Votelaw, Edward Still's blog on law and politics: January 2005 Archives

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January 29, 2005

California: Commission investigating Secretary of State

The San Francisco Chronicle reports: California campaign-finance regulators are investigating whether Secretary of State Kevin Shelley illegally accepted a political donation in his government office from a contributor seeking help with a tax problem, The Chronicle has learned.

Investigators from the state Fair Political Practices Commission have met with at least one potential witness in the case, seeking details about a meeting in June 2003 between Shelley and the donor, and about how the campaign check was delivered, according to a person who was questioned. -- SACRAMENTO / Panel widening Shelley probe / State said to be looking into case of donor seeking favor

Minnesota: ex-rep collected and spent campaign funds 2 years after losing

AP reports: Former Minnesota Rep. Bill Luther, out of office since 2002, accepted $12,500 in donations and generated $63,442 in bills for campaign office expenses, travel and gasoline the past two years, according to a published report.

The Democrat's spending is being questioned by Republicans and others who wonder how he could count the expenses as campaign costs when he mounted no campaign in 2003 or 2004, the Star Tribune reported Saturday. ...

Luther, who spent four terms in Congress and two decades in the state Legislature, told the newspaper the expenses reflect an ongoing process of winding down campaign activities after 28 years in public life.

"I have not been pursuing any kind of campaign," he said. "It's just a winding-down of expenses and campaign activities, liquidating property and stuff like that." -- AP Wire | 01/29/2005 | Former congressman Luther still raising, spending campaign cash

South Dakota: federal court ask state supreme court for advice

AP reports: The federal judge in a voting-rights case involving American Indians wants the South Dakota Supreme Court to decide whether the state constitution allows legislators to change a redistricting plan that she said is illegal.

U.S. District Judge Karen Schreier ruled in September that the 2001 plan packed so many Indians into one legislative district that their chances of electing lawmakers of their choosing in a neighboring district was reduced. She said that constituted a violation of the federal Voting Rights Act.

When state lawyers responded that the South Dakota Constitution limits redistricting to once every 10 years, Schreier asked the state Supreme Court to tell her whether lawmakers could take further action to comply with her ruling.

The state court issued an order last week accepting that question. It set a legal briefing schedule that requires all written arguments to be in its hands by Feb. 24. -- AP Wire | 01/27/2005 | Court to hear districting case

Texas: legislative hearing on election contest

The San Antonio Express-News reports: Illegal votes helped a newly elected Democratic lawmaker narrowly beat longtime Republican Rep. Talmadge Heflin, the defeated candidate's lawyer said Thursday.

Rep. Hubert Vo of Houston won the November election by 33 votes.

But Heflin's attorney, Andy Taylor, said voters either cast ballots twice, cast a ballot in the wrong voting precinct or weren't residents of the district. Some weren't U.S. citizens and a couple of ballots submitted by mail were accepted or rejected for invalid reasons, he said. ...

Some 253 voters cast ballots illegally, Taylor said, and he got sworn statements from 129 of them. Of those, 86 said they voted for Vo and 43 for Heflin, which gave Vo a net advantage of 43 illegal votes, Taylor said.

Since Vo won the election by 33 votes, Heflin actually led by 10 votes, Taylor said. -- MySA.com: Metro | State

South Dakota: Indians sue over failure to redistrict

AP reports: The American Civil Liberties Union is helping four people sue Charles Mix County, claiming the county unfairly dilutes the American Indian vote.

County commission members said they would consider responding on Tuesday.

The ACLU filed the federal lawsuit in Sioux Falls on behalf of four Indian voters. It says the way voting districts are drawn dilutes Indian voters in the southern portion of the county and hurts their chances of affecting elections proportional to their numbers. ...

The plaintiffs said the 2000 census indicates an ideal county commission district in Charles Mix County would contain 3,117 people. They say District 1 has 326 people too many, a deviation of almost 10.5 percent; District 2 is 60 people low, or about 2 percent; and District 3 is low by 267 people, or 8.7 percent. ...

[County Auditor Norm] Cihak said creating an Indian-dominated district would violate a tenet of state law that says voting districts should be as "regular and compact in form as possible." -- AP Wire | 01/29/2005 | Indian voters sue Charles Mix County

Arizona: Prop. 200 requires proof of citizenship when registering

The Arizona Republic reports: Elections officials across the state are scrambling to enforce the voting provisions of Proposition 200, which became law Tuesday after the Justice Department signed off, making Arizona the first state that requires proof of citizenship when registering to vote.

So when Jassey Salgado registers for the first time after her 18th birthday in June, she will have to present her birth certificate, a passport, her naturalization papers or a driver's license issued after 1996. And when the high school senior shows up at the polls for the first time, she will be asked to show a picture ID that lists her name and address or two other forms of ID that prove her residence.

The new law, aimed at preventing voter fraud, will affect an estimated 200,000 who register to vote yearly in Maricopa County and up to 1.6 million residents who are eligible to vote in the next general election. ...

To complicate matters, it's unclear if a post-1996 Arizona driver's license really proves citizenship, elections officials said. To receive a license after 1996, residents had to prove they were in the United States legally but not that they were citizens. The Office of the Attorney General will soon release an opinion on whether the ID is acceptable. -- Citizen proof is required to vote

Arizona: federal court refuses to grant stay of election

The Arizona Republic reports: A federal judge on Thursday refused to grant a temporary restraining order requested by a Mesa resident intent on stopping the city from preparing for a special election on a controversial retail development.

But the defeat in U.S. District Court was not as crushing as it seemed. Attorneys for the plaintiff, David Molina, will have at least three more weeks to resubmit a case for the restraining order and will request that a three-judge panel hear the matter. ...

Last week, Molina accused the city of violating the Voting Rights Act of 1965 when it set a date for a special election on the Riverview project without first receiving clearance from the U.S. Department of Justice.

Since Arizona is considered a "preclearance" state under federal law, city officials should have first submitted their intention to call a special election and update other information, such as new polling locations, before they set the date for a citywide vote, Molina argued. -- Judge denies order to stop Mesa vote

Arizona: GOP group asks Clean Elections Commission to oust a GOP legislator

The Arizona Republic reports: Political pressure is starting to swirl around a newly elected lawmaker who overspent his public campaign funds by $7,500, setting up a possible constitutional battle over the state's Clean Elections Law.

Rep. David Burnell Smith, a Scottsdale Republican, overspent his spending limit by as much as 22 percent, according to an independent audit presented to the Clean Elections Commission on Thursday morning. A state law says that a candidate who overshoots his spending limit by more than 10 percent shall be removed from office.

On Thursday a group of Republican legislators said publicly for the first time that the commission must follow the law in Smith's case. In short, they are saying that Smith, a fellow GOP lawmaker, should be removed from the state Legislature for his violations. -- Political pressure building to oust Arizona legislator

January 26, 2005

Legislator's financial disclosures now online

From The Center for Public Integrity website: Ever wonder what outside financial interests a legislator in your state might have? Now you can find out with a couple of clicks of your mouse. Putting the country's government ethics laws to work, the Center for Public Integrity today made thousands of state legislators' outside interest disclosure filings available to online users.

Researchers at the Center collected nearly 7,000 personal financial statements state lawmakers submitted in 2004 to oversight agencies in the 47 states requiring disclosure. Three states-Idaho, Michigan and Vermont-do not require disclosure at all. -- Outside Interest - The Center for Public Integrity

Thanks to Be Spacific for the link.

DC: 2 plans to give voting rights to the District

AP reports: D.C.'s congressional delegate plans to introduce her bill aimed at getting full voting rights for city residents. ...

Northern Virginia Congressman Tom Davis has a separate plan which would give D.C. a House vote in exchange for adding another congressional seat in Utah. The idea is heavily Republican Utah would balance out overwhelmingly Democratic D.C. -- WTOPNEWS.com

Cherokee Nation: Freedmen sue to get voting rights, Nation seeks dismissal

The Muskogee Phoenxi reports: The Cherokee Nation is seeking dismissal of a lawsuit that could affect the tribe's 2003 election, claiming Cherokee Freedmen held "secret" meetings with the government concerning the suit.

Motions to intervene and to dismiss were filed by the Cherokee Nation in a federal lawsuit by five Cherokee Freedmen against the U.S. Department of the Interior and Gail Norton, department secretary, over the department's recognition of the Cherokee Nation's election of tribal officials in 2003. ...

The original suit claims Freedmen were excluded from the election and that the department, which oversees the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, failed to protect voting rights of the Freedmen.

If the plaintiffs win the case, it would give Freedmen voting rights in the Cherokee Nation, and would invalidate the election, reverting the Cherokee Nation government back to the elected officials and constitution prior to the 2003 election. ...

# In 1893, the U.S. government established the Dawes Commission for the purpose of creating authoritative membership rolls for Native American tribes in Oklahoma. In 1898 the Dawes Commission began enrolling the black Cherokees and blacks adopted into the tribe on a "Freedmen Roll," other Cherokees were enrolled on a separate "Blood Roll."

Freedmen had voting rights in the Cherokee Nation up until 1983, when the tribal council made it mandatory to have a degree of Indian blood card to be tribal members. Since the Freedmen Roll did not contain blood quantum as the Blood Rolls did, many black Cherokees were no longer considered tribal members. -- Cherokee Nation seeks to scuttle Freedmen lawsuit - muskogeephoenix.com

Iraq: Saddam can't vote for "technical" reasons

The Gulf Daily News reports: Saddam Hussein and his senior aides detained in Iraq have the right to vote in Sunday's elections but they cannot cast their ballots for technical reasons, an election official was quoted as saying yesterday. ...

However, Saddam and his aides "cannot" exercise their right to vote because the election commission does not have the time or the means to set up ballot boxes in prisons, [Abdel Hussein Al Hindawi, president of the electoral commission] added. -- Gulf Daily News

The one spot in the country that will probably have the most secure venue for polling -- and yet the commission just can't seem to get it together to get them a polling station.

Encyclopedia of Civil Liberties

David Schultz emailed: John Vile of Middle Tennessee State University and I are shamelessly pleased to announce the publication of our three volume ENCYCLOPEDIA OF CIVIL LIBERTIES by ME Sharpe, Inc.

The three volume set is composed of nearly 800 essays by over 250 political scientists, law professors, lawyers, and others. There are many election law topics covered in the three volumes and many subscribers to this listserv contributed. John and I wish to thank all who contributed for their hard work and we encourage all of you to visit the ME Sharpe Website for more information. Until the end of January there is a great deal on price to purchase the set.

I was one of those many contributors.

January 23, 2005

Washington State: GOP files contest in legislature

AP reports: The state's Republicans, still pressing their court challenge to the disputed governor's election, have filed a separate challenge with the state Legislature.

"We did this to cover all our bases," said Mary Lane, a spokeswoman for Dino Rossi, the Republican who narrowly won the original vote count and a mandatory recount. In a hand recount, he lost to Democrat Christine Gregoire by 129 votes out of 2.9 million cast. ...

Republicans have filed a legal challenge against the hand recount in Chelan County Superior Court, saying mistakes were made and calling for another statewide vote. That same challenge was filed with the Legislature Friday evening, "as an insurance policy," Lane said Saturday.

The challenge, however, goes to the Democrat-controlled Legislature, which certified the election Jan. 11 despite a GOP request for a two-week delay. -- SignOnSanDiego.com > News > Nation -- Republicans file challenge in governor's race with state Legislature

Washington State: what does the constitution mean?

AP reports: Allegations of dead voters and election fraud elicit gasps from outraged voters and pundits, but they won't really matter in the legal challenge to the Washington governor's election.

As legal arguments unfolded in court last week, it became clear the case will turn instead on a close reading of the state constitution. Who has jurisdiction over election challenges - the courts or the Legislature? What is an "illegal vote"? What kind of proof does the constitution require to nullify an election?

These questions lack the sexy sparkle of voting felons, true, but the answers will determine whether Gov. Christine Gregoire stays in office. -- Seattle Post-Intelligencer: Constitutional issues, not dead voters, key in election challenge

New York: Pataki in the "wild west of campaign finance"

The Syracuse Post-Standard reports: Gov. George Pataki declared Nov. 18, 2003, "Jane Forbes Clark Day" all across the state of New York.

Eight days later, Clark, the wealthy chairwoman of Cooperstown's National Baseball Hall of Fame Museum, wrote a $25,000 check to a little-known Pataki campaign account.

That brought her to $80,000 for the election cycle - well more than double the legal limit for campaign contributions in New York.

This is legal, however, because Clark sent that check and others to Pataki's political action committee established in Virginia, where there are no limits on campaign contributions.

"Virginia's a very popular locale because it is, as we call it, the wild, wild West of campaign finance," said Larry Sabato, director for the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia. "There are no rules." -- Pataki uses Va. account with no campaign limits

Ohio: Secretary of State rejects labor group petition on campaign finance law

The Toledo Blade reports: A labor-led coalition that wants voters to scuttle Ohio's new campaign finance law ran into a temporary setback this week when Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell rejected a petition to begin the process.

Mr. Blackwell determined the group fell 57 valid signatures short of the 100 needed from registered voters just to trigger a petition drive to get the issue on the Nov. 8 ballot.

The latter petition would require about 193,000 signatures and would have to be submitted no later than March 30, the day before the controversial law is to take effect.

Mr. Blackwell and Attorney General Jim Petro approved the language that would be presented to potential petition signers. But the coalition must submit another petition containing at least 100 valid signatures.

Mr. Blackwell's office employed a signature validation process it characterizes as "binding" and "overly restrictive" that one the group's attorneys, Don McTigue, helped put in place. -- toledoblade.com

January 22, 2005

Washington State: judge keeps his own schedule, not the ones suggested by parties in gubernatorial contest

AP reports: A judge refused to speed up the Republican challenge to the bitterly disputed Washington governor's election, handing a small victory to Democrats on Thursday.

Chelan County Superior Court Judge John E. Bridges ruled that the case will go forward but not on the expedited schedule proposed by Republicans. ...

But, the judge also denied a request by Democrats to delay discovery -- the gathering of evidence -- until the court considers the underlying constitutional issues in the dispute. ...

Bridges will hear motions by the Democrats and county officials to dismiss the case Feb. 4. -- GOP Loses Request in Governor Dispute (washingtonpost.com)

January 19, 2005

Florida: Bush proposes $1.5 million to reduce clemency backlog

The Miami Herald reports: Gov. Jeb Bush made an ambitious pitch Tuesday to overhaul Florida's beleaguered clemency system, recommending the state hire 40 people to help reduce the backlog of felons waiting to have their civil rights restored.

The $1.5 million proposal was part of Bush's 2005-2006 budget request, announced in Tallahassee on Tuesday. It is the most money Bush has ever recommended for the clemency system, run by the Florida Parole Commission.

If approved by the Legislature, the Parole Commission's budget would increase almost 30 percent to $12.1 million when the new fiscal year begins July 1.

Much of the new money is earmarked for the restoration of civil rights. -- Herald.com | 01/19/2005 | Bush pitches fix for clemency system

Ohio: AG asks for sanctions against election protection attorneys

Steve Rosenfeld and Harvey Wasserman write in the Columbus Free Press: In a stunning legal attack, Ohio's Republican Attorney General has moved for sanctions against the four attorneys who sued George W. Bush et. al. in an attempt to investigate the Buckeye State's bitterly contested November 2 election.

Robert Fitrakis, Susan Truitt, Cliff Arnebeck and Peter Peckarsky were named by Attorney General James Petro in a filing with the Ohio Supreme Court. Petro charges the November Moss v Bush and Moss v. Moyer filings by the Election Protection legal team were "frivolous." Petro is demanding court sanctions and fines.

"Instead of evidence, contesters offered only theory, conjecture, hypothesis and invective," the Attorney General's January 18th memo about the suit said. "A contest proceeding is not a toy for idle hands. It is not to be used to make a political point, or to be used as a discovery tool, or be used to inconvenience or harass public officials, or to be used as a publicity gimmick."

But Cliff Arnebeck says it has been Petro and Ohio's partisan Republican Secretary of State, J. Kenneth Blackwell, who have stonewalled the election challenge legal proceedings. Both have refused to submit any evidence to the court to refute the allegations in the election challenge case - claiming George W. Bush did not win a majority in Ohio - and Petro's office has also refused to allow any Ohio public election official to be deposed. -- The Free Press -- Independent News Media - Election 2004

Arizona: proposition 200 attacked

AP reports: Opponents of Arizona's new immigration law -- stymied in their initial court challenges -- are taking aim at the law's election mandates, claiming they'll virtually eliminate voter registration drives and place too many obstacles in front of minority voters.

A civil rights group and Democratic legislators have separately asked the Justice Department to block the law, which was designed to deny some public benefits to illegal immigrants. Voters approved the measure November 2. ...

The move comes after the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) and other opponents unsuccessfully challenged non-election provisions of the new law.

The election provisions include requiring a person to produce a copy of a birth certificate or other proof of citizenship when registering to vote or when reregistering in another county. Also, a voter would have to show identification before voting at a polling place. -- CNN.com - Arizona immigration law challenged - Jan 19, 2005

New York: Westchester County settles with DOJ

AP reports: Westchester County agreed Wednesday to a long list of election requirements, settling a lawsuit in which the U.S. government alleged that the county did not provide adequate voting information to Spanish-speaking residents.

The government also claimed that election workers refused to allow some voters to cast provisional ballots in last November's election. -- New York City - State News

January 18, 2005

Virginia: Kilgore resigns, avoids restriction on fund-raising

The Washington Post reports: Virginia Attorney General Jerry W. Kilgore (R) said Tuesday he will resign on Feb. 1 to run for governor even as his campaign staff continued to engage in what has become an almost daily exchange of attacks with campaigners for Lt. Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D).

Kilgore, who was in the final year of his term, told his staff in a private meeting Tuesday morning that he will follow tradition in Virginia and resign early to campaign full time. He said he has accepted a job as a lawyer with the Richmond firm of Williams Mullen. ...

Kilgore later told reporters that his decision was dictated by a desire to let the Republican-controlled General Assembly choose an interim attorney general to fill the remainder of his four-year term. State law allows the legislature to pick a replacement for a vacancy that occurs while they are in session. ...

Virginia law does not allow state officials to raise campaign funds during a legislative session. Kilgore will now be able to solicit funds for several weeks while Kaine cannot until the session ends in late February. -- Va. Attorney General Resigns (washingtonpost.com)

You may be a winner ...

Alfredo Garcia emails: During the 2003-2004 election cycle, the National Republican Congressional Committee paid telemarketing firm Infocision over $40 million dollars to raise money for the NRCC. This is how Infocision earned that money: they spent millions on lists of small business owners and then called them to tell them that they had been nominated for the "Ronald Reagan Republican Gold Medal Award" becasue of their support for the Republcian Party. Then they were hit up for a contribution to the NRCC. These suckers fell for it and were actually naive enough to send out the NRCC's canned press release. ...

Why isn't this deceptive advertising? These people were promised tis "award" becasue they were members of an elite segment of the business community. In fact, all you have to do to win the Ronald Reagan Republican Gold Medal Awards is be on Infocision's call list and pony up some money to the NRCC. If a charity did this, the IRS would investigate. If a for-profit business did this, the FTC would be knocking on their door. The NRCC does it and . . . nothing happens.

Google "Ronald Reagan Republican Gold Medal Award" and you'll find dozens more press releases/stories in local papers ....

Best results come if you put quote marks around the phrase.

Kerry says voter suppression occurred in election

AP reports: Sen. John F. Kerry, in some of his most pointed public comments yet about the presidential election, invoked Martin Luther King Jr.'s legacy on Monday as he criticized President Bush and decried reports of voter disenfranchisement.

The Massachusetts Democrat, Bush's challenger in November, spoke at Boston's annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day Breakfast. He reiterated that he decided not to challenge the election results, but said "thousands of people were suppressed in the effort to vote."

"Voting machines were distributed in uneven ways. In Democratic districts, it took people four, five, 11 hours to vote, while Republicans [went] through in 10 minutes -- same voting machines, same process, our America," he said.

In his comments, Kerry also compared the democracy-building efforts in Iraq with voting in the United States, saying that Americans had their names purged from voting lists and were kept from casting ballots. -- Kerry Cites Suppressed Votes in Election (washingtonpost.com)

January 17, 2005

Florida: study shows optical scan voting machines have lower error rate than touch-screens

The Sun-Sentinel reports: Florida's touch-screen voting machines performed better in the Nov. 2 presidential election than they did in the March primary, but were still outmatched by older voting devices that use pencil and paper ballots, according to a South Florida Sun-Sentinel analysis.

Voters using the ATM-style voting machines in November were 50 percent more likely to cast a flawed ballot or have an unregistered vote in the presidential race, compared to voting machines employing simple paper ballots. ...

Fifteen of Florida's 67 counties use touch-screen voting machines, including Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade. The pros and cons of the newer technology have been debated around the country, with the secretary of state in Ohio this week announcing touch-screen machines would no longer be used in elections. ...

While optical-scan machines once again seemed to outperform touch screens in November, both obtained an error rate of less than .5 percent. In the 2000 presidential election, the undervote rate in Florida counties using punch cards was 1.5 percent; the rate for optical-scan counties was 0.3 percent, according to a University of Florida study. -- Touch screens more likely to be flawed, analysis finds: South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Washington State: working on election reform

AP reports: As Washington's endless gubernatorial election moves into the courts, Secretary of State Sam Reed and state lawmakers on Monday pledged speedy action on election reform legislation.

Ideas range from shifting the state primary, possibly to June, to better training of local election workers. Some counties may switch to all vote-by-mail and most of the rest will be using a single system — a fill-in-the-oval ballot called optical scan.

Reed, auditors and lawmakers conducted a fairly gentle post-mortem on the recent election, and generally agreed that while the system is basically sound, some obvious problems must be fixed. They plowed through a dozen or more ideas, but reached no decisions. -- OregonLive.com: NewsFlash - `Full-steam ahead' for election reform legislation

January 16, 2005

Wyoming: legislative committee weakens campaign finance law

AP reports: A campaign finance disclosure law that threatened to bar violators from taking office could soon be weakened by stripping that penalty and allowing candidates to file up to a month late.

Last year was the first year that candidates for public office were required to disclose their campaign receipts seven days before the primary or general election, followed by a second deadline after the election.

Several candidates missed the deadlines, and there was talk of excluding the violators who won their primaries from the general election. They remained eligible after Attorney General Pat Crank issued an opinion giving them until the certification of the primary results to submit their information.

House Bill 81 would remove the law's two penalties: a misdemeanor charge and disqualification for office. Its supporters include Secretary of State Joe Meyer.

Meyer on Thursday told the Joint Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Committee, which is sponsoring the bill, that it seems wrong to deny the will of the majority of people who vote for a candidate. -- Legislative committee endorses weaker campaign finance law

What's the point of having a deadline if there is no death associated with it?

Athens, GA: proposal to reduce commission size

The Athens Banner-Herald reports: The debate is on about whether to revamp the structure of the Athens-Clarke County commission, but there's not much hankering for change, at least among commissioners.

States McCarter, who won re-election in November, proposed a couple of weeks ago that commissioners consider - just consider, he insisted - whether 10 commissioners are too many.

The suggestion seemed to come out of nowhere. Both commissioners and citizens have suggested from time to time in Athens-Clarke's nearly 15 years that the commission's two super districts, giant zones that each take in half the county, duplicate representation and dilute minority power. (According to the 2000 census, the commission comes close to a balanced racial mix. The community is 27 percent black and has two African-American commissioners; the community also is 51 percent female, but has only two women commissioners.)

McCarter suggested doing away with the districts to create a smaller commission, not turning the districts into regular-sized zones that might add another minority vote to the mix. -- OnlineAthens: News: McCarter's suggestion sparks serious debate on districts 01/16/05

As this and the following story show, those who are on the short end of the stick don't get a bigger share when the stick gets smaller.

King Co., Wash.: redistricting strengthens status quo

The Seattle Times reports: The King County Districting Committee did not dawdle. In just over six weeks, it remade the county's political boundaries to shrink the Metropolitan King County Council from 13 members to nine. The last redistricting process, in 2001, took 10 months.

If the districting committee sailed swiftly, its wake was not as turbulent as many had hoped.

While redistricting was sold in last fall's election as a way to shake up local politics, many think that the county's new political map, finalized yesterday, only strengthens the status quo. ...

Rural residents had been optimistic that a nine-member council would include three rural-oriented districts, increasing the strength of their voice on the council from three out of 13 seats to three out of nine seats. -- The Seattle Times: Local News: Panel formally adopts voting-district changes

Washington State: GOP subpoenas felon list for comparison with voter rolls

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports: Comparing voter lists with the state's criminal history database, as Republicans are doing in their attempt to nullify the gubernatorial election, infringes on voter privacy and could have a "chilling" effect on voter turnout, Democrats said yesterday.

"Exercising the right to vote should never be an activity that triggers a criminal investigation," said Jenny Durkan, a lawyer for Washington State Democrats.

That's nonsense, Republicans said. They say they're simply using information already available to determine the extent to which felons illegally cast ballots in the election, which Democrat Christine Gregoire won by 129 votes in a hand recount of nearly 2.9 million votes.

This week, lawyers for the state GOP and candidate Dino Rossi, who narrowly won the original count and the manual machine recount, subpoenaed a list of all felony convictions on the Washington State Patrol's Criminal History Records Information Database, a comprehensive criminal history of 1.2 million people. -- GOP's request for criminal list raises concern

California: proposals to change redistricting and do it again before 2006

The San Francisco Chronicle reports: Details of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's push to change the way California draws its legislative boundaries emerged for the first time Friday, showing the governor seeks to allow three retired judges to craft a plan that would become law without voter or lawmaker approval.

In seeking to overhaul the very mechanism by which political fortunes rise and fall in California, the proposed constitutional amendment seeks to radically reduce the Legislature's role as a political kingmaker and could be in place before voters are asked to select new state and congressional representatives in 2006.

The amendment proposed Friday for Schwarzenegger by Assembly Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, and Assemblywoman Sharon Runner, R- Lancaster, would entrust a randomly selected panel of judges to hold at least six public hearings to sift through a raft of public and legislative proposals fashioned each February after new U.S. census data is reported.

Unlike a proposed redistricting ballot initiative expected to be circulated next month, the plan would become law without a public vote. ...

But McCarthy's proposed amendment -- which has 18 Assembly Republican co-authors but no Democrats -- would also trigger a redistricting to begin 20 days after voters approve the new system. The detail is significant because political boundaries could end up redrawn before the 2006 election if the governor follows through on threats to hold a special election sometime this year, which could ultimately imperil many current officeholders. -- SACRAMENTO / Plan puts redistricting in judges' hands / Governor proposes bypassing voter, lawmaker approval

January 15, 2005

Mississippi: the man behind the hunt for the killers of the civil rights workers

The Tallahassee Democrat reprints a story from the Orlando Sentinel: As the world weighs in against media hubris, often well-deserved, it's bracing to note some of the good that gets done on the fringes in the name of principle rather than in the klieg-seeking interest of self-acclaim.

Meet Jerry Mitchell, 45, investigative reporter for The Clarion-Ledger of Jackson, Miss., the man whose 16-year personal mission is largely credited for the upcoming trial of the man charged with murdering three civil rights workers 40 years ago.

Thanks to Mitchell's labors - and to others he insists deserve much credit - state authorities have charged Ku Klux Klan leader Edgar Ray Killen, a sawmill operator and preacher, with the 1964 murders of Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman and James Chaney.

Killen, 79, is the first person ever charged with the murders, though he and others were tried in 1967 on federal conspiracy charges in the killings. Killen walked.

The story of the three victims, who were part of Freedom Summer's drive to register black voters, is familiar by now. Mitchell's story may be less so. -- Tallahassee Democrat | 01/15/2005 | One man pursued justice for all

New blog about international law

From the first post on a new blog: Welcome to Opinio Juris, a weblog dedicated to reports, commentary, and debate on current developments and scholarship in the fields of international law and politics.

Our modest goal is to share with our readers a variety of perspectives on the role of international law in the U.S. and around the globe and to stimulate discussion within the community of international law scholars and practitioners. We will include useful links to other important on-line sources of information on international law. -- Opinio Juris

From the first week, it looks like this might be an interesting blog -- if we can just get them to talk about elections. Disclaimer: I know one of the professors doing the blog, so I am clearly biased.

January 13, 2005

It's good to have friends

The Washington Post reports: President Bush wants to lower barriers to building nuclear power plants, and the lobby that promotes nuclear energy could not be happier. To show its thanks, the group has given $100,000 to help pay for his inauguration.

"He's a big supporter," said John E. Kane, chief lobbyist for the Nuclear Energy Institute. "Our donation is just a small way of supporting him."

The nuclear energy industry's contribution is part of a record-breaking outpouring of corporate cash for next week's inaugural festivities. At least 88 companies and trade associations, along with 39 top executives -- all with huge stakes in administration policies -- have already donated $18 million toward a $40 million goal for the country's 55th inaugural celebration. ...

Practically all the major donors have benefited from Bush administration policies, especially from corporate and individual tax cuts, deregulation and the new prescription drug benefit that is part of Medicare. Most also stand to boost profits further because of Bush's second-term proposals, which include limiting medical malpractice suits, creating private investment accounts as part of Social Security and making a tax-code revision that is expected to reduce taxes on investments. -- Big-Money Contributors Line Up for Inauguration (washingtonpost.com)

New Jersey: apologies and past good works weighed against lyin', cheatin', and whatnot

The New York Times reports: In an emotional handwritten letter in August, Charles Kushner, a major developer, political donor and philanthropist in New Jersey, apologized to his sister for hiring a prostitute to seduce her husband, who was cooperating in a federal investigation against him, and then sending her a videotape of the encounter.

"What I did as an act of revenge was wrong in every way," Mr. Kushner said at the start of a five-page letter to his sister, Esther Schulder. "I only ask that you forgive me for resorting to such despicable behavior, which is disgraceful. I was wrong and I committed a terrible sin. How did I let hatred invade my heart and guide my actions?"

The letter was among 165 letters, most citing his generosity and compassion and appealing for leniency for Mr. Kushner, that were ordered released on Wednesday by Judge Jose L. Linares of Federal District Court. The judge is to sentence Mr. Kushner in March for filing false tax returns and campaign finance reports, and for retaliating against his brother-in-law, William Schulder. -- The New York Times > New York Region > Donor Apologized to Sister for Seduction of Husband

North Carolina: non-profits and political dinners

The Rocky Mount Telegram reports: The accountant got a tense call from a client Wednesday morning.

Lisa Boomsma, a Rocky Mount accountant who handles some area nonprofit organizations, said one of her clients had bought tickets to the Edgecombe-Nash Political Caucus banquet last year. The political action committee came under review Tuesday by state elections officials trying to determine if the group raised money improperly.

No state-level restriction applies to nonprofit donations to a PAC, but under certain circumstances such donations can threaten the organization's tax-exempt status at the federal level, elections officials warned.

So Boomsma dusted off the rule book and assured her client (she wouldn't say which one) that as long as the contributions remained under $2,000 and were disclosed properly, the Internal Revenue Service would probably leave the organization alone, she said. -- Businesses donating to the PAC face no legal consequences.

EMILY's List sues FEC over new rules

b>AP reports: A group that helps female Democratic candidates who support abortion rights is asking a federal judge to block new campaign finance rules that it argues will cripple its ability to participate in state and local elections.

EMILY's List filed a lawsuit on Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Washington asking a judge to block Federal Election Commission regulations that took effect Jan. 1. The group contends that the commission exceeded its authority and violated free-speech rights by imposing the new fund-raising and spending limits.

Among the changes, the FEC placed spending restrictions on groups that collect both "soft money" - corporate, union and unlimited donations - and "hard money," limited donations from individuals. Hard money can be spent any way, including direct support for specific candidates, but there are restrictions on the spending of soft money.

Under the new FEC rules, groups must use the coveted hard money to cover at least half the cost of their overhead, nonpartisan voter drives and ads, phone banks and mailings that refer to a federal candidate. -- EMILY's List Sues to Block New FEC Rules

January 12, 2005

Washington State: Gregoire sworn in, Dems try to intervene in GOP suit

AP reports: Christine Gregoire, winner of the closest governor's race in Washington history, was inaugurated Wednesday, but faces an immediate court challenge that could make it a short-lived honor. ...

She announced creation of a select commission on election reform, to be headed by Republican Secretary of State Sam Reed and the former Senate Democratic floor leader, Betti Sheldon of Bremerton.

"Clearly the election recount ordeal of the last two months has challenged us, and among our challenges this session is election reform," she said. "We want every vote to count - and to be counted right the first time." ...

Republicans say widespread irregularities, including votes cast by felons and dead people, spoiled the election to the point where it's impossible to truly know who won.

Invoking a rarely used law that allows an election "contest," Republicans have asked the courts to set aside the election and order a redo. Chelan County Superior Court Judge T.W. Small was hearing a motion Wednesday on the Democrats' attempt to intervene in the Republicans' lawsuit, and has scheduled more proceedings on Friday. -- Seattle Post-Intelligencer: Gregoire sworn in as Washington governor; court battle looms

Texas: "are you going to take the hit for Tom DeLay?"

The Los Angeles Times reports: Prosecutors investigating whether corporations illegally financed the Republican Party's rise to dominance in the Texas Capitol are negotiating agreements with several companies accused of making improper political donations, and analysts say the discussions could help elicit important leads in the probe.

According to documents filed in Travis County District Court, two companies accused of making illegal political contributions have "flipped" for prosecutors in the last month, signing deals requiring them to cooperate in exchange for dismissal of their cases.

The agreements were signed with Illinois-based Sears, Roebuck and Co. and DCS Inc., a debt-payment firm based in California, and say the contributions were given "on the basis of false and misleading information provided by the fundraiser that solicited the contribution." ...

One legal source with knowledge of the investigation said the agreements with the companies could help target "big fish" in the Republican Party by persuading the three DeLay aides to cooperate with prosecutors in exchange for leniency or dismissal of their cases. The aides face 10-year prison sentences if convicted.

"If you are looking at 10 … years in jail, are you going to take the hit for Tom DeLay?" the source asked. -- Deals Reached in Texas Political Donation Inquiry


There are many reasons someone would take a hit for another. Remember the guy in Godfather who committed suicide rather than testify against Don Corleone (or maybe it was Michael)? He had been promised protection for his family. Recently when "Preacher" Killen was indicted in Mississippi for the 1964 murders of civil rights workers Goodman, Chaney, and Schwerner, the Clarion-Ledger reported that one person who had been convicted of conspiracy decades ago said "he didn't mind going to prison on federal conspiracy charges because a fellow Klansman got away with murder."

Yes, there are many reasons for individuals -- rather than corporations -- to take a hit for Tom DeLay.

Alabama: was the 2002 gubernatorial election stolen?

James Gundlach writes in an academic paper : The 2002 Governors race in Alabama erupted into controversy when Baldwin County first reported results that suggested that the democratic incumbent, Don Siegelman, had won and subsequently reported other results that gave the election to the republican challenger, Bob Riley by a margin of 3,120 votes out of 1,364,602 cast.

In this paper I demonstrate how relatively simple statistical techniques can identify apparent systematic electronic manipulation of voting results. This paper consists of four parts. The first part is an overview of the election; the second part is an analysis of county level data that suggests that both sets of results from Baldwin County are anomalous. The third part of the paper is a set of analyses of results from voting districts that identifies and describes some clear patterns in the anomalous Baldwin County final results. The final part of the paper discusses the possibilities of electronic vote manipulation and suggests mechanisms for preventing it in the future. -- A Statistical Analysis of Possible Electronic Ballot Box Stuffing: The Case of Baldwin County Alabama Governor’s Race in 2002

Thanks to Larry Menefee for bringing this paper to my attention. Given the close election in Washington and the election controversy in Ohio, tGundlach's technique has continuing significance.

January 11, 2005

Montana: GOP pulls a coup

The Billings Gazette reports: We've come to expected the unexpected from the Montana Legislature on opening day.

Two years ago the Senate and House Republican majorities pulled off a turn-back-the-clock move that pushed the starting point of the budget back by $138 million.

On Monday, three Democrats conspired with 50 House Republicans to wrest the speaker's job from the House Democratic caucus choice, Rep. Dave Wanzenried, D-Missoula. The Republicans and three Democrats put Rep. Gary Matthews, D-Miles City, a quiet, likeable backbencher for his previous three House terms, into the speaker's chair on a 53-47 vote.

The power play irked Democrats, who hadn't controlled the House since 1991 and now were left with a conservative Democrat not of their choosing as speaker. Wanzenried and newly elected Senate President Jon Tester, D-Big Sandy, had spent the past two years traveling the state to help other Democrats and develop an economic development plan.

House Republicans could hardly suppress their delight. It was payback time for what they believe was a redistricting plan stacked against them by a commission with a 3-2 Democratic majority. They also were irritated at Democrats for challenging the disputed Lake County election. In late December, the Montana Supreme Court ultimately put Democrat Jeanne Windham into the seat and deprived Republicans of a 50-49 majority, with one Constitution Party member. -- Roots of speaker surprise involve political payback - billingsgazette.com

Will the Census Bureau help mid-decade redistricters?

The Sacramento Bee reports: In fast-growing regions like Sacramento, decade-old population statistics are about as relevant as Y2K survival kits. So, with the last U.S. census growing staler by the day, the federal government is embarking on a massive new survey that will collect demographic data year-round.

It's a historic shift for the U.S. Census Bureau, since the American Community Survey will replace the old "long form" questionnaire that went to one household in six in the 2000 census.

This month, 250,000 households across the nation will receive the first batch of surveys. Every month another quarter-million households will be polled. In a 10-year span, about one in four households in America will be surveyed, said Ken Bryson, a program analyst for the bureau.

Results for states and cities of 65,000 or more will be tallied annually, beginning in 2006. Information on smaller towns will be released beginning in 2008. -- Politics - Uncle Sam wants your data - all year 'round - sacbee.com

Politics1 will "go on hiatus" (that's my spin)

Ron Gunzburger writes on Politics1: For a while now, I could tell it was time for me to move on to other projects. I finally made the decision to do so on New Year's Day ... and then decided to wait a week or so to be really certain this was what I wanted to do.

I loved my experience in creating and running Politics1. I launched this one-person, public service educational project in late 1997 and it grew rapidly, gaining a loyal and sizable following. It also successfully operated "in the black" for the entire run. I'm rather satisfied with the accomplishments of Politics1 over the past 6 years. Still, all good things must come to an end. -- Politics1 - American Politics, Elections, Candidates & Campaigns

We'll miss you, Ron.

Texas: academics file brief on growth as skewing redistricting

Harvey Kronberg's The Quorum Report reported on 7 Januuary: A group of University of Texas Law School professors is to be allowed to say why they believe the current Texas congressional plan is unconstitutional when a three-judge federal panel holds a hearing in Dallas later this month.

In a 26-page amicus brief, the group argues that Texas' "phenomenal growth" between 2000 and 2003 should have been taken into account when the Legislature redrew congressional lines in a special session in 2003. The Republican-drawn plan used population figures from the 2000 Census.

The U.S. Supreme Court has asked that the three-judge panel that ruled the current congressional plan legal in 2004 take another look in the light of a Pennsylvania case, Vieth v. Jubelirer, and, specifically, the issue of political gerrymandering.

The three-judge panel, led by U.S. Circuit Judge Patrick Higginbotham, has given plaintiffs 90 minutes to make their case at a hearing in Dallas on Jan. 21. The panel has asked that at least one of the UT professors be allowed to participate in the argument. The State will be given 90 minutes to respond. -- Harvey Kronberg's The Quorum Report (The remainder is for subscribers only.)

Server change

Because of the Denial of Service attack on my hosting company and the subsequent crash of the particular server hosting my website, the hosting company moved my site (and many others) to a different server. This caused some disruption in my ability to post yesterday and may have affected your ability to see the website. I hope things are back to normal now.

January 10, 2005

Lawyer files FEC complaint over Michael Moore speeches

The Michigan Daily reports: As a result of complaints about filmmaker Michael Moore’s speaking tour on campuses nationwide, the Federal Election Commission is investigating major universities — not yet including the University of Michigan — because of what is alleged to ba violation of campaign finance laws.

David Hardy, an attorney from Tucson, Ariz., and author of “Michael Moore is a Big Fat Stupid White Man,” has filed two complaints with the FEC. Hardy said the speaking fees collected by Moore constitute a breach of the ban on corporate donations to a political campaign. Hardy emphasized that it did not matter for whom Moore campaigned.

“(If they’re) paying a man who is giving a speech to influence the election, then they are breaking the law,” he said.

Hardy said he selected the universities using an Internet search engine. -- Legal complaints filed over Moore's campus speeches

Mr. Hardy apparently does not agree that the cure for speech you don't like is Moore speeches.

January 9, 2005

Washington State: untested election systems used

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports: Voting systems in King, Pierce, Snohomish and four other counties skipped typically required testing procedures before being used in last fall's elections.

But although the systems weren't tested to ensure they properly functioned to federal standards, Washington Secretary of State Sam Reed said he's confident they tallied and recorded ballots accurately.

The lack of outside testing "didn't affect the way the ballots were counted in King County or anywhere else," Reed, a Republican, said this week. "The systems operated accurately. We ran a lot of our own tests and had a lot of observers to make sure of that."

But some reform activists say Washington's failure to meet its own elections standards by skipping the independent tests -- recommended by federal officials and required under Washington rules -- only raises more questions about the integrity of this state's elections process. -- Untested voting systems used

Thanks to How Appealling for the link.

Ohio: Blackwell asks for illegal contributions

AP reports: The state's chief elections officer, already accused of mishandling the presidential vote in Ohio and criticized for backing President Bush, sent a fund-raising letter for his 2006 gubernatorial campaign in which he asks for illegal corporate contributions.

Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell, a Republican who co-chaired the Bush-Cheney campaign in Ohio, said the request for corporate checks was an oversight. His spokesman, Carlo LoParo, said on Saturday that any corporate donations would be returned.

In the five-page letter to GOP donors and activists, Blackwell said, "And with your help, I intend to provide fresh, new leadership and bold reforms to Ohio as our next Republican Gov.." A pledge card accompanying the letter said "corporate & personal checks are welcome." Corporate donations are illegal in Ohio.

Jeff Ledbetter, fund-raising coordinator for Blackwell's gubernatorial campaign, blamed a printer for using a template for an issue committee, which is allowed to accept corporate donations. -- AP Wire | 01/08/2005 | Blackwell letter asks for illegal contributions

Thanks to Political Wire for the link.

West Virginia: lawyer pleads guilty

The Charleston Gazette reports: A Logan County lawyer pleaded guilty Friday to a charge stemming from election fraud, and has been cooperating with the federal government's inquiry into alleged dirty politics in Southern West Virginia.

Mark Oliver Hrutkay, 45, was charged in a one-count information with mail fraud for allegedly paying $10,000 to an unnamed political operative in order to gain support for his then-wife's 2000 House of Delegates primary race.

Technically, Hrutkay pleaded guilty to mail fraud for failure to disclose the $10,000 donation when he mailed the campaign finance report of Delegate Lidella Wilson Hrutkay to the secretary of state's office in Charleston. He had served as his wife's campaign treasurer.

“I paid $10,000 to a second unknown person to obtain the support of that person,” Hrutkay told U.S. District Judge David A. Faber. -- Sunday Gazette-Mail - News

I wonder if he swore to tell the WHOLE truth.

Ohio: federal court stays out of issue advocacy fight

AP reports: Federal courts don't have authority to get involved in a squabble between election officials and a pro-business group that ran negative ads against Ohio Supreme Court Justice Alice Robie Resnick in the 2000 election, an appeals court has ruled.

Citizens for a Strong Ohio, an "issue-advocacy" group formed by the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, had sought a federal ruling that its free-speech rights were violated by the Ohio Elections Commission and state court rulings ordering it to disclose contributors' names.

The Cincinnati-based 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Jan. 3 upheld the 2003 dismissal of the complaint by U.S. District Court in Columbus because of the pending state action. -- firstamendmentcenter.org: news

Orlando: consultant admits absentee ballot violations

The Tallahassee Democrat reports: A campaign consultant at the center of an investigation into alleged ballot fraud in a disputed mayor's race has told prosecutors that the campaigns of many central Florida politicians, including newly elected U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez, paid him to gather absentee ballots, according to his attorney.

Ezzie Thomas, who has been given immunity, is a specialist in getting out the absentee vote and has been hired for this service since 1998, attorney Dean Mosley said Friday. ...

The practice of paying ballot brokers was outlawed in 1998 when Florida cracked down on election fraud in the wake of a Miami mayor's race that was nullified by a judge, primarily due to fraudulent absentee ballots.

The law made it a third-degree felony to pay or accept money "for distributing, ordering, requesting, collecting, delivering or otherwise physically possessing absentee ballots." -- Tallahassee Democrat | 01/09/2005 | Absentee ballots questioned

Connecticut: Waterbury NAACP seeks single-member district

AP reports: The Greater Waterbury NAACP has asked the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate what it says are violations of voting rights of minorities in Waterbury.

James Griffin, president of the local civil rights organization, said Friday that the local at-large election system fails to provide representation for inner-city neighborhoods. The only way to ensure equal representation is to establish voting for aldermen by district, he said.

''We found that no matter what we do, it seems that the city leaders tend to find a way to get around dealing with this issue,'' he said. ''We looked at the actual neighborhoods impacted by this and found not one neighborhood that has high concentrations of blacks and Hispanics have any aldermen living in those areas.'' -- Boston.com / News / Local / NAACP seeks federal review of minority voting rights in Waterbury

Washington State: Rossi could go to federal court

The Olympian reports: The battle may not be over, even if Washington Democrats beat back Republican efforts in state court to invalidate Christine Gregoire's 129-vote victory in the race for governor.

It's quite possible that GOP candidate Dino Rossi's legal team or another sympathetic group could take action in the U.S. Supreme Court, citing the equal protection elements of the 2000 Bush v. Gore case.

That's the view of Mark Braden, a Washington, D.C.-based lawyer playing a role in Rossi's election challenge, which was filed Friday in Chelan County Superior Court.

"We do have the potential for a piece of federal litigation as we speak now," Braden said in a telephone interview Saturday. "There is clearly a federal equal protection claim. ... It's clear the election process in King County was, in many ways, different than the election process in other counties." -- _Government -The Olympian

January 8, 2005

Server outage

For a good portion of today, the server at Hosting Matters (where the blog is hosted) has not been working properly. If you tried to log on during that time, I hope you did not think I had just folded up the shop.

We're back now. But it appears that several things I posted earlier today have disappeared. I will work on getting them posted again.

Clinton campaign official indicted

AP reports: Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton's former finance director has been indicted on charges of filing fictitious reports that misstated contributions for a Hollywood fund-raising gala for the senator, the Justice Department said Friday.

The indictment, rare for a political campaign, was unsealed in Los Angeles and charged David Rosen with four counts of filing false reports with the Federal Election Commission. The charges focus on a dinner and concert on Aug. 12, 2000, supported by more than $1.1 million in so-called in-kind contributions - goods and services provided free or below cost.

The F.B.I. previously said in court papers that it had evidence that the former first lady's campaign deliberately understated its fund-raising costs so it would have more money to spend on her campaign. While the event allegedly cost more than $1.2 million, the indictment said, Mr. Rosen reported contributions of $400,000. -- The New York Times > Washington > Ex-Clinton Aide Charged on Fund-Raising

Washington State: Rossi files suit for re-run of election

The Seattle Post Intelligencer reports: Republican Dino Rossi formally contested the November election yesterday, claiming that errors, negligence and misconduct have made it impossible to know who really won the closest governor's race in U.S. history.

In a lawsuit filed in Chelan County Superior Court, Rossi asked that Gov.-elect Christine Gregoire's 129-vote victory be nullified and a new election ordered.

"The number of illegal votes counted, and the number of valid votes improperly rejected in this election, are so great as to render the true result of the election uncertain and likely unknowable," the lawsuit claimed. -- Rossi files suit for a new vote

January 7, 2005

Mississippi: indictments in the 1964 murder of civil rights workers

The Clarion-Ledger reports: PHILADELPHIA -- A grand jury here indicted Edgar Ray Killen and possibly others Thursday in the four-decade-old slayings of three civil rights workers, the first-ever state charges in a crime that came to be called "Mississippi Burning."

Deputies arrested the 79-year-old Killen on Thursday evening, and authorities said they may arrest more suspects in the June 21, 1964, killings of Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman and James Chaney. They wouldn't specify who. ...

In addition to Killen, Arledge and Posey, four other suspects from the 1967 federal trial are still alive: Sam Bowers, Pete Harris, Jimmy Snowden, Richard Willis and Olen Burrage.

In that 1967 trial, jurors convicted seven, including Bowers, Arledge, Snowden and Posey; acquitted eight, including Harris, Willis and Burrage; and deadlocked on Killen and two others, leading to their mistrials. -- Grand jury indicts Killen in '64 killings - The Clarion-Ledger

January 6, 2005

New FEC rule on solicitations by non-profits

The Alliance for Justice writes: The Federal Election Commission (FEC) passed a new rule, effective January 2005, that redefines how contributions resulting from certain fundraising solicitations are treated under federal election law. If a fundraising solicitation suggests that any portion of the funds collected will be used to support or oppose the election of a federal candidate, all contributions in response to the solicitation will now be treated as political contributions under federal election law (see 11 CFR 100.57). -- The New Solicitation Rule

The web page has details in a Q&A format.

2004 election: Conyers Report

The House Judiciary Committee Democratic Staff writes: We have found numerous, serious election irregularities in the Ohio presidential election, which resulted in a significant disenfranchisement of voters. Cumulatively, these irregularities, which affected hundreds of thousand of votes and voters in Ohio, raise grave doubts regarding whether it can be said the Ohio electors selected on December 13, 2004, were chosen in a manner that conforms to Ohio law, let alone federal requirements and constitutional standards.

This report, therefore, makes three recommendations: (1) consistent with the requirements of the United States Constitution concerning the counting of electoral votes by Congress and Federal law implementing these requirements, there are ample grounds for challenging the electors from the State of Ohio; (2) Congress should engage in further hearings into the widespread irregularities reported in Ohio; we believe the problems are serious enough to warrant the appointment of a joint select Committee of the House and Senate to investigate and report back to the Members; and (3) Congress needs to enact election reform to restore our people’s trust in our democracy. These changes should include putting in place more specific federal protections for federal elections, particularly in the areas of audit capability for electronic voting machines and casting and counting of provisional ballots, as well as other needed changes to federal and state election laws. -- Preserving Democracy: What Went Wrong in Ohio

Thanks to the National Voting Rights Institute for hosting this publication.

January 5, 2005

Washington State: more votes than voters in King County

The Seattle Times reports: An unknown number of provisional voters, some of whom may not even have been registered to vote, improperly put their ballots directly into vote-counting machines at polling places, King County's elections superintendent said yesterday.

Once those ballots went into the machines, there was no way to separate them from legitimate ballots.

Provisional ballots are given on Election Day to voters who show up at the wrong precinct or whose registration is in question. The ballots are supposed to be put inside two envelopes, with the voter's name, address and signature on the outside, and counted only after the voter's status is verified. ...

Miscast provisional votes could be one reason the number of ballots counted in King County outnumbered the list of voters who voted by 3,539. -- The Seattle Times: Politics: Election scrutiny reveals provisional-vote flaws

Voter participation in the 2004 election

The abstract of a new article: A record 122.3 million people, or 60.0% of those eligible, cast a vote for president in 2004. In this essay, I examine variation in voter participation among the states. I find that electoral competition in the battleground states was associated with higher turnout rates, and that where competition at the presidential level was not present, an amendment banning gay marriage or an interesting Senate election is related to higher voter turnout. -- Up, Up and Away! Voter Participation in the 2004 Presidential Election (free registration required)

Big law firms gave $8 million more than 2000

The American Lawyer reports: Law firm balance sheets took big hits this election year, as politically active firms filled campaign coffers at an unprecedented rate. Despite new rules designed to reduce the influence of big money in politics, the cover charge to play in Washington, D.C., only increased in 2004.

This was the first presidential race governed by the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, passed in 2002. Championed by Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Russ Feingold, D-Wis., the law banned unregulated and unlimited soft money contributions and doubled the amount of hard money an individual could contribute -- to $2,000 per candidate. As a result, many expected to see political contributions decline. But donors simply dug new tunnels. In a departure from previous cycles, law firms launched or expanded their political action committees, while individual lawyers took advantage of the increased limits and donated more to federal candidates.

To gauge that giving, The American Lawyer asked the Center for Responsive Politics to sort donation records of the Federal Election Commission by law firm. The result was current as of Oct. 25 (a fairly accurate snapshot, given that presidential candidates were by then receiving only public finance). Am Law 100 firms gave a total of $31,246,609 -- an increase of more than $8 million from the $23,099,587 they gave in 1999-2000, and more than double the combined donations in the previous election cycle. In 2003-04, Am Law 100 firms gave Democrats $19,109,508 and Republicans $12,053,104. -- law.com - Article

Ohio: conspiracy theories or a real conspiracy?

AP reports: One voter didn't see any signs of fraud on Election Day but was suspicious of the results. Another was surprised by long lines in her suburban city, where voting was always quick in the past.

Others were angered by having to wait hours to vote in black neighborhoods. Some left in frustration without casting their ballots.

In all, 37 voters in this swing state are challenging President Bush's Nov. 2 victory over Democratic Sen. John Kerry. They want Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas Moyer to set aside the election results.

Bush's re-election campaign responded Monday with its own court filing, saying the challenge resembled "a poorly drafted script for a late night conspiracy-theory movie." -- Judge Asked to Trash Ohio Vote Challenge

January 3, 2005

Israel: Palestinian prisoners ask for the right to vote in the presidential election

The Jerusalem Post reports: The minister in charge of Palestinian prisoners for the Palestinian Authority and two Palestinian leaders at Shikma Prison in Ashkelon petitioned the High Court of Justice on Monday to allow the 8,000 Palestinians being held in Israel and the administered territories to vote in next week's Palestinian presidential election.

The petitioners, PA minister Hisham Abdel Rizak and prison leaders Otion Musalah and Ahmed Kamil, are represented by human rights attorney Zvi Rish.

There are an estimated 8,000 Palestinian prisoners currently being held by Israeli security forces. ...

The petitioners accused the government of violating Israeli and international law by preventing the prisoners from exercising their basic right to vote. Rish wrote that Israel allowed its own imprisoned citizens to vote in national elections and since it was allegedly unlawfully holding Palestinians in prisons located in Israel, it was responsible for granting them the same rights it granted its own prisoners. -- Jerusalem Post | Breaking News from Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World

Florida: 2/3 of provisional ballots were rejected

AP reports: Nearly two-thirds of provisional ballots cast on Election Day in Florida weren't counted, mostly because the people casting them weren't registered to vote, state officials said Monday.

Preliminary figures, culled by the state from county elections officials, showed that of 27,742 provisional ballots cast, 9,915 were counted and 17,827 were rejected. The number could be revised but isn't likely to change dramatically. ...

Court rulings last year held that voters must vote in their correct precincts in Florida. In most cases, people who showed up at the wrong precincts were directed to the correct ones, said Jenny Nash, a spokeswoman for the Florida Department of State, which oversees elections. ...

An analysis by the Tallahassee Democrat, which polled counties about rejected provisional ballots, found that slightly more than 7 percent were tossed because voters had been purged from the rolls either because they hadn't voted in several years or were found to be ex-felons. -- State officials reject two-thirds of Florida's provisional ballots: South Florida Sun-Sentinel

January 2, 2005

California: lots of suspicion on Arnold's plan for redistricting commission

The San Francisco chronicle reports: Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger wants to change the way California draws its political boundaries, but he'll have to tiptoe through a bipartisan minefield to do it.

Democrats suspicious of a partisan power grab, Republicans worried about their seats, and voters who've turned down eight similar efforts since 1926 all stand in the way of the governor's plan to remove politicians from the redistricting process.

The push for change got a boost in November when voters had their first chance to deal with the new districts drawn by the Legislature after the 2000 census. In 153 elections for Assembly, state Senate and Congress, not a single incumbent was beaten and not one seat changed parties.

The results were good news for the Republicans and Democrats who had crafted the incumbent-friendly political districts but a blow to Schwarzenegger, who had barnstormed across California in an unsuccessful effort to elect some moderate Republicans to the Democrat-run state Legislature. -- SACRAMENTO / Some suspect governor's plan to redraw district lines / Schwarzenegger hasn't decided whether to call election, aides say

Ohio: is Blackwell running out the clock?

The Toledo Blade reports: Partisan activists contesting the presidential election results in Ohio said the state's highest court appears willing to "allow the clock to run out" so that the Electoral College results become official on Jan. 6.

Cliff Arnebeck, an attorney who filed the election contest on behalf of a coalition of activists led by the Rev. Jesse Jackson, said Secretary of State Ken Blackwell has chosen to not appear at a deposition to answer questions under oath about the Nov. 2 election.

"If George Bush indeed won this election, there would be no one with a greater interest in proving that to be the case," Mr. Arnebeck said at a news conference yesterday. "They want the clock to run out. They want to win by default."

The lawsuit alleges that votes were taken away from Democrat John Kerry's column and added to Mr. Bush's. -- toledoblade.com

January 1, 2005

San Diego: a suit and a petition seeking Frye as mayor

The San Diego Union Tribune reports: Two formal challenges to San Diego's mayoral race were filed Thursday, one asking the City Council to declare write-in candidate Donna Frye the winner, the other asking the courts to do the same.

Acting on behalf of two Frye supporters, Santa Monica lawyer Fred Woocher filed a letter with the City Council urging its members to exercise rights, under the city charter, that allow them to be "the judge" of the mayoral election. ...

Earlier Thursday, Bruce Henderson, a lawyer and former council member, filed suit in Superior Court against Mayor Dick Murphy, contending that because San Diego is a charter city, its election rules prevail over rules adopted by the state Legislature.

More people cast ballots for Frye than for Murphy in the Nov. 2 election. But county Registrar of Voters Sally McPherson refused to count ballots that have Frye's name written on them but do not have a corresponding oval bubble shaded in, saying the latter is required by state law. -- SignOnSanDiego.com > News > Politics -- Two challenges call for Frye to be named S.D. mayor