchdog group and the bar association, which regulates lawyers who are candidates for judge, were barred from enforcing the rules regarding judicial speech. -- Appeals ruling allows judicial candidates to state opinions (Lexington Herald-Leader )

Where the DOJ will on election day

From a DOJ press release: Since the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the Justice Department has regularly sent observers and monitors around the country to protect election-related civil rights. In addition, the Department has routinely deployed its own civil rights personnel to serve as civil rights monitors in jurisdictions not covered by the Voting Rights Act. Today, the Justice Department announced it will again send approximately 840 federal observers and more than 250 Civil Rights Division personnel to 86 jurisdictions in 25 states to monitor the general election on Tuesday, November 2, 2004. This list is not exhaustive, and other jurisdictions may be designated by election day.

Under the Voting Rights Act, which protects the rights of Americans to participate in the electoral process without discrimination, the Department of Justice is authorized to ask the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to send federal observers to areas that are specially covered in the Act itself or by a federal court order under the Act.

Federal observers will monitor polling place activities in 27 jurisdictions:

* Apache, Navajo and Yuma Counties, Arizona;
* San Benito, San Diego, and Ventura Counties, California;
* Cook County (Cicero), Illinois;
* Lake County (East Chicago), Indiana;
* Wayne County (Hamtramck), Michigan;
* Jones, Kemper, Leake, Neshoba, Newton, and Winston Counties, Mississippi;
* Passaic County, New Jersey;
* Bernalillo, Cibola, Sandoval, and Socorro Counties, New Mexico;
* Kings County (Brooklyn), New York County (Manhattan), and Suffolk County, New York;
* Berks County (Reading), Pennsylvania;
* Buffalo County, South Dakota;
* Dallas County, Texas; and,
* Yakima County, Washington.
The observers will watch and record activities during voting hours at select polling locations in the counties. Civil Rights Division personnel will coordinate the federal activities and maintain contact with local election officials.

In addition, Justice Department personnel, all of whom are Civil Rights Division attorneys and staff, will monitor the election in an additional 58 jurisdictions:

* Kodiak Island, Alaska;
* Pulaski County, Arkansas;
* Cochise, Gila, Graham, Maricopa, Pima, and Santa Cruz Counties, Arizona;
* Imperial and Orange Counties, California;
* Broward, Duval, Gadsden, Hillsborough, Miami-Dade, Orange, Osceola, and Palm Beach Counties, Florida;
* Atkinson, Henry and Long Counties, Georgia;
* Polk County, Iowa;
* Jefferson County, Kentucky;
* Wayne County (Detroit) and Oakland County (Pontiac), Michigan;
* Hennepin County, Minnesota;
* City of St. Louis, Missouri;
* Alamance, Scotland and Wake Counties, North Carolina;
* Chaves, Rio Arriba and San Juan Counties, New Mexico;
* Clark and Washoe Counties, Nevada;
* Nassau, Queens, Richmond, and Westchester Counties, New York;
* Cuyahoga, Franklin and Hamilton Counties, Ohio;
* Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania;
* Bennett, Corson, Dewey, Jackson, Mellette, Shannon, Todd, Tripp and Ziebach Counties, South Dakota;
* Harris, Hidalgo, Tarrant and Waller Counties, Texas;
* Chesterfield County, Virginia; and,
* Franklin County, Washington.
The OPM observers and Department personnel will monitor whether certain counties and localities are complying with federal voting laws, for example: determining whether any voters are challenged improperly on the basis of their race, color, or membership in a language minority group; complying with the minority language provisions of the Voting Rights Act; permitting voters who are blind, disabled, or unable to read or write assistance by a person of their choice; and permitting all eligible voters to cast a ballot.

At all times, complaints about discriminatory voting practices may be called in to the Voting Section of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division at 800-253-3931.

Voters in the counties in which federal observers serve in Arizona, California, Illinois, New Mexico, South Dakota, Texas, and Washington may also file complaints about discriminatory voting practices in this election by calling the federal examiner at 866-885-4122. Voters in such counties in Indiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York may call the federal examiner at 888-496-9455.

More information about the Voting Rights Act and other federal voting laws is available on the Department of Justice's website site at www.usdoj.gov/crt/voting.

* * * * *

REMINDER: In the foregoing, the Justice Department's Criminal Division and 93 United States Attorneys will also be working on November 2 to fulfill their responsibility to enforce federal voter fraud laws. The Criminal Division's Public Integrity Section in Washington will have senior prosecutors available to handle complaints from the public and to provide guidance to 93 United States Attorneys' Offices concerning allegations of election fraud and other election abuses. Each United States Attorney's Office will have a District Election Officer on duty while the polls are open in their State to receive complaints from the public, and to coordinate the handling of these matters with the Public Integrity Section. Public Integrity lawyers will be on duty from the time polls first open on the East Coast until they close on the West Coast. The Public Integrity Section can be reached at (202) 514-1412.

The FBI will also have Special Agents available at Headquarters in Washington and in each field office and resident agency to receive allegations of election fraud and other election abuses. The FBI can be contacted either through one of its local field officers or through each United States Attorney's Office's District Election Officer.

Arizona judge dismisses pre-election challenge to Prop. 200

The Arizona Republic reports: The legal challenge to Arizona's immigration initiative was dismissed by a Superior Court Judge this morning because it came too late and too close to Tuesday's election.

Judge Margaret H. Downie threw out the case brought last week by opponents who argued that the Protect Arizona Now measure, if passed, should not become law because of mistakes made with signature petitions used to qualify the initiative on the Nov. 2 ballot. Opponents of Prop. 200, which filed the lawsuit, are expected to decide later Thursday whether to appeal the judge's decision.

In her ruling, Downie said she does not believe Arizona law authorizes the remedy that the group No on 200 campaign sought - stopping county and state election officials from canvassing votes and the governor from proclaiming results.

She did not rule on the merits of the plaintiff's contention: That supporters of the measure accidentally, or maybe even knowingly, circulated petitions with wording that did not clearly reflect what the measure would do. The judge noted that the allegations are "serious and cast doubt on the validity and integrity of the petition circulation process." -- Judge dismisses petition challenge on Prop. 200 (Arizona Republic)

If someone will send me the names of the parties or the number of the case, I can most likely download the opinion from the court's website.

Bush campaign website blocks foreign viewers

The Washington Post reports: The Bush-Cheney reelection campaign has barred people outside the United States from viewing its Web site following an electronic attack that took down the campaign's Internet address for six hours last week, according to computer security experts.

Since midnight on Monday, no one outside the United States except people in Canada could see the site, said Rich Miller, a security analyst for Netcraft, a Web site monitoring firm in Bath, England. Internet users from other countries instead see a white page featuring the message: "Access denied: You don't have permission to access www.georgewbush.com on this server."

The move happened one week after the Bush-Cheney and Republican National Committee sites were unavailable for almost six hours. Security experts said the outage probably was the result of a "distributed denial-of-service attack," in which hackers use tens of thousands of hijacked computers to overwhelm Web sites by flooding them with bursts of digital data. -- Bush Web Site Bars Overseas Visitors (washingtonpost.com)

Federal court blocks pre-election voter challenges

The New York Times reports: A federal judge on Wednesday blocked six boards of elections in Ohio from proceeding with hearings into Republican-initiated efforts to knock tens of thousands of registered voters off the voting rolls.

The temporary restraining order issued by Judge Susan J. Dlott of Federal District Court in Cincinnati made it likely that few, and perhaps none, of the challenge hearings would proceed before Election Day, state officials said. ...

The hearings had been scheduled in 65 of Ohio's 88 counties to review challenges that Republicans brought last week against what they said were 35,000 questionable voter registrations, most of them from urban, heavily Democratic neighborhoods.

The Republicans contended that the registrations were questionable because mail sent to those addresses had been returned as undeliverable - evidence, they said, of fraud. This week, about 10,000 of the challenged registrations were withdrawn or dismissed, in many cases due to filing errors.

On Wednesday, Republicans said that if hearings did not go forward this week, they intended to challenge many of the 35,000 registrants in person if they showed up to vote. -- G.O.P. Bid to Contest Registrations in Ohio Is Blocked (New York Times)

But challenging voters at the polls may be an effective way to make voting a frustrating and frightening experience. As Ion Sancho told the BBC's Greg Palast recently, "Quite frankly, this process can be used to slow down the voting process and cause chaos on election day; and discourage voters from voting."

Early voting brings early litigation in Florida

The New York Times reports: It is as if the presidential election of 2000 never ended here.

Six days before Election Day, Florida is again struggling with questions about potential voting irregularities, from complaints about missing absentee ballots in Broward County and accusations of voter suppression in minority neighborhoods to concerns about new touch-screen voting machines. Floridians have been standing for as long as three hours to cast early votes in the presidential race, testimony to the unresolved passions of the election of 2000. Interest is so intense that analysts predict that a staggering 75 percent of Florida voters will cast ballots by the time polls close Tuesday evening.

The disappearance of absentee ballots only fed suspicion among Democrats already distrustful of a state government controlled by President Bush's brother Gov. Jeb Bush, with pollsters saying Floridians are already concerned that their votes will not be counted.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement said Wednesday that it found no foul play after investigating widespread complaints of missing absentee ballots in Broward County. But questions remained about where the ballots had gone and whether the intended recipients would be able to vote. -- Passion and Election Disputes on Rise in Florida (New York Times)

The disappearance of the absentee ballots brings new meaning to SNAFU -- Situation Normal, All Floridaed Up.

October 27, 2004

Judge rules against Florida voters on check-the-box issue

The New York Times reports: A federal district judge here dismissed a lawsuit Tuesday that was filed on behalf of more than 10,000 new voters whose registration forms had been rejected as incomplete.

The judge, James Lawrence King, said the labor unions that brought the case had no standing because they had not proved that any of their members were affected. Judge King also said several other plaintiffs, people who had turned in incomplete registration forms, could not blame their local elections supervisors, who were named as defendants.

"No federal or state statute,'' he wrote, "prescribes a time period within which a supervisor must notify an applicant that her application is incomplete.''

Sheila Thomas, a lawyer for the Advancement Project, a rights group that represented the plaintiffs, said, "We think the ruling is incorrect as a matter of law, and we are considering appealing it."

The suit, brought against elections supervisors in Broward, Miami-Dade and several other counties, charged that the rejected registration forms had come disproportionately from blacks and Hispanics. In some cases, the applicants did not check a box indicating that they were American citizens, though they signed an oath on the form affirming that they were. Some registrants corrected their incomplete forms before the Oct. 4 registration deadline, the suit said, but elections officials did not always process them in time, and did not let other registrants know that their forms were flawed. -- Florida: Judge Rules Against 10,000 Floridians Barred From Voting (The New York Times) **

Why the GOP might want to suppress the black vote

Kevin Drum writes on The Washington Monthly site: Hmmm. Republican pollster Tony Fabrizio has just finished a survey of 12 battleground states and finds Bush and Kerry tied with 47% of the vote apiece. But when he weights for minority turnout based on the 2000 exit polls, Kerry is ahead 49.2%-45.7%. And when he further updates the weighting to take into account the most recent census results, Kerry is ahead 49.9%-44.7%.

As Fabrizio blandly puts it, "It is clear that minority turnout is a wildcard in this race and represents a huge upside for Sen. Kerry and a considerable challenge for the President's campaign." More accurately, if Fabrizio is right -- that Kerry is ahead by 5% overall in the battleground states -- Kerry is a sure winner on November 2.

Suddenly the Bush campaign's obsession with challenging voters in minority neighborhoods makes a lot of sense, doesn't it? Their own internal polling is probably telling them the same thing that Fabrizio's poll says: unless they somehow manage to keep the minority vote down, they're doomed. -- THE MINORITY VOTE (The Washington Monthly)

Thanks to DailyKos for the link.

Vermont judge refuses to stop Republican Governors Assocation's ads

The Times Argus reports: A Chittenden County [Vermont] judge on Tuesday refused to halt the Republican Governors Association's $300,000 advertising campaign on behalf of Gov. James Douglas despite the attorney general's opinion that the ad blitz violates Vermont law.

But the issue is far from settled, as Judge Richard Norton today will hold an emergency hearing in Chittenden County Superior Court in which Douglas' challenger, Burlington Mayor Peter Clavelle, will be able to argue that the association's ads are causing "irreparable harm" to the candidate and to the Democratic Party. ...

Norton declined to order a temporary restraining order for a number of reasons. He said that it was unclear whether the state's campaign finance laws actually protected individual candidates. Since the intent of the laws is to benefit "Vermont citizens and public confidence, not candidates," the judge reasoned that a restraining order could be obtained only by a prosecutor – such as the attorney general – and not Clavelle or the Democratic Party.

Nonetheless, Norton said an emergency hearing was needed to determine the effects of the RGA's ad campaign and whether or not it is in violation of state campaign finance laws. -- Ads may violate state law, but will continue to run (Times Argus)

Nader's money from pro-GOP donors

Progressive News Wire reports: Ralph Nader has received more than $125,000 from GOP donors and consultants, including $11,250 from donors to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth -- a larger figure than previously reported, United Progressives for Victory said today.

UPforVictory.com's latest research draws on press reports and Federal Election Commission [FEC] filings and excludes unreported in-kind contributions made by the GOP in circulating and defending Nader's ballot petitions in many states. In particular, the report shows:

Swift Boat Veterans for Nader? Eight donors to the infamous Swift Boat Veterans for Truth 527, who have given $31,000 to air attack ads on Kerry's military service, have also given Nader $11,250. [FEC]

Right-Wing, Corporate Support. Five of the largest donors to the Club for Growth, a right-wing, anti-government, anti-tax group that has targeted moderate Republicans, have given $7,500 to Nader. They have given $450,000 to the Club for Growth in the past three election cycles. Seven contributors to the Pro-Growth Action Team, another right-wing PAC, have given Nader $7,000. [FEC] -- Up for Victory

Supreme Court keeps Nader off the Ohio ballot

AP reports: The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday declined to put independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader on the ballot in the battleground state of Ohio.

On Friday, Nader asked the high court to review Ohio's decision to remove him, arguing that a state law that requires people who collect signatures on candidates' petitions be registered voters violated free speech rights.

Nader's request for a review went to Justice John Paul Stevens, who referred the matter to the full court. The justices denied the request without comment Tuesday. -- Supreme Court Ousts Nader From Ohio Ballot (AP via NYlawyer.com)

Florida GOP's "caging list"

Greg Palast on BBC News reports: A secret document obtained from inside Bush campaign headquarters in Florida suggests a plan - possibly in violation of US law - to disrupt voting in the state's African-American voting districts, a BBC Newsnight investigation reveals.

Two e-mails, prepared for the executive director of the Bush campaign in Florida and the campaign's national research director in Washington DC, contain a 15-page so-called "caging list".

It lists 1,886 names and addresses of voters in predominantly black and traditionally Democrat areas of Jacksonville, Florida.

An elections supervisor in Tallahassee, when shown the list, told Newsnight: "The only possible reason why they would keep such a thing is to challenge voters on election day." -- The Writings of Greg Palast

The BBC also has the Republican response to Palast's story: Second, the list was a listing of returned mail that came from a mailing that the Republican National Committee sent to new registrants in Duval County in Florida, encouraging newly registered Republicans, Democrats and Independents to vote Republican.

Voter registration has been a heavy concentration of both parties this year and both national and state Republican parties have been reaching out to new registrants for the upcoming election.

The Duval County list was created to collect the returned mail information from the Republican National Committee mailing and was intended and has been used for no purpose other than that. -- Republican response to Florida vote story (BBC News)

Catholics for Free Choice asks IRS to revoke tax exemption for two archdioceses

Catholics for Free Choice has sent two letters to the IRS Commissioner asking the Commissioner to revoke the tax-exempt status of the Archdiocese of Denver and the Archdiocese of St. Louis because the archbishop of each has given "clear directions to Catholics to oppose candidates that [sic] support positions opposed by the archdiocese." Findlaw has the Denver letter and the St. Louis letter.

Election rules changing because of lawsuits

The Washington Post reports: Iowa Republicans charged yesterday that Democrats are trying to rig the presidential election there by allowing voters to cast ballots even if they vote in the wrong precincts, while in Ohio Democrats sued to try to stop the GOP there from challenging the eligibility of tens of thousands of voters.

The two moves were part of an ongoing legal fight for the presidency that has put election rules in flux less than a week before Election Day.

Court battles have been underway in virtually all of the battleground states, leading to last-minute hearings and rulings that have election officials scrambling as they prepare for voters to come to the polls on Tuesday and contend with hundreds of thousands of voters who are already casting ballots in states that allow early voting.

Many of the lawsuits have focused on how provisional ballots should be counted, a new voting procedure that was intended to be an improvement in balloting. After the disputed 2000 election, Congress declared that no voter could be turned away at the polls and passed legislation requiring that provisional ballots be given to those who come to the polls but whose names are not on the rolls. But the measure left unclear the standards for determining whether the ballots are valid and should be counted -- and how quickly -- after Election Day. -- Legal Battles Over Ballots Put Election Rules in Flux (washingtonpost.com)

Only 33 ways to get a deadlock?

The Washington Post reports: Could one of these electoral college nightmares be our destiny?

President Bush and Sen. John F. Kerry deadlock on Tuesday with 269 electoral votes apiece -- but a single Bush elector in West Virginia defects, swinging the election to Kerry.

Or Bush and Kerry are headed toward an electoral college tie, but the 2nd Congressional District of Maine breaks with the rest of the state, giving its one electoral vote -- and the presidency -- to Bush.

Or the Massachusetts senator wins an upset victory in Colorado and appears headed to the White House, but a Colorado ballot initiative that passes causes four of the state's nine electoral votes to go to Bush -- creating an electoral college tie that must be resolved in the U.S. House. ...

A computer analysis found 33 potential scenarios leading to a tie electoral vote for Sen. John F. Kerry and President Bush. If neither collects the 270 votes needed, the House will decide-with each state getting one vote. -- Electoral College Calculus (washingtonpost.com)

South Dakota Sec of State advises auditors to ignore missing checkboxes

Brian Sells of the ACLU Southern Regional Office emails: Attached is a fax that I received last night from the South Dakota Attorney General's office. It contains a memo sent by Secretary of State Chris Nelson to all county auditors regarding the checkbox issue that I raised in a letter to him last week.

As you will see, the Secretary and the Attorney General agreed with me that voters who do not check one or both of the checkboxes at the top of the voter registration form should not be denied the right to vote and he has instructed county auditors accordingly.

Brian emailed later:I have just sent you under separate cover the esponse that I got from the South Dakota Secretary of State last night. I would be remiss if I didn't give credit to Brenda Wright of the National Voting Rights Institute, whose work in Iowa made this possible. Would you please give her a nod if you blog this development?

The memo is here.

October 26, 2004

Case against Amendment 36 dismissed

AP reports: Another cloud hanging over next week's election evaporated Tuesday when a federal judge said voters can decide whether to change the way Colorado distributes its electoral votes for president.

U.S. District Judge Lewis Babcock dismissed a lawsuit over Amendment 36, which would replace Colorado's winner-take-all Electoral College system with one that awards the votes proportionally, according to the popular vote.

In a separate case, a state judge threw out a lawsuit challenging Boulder County's ballots, saying tracking numbers didn't compromise voter privacy. -- Voters Will Decide Electoral College Amendment (AP via CBS 4 Denver)

Demos offers new election resources

Demos writes in an email announcement: In the interest of giving you comprehensive and up-to-the-minute information about issues that will affect the November election, Demos has launched three new features which are now available at www.demos-usa.org.

Demos Election Newswire showcases the latest election-related articles and commentaries from around the country and the globe. This feature is updated hourly and will be available through Election Day and beyond.

Democracy Dispatches Daily Roundup summarizes the day's top stories and provides insight into the issues we think will be paramount as Election Day approaches. A new roundup is posted everyday, between 4:00pm and 5:00pm, and provides you with a brief overview of some of the day's news if you do not have time to scroll through The Newswire.

" Democracy at Risk: Challenges to Election Integrity," an election briefing book, has also been posted on our website. This briefing book covers five areas that Demos has studied in depth: provisional balloting, felon disenfranchisement, voter registration, voter purging and election fraud. Visit this feature for a comprehensive analysis of the issue that will certainly be a part of the Election Day buzz.

I have added the first two of these to my list of recommended reading in the right margin of this blog.

The "Swing State Daily Report"

The fast-becoming-indispensible Election Law @ Moritz has added a Swing State Daily Report.

Beth Chapman is a spammer

Beth Chapman is the Auditor of Alabama and a spammer. She got my email address from somewhere or other and started sending me things to promote her political career. After I received two emails in July promoting her book, ... well, I will let my letter to her explain the problem.

Dear Ms. Chapman:
You have sent me two emails in the last week. I wish to be removed from your email list. I tried to respond to the emails, but Bellsouth.net bounced the reply with the message, “550 Invalid recipient: bethchapaman@bellsouth.net.” I then went to your website (www.bethchampman.com) and typed a message to you there, but got this message after I pressed the Submit button:

Warning: Page has Expired The page you requested was created using information you submitted in a form. This page is no longer available. As a security precaution, Internet Explorer does not automatically resubmit your information for you.

To resubmit your information and view this Web page, click the Refresh button.



Since your purpose in sending the emails seems to be the promotion of your book, you ought to take a look at the provisions of the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 which requires that you allow recipients a method of removal from the email lists you use to send them commercial email.

Sincerely,

Edward Still

I did not receive anything from her for a while, but something arrived in mid-September, and another arrived today (promoting the candidacy of Patti Smith for the Alabama Supreme Court). None of Chapman's emails has an opt-out address or notice, and none has a physical address for her. And, as you can see, she uses a false return address for her emails. Doesn't that fit the definition of a spammer?

October 25, 2004

Desperately seeking ... assistant editors

Votelaw is seeking assistant editors. Hours flexible; pay none; satisfaction priceless.

Necessary qualifications: interest in and knowledge of election law; ability to use Google; rudimentary knowledge of HTML; good editorial skills.

Apply by sending an email to the address in the upper right corner of the main page.

A proposal for single transferable vote in British Columbia

From the Citizens' Assembly website: The Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform recommended Sunday that British Columbians adopt a new voting system -- the Single Transferable Vote process that's often called "as easy as 1, 2, 3."

Now the decision is up to the voters of B.C., who will cast ballots on STV in a referendum in the next provincial election, on May 17, 2005.

After almost 10 months of study, research and debate, plus 50 public hearings and 1,603 written submissions from the public, Assembly Members on Sunday overwhelmingly chose a made-in-B.C. proportional STV system as their recommendation to the people.

First, they voted on whether they thought the current electoral system, often known as First Past the Post, should be retained. The vote: 142 No, 11 Yes.

Then they voted on whether the STV model they have designed should be proposed to the people. The vote: 146 Yes, 7 No. -- Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform - EASY AS 1, 2, 3

Thanks to J. Paul Johnston for the link.

South Dakota legislature punts

AP reports: Not convinced that they made a mistake in the 2001 redistricting plan that kept a large bloc of American Indian voters intact, legislative leaders decided Monday to ask a federal judge for additional guidance.

The Legislature's Executive Board, which met for about an hour behind closed doors with Attorney General Larry Long and Secretary of State Chris Nelson, emerged to unanimously approve a measure stating that lawmakers do not believe they have authority to change the redistricting plan.

The state constitution gives the Legislature authority to redraw legislative district boundaries only in those years following the release of new census data, or once a decade, said Sen. Ed Olson, R-Mitchell.

Legislators do not believe they can redistrict at any time in the interim, he said, citing a previous ruling on that subject by the state Supreme Court. -- Legislators stick to redistricting decision, ask for guidance (AP via aberdeennews.com)

The late Frank M. Johnson, US district judge and later circuit judge from Alabama, said that Alabama legislators often "punted" their problems into federal court by refusing to come with remedies to obviously unconstitutional or illegal situations.

Thanks to Jeff Wice for the link.

A report on GOP "ballot security" programs

From a new report by Chandler Davidson, Tanya Dunlap, Gale Kenny, and Benjamin Wise: There are several noteworthy characteristics of these programs. They focus on minority precincts almost exclusively. There is often only the flimsiest evidence that vote fraud is likely to be perpetrated in such precincts. In addition to encouraging the presence of sometimes intimidating Republican poll watchers or challengers who may slow down voting lines and embarrass potential voters by asking them humiliating questions, these programs have sometimes posted people in official-looking uniforms with badges and side arms who question voters about their citizenship or their registration. In addition, warning signs may be posted near the polls, or radio ads may be targeted to minority listeners containing dire threats of prison terms for people who are not properly registered—messages that seem designed to put minority voters on the defensive. Sometimes false information about voting qualifications is sent to minority voters through the mail.

The purpose of this Report is to provide a brief history of some of the most indefensible Republican ballot security programs from the 1950s on, but particularly, in Chapter 6, from 1981 through 2002. These case studies, along with the description of events in Louisville, Kentucky in 2003, presented in Chapter 1, are intended to give the reader a sense of the nature of Republican ballot security excesses, and why they continue to pose a threat to minority voters some forty years after the Voting Rights Act was passed. -- REPUBLICAN BALLOT SECURITY PROGRAMS: VOTE PROTECTION OR MINORITY VOTE SUPPRESSION—OR BOTH?

Vermont AG says Republican Governors Association ads violate state law

AP reports: The attorney general's office has determined that an ad campaign by the Republican Governors Association violates the state's campaign finance law.

William Sorrell, the Democratic attorney general, said the RGA should have filed as a political action committee and complied with Vermont's spending and contribution limits.

But the state said it can't do anything about the $300,000 ad campaign in support of Gov. Jim Douglas because Republicans say the secretary of state's office told them via telephone that the ad campaign would be legal.

There are no records to refute that claim, Sorrell said.

"It was state government that allegedly made these representations or assurances to them. We had nothing to disprove that the conversations took place, so we feel our hands are tied," he said. "It's unfortunate." -- AG Says Republican Ad Violates State Law (AP via TheChamplainChannel.com)

California broadcaster gives free times to GOP only

AP reports: One of [California's] biggest broadcasters has given 13 Republican county committees $325,000 worth of free air time to promote candidates on its radio and television stations that serve communities from Sacramento to San Diego.

Pappas Telecasting Cos., which calls itself the largest privately held broadcast firm in the nation, made the donations earlier this month. While it is unclear how much of the time has actually been taken, Democrats complain the offer unfairly benefits GOP candidates in violation of federal law.

An attorney representing Assemblywoman Nicole Parra, D-Hanford - who is running in a hotly contested re-election race against Republican Dean Gardner - sent a letter Saturday to Pappas demanding equal time.

A spokesman for Pappas, however, said the donations have been reviewed by the Federal Communications Commission and do not trigger provisions of federal law that require broadcasters to give all candidates equal broadcast time. -- Fresno broadcaster donates $325,000 in air time to GOP committees (AP via mercurynews.com)

Charges of false campaign reports in Ohio initiative campaign

AP reports: Opponents of a proposed constitutional amendment [in Ohio] to ban gay marriage say backers of the amendment violated campaign finance laws by reporting they raised only $50 to date.

Ohioans Protecting the Constitution filed a complaint Monday with the Ohio Elections Commission. In it, they said amendment supporters should have reported money raised since they began collecting signatures, which started in April.

Instead, the group filed a campaign finance report Thursday that said it had raised $50 and received $3,416 in in-kind contributions since the amendment was certified for the Nov. 2 ballot on Sept. 29.

The complaint says the Ohio Campaign to Protect Marriage would have had to spend "far in excess" of that amount to gather 500,000 signatures and defend the petition process in court. -- Marriage amendment opponents say supporters broke campaign finance law (AP via philly.com)

Coors drops big bucks into his campaign, triggers Millionaire's Amendment

The Rocky Mountain News reports: Pete Coors dropped another $500,000 of his personal fortune into his U.S. Senate campaign this weekend, making him one of a handful of candidates nationwide to trigger the "millionaire's amendment."

That provision of federal campaign finance law allows Coors' opponent, Ken Salazar, to at least triple the amount he can collect from individual donors - something Coors said in August he didn't want to do.

Salazar's campaign moved quickly to counter, phoning and e-mailing big donors to ask for more cash, and Salazar accused his opponent of trying to buy his way to Washington.

Coors' check, written late Friday, pushed the Republican brewery chairman over $1 million in personal spending for the general election and near $1.5 million since he joined the race in April. -- Coors ups the ante (Rocky Mountain News)

Maine Citizens for Clean Elections to propose limits on gifts to PACs

Blethen Maine Newspapers carries this report: The state's leading advocate for campaign-finance reform is expected to ask the Legislature to limit how much money contributors can give to political action committees as part of a reform package to be submitted to lawmakers next year.

But the Maine Citizens for Clean Elections is not recommending that the Legislature prohibit publicly financed candidates from having privately funded PACs. A study by the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram last summer found that about 20 PACs run by publicly funded lawmakers raised almost $350,000 from private sources through mid-July.

Contributions to PACs controlled by lawmakers are "the last bastion of big money influence in Maine" so there should be limits on the size of those gifts, Barbara Burt, who co-chairs the advocacy group, said in a statement.

She said her group has not decided yet what those ceilings should be. Maine Citizens for Clean Elections champions the voter-approved Clean Election Act, in part to curb the political influence of special interests, so setting limits on gifts to PACs is consistent with that goal. The Clean Election Act provides optional public financing for gubernatorial and legislative candidates as an alternative to private campaign funding. -- Group backs cash limits on PACs (MaineToday.com)

The county moved away from the candidate

The Charlotte Observer reports: John Meadows is listed on Iredell County ballots as a candidate for county commissioner, but Iredell officials say he doesn't live in the county.

They point to a recent shift in the Iredell-Rowan border, which was re-surveyed several years ago using satellite computer mapping technology, resulting in small changes to the border. As a result, Meadows' house was placed in Rowan County.

Meadows disputes the change, and a judge's ruling has allowed him to remain an Iredell voter and Democratic candidate, although that could change at a county elections board hearing today, when a north Iredell resident challenges his residency. ...

Until the election, he's not taking any chances.

He has put a camper on the portion of his property both he and officials agree is in Iredell and is sleeping there. -- Border shift may derail candidate (Charlotte Observer)

Will "the Nader Factor" affect the election outcome?

The Washington Post reports: A survey conducted this month for the Democratic National Committee by pollster Stanley Greenberg showed Nader averaging 1.5 percent of the vote in a dozen battleground states where his name appears on the ballot, compared with about 3 percent in the summer. It also showed that most of the support Nader lost had shifted to Kerry and indicated that his remaining backers would be as likely to vote for Bush as for the Massachusetts Democrat, if Nader were not running.

Speaking about what has become known in the news media as the "Nader factor," Leslie Dach, a senior adviser at the DNC, said: "He is less of a threat to us, clearly, than he was in 2000, less of a threat than he was last summer and less than he was even a few weeks ago."

Four years ago, Nader received about 2.8 million votes nationwide, and Democrats charged that his presence on the ballot handed Bush victories in New Hampshire and Florida. Had the Republican lost either of those states, he would not have become president. ...

Groups seeking to minimize Nader's impact are focusing on at least seven states -- Iowa, Florida, Wisconsin, New Mexico, Minnesota, Maine and New Hampshire -- where Bush and Kerry are in a virtual dead heat. In all of those but Minnesota, according to aggregates of nine recent polls compiled by the Web site RealClear Politics, Nader's share of the vote exceeds the thin margin separating Bush and Kerry. -- A Fading 'Nader Factor'? (washingtonpost.com)

Thanks to Richard Winger for the tip about this article, which I had missed on Friday.

Disability groups sue Westchester NY for polling access

The Westchester Journal News reports: Last year, Westchester's [New York] Elections Board said 409 of 441 polling places were fully accessible. But the Westchester Independent Living Center and Westchester Disabled on the Move found only three of 31 polling places they surveyed were fully accessible.

Four disabled voters and three advocacy groups are suing the Westchester Board of Elections over the issue. The lawsuit claims hundreds of polling places violate state and federal law, but a lawyer representing the Elections Board said there was no evidence anyone in Westchester had been denied the right to vote.

Joe Bravo, executive director of the Westchester Independent Living Center in White Plains, said he doubts the judge will rule on the suit until after the Nov. 2 election. The center is a plaintiff in the suit. -- Disabled advocates sue for voting rights (thejournalnews.com)

Louisville GOP will not use challengers in minority precincts this year

AP reports: Republicans will not post challengers at voting sites in Jefferson County [Kentucky] on Election Day, the county's GOP chairman said.

The chairman, Jack Richardson IV, said he made the decision primarily because the party has arranged to have two Republican election officers at nearly every voting site.

"I am content that, if we can have as many poll workers filling precincts as possible, we will have done our job," he said.

Last year, Republicans' decision to station challengers at predominantly black precincts stirred charges that the party was trying to intimidate voters, although the challengers didn't question anyone's eligibility. -- Jefferson Co. Republicans won't use poll challengers (AP via enquirer.com)

Early voting shows election problems in Arizona

The Arizona Republic reports: A series of early-voting glitches and a controversial recount during the primary have opened the door for serious legal challenges in Arizona if the results of the election for president in the state are too close to call. ...

Those problems include:

• More than 5,000 new voter registrations were invalidated because people forgot to check a newly required box verifying that they are U.S. citizens. Election officials have sent three mailings to the prospective voters asking them to check the box and have given them until Election Day to comply.

• Some voters have complained that post offices would not deliver their mail-in ballots because they did not have the proper postage, a 60-cent stamp. Osborne said post offices have been notified that ballots must be delivered whether they have the correct postage or not and that the county will pay for the difference.

• Instructions caused confusion in early ballots on whether pens or pencils should be used when voting. The ballot says to use a ballpoint pen, but an insert says pencil. Both are fine, election officials say, but voters should avoid felt-tip pens that can bleed through the paper and spoil votes in other areas.

• Elections officials have faced delays in getting early-ballot requests processed and sent back to voters within the required 48 hours. But Maricopa County officials say the delays won't be a factor as they've all but erased their backlog despite a record 522,000 early-ballot requests. Some smaller counties are still playing catch-up. -- Early-vote problems surfacing in Arizona (Arizona Republic)

More check-the-box problems in North Carolina

AP reports: A federal law designed to reduce problems on Election Day could cause the opposite effect for some new voters on Nov. 2, [North Carolina] county voting officials say.

The Help America Vote Act of 2002 requires would-be voters to check two boxes on their registration forms attesting that they are U.S. citizens and are at least 18 years old. They also must indicate their citizenship on two other places on the form.

Wake County elections director Cherie Poucher said that about 1,000 residents forgot to check the boxes and have not yet responded to a letter she sent asking them to correct the problem before Election Day.

The residents will still be able to vote but will have to cast provisional ballots, Poucher said. -- Repeated questions trip up some N.C. voter registrants (AP via StarNewsOnline.com)

Mecklenburg officials relent; Sunday voting draws large crowd

The Charlotte Observer reports: Faced with throngs of voters seeking to cast ballots Sunday, Mecklenburg County [North Carolina]'s top election official said the big crowds caught his department by surprise.

Some voters waited more than three hours to cast a ballot. ...

[Board of Elections Director Michael Dickerson] said nearly 2,400 voters turned out during a four-hour voting window Sunday afternoon, days after county commissioners split in a partisan fight over whether Sunday voting should take place at all.

A total of 40 machines were operating at five sites. Dickerson said the Elections Board had not known how many sites would be needed because the county has never before offered Sunday voting. On weekdays, 100 machines operate at 13 sites. ...

Mecklenburg County commissioners touched off a partisan fracas Tuesday night, when the five Republican board members voted against accepting a $55,992 state grant for Sunday voting and early voting at two college campuses.

Democrats cried foul, saying the Republicans were trying to suppress voter turnout, especially by minorities.

Republicans said they believe the state Board of Elections did not follow the proper process in establishing Sunday voting.

The commissioners later said they would accept the money at their Nov. 3 meeting, after finding out the county would be obliged to proceed with Sunday voting anyway, and pay for it out of local money. -- 1st Sunday voters form 3-hour lines (Charlotte Observer)

US Supreme Court keeps Nader off the Pennsylvania ballot

AP reports: The Supreme Court on Saturday refused to place independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader on the ballot in Pennsylvania, upholding a state court finding of flawed signatures on voter petition sheets.

Nader asked the high court on Thursday to review Pennsylvania’s decision to remove him. A state court cited legal problems with his nomination papers that left him thousands of signatures short of the number required for the Nov. 2 ballot. -- MSNBC - Supreme Court won't put Nader on Pa. ballot (AP via MSNBC.com)

October 24, 2004

Don't sing "those wrong precinct blues"

Many states -- including my own Alabama -- require voters to vote in the correct polling place, and votes on a provisional ballot in the wrong polling place will be discarded. (For a handy chart, see Election Law @ Moritz.)

To avoid this problem, use the lookup at MyPollngPlace and urge your friends to do so as well. This site, provided by People for the American Way Foundation and the Election Protection coalition, includes the address for the polling place, a map and driving directions, a short list of voters' rights, and step-by-step instructions for the exact voting equipment at the polling place.

There are a few glitches. I just checked my old polling place in Springfield, Virginia, and the site does not know if the DRE equipment there produces a printed copy. But, it's still a useful site.

6th Circuit allows restrictions on Ohio provisional ballots

AP reports: A federal appeals court ruled Saturday that the provisional ballots Ohio voters cast outside their precincts should not be counted, throwing out a lower-court decision that said such ballots are valid as long as they are cast in the correct county.

The ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit supports an order issued by Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell. Democrats contend that the Republican official's rules are too restrictive and allege that they are intended to suppress the vote.

Ohio Democrats late Saturday decided not to file an appeal in the case, one of the first major tests of how such ballots will be handled in a close election. Polls show that the race between President Bush and Democratic challenger John F. Kerry is too close to call in the key swing state. -- Court Rules On Ohio's Provisional Ballots (AP via washingtonpost.com)

Election Law @ Moritz should have the opinion on its site shortly. And Rick Hasen has some comments on the decision.

Election year activities of 501(c)(3) organizations

Steven Sholk emails: I am pleased to announce that an updated version of my article, "A Guide to Election Year Activities of Section 501(c)(3) Organizations," has been published by Practising Law Institute as part of the course handbook for the seminar, "Tax Strategies for Corporate Acquisitions, Dispositions, Spin-Offs, Joint Ventures, Financings, Reorganizations & Restructurings 2004."

My thanks to Steven and PLI for allowing me to share this file with you. I have used prior versions of this article and look forward to reading this one.

October 23, 2004

Iowa AG says out-of-precinct provisional ballots are OK

The Quad-City Times reports: Iowa voters who show up at the wrong polling place on Election Day should be allowed to cast a provisional ballot, Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller said in an opinion issued Friday.
.
In his opinion, Miller said the federal Help America Vote Act, or HAVA, intended to allow people who go to the wrong precinct to cast ballots as long as they are registered to vote in Iowa.

The opinion by Miller, a Democrat, drew an immediate response from George W. Bush's campaign in Iowa.

"The campaign finds it unfortunate the attorney general would act to change the rules of an election already under way. We are reviewing his opinion and have no further comment at this time," said Dave Roederer, chairman of the Bush campaign in Iowa. -- Iowa AG: Voters can vote at wrong place (Quad-City Times)

Brenda Wright sent the opinion.

Symposium on the Law Governing our Democratic Process

The George Washington Law Review invites you to attend:

Law and Democracy: A Symposium on the Law Governing our Democratic Process

Date: Monday, November 15, 2004

Location: The Library of Congress, First Street and Independence Avenue, S.E., Washington, D.C.

Just two weeks after the 2004 elections, the country’s leading election law and political science scholars will gather for a frank and insightful discussion on the state of the law governing our democratic process and the impact of that law on this year's elections. The George Washington Law Review invites you to join us for what promises to be an exciting and memorable day.

For more information, or to register for the symposium, please contact James Cobb, the Senior Projects Editor of The George Washington Law Review, at jcobb05@law.gwu.edu.

Schedule of Events (subject to change):

8:15 a.m. Welcoming Address
Roger Trangsrud, Interim Dean, The George Washington University Law School
Spencer Overton, The George Washington University Law School
Location: Jefferson Building, The Library of Congress

8:30 a.m. Panel I: Partisan Redistricting and Veith v. Jubelirer
Michael Kang, Emory University School of Law
Ellen Katz, University of Michigan Law School
Justin Driver, Charles Hamilton Houston Fellow, Harvard Law School
Adam Cox, The University of Chicago Law School
Location: Jefferson Building, The Library of Congress

10:30 a.m. Panel II: Campaign Finance
Dennis Thompson, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University
Richard Briffault, Columbia Law School
Guy Uriel Charles, University of Minnesota Law School
Gregg Polsky, University of Minnesota Law School
Larry Noble, Executive Director, The Center for Responsive Politics, and former General Counsel of the Federal Election Commission
Lillian BeVier, University of Virginia School of Law
Location: Jefferson Building, The Library of Congress

12:30 p.m. Luncheon and Roundtable Discussion: How the Rules Shaped the 2004 Election
Nina Totenberg, National Public Radio
Bill Marshall, The University of North Carolina School of Law
Rick Hasen, Loyola Law School, Los Angeles
Samuel Issacharoff, Columbia Law School
Edward Foley, Moritz College of Law, The Ohio State University
Rick Pildes, New York University Law School
Location: Madison Building, The Library of Congress

3:00 p.m. Panel III: Voting Rights and Barriers to Voting
Heather Gerken, Harvard Law School
Daniel Tokaji, Moritz College of Law, The Ohio State University
Daniel Ortiz, University of Virginia School of Law
Grant Hayden, Hofstra University School of Law
Terry Smith, Fordham University School of Law
Location: Jefferson Building, The Library of Congress

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Sinclair offers a fair and balanced program on Kerry

The New York Times reports: After stirring up protest over its plans to broadcast a documentary critical of Senator John Kerry, the Sinclair Broadcast Group presented a program last night that gave short shrift to that film and offered instead a measured analysis of the debate over Mr. Kerry's Vietnam War record.

The hourlong special program, produced by the news department at Sinclair, a major financial supporter of Republican candidates and which regularly features conservative commentary on its newscasts, included as many backers of Mr. Kerry as critics.

Sinclair's producers seemed to go out of their way to create a balanced political collage in the special, called "A P.O.W. Story: Politics, Pressure and the Media."

Only about four minutes of Carlton Sherwood's anti-Kerry film, "Stolen Honor: Wounds That Never Heal," were included - and virtually the same amount of time was devoted to an excerpt from "Going Upriver: The Long War of John Kerry," a film by George Butler that presents Mr. Kerry as a war hero. -- > Washington > Campaign 2004 > Viewers Get Only a Peek of a Movie Chiding Kerry (New York Times)

GOP rolls out its voter-challengers

The New York Times reports: Republican Party officials in Ohio took formal steps yesterday to place thousands of recruits inside polling places on Election Day to challenge the qualifications of voters they suspect are not eligible to cast ballots.

Party officials say their effort is necessary to guard against fraud arising from aggressive moves by the Democrats to register tens of thousands of new voters in Ohio, seen as one of the most pivotal battlegrounds in the Nov. 2 elections.

Election officials in other swing states, from Arizona to Wisconsin and Florida, say they are bracing for similar efforts by Republicans to challenge new voters at polling places, reflecting months of disputes over voting procedures and the anticipation of an election as close as the one in 2000.

Ohio election officials said they had never seen so large a drive to prepare for Election Day challenges. They said they were scrambling yesterday to be ready for disruptions in the voting process as well as alarm and complaints among voters. Some officials said they worried that the challenges could discourage or even frighten others waiting to vote. -- Big G.O.P. Bid to Challenge Voters at Polls in Key State (New York Times)

Fight over Nader delays Wisconsin's overseas ballots

The Barron (WI) News Shield reports: Efforts by Democrats to remove candidate Ralph Nader from the Wisconsin ballot delayed printing and mailing ballots to overseas Wisconsin military.

During a press conference Thursday, concerned citizens who are former military personnel or have family serving in Iraq said Wisconsin Democrats' actions "have put Wisconsin's military vote into jeopardy."

Democrats tried to remove Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader from the state ballot by first petitioning the state elections board and then appealing their rejection to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, which eventually agreed with the election board.

In some municipalities across the state, printing was delayed by as many as five days.

For the military in Iraq and Afghanistan, this delay might negate their vote since absentee ballots must be back to municipal clerks by Nov. 2. It can take up to 18 days one way for mail to get to and from Iraq. -- Efforts to oust Nader may cost soldiers their vote (Barron News Shield)

Thanks to Richard Winger for the link.

October 22, 2004

Federal court rules Florida may count provisional ballot cast only in correct precinct

AP reports: Rejecting a claim by Democrats, a federal judge said Thursday that the state must reject provisional ballots if they're cast in the wrong precinct.

U.S. District Judge Robert L. Hinkle ruled that people who show up at a polling place and aren't on the rolls should be allowed to submit a provisional ballot, in case it is determined later that they were in the right place and should have been on the rolls.

But he ruled that federal law doesn't require the state to count the ballot if it's determined the voter submitted the ballot somewhere other than the properly assigned precinct.

In the ruling, Hinkle put in writing generally what he said from the bench earlier this month, when he essentially told Democrats he wasn't inclined to block Secretary of State Glenda Hood from ordering the counting of ballots only if they are from the correct precinct. -- Federal judge: Provisional ballots in wrong precinct don't count (AP via Tallahassee.com)

Election Law @ Moritz has the order and the Democrat's notice of appeal.

Illinois election officials ponder provisional ballots

AP reports: Local election officials across Illinois are divided over whether to allow provisional ballots cast in the wrong precinct by otherwise eligible voters to count for some federal offices, a recommendation state election officials have made despite state law to the contrary.

Provisional ballots are cast by voters whose names aren't on the rolls when they show up at a polling place and are later reviewed to determine the voter's eligibility.

State law says provisional voters must be in the correct precinct for their votes to count. But the State Board of Elections late last month recommended that provisional ballots cast in the wrong precinct by voters who are otherwise eligible be counted for some offices.

The guide the board sent to election authorities said those ballots should count for "the offices that the two precincts share." Dan White, the board's executive director, said the intent was federal offices only, but acknowledged the wording was confusing. He said Friday the board would send out a clarification. -- Officials divided over new provisional ballot recommendation (AP via Kansas.com)

DOJ says private citizens may not sue about provisional ballots

AP reports: Ohio Democrats did not have the right to challenge a state requirement that voters show up at their assigned polling place to cast a ballot, lawyers for the Justice Department told a federal appeals court Friday.

Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell is within his authority under federal law to require that a voter appear at the correct polling place, Department of Justice lawyers contended in written arguments filed with the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The federal government may sue in order to enforce its provisions, but federal law does not grant private parties that right, the Justice Department contended in its brief in support of Blackwell. The Justice Department is not a party in the lawsuit, which Ohio Democrats filed against Blackwell, a Republican.

Blackwell says the state has the authority to administer elections. The Justice Department lawyers backed that position, arguing that the law does not conflict with, or pre-empt, Ohio's precinct-based system of voting. -- Justice Dept. weighs in on Ohio ballots (AP via Boston.com)

If you have a copy of this brief, email me the link or a copy of the brief.

Will provisional ballots really work?

From a Demos newsletter: With passage of the federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA) in 2002, Congress promised to fix many of the problems associated with the last presidential race. One reform that has drawn increasing attention this election season is provisional balloting. As of the first federal primary election this year, any voter whose name was omitted from the voter rolls or who could not show identification at the polls would be permitted to vote provisionally. These ballots would ultimately be counted once election officials substantiated the individual's eligibility to vote.

In Placebo Ballots: Will "Fail-Safe" Voting Fail? Demos found that several hundred thousand citizens may again be sent home from the polls without casting a vote. Over half of all states are adopting an overly cramped approach to provisional voting.

• Idaho and Minnesota will not offer provisional ballots to first-time, newly registered voters who can not show identification. Ten other states will provide, but automatically invalidate provisional ballots cast by "voters" who do not present identification.

• Thirty states and the District of Columbia will invalidate provisional ballots cast in the wrong precinct – even when voters are selecting candidates for president or statewide offices, where polling place error is immaterial. --
Placebo Ballots: Will "Fail-Safe" Voting Fail?

Keep those cards and letters emails coming

You will notice that the five posts just below this one are all based on tips, links, or documents sent to me. I invite you to send similar items to me at the address listed on the first page of my blog, in the upper right corner. (That address in encrypted to prevent spammers from using bots to harvest the address were I to list it in plain text here.)

Texas re-redistricting briefs due 6 December

Richard Gladden emailed: Although, last Monday, the District Court in the Texas congressional redistricting cases ordered the various plaintiffs to file additional briefs not later than December 6, 2004, I decided to go ahead and file mine, given that my client's present Congressman, Jim Turner, was so badly gerrymandered that he decided not to even file for re-election at all. For the interest of your readers, attached above is the brief I electronically filed today on behalf of my cleint, Frenchie Henderson. I would be honored should you decide to post it, and I think this will enlighten those skeptics still in doubt why I believe our side has at least five votes on the U.S. Supreme Court that will condemn any congressional re-redistricting plan, such as the one in our cases, that is concededly enacted wholly without any "legitimate regulatory purpose" whatsoever.

The brief is here.

Some "get upset if they're not offered money for their vote"

BBC News reports on West Virginia: In the state's deep coal-mining valleys and small towns full of old style barber shops and "gun and loan" stores, money still changes hands every election year.

According to several people I spoke to, the going rate for a vote these days is $15 or a pint of whisky.

"There's still folks in these parts that's get upset if they're not offered money for their vote," Big Daddy Ellis says. -- Campaign column: The price of a vote (BBC NEWS)

Thanks to Steve Minor of SW Virginia Law Blog for alerting me to this story.

Another check-the-box problem

Bryan Sells of the ACLU Southern Regional Office emailed: Attached is a letter that I have just faxed to the Secretary of State and the Attorney General concerning an unlawful voter registration procedure in South Dakota that has recently come to my attention. It threatens to disenfranchise hundreds, if not thousands, of South Dakota voters.

The letter is here. Auditors in several counties are refusing registration to those who leave blank either or both of two check boxes -- I am a US citizen and I will be 18 at the next election -- even though the information is contained in an oath the voter must take in completing the form.

A handy guide for election night

Contrapositive emailed me: Just added a post to my blog that I thought might be of interest: An hour-by-hour guide to election night, focusing on the presidential contest.

As I pulled it together, several interesting things became clear. Some highlights:

--At 8pm EST, Bush is likely to have opened up a substantial lead in the electoral vote count: Somewhere between 50 and 80 votes. (Kerry supporters should *not* panic.)

--At 10pm EST, if Kerry doesn't have actual or potential victories--among states whose polls have already closed--adding up to 193 electoral votes, he's toast.

--We'll likely know who the next President is by about 11pm EST--or not for several weeks. --
ELECTION NIGHT CHEAT SHEET (contrapositive)

I categorized this under "election systems" because it shows the Electoral College's workings.

South Dakota prohibits early voting near homecoming game

AP reports: [South Dakota] Secretary of State Chris Nelson said Wednesday that plans to offer early voting Friday at a satellite station in Lyman County are illegal.

The Four Directions Committee, a nonprofit group that undertook a voter registration drive before South Dakota's primary elections, worked with the Lyman County auditor to set up a way for American Indians to vote early on Friday in Lower Brule.

But plans to combine the voting with the homecoming event creates an illegal incentive to vote, according to Nelson.

"There are some laws that prohibit offering anything of value to a voter to encourage them to vote or vote for a specific candidate or ballot question," he said, citing a case from several years ago when food was brought to a polling place for voters. ...

Many Indians already have voted early on reservations across South Dakota. But lawyer Patrick Duffy of Rapid City said the Lower Brule balloting should be allowed because people are not required to vote in order to eat free food.

"It's insane," Duffy said. "What's next, a cease and desist order no food served in Sioux Falls on Nov. 2? The mere fact that people in Lower Brule might be going to a football game and eating a meal is no reason for the secretary of state to (step) in and say, 'I'm not going to let you vote.'" -- One early voting plan ruled illegal (AP via Rapid City Journal)

Thanks to Bryan Sells for the link.

October 21, 2004

Indiana judge allows GOP to substitute candidate

The Indianapolis Star reports: A Marion County judge ruled today that Rep. R. Brooks LaPlante should be the Republican choice on the November ballot in House District 46 in west central Indiana.

And in an order that could have far-reaching implications, Judge Gary L. Miller also ruled that all absentee ballots cast in this district, which includes Terre Haute, are void. That doesn't just affect the legislative race, but it also would void all votes cast in what's likely to be a close governor's race.

The fight over whose name is on the ballot began when Jeff Lee, who won the May primary, suddenly moved out of the district, creating the vacancy.

Republicans want to replace him with LaPlante, whose first term in office was plagued with campaign finance problems. LaPlante decided not to run for re-election earlier this year.

Democrats charge that Lee really didn't move, and that this was a last-ditch effort by Republicans who saw their chances of winning this seat slipping away. Democrat Vern Tincher is running in this race. -- Judge's ruling puts House race in turmoil (indystar.com)

The Democrats had earlier won on this same candidate switch in Vigo County. Marcia Oddi has more background on her Indiana Law blog, including the fact that this is Lee's second withdrawal. Because of that the GOP contends the Vigo County decision does not apply.

Washington State supreme court limits ability of unions to contribute to campaigns

The AP reports: The state Supreme Court struck down a 10-year-old campaign finance rule on Thursday in a decision that will sharply limit unions' ability to contribute money to political candidates. ...

The ruling won't influence the Nov. 2 election, because it doesn't take effect immediately. The losing side, in this case the state, has 20 days to ask the Supreme Court to reconsider.

But the ruling will affect future campaigns. Under the old rules, local units of national and state groups - such as unions and trade associations - could each give the maximum amount to a political candidate, as long as their parent organizations didn't get involved. ...

Those donations were legal under the PDC's old rule, but in the future, contributions from locals of the same union will be counted together toward the maximum amount.

The ruling also applies to business groups such as the Building Industry Association and the Realtors association, which have local units that often donate separately to campaigns. But unions will feel the biggest impact by far. -- Supreme Court decision will limit unions' campaign contributions (AP via Seattle Post-Intelligencer)

Minnesota GOP accuses Dem candidate of using corporate logo

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports: Republicans have accused Patty Wetterling's campaign of violating federal election law in its recent TV ad featuring "America's Most Wanted" host John Walsh.

In a complaint filed Thursday with the Federal Election Commission, the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) in Washington, D.C., said the ad is an illegal corporate in-kind contribution because it flashes the trademarked title of Walsh's show on the screen.

Corporations may contribute to separate political action committees, but federal law prohibits them from giving directly to a campaign. ...

Wetterling campaign officials said they don't plan to pull the ad. And Brian Svoboda, an attorney for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in Washington, D.C., said the GOP complaint has no legal merit.

Svoboda said the FEC in 1995 ruled that corporate logos or names have no assignable value and refused to stop a candidate from using one in an ad. "The only thing standing between this complaint and its dismissal is the couple of months it will take for [the FEC] to pick it up and read it," he said. -- GOP says TV-show mention in Wetterling ad is illegal (startribune.com)

GOP accuses Florida Dems of illegal coordination with unions and others

AP reports: Republicans accused Democrats of breaking political money laws in Florida through cozy arrangements among candidates, unions and outside fund-raising groups, an allegation a top Democrat said Thursday was absurd.

At issue is a lengthy handbook for Democratic volunteers and others working to persuade and turn out voters in the battleground state.

The document proposes that representatives of organized labor, trial lawyers and teachers join Democrats at a campaign "decision-making table," a plan that Republicans contend is illegal under the 2002 campaign finance law. ...

Democrats said the document was authentic but was a draft of their final strategy for Florida. The plan is aboveboard, said Michael Whouley, election manager at the Democratic National Committee. -- Fla. Republicans accuse Democrats (AP via Seattle Post-Intelligencer)

Florida students claim they were duped into becoming Republicans

The Orlando Sentinel reports: Students at two more Florida universities have complained about campus voter-registration efforts that they say duped them into registering as Republicans.

Meanwhile, an official of a California company tied to some of the registration activity described the students as "brainless" and speculated Wednesday that Democratic opponents of President Bush could be behind the gripes.

The complaints come from students who said they signed petitions on use of medical marijuana or penalties for child molesters, but then ended up with a new voter-registration card indicating they were switching to the Republican Party.

On Wednesday, the police chief at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville said he had turned over a handful of cases his agency investigated to the State Attorney's Office there. -- More students say teams duped them to go GOP(OrlandoSentinel.com)

The first let's do is villify the voters.

Nader asks U.S. Supreme Court to put him on Pennsylvania ballot

AP reports: Ralph Nader asked the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday to place him on the general election ballot in Pennsylvania, a battleground state expected to be critical in the outcome of the Nov. 2 presidential election.

In a sign the high court planned to move swiftly, Justice David H. Souter immediately requested that Pennsylvania officials file a response to Nader's emergency request by 2:30 p.m. Friday.

Nader's late-evening filing asks the Supreme Court to review Pennsylvania's decision to remove the independent candidate because of legal problems with his nomination papers that left him thousands of signatures short of the number required.

He argued that Pennsylvania courts improperly excluded signatures from more than 15,000 Pennsylvania residents who are not registered to vote, saying such a requirement is a violation of First Amendment rights of expression and association. -- Nader Tries to Get on Pa. Ballot (AP via macon.com)

Iowa AG OK's registration forms without the citizenship "check box"

The Sioux City Journal reports: The Iowa Attorney General's Office argued Wednesday that Iowans who fail to check a box affirming their U.S. citizenship on mail-in voter registration forms should still be allowed to cast votes for president and for congressional candidates.

The Attorney General issued that "informal advice" at the request of Iowa Secretary of State Chet Culver. A number of groups, including the League of Women Voters and the Iowa Civil Liberties Union argued that some voters who mistakenly overlook the citizenship box might be disenfranchised.

Those groups warned legal action might be necessary if voters face barriers. Culver's office said "several hundred" voters could be affected. And those votes might be crucial in a state where the presidential race is a dead heat.

"Voter registration applicants who submit a registration form which is complete in all other respects, but upon which the applicant has failed to mark either yes or no to the citizenship question, should be treated as fully registered for state, local, and federal elections," Assistant Attorney General Christie Scase wrote in the advisory letter. -- Attorney general says not checking box shouldn't cancel vote (Sioux City Journal)

Brenda Wright has sent a copy of the AG's opinion.

Amicus in New York Senate redistricting

Jeff Wice emails: Ed, atached is a copy of the amicus brief I filed with O'Melveny & Myers' Ron Klain in the US Supreme Court in the Rodriguez v. Pataki New York State Senate district challenge. The brief supports appellants position and asks the Court to note probable jurisdiction. The Federal District Court for NY's Southern District held the opposite of the Georgia District Court in Cox v. Larios on the 10% rule. We are hopeful that the Court will take the case and clarify this standard before the next round of redistricting.

The amici are residents of several states with deviations in the legislative plans near or exceeding 10%.

More on the Mecklenburg County decision to cut funds for Sunday voting sites

The Charlotte Observer reports: Mecklenburg County [North Carolina] commissioners may reverse a controversial attempt to stop Sunday voting that prompted outrage from Democrats and accusations of voter suppression on Wednesday.

Commissioners Chairman Tom Cox has called a special meeting for Friday afternoon to reconsider a party-line vote from Tuesday night's meeting. Led by Republicans, the commissioners voted 5-3 not to accept a state grant for early voting because local elections officials planned to use part of the money for voting this Sunday.

Voting will happen Sunday as scheduled at four libraries and the Board of Elections. Elections director Michael Dickerson said his office will appropriate other funds until the commissioners make a final decision.

Tuesday's action has sparked a partisan, racially charged debate and interrupted the plans of many groups -- including several black churches -- for a "Souls to the Polls" effort after services on Sunday. -- Board rethinks Sunday voting (Charlotte Observer)

This article contains more details than the article I carried yesterday.

Alabama voter registration chief quits; discrepancy in voter registration figures questioned by Secretary of State

AP reports: Counties across Alabama struggled to deal with a backlog of thousands of last-minute voter registrations as the state's longtime head of voter registration quit Wednesday less than two weeks before Election Day.

Secretary of State Nancy Worley's office also was attempting to sort out a record-keeping discrepancy that left uncertain the actual number of registered voters in the state -- thought to be around 2.54 million. ...

With some 37,000 newly registered voters statewide in September and as many as 110,000 additional voters this year, county registration offices have been inundated with registration forms that need to be processed before the election. Friday is the deadline to register.

As counties dealt with the surge of new voter forms, Anita Tatum, director of the State Office of Voter Registration, said she resigned under pressure Tuesday evening. She referred questions to officials at the Alabama State Employees Association. ...

Worley said the resignation came after Tatum could not explain discrepancies between the computerized voter registration rolls maintained by Tatum's office and voter registration statistics posted on the secretary of state's Web site. -- Alabama registration beset on 2 fronts (AP via DecaturDaily.com)

October 20, 2004

Progressive group pushes initiatitves

From the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center website: Founded in 1998, the mission of the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center is to utilize the ballot initiative process to further the goals of the labor and progressive community by developing a proactive, national strategy to advance progressive ballot measures and connecting advocates across state and issue lines with a growing network of organizational leaders and experienced consultants so that valuable tactical and strategic ballot initiative resources may be shared. We do this by building a funding, research, and training infrastructure to support progressive ballot measure activity. --
Ballot Initiative Strategy Center

Thanks to Inter Alia for the link.

Purging practices of several states

From a new study by the ACLU, Demos, and the Right to Vote Coalition: This survey reflects our research of state law as supplemented by conversations with representatives from each state’s chief elections agency and two county election agencies. Through our research and conversations, we sought to answer the following questions: (1) how does the state compile its felon purge list?, (2) how do the state’s elections officials “match” people with felony convictions against individuals listed on their voter registration list before purging them from the rolls?, and (3) does the state notify the individuals deemed “matched” that they will be or have been purged? ...

In all three issue areas examined, we found inconsistent practices both across and within states, even in states with identical disfranchisement laws. We offer detailed recommendations for remedying these inconsistencies in the last section of this report, and attach detailed state-by-state purge fact sheets to the end of this report. -- Purged! How a patchwork of flawed and inconsistent voting systems could deprive millions of Americans of the right to vote

Thanks to beSpacific for the link.

Illinois judge orders group's radio ads off the air

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports: In what may be the first test of a new Illinois campaign finance law, a judge has ordered a tort reform group to pull a radio ad about the Illinois Supreme Court race.

Circuit Judge Phillip Palmer of Williamson County issued the temporary restraining order Tuesday against Illinois Lawsuit Abuse Watch in response to a suit filed by a union, Operating Engineers Local 318 of Marion, Ill.

The union's suit alleged that ILAW violated the state's new Campaign Disclosure Act in accepting what the union contends are campaign contributions without registering as a political committee and disclosing its contributors and expenditures. -- Tort reform group is ordered to pull ad (STLtoday.com)

Thanks to Howard Bashman's How Appealing for the link.

Virginia GOP legislator objects to Governor's re-enfranchising felons

AP reports: With [Virginia] Gov. Mark R. Warner restoring the voting rights of felons at an unprecedented pace, a Republican lawmaker is demanding an explanation and calling for a legislative review.

Since Warner took office in January 2002, he has given the vote back to 1,892 Virginia felons who have served their prison time and completed probation. Virginia is one of the most restrictive states for recover the voting rights that are lost upon a felony conviction.

In a tersely worded letter to the Secretary of the Commonwealth's office, Del. Brad Marrs, R-Chesterfield, asked for copies of the files of all applications Warner has approved. The secretary's office reviews the applications and sends them to the governor's office.

Marrs asked the office to confirm a news report that Warner had approved 65 reinstatements in the final week of September, "a rate of 13 per business day or over 1{ per hour." -- GOP delegate questions Warner restoring vote to 1,892 felons(AP via dailypress.com)

Damn it, the process is supposed to be cumbersome. Anybody speeding it up must be up to something. [That's a paraphrase.]

GOP charges Dems with fraudulent registrations

The Washington Post reports: President Bush's campaign charged yesterday that fraudulent voting engineered by pro-Democratic groups could throw the election to John F. Kerry -- a charge Democrats immediately attacked as a Republican smoke screen to justify the intimidation of minority voters on Election Day.

With less than two weeks until Nov. 2, reports of skullduggery by both Kerry and Bush supporters are flying in key battleground states: a burglary that resulted in the theft of hundreds of completed registration forms in New Mexico; a man paid with crack cocaine to register fictitious voters such as "Mary Poppins" in Ohio; a Colorado resident who registered to vote not once, but 35 times.

In a conference call with reporters yesterday, three top Bush campaign officials cited reports of thousands of phony registrations around the country. Deputy campaign manager Mark Wallace contended that already there is evidence of "an enormous amount of fraud" in the presidential race.

Jack Corrigan, a senior adviser to the Democratic National Committee, called the Republicans' assertions "hysterical, hypocritical and false." -- Charges, Countercharges Exchanged Over Fraudulent Voting (washingtonpost.com)

AP roundup of the election litigation

AP reports: Many states are facing legal challenges over possible voting problems Nov. 2. A look at some of the developments Tuesday: [Florida, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Washington DC]. -- A look at lawsuits, voting problems and other ballot issues around the country (AP via SFGate.com)

[ ... and Colorado, Georgia, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina.] -- A Look at Lawsuits, Voting Problems (AP via miami.com)

Legal battles already underway

The Washington Post reports: The ballots have yet to be counted, much less recounted. But attorneys for President Bush and John F. Kerry are already engaged in an intense legal battle for the presidency that could once again give the courts a say in who is declared the winner.

With less than two weeks to go before Election Day, an unprecedented number of lawsuits challenging basic election rules are pending in many of the battleground states. Both sides are in the final stages of training thousands of lawyers who will descend on the polls on Nov. 2 to watch for voter fraud or intimidation.

Each campaign has teams of attorneys ready in the event of a recount in one or more states. Both are hitting up donors to pay the legal tabs in case there is a disputed outcome that leaves the winner in doubt after the polls close.

Four years after the election between Bush and then-Vice President Al Gore deadlocked in Florida and produced a 36-day legal whirlwind ultimately decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, courtroom battles have become as routine a part of the campaign as rallies and television ads. -- Legal Battle for Presidency Underway (washingtonpost.com)

Virginia's parties will have lawyers in the field on election day

The Washington Post reports: Top attorneys with Virginia's Democratic Party gathered Tuesday night to begin training 600 volunteer lawyers to fan across the state on Election Day to monitor the voting process and provide legal advice if irregularities emerge.

Party officials said the effort, dubbed the 2004 Voter Protection Program, is fueled by the lingering fear of a Florida-style election debacle that could threaten the integrity of the process. They plan to hold five or six more training sessions over the next week.

"We see our roles as supporting a system and cleaning up its inevitable mistakes," said Michael Signer, the voter protection coordinator for the state party. "We're giving voters the confidence that the system will work for them."

Signer said the attorneys will stand outside polling places with other campaign workers and offer advice to voters who want it. He said they will also be on hand to advise party leaders if voting machines malfunction or there are other problems. -- Parties to Post Lawyers at Polls (washingtonpost.com)

Judge Kollar-Kotelly clarifies ruling on FEC rules

The New York Times reports: A ruling by a federal judge on Tuesday appears to have clarified questions about whether an important set of campaign finance regulations remain in effect for this year's races after a court ruling last month.

The judge, Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, of Federal District Court in Washington, said in her opinion that she did not vacate the regulations that were on the books when she asked the Federal Election Commission last month to rewrite 15 of the highly technical rules that govern how campaigns are financed.

In responding Tuesday to a request by the commission in the case, the judge wrote that "the deficient rules technically remain 'on the books.' "

For some election lawyers, the opinion answered their questions about what rules were in effect for the remaining weeks of the elections. "My sense is that the regulations as issued are the law of the land," said Michael Toner, a Republican commissioner. -- Fund-Raising: Judge, Clarifying Decision, Says Spending Rules Stand (The New York Times) **

Turning out the vote may cost $350 million for interest groups

The New York Times reports: In a presidential race whose outcome is expected to hang on turnout at the polls, an army of interest groups is pumping at least $350 million into get-out-the-vote campaigns that are rewriting the tactics of elections.

The efforts are part of the most expensive voter-drive ground war in history. It includes the major parties and their allies, the independent but partisan groups known as 527's, whose attack advertisements have played a big role in both President Bush's and Senator John Kerry's campaigns.

And for the first time in a national campaign, it includes hundreds of civic organizations and deep-pocketed business interests.

These groups, including the United States Chamber of Commerce and coalitions of charities, are using millions of dollars from donors that the groups are not required to identify. And though the groups are nonpartisan, some emphasize issues identified with one candidate or the other. -- Advocacy Groups: Interest Groups Mounting Costly Push to Get Out Vote (New York Times)

Minnesota judicial campaign rules still under challenge

St. Paul Pioneer Press reports: A new round begins Wednesday in the lengthy legal battle over how Minnesota's judicial candidates campaign for office.

Golden Valley lawyer Greg Wersal and his co-appellants, including the Republican Party of Minnesota, seek to convince a panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that judicial candidates should be allowed to personally solicit campaign funds and seek political party endorsements.

If the appellate judges side with Wersal and his co-appellants, it could open judicial elections to partisan politics.

"The way things are now it makes running for office almost impossible," said Wersal, a former candidate for the Minnesota Supreme Court.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2002 that judicial candidates can speak out about controversial topics but did not consider the details of running for election and returned the case to the appeals court for further review. -- Judicial politics up for review (St. Paul Pioneer Press)

Federal court enjoins Kentucky rules on judicial campaigns

AP reports: Judicial candidates should be allowed to express opinions in campaign speeches without fear of being punished by Kentucky's restrictions on campaign speech, a federal judge ruled yesterday.

U.S. District Judge Danny Reeves ruled that the state Judicial Conduct Commission and Kentucky Bar Association cannot punish a candidate for making statements that appear to commit that candidate to a certain stance or issue.

"Kentucky's canon of judicial conduct that professes to prohibit candidates from making promises, pledges or commitments, in fact limits the candidate's ability to announce his or her views in violation of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution," Reeves wrote.

Reeves' ruling does not take effect until tomorrow, and lawyers for the Bar Association and the Judicial Conduct Commission said they would most likely appeal. -- Kentucky judicial candidates can speak out (AP via firstamendmentcenter.org)

Hebert's statement on the re-redistricting remand

Gerry Hebert emails: I think the recent indictments in Austin of Tom DeLay’s cohorts show quite clearly how the redistricting process, including the funds raised by DeLay to pull it off, was illegal. Texas congressional Democrats and the Texas Democratic Party have contended from the beginning that the results of that illegal process, the map it produced, is also illegal. Illegal processes usually lead to illegal results, as they did here. The decision Monday to vacate the lower court’s decision sets the stage for the results of Tom DeLay’s handiwork to be declared unconstitutional, and we will continue to press the litigation for that overdue judicial determination.

Mecklenburg County blocks early voting plan

The Charlotte Observer reports: Early voting scheduled for this Sunday could be in jeopardy, after [Mecklenburg County, NC] commissioners voted 5-3 along party lines to withhold $55,992 in state funding for the program.Republicans argued that the State Board of Elections violated an established process when it approved Sunday voting.

They said the county elections office would only get the money if it canceled Sunday voting.

Democrats called the move an abuse of power and alleged that Republicans were trying to suppress voter turnout. Some groups planned to bus voters to the polls after church on Sunday.

That prompted a quick retort from Republican Ruth Samuelson, who listed all the opportunities that people have to vote. -- County manager gets 7.1% raise; Board votes to withhold money if Sunday voting is not canceled (charlotte.com)

A usually reliable source tells me: The sticking point was the county BOE's plan to keep 5 sites open on Sundays for early voting. (Sunday sites are open in Raliegh and Durham.) The commissioners who voted against the plan cited "fatih-based" reasons, among other things, but my contacts there believe that the real reason is the well-publicized "Souls to the Polls" campaign underway in black churches in Charlotte. Apparently, the campaign is planning to take 6,000 to 8,000 parishoners to the polls after church this Sunday.

I just heard that the State Board of Elections has said that the Sunday voting sites are not optional. Either the county can accept the money or pay for it with property taxes. The county commission is meeting Friday to revisit the issue.

“One-Stop Shop for Voters”

From an LCCR press release: The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR) and the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Education Fund (LCCREF) are pleased to announce a new online resource for voters. The “One-Stop Shop for Voters” is a compendium of online resources, including many resources developed by LCCR member organizations, that help voters to:

  • verify voter registration status;

  • understand voting rights;

  • find polling place and hours of operation;

  • request an absentee ballot;

  • research what candidates and issues will be on their ballot;

  • find which voting system will be used to record votes; and

  • know what to do if facing difficulty in voting.
  • The website also offers a list of actions that voters can take to help protect voting rights this November 2, and encourages concerned voters to volunteer as a poll monitor with the non-partisan Election Protection Coalition. --
    One-Stop Shop for Voters

    LCCR asks parties to "cease and desist"

    From a Leadership Conference on Civil Rights press release: Citing recent poll challenge efforts by the Democratic and Republican parties, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR), the nation's oldest, largest and most diverse civil and human rights coalition, today called on the chairmen of both parties to "cease and desist."

    In letters to Terry McAuliffe and Ed Gillespie, Wade Henderson, executive director of LCCR, expressed his "deep concern about recent reports that partisan entities, including the Republican and Democratic Parties, plan to conduct aggressive challenges to voters at the polls during the November 2nd general election that are likely to impact minority voters more harshly than non-minority voters."

    In his letter to the two party leaders, Henderson noted a report in the Akron Beacon-Journal that the Republican and Democratic parties plan to invoke a little-used 1953 Ohio state law to put challengers at the polls, "a move that could create additional mayhem on November 2." -- LCCR Calls on Parties to Cease and Desist Poll Challenge Activities (civilrights.org)

    October 19, 2004

    Federal court rules for plaintiffs in Michigan provisional voting suit

    AP reports A federal judge ruled Tuesday that Michigan must count provisional ballots cast by voters who show up at the wrong polling precincts but are in the right city, township or village.

    U.S. District Judge David Lawson issued an injunction barring Republican Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land from ordering election officials not to count provisional ballots unless voters appear in the right precinct. -- Federal judge says Michigan must count provisional ballots in wrong precincts (AP via freep.com)

    Thanks to Brenda Wright for the link and the decision.

    Nevada judge refuses to reopen registration for those with trashed registration forms

    The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports: District Judge Valerie Adair on Friday denied the Democratic Party's request to reopen voter registration to voters whose forms might have been destroyed by a Republican-backed organiza- tion.

    In denying the Democratic Party's petition, Adair said extending registration could "open the floodgates" to allow people not affected by the purported fraud to register. Such a move would be inviting "additional fraud and manipulation," she said.

    "This court does not believe that there is any way to ensure that only those individuals legitimately affected will register if the time period is extended," the judge said. "There is no guarantee that hundreds of people will not seek to register or claim that they have been impacted."

    The appropriate remedy under Nevada law is for those who believe they've been wrongfully denied the right to vote to file individual lawsuits against the Clark County registrar asking to be included on the voter rolls, Adair said. -- VOTER FRAUD ALLEGATIONS: Judge denies request (reviewjournal.com)

    "Why the Electoral College Is Bad for America"

    On NPR's Morning Edition: In his book Why the Electoral College Is Bad for America, author George Edwards argues the system may be outdated and irrelevant in today's political climate. NPR's Steve Inskeep talks to Edwards about how the Electoral College impacts voting in the United States. -- NPR : 'Why the Electoral College Is Bad for America'

    Another candidate for "the next Florida" : New Mexico

    The Hill reports: Unless the presidential election is a blowout, the Land of Enchantment will see lawsuits challenging the outcome, a key Republican state party official predicts.

    Greg Graves, executive director of the New Mexico GOP, said: “The honest ballots counted will give President George W. Bush a narrow victory” and the state’s five electoral votes. Just a few feet from Graves’s office, Scott Jennings, executive director of New Mexico’s Bush campaign, said the president would beat Kerry “in a free, fair election.”

    But Graves anticipates that, in addition to 615,000-620,000 legally cast votes, there will also be “15,000 to 20,000 fraudulent votes,” which could hand the election to Democratic nominee Sen. John Kerry.

    In any case, a close election will translate into legal challenges of the outcome, Graves said. “Every time a fraudulent vote is cast, it disenfranchises those of us who obey the law,” he added. -- Lawsuits loom over New Mexico outcome (The Hill.com)

    Schwarzenegger backs open primary initiative

    AP reports: Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger bucked party leaders by endorsing two ballot measures opposed by his party leaders.

    Schwarzenegger announced Monday he was endorsing a $3 billion bond measure that would fund human embryonic stem cell research and a ballot proposal to dump political party primaries. ...

    Schwarzenegger also jumped into the debate on primaries, saying Proposition 62 would send more moderates to Sacramento. ...

    The initiative would toss out the state's primary election system in most state and federal races in favor of a so-called "top-two" primary -- a kind of candidate soup in which all contenders for an office would appear on a single primary ballot. -- Governor bucks GOP by endorsing two propositions (AP via SFGate.com)

    PG&E settles campaign finance suit

    AP reports: Pacific Gas & Electric Co. and two other parties have settled a lawsuit alleging that they failed to disclose campaign contributions linked to a city public-power ballot measure two years ago.

    The Fair Political Practices Commission announced Tuesday that it had reached a civil settlement for $240,000 with PG&E, the No On D Committee and the committee's treasurer, James Sutton.

    The fine will be paid by Sutton and the San Francisco law firm Nielsen, Merksamer, Parrinello, Mueller & Naylor, which represented the No On D Committee, PG&E spokesman Paul Moreno said. Sutton is a former partner in the law firm. ...

    The contributions were used to buy ads opposing Measure D, which would have made the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, rather than PG&E, San Francisco's main electricity supplier. Measure D was defeated after PG&E spent $2.7 million to oppose it, breaking the city record for a ballot measure campaign financed by one source.

    PG&E, the No On D committee and Sutton were required to report each contribution within 24 hours, but didn't report them until a month after the election, according to a lawsuit filed by the FPPC. -- PG&E agrees to settlement over campaign finance violations (AP via SFGate.com)

    Sinclair backs off earlier plan to show all of anti-Kerry documentary

    AP reports: A documentary critical of John Kerry's Vietnam-era anti-war activities will be shown only in part during a program examining the use of such documentaries to influence elections, Sinclair Broadcast said Tuesday.

    The company's announcement came hours after shareholders challenged Sinclair's plans to air the program, saying the controversial broadcast may hurt their investment.

    "A POW Story: Politics, Pressure and the Media," will examine the "role of the media in filtering the information contained in these documentaries, allegations of media bias by media organizations that ignore or filter legitimate news and the attempts by candidates and other organizations to influence media coverage," the company said in a statement. ...

    The Democratic National Committee filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission, arguing that the broadcast should be considered an illegal in-kind contribution to the Bush campaign. -- Broadcaster: Show to focus on influence of documentaries on elections, will include only part of film critical of Kerry (AP via Ohio News Now)

    Get yer programs here!

    Electionline.org and Election Law @ Mortiz are publishing lists of pending election-law cases and links (in many cases) to the court documents.

    The electionline.org list is here.

    Election Law @ Mortiz is collecting information only for Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

    The good, the bad, and the really ugly -- electionline.org issues a report

    The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports: A non-partisan clearinghouse for election-reform research has singled out Missouri as one of three states with the potential for big Election Day ballot problems.

    The group, electionline.org, said Tuesday it will send researchers to observe voting in Missouri, Florida and Ohio.

    "(Missouri) state officials have been assuring voters that there will be no repeat of 2000," said Elizabeth Schneider, a researcher for the group. "Despite those assurances, our report found that conditions are ripe for problems on Election Day."

    She said one potential trouble spot for Missouri is the large number of voters who will cast ballots on punch card systems like the ones Florida did away with after its infamous recount fraught with hanging and dimpled chads. (In Missouri, 37 of 116 jurisdictions still use punch-card systems, including urban areas with a large swath of the state's voters in the St. Louis and Kansas City metropolitan areas.) She also cited security concerns about Secretary of State Matt Blunt's plan to allow troops in combat zones to vote by e-mail. -- | 10/19/2004 | Several states face likely voter problems for elections (KRT Wire via SunHerald.com)

    The electionline.org report is available here.

    Nader still off the Pennsylvania ballot

    AP reports: The state Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling that ordered Ralph Nader off Pennsylvania's presidential ballot.

    The one-page order, released Tuesday, did not include any explanation; one judge dissented the ruling.

    "This is a total victory for our side," said Gregory M. Harvey, an attorney challenging Nader's petition to appear on the ballot.

    Nader's spokesman Kevin Zeese said the campaign would appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, perhaps as early as tomorrow. -- Supreme Court upholds ruling barring Nader from Pa. ballot (AP via TheState.com)

    6th Circuit rules against Nader's Ohio ballot attempt

    AP reports: A federal appeals court has ruled that it would not grant presidential candidate Ralph Nader an injunction to block a lower court's order that removed him from the Ohio ballot.

    Nader had appealed an Oct. 12 ruling by U.S. District Judge Edmund Sargus, who refused to place the independent on the ballot because of fraud by signature collectors.

    A three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals wrote in its decision Monday that Nader could not demonstrate a likelihood of success on the merits of the case.

    "The state administrative hearing officer found substantial evidence of fraud by the petition circulators which is supported by the evidence," the decision said. -- Federal appeals court denies Nader emergency injunction (AP via ohio.com)

    Suit against electronic voting machines in New Jersey

    The New York Times reports: With just two weeks remaining before the Nov. 2 presidential election, a coalition of private citizens and local elected officials in New Jersey plan to file a lawsuit today to block the state's use of electronic voting machines.

    At its heart, the complaint - a draft of which was provided to The New York Times - will ask the State Superior Court in Trenton to block the use of nearly 8,000 electronic voting machines, because they "cannot be relied upon to protect the fundamental right to vote."

    More than three million registered voters in 15 of New Jersey's 21 counties are scheduled to use the electronic voting machines, which have been dogged nationwide by concerns over their reliability and fairness. Five New Jersey counties use the old mechanical lever machines, like the ones in use in New York and Connecticut. One New Jersey county uses optically scanned ballots. Most counties also have optical scan machines in place for handling absentee ballots, and the draft lawsuit suggests the expanded use of these in lieu of the electronic machines. -- New Jersey Lawsuit Challenges Electronic Voting (New York Times)

    October 18, 2004

    FEC will decide on recount funding on 28 October

    AP reports: Election officials plan to decide before the Nov. 2 election whether congressional and presidential candidates can raise unlimited donations to fund recounts as President Bush and Al Gore could for the multimillion-dollar Florida ballot dispute in 2000.

    The Federal Election Commission, responding to a request for advice by Democratic presidential hopeful John Kerry's campaign, said last month that Bush and Kerry could use their legal compliance funds, financed with individual donations of up to $2,000 each, to cover recount costs.

    But the FEC stopped short of addressing whether they could set up separate recount funds bankrolled with unlimited individual donations as Bush and Gore could in the 2000 recount.

    The commission plans to decide that question Oct. 28, its last meeting before the election. -- Campaigns seek OK to fundraise for recounts (AP via Newsday.com)

    Judge upholds Colorado ID rule, overturns one absentee ballot rule

    The Colorado Springs Gazette reports: Colorado voters must take identification to the polls on Election Day, a judge ruled Monday.

    Colorado Common Cause had filed a lawsuit to block the practice on grounds that it might prevent some people -- college students and the homeless, for instance -- from voting.

    But Denver District Judge Morris Hoffman determined that requiring voters to show some sort of ID will help the state combat voter fraud, an increasing concern in Colorado this year as thousands of questionable voter registration forms have turned up in county clerks' offices across the state.

    Showing some kind of ID, whether it's a driver's license, birth certificate or passport, will help detect illegal voters "before fraudulent regular ballots are cast and fraudulent provisional ballots are counted," Hoffman wrote in his 27-page opinion. ...

    Hoffman overturned a new rule that would have prevented voters who had requested an absentee ballot from casting a vote on Nov. 2 at the polls. The judge ruled that voters who did not send in their absentee ballots could vote on Election Day using a provisional ballot. -- Judge upholds some election rules, overturns others (Gazette.com)

    Rick Hasen has the opinion.

    Florida supreme court rules against wrong-precinct provisional ballots

    AP reports: People who cast a provisional ballot at the wrong precinct aren't entitled to have their votes counted, the state Supreme Court unanimously ruled Monday, rejecting an argument by labor unions that the rule wrongly disenfranchises voters.

    The court said the law clearly states that provisional ballots must be counted only if the person was entitled to vote "at the precinct," and that the constitution gives the Legislature the authority to dictate voting rules.

    Under Florida law, if a voter shows up at a polling place but officials have no record of them being registered, they are given a provisional ballot. That ballot is then held until officials determine if the person was entitled to vote at that precinct and hasn't already voted.

    If they should have been allowed to vote, the ballot counts; if not, it's thrown out. -- Supreme Court: Provisional ballots in wrong precinct don't count (AP via bradenton.com)

    Here is the opinion. Thanks to Abstract Appeal for the link and an interesting analysis.

    DOJ opposes Dems in Michigan provisional ballot case

    AP reports: The U.S. Justice Department asked a federal judge on Monday to dismiss a lawsuit filed by Michigan Democrats in an effort to get the state to count provisional ballots cast by voters in the wrong polling precincts on Nov. 2.

    The Justice Department argued in a friend-of-the-court brief that the Help America Vote Act does not give individuals the right to sue if they believe their state has violated the law passed by Congress in 2002. Rather, those citizens should go through a state administrative complaint process or rely on a U.S. attorney to file suit, government attorneys said.

    The Justice Department also opposed Democrats' request that citizens who appear in the right city, township or village should have their votes counted regardless of whether they show up in the correct precinct.

    "American elections have long been precinct-based," Justice Department attorneys wrote in court papers. "A well-understood premise of such a system is that a voter must appear at the correct polling place -- the one to which the voter was assigned, and on whose rolls the voter appears -- or else the voter will not be able to vote." -- U.S. Justice Department files brief in provisional ballot case (AP via freep.com)

    Wisconsin GOP officers ran petition drive for Nader

    AP reports: At least 16 Republican Party officers and volunteers were involved in a secret signature drive to get independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader on Wisconsin's ballot, a newspaper reported Sunday.

    Organizers gathered an estimated 3,228 signatures - far more than the 2,000 required to put Nader on the Nov. 2 ballot, the Wisconsin State Journal in Madison reported.

    Political experts agree Nader's presence on the ballot improves President Bush's chances of winning in Wisconsin, a state he lost by less than 1 percentage point in the 2000 election, by drawing potential votes from Democratic candidate John Kerry.

    Nader's Wisconsin coordinator, Bill Linville, told the newspaper he didn't turn the signatures over to the state Elections Board because the head of the drive, UW-Madison student Matt Holsen, refused to say who was behind it. -- Report: Republicans tried to get Nader on Wisconsin ballot (AP via GMtoday.com)

    Nader loses again in bid to get on the Arizona ballot

    AP reports: A federal Appeals Court on Friday rejected independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader's bid to appear on Arizona's ballot.

    The ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which is based in San Francisco, came two weeks after early voting for the Nov. 2 presidential election had begun in Arizona.

    "If the 9th Circuit had ruled that we had to reprint the ballot, we would have been in a real pickle," Assistant Arizona Attorney General Jessica Funkhouser said.

    Nader attorney Robert E. Barnes said it is unlikely that the campaign will appeal the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court. -- Nader ballot appeal in Arizona defeated (AP via AZCentral.com)

    How early voting leads to missing votes

    John Dougherty writes in The Phoenix New Times: With less then three weeks before the general election, I have serious doubts that whatever "official" results the Maricopa County Elections Department posts will be an accurate reflection of what voters intended.

    After a week of investigating the department's mishandling of last month's controversial recount in the District 20 state House of Representatives race, I won't believe the results of any election in this county if the contest is within a couple of percentage points.

    There is just too much slop in the current system to have any confidence in the winner of an election closer than this.

    My concerns over the accuracy of Maricopa County's election numbers result from the widespread and popular use of mail-in ballots. I have discovered ample evidence that the county elections department is covering up serious shortfalls in its ability to accurately count such early mailed-in ballots.

    The uncontrolled circumstances of voting at home plus the wide variety of writing utensils commonly used to mark ballots greatly increases the likelihood that early ballots will be misread by the county's optical scanning machines provided by the Omaha, Nebraska-based Election Systems & Software, Incorporated (ES&S). -- Election Eve Nightmare (phoenixnewtimes.com)

    "The liberals do a better job than conservatives with direct mail"

    The Washington Post reports: Few people are as closely identified with the right wing of the political spectrum as Richard A. Viguerie. In nearly four decades of six-day-a-week labors, the pioneer of direct-mail rabble-rousing has helped create hundreds of organizations -- including Gun Owners of America, the National Right to Work Foundation and the National Conservative Political Action Committee -- and was instrumental in electing such noted and controversial conservatives as Jesse Helms and Bob Dornan. He's been called "the funding father of the conservative movement."

    Then why is he saying such nice things about liberals? The reason, Viguerie says, is that facts are facts: When it comes to stirring up the masses, the political left is doing a better job than the right in getting its message across. The 71-year-old ideological warrior believes that left-leaning groups are miles ahead in using the world's most powerful and efficient marketing tool -- the Internet -- for political advocacy. And as remarkable as it sounds, he also says that the left has eclipsed the right in Viguerie's own specialty, direct mail.

    "On balance, in my opinion, the liberals do a better job than conservatives with direct mail," Viguerie said this summer in a speech to the Direct Marketing Association's Nonprofit Federation in New York. And in an interview here, he adds: "In terms of using the Internet for political activism in recent years, the left is running circles around conservatives."

    Viguerie is uniquely qualified to draw such conclusions. His Manassas-based firm, now called American Target Advertising Inc., has mailed more than 2 billion letters over the past 40 years and will send more than 100 million pieces of direct mail this year. The purpose of all that postage: to build support for "New Right" causes that range from cutting taxes to bolstering family values. Viguerie's chief asset is a list of 3 1/2 million names of people who can reliably be called upon to support such causes with their votes and their dollars. He also has worked for years to make inroads into Internet politics. -- Liberal Praise Drawn From Unlikely Source (washingtonpost.com)

    Supreme Court vacates and remands Texas re-redistricting case

    The New York Times reports: Though too late at least for next month's election, the Supreme Court on Monday gave Texas Democrats a renewed chance to challenge the Congressional redistricting plan that is expected to cost as many as five Democratic incumbents their House seats.

    In an unsigned and apparently unanimous order, the justices vacated a ruling issued in January by a special three-judge federal district court in Austin that upheld an unusual mid-decade redistricting imposed by the Texas Legislature's new Republican majority last year over Democratic opposition.

    The district court had rejected the Democrats' argument that the new plan, engineered by Tom DeLay of Texas, majority leader of the United States House, was an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander. But the justices ordered the panel to reconsider that decision in light of the Supreme Court's own decision six months ago in a redistricting case from Pennsylvania.

    The order was something of a surprise. In the Pennsylvania case, Vieth v. Jubelirer, decided April 28, the court voted 5 to 4 to reject the Democrats' claim of an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander in new Congressional districts drawn by state legislators after the 2000 census. In light of that ruling, some election law experts assumed the justices would deal with the Texas Democrats' appeal simply by summarily affirming the district court's decision. That would have been the end of the Texas case.

    Instead, the order to reconsider the decision keeps the case alive and strongly suggests that Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, who cast the swing vote in the Pennsylvania case, agreed with its four dissenters that there is more to say about partisan gerrymandering and the Constitution. -- Justices Revive Texas Districting Challenge (New York Times)

    The Washington Post adds: Thus, the main significance of today's action may be that the court will not have to decide the issue in the heat of this year's political season -- and that the district court will know the results of the November voting in Texas by the time it rewrites its ruling.
    Texas Districting Battle Back to Lower Court (WashingtonPost.com)

    Election disputes in Ohio and elsewhere: a Times roundup

    The New York Times reports: As the secretary of state of Ohio, J. Kenneth Blackwell, a Republican who is unabashed about his ambition to be governor, has issued a series of rulings on obscure issues like provisional ballots, voting notices to parolees and the weight of registration forms.

    To Democrats, who say he has repeatedly tried to disenfranchise Democratic voters with those rulings, Mr. Blackwell is reminiscent of Katherine Harris, the Florida secretary of state who made her name in the chaotic election of 2000. On Friday they challenged him again, filing suit to block a directive they say will require election workers to reject thousands of registrations by first-time Democratic voters.

    But Mr. Blackwell's aides say he has been scrupulously evenhanded in his efforts to guard the integrity of voting in this crucial swing state. Each of his directives has followed Ohio law, they say, and most have been guided by one unassailable goal: to prevent fraud. The charges against him, they say, are baseless and political.

    The legal combat in Ohio over the fundamental issue of who can vote is recurring in virtually every battleground state this year, in what experts say is fast becoming, in its final weeks, the most litigious, lawyer-fraught election in history. -- Balloting: As Election Nears, Parties Begin Another Round of Legal Battles (New York Times)

    October 17, 2004

    Group seeks pledges to encourage Ralph Nader's exit from race

    From the RalphPlease.org website: Ralph Nader wants a cleaner, more just government. So do we. Unfortunately, with razor-thin margins in key states Nader's candidacy could ensure another disastrous term of office for G. W. Bush. We cannot afford four more years devoted to big business, war profiteering, mind boggling deficits, environmental degradation, job outsourcing, lower standards of living for working and middle class people, vulnerable children left behind, and more. We could also get thirty years of a super-conservative Supreme Court attacking our rights, freedom, and privacy!

    If Nader is in the race to achieve what we all care about -- all the above issues and real campaign finance reform -- then he should leave the race now. To encourage him to do so, let's all commit to donate to Public Citizen, an organization founded by Nader to accomplish the goals we all support, in return for his withdrawal from the race. -- RalphPlease.org

    527 groups have post-election plans

    The New York Times reports: President Bush has condemned them and promised a crackdown, but some of the partisan advocacy groups that have sprung up this campaign season say they want to extend their existence beyond the election to become permanent fixtures on the political landscape.

    These plans are mostly by Democrats, who are seeking to use the groups to build a permanent "message machine" and strategic apparatus to counter Republicans, who have traditionally raised more money, made highly efficient use of the news media and carried out effective get-out-the-vote drives in recent campaigns.

    Democrats say the advocacy groups, known as 527's for the section of the tax code that governs them, have helped them amass huge sums of money and mobilize voters in ways that the party has not done in years. While 527's have existed for several years, they gained prominence this year after new campaign finance laws barred big donors, unions and corporations from giving unlimited amounts of money to parties. Now, those donors simply give as much as they want to the 527's.

    Among the most prominent Democratic 527's is America Coming Together, or ACT, which has raised more than $100 million and developed extensive files that identify individual voters, pinpoint the issues they care about and will be used to prod them to the polls on Nov. 2. -- Money-Rich Advocacy Groups Look Far Beyond Election Day (New York Times) **

    Big money supports the 527's

    The Washington Post reports: This was going to be the year -- thanks to the 2002 campaign finance law -- when big money lost its influence in American politics.

    But if the election comes down to which presidential candidate is better at getting supporters to the polls, the huge donations of a handful of wealthy liberals named Linda Pritzker, Stephen L. Bing, Peter B. Lewis and George Soros could determine the outcome. Together, they have given more than $26 million to help finance the most extensive get-out-the vote operation in history, the goal of which is to make John F. Kerry president.

    The recipient of the largess, America Coming Together (ACT), is one of the so-called 527 organizations playing a crucial role in the presidential campaign. Named after a section of the tax code, the 527 groups are doing much of the advertising and field work traditionally left to party organizations.

    This election year, the groups have become the main way for the wealthy to affect events. Six of the top 10 donors to 527 groups are billionaires, and all are on Forbes magazine's list of richest Americans. Eight dollars out of every $10 collected from individuals by Democratic-leaning 527 groups have come from donors who have given at least $250,000 each, according to an analysis by The Washington Post of data on 527 donations maintained by Center for Public Integrity. -- Super Rich Step Into Political Vacuum (washingtonpost.com)

    GOP groups now ahead in fund-raising

    The Washington Post reports: With an overall fundraising advantage from the beginning of the presidential campaign, Republicans moved far more cautiously than Democrats to invest in 527 groups, but with the election just weeks away, groups aligned with the GOP are outspending their Democratic counterparts on radio and television by 6 to 1.

    Allies of President Bush have focused the efforts of their 527 groups on advertising, and the two leading pro-Republican groups -- Progress for America and Swift Boat Veterans for Truth -- have played a key role in efforts to undermine Democratic nominee John F. Kerry's credentials as a Vietnam War hero and as someone capable of defending the country against terrorist attacks.

    "I'd give the Republican 527s the 'more bang for the buck award,' that's for sure," said Democratic consultant Bill Carrick.

    During the spring and summer, two Democratic groups, The Media Fund and MoveOn.org, outspent Republicans on advertising by a large margin. But since late August, Republican 527s running television and radio commercials have raised $48.2 million, compared with $7.8 million by Democratic groups, according to reports to the Federal Election Commission. -- After Late Start, Republican Groups Jump Into the Lead (washingtonpost.com)

    Cross-endorsements in San Francisco may violate campaign laws

    The New York Times reports: San Francisco's introduction in November of a new municipal election system known as instant runoff voting has hit an unexpected snag with the city's Ethics Commission.

    One of the most noted byproducts of the unusual system - cooperation among rival candidates in races for the Board of Supervisors - might be in violation of city and state campaign finance laws. The commission is scheduled to consider the matter on Monday in response to queries from several campaigns worried about the political fallout of possible ethics charges. ...

    With the instant runoff in mind, some of the 65 candidates have been identifying their preferences for the second and third slots in their races. Rivals have also held joint fund-raisers, shared Web sites and printed campaign literature that identifies their ranked choices.

    But several campaigns have been advised by the Ethics Commission staff that city and state laws appear to ban cooperation among candidates if it involves the expenditure of campaign funds. For example, a candidate can walk door to door with a rival and endorse the rival in conversations with voters, but the candidate cannot print and distribute literature that makes the same endorsement. -- San Francisco's New Election System Runs Into an Obstacle (New York Times)

    Is this pro- or anti-Bush?

    I received this email:

    RatherGate proved that bloggers are the best fact checkers. That is why we are writing to a few bloggers asking for help. Yes Bush Can has collected several documents that are clearly suspect. But we need your help to prove they are fake: http://www.yesbushcan.com/falsedocs.shtml Let's spring to action before these documents needlessly tarnish the reputation of our Commander and Chief. You know the drill: analyze the handwriting, search for factual errors, and post your discoveries. And keep us posted by sending email to FakeDocs@yesbushcan.com. Thanks in advance for your help. YesBushCan

    So I went to the site and looked at the list of suspect documents. You can find it here.

    Several of the documents are easily checkable. For instance, the document about the arrest of Barbara and Jenna Bush is on the Austin Police Department website.

    One hint that this is not a pro-Bush website is found on its Patriot Pledge Page. One optional pledge is, "I support tax cuts favoring the elite, and I volunteer to pay more than my share of taxes to allow the elite to invest their money in our country’s economy. [Please skip this item if your annual income exceeds $400,000.]"

    October 16, 2004

    If you are in Miami on Friday ...

    Matt Conigliaro writes on his blog, Abstract Appeal: Next Friday, in Miami, the Appellate Practice Section of The Florida Bar hosts its annual Hot Topics Seminar. I'm helping coordinate this one, so I'll be down there and will likely be introducing two of the speakers, electronic filing guru Judge Martha Warner and the incredible Kendall Coffey. Great speakers. Great topics. (A timely bonus, Kendall's going to speak on hot topics regarding elections cases -- can't imagine what he'll have to talk about...) -- Appellate Reminder No. 2 (Abstract Appeal -- by Matt Conigliaro)

    Campaign & Elections publishes list of political blogs

    Campaigns and Elections magazine has started a list of blogs about politics and campaigns. Pretty good list, although it omits Votelaw -- for the moment, we hope.

    Bush's regional chair resigns after being fingered in the 2002 phone-jamming incident

    Josh Marshall follows up on his earlier story about the tie-in between the GOP and the 2002 phone-jamming of the Democratic GOTV effort: Bush-Cheney New England campaign chair Jim Tobin resigns over election tampering scandal.

    A few suggested questions for national political reporters needing to do catch-up on this story.
    Tobin was named by the two men who've pled guilty in the case as part of their plea agreements. The Bush campaign has known for months of Tobin's involvement in this case. The only reason he resigned today is that this information was finally pried free from court documents. Why did they keep him in such a senior post if they knew of his role in such serious wrongdoing? -- (Talking Points Memo: by Joshua Micah Marshall)

    Marshall has more here.

    Another Rove-type dirty trick?

    Steven C. Clemons at The Washington Note writes: WHAT IS IT WITH THE REPUBLICAN PARTY IN THE SOUTH and disgusting political flyers and mailers?

    A nasty flyer has turned up in Tennesse politics which depicts a handicapped athlete running on a track with George Bush's face pasted on.

    The text reads:

    Voting for Bush is Like Running in the Special Olympics -- Even if You Win, You're Still Retarded.

    The Traditional Values Coalition and other right wing operations in the South jumped on this fast alleging that Tennessee Democrat Craig Fitzhugh's office, which shares space with the Kerry/Edwards Campaign, was distributing this flyer.

    I have just spoken to Fitzhugh's office -- and here are the facts so far.

    First, the Chairman of the Democratic Party Randy Button and Craig Fitzhugh have denied that these flyers were produced and/or distributed by Fitzhugh's or the campaign office. -- DIRTY TRICKS MONTH: REPUBLICANS HAVE NOT LEARNED THEIR FLYER LESSON (The Washington Note)

    Just a reminder: federal law (and the law of most states) requires that such flyers include the name of the person or group publishing it. Clemons is fairly sure that the flyer was done by the GOP (or its allies) in order to create criticism of the Democrats.

    Thanks to Josh Marshall for the link. Read his post on it for more details.

    Mark A. R. Kleiman has more details.

    Nader opinion from Pennsylvania

    Update:
    Here is the full 444-page opinion. Thanks to TalkLeft for the link.

    ====

    Here is the opinion of the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania regarding the Ralph Nader petitions to obtain ballot position. Thanks to Milind Shaw for sending the file.

    There are another 950 pages of exhibits and findings by the judges who reviewed the ballots. I don't have those -- and you probably would not want to read them.

    Colorado redistricting suit still alive

    The Rocky Mountain News reports: Remember Colorado's redistricting fight?

    The one that went to court all over the place - state court, Colorado Supreme Court, federal court, U.S. Supreme Court?

    The one that was supposed to be over when the U.S. Supreme Court let stand the Colorado Supreme Court's ruling that, since legislators couldn't agree on the boundaries of new voting districts, the map drawn by Denver District Judge John Coughlin would rule?

    Like Swamp Thing, it's still alive.

    Colorado U.S. District Judge Zita Weinshienk, who had stayed two federal lawsuits filed over the dispute while other courts did their thing, dismissed one of them Friday but let the other live.

    It was filed last year by attorney John Zakhem on behalf of four legislators challenging the Coughlin map, which Republicans called the Democrats' map. -- Judge allows redistricting suit to proceed (Rocky Mountain News)

    Rather than Swamp Thing, I was thinking of the hilarious Shaun of the Dead, which I saw last night.

    DCCC to pull ad criticized by Democratic candidate it supposed to help

    AP reports: A Texas congressman on Saturday asked the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to stop running a negative television ad about his Republican opponent.

    Democratic Rep. Max Sandlin, who did not approve or pay for the ad, said the commercial incorrectly criticizes the sentencing practices of his opponent, Louie Gohmert, a judge.

    The ad characterizes as soft a 75-year murder sentence in a plea agreement Gohmert approved. But Sandlin, a former judge himself, said the sentence was tough enough.

    "The ads simply don't pass my mother's truth test and if they don't pass my mother's truth test, they don't pass the test with me," Sandlin said.

    Greg Speed, a spokesman for the DCCC, said the committee stands behind the accuracy of the ad, but would have it pulled in deference to Sandlin. -- Texas Rep. Wants Ad Against Opponent Nixed (AP via philly.com)

    Does this constitute "coordination?"

    Volusia County, Florida, to open more early-voting sites

    The Daytona Beach News-Journal reports: Attorneys for the NAACP and Volusia County on Friday settled a voting rights lawsuit against Supervisor of Elections Deanie Lowe.

    The activist organization sued on Oct. 7 to force the county to open an additional early-voting site in Daytona Beach.

    Lowe had planned to open only one site -- at Department of Elections headquarters in DeLand. Representatives of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People argued that having only one site would disenfranchise black voters in east Volusia County.

    Under the agreement, the county will open additional sites at City Island Library in Daytona Beach, New Smyrna Beach Regional Library and Deltona Regional Library. All sites open at 8 a.m. Monday. -- NAACP settles; county to open voting sites (The Daytona Beach News-Journal)

    Minnesota GOP sues to get election-judge lists

    The St. Paul Pioneer Press reports: The Minnesota Republican Party on Friday asked the state Supreme Court to force local election officials across the state to identify the party affiliation of their election judges.

    Republicans said they are concerned that the teams of election judges that oversee polling places, particularly in Minneapolis and St. Paul, would not meet the state law requiring that no more than half of the election judges in any polling place be from the same party.

    The Republican petition to the court says party leaders need the party affiliation of election judges to make sure that requirement is met, and it asks the court to order local election officials to follow the law.

    The unusual legal move represents a growing anxiety among the parties about possible irregularities during the Nov. 2 election.

    The petition comes as Republican officials hold special Republicans-only training sessions for election judges, many of whom already have received nonpartisan instruction from city or county officials. -- | 10/16/2004 | GOP sues for election-judge data (St. Paul Pioneer Press)

    Florida: new recount rules; judge wants fast action on rejected voter applications

    AP reports: The state set a new rule for recounting touch-screen ballots Friday -just 18 days before the presidential election. The move angered voter rights groups that had sought to help shape the language.

    In other Friday actions affecting Florida voting, a Miami judge urged a quick trial on a lawsuit challenging the rejections of more than 10,000 voter registration cards, and Palm Beach County officials completed a critical test of their touch-screen system after a computer crash delayed it by several days. ...

    If the Nov. 2 election is as close as the 2000 contest between President Bush and Democrat Al Gore, county elections supervisors will be told to review each electronic ballot image to see if the number of so-called undervotes, those on which no candidate was chosen, matches the undervote totals given by the machine.

    If the numbers don't match up, the machines will be checked for problems. If that doesn't solve the discrepancy, the elections officials are told to trust that the original machine count was accurate.

    The new rule is a far cry from what a coalition of voter activists was seeking. ...

    With the election looming, U.S. District Judge James Lawrence King of Miami urged quick work in a lawsuit against Florida's largest counties over the rejection of more than 10,000 voter registration forms that officials say were improperly filled out.

    Nearly 45 percent of the challenged forms in one county, Duval, came from blacks.

    The lawsuit challenges state rules that let counties disqualify people who provided a signature affirming their eligibility to vote but failed to list an identification number, such as from a driver's license, or failed to check boxes affirming they were citizens, were mentally competent and were not felons. -- New Rule Is Set on Recount Methods (AP via theledger.com)

    Ohio Dems file another suit against Blackwell

    AP reports: Democrats have filed a second lawsuit against Ohio's top elections official, accusing him of trying to use voting rights laws to disenfranchise voters.

    The Lucas County Democratic Party and the Ohio Democratic Party filed the lawsuit on Friday against Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell, a Republican.

    The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Toledo, said Blackwell told county boards of elections not to process voter registration forms if the applicants had not filled out a space on the form for their driver's license numbers or the last four digits of their Social Security numbers.

    An exception would be applicants who say they do not have that information and write "none" in the space. -- Party files second lawsuit (AP via Ohio.com)

    Provisional balloting litigation

    Updated: Provisional ballots are at the center of several cases pending (or recently concluded) around the country. The issue is whether provisional ballots must be counted if they are cast in the wrong precinct. Here are the collections of pleadings in the cases I have found. If you know of others, please send me a link or the documents.

    Florida -- Abstract Appeal has the briefs in the Florida Supreme Court. (See the Abstract Appeal post just below that one for more details.) There is also a federal court suit, recently dismissed, on a slightly different theory.

    Ohio -- Election Law @ Moritz has all the briefs, orders, pleadings, and order in the U.S. District Court.

    Michigan -- the Complaint is on the Brennan Center website. (Thanks to Lisa Danetz for the link.)

    Missouri -- the order granting summary judgment to the defendant is here (thanks to reader Terry Jarrett, who just happens to be General Counsel in the Office of Secretary of State Matt Blunt).

    Nader appeals to Pennsylvania supreme court

    AP reports: Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader took his battle for a spot on Pennsylvania's ballot to the state Supreme Court Friday in a brief arguing that a lower court erred two days earlier when it invalidated his nominating petition.

    In a 64-page brief, Nader's lawyers said the state Commonwealth Court should have allowed signatures from people who are not registered to vote. The filing said signatories need only be "qualified electors."
    After examining 51,000 signatures that Nader's campaign submitted to state elections officials, judges said fewer than 19,000 met the necessary legal standard. That left Nader well short of the 25,697 needed for inclusion on the Nov. 2 ballot.

    "The final order entered by Commonwealth Court is premised on an erroneous interpretation of the law: namely, that the signatories and affiants of nomination papers must be registered voters at the addresses listed by them on the nomination papers at or before the time they sign," Nader's lawyers wrote. -- Nader Takes Ballot Battle to State Supreme Court (AP via Indiana Gazette)

    Nader's Virginia coordinator indicted

    AP reports: Ralph Nader's state campaign coordinator has been indicted on 10 counts of election fraud, stemming from petitions to get the consumer-rights advocate on Virginia's presidential ballot.

    James P. Polk, 47, turned himself in to Virginia Beach police Friday, a day after a special grand jury indicted him. He remains free on personal recognizance.

    The indictment alleges that Polk made or caused to be made "a false material statement or entry" on a petition to put Nader's name on the ballot. The false statements were alleged to have been made from Aug. 5 to Aug. 18 in Virginia Beach. -- Nader state coordinator indicted on election fraud charges (AP via DailyPress.com)

    Federal court blocks Ohio provisional ballot rule

    AP reports: In a victory for Democrats, a federal judge ruled Thursday that Ohio voters who show up at the wrong polling place on Election Day still can cast ballots as long as they are in the county where they are registered.

    U.S. District Judge James Carr blocked a directive from Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell, a Republican, that poll workers must send voters to their correct precinct to cast their ballots.

    Blackwell filed an appeal within a few hours of the decision.

    The judge said that voters who go to the wrong polling place after having moved without notifying the elections board -- and those whose names cannot be found on the registration roll -- should be able to cast provisional ballots at the site. -- State loses election ruling (AP via Beacon Journal)

    Election Law @ Moritz has the opinion in Sandusky County Democratic Party v Blackwell.


    Colorado GOP wants a special prosecutor to investigate voter registration fraud allegations

    The Colorado Springs Gazette reports: Colorado's growing voter registration fraud crisis took a partisan turn Friday, less than three weeks before the Nov. 2 election.

    Republican Party leaders asked Secretary of State Donetta Davidson to bypass Attorney General Ken Salazar, the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, in investigating widespread charges of voter registration fraud in Colorado.

    Davidson has been sending complaints from counties across the state about forged registration documents and other election im- proprieties to Salazar's office.

    "The attorney general has an appearance of impropriety by virtue of his candidacy for the U.S. Senate," said Mike Norton, an attorney representing the Colorado Republican Party. -- GOP bid for special prosecutor rejected (Gazette.com)

    GAO says DOJ is unprepared for election complaints

    The Washington Post reports: The Justice Department is ill prepared to handle a large influx of complaints about voting rights violations in the Nov. 2 presidential election, according to a report released yesterday by the Government Accountability Office.

    Campaign experts predict that the department's voting rights section will be flooded with calls and complaints about poll access and other irregularities in the face of a close race between President Bush and Democrat John F. Kerry and uncertainty over the effects of changes in election law and procedures. Some fear a repeat of the 2000 deadlock over the presidential election results in Florida.

    The Justice Department "lacks a clear plan" to reliably document and track allegations in a manner that could allow monitors to swiftly pick up patterns of abuse and take corrective steps, according to the GAO, Congress's nonpartisan investigative arm.

    "The reason it's so important to collect this information is to look for patterns in a particular county or in a particular polling place," said William O. Jenkins Jr., who prepared the report at the request of three Democratic lawmakers. "For instance, is it only Democrats or Republicans that seem to be having this problem? Were different voters told different things?" -- Voting Rights Machinery Doubted (washingtonpost.com)

    7th Cicruit holds no constitutional right to absentee ballot

    In Griffin v. Roupas, the Seventh Circuit (through Judge Posner) held that there is no constititutional right to an absentee ballot. Here is how Judge Posner described the suit:

    The plaintiffs, who appeal from the grant of a motion by the defendants (the members of the Illinois State Board of Elections) to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim, are working mothers who contend that because it is a hardship for them to vote in person on election day, the U.S. Constitution requires Illinois to allow them to vote by absentee ballot. Illinois allows voting by absentee ballot only if the voter either “expects to be absent [on election day] from the county in which he is a qualified elector” or is unable to vote in person because of physical incapacity, religious observance, residing outside his precinct for attendance at a college or university, or having to perform specified official duties—election judge in another precinct, certain other election duties, or serving as a sequestered juror. 10 ILCS 5/19-1. Failing as they do to qualify for any of these exceptions, the plaintiffs ask us to order in the name of the Constitution weekend voting, all-mail voting, an unlimited right to an absentee ballot, a general hardship entitlement to such a ballot, or some other change in Illinois law (Internet voting from home, perhaps?) that would allow people who find it hard for whatever reason to get to the polling place on election day nevertheless to vote.

    October 14, 2004

    Suit against Colorado Amendment 36 seeks to nix it, not fix it

    AP reports: A man filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday challenging a Nov. 2 ballot proposal that would scrap Colorado's winner-take-all system for Electoral College votes and award them based on how well the candidate did in the statewide popular vote.

    The lawsuit from Jason Napolitano, who describes himself simply as a registered voter, asks a federal judge to immediately declare the closely watched proposal unconstitutional. He said it is up to state lawmakers to determine how electoral votes are distributed.

    "It is up to the Legislature to direct the manner of choosing presidential electors and the proposal prevents the Legislature from doing so in 2004," the suit says. "Therefore, the proposal is unconstitutional."

    Robert Hardaway, professor of law at the University of Denver and author of "The Electoral College and the Constitution: The Case for Federalism," said the U.S. Constitution is clear that it is the job of the Legislature to change the way presidential electors are allocated. -- Federal Lawsuit Challenges Colorado's Electoral College Vote (AP via TheDenverChannel.com)

    If anyone has a copy of the complaint, please email it to me.

    Vote Litigate early and often

    The New York Times reports: Not a single ballot has been counted in the presidential election, yet Florida is already teeming with lawsuits charging the state and its county elections supervisors with voter disenfranchisement, a legal muddle likely to grow worse before Election Day.

    On Wednesday, the State Supreme Court heard arguments in a lawsuit seeking to require election officials to count provisional ballots - which voters can cast when their names do not appear on precinct rolls - regardless of where they are cast. And on Tuesday, labor unions and voting-rights groups sued to stop the disqualification of more than 10,000 incomplete registration forms in Florida, accusing the state of overly restrictive rules that disproportionately hurt minority voters.

    Also on Tuesday, plaintiffs in another suit met with aides to Secretary of State Glenda Hood to discuss how counties with touch-screen voting should conduct manual recounts. The state had banned recounts in such counties, but an administrative law judge, responding to a suit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups, threw out that rule in August.

    "The 2000 election signaled the era of lawsuits in elections," said Susan MacManus, a political science professor at the University of South Florida, "and it's escalated markedly not just in Florida, but everywhere. Both parties are playing the pre-emption game as much as the reactive game this time out." -- In '04 Florida, Lawsuits Begin Before Election (The New York Times)

    October 13, 2004

    Third Circuit upholds McGreevey's resignation without a special election

    AP reports: A federal appeals court on Wednesday rejected an attempt to force a special election to fill the seat of Gov. James E. McGreevey, who recently announced that he is gay and would step down Nov. 15.

    The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court ruling that said no special election should be held because McGreevey has only stated his intention to resign and has not yet officially vacated the office.

    "There is no vacancy here because the governor has not yet resigned and because he continues to serve and occupy the office," the appeals court said.

    The lawsuit, filed by two Princeton lawyers, argued that McGreevey is depriving voters of their right to vote by staying in office until there is not time enough to schedule a special election. -- Court Rejects Special N.J. Election Bid (AP via NYNewsday.com)

    Another nominee for the "Florida of 2004"

    Time Magazine reports: Here's the nightmare scenario: it's Nov. 3, the morning after the presidential election, and there is no winner. In a case of déjà vu, the electoral vote is close and in dispute, and neither the Democratic nor Republican candidate will concede defeat. Both dispatch planes stuffed with lawyers to squabble over the results. But this time the jets are heading not to Florida but to Colorado, because the state has awarded five electoral votes to one contender and four to the other.

    This story line is not farfetched. When the nation goes to the polls Nov. 2, Coloradans will also vote on Amendment 36. As of today, Colorado, like 47 other states and the District of Columbia, awards electoral votes on a winner-take-all basis. (Nebraska and Maine give two votes to the statewide winner and one to the winner in each congressional district, though in practice neither has ever split its allotment.) Amendment 36, which would take effect immediately, would divvy up Colorado's electoral votes based on the percentage of votes each candidate wins in the state. If 36 passes, and President George W. Bush's slight lead in statewide polls holds on election night, the President would win five votes and John Kerry would win four.

    Supporters of 36 argue that the proposed system would more accurately represent the will of the people. Presidential elections create the illusion that there are solid Republican and solid Democratic states. But in the 2000 race, in red Colorado, Al Gore won the support of more than 42% of the voters. Bush won 41% in blue California. If every state adopted 36's rules, those supporters' votes would count for something. "It could make California and New York worth a Republican effort," says James Gimpel, an Electoral College expert at the University of Maryland. "Wouldn't it be nice, if you were a Democrat in Texas, to actually see a Democratic presidential candidate visit?" The reform would also greatly reduce the chance of a candidate winning the popular vote but losing the electoral vote. -- The Florida of 2004? (TIME Magazine)

    Private firm may have trashed voter registrations

    KLAS-tv reports: An employee of a private voter registration firm alleges that his bosses trashed registration forms filled out by Democratic voters because they only wanted to sign up Republican voters. ...

    Russell worked for a company called Voters Outreach of America, along with 300 other people. He says he got into a beef with the company over a pay dispute, and witnessed his bosses ripping up registration forms that had been filed by democrats. ...

    Nevada Democrats came out swinging Wednesday. "Most disturbing is that Voter Outreach of America is being paid by the National Republican Party and we ask how can people have faith in government if a national party is involved in trickery in depriving people the right to vote," said Clark County Commissioner Yvonne Atkinson Gates.

    The Republican National Committee acknowledges that it hired Voters Outreach of America to register voters, but in a statement said it had zero tolerance for any kind of fraud. -- Investigation into Trashed Voter Registrations (klastv.com)

    Thanks to TalkLeft for the link.

    FEC considers regulation of Internet campaign activity

    AP reports: With political fund raising, campaign advertising and organizing taking place in full swing over the Internet, it may just be a matter of time before the Federal Election Commission joins the action. Well, that time may be now.

    A recent federal court ruling says the FEC must extend some of the nation's new campaign finance and spending limits to political activity on the Internet.

    Long reluctant to step into online political activity, the agency is considering whether to appeal.

    But vice chairwoman Ellen Weintraub said the Internet may prove to be an unavoidable area for the six-member commission, regardless of what happens with the ruling. -- FEC may regulate Web political activity (AP via MSNBC)

    Nader off the Pennsylvania ballot

    The Philadelphia Inquirer reports: A Commonwealth Court today ruled that Ralph Nader does not have enough valid signatures to be on the ballot in Pennsylvania, but the legal fight will continue - leaving election officials here worried about running out of time to get ready for the Nov. 2 election.

    President Judge James Gardner Colins said that only 18,818 of the 51,273 voter signatures that Nader submitted to get on the ballot were valid - and that his petition was "the most deceitful and fraudulent exercise ever perpetrated on this court." That left Nader 6,879 signatures short of the 25,697 signatures required by law.

    The Nader campaign said even before the decision was handed down that it planned to appeal an adverse ruling to the state Supreme Court. That could delay a final determination on Nader's status for a few days, a week - or more.

    Officials in each of the state's 67 counties have been wrestling for weeks with how to handle absentee ballots, which have to go out early. The Pennsylvania Department of State had urged counties to hold off on mailing them before the court ruling yesterday. But many counties, including Philadelphia and others in the region, opted to mail them anyway - reasoning that voters needed as much time as possible to send them back by the Oct. 29 deadline. -- Court drops Ralph Nader from Pennsylvania ballot (philly.com)

    ACLU study: 7% of provisional ballots cast in wrong precinct and discarded in Florida

    The Sun-Sentinel reports: About 7.3 percent of provisional ballots cast in recent Florida elections were thrown out because voters failed to file them from the correct precincts, raising more questions about whether every vote will be counted in the upcoming presidential election, the American Civil Liberties Union said Tuesday.

    The finding was based on an ACLU study of 2,151 provisional ballots cast in elections that took place over the last two years. The survey found that elections officials discarded 156 of those votes because they were cast in the wrong place.

    Provisional ballots were introduced after the 2000 presidential election debacle in Florida to offer people a second chance to vote if their names do not appear on voter rolls.

    Florida law, however, directs the state to reject a provisional ballot if it is cast in a precinct other than the one assigned to the voter by elections officials. -- ACLU finds 7.3 percent of provisional ballots get tossed (South Florida Sun-Sentinel)

    Federal judge upholds Missouri's provisional voting law

    AP reports: Missourians who vote from the wrong polling places, despite directions to go elsewhere, cannot have their votes counted, a federal judge ruled Tuesday.

    The ruling essentially upholds the interpretation of Missouri's provisional voting law taken by Secretary of State Matt Blunt, the Republican candidate for governor.

    The Missouri Democratic Party and three Kansas City residents had sued Blunt and the Kansas City Board of Election Commissioners on claims that the state law regarding provisional ballots conflicted with the federal law. Provisional ballots are used when someone's eligibility to vote cannot be immediately determined; they can only be cast for federal and statewide candidates and issues. -- Judge upholds provisional ballot law (AP via News-Leader.com)

    The order granting summary judgment to the defendant is here (thanks to reader Terry Jarrett, who just happens to be General Counsel in the Office of Secretary of State Matt Blunt).

    EAC chairman backs Blackwell's interpretation

    The Columbus Dispatch reports: The chairman of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission said yesterday that federal law doesn't tell states how to count provisional ballots, which is consistent with Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell's position on the controversial issue in the Nov. 2 election.

    And Ohio won't be the Florida of 2004, said DeForest Blake Soaries Jr., chairman of the bipartisan commission Congress created in 2002 to help with federal elections after problems in 2000 with Florida balloting. ...

    Critics of Blackwell’s directive argue that it violates the law’s intent to provide a "fail-safe" even if a voter is in the wrong precinct. The ballots aren’t counted until workers confirm voters’ eligibility.

    But Soaries said the law requires provisional ballots only in a voter’s jurisdiction — and it allows each state to decide what constitutes the jurisdiction. -- Expert backs Blackwell on ballots (The Columbus Dispatch)

    Florida provisional voting case argued in state supreme court

    AP reports: Florida's provisional ballot law violates the state constitution because it disenfranchises otherwise eligible voters who try to cast ballots outside of the precinct they have been assigned, union attorneys told the state Supreme Court on Wednesday.

    Under the Florida Constitution, voters are qualified as residents of a particular county - not as residents in a precinct, San Francisco attorney Jonathan Weissglass told the justices in oral arguments.

    Weissglass represents the AFL-CIO, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and Service Employees International Union. The unions want Florida's high court to keep most of the provisional ballot law in place but to overturn the provision that requires ballots be cast by voters in the proper precinct.

    Attorneys for Secretary of State Glenda Hood and elections officials defended the law, arguing the precinct provision was a reasonable regulation, like closing polls at 7 p.m. And they warned that any new requirements created by the courts would lead to chaos. -- Unions tell Supreme Court that law disenfranchises voters (AP via News-Press.com)

    Michigan provisional voting case argued

    AP reports: Michigan Democrats urged a federal judge Wednesday to nullify the state's plan to not count provisional ballots cast by people voting in the wrong polling precincts on Nov. 2.

    They argued that citizens who appear in the right city, township or village should have their votes in federal races counted regardless of whether they show up in the correct precinct.

    "We want to ensure that every voter who is eligible to vote has the right to vote," said Mark Brewer, chairman of the Michigan Democratic Party.

    Michigan Democrats, the NAACP and voter-rights groups say the state's instructions to 2,438 county and local election officials would disenfranchise hundreds, and possibly thousands, of voters who cast ballots in the wrong polling place.

    But the state says the Help America Vote Act, which Congress passed in 2002, declares that provisional ballots should be counted in accordance with state law. Elections officials say Michigan law does not give citizens the right to vote in a precinct where they do not live. -- State, opponents argue over provisional ballot plan in court (AP via MLive.com)

    Maryland sued over lack of paper trail

    The Washington Post reports: A Maryland group seeking paper trails on touch-screen voting machines today sued the State Board of Elections to win the right to monitor polling places on Election Day.

    The lawsuit, filed at the U.S. District Court in Baltimore, also seeks the right for TrueVoteMD members to warn voters about possible problems with touch-screen voting machines while standing within 100 feet of Maryland polling places, traditionally a forbidden zone for candidates, campaigns and other groups.

    TrueVoteMD co-founder Linda Schade, a Takoma Park resident, said the group will "invite people to fill out a complaint form" if they report problems with the machines. TrueVoteMD is considering whether to file legal challenges to Maryland's election results if any voter complaints arise on Election Day.

    Linda Lamone, the state's elections administrator, said allowing the group's members to talk to voters in that zone "would be improper." -- E-Voting Group Sues Maryland Elections Board (washingtonpost.com)

    DOJ sues Pennsylvania over delayed overseas ballots

    AP reports: The Department of Justice has sued Pennsylvania elections officials in an attempt to give overseas voters two more weeks to cast ballots in the Nov. 2 election, according to a published report.

    The suit, filed Tuesday in Pennsylvania, contends the state failed to send out ballots in time due to a legal dispute over whether they should list independent candidate Ralph Nader, The New York Times reported Wednesday.

    Pennsylvania officials said Tuesday that they would fight the lawsuit, arguing that they will help overseas voters by offering overnight deliveries of ballots or allowing them to fax their completed ballots. -- Justice Dept. Sues on Behalf of Overseas Voters in Pa. (AP via washingtonpost.com)

    Blacks complain of technicalities blocking their registration in Florida

    The Washington Post reports: Nearly a dozen African American ministers and civil rights leaders walked into the Duval County election office here, television cameras in tow, with a list of questions: How come there were not more early voting sites closer to black neighborhoods? How come so many blacks were not being allowed to redo incomplete voter registrations? Who was deciding all this?

    Standing across the office counter under a banner that read "Partners in Democracy" was the man who made those decisions, election chief Dick Carlberg. Visibly angry, the Republican explained why he decided the way he had: "We call it the law." ...

    In Duval County, 31,155 black voters had been added to the rolls by the end of last week. That is more than the total number of ballots nullified here four years ago, in a race that George W. Bush won by 537 votes.

    But hundreds more could show up at the polls only to find they cannot vote. The office has flagged 1,448 registrations as incomplete, and as of last week had yet to process 11,500 more.

    A Washington Post analysis found nearly three times the number of flagged Democratic registrations as Republican. Broken down by race, no group had more flagged registrations than blacks.

    This, in a heavily GOP county where records show that the number of blacks added to the rolls since 2000 approximately equals the number of non-Hispanic whites.

    Some registrations were missing critical information, such as a signature. Others had different problems, with some people listing post office boxes instead of street addresses or putting street addresses on the wrong line. -- Pushing to Be Counted in Fla. (washingtonpost.com)

    Kerry criticized for campaigning in churches

    The New York Times reports: Liberal religious groups criticized Senator John Kerry yesterday as politicizing religion by campaigning in African-American churches.

    A spokesman for Americans United for Separation of Church and State said the group would file a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service against the Friendship Missionary Baptist Church in Miami, where Mr. Kerry spoke Sunday along with the Rev. Jesse Jackson and the Rev. Al Sharpton.

    Tax laws restrict churches and tax-exempt charities from supporting political candidates. "It was all Democratic speakers, and a pastor got up and endorsed Kerry from the pulpit," the spokesman, Joe Conn, said. "It was over the line."

    For a brief period last week, the Democratic National Committee Web site asked pastors to distribute campaign materials, but the request was removed amid complaints. -- Kerry Is Criticized for Church Drive (New York Times) **

    October 12, 2004

    FEC fines carpenters' union

    AP reports: A Kentucky carpenters union will pay a $297,000 fine after reaching an agreement with the Federal Election Commission over allegations of coerced campaign contributions.

    Three former officers of the Indiana-Kentucky Regional Council of Carpenters, formerly known as the Kentucky State District Council of Carpenters, forced union employees to make political contributions to federal candidates.

    The FEC investigation also found that union employees were required to work candidates' campaign offices under threat of job loss.

    The commission also found that union also illegally bundled contributions from union members and failed to disclose communications to members that expressly advocated the election or defeat of federal candidates in 1998, 2000 and 2002, the agreement with the FEC says. -- FEC fines carpenters union over election activities (AP via Kentucky.com)

    Albuquerque files for cert

    The National Voting Rights Institute says: The city of Albuquerque, New Mexico [on 22 September] filed a petition before the US Supreme Court seeking review of its campaign spending limits law. The petition, coming on the heels of a federal appeals court ruling last month in Manhattanthat such limits can be constitutional, presents the nation’s highest court with an historic opportunity to revisit its 1976 ruling in Buckley v. Valeo striking down mandatory campaign spending limits on First Amendment grounds.

    “For nearly three decades, this country has witnessed how the endless chase for dollars turns our political campaigns into auctions and threatens the integrity of our elections,” says Brenda Wright, managing attorney for the National Voting Rights Institute and lead attorney for the City of Albuquerque. “The filing of this petition today now sets the stage for Supreme Court review of this system of unlimited campaign spending.”

    The Albuquerque case is one of two test cases on campaign spending limits that may reach the Supreme Court this year. The other case, involving Vermont’s campaign spending limits, is currently pending before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

    I had overlooked this when it happened. Lisa Danetz of NVRI brought it to my attention. The cert petition is available on the NVRI site.

    Ohio federal court rules against Nader because of fraud

    AP reports: A federal judge refused Tuesday to place independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader on the Ohio ballot, citing fraud by signature collectors.

    U.S. Judge Edmund Sargus ruled against Nader in deciding that the fraud outweighed the constitutional issues Nader raised.

    In his opinion, Sargus agreed with Nader that a state law requiring collectors to be registered Ohio voters and state residents is a constitutional violation of free speech rights.

    But he wrote, "Regardless of how the Court would resolve the question of whether a state law requiring circulators to be state residents is constitutional, the fact remains that the signatures would be excluded on the grounds of several forms of fraud on the part of the circulators." -- Judge refuses to order Nader's name placed on Ohio ballot (AP via TheState.com)

    Webcast of Mortiz Law School (OSU) program on election day problems

    The Legacy of Election 2000: If the System Fails Again?
    Noon, Thursday, October 21, Saxbe Auditorium, Drinko Hall, Ohio State University

    A panel discussion looking at how Ohio government is prepared to handle election day problems.

    featuring: The Honorable Bob Taft, Governor of Ohio
    with: Moritz professors Steven Huefner, Peter Shane and Daniel Tokaji
    co-sponsored by: Center for Law, Policy, and Social Science

    For more information or to tune into the live web cast, see http://moritzlaw.osu.edu/electionlaw/events.html#1021

    Instant Runoff Voting in San Francisco

    The Washington Post reports: When voters here go to the polls in November to select their top choice for a seat on the city's Board of Supervisors, they also get to pick their second choice -- and even their third.

    Here, a winning candidate has to receive at least 50 percent of the vote for the Board of Supervisors, which is the local city council. In the past, if nobody did, there was a runoff election.

    But this year, San Francisco has become the largest city in the nation to adopt a form of voting that proponents say is a little like walking into an ice cream shop to order a chocolate cone only to discover the shop is all out -- no problem, just order your next favorite flavor, and if that's out, your third. ...

    Advocates said the new system has made campaigning more civilized -- candidates don't want to lose out on the chance to be a voter's second or third choice by appearing too negative. And they say it may increase turnout.

    But opponents say the new system is too complicated, will discourage turnout and forces candidates to spread themselves too thin. -- For Voters, Choice Is as Easy as 1, 2, 3 (washingtonpost.com)

    The 527 debate

    Does the prominence of 527s mean McCain-Feingold has failed? If it does, what's the next step for campaign-finance reform?

    Richard Hasen, Professor of Law at Loyola Law School and author of the Election Law Blog, and Robert Bauer, Managing Partner of Perkins Coie's Washington, D.C. office and author of More Soft Money Hard Law debate this at Legal Affairs Debate Club - Has Campaign Finance Reform Failed?

    Some Roman Catholic bishops opposing Kerry

    The New York Times reports: For Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, the highest-ranking Roman Catholic prelate in Colorado, there is only one way for a faithful Catholic to vote in this presidential election, for President Bush and against Senator John Kerry.

    "The church says abortion is a foundational issue,'' the archbishop explained to a group of Catholic college students gathered in a sports bar here in this swing state on Friday night. He stopped short of telling them whom to vote for, but he reminded them of Mr. Kerry's support for abortion rights. And he pointed out the potential impact his re-election could have on Roe v. Wade.

    "Supreme Court cases can be overturned, right?" he asked.

    Archbishop Chaput, who has never explicitly endorsed a candidate, is part of a group of bishops intent on throwing the weight of the church into the elections. -- Religion: Group of Bishops Using Influence to Oppose Kerry (New York Times)

    October 11, 2004

    Josh Marshall has more details on the phone jamming by the GOP

    Josh Marshall writes on his Talking Points Memo: Longtime TPM readers will remember the election day 'phone-jamming' scandal in New Hampshire in 2002. The state Republican party hired an Idaho company to knock out
    the phones of the Democratic get-out-the-vote operation on election day by placing hundreds of automated hang-up calls to their phone banks. The whole episode might seem to be fading back into history were it not for the fact that a motion filed Friday in US District Court in Concord claims that a key player in the felonious scheme was none other than the man who now serves as the New England Chairman of Bush-Cheney 2004.

    To put this all in context, let's review what we know.

    As we noted in August, two men have already entered guilty pleas in the case: Chuck McGee, former Executive Director of the State Republican party and Allen Raymond, a Republican political consultant. But earlier court filings and press reports had already made it clear that there was a third person involved. ...

    But on Friday, counsel for the New Hampshire State Democratic party filed a motion in the case that sheds some new light on the identity of this mystery individual. ...

    It reads, in part ...

    6. The victim believes that the unnamed individual who connected the criminal endeavors of convicted defendants McGee and Raymond was a regional director of the 2002 Republican Senatorial Committee and that his efforts were directed at depriving former governor Jeanne Shaheen of victory in her race for the United States Senate. This same individual is believed to currently be directing the New England Regional Bush-Cheney campaign, and thus is in a critical position from which he can engage in further illegal activities to distort the outcome of the presidential race of 2004. (emphasis added) -- Talking Points Memo: by Joshua Micah Marshall

    Josh puts it all together and figures out who this must be.

    Registering the homeless

    The Los Angeles Times reports: While the presidential candidates try to impress suburbanites, swing voters and soccer moms, social advocates are working to increase the numbers of homeless and low-income voters who vote.

    Recent efforts included 100 events in 35 states with the goal of registering 25,000. Volunteers in Los Angeles are registering people in welfare offices, providing absentee ballots to invalids and disabled residents at transient hotels, conducting voter education sessions at homeless shelters and signing up inmates at the Los Angeles County Jail.

    Los Angeles advocates, who were the first in the nation to submit homeless shelters as polling places, hope to register 5,000 new voters and plan extensive voter education and mobilization drives before Nov. 2. The registration deadline is Oct. 18.

    Although homelessness has not been a high-profile theme in the campaign, it has been addressed obliquely. Democratic vice presidential candidate John Edwards speaks of two Americas, and the decidedly lower-key Green Party candidate, Pat LaMarche, is in the midst of a two-week sleeping tour of homeless shelters, including a scheduled stop in Los Angeles. -- Advocates Rally Homeless to Get Out the Vote (LATimes.com)

    Proportionality in the Electoral College

    The Los Angeles Times reports: Nearly 4.6 million Californians voted for George W. Bush in 2000. But their votes utterly had no effect on the outcome of the presidential election.

    The same was true of 2.4 million Texans who voted for Al Gore, 2.4 million New Yorkers who backed Bush, and most dramatically, 2,912,253 Floridians who chose Gore. All of them might as well have stayed in bed.

    The reason is the way almost all states allocate their votes in the Electoral College. All but two states now award their Electoral College votes on a winner-takes-all basis to the candidate who captures the most popular votes in the state.

    Win by one vote or 1 million -- or, as in the case of Florida, 537 -- it doesn't matter: in almost every state, the winner pockets every available Electoral College vote. And since Bush fell short in California and New York, just as Gore did in Texas and Florida, the millions of votes they attracted there did them no good at all.

    Colorado voters next month will decide whether to change that equation for their nine Electoral College votes. They will vote on a ballot initiative to allocate the state's Electoral College votes in proportion to each candidate's share of the popular vote. -- Making Every Vote Count Would Be a Tricky Proposition (LATimes.com)

    Florida's blacks determined to be counted this time

    The Los Angeles Times reports: Many of Florida's 1 million black voters still feel cheated that their votes weren't counted in the state's flawed election four years ago. But for some, such as those here in rural Gadsden County, that bitter memory has elicited a surge of activism in the 2004 presidential race.

    The Panhandle county, overwhelmingly Democratic and nearly 60% black, has its first African American elections supervisor traveling to schools and churches to demonstrate new ballot-reading machines.

    County officials have added 10 polling locations and will send a sample ballot to the home of every registered voter, rather than just publish it in the newspaper.

    And Shirley Aaron, a 63-year-old Democratic organizer, is wandering back roads, talking to poor black families who've never been approached for their vote. She also attends possum festivals and gospel revivals to tell blacks that this time their vote will count. -- Nov. 2 Is V-Day for Blacks in Florida (LATimes.com)


    Lawyers preparing for election day

    KRT Wire reports: In a cramped corner of the [Ohio] state Democratic Party headquarters here, David Sullivan and seven other full-time volunteers are franticly dialing lawyers to ask them to monitor Election Day polling places.

    At a union office across town, another Democratic attorney is helping design a form for use outside Ohio polls that will record the identities of voters prevented from successfully casting a ballot on Nov. 2.

    And in a cozy law office near Ohio State University there was last-minute research under way earlier this week as lawyers prepared to file a lawsuit challenging the state's top election official on a balloting decision he made.

    Like personal injury lawyers scouring an accident-prone intersection for the next collision, thousands of attorneys across the nation are gearing up for the first presidential contest since Bush vs. Gore and the Florida meltdown of 2000. -- Lawyers queue up around nation in preparation for Election Day challenges (KRT Wire via Kansas.com)

    That last remark was sort of tacky, don't you think?

    Indian Health Service withdraws anti-voter registration order

    The Native American Times reports: The federal government has rescinded an order that prohibited voting drives at Indian Heath Service clinics.

    The issue first came to light when the Washington Post published a memo that revealed IHS officials refused to allow even non-partisan get-out-the-vote efforts at their hospitals and clinics. The apparent reasoning was that since so many Native Americans vote Democrat, the drives would have amounted to partisan politicking. A law on the books prevents federal workers from using government resources for partisan work. Critics argued that the law was unfairly applied because the Department of Defense is allowed to conduct voting drives on military installations.

    New Mexico Democrat Senator Jeff Bingaman, citing the military base rule, publicly called on Heath and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson to repeal the IHS voting ban. Thompson agreed.

    Bingaman said the victory was bittersweet. Several states with large Indian populations have already seen their voter registration deadlines come and go. -- Government backs off on IHS voting drive prohibition (Native American Times)

    Blaine County may take its case to the Supreme Court

    The Havre Daily News reports: Blaine County is mulling an appeal of its former at-large election system before the U.S. Supreme Court.

    A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals earlier this year upheld a federal judge's 2002 ruling declaring Blaine County's system unconstitutional because it discriminated against American Indians.

    Mountain States Legal Foundation, a Colorado-based nonprofit legal group, is urging the county to go forward with an appeal. ...

    Mountain States Legal Foundation attorney Scott Detamore said last week that the federal government is wrongly using an amendment to the Voting Rights Act of 1965 against local governments in the West.

    The amendment, adopted in 1982, states that voter discrimination cases do not have to prove that the discrimination was intentional. But Detamore argues the West's at-large election systems, in effect for years, were adopted because they worked, not as a means of discrimination. -- Blaine County weighs appeal in voting rights case (The Havre Daily News)

    Dems object to TV stations' running anti-Kerry film

    AP reports: The Democratic Party and 18 senators are objecting to a broadcasting company's plan to air on 62 TV stations a critical documentary about John Kerry's anti-war activities after he returned home from Vietnam three decades ago.

    Sinclair Broadcast Group has asked its television stations - many of them in competitive states in the presidential election - to pre-empt regular programming to run the documentary as part of an hourlong program two weeks before the Nov. 2 election.

    Based near Baltimore, the company owns or manages affiliates of major broadcast networks in several states, including Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania.

    Mark Hyman, a vice president of corporate relations for Sinclair who also is a conservative commentator for the company, said Monday the show would contain some or all of the 42-minute film as well as a panel discussion of some sort. He said final details had not been worked out. ...

    The Democratic National Committee planned to file a complaint with the Federal Election Commission on Tuesday contending that Sinclair's airing of the film should be considered an illegal in-kind contribution to President Bush's campaign. Also, 18 Democratic senators sent a letter to the Federal Communication Commission asking that it investigate whether Sinclair's plan was an improper use of public airwaves. -- Democrats object to broadcaster's plan to run anti-Kerry documentary on 62 stations (AP via Kansas.com)

    New Hampshire judge bars Republican Governors Association from political activity

    Jurist reports: A New Hampshire judge has upheld a state attorney general's order which temporarily bars the Republican Governors Association, the official public policy and political organization of the Republican governors in the United States, from engaging in political activities in New Hampshire. Superior Court Judge Carol Ann Conboy, who issued a temporary injunction today, will hold a hearing for a permanent injunction on Thursday. The New Hampshire attorney general's office issued the order last week after the Democratic Party filed a complaint accusing the Republican Governors Association of hiring polling companies to conduct negative polls against Democratic gubernatorial challenger John Lynch. According to the order, the association must suspend its political activities until it registers as a political committee. -- Republican Governors Association barred from engaging in political activities in New Hampshire (JURIST - Paper Chase)

    Jurist has a link to the injunction and an AP story.

    Nader wins in Maine Supreme Judicial Court

    AP reports: The state's highest court on Friday upheld a decision by election officials to allow Ralph Nader on Maine's presidential ballot, rejecting a last-ditch appeal by the head of the Maine Democratic Party.

    The unanimous decision by the Maine Supreme Judicial Court came 48 hours after justices heard arguments on the appeal by state Democratic Party Chairwoman Dorothy Melanson. The decision puts to an end a weeks-long effort by Democrats to keep Nader off the ballot.

    In its ruling, the court said Secretary of State Dan Gwadosky was correct in concluding that Nader and his running mate, Peter Camejo, should be on the ballot. -- Nader remains on Maine ballot (AP via Portsmouth Herald )

    Nader sues Hawaii

    The Honolulu Advertiser reports: Attorneys for independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader filed a suit in federal court yesterday in an attempt to get the state Office of Elections to put the consumer advocate on the November ballot in Hawai'i.

    Election officials and representatives of the Nader campaign are still examining disputed signatures to determine whether Nader supporters collected the 3,711 signatures needed to qualify. But Eric Seitz, an attorney for the Nader campaign, said the suit was filed in case the recount does not change the state's initial conclusion that Nader supporters did not collect enough valid signatures.

    "It doesn't appear that it's going to change things," Seitz said, adding that a hearing in U.S. District Court has been scheduled for Wednesday.

    The suit also covers Michael Peroutka, the presidential candidate for the Constitution Party, who also did not have enough signatures to qualify, according to state election officials. -- Suit filed to put Nader on ballot (The Honolulu Advertiser)

    Ohio's election-related lawsuits

    AP reports: After the 2000 presidential election mess in Florida, many political watchers predicted that lawyers would take on a larger role in this year's election.

    They're off to an early start in Ohio. No fewer than five major election cases landed before courts in Ohio - all at least one month before the Nov. 2 election.

    While court challenges of election law are common in the weeks before the election, the number of high-profile cases to reach court is unusual, said Herb Asher, a political scientist at Ohio State University who has followed Ohio elections for more than 30 years.

    The Ohio Supreme Court has two challenges before it. A constitutional ban on gay marriages that is to go before voters Nov. 2 should be removed, opponents say, because the petitions circulated to collect the signatures to get on the ballot did not include a summary of what the amendment would do. An appeals court has upheld the ballot issue.

    Backers of independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader have appealed to the high court a ruling by Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell that some petition circulators illegally collected the signatures. The ruling meant Nader's bid fell short of the required 5,000 signatures of registered Ohio voters. -- PERSPECTIVE: Dockets crowded with election cases (AP via TheState.com)

    October 10, 2004

    Please try again

    This category is just a place holder for the subcategories. Please press the "Back" button and go to one of the subcategories.

    October 7, 2004

    Another short break

    I am taking another trip out of town without the computer. Back on Monday.

    Michigan GOP claims Michael Moore bribed college students

    Brendan I. Koerner writes on Slate.com: Michigan Republicans want local prosecutors to throw the book at Michael Moore, after the Fahrenheit 9/11 director doled out ramen and underwear to college students. The gifts were given in exchange for the students' promises to vote -- not necessarily for John Kerry -- in November. Is it illegal to bribe someone to vote, even if the person doing the bribing doesn't tell the bribee which candidate to choose?

    Regardless of the briber's intentions, paying for turnout is illegal in federal elections. As long as there is a federal candidate on the ballot, no one may offer something of value -- whether it's a $100 bill or a package of Top Ramen -- to get someone to the polls. The ban was part of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which included a section specifically forbidding anyone from offering or accepting payment "either for registration to vote or for voting." This has been interpreted to cover all bribes geared toward coaxing voters to their respective polling stations. -- Can You Buy Votes With Underwear? - How about ramen noodles and chicken? (Slate.com)

    Wexler's paper-trail suit gets status hearing Friday

    AP reports: A lawsuit demanding that touch-screen voting machines be made to produce paper records moved ahead Thursday after a federal appeals court refused to reconsider its decision to revive the case.

    The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a motion by Secretary of State Glenda Hood to have all 12 judges hear the case. Last week, a three-judge panel ordered a federal judge hold a trial.

    The case could affect 15 Florida counties whose electronic voting terminals do not issue paper records.

    U.S. District Judge James Cohn of Fort Lauderdale has scheduled a status hearing for Friday. Democratic U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler, who filed the lawsuit, said he would ask for an expedited trial. -- Hearing on lawsuit over touch-screen voting set for Friday (AP via Bradenton.com)

    Third Circuit hears arguments over McGreevey resignation

    KRT Wire reports: A panel of federal appeals judges heard arguments Thursday from lawyers attempting to force a special election to replace Gov. McGreevey.

    Three weeks after a federal judge in Trenton dismissed their claim, a pair of Princeton lawyers told the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Philadelphia that McGreevey had created a vacancy in his office the day he announced at an August news conference that he was gay, had an extramarital affair, and would resign.

    "Never has there been a press conference like this," said Bruce Afran, who sued the state on behalf of voters with fellow Ralph Nader campaign organizer Carl Mayer. "If that was not a final declaration of his resignation, what can be?"

    They argued the governor had deprived voters of their right to choose his successor by waiting until Nov. 15 to officially resign, well after the Sept. 3 deadline to trigger a special election. Senate President Richard Codey (D., Essex) is preparing to take over as acting governor for the remaining 14 months of McGreevey's term. -- Groups ask N.J. court to hold special election to replace McGreevey (KRT Wire via philly.com)

    As I remember it, Pres. Nixon announced that he was resigning at noon the next day; and Gov. Rowland of Connecticut announced his resignation several days -- or was it more than a week -- before it was to take effect.

    North Carolina elections board refuses to fine independent group

    AP reports: The State Board of Elections declined Thursday to take action against a third-party group that ran television ads critical of Republican gubernatorial nominee Patrick Ballantine.

    The state Republican Party had argued that the Washington-based State Capitol Media Project violated the law with the commercial because it advocated expressly against Ballantine.

    Following a 90-minute hearing in which members viewed the ad, the board rejected a motion to declare the group a political committee subject to strict rules on what its ads can say and how they are funded.

    The three Democratic members on the board voted against the motion, while the two Republicans voted for it. -- N.C. elections board declines to cite third-party group (AP via ncrumors.com)

    Rather than "third-party," I would have used the term "independent."

    Nader loses in 5th Circuit over Texas ballot access; also loses in Idaho

    AP reports: A federal appeals court yesterday rejected independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader's attempt to force his way onto the Texas ballot in the November election.

    The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans denied Nader's bid, ruling that Texas' tough ballot-access requirements for independents are constitutional.

    The state ballot without Nader has already been certified and sent to all 254 Texas counties.

    Meanwhile, Nader supporters in Idaho lost their bid yesterday to win the longtime consumer advocate a spot on that state's general election ballot. -- 5th Circuit backs Texas, denies Nader ballot access (AP via FirstAmendmentCenter.org)

    Nader sues Ohio

    AP reports: Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader has sued the state [of Ohio] in federal court to force his name onto the November ballot.

    A Tuesday hearing is expected in a lawsuit Nader filed in U.S. District Court over a state law requiring people who collect petitions for candidates to live in Ohio.

    That law violates the constitutional rights of registered voters who signed the petitions but whose names were discarded because the petition collector didn't live in the state, according to the lawsuit filed Wednesday.

    Instead, the law is meant for "the sole convenience of the Secretary of State and local Boards" to meet procedural requirements for checking a nominating petition, the lawsuit said. -- Nader campaign: state law on signature gathering unconstitutional (AP via philly.com)

    October 6, 2004

    House ethics committee rebukes DeLay again

    AP reports: The House ethics committee Wednesday criticized House Majority Leader Tom DeLay for conduct that appeared to link political donations to legislation and for improperly contacting U.S. aviation authorities for political purposes, House sources said Wednesday.

    The committee's findings were an extraordinary second rebuke of the Texas Republican's ethical conduct in just six days.

    The committee of five Democrats and five Republicans deferred to Texas authorities allegations that DeLay violated state campaign finance rules.

    The committee's findings -- a report admonishing his conduct -- nonetheless spared him a lengthy investigation by the ethics panel. -- Ethics Panel Rebukes DeLay for Second Time (AP via washingtonpost.com)

    Georgia Dems complain about GOP absentee ballots

    AP reports: Georgia Democrats say a campaign mailer sent out by their Republican counterparts broke state law by attaching absentee ballots to literature urging voters to support the GOP.

    In a letter Tuesday to the state Elections Board, Democratic Party of Georgia Chairman Bobby Kahn said the mailer - sent to Republican voters by the state Republican Party - violates a law created by the Legislature in 2001. ...

    State law, passed in 2001, forbids anyone from distributing absentee ballots that also advocate for or against a candidate, issue or party.

    Democrats say the law was prompted by the 2000 election, when state Republicans sent out a similar mass mailing. -- Dems' complaint calls GOP mailing illegal (AP via Tallahassee.com)

    Ohio's largest county will accept wrong-precinct provisional ballots

    AP reports: The elections board in Ohio's largest county said Wednesday it will direct voters to their correct polling place on Nov. 2 but will accept ballots from anyone who insists on voting at the wrong precinct, despite a directive to keep them from doing so.

    If a voter in Cuyahoga County insists on casting a ballot, even at the wrong polling place, the board will allow it but only after telling the voter that the vote may not be counted, said Jane Platten, board administrator.

    "We will make every effort to find what precinct the voter should be in and direct that voter to that precinct. There will be times that the voter will say, 'I want to vote and I want to vote here,'" Platten said.

    Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell had sent a directive to the state's 88 county boards of elections, advising them of state law concerning the collection of provisional ballots, which voters may use if they have moved within Ohio but failed to update their registrations. -- County to follow provisional ballot rule but still accept any vote (AP via TheState.com)

    League of Women Voters and unions sue over Ohio's provisional voting rule

    The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports: A voting-rights group filed a lawsuit Tuesday challenging Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell's rules on provisional voting - the second such legal challenge over the controversial issue.

    The suit, filed by the Ohio Voter Protection Project, says Blackwell will require some first-time voters to show identification before receiving a provisional ballot on Election Day - a violation of the federal Help America Vote Act, or HAVA.

    The group, which includes several labor unions and the Ohio League of Women Voters, also challenged a Blackwell order that says voters who appear at the wrong voting precinct may not receive a provisional ballot.

    The state Democratic Party has already gone to court over that issue, and a federal judge is expected to decide the case next week. -- Second lawsuit challenges Ohio provisional voting rules (Cleveland Plain Dealer)

    Maine Supreme Court hears appeal of Nader ballot status

    AP reports: Moving on an expedited schedule, the state supreme court heard arguments Wednesday on the Maine Democratic Party leader´s appeal aimed at removing Ralph Nader from the Nov. 2 presidential ballot.

    The court, which usually sits in Portland, came to Augusta to hear arguments so it can issue a ruling before next Tuesday´s statutory deadline.

    State Democratic Chairwoman Dorothy Melanson appealed after a Superior Court judge ruled last week that state election officials followed legal procedure in allowing the consumer activist´s name to appear on Maine ballots.

    Melanson´s case before the supreme court was narrowed to a single issue: whether documents showing that Nader is not enrolled in a political party in Maine should have been attached to each of the hundreds of petitions seeking to put his name on the ballot.

    Michael Mahoney, her lawyer, said "unenrollment" notices are important to voters and should be visible to petition signers. -- Supreme court hears arguments in Nader ballot appeal (AP via MaineToday.com)

    Anti-terror or anti-Democrat?

    The Washington Post reports:
    A push by the 50 states to coordinate anti-terrorism activities before Election Day is drawing warnings from Democrats, civil rights groups and election officials, who say excessive measures could suppress turnout among urban and minority voters.

    They contend that an elevated national threat warning -- and any actions in response -- could scare away voters, intentionally or not, especially in cities, which tend to vote Democratic. Voting rights advocates worry that fear of terrorism could lead to federal agents and local police being posted at polling places, a tactic that has historically been used in some places to intimidate minority citizens.

    Such generalized threats "could have the consequence of discouraging people that may otherwise be motivated to vote," said Jeff Fischer, senior adviser to IFES, a Washington-based organization that promotes democratic elections. ...

    Citing the March 11 bombings in Madrid before elections in Spain, Department of Homeland Security officials have warned that terrorists might try a similar assault here before the Nov. 2 elections. In recent weeks there has been a focus on Election Day, although the government has said it has no intelligence about the timing, status or target of a possible attack. -- Election Day Anti-Terrorism Plans Draw Criticism (washingtonpost.com)

    Indian Health Service prohibits non-partisan voter registration drives

    The Washington Post reports: Officials at a federal program that runs hospitals and clinics serving Native Americans this summer prohibited employees from using those facilities to sign up new voters, saying that even nonpartisan voter registration was prohibited on federal property.

    Staff members at several Indian Health Service hospitals and clinics in New Mexico, a presidential battleground state where about one-tenth of the population is Native American, were trying to register employees, patients and family members who use the facilities.

    In a July e-mail, Ronald C. Wood, executive officer of the program's regional Navajo office, told his hospital and clinic directors that "we are in a very sensitive political season" and outlined a policy that he said came from Indian Health Service headquarters.

    "There have been recent questions about whether we can do nonpartisan voter registration drives in our IHS facilities during non-duty hours," Wood wrote. "The guidance from HQs staff is that we should not allow voter registration in our facilities or on federal property."

    Several of those involved in the registration effort questioned what they saw as a double standard, given that the federal government encourages registration on military bases, where voters traditionally have favored Republicans. -- Indian Health Agency Barred New-Voter Drive (washingtonpost.com)

    October 5, 2004

    Bexar water district cancels elections

    The San Antonio Express-News reports: Acting on a federal judge's orders, directors of the Bexar Metropolitan Water District voted Monday to cancel their Nov. 2 election and not redraw boundaries for it.

    The two seats for BexarMet directors in Districts 5 and 6 still will appear on some ballots next month, but the board said any results would be invalid.

    The board is scheduled to meet later this month to set dates for candidate filing and a new election Feb. 5.

    The seven-member board's emergency meeting late Monday came three days after a scolding from U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia, who established the utility's single-member voting districts in a 1996 Voting Rights Act lawsuit. ...

    The Voting Rights Division of the Justice Department has to clear any boundary changes before a vote, and last week it sent BexarMet a four-page list of questions and concerns it had about the changes. -- BexarMet election, boundaries canned (MySA.com)

    FEC asks for stay of judgment on its rules; Shays and Meehan criticize

    AP reports: Sponsors of the nation's campaign finance law urged a court Tuesday to uphold a ruling striking down several government rules on political fund raising despite the Federal Election Commission's request for a stay.

    Reps. Christopher Shays and Martin Meehan noted that U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly's ruling overturning more than a dozen FEC regulations didn't block the commission from enforcing those rules while it wrote new ones. Instead, the judge left it to the FEC to decide how to proceed, they wrote. ...

    If the judge grants the FEC's stay request, she should block only the parts of the ruling the commission plans to appeal, and should press for quick action by an appellate court on the commission's appeal so new rules could be in place early in the 2005-06 election cycle, the lawmakers wrote.

    The FEC asked the judge Friday to stay her decision, arguing that rules interpreting the campaign finance law are crucial as the election approaches. The commission also asked Kollar-Kotelly to make it clear that the regulations she overturned will remain in effect while the FEC appeals her September ruling. -- Lawmakers oppose FEC bid to stay decision overturning campaign finance rules (AP via SignOnSanDiego.com)

    Justice Department investigating Sen Clinton's 2000 campaign

    AP reports: The Bush administration's Justice Department is trying to secure the cooperation of an indicted businessman as it pursues Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's 2000 Senate campaign for possible fund-raising violations, according to interviews and documents.

    The FBI has told a U.S. magistrate in Los Angeles it has evidence the former first lady's campaign deliberately understated its fund-raising costs so it would have more money to spend on elections. Prosecutors contend that businessman Peter Paul made donations because he wanted a pardon from Mrs. Clinton's husband.

    Paul has denied he raised money for Mrs. Clinton in order to boost his chance for a pardon from President Clinton, and he asserted that campaign officials told him the contributions would be disclosed as required by law, his defense team said. He never received a pardon.

    Noel Hillman, the Justice Department's top public corruption attorney and a career official, has met three times - most recently in May - with lawyers for Paul to discuss a plea deal. Justice wants to interview Paul to see whether he can substantiate his allegations that Clinton's campaign engaged in wrongdoing, the defense lawyers said. -- Feds Probe for Clinton Campaign Violations (AP via SunHerald.com)

    Union charges Bush campaign violates Hatch Act

    The Washington Post reports: Military and civilian employees at Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque received an unusual e-mail inviting them to attend an Aug. 26 campaign rally for President Bush.

    "The White House has extended an invitation to TEAM KIRTLAND to attend President Bush's speech downtown at the Convention Center," read the message, sent by Deborah Mercurio, the director of public affairs for the 377th Air Base Wing. "Doors open at 12:00 p.m. and no one is to arrive later than 2:00 p.m. For those interested, please stop by the Wing PA office for tickets." ...

    To federal employee unions, it represented the latest attempt by the Bush administration and its supporters to transform what is supposed to be a politically neutral federal bureaucracy into an arm of the president's reelection campaign. Bush spent the day touting his record in three cities across the battleground state, which he lost by 366 votes four years ago. ...

    At the same time, federal bosses have tried to restrict their employees from volunteering on their own time for Democratic nominee John F. Kerry and issued guidelines on campaigning on federal property that favor Bush, the administration's critics say. ...

    White House spokeswoman Erin Healy dismissed as unfounded the union's allegations that officials have trampled the spirit -- and at times the letter -- of the Hatch Act, a decades-old law that restricts partisan political activities in the federal workplace. -- Partisan Politics at Work Criticized (washingtonpost.com)

    October 4, 2004

    Supreme Court does not take Montana campaign finance case

    AP reports: The Supreme Court declined on Monday to hear a challenge to Montana campaign contribution limits by critics who contended the strict rules infringed on free speech rights.

    The court, without comment, let stand a 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision that the caps on contributions by individuals and political action committees were justified to prevent even the appearance of corruption in the state political process.

    The Montana Right to Life Association had filed the appeal, saying the contribution limits prevented candidates from waging effective campaigns. The limits restricted the First Amendment rights of those wanting to donate money, it said.

    The circuit court disagreed, basing its 2003 decision on two U.S. Supreme Court rulings that said campaign contribution limits are permissible if they satisfy an important enough state interest and are narrowly written to do that. -- Supreme Court Lets Campaign Case Stand (AP via TheState.com)

    Voter registrations being rejected in Florida for failure to check the "citizenship" box

    The Miami Herald reports: A missing check mark may stand between thousands of Florida voters and their right to cast ballots in November because of advice from Tallahassee to reject registration applications if the box for citizenship was left blank -- even if the oath at the bottom affirming citizenship was signed.

    America's Families United, a nonpartisan, Washington-based civil rights group that advocates increased political participation, obtained lists of people whose applications were rejected in every county but one and has been trying to contact them to refile before the deadline at midnight tonight.

    The group says many of the almost 8,000 applications deemed incomplete in Broward County were likely rejected because of the blank box. Broward officials couldn't be reached Sunday. -- Missing mark may deny voters (Miami Herald)

    Perhaps this would be good time to remind the voter registration officials of 42 USC § 1971, which says, in part: "No person acting under color of law shall ... 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...."

    Nader on the Wisconsin ballot

    AP reports: The state Supreme Court ordered Ralph Nader back on the Wisconsin ballot Thursday, ruling the longtime consumer activist had substantially met the requirements to go before the voters this fall as an independent presidential candidate.

    The Democratic Party of Wisconsin sued to knock Nader off the ballot, arguing he had failed to meet minimal standards required under state law to qualify as an independent candidate.

    But the court voted unanimously to overturn a circuit judge's decision handed down this week that temporarily knocked Nader off the ballot. -- Nader back on ballot in Wisconsin, court rules (AP via Duluth News Tribune)

    Hawaii to re-examine Nader petitions

    The Honolulu Advertiser reported on Saturday: The state Office of Elections yesterday agreed to re-examine disputed petition signatures before determining whether independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader qualifies for the Hawai'i ballot in November.

    Nader's supporters believe they have collected the 3,711 signatures necessary to get the consumer advocate on the ballot, but election officials initially ruled they came up short. A Nader representative will observe the recount, which will likely occur on Monday. -- State to re-examine Nader ballot petitions (Honolulu Advertiser)

    Nader on the Arkansas ballot

    The Arkansas News Bureau reports: Populist Party Ralph Nader can be on the Nov. 2 presidential ballot, a divided [Arkansas] state Supreme Court ruled late Friday.

    The 4-3 decision reverses a Sept. 20 order by Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox that removed Nader from the ballot. Fox ruled that the more than 1,000 people who signed petitions to place Nader's name on the ballot did not formally name him as "their" choice for president.

    In Friday's ruling, the high court said Fox's interpretation of state election laws "leads not only to an absurd result, but also renders the provision unconstitutional."

    "This unconstitutional reading of the petitioning provision at issue infringes upon one of the fundamental civil liberties of our democracy, that of the secret ballot," Chief Justice Betty C. Dickey wrote for the majority.

    The state statute "does not state that an electorate name 'their' candidate for president or vice president," Dickey continues. "The statute only requires that the signer of the petition state their desire that the named candidates appear on the ballot." -- Nader should stay on ballot, court says (Arkansas News Bureau)

    Nader sues Ohio

    AP reports: Independent candidate Ralph Nader sued on Monday to have his name placed on the November ballot in Ohio, saying voter registration backlogs at a number of county elections boards may have led to the improper elimination of campaign petitions.

    The Nader campaign's lawsuit against Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell seeks to force Blackwell to order county boards to update their voter registration records, then review the petitions submitted by Nader.

    Blackwell ruled last month that Nader failed to collect the 5,000 signatures needed to appear on the ballot after forged signatures and petitions circulated by non-Ohioans left Nader short.

    Monday's lawsuit focuses on 8,009 signatures rejected by county elections boards. Some of those signatures were rejected because they didn't belong to registered voters, others because they were on petitions thrown out altogether because they were circulated by non-Ohioans, the lawsuit said. -- Nader sues to be included on Ohio presidential ballot (AP via TheState.com)

    Voter registration surges

    The New York Times reports: A record surge of potential new voters has swamped boards of election from Pennsylvania to Oregon, as the biggest of the crucial swing states reach registration deadlines today. Elections officials have had to add staff and equipment, push well beyond budgets and work around the clock to process the registrations.

    In Montgomery County, Pa., the elections staff has been working nights and weekends since the week before Labor Day to process the crush of registrations - some 32,000 since May and counting. Today is the deadline for registering new voters in Pennsylvania, as well as Ohio, Michigan, Florida and 12 other states, and election workers will go on mandatory overtime to chip away at the thousands of forms that have been arriving daily.

    To help in the effort, the Montgomery office has also added 12 computers, 15 phone lines and 12 workers from other departments - as well as one of the technicians whose usual job is fixing voting machines at the warehouse.

    Across the county line in Philadelphia, overtime and weekend duty began in July to deal with what is now the highest number of new voter registrations in 21 years. The office says it is still six days behind the flow, and the last two days have brought about 10,500 new registration forms. At 204,000, the number of new registrations has already surpassed that of the last big year, 1992, which had 193,000.

    "The vote was so close four years ago, people are now thinking, hey, maybe my vote does count," said Joseph R. Passarella, the director of voter services in Montgomery County. Al Gore won in Pennsylvania in 2000 by 204,840 votes. -- As Deadlines Hit, Rolls of Voters Show Big Surge (New York Times)

    October 1, 2004

    House Ethics Committee "admonishes" DeLay for quid pro quo offer

    The Washington Post reports: The House ethics committee admonished Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) last night for offering a political favor to a Michigan lawmaker in exchange for the member's vote on last year's hard-fought Medicare prescription drug bill.

    After a six-month investigation, the committee concluded that DeLay had told Rep. Nick Smith (R-Mich.) he would endorse the congressional bid of Smith's son if the congressman gave GOP leaders a much-needed vote in a contentious pre-dawn roll call on Nov. 22. ...

    According to the report, Nick Smith told ethics committee investigators that DeLay approached him on the House floor during a series of votes leading to the final showdown on the Medicare bill. Smith told the panel that DeLay "told him that he would personally endorse Representative Smith's son in the Republican primary" if Smith "voted in favor of the Medicare legislation." According to Smith's version, DeLay added, "that's my last offer," and the congressman "teared up" at the majority leader's offer. The exchange lasted "about eight seconds," Smith said.

    The report said DeLay testified to the committee "that he did say words to the effect of: 'I will personally endorse your son. That's my final offer.' " DeLay recalled that the exchange took place before the three-hour roll call on the bill's final passage, the report said.

    DeLay told the investigators that Smith "first raised the subject of his son's campaign," and DeLay believed Smith was "fishing to see what I would say."

    DeLay had brushed aside a similar overture from Smith several weeks earlier, but this time offered to endorse the son in exchange for Smith's vote, the report said. DeLay told investigators that if Smith had voted for the Medicare bill, then the majority leader "would have made good on his promise and endorsed Brad Smith." -- Ethics Panel Rebukes DeLay (washingtonpost.com)

    Roll Call add these details: Reps. Kenny Hulshof (R-Mo.) and Mike Doyle (D-Pa.), chairman and ranking member, respectively, of the four-member investigative subcommittee that handled the Smith probe, “deliberated extensively” on whether the Majority Leader had broken House rules by offering his endorsement in exchange for Smith’s vote. They acknowledged that is normal practice for a “Member’s conditioning support” for legislation in return for “future consideration” by party leaders or their colleagues, and admitted that it is one way for senior lawmakers to maintain “party discipline.”

    But in this case, the subcommittee felt DeLay may have strayed over the line of acceptable behavior, although the full committee voted not to pursue the matter any further. “The promise of political support for a relative of a Member goes beyond the boundaries of maintaining party discipline, and should not be used as a basis of a bargain for Members to achieve their respective goals,” the report stated.

    However, the ethics committee admitted it was treading on unexplored ground in reviewing DeLay’s interaction with Smith during the Medicare vote. “The issues raised by the conduct of the Majority Leader in this matter are novel and the implications of such conduct have never before been addressed or resolved by the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct,” according to the report. “Indeed, the Majority Leader’s testimony indicates that he did not believe that he acted improperly under House rules during his encounter with Representative Smith.” -- Ethics Panel Admonishes DeLay, Michigan's Miller and Smith (Roll Call)

    Thanks to Trevor Potter for sending me the Roll Call article (since I don't have a subscription).