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

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December 29, 2004

Give for tsunami relief

Here's where you can donate to the relief for victims of the tsunami in the Indian Ocean.

IRC Donations (the International Committee of the Red Cross)
India Relief (Prime Minister's National Relief Fund
Episcopal Relief & Development
Network for Good lists many more organizations

Florida: Dems to push for redistricting commission

Jerome Armstrong of MyDD reports: After ACORN and Floridians For All (the ones behind the successful effort that makes law a state minimum wage starting at $6.15 per hour six months after enactment and indexed to inflation each year) won at the ballot with 71%, it gives a bit of hope for progressive reform in Florida's 2006 election for Democrats. In a recent strategy group, I learned from talking with a few Floridian leaders about a number of plans that are being worked on for 2006.

Specfically, a ballot initiative is being spearheaded by Democrats for 2006 that would turn over redistricting to a non-partisan body. That would put an end to a partisan system that's produced an unbalanced 18-7 Republican congressional delegation; a 84-36 Republican State House; and a 26-14 Republican State Senate. In a state that's pretty much 50-50 in terms of partisan strength at the ballot, it takes an awful lot of gerrymandering to produce such results. -- MyDD :: Florida 2006: non-partisan redistricting, Castor, Nelson

North Carolina: a new election for agriculture commissioner

The News-Record reports: The State Board of Elections voted Wednesday morning to hold a statewide special election for the disputed Commissioner of Agriculture race.

The board's three Democrats overruled the two Republicans in ordering the larger revote, but there are questions as to whether the order will stand up to a legal challenge promised by Republicans. The board's rules typically require four votes to order a new election.

The revote comes after Browns' Summit Republican Steve Troxler led Democrat Britt Cobb by 2,342 votes in a race that saw more than 3 million votes cast during the general election on Nov. 3. But Carteret County voting machines lost more than 4,400 ballots cast electronically during early voting. Because those votes could affect the outcome, state election officials needed to find some way to fix the snafu.

The State Board of Elections voted last month to resolve the problem by ordering a special election in Carteret County. But a judge later reversed that decision and ordered the state board to find a different resolution. -- Statewide revote ordered for Agriculture race

Washington State: counties refusing to reopen vote count

AP reports: Counties have refused to reopen the vote count in Washington's ultra-close governor's race, and Republican Dino Rossi was reportedly under pressure to carry a last-ditch fight into the courts.

The three vote counts in America's closest governor's race are over, and on Thursday morning, Secretary of State Sam Reed is prepared to certify Democrat Christine Gregoire as the victor by 129 votes, state elections chief Nick Handy said Tuesday.

Reed has warned against counties reopening their tallies.

Rossi trails Gregoire, the state attorney general, by a tiny fraction of 1 percent, and the state GOP wanted counties to take another look at ballots that the party contends may have been improperly counted or left out. The party also is doing the groundwork for a possible court challenge. -- Tri-City Herald: Governor recount

December 28, 2004

Montana: state supreme court throws out double-marked ballots

The Billings Gazette reports: The Montana Supreme Court ruled 6-1 Tuesday that Constitution Party member Rick Jore did not win the race for Lake County legislator.

The decision gives victory to Democrat Jeanne Windham and puts the Democrats in the majority of the state House of Representatives. ...

The Lake County dispute settled on seven ballots cast in the race. The ballots appeared to have been marked for both Jore and his Republican opponent in the three-way race. Lake County elections officials counted the ballots for Jore.

Anita Big Spring, a Lake County voter, sued, arguing that the judges could not tell which candidate the voters intended to vote for and that the ballots should be discarded. -- Supreme court reverses Lake County election ruling: Democrats take House -

Thanks to Richard Winger for pointing me to the story.

December 27, 2004

CREW claims FEC wrongfully withholds Westar's report

The Business Journal of Kansas City reports: A motion filed in a federal lawsuit accuses the Federal Election Commission of wrongly shielding a Westar Energy Inc. report on political donations from the Freedom of Information Act and asks the judge to require the agency to produce the report.

The report resulted from the May 2003 revelation of company e-mails allegedly describing former Chairman David Wittig's efforts to "get a seat at the table" in Congress with political donations.

Although Westar has said it surrendered the report to the FEC earlier this year, neither the company nor the agency has released it to the public.

The motion for summary judgment filed in U.S. District Court in Washington alleges that the FEC failed to properly search for the Westar document despite the suit and previous requests from Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. -- Motion: Election agency wrongly withheld Westar report - 2004-12-27 - The Business Journal of Kansas City

Washington State: GOP demands King County voter list

AP reports: Republicans, considering whether to challenge Democrat Christine Gregoire's razor-thin victory for governor, today demanded a list of the 900,000 who cast ballots in vote-rich, problem-plagued King County.

Republican state Chairman Chris Vance said the party and other backers of GOP candidate Dino Rossi have nagging questions about the vote count in the county that tipped the race to Gregoire by a scant 130 votes last week.

"We want to know who voted in the election, and it's hard to know where we go from here (with a possible court challenge) before we get some answers," Vance said in an interview.

"We're mostly posing questions. King County is where we saw the votes changing. King County is the one county that was allowed to take ballots that were declared dead in November and bring them back to life in December." -- The Seattle Times: Local News: Republicans demand King County voter list

I feel your pain, says a Democrat who is still trying to get answers from Ohio.

December 26, 2004

GOP college group criticized for fundraising tactics

Tom Edsall writes in the Washington Post: The College Republican National Committee is under fire for using front organizations to collect millions of dollars in contributions, including money from elderly people with dementia.

During the 2004 campaign, the group sent out direct-mail solicitations under such letterheads as "Republican Headquarters 2004" and "Republican Election Committee."

One four-page letter asked prospects to send $1,000 together with an American flag pin for President Bush to wear to "Republican Headquarters" to ensure that Bush knows "there are millions who are giving him the shield of God to protect him in the difficult days ahead."

In small print at the bottom of one page, the letter notes: "A project of and paid for by College Republican National Committee."

Many donors complained that they thought the money was going directly to the Republican Party, and not to the college group, which is no longer affiliated with the GOP. The controversy over the letters has produced angry responses from leaders of state College Republican chapters, including those in Washington state, North Carolina and New York. -- College Republicans' Fundraising Criticized (

Texas: another party, more time for briefs in redistricting

The Longview News-Journal reports: A judge on the federal panel hearing the Texas redistricting challenges extended the deadline Wednesday for parties to file final arguments before a Jan. 21 hearing in Dallas.

The state, which is defending congressional lines drawn by state lawmakers during three contentious special sessions in 2003, got two of the three weeks it asked for in the extension.

The deadline for final filings was Thursday, but has been extended to Jan. 14, according to the ruling by U.S. District Judge Patrick Higginbotham.

The ruling also welcomes a new party to the fight. The "University Professors" group is represented by Steve Bickerstaff, a former assistant attorney general who unsuccessfully fought off challenges to redrawn lines in the '70s and now represents a group that supports the challengers.

Wednesday's ruling gives the state time to respond to Bickerstaff's arguments, which were not immediately available Thursday. -- Filing deadline in redistricting case delayed by judge

California:GOP divided over governor's proposal

The Sacramento Bee reports: With political careers hanging in the balance, redistricting isn't only a Republican vs. Democrat debate. Some congressional Republicans, in particular, are unhappy that Schwarzenegger is exploring a change.

Doolittle, a close political ally of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay - who orchestrated a redistricting plan in Texas that added three Republican seats in Congress - said he is "vehemently opposed" to a similar move in California.

In Texas, he said, the situation was quite different. A majority of voters statewide were Republican and a majority of Republicans held statewide office, but Democrats held an advantage in the congressional delegation because of the way the congressional boundaries were drawn, he said.

In California, Democrats are the majority party, and the politics of the Legislature, the congressional delegation and all the state offices except governor reflect that. -- Placer - Redistrict process divides even GOP -

Ireland: Electronic Voting Commission report

The Irish Commission on Electronic Voting concludes in its recent report: The Commission accordingly concludes that, having regard to the issues of secrecy, accuracy and testing as set out in its terms of reference, it is unable to recommend the use of the proposed system at the local and European elections and, by extension, at the referendum due to be held on 11 June.

The Commission wishes to emphasise that its conclusion is not based on any finding that the system will not work, but on the finding that it has not been proven at this time to the satisfaction of the Commission that it will work.

In addition, the Commission recognises that the threshold of proof required to support its recommendation against the use of the proposed system is much lower than that which would be required to recommend in its favour. It is for this reason that, although its work is incomplete, the Commission is in a position to make its recommendation within the timeframe of this report. -- FIRST REPORT of the Commission on Electronic Voting on the Secrecy, Accuracy and Testing of the Chosen Electronic Voting System

The second paragraph is a judicious use of the burden of proof.

Thanks to Schneier on Security for the link.

December 24, 2004

Washington State: Gregoire now ahead by 130

AP reports: After a bruising election and two recounts, Democrat Christine Gregoire emerged as the winner by a 130-vote margin in Washington state's astonishingly close governor's race.

But Republican Dino Rossi and his supporters say the election is not over yet. He won the first count by 261 votes out of 2.9 million ballots cast, then watched his lead shrink to 42 after a machine recount.

Gregoire's lead in the statewide hand recount widened from 10 to 130 on Thursday after a state Supreme Court decision allowed King County to reconsider 732 mistakenly rejected ballots. King County, home of Seattle and a Democratic stronghold, was the last county to report final recount results on Thursday. -- - Gregoire wins recount - -- - but ballot battle far from over

Puerto Rico: Acevedo Vila is the winner reports: Nearly two months after votes were cast, Puerto Rico's election authorities announced a winner, Anibal Acevedo Vila, on Thursday after a recount and disputes over the validity of thousands of votes.

The State Elections Committee of Puerto Rico announced Acevedo Vila, candidate for the Popular Democratic Party, as winner of the Nov. 2 election. Acevedo Vila favors the status quo for the U.S. Caribbean territory's relations with the United States.

A mandatory recount after the vote dragged on for weeks amid legal disputes over mixed-vote ballots in the island of 4 million people. The 1st Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston on Wednesday denied a petition by the losing New Progressive Party and its candidate, former two-term governor Pedro Rossello, for a rehearing over the case.

Several thousand double-split ballots featuring a mark under a party insignia and marks for governor and resident commissioner -- the territory's nonvoting representative in the U.S. Congress -- from another party had been separated from the recount after Rossello filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court of San Juan. -- Politics News Article |

December 23, 2004

Washington State: lead changes, Gregoire ahead after hand count

The Olympian reports: Democrat Christine Gregoire opened a 10-vote lead Wednesday over Republican Dino Rossi in Washington's incredibly close governor's race.

The closest statewide race in Washington history is far from over, even as the statewide hand recount of ballots wraps up today with the addition of up to 735 previously rejected absentee votes in Gregoire-friendly King County.

The uncertainty is because of several factors.

Republicans say they plan to get "hundreds" of rejected Rossi votes around the state counted by local county canvassing boards before Secretary of State Sam Reed certifies election results.

And then the GOP might go to court or take other steps to contest a Gregoire victory in the Legislature, if needed. -- Top Stories -The Olympian

December 22, 2004

Congratulations to Martin Still, a new Eagle Scout

About a week ago, my younger son Martin Still passed the board of review to become an Eagle Scout. Only 4% of all the boys who start in the Boy Scouts ever reach this rank. (I did not, for instance.) Here's what the official Boy Scout website says about the Eagle rank:

The fact that a boy is an Eagle Scout has always carried with it a special significance, not only in Scouting but also as he enters higher education, business or industry, and community service. The award is a performance-based achievement whose standards have been well-maintained over the years. Not every boy who joins a Boy Scout troop earns the Eagle Scout rank; only about 4 percent of all Boy Scouts do so. This represents more than 1 million Boy Scouts who have earned the rank since 1911. Nevertheless, the goals of Scouting—citizenship training, character development, and personal fitness—remain important for all Scouts, whether or not they attain the Eagle Scout rank.


To earn the Eagle Scout rank, the highest advancement rank in Scouting, a Boy Scout must fulfill requirements in the areas of leadership, service, and outdoor skills. Although many options are available to demonstrate proficiency in these areas, a number of specific skills are required to advance through the ranks—Tenderfoot, Second Class, First Class, Star, Life, and Eagle. To advance, a Boy Scout must pass specific tests that are organized by requirements and merit badges.

Merit Badges

Merit badges signify the mastery of certain Scoutcraft skills, as well as helping boys increase their skill in an area of personal interest. Of the 120 merit badges available, 21 must be earned to qualify for Eagle Scout. Of this group, 12 badges are required, including First Aid, Citizenship in the Community, Citizenship in the Nation, Citizenship in the World, Communications, Environmental Science, Personal Fitness, Personal Management, Camping, and Family Life. In addition, a Scout has a choice between Emergency Preparedness and Lifesaving and a choice among Cycling, Hiking, and Swimming.

Service and Responsibility

Beginning with the Star rank, and continuing through Life and Eagle, a Scout must demonstrate participation in increasingly more responsible service projects. At these levels, he also must demonstrate leadership skills by holding one or more specific youth positions of responsibility in his patrol and/or troop.

Virginia: cert petition filed in congressional redistricting case

Gerry Hebert emails: attached is the cert petition that plaintiffs-appellants filed yesterday in the Supreme Court in Hall v. Commonwealth of Virginia--a section 2 challenge to the congressional districts in Virginia. The petition once again puts before the Court the issue of whether, in order to bring a section 2 suit, plaintiffs must be able to create an illustrative district in which they constitute a 50%+ arithmetic majority. Happy holidays to all.

The question presented is this: Whether minority plaintiffs challenging electoral districts under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1973(b), fail to state a vote dilution claim where they allege that members of their minority group have the ability to “elect representatives of their own choice” in a single-member district, but do not allege that their minority group constitutes an arithmetical majority of the population in that district.

And here is the file.

Puerto Rico: Rossello asks for rehearing

The Boston Herald reports: In a last-ditch effort, the pro-statehood candidate for governor of Puerto Rico is asking a federal appeals court in Boston to reverse its week-old decision on disputed ballots that essentially handed the razor-thin election to his opponent.

In a petition filed yesterday, lawyers for Pedro Rossello called the ruling by a three-member panel of the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ``patently erroneous'' and asked the full, six-member court to hear the case or compel the panel to reconsider its decision. -- - Local/ Regional News: Puerto Rican candidate petitions court

Washington State: Dems claim win for Gregoire

The Olympian reports: State Democratic Party Chairman Paul Berendt declared late Tuesday that Democrat Christine Gregoire had won the Washington governor's race by eight votes in a hand recount, in what would be a major reversal of two previous counts favoring Republican Dino Rossi.

"This isn't an official return. King County has not sent out this number," Berendt said in an evening telephone interview. "But we are confident that she was elected governor based on data disks released by the King County elections department to the state Democratic and Republican parties -- and the final action of the King County canvassing board on a handful of ballots that were reviewed and counted today."

King County elections staff members said early Tuesday evening that they could not confirm rumors about the latest hand recount results in King County. The agency plans to release its final numbers today at 3:30 p.m., spokeswoman Bobbie Egan said. ...

Even if Berendt is correct, a Supreme Court ruling on an additional 730 King County ballots still could affect the outcome. But Berendt said he thinks those mistakenly rejected ballots also will favor Gregoire.

At issue before the court is whether once-rejected ballots can be added to a recount.

The ballots in question were cast by registered voters whose ballots were rejected because the voters' signatures hadn't been successfully scanned into the county elections database. The court hears those arguments at 9:30 a.m. today. -- Top Stories -The Olympian

December 19, 2004

Arizona: Renzi took corporate funds, FEC audit says

The Arizona Republic reports: U.S. Rep. Rick Renzi financed much of his 2002 election campaign with hundreds of thousands of dollars from his corporations, a practice prohibited by law, a Federal Election Commission audit has determined.

Renzi contends the money was his own and was properly disclosed as personal loans to his campaign.

The audit, performed over 15 months and released Wednesday, also said Renzi's campaign committee failed to report $39,000 in contributions received, $101,000 in expenditures made and omitted details about hundreds of donors.

Most of those defects have been corrected, but the corporate money should be paid back if the Renzi group does not provide documentation that it was personal, the report says. -- Renzi got banned finances, audit says

Washington State: recount of new ballots blocked

The Seattle Times reports: A Pierce County judge yesterday sided with Republicans and blocked King County from counting hundreds of disqualified ballots in Washington's absurdly close race for governor.

The ruling was at least a temporary victory for the state Republican Party, which sued to stop King County from tallying 735 ballots the county says were mistakenly rejected by election workers.

With Republican Dino Rossi clinging to a tiny lead over Democrat Christine Gregoire, the fate of King County's disputed ballots could easily determine the outcome of the race.

Soon after Pierce County Superior Court Judge Stephanie Arend issued her ruling before a packed courtroom, the state Democratic Party appealed the decision to the state Supreme Court. ...

Arend said her ruling was bound by a state Supreme Court ruling earlier this week that said ballots should be included in a recount only if they had been included in previous counts. -- The Seattle Times: Local News: Judge blocks count of disputed ballots

San Diego: all I want for Christmas is an honest count

The San Diego Union Tribune: An attorney who is contemplating a lawsuit to overturn San Diego's mayoral election will wait several more days to announce his next move.

Fred Woocher said yesterday he needs more time to research his options "to resolve the controversy expeditiously." He said he may make a decision by the end of next week.

"We're going to take a little time to think about it," he said.

Woocher, a Santa Monica elections lawyer, filed a recount request on behalf of two supporters of Councilwoman Donna Frye, who finished second in the Nov. 2 election behind Mayor Dick Murphy.

The Registrar of Voters Office conducted a tally this week at the request of Woocher and several news organizations, including The San Diego Union-Tribune. Unlike Woocher, the news media were not interested in overturning the election results but in finding out how many voters wrote in Donna Frye's name without filling in the corresponding bubble on the ballot. -- > News > Politics -- Further action in ballot saga on hiatus

Puerto Rico: Rossello may ask for en banc rehearing

AP reports: The pro-statehood candidate for governor said Friday he might ask a federal appeals court to reconsider its ruling that undermined his efforts to throw out thousands of disputed ballots favoring his rival in the extremely close Nov. 2 election.

Former Gov. Pedro Rossello said his lawyers have recommended asking the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston to reverse the ruling, which gave Puerto Rico's Supreme Court, not a federal judge on the island, jurisdiction over the ballots.

The ruling was a defeat for Rossello because Puerto Rico's Supreme Court already declared the votes valid in an earlier lawsuit. Rossello had asked U.S. District Judge Daniel Dominguez to throw them out.

The votes mostly favor Anibal Acevedo Vila, who supports keeping Puerto Rico's status as a U.S. commonwealth.

A three-judge panel made the ruling Wednesday, and Rossello said he might ask the full six-judge court to reconsider. Although he acknowledged the effort might have little chance for success, Rossello said he wanted to make clear his disagreement with the ruling. -- - Local/ Regional News: Puerto Rico: Pro-statehood candidate may ask 1st Circuit to reconsider

December 17, 2004

FEC proposes to allow trade association PACs to use electronic payroll deductions

The Hill reports: Federal election officials moved today to make it easier for trade associations to raise money for political action committees.

The Federal Election Commission (FEC) voted to propose a new rule allowing associations to collect contributions by electronic payroll deductions from employees of member companies.

Employees can funnel a portion of their checks directly into their savings accounts, for example, and would also be able to earmark cash automatically to an association's political action committee, or PAC, under the FEC proposal.

For years, individual corporations and labor unions have been able to raise money this way but associations have not. -- FEC moves to help trade association PACs raise cash

December 16, 2004

San Diego: recount begins reports: An official recount of ballots cast in San Diego's mayoral race began Thursday after a review of disputed write-in ballots showed Donna Frye would have beat Mayor Dick Murphy if they had been counted.

The attorney for two women who voted for the councilwoman has asked the San Diego County Registrar of Voters for the recount of selected precincts, including disputed ballots cast in the Nov. 2 race.

An unofficial tally of disputed ballots ended Wednesday, showing 5,547 voters wrote Frye's name on the ballot but did not fill in the corresponding bubble next to her name. Frye would have beat Mayor Dick Murphy by about 3,400 votes if those ballots had been counted.

Registrar Sally McPherson said unfilled bubbles cannot be counted under state election law, setting the stage for another possible lawsuit over the mayor's race. -- - Politics - Registrar Begins Official Recount Of Mayoral Ballots

Ohio: a setback for the recount-seekers

AP reports: The Ohio Supreme Court's chief justice on Thursday threw out a challenge to the state's presidential election results.

The 40 voters who brought the case will likely be able to refile the challenge.

Chief Justice Thomas Moyer ruled that the request improperly challenged two separate election results. Ohio law only allows one race to be challenged in a single complaint, he said. ...

The complaint questioned how the actual results could show Bush winning when exit-poll interview findings on election night indicated that Kerry would win 52 percent of Ohio's presidential vote. -- / News / Politics / Presidential candidates / Ohio justice throws out election challenge

Puerto Rico: recount resumes under state control

AP reports: Elections officials began counting thousands of disputed ballots on Thursday, one day after a federal appeals court ruling that dealt a blow to the pro-statehood candidate's efforts to have them invalidated.

Officials have started including the ballots in an ongoing recount of the extremely close Nov. 2 elections, said Aurelio Gracia, the president of the State Elections Commission.

``I think we should count them for the precision and order of the process,'' he said.

The decision came a day after the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston ruled that Puerto Rico's Supreme Court, not a federal judge on the island, had jurisdiction over the ballots, which mostly favor Anibal Acevedo Vila, the candidate who supports keeping the island's status as a U.S. commonwealth. -- - Local/ Regional News: Puerto Rican officials start counting disputed votes after ruling

December 15, 2004

Ohio: campaign finance bill moving through the legislature

AP reports: A proposed fix to Ohio's campaign finance laws has something in it for both union and corporate interests to dislike.

Unions are protesting the elimination of a fund that shifts union dues to political activity without disclosing workers' names, while business groups don't like the legislation's ban on third-party advertising.

The full House was expected to vote on the bill Wednesday following the approval by the GOP-controlled House State Government Committee 8-5 along partisan lines Tuesday night.

Under the bill, political contribution limits would increase fourfold to $10,000. The bill also restricts the ability of statewide candidates to funnel contributions through county parties, and bans ads by third-party groups 30 days before an election. -- ONN. Ohio News Now: Objections To Campaign Finance Bill

New Jersey: escalator in campaign contributions stopped

AP reports: Acting Gov. Richard J. Codey took a small step toward initiating campaign finance reform on Wednesday by signing a law freezing contributions to political organizations at their current levels.

The measure ends automatic, upward adjustments to contribution limits every four years, and instead provides for the Election Law Enforcement Commission to suggest changes to the Legislature. ...

The new law excludes contributions to individual candidates or their committees, because such donations help boost candidates' independence and encourage a broader field of candidates, Codey said. -- AP Wire | 12/15/2004 | Codey signs law limiting campaign contributions

Ohio: the "lost" voters

The Washington Post reports: Electoral problems prevented many thousands of Ohioans from voting on Nov. 2. In Columbus, bipartisan estimates say that 5,000 to 15,000 frustrated voters turned away without casting ballots. It is unlikely that such "lost" voters would have changed the election result -- Ohio tipped to President Bush by a 118,000-vote margin and cemented his electoral college majority.

But similar problems occurred across the state and fueled protest marches and demands for a recount. The foul-ups appeared particularly acute in Democratic-leaning districts, according to interviews with voters, poll workers, election observers and election board and party officials, as well as an examination of precinct voting patterns in several cities.

In Cleveland, poorly trained poll workers apparently gave faulty instructions to voters that led to the disqualification of thousands of provisional ballots and misdirected several hundred votes to third-party candidates. In Youngstown, 25 electronic machines transferred an unknown number of votes for Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) to the Bush column.

In Columbus, Cincinnati and Toledo, and on college campuses, election officials allocated far too few voting machines to busy precincts, with the result that voters stood on line as long as 10 hours -- many leaving without voting. Some longtime voters discovered their registrations had been purged. -- Several Factors Contributed to 'Lost' Voters in Ohio (

Ohio: federal judge rules punch-card voting does not violate constitution

AP reports: A federal judge has ruled voting rights are not denied to those who cast ballots on systems that use punch cards.

On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge David D. Dowd Jr. upheld punch-card voting in the nation's first trial challenging that method of voting.

The American Civil Liberties Union argued that punch-card machines are not uniform, are outdated in several counties and don't allow voters to correct mistakes. The ACLU also claimed that Ohio violated the voting rights of blacks, who live predominantly in punch-card counties.

"All voters in a county, regardless of race, use the same voting system to cast a ballot, and no one is denied the opportunity to cast a valid vote because of their race," Dowd said in a 32-page ruling. -- AP Wire | 12/15/2004 | Judge ruled punch-card voting does not deny right to vote

Washington State: King County will verify 573 uncounted mail-in ballots

AP reports: The three-member King County Canvassing Board decided today to allow signature verification on 573 newly discovered absentee ballots and then consider whether they should be counted in Washington's extremely close governor's race.

The board postponed a decision on what to do with 22 other newly discovered ballots.

Democrats applauded the board's decision to move forward with assessing how many of the 573 previously rejected ballots are valid, since King County is a stronghold of Democratic candidate Christine Gregoire.

The canvassing board voted 2-1 to move forward with recanvassing the 573 ballots.

It's a two-step process. First, election workers will verify if the ballot signatures are those of registered voters. If so, workers will take the ballots out of their security envelopes and bring them back to the board for a final decision on whether they should be counted. The process will take several days.

Republican Dino Rossi won the Nov. 2 election over Gregoire by 261 votes in the first count and by 42 after a machine recount. As of today he had gained 81 votes in the hand recount for a margin of 123. -- The Seattle Times: Politics: King County board votes to move forward with 573 ballots

Puerto Rico: 1st Circuit holds recount case belongs in "state" court reports: A U.S. court on Wednesday remanded a case over disputed ballots in November's Puerto Rico election to the territory's Supreme Court, likely handing the governorship to a man who favors the status quo in its association with the United States.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, sitting in Boston, ruled that the U.S. District Court of San Juan did not have jurisdiction over a lawsuit filed by the runner-up in the Nov. 2 election over disputed "double-split ballots."

Instead it referred the lawsuit to the Puerto Rico Supreme Court, which has already ordered that the controversial ballots be recounted in an election saga reminiscent of the Florida vote fiasco of 2000.

The ruling means that Popular Democratic Party (PDP) candidate Anibal Acevedo Vila, whose party favors the status quo of the island as a U.S. commonwealth, is likely to become governor after a recount of ballots is completed. -- Politics News Article |

December 14, 2004

San Diego: disputed ballots would have given a win to Frye

The Los Angeles Times reports: The hotly disputed race for mayor here took a sharp turn Tuesday as a review of disputed ballots showed that Councilwoman Donna Frye would have beaten incumbent Mayor Dick Murphy if all votes had been counted.

Tuesday's review looked at ballots that had not been counted in the official tally. It was conducted at the request of The Times, four other news organizations and two pro-Frye voters. ..

At issue in the balloting are thousands of "empty ovals" — ballots in which a voter wrote in Frye's name but failed to fill in the small oval located next to the write-in line. Election officials had declined to count those ballots, and a Superior Court judge last month upheld their decision, saying that state election law required that ovals be filled in for a write-in to count. -- San Diego Ballot Review Puts a Black Mark on Mayor's Win

Thanks to How Appealing for the link.

December 13, 2004

South Dakota: Indians ask judge to draw legislative districts

AP reports: A federal judge should draw new boundary lines in a legislative district so American Indians have fairer representation, lawyers for four Indians say.

The attorneys also want U.S. District Judge Karen Schreier of Rapid City to order a special election next fall.

Alfred Bone Shirt and Belva Black Lance of Todd County, Bonnie High Bull of Bennett County and Germaine Moves Camp of Jackson County had gone to court, saying the Legislature's 2001 redistricting plan violated their voting rights.

They want Schreier to make the state adopt one of two suggested remedies and hold an election in November 2005 to choose legislators. ...

In her September order, Schreier told the state to propose a remedy within 45 days. Last month, the state asked her for a July 1 deadline and for guidance on the acceptable percentage of minority population in a district.

Legislators have said the state constitution gives them authority to redraw legislative district boundaries only in those years after the release of new census data, or once a decade. They said they don't believe they can redistrict at any time in the interim, citing a previous state Supreme Court ruling on that subject. -- Rapid City Journal: Lawyers want judge to redraw Legislative district boundaries

Puerto Rico: governor's race argued in the 1st Circuit

AP reports: A bitter election dispute that has intensified political divisions in Puerto Rico went before a federal appeals court Monday, as more than 100 demonstrators rallied outside for two candidates vying to be governor of the U.S. Caribbean territory.

The question before the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is whether the island's Supreme Court or a U.S. district judge in San Juan should have jurisdiction over thousands of disputed ballots favoring pro-commonwealth candidate Anibal Acevedo Vila of the Popular Democratic Party. ...

On the ballots in question, voters marked an 'x' for the tiny Independence Party, but they also put marks next to the names of Acevedo Vila and Roberto Prats, the Popular Democratic Party's candidate for nonvoting delegate to U.S. Congress.

Acevedo Vila's supporters say Puerto Rico's laws allow voters to mark one party in addition to candidates from other mainstream parties.

But Rossello's lawyer, former U.S. Solicitor General Theodore Olson, who represented George W. Bush in the disputed 2000 presidential election, argued that it is impossible to determine the voter's intent on those ballots. ...

In arguments before the 1st Circuit court Monday, Acevedo Vila's attorney, Charles Cooper, said the disputed ballots have already been validated by both the Puerto Rican Election Commission and the island's Supreme Court. He said the U.S. federal courts should not be involved in the dispute. -- - News - Demonstrators Protest Puerto Rican Election

Washington State: 561 wrongfully-rejected absentee ballots to be counted

AP reports: In a move that could swing the close race for governor, King County Elections Director Dean Logan will ask the county Canvass Board to amend the results of the Nov. 2 election to include hundreds of absentee ballots that Logan says were wrongly rejected.

Democrat Christine Gregoire, who trails Republican Dino Rossi by just a few dozen votes as both sides await the results of a tedious hand recount, won King County handily, and new votes there could put her back in the lead.

Logan said Monday that approximately 561 absentee ballots were rejected because it was mistakenly thought that the signatures on the ballots did not match original voter registration records. However, he said the signatures simply were not on file in the county's voter registration system, and that original registration records should have been checked. -- King County elections head: 561 ballots wrongly rejected

Arizona: group circulating initiative petition for mail-only voting

KPHO in Phoenix reports: A local group called "Your Right To Vote" has launched a drive to get an initiative on the November 2006 ballot that would convert Arizona into a vote-by-mail only state. -- KPHO Phoenix - Initiative Launched to Make Ariz. Vote-By-Mail Only State

December 10, 2004

Texas: one company pleads guilty in DeLay probe

AP reports: A company accused in the campaign-finance investigation that has implicated associates of U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay agreed to aid prosecutors in exchange for having charges against it dropped, court papers showed.

Under the deal, Diversified Collection Services will also develop internal policies to prevent any future violations of the Texas law against using corporate money for political purposes, according to a motion approved Thursday by a state judge.

The California-based company, which has offices in San Angelo, was accused of giving $50,000 to Texans for a Republican Majority, a GOP political action committee associated with DeLay, during the 2002 campaign. The election gave the party its first legislative majority since Reconstruction. -- AP Wire | 12/10/2004 | Company to Aid in DeLay Corruption Probe

David Donnelly comments: My sources in Texas tell me that the next major indictment is likely to be Texas House Speaker Tom Craddick. They also say there is a major development coming soon. Frankly, as interesting as it is, I don’t think this settlement with Diversified Collection reaches the level of a "major development." But who knows? Maybe there this is the start of something major.

It looks to me like the prosecution is putting the edge pieces of the puzzle together in order to begin working toward the middle. They are not making a beeline at DeLay, or even Craddick. They are making very careful, clear steps to turn up the heat on those one rung, to mix my metaphors, below DeLay. -- What does the settlement mean? - The Daily DeLay

Kos comments: Ronnie Earle, the corruption-fighting district attorney taking on the DeLay machine, is seeing the fruits of his strategy.

His first grand jury indicted three close DeLay aides and a host of companies. The tactics were obvious -- force those indicted to serve up names higher up the food chain in exchange for leniency. Why should they take the bulled (life in prison, protentially) for DeLay?

The current grand jury is focusing on Republican speaker of the Texas House, Tom Craddick. Speculation has been that Earle will convene a third grand jury when he's ready to go after the bug squasher himself. -- Earle flips company -- DailyKos

Massachusetts: bills for redistricting commission and instant runoff introduced

The Arlington Advocate reports: Members of Arlington's legislative delegation are looking to change the face of political map making.

Arlington state representatives Jay Kaufman and James Marzilli and state Sen. Robert Havern are all listed as co-sponsors to redistricting legislation put forward for 2005. The legislation would create an independent commission to redraw the commonwealth's legislative and congressional districts after every decennial census.

According to Common Cause Executive Director Pam Wilmot, an independent board would once and for all end that great Massachusetts tradition: Gerrymandering. ...

The redistricting proposal is only one of several bills filed on behalf of Common Cause. Kaufman also filed legislation for instant runoff voting.

Instant runoff voting has voters rank their preference of candidate instead of choosing only one name. When the votes are counted, a candidate must amass a plurality of votes. If no candidate breaks the 50 percent barrier, the last-place finisher is removed from consideration and the second choice on those ballots are counted. This continues until someone breaks 50 percent.

Wilmot said it's as easy as voting now. Instead of filling out a bubble or drawing a line, a voter numbers candidates. If a voter doesn't want to, he or she doesn't have to. -- - Arlington Advocate - Local News

Washington State: the recount may not be the end of the election

The Tacoma News Tribune reports: Even if Republican Dino Rossi wins the hand recount of the state's extraordinary governor's race, a never-before-used provision in the state constitution could allow the Democrat-controlled Legislature to hand the election to Democrat Christine Gregoire.

Experts are unsure how to interpret the provision. But the state Democratic Party says it gives Democrats the ability to contest the results of the election before the Legislature.

The Legislature would hold a trial of sorts, like an impeachment hearing, with lawmakers voting on the final outcome, according to a Democratic Party lawyer.

That scenario would seem to favor Gregoire, because Democrats will hold a 26-23 advantage in the Senate and a 55-43 edge in the House when the Legislature convenes Jan. 10. -- | Tacoma, WA | Local

Puerto Rico: election litigation moves to federal appeals court

AP reports: Puerto Rico has been wrangling for more than a month over the disputed governor's election with no victor in sight, reopening deep divisions over the island's status and sending the fight to U.S. soil.

Arguments are scheduled to begin Monday in the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston on whether the island's Supreme Court or a U.S. district judge should have jurisdiction over thousands of disputed ballots that favor pro-commonwealth candidate Anibal Acevedo Vila of Puerto Rico's Popular Democratic Party.

Preliminary election results from Nov. 2 showed Acevedo Vila narrowly ahead of pro-statehood contender Pedro Rossello of the New Progressive Party - 48.38 percent to 48.18 percent. ...

On the most of the ballots in question, voters chose the tiny Independence Party, but they also put marks next to the names of Acevedo Vila and Roberto Prats, the Popular Democratic Party's candidate for non-voting delegate to U.S. Congress.

Acevedo Vila's supporters say Puerto Rico's laws allow voters to mark one party on the ballot while also voting for candidates from other parties. Rossello insists the tradition makes it impossible to determine voter intent and want the ballots disqualified. -- Worcester Telegram & Gazette Online - APN

December 9, 2004

Florida: relaxed rules on restoration of ex-felon voting rights

The Orlando Sentinel reports: Thousands of ex-felons will find it easier to get their civil rights restored under rule changes unanimously agreed to today by Gov. Jeb Bush and the Cabinet.

Florida is one of only seven states where former prisoners do not automatically get clemency -- including the right to vote -- when they leave prison.

Although there are no plans in the works to allow automatic restoration of rights, the rule changes adopted by the Board of Executive Clemency will ease the process, especially for those who have remained crime free after leaving prison. ...

Today's action would allow those convicted of non-violent crimes to apply for clemency without a board hearing if they have been crime-free for five years. Those convicted of violent felonies could have their rights restored after 15 years if they remain crime-free. ...

Randy Berg, executive director of the Florida Justice Institute, successfully sued the state for failing to help felons apply for a restoration of their civil rights upon completion of their sentences. Today, he called the rule changes "a complete joke.''

"People need to have their civil rights restored immediately after prison so they can get decent jobs, earn a living, support their families and pay taxes,'' Berg said. "If they can't, it's almost a self-fulfilling prophesy: They'll be forced to resort to crime again."

He and other advocates said it's high time for the state to revert to the clemency system adopted by former Gov. Reubin Askew.

Under the Askew Administration, restoration was automatic. When convicted felons completed their sentences, their civil rights were restored -- a policy with which the American Correctional Association agrees. --

December 8, 2004

West Virginia: legislature considering public funding

The Parkersburg News & Sentinel reports: With the increase of soft money used through 527 groups this year, lawmakers spoke of a possible cap on how much people can contribute to these groups during elections.
Lawmakers also are considering a pilot project to test public financing of elections.

During a Monday interim meeting, the joint select committee that has been studying campaign finance measures for much of the year said the Legislature should consider a test program. A chief topic has been a voluntary system where candidates would swear off private contributions and accept only money from a public source.

However, John Doyle, D-Jefferson, committee member and House finance vice chairman, said the Legislature would study whether to pursue such a system solely as a pilot project.

"I don't think we're going to be able to find money in the budget for a full-bore campaign finance reform program," Doyle said. -- Legislature could hear reform project - - The Parkersburg News & Sentinel

Washington State: supreme court hearing on Monday re recount

The Tacoma News Tribune reports: The Washington Supreme Court will hear oral arguments regarding the disputed recount in the governor's race at 1:30 p.m. Monday in the Temple of Justice in Olympia.

As elections officials across the state prepare for an unprecedented third count in the governors race, the state Democratic Party sued last week in an effort to address the rules. Among other things, Democrats want county canvassing boards to re-examine thousands of ballots that were disqualified during the first two counts.

Republican Dino Rossi beat Democrat Christine Gregoire by 42 votes after the first recount and was certified as the governor-elect.

In its order issued today, the high court agreed to let Rossi and the state Republican Party intervene in the case. The court also ruled that the recount, which was delayed at least a day in most counties while election officials waited to see what the Supreme Court would do, may continue under rules and regulations already in place - subject to changes that could be made later by the court. -- | Tacoma, WA | Breaking news

December 7, 2004

Puerto Rico: gubernatorial candidate protests federal court intervention

Sun-Sentinel reports: The candidate narrowly leading Puerto Rico's still-unsettled race for governor is charging the U.S. government with acting as a colonial ruler for seizing control of ballot counting in the protracted election.

A U.S. District Court judge's decision to step in and overrule Puerto Rico's Supreme Court on how to run the recount "tortures the island's residents and holds them hostage," said Aníbal Acevedo Vilá, the Popular Democratic Party candidate who held a narrow lead in the election when ballot counting was suspended Nov. 2.

Since then, efforts to complete that tabulation and get a recount under way have become mired in legal wrangling and worker walkouts as the commonwealth's three political parties try to sort through approximately 2 million ballots cast in the election.

Federal involvement in the election has ignited passions on the island, with supporters of two of the three major parties decrying it as unwarranted and unwanted meddling in local affairs.

Earlier this week, 20,000 people protested outside the federal courthouse in San Juan to denounce the rulings by U.S. District Judge Daniel Dominguez. -- Puerto Rico candidate raps U.S. for meddling in vote: South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Conference tallies voting problems

AP reports: Voting and civil rights advocates contended Tuesday that the election did not go as smoothly as Americans might think.

Reports of long lines at some polling places, voting machine errors, absentee ballots that never arrived and problems with provisional ballots dominated a daylong conference Tuesday, and experts said more changes are needed to eliminate obstacles to voting.

"We learned on Election Day that our voting methods remain troubled and that many Americans continue to experience difficulty navigating a system that falls far short of our view of ourselves as the world's greatest democracy," said Common Cause President Chellie Pingree, who moderated the conference.

Registration problems were the most frequent complaint in 2004, according to a database kept by a coalition of voting rights groups. Some voters registered by the deadline but did not show up on voter lists, while others received cards with incorrect information. -- Conference focuses on 'troubled' voting system

Virginia: "He pulled a Pontius Pilate and punted"

AP reports: Legal battles over Republican eavesdropping on Democratic conference calls effectively ended Tuesday with both sides signing an agreement obliging the state GOP to pay Democrats $750,000.

Democrats also released depositions and court records that they say show the state's highest-ranking Republican official, Jerry Kilgore, did nothing to prevent a second intercepted call.

"He pulled a Pontius Pilate and punted," Del. Brian Moran, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, said of Kilgore, the presumed GOP nominee for governor next year.

Sworn depositions from top Kilgore aides show that the attorney general intentionally cut himself off from hearing details when he first learned of possible illegal spying on the Democrats' calls from a senior staff member, Anne Petera. Kilgore said in an interview it was legally prudent to insulate himself from the details. -- Eavesdropping suit settlement inked; records fill in some details

The call was a Democratic strategy session about the state court redistricting decision.

Washington State: recount to include partisan counters

The Seattle Times reports: Republican Party activist Tricia Roberts is about to burn two weeks of her vacation -- to help recount King County's 900,000 ballots, by hand.

"It's for a good cause," said Roberts, who hopes Republican Dino Rossi will maintain his 42-vote lead over Democrat Christine Gregoire.

In one of the most unusual twists in Washington's surprising gubernatorial election, King County and other places are hiring party loyalists like Roberts to count the votes in the hand recount scheduled to begin tomorrow.

Republicans and Democrats in King County have each nominated 80 party faithfuls to work 10 hours a day, six days a week until the recount is complete. They'll be paid $12.70 an hour.

Each party representative will be paired with a representative of the other party. The county will supply a "tabulator" to form a three-person "recount board." Each team will be responsible for hand counting an average of 11,000 ballots. -- The Seattle Times: Local News: Party faithful to tally ballots for recount

San Diego: court lifts stay on certification

The San Diego Union-Tribune reports: A state appeals court lifted its hold on the certification of the San Diego mayor's race today, apparently clearing the way for Mayor Dick Murphy to be sworn in for a second term.

The court rejected an appeal contending the election was unlawful because Councilwoman Donna Frye should not have been allowed to run as a write-in candidate.

The court found the challenge should have been filed before the election and its finding was independent of the issues of whether Frye's candidacy was legitimate and whether contested write-in ballots should have been counted.

To rule in favor of the challenge, the court wrote: "would seriously destabilize California election law, which has the advantage of specifically encouraging pre-election challenges precisely in order to avoid this sort of instability." -- > News > Politics -- Court rejects S.D. mayoral election suit

Ohio: recounts requested

AP reports: In Ohio, the state that put President Bush over the top in November, two third-party presidential candidates have officially asked for a recount.

The requests, mailed to all 88 counties, are expected to arrive by Wednesday. Generally, county election boards must agree to a recount, as long as the parties bringing the challenge pay for it. And the Green and Libertarian parties collected enough donations to cover the required $113,600, or ten dollars per precinct. -- ONN. Ohio News Now: Ohio Recount Requested

Arizona: commission still refusing to send its map to DOJ

The Arizona Republic reports: A Hispanic coalition is picking up its fight over Arizona's legislative redistricting, saying new election boundaries would give more minorities and Democrats a better chance to win more state legislative seats in 2006.

On Thursday, the Independent Redistricting Commission declined a request from members of the coalition to send a revised map of legislative boundaries to the U.S. Justice Department for consideration. In June, the commission voted to withdraw the coalition-backed map from federal consideration after an Arizona appellate court ruled against using the revised districts for this year's election. The reasoning was that it would have meant pushing back the state's primary election.

The coalition's lawsuit over the 2002 map forced the commission to increase from four to seven the districts where Democrats and Republicans had an equal chance of winning. But a final court decision is pending. ...

[Rep. Steve Gallardo, a Phoenix Democrat and coalition member] criticized the commission, saying it is deliberately delaying sending the revised map for federal consideration. He fears the fight over a new map will drag out until the 2006 election. -- Fight renewed on legislative map

December 6, 2004


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I'm back

... but I'm still pretty tired from the plane ride back, so it may be another day or so before I get started.

December 1, 2004

No blogging till Monday at the earliest

I'm outa here and not taking the computer with me for a few days.

Provisional ballot litigation

The Brennan Center has compiled a list of the litigation over provisional ballots this year. In addition to the case name, it contains the rulings, the parties, and their counsel, and any amici.