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

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May 31, 2005

Deep Throat Revealed

The Washington Post reports: The Washington Post today confirmed that W. Mark Felt, a former number-two official at the FBI, was "Deep Throat," the secretive source who provided information that helped unravel the Watergate scandal in the early 1970s and contributed to the resignation of president Richard M. Nixon.

The confirmation came from Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, the two Washington Post reporters who broke the Watergate story, and their former top editor, Benjamin C. Bradlee. The three spoke after Felt's family and Vanity Fair magazine identified the 91-year-old Felt, now a retiree in California, as the long-anonymous source who provided crucial guidance for some of the newspaper's groundbreaking Watergate stories. -- Washington Post Confirms Felt Was 'Deep Throat'

And analyzes here: W. Mark Felt always denied he was Deep Throat. "It was not I and it is not I," he told Washingtonian magazine in 1974 in the same month that Richard M. Nixon resigned the presidency in disgrace after a lengthy investigation and threat of impeachment, aided in no small part by the guidance Felt had provided to The Washington Post.

It was a denial he maintained for three decades, until today. Throughout that period, he lived with one of the greatest secrets in journalism history and with his own sense of conflict and tension over the role he had played in bringing down a president in the Watergate scandal: Was he a hero for helping the truth come out, or a turncoat who betrayed his government, his president and the FBI he revered by leaking to the press? -- The Motives That Drove Felt to Talk

"Yes, I am biased -- against stupidity"

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports: The state elections director is biased against the Republicans in their legal challenge to the 2004 governor's election, a GOP lawyer suggested strongly in court today.

While cross-examining elections director Nick Handy, lawyer Dale Foreman cited a letter Handy wrote in January to lawyers for the secretary of state's office, where Handy works.

That letter, Handy testified, was designed to communicate his conclusion that Republican claims regarding how many voters cast ballots were baseless. The GOP has said discrepancies between the number of ballots counted and the number of voters credited with voting could indicate fraud.

"If we can successfully demonstrate that this is an unfounded claim, I would hope that this would severely undermine the confidence of the court in the other R claims," Handy wrote.

On the stand, Handy said there are some claims that have been pursued by the Republicans that "I do not believe are valid claims ... I thought this was really undermining the trust and confidence of the average voter in the election system in a way that was not fair or accurate." -- State elections director biased, GOP suggests

Note: The quote in the title is my interpretation of what Director Handy meant, but did not say.

May 29, 2005

Philadelphia: proposed campaign rules will likely be upheld

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports: Philadelphia's proposed new laws limiting campaign contributions by some city contractors, if approved by the voters this fall, are likely to withstand any legal challenge.

So say experts in campaign-finance law and reform advocates from around the country.

"I have no doubt that any challenge to this sort of pay-to-play law will fail in the courts, and fail quickly," said Craig Holman, campaign-finance lobbyist for Public Citizen, a Washington-based organization founded by Ralph Nader.

That said, the issue of whether state and local governments seeking to prevent corruption may impose special restrictions on a specific class of people - such as those seeking no-bid or professional-services contracts - has yet to reach the U.S. Supreme Court. -- Philadelphia Inquirer | 05/29/2005 | Courts OK similar ethics rules

May 28, 2005

Florida: Miami-Dade may drop touch screens in favor of optical scan ballots

TalkLeft reports: Paper ballots that can be counted by an optical scanner are easy to use and they leave a verifiable paper trail that enhances voter confidence in the legitimacy of an election result. Miami-Dade County will become the first venue to replace controversial touch-screen machines with optical scanners if the county's election supervisor gets his way. -- TalkLeft: Miami-Dade May Replace Voting Machines

Arkansas: lawsuit seeks redistricting of school board

The Helena Daily World reports: Attorney James Valley was expected to file a lawsuit Friday morning to force the Helena-West Helena School District to redraw its election zones and conduct an election for all school board members in the September school elections. The lawsuit is a civil action brought pursuant to the Arkansas Civil Rights Act.

Nearly 60 Phillips County residents are named as plaintiffs in this latest legal action.

Valley states in his lawsuit that the plaintiffs intend to show that the Equal Protection Clause and the "one person- one vote" principle have been violated. Federal law requires new district lines be drawn following each census. The most recent census was conducted in the year 2000 and the redistricting should have occurred in the year 2001.

The suit alleges that the current school board has failed and refused to draw any new district lines. The suit states that the board ordered new zones to be drawn by an expert in West Memphis but the board failed to adopt a map created by the expert. -- The Helena Daily World: News

Washington State: judge rejects Demo motion to dismiss GOP suit

The Seattle Times reports: Judge John Bridges rejected the Democrats' call yesterday to dismiss the governor's election lawsuit at the halfway point of the first Washington trial to overturn a statewide election.

Bridges said it would be a disservice to Republicans if he stopped the case. He said both sides deserve "a full and complete analysis, not only of the court's finding of facts but as to the court's conclusions of law."

The trial will determine whether Democrat Christine Gregoire or Republican Dino Rossi truly won the November election. But Bridges said it is about issues bigger than the candidates or the political parties. ...

Through five days of trial, Bridges has shown himself to be skeptical of key pieces of the Republican case. And while at each step he has allowed disputed evidence to be entered and witnesses to appear, Republicans yesterday tried shifting the legal basis for their lawsuit and saying they want Bridges to reverse himself on a key decision about burden of proof.

Republicans say it should be enough to show the election count was flawed to the point that the true winner of the governor's race is unknown. Bridges disagrees, saying Republicans need enough evidence to show that Rossi is the true winner — which is the decision he made at a pretrial hearing and then repeated in a clarification from the bench at a hearing May 2. -- The Seattle Times: Politics: Judge won't dismiss lawsuit

May 27, 2005

Kuwait: women given the right to vote -- if they abide by Islamic law

Reuters reports: Kuwaiti women hailed as historic a decision to allow them to vote and run for parliament -- a law passed despite fierce resistance by Islamist and conservative MPs. ...

The all-male parliament passed the law on Monday after a nine-hour session.

The pro-reform government tempted lawmakers by backing a popular bill to raise salaries for most public and private employees.

Islamist MPs added a clause stipulating women must abide by Islamic law when voting or running for office. This would imply separate polling stations for men and women. -- International News Article |

UK: demand for reform of military forces voting

The Herald reports: MILITARY campaigners are preparing a detailed submission for the Electoral Commission, the watchdog body that oversees voting in the UK, in an attempt to ensure that service personnel are not disenfranchised in future ballots.

Up to 200,000 soldiers, sailors, airmen and their families were effectively denied the chance to take part in the general election three weeks ago because of delays in delivering postal votes to those serving abroad and the failure of the Ministry of Defence to provide registration advice in time.

With the promised backing of both the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats, a handful of serving and former officers are drawing up proposals aimed at streamlining the system for servicemen and women scattered in garrisons from Basra to Benbecula and on patrolling ships and submarines around the world.
One key proposal is that the MoD reverts to the system of allowing the armed forces to register once for the duration of their careers. ...

A second suggestion is that a system of electronic voting be introduced. -- Campaign demands voting rights for the forces - The Herald

Trivia: I have spent a weekend on the Royal Artillery base on Benbecula. Look it up in a good atlas and you'll know where I was.

Mississippi: Diaz jury seated

The Clarion-Ledger reports: A jury of ten women and two men was selected today for the judicial bribery trial of Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Oliver Diaz Jr., a wealthy Gulf Coast attorney and two former judges.

U.S. District Judge Henry Wingate says opening arguments will begin June 1.

Attorney Paul Minor is accused of buying favorable decisions from Diaz, former Circuit Judge John Whitfield and former Chancery Judge Wes Teel. ...

Prosecutors have alleged, among other things, that Minor guaranteed a loan for approximately $75,000 and provided checks and cash to Diaz. The government also has identified amounts they claim were given to the other judges.

Attorney Abbe Lowell of Washington, Minor's attorney, has maintained that the payments were campaign contributions, which were similar to those made by other Mississippi attorneys. Lowell says U.S. Attorney Dunn Lampton singled Minor out because Minor won a large settlement from a business owned by one of Lampton's relatives. He has also claimed Lampton set his sights on Minor because of political differences. -- Jury seated in bribery case of Supreme Court justice - The Clarion-Ledger

FEC fines Jesse Jackson, DNC, others $200,000

The Baltimore Sun reports: The Rev. Jesse L. Jackson and the Democratic National Committee violated campaign finance law when Jackson used Rainbow/PUSH Coalition funds to travel the country in 2000 drumming up voter registration and staging get-out-the-vote rallies, according to a Federal Election Commission decision released yesterday.

Under an agreement with the FEC, Jackson, two of his organizations, Rainbow/PUSH and the Citizenship Education Fund, and the DNC were levied a $200,000 fine.

In accepting the fine, they also acknowledged violating federal election regulations by engaging in a campaign travel arrangement that saw Jackson's not-for-profit corporations illegally paying for political trips the DNC was supposed to fund. ...

"Due to an administrative delay by the Democratic Party in the payment of these expenses, Rainbow/PUSH was forced to decide between paying for the travel itself or canceling its voter registration efforts," the statement said. "Because of the vital importance of these efforts, Rainbow/PUSH chose to move ahead with the voter registration activities and pay for the travel." -- - Jackson, DNC draw campaign finance fine

California: Rosen acquited

The Washington Post reports: A federal jury here on Friday found a former top campaign official for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) not guilty of charges that he intentionally covered up the lavish costs of a 2000 celebrity fundraising gala.

David F. Rosen, Clinton's national finance director during her first Senate race, had faced up to 10 years in prison and a $500,000 fine if convicted on two charges of lying to the government when he understated the event's costs by nearly $800,000 in filings to the Federal Election Commission. Rosen claimed the event's hosts misled him about their true expenses.

Though Clinton was not charged in the matter, and prosecutors repeatedly said they did not believe she was involved, the case had been closely watched by critics of the former first lady, especially at a time of heated speculation about her possible aspirations for a 2008 presidential run. ...

But officials with Judicial Watch, an organization that has long been critical of the Clintons, pledged to pursue the Rosen case further. The group recently asked the Senate Ethics Committee to investigate Clinton's role in the matter. -- Former Clinton Campaign Aide Acquitted

May 26, 2005

Texas: court rules that TRMPAC failed to report corporate contributions and must pay damages to defeated Dem candidates

AP reports: The treasurer of a political committee formed by U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay violated Texas election code by not reporting hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions, a judge ruled Thursday in a civil case brought by Democratic candidates.

State District Judge Joe Hart, in a letter outlining his ruling to attorneys in the case, said the money, much of it corporate contributions, should have been reported to the Texas Ethics Commission.

The ruling means Bill Ceverha, treasurer of the group, called the Texans for a Republican Majority political action committee, will have to pay nearly $200,000. It will be divided among those who brought the suit against Ceverha, five Democratic candidates who lost legislative races in 2002.

The Democrats who sued TRMPAC claimed Ceverha violated the state election law, designed to keep elections free from "the taint of corporate cash." -- DeLay PAC Treasurer Violated Texas Ethics Law, Judge Rules

Updates: The Campaign Legal Center has the judge's letter here.

NPR's All Things Considered had a segment on this story last evening. It ends with Wade Goodwyn saying that it is likely that Tom DeLay will be indicted.

The Houston Chronicle reports: Hart said TRMPAC defined administrative expenses overly broadly in using corporate money. He said all of TRMPAC's expenditures fit the Texas legal definition of political spending.

Hart, a Democrat, is a visiting judge chosen to try the case by the Republican lawyers for TRMPAC and lawyers for the plaintiffs because of a history of judicial fairness. Hart awarded the five Democratic plaintiffs $196,000 plus attorneys fees.

Terry Scarborough, the attorney representing Ceverha, said he will ask Hart to allow him to appeal the case immediately. Ceverha's case is linked to other defendants in such a way that an appeal could be delayed for more than a year if Hart did not sever the case.

"We feel strongly this decision is wrong," Scarborough said. "Our client was exercising his constitutional rights of freedom of speech and freedom of association. These are the most fundamental constitutional rights that we, as citizens, enjoy and cherish."

Cris Feldman, one of the lawyers for the Democratic plaintiffs, said more information likely will come out about illegal campaign activities as lawsuits proceed against other TRMPAC defendants and the Texas Association of Business. -- DeLay PAC's treasurer broke law, judge rules

Update to the Update: Peter Overby of NPR corrects my impression of what Wade Goodwyn said: "He said he "would not be surprised" if DeLay was added to legal actions by the Dems "& perhaps even" Earle." Thanks, Peter.

May 25, 2005

California: Rosen admits bad judgment

AP reports: The former national finance director for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton testified Wednesday that he may have used bad judgment when he failed to report that a campaign donor paid his $10,000 Beverly Hills hotel bill and let him use a Porsche. But David Rosen said he never tried to hide anything.

Rosen is charged with making false statements to the Federal Election Commission, which oversees campaign contributions. The defense rested after he testified, and closing statements were expected to conclude Thursday.

Federal prosecutors allege Rosen deliberately lied to regulators by claiming that "in-kind" contributions for a lavish Hollywood fundraiser he helped organize totaled $401,000. They say Rosen knew the contributions were worth more than $1.1 million, but he claims he relied on other people to document the costs.

Prosecutors say Rose was trying to duck federal financing rules so Clinton's campaign would have more money to spend on her 2000 U.S. Senate race, but they have said the New York Democrat was unaware of any wrongdoing. -- Clinton Fundraiser Admits Bad Judgment

Washington State: King Co. election worker warned about inability to track returned ballots

AP reports: The mail ballot supervisor in Washington state's most populous county testified Wednesday that she had raised concerns about the county's inability to track ballots months before last year's disputed governor's race.
Click Here

The supervisor, Nicole Way, said she repeatedly told her bosses as early as spring 2004 that the King County elections department couldn't tell how many ballots were being mailed out or received back. About two-thirds of the county's 900,000 votes in the November election were mail ballots.

She testified on the third day of a trial in the GOP's challenge to the governor's race, which Gov. Christine Gregoire, a Democrat, won by 129 votes on the third count.

The Republicans are trying to prove election errors and fraud stole the victory from Dino Rossi. They want Chelan County Superior Court Judge John Bridges to nullify Gregoire's victory, prompting a new election.

Under questioning by GOP attorney Harry Korrell, Way said she and other workers tried to create a computer spreadsheet to track ballots they were mailing out, but eventually gave up. -- Top Stories - The Olympian - Olympia, Washington

Florida: group asks Gov. Bush to support independent redistricting commission

AP reports: Groups wanting an independent panel to draw Florida's political boundaries are using Gov. Jeb Bush's support of California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's to make their case.

The groups, including one founded by Betty Castor, are letting supporters know that Gov. Jeb Bush helped Schwarzenegger raise money last week for the California governor's proposed ballot initiatives. One of those measures would create an independent redistricting panel, which could help the Republican governor whittle down the Democrats' power in the California Legislature. ...

Castor is involved with two groups - Campaign For Florida's Future and the Committee for Fair Elections - that support a proposed Florida ballot measure that would create an independent panel to draw legislative and congressional districts.

As part of that effort, she e-mailed supporters and asked them to write to the governor under the subject line "If it's good enough for California...." -- Groups see opportunity in Bush aiding Calif. redistricting plan |

May 24, 2005

California: Rosen testifies in his defense

AP reports: A former fundraiser for Sen. Hilary Rodham Clinton testified Tuesday that he relied on others to oversee production costs of a lavish Hollywood party and never told anyone to alter or hide the price tag of the event.

"I would never do that," David Rosen said after taking the witness stand in his defense. "The costs were concealed from me for whatever reason by people who were putting this on."

On cross-examination, prosecutors questioned how someone who was running the national fundraising effort for the then-first lady would be so out of the loop. -- AP Wire | 05/24/2005 | Clinton fundraiser says he never had event costs altered

Michigan: another Ward Connerly group accused of campaign finance violations

AP reports: A pro-affirmative action group has accused a Michigan group behind an anti-affirmative action ballot initiative of money laundering and other campaign finance violations.

The Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration & Immigrant Rights and Fight for Equality by Any Means Necessary (BAMN) claims that the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative and California affirmative action opponent Ward Connerly have unlawfully refused to disclose who has donated most of the funding for their efforts. ...

According to the complaint, MCRI received $713,464 in 2004, with $545,693 of that coming from Connerly's California-based American Civil Rights Coalition.

But the Michigan group didn't include a list of people who gave money to ACRC in their state campaign finance report, thus concealing the identities of the people who contributed about three quarters of their funding, the complaint says. -- Group accuses anti-affirmative action group of campaign finance violations

A similar case in California is reported here.

Supreme Court upholds Oklahoma semi-closed primary

The First Amendment Center has this analysis by Tony Mauro: By upholding Oklahoma’s semi-closed primary election law yesterday, the Supreme Court gave higher priority to the state’s power to regulate elections than to the First Amendment associational rights of the Oklahoma Libertarian Party.

But a close reading of the two main opinions in the decision may give hope to minor parties that the Supreme Court will be more sympathetic to future challenges to election laws.

“The bottom line is that the opinions are an invitation for lower courts to consider challenges by minor parties that state election laws as a whole discriminate against minor parties,” said Loyola Law School professor Rick Hasen on his Election Law blog yesterday.

Under the law upheld in yesterday’s Clingman v. Beaver decision, political parties may allow only their own members and registered independents to vote in their primaries. When the Libertarian Party of Oklahoma (LPO) notified the state election board in 2000 that it wanted to allow registered Democrats and Republicans to vote in its primary as well, the board turned it down. -- Majority backs Oklahoma's primary-election rules

Supreme Court refuses to hear Nader case

AP reports: The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday announced it won't consider whether Oregon election officials wrongly kept Ralph Nader off the presidential ballot last November.

The court declined to hear Nader supporters' appeal of an Oregon Supreme Court decision that denied the consumer activist a ballot spot because of flawed petition signature sheets.

Nader turned to a statewide petition drive after failing at two mini-conventions in Portland to get the 1,000 voter signatures needed to qualify for the ballot as an independent candidate.

He needed 15,306 signatures to get on the ballot under the alternate method, and petitioners turned in more than 18,000 signatures.

But Secretary of State Bill Bradbury said that after checking, Nader fell 218 signatures short of being on the ballot. Bradbury disqualified thousands of signatures for not conforming to technical rules, such as petition circulators not having properly signed each sheet. -- Supreme Court won't consider Nader plea - The Register-Guard, Eugene, Oregon, USA

Washington State: GOP begins its election contest case

The Spokane Spokesman-Review reports: Washington Republicans began painting a picture this morning of two different ways the 2004 election was run.

One way was the efficient and well-managed approach in Chelan County, personified by its Auditor Evelyn Arnold. Here in Chelan County, she said, every absentee ballot is counted by hand, and a single lost ballot can be missed in the accounting system and found by a search.

The other way is the system in King County, which lawyers for the GOP have previously described as rife with “bungling bureaucrats.” Those lawyers are attempting to personify that system by Elections Superintendent Bill Huennekens, who was asked a series of questions about ballot problems ranging from felons who voted and tallies that don’t match. ...

But under cross-examination from Jenny Durkan, an attorney for the state Democratic Party, Arnold said that while her computer system was similar to King County’s, the scale is far different. It has slightly more than 29,000 ballots, mostly voted by mail, and only seven poll sites. King County has more than 646,000 voters, and more than 500 poll sites.

The more poll sites a county has, the more potential for problems, Arnold agreed.

Even in a small county like Chelan, elections officials weren’t aware that some felons had registered to vote even though they did not have their rights restored, she added. -- GOP: Elections rife with 'bungling bureaucrats'

Mississippi: trial of Killen set for 13 June

AP reports: Edgar Ray Killen, the reputed Ku Klux Klansman accused of killing three civil rights workers in Mississippi four decades ago, will stand trial as planned on June 13, Circuit Judge Marcus Gordon ruled Monday.

Gordon denied a defense motion to dismiss the murder charges on the basis of alleged selective prosecution of Killen in violation of the 80-year-old part-time preacher's constitutional rights.

"We will definitely have a trial on June 13," Gordon said.

Killen, who is confined to a wheelchair after shattering both his legs in a March tree cutting accident, is charged with the 1964 murders of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner in Neshoba County. -- Picayune Item: Mississippi News Near the Gulf: News

Minnesota: urban/rural gerrymandering suit tossed

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports: Rural residents are not a class of voters entitled to special protection, a judge has ruled in Glencoe, Minn.

Judge Thomas Murphy ruled that it was legal for the McLeod County Board to reapportion itself in 2002 so that Hutchinson, Minn., is represented by 60 percent of the commissioners although it had only 37.5 percent of the county's population.

In a lawsuit filed last year against the county and city, Douglas Krueger of Glencoe said the result was that county commissioners favored road and other projects in the Hutchinson area, often by 3-2 votes.

Each of the Hutchinson districts includes some rural voters, and Murphy ruled earlier this month that the districts are well within the 10 percent population variance allowed by state law. He said that Krueger failed to show any "disparate" treatment and that no case law "established 'rural' or 'urban' as a constitutionally recognized class for the purpose of judicial protection in a redistricting matter." -- Judge rules against suit in McLeod County

May 21, 2005

California: state supreme court refuses to hear challenges to local campaign finance laws

The Los Angeles Times reports: More than three years ago, voters in Pasadena, Claremont and Santa Monica approved some of the nation's strictest campaign finance laws.

But the rules, which strictly limit the ability of individuals who have business dealings with the city to make contributions to local officials, have yet to be enforced. In fact, Pasadena and Santa Monica have fought to kill the laws, arguing that they violate free-speech rights.

The last of the cities' legal battles appeared to end earlier this month, when the California Supreme Court refused to hear the challenges to the laws. Backers now hope the cities will finally begin enforcing them. -- Court Gives Campaign Finance Laws a Green Light

Texas: redistricting commission bill passes Senate

The Dallas Morning News reports: The partisan blood bath that has been congressional redistricting in the Legislature would be relegated to a citizen board under legislation tentatively passed Friday in the Senate.

The victory for bill author Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio, was somewhat hollow. While he has worked on the proposal for 12 years, and it passed the Senate for the first time, he acknowledged that the bill is presumed dead in the House and lost for the session. ...

Under his proposal, the House and Senate would join to appoint eight redistricting commissioners, with Democrats appointing four and Republicans appointing the other four. A ninth member would be selected by the chief justice of the Texas Supreme Court and would vote only to break ties.

Commissioners could not be a party official, registered lobbyist or an elected official, or anyone who had served in those roles within the previous two years. In addition, a commissioner would serve for 10 years and could not run for elective office. -- | News for Denton, Texas | Texas/Southwest

May 19, 2005

Ohio: Supreme Court refuses sanctions against election-contest lawyers

AP reports: Ending one of the last fights from the contentious 2004 presidential campaign, Ohio's top judge on Thursday declined to punish four attorneys who had challenged the results in court.

Chief Justice Thomas Moyer ruled against Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro's attempt to have the lawyers sanctioned for filing "a meritless claim" against the vote that gave President Bush a win in Ohio and, as a result, enough electoral votes to win a second term in the White House.

In legal documents filed with the state Supreme Court, the lawyers had said the challenge they filed on behalf of 37 voters included enough evidence of voting irregularities to back up their allegations of widespread fraud. Neither Democratic Sen. John Kerry's campaign nor his party were part of the challenge, which was later withdrawn.

Petro, a Republican, asked for sanctions against lawyers Cliff Arnebeck, Robert Fitrakis, Susan Truitt and Peter Peckarsky. If the court had sanctioned the lawyers, they could have been forced to repay attorney's fees and court costs.

Moyer, acting under the court's power to assign election-related complaints to a single justice, said that while the court has the authority to sanction attorneys, the speed with which elections must be challenged allows the court some leeway. -- | Nation

Thanks to the Jurist news service for the link.

Alabama: several election-related bills died in the regular session

AP reports: Some bills that died on final day of 2005 session of Legislature would have:

-Banned the transfer of campaign contributions from one political action committee to another. ...

-Moved Alabama's presidential preference primary from June to the first Saturday after the New Hampshire primary. ...

-Required nonprofit organizations to disclose their source of funding for buying advertising to influence the vote on a referendum. ...

-Given Alabama a new official insect by replacing the monarch butterfly with the queen honey bee. -- Welcome to

The last one was just to see if you were paying attention.

North Carolina: 10 counties will test instant runoff

AP reports: Up to 10 counties would have the option of trying an "instant runoff" in upcoming primary elections to avoid the expense and time of a separate second vote under legislation approved Wednesday by the state House. ...

Under the instant runoff bill, approved 79-32 and sent to the Senate, counties chosen by the board could try the process in local elections this year and next.

Voters would rank their order of preference among the candidates listed and election officials initially would tally only the first choices. If the leading candidate fails to win more than 40 percent of the first-choice votes, the top two candidates would advance to the runoff.

In the runoff, election officials would examine the ballots of voters whose first-choice candidate was eliminated and check how many times each of the remaining two candidates was the highest-ranked alternative choice.

These totals would then be added to the original totals for the top two candidates, and the person with the most votes would be declared the winner.

Supporters said the process would reduce the price of a separate runoff, which on a statewide level can cost millions of dollars but can draw very little interest. -- AP Wire | 05/18/2005 | N.C. House votes to try 'instant runoff' in local primaries

Alabama: vote fraud alleged in Perry County

AP reports: The Perry County District Attorney's office is investigating a high school student's claim that her ballot was changed after she was driven from the lunchroom to the precinct by a candidate in a recent special legislative election.

District Attorney Michael Jackson said his office is checking out 18-year-old Cynthia Davis' claim that she was driven to her polling place by Albert Turner Jr. and that a woman wearing a Turner campaign shirt switched her vote to Turner when she tried to vote for his opponent.

Turner lost to Ralph Howard in the May 3 vote for the House District 72 seat. -- AP Wire | 05/17/2005 | DA investigating voter fraud complaint in Perry County

Washington State: King co. absentee manager admits to false report

AP reports: King County's absentee-ballot supervisor has testified that she collaborated with her boss when she filled out a report that falsely showed all ballots were accounted for in the November election, The Seattle Times reported Thursday.

Nicole Way is the first employee to link an upper-level manager with a practice that failed to meet state ballot-auditing regulations. In a deposition Friday, she said she and assistant elections superintendent Garth Fell agreed to the misleading report because officials didn't know how many absentee ballots were returned by voters.

By law, counties must reconcile the number of absentee ballots returned by voters with the number of ballots accepted or rejected. Way's report showed perfect reconciliation because it simply added the number accepted and rejected to calculate ballots returned.

Dozens of absentee ballots were misplaced and the votes not tabulated during the November election. The ballots were never counted as accepted or rejected. -- NewsFlash - Election manager testifies boss agreed to false absentee count

House GOP proposes increasing contribution limit

The Washington Post reports: House Republicans are gearing up to push campaign finance legislation that would scrap post-Watergate restrictions on the total amount of money individuals can donate and parties can spend on candidates.

House Democratic leaders, who see the GOP gaining a huge financial advantage, yesterday protested the bill, as did campaign finance advocacy groups. ...

A person can donate $101,400 to federal candidates and parties in each two-year election cycle. The Pence bill would eliminate this limit. The limit an individual can contribute to a candidate or a political party would not change. Instead, individual donors could give Republican or Democratic committees a total of more than $1.1 million every two years: $53,400 to each of the three major (national, senatorial and congressional) party campaign committees and $20,000 to each of the 50 state parties.

Critics of the legislation contend that an enterprising donor could give $1.1 million to one campaign by giving the maximum allowed to all national and state committees, and asking them to put it into one race.

Lifting the limit would also allow any donor to make $4,200 contributions to any number of federal candidates. ...

The Pence legislation, which is co-sponsored by Rep. Albert R. Wynn (D-Md.), would also allow the parties to spend unlimited amounts in behalf of House, Senate and presidential candidates. In Senate races, for example, the limit on the total given by parties ranges from $2.1 million in California to just over $100,000 in such small states as Vermont and Wyoming; under the Pence-Wynn bill, there would be no limits. -- GOP Targets Spending Limit

Law Blog Ad Network

Blogads has initiated The Law Blog Ad Network. It allows advertisers looking for legal blogs to find them easily and with one click, place their ads on multiple blogs. For advertisers, it eliminates the guesswork in finding their target audience.

We're starting small, with eight law blogs (to see the list, click on the Network link above). We're trying to attract advertisers of law products, so we're keeping it to lawyers who principally write about legal matters. In other words, if you're a lawyer who blogs mostly about food, you should join the Food Ad Network, not the Law Blog Network.

We will be adding more blogs to the network. Ideally, we'd like to have at least 25. Joining is by invitation, and you will have to carry a link to the network on your site (see mine in the left column of the main page). You also should have some decent traffic numbers on your site and a reliable counter.

Henry Copeland, the founder of Blogads, believes as the number of blogs continues to grow, ad networks will be the wave of the future.

If you're interested in joining the Law Blog Ad Network, send an e-mail with any questions to TalkLeft.

Thanks to Jeralyn Merritt of TalkLeft for spearheading the effort (and for providing most of the foregoing message).

May 18, 2005

Alabama: some felons can vote after all

AP reports: Many state prisoners convicted of drug and alcohol felonies may be eligible to vote, even while incarcerated, though they probably don't know it.

The state Board of Pardons and Paroles announced Wednesday that under a 1996 amendment to the Alabama constitution, inmates convicted of DUIs or drug possession alone never lose their voting rights - despite common belief that felons are prohibited from casting ballots.

"Everybody thought anyone convicted of a felony lost the right to vote," said Cynthia Dillard, assistant director for the pardons and paroles board.

Dillard said the parole board looked into the issue after hearing about a Pell City prosecutor trying to charge an inmate who attempted to vote in last November's elections. The board received a March 18 advisory opinion from Attorney General Troy King, who said only those felonies involving "moral turpitude" - meaning the crimes are inherently immoral - disqualify a convict from voting. -- Dateline Alabama

I can see how a prosecutor might be confused about this. Amendment 579 (yep, that number is right) states, in part, "No person convicted of a felony involving moral turpitude, or who is mentally incompetent, shall be qualified to vote until restoration of civil and political rights or removal of disability." I suppose trying to find something like that among 742 amendments does get sort of confusing.

California: Ward Connerly failed to report $1.7 million, pays $95,000 fine

AP reports: Affirmative action opponent Ward Connerly has agreed to pay $95,000 to settle a state lawsuit that accused him and his American Civil Rights Coalition of violating campaign laws by failing to reveal the source of $1.7 million in contributions.

California's campaign watchdog, the Fair Political Practices Commission, said Wednesday that the settlement also requires Connerly and the ACRC to admit they violated campaign finance laws and to file required donation disclosure reports.

The suit, filed by the FPPC on Sept. 3, 2003, involved contributions to support Proposition 54, Connerly's unsuccessful ballot measure to restrict state and local governments' ability to collect racial data.

The measure was rejected by voters in a special election in October 2003 after opponents argued that it would hamper law enforcement, health programs and schools. -- Affirmative action opponent agrees to pay $95,000 to settle lawsuit

California: hiding the costs of the Clinton fundraiser

AP reports: An event planner testified Wednesday that she was ordered by the former national finance director of Hillary Rodham Clinton's 2000 Senate campaign to obtain a fake invoice connected to a Hollywood fundraising gala.

Bretta Nock told jurors that ex-Clinton aide David Rosen told her to get a $200,000 invoice for the concert portion of the event when the actual costs were much higher.

Rosen, 38, is accused of lying to the Federal Election Commission about the true costs of the August 2000 gala that drew celebrities, including Cher, Diana Ross, Brad Pitt, Jennifer Aniston and Muhammad Ali. Prosecutors contend that Rosen deliberately caused campaign finance reports to be filed that claimed "in-kind" contributions of $400,000 for the Hollywood gala, when he knew that contributions exceeded $1.1 million.

Rosen has pleaded not guilty to three charges of filing false statements with the government. Each charge carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison, plus fines. -- Planner says ex-Hillary Clinton aide hid costs of fundraiser

California: Secretary of State says revised election districts can't be ready for 2006

AP reports: Secretary of State Bruce McPherson cast more doubt on the need for a special November election, saying the new legislative and congressional districts sought by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger can't be in place for elections next year.

"There's no way I can see that we can make 2006," McPherson, California's top elections official, told members of the Sacramento Press Club on Tuesday. "Maybe 2008, but that's a question mark."

Schwarzenegger announced in January that he wanted to take the power to draw the districts away from the Legislature and have a panel of retired judges draw new lines in time for 2006 balloting.

He's threatening to call a special election in November to give voters a chance to approve an initiative that would make that change. Schwarzenegger proposals to cut state spending and lengthen the amount of time new teachers remain on probation could also be on that ballot. -- > News > State -- McPherson says new lines can't be in place for 2006 elections

Washington State: GOP to claim voter fraud

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports: Beating the drum in advance of the governor's election trial next week, Republicans yesterday outlined new claims that King County tallied more ballots than there were voters voting in the 2004 election.

"The discrepancy is enough on its face to throw out the election," said Chris Vance, the state GOP chairman.

The Republicans hope Judge John Bridges will do just that in the trial, set to start Monday in Wenatchee. Republican Dino Rossi is suing to set aside his defeat by Democratic Gov. Christine Gregoire in an election decided by 129 votes after two recounts of more than 2.8 million ballots cast.

But in pretrial rulings, Bridges has made it clear that it won't be enough for Rossi to show that the number of ballot errors exceeded Gregoire's margin.

Citing state laws and previous court cases, Bridges has said the GOP must show that Gregoire owes her victory to illegal votes. The only exception to that requirement would be if fraud occurred -- and in a hearing May 3, Bridges said the Republicans "have never alleged, to the court's knowledge, or even alluded to fraud or voter intimidation." -- GOP adds 875 to suspect vote list

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

May 17, 2005

New Hampshire: the grand jury "included ... Democrats"

AP reports: A former Republican official says charges that he conspired to jam Democrats' get-out-the-vote phone lines on Election Day 2002 should be dismissed because the grand jury that indicted him included Democrats.

The grand jury "included purported victims of the alleged scheme -- Democrats," said a motion filed by James Tobin, who at the time was the Northeast political director of the national Republican Senatorial Committee. He was indicted in December.

"The government must demonstrate that it properly screened the grand jury to prevent bias, and if it cannot or will not do so, the indictment must be dismissed," the motion said.

And if the case does go to trial, Tobin's lawyers want to question prospective jurors extensively about their politics and their exposure to media reports of the case to root out potential bias. -- / News / Local / Maine / Former GOP official says grand jury included Democrats

Thanks to Talking Points Memo for the link.

May 15, 2005

Alabama: another revelation of Indian gambling money to the Alabama Christian Coalition

AP reports: An $850,000 donation from an anti-tax organization to the Alabama Christian Coalition came from an Indian tribe that runs a casino in Mississippi, according to the president of the tax organization.

Americans for Tax Reform also gave $300,000 to an organization formed to fight former Gov. Don Siegelman's proposal to create a lottery in Alabama to fund education programs, the organization's president, Grover Norquist, told The Boston Globe newspaper.

Alabama Christian Coalition President John Giles confirmed Friday that his organization received the donation from Americans for Tax Reform in 2000, but he said he was not aware it came from a Mississippi Indian tribe. ...

[Ralph Reed's earlier admission of a similar contribution] fueled efforts in the Alabama Legislature this session to pass legislation to require nonprofit groups to disclose the source of money used to buy advertising to influence the outcome of referendums, like the lottery vote. The bill passed the House but was delayed in the Senate after opponents staged a four-week filibuster.

The sponsor, Rep. Randy Hinshaw, D-Huntsville, said he believes there may be an effort to revive the bill Monday, on the final day of the 2005 session of the Legislature. -- Welcome to

Democrats debate primary schedule

AP reports: Democrats, looking to reverse their fortunes after two straight White House defeats, met yesterday to hear competing proposals to revamp the election calendar used to choose a presidential nominee every four years.

The three major proposals would focus on regional primaries. Two of those proposals would allow Iowa and New Hampshire to retain their leadoff roles in the candidate selection process.

A third plan, offered by Michigan Democrats, would create a rotating series of six regional primaries. A different region would launch each presidential nominating season.

That plan would allow single-state contests to begin the process, but those states would be rotated. -- Democrats debate plans to revamp primaries

Meanwhile, the elbowing continues. Alabama's legislature will vote tomorrow on a bill to move the Alabama presidential primary to the Saturday after New Hampshire's primary. South Carolina vows to move its primary to an even earlier date.

Pryor's drive to elect conservative judges

Mother Jones reports: Like many of President Bush's lower-court nominees, William H. Pryor Jr. has had a hand in just about every legal social theory that drives Senate Democrats to outrage. As the attorney general of Alabama, he pushed for the execution of the mentally retarded, compared homosexuality to bestiality, defended the posting of Bible quotes at the courthouse door, and advocated rescinding a portion of the Voting Rights Act. He called Roe v. Wade "the worst abomination of constitutional law in our history."

So when Pryor, a boyish 41-year-old, came before the Judiciary Committee in June wearing a carefully folded kerchief in his pin-striped suit, opposing senators clashed over whether such views disqualified him from the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. Republicans, led by Utah Senator Orrin Hatch, praised Pryor's distinguished career, his numerous awards, and the hundreds of letters supporting his nomination. They tossed him softball questions about his "mainstream" approach to the law. ...

But it also obscured the most important factor in Pryor's swift rise from Mobile, Alabama, to the national stage: his longtime courting of corporate America. "The business community must be engaged heavily in the election process as it affects legal and judicial offices," Pryor told business leaders in 1999, after refusing to join other attorneys general in lawsuits against the tobacco and gun industries. To facilitate that engagement, Pryor created a controversial group called the Republican Attorneys General Association, which skirted campaign-finance laws by allowing corporations to give unlimited checks anonymously to support the campaigns of Pryor and other "conservative and free market oriented Attorneys General." ...

Pryor never identified the source of this war chest. But recently leaked documents show he knew at the time that he was raising money from the same companies he refused to prosecute on behalf of Alabama's citizens. According to phone records, he personally solicited funds for the Republican Attorneys General Association from executives at R.J.Reynolds, Philip Morris, and other Fortune 500 companies. The National Rifle Association, clearly pleased by his refusal to sue gun makers, also contributed to the fund after Pryor called for a donation, the phone records show. The undisclosed checks for up to $25,000 got lobbyists invitations to shoot skeet, play golf, and enjoy a "stress-relief spa" with Republican attorneys general. The potential for ethical conflicts was too potent for several of Pryor's Republican peers. Betty Montgomery, Ohio's attorney general, went so far as to pull out of the organization, telling a local newspaper, "I raised some questions about who we were raising money from." -- The Making of the Corporate Judiciary

Remember that you read this story here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here, first.

Mandolins, banjos, etc.

I'm back from a few days out of town without a computer, without a care, and without any business purpose. We were in Helen, Georgia, and stayed at the Country Inn and Suites . I recommend them both.

Helen is a funny place. It's sort of a real town theme park or theme park real town. It's a real town that tacked on an Alpine village facade in 1968 to attact tourists. It seems to have worked. This weekend there was a "bike festival" for bicyclists who were holding various events. There also seemed to be lots of motorcyclists (both "hogs" and Yamaha racing bikes) in town and more coming into town as we traveled out toward Hiawassi. I'm not sure if the bikers had their own thing, were part of the "bike festival," or were just tourists like me.

Don't be put off by the oom-pah music on the Helen webiste. I did not hear any German music while I was there.

We attended the Bluegrass Festival at the Georgia Mountain Fair in Hiawassee, Georgia. The Fair has a great music facility, the Anderson Music Hall, with padded pews in most of the hall and some folding chairs down front for the really committed (and perhaps those who have already lost their hearing through exposure to too many decibels at music concerts).

My favorite groups at the festival were King Wilkie, Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, and the Nashville Bluegrass Band.

May 12, 2005

California: prosecutor says no evidence of Sen. Clinton's involvement in underreporting cost of event

The New York Times reports: Before Hillary Rodham Clinton's former chief fund-raiser went on trial here for underreporting donations to her Senate campaign, political speculation has revolved around what if anything Mrs. Clinton knew about his alleged transgressions, as well as what if anything the trial would do to her presidential aspirations (assuming she has them).

A federal prosecutor tried to answer at least one of those questions in his opening statement on Wednesday in Federal District Court, when he told the jury, "You will hear no evidence that Hillary Clinton was involved in any way, shape or form."

Indeed, the prosecutor, Peter R. Zeidenberg, said that the fund-raiser, David F. Rosen, tried to keep Mrs. Clinton's campaign from discovering how much money was donated to cover the costs of the star-studded event at the heart of this criminal case. The reason, Mr. Zeidenberg said, is that Mr. Rosen was afraid he would be fired if the campaign found out how much money he had spent on the August 2000 event, the Hollywood Gala Salute to President William Jefferson Clinton.

Mr. Rosen, 40, is facing three counts of causing false statements to be filed to the Federal Election Commission, all involving the costs of the gala, a concert and dinner with President and Mrs. Clinton. The government says Mr. Rosen reported that the event cost at most about $400,000; prosecutors contend the real cost was $1.1 million. -- Mrs. Clinton Not at Fault, Prosecutor Tells Jury - New York Times

May 11, 2005

North Carolina: "repent or resign"

The Charlotte News & Observer reports: The pastor of a Waynesville Baptist church who tried to force his political views on his members resigned Tuesday night, taking a few dozen members with him.

The Rev. Chan Chandler, pastor of East Waynesville Baptist Church in the Blue Ridge Mountains, did not apologize for the division he caused and said only that his underlying concern was to save unborn babies from abortion. ...

The church had been embroiled in partisan politics since October, when Chandler told his 100-member congregation that anyone who planned to vote for Democratic presidential challenger John Kerry needed to "repent or resign."

Many older members, lifelong Democrats, resented the way Chandler, a Haywood County native, imposed his political views on the church, and tried to steer him away from politics. It didn't work. -- | Local & State

May 9, 2005

Arizona: discounts and lump sum payments land senator in hot water

AP reports: A state investigator has concluded that a state legislator violated campaign finance laws and recommended that a commission impose penalties totaling $20,000.

Gene Lemon, a Citizens Clean Elections Commission investigator, said May 6 Rep. Colette Rosati, R-8, violated state law by receiving early voter data from campaign operative Constantin Querard at a discounted price that amounted to an improper private contribution to her publicly financed 2004 campaign.

Mr. Lemon also said the Scottsdale Republican's campaign failed to pay providers of nearly $30,000 of campaign goods and services directly and to properly identify those purchases on campaign finance reports. Instead, she made lump-sum payments to Mr. Querard and another campaign operative without breaking down actual expenses, he said. -- Arizona Capitol Times

Judicial Watch proposes probe of Sen. Clinton over fundraiser

AP reports: A conservative watchdog group with a history of dogging the Clintons urged a Senate panel on Monday to investigate Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton over a Hollywood fundraiser for which a former staffer faces charges.

The fundraiser is the focus of a federal trial set to begin Tuesday in Los Angeles. Prosecutors say Clinton's former finance director David Rosen understated the cost of the star-studded August 2000 gala, which raised money for her senatorial campaign. Rosen denies the charges.

An FBI agent's 2002 affidavit said the costs were deliberately understated "to increase the amount of funds available to New York Senate 2000 for federal campaign activities." However, Justice Department officials recently said they need not prove a possible motive by Rosen. The Democratic senator has not been charged.

Judicial Watch, which has pushed officials to look into the fundraiser, filed paperwork with the Senate Ethics Committee on Monday saying Clinton had to have known of the alleged misreporting. -- AP Wire | 05/09/2005 | Group urges probe of Clinton fundraising

Nevada: senator proposes independent redistricting commission

AP reports: A Nevada senator says his proposal to take away redistricting power from the state Legislature and put it in the hands of a five-member commission would lessen the politically charged nature of the process, which turned nasty in 2001.

Sen. Bob Beers, R-Las Vegas, said the 2001 redistricting fight, which resulted in Gov. Kenny Guinn calling a special session to work out the mess, was extremely political and resulted in oddly shaped districts. ...

Under the soon-to-be-amended resolution, each party's leaders in the Senate and Assembly would appoint one community member to the commission, and those four appointees would then appoint a fifth to serve as the panel's leader. If they couldn't settle on a chairperson, the Nevada Supreme Court would appoint the last member.

The commission would be charged with what is now the Legislature's duty: redrawing the state's 63 Senate and Assembly districts every 10 years after the release of the latest U.S. Census figures. -- Las Vegas SUN: Nevada redistricting proposal stems from 2001 fight

May 8, 2005

"Politics1 is not dead yet"

About a week ago, Ron Gunzburger emailed me with that subject line. His message said, "Saw your kind words about Politics1 and wanted to let you know the site is still going forward during this semi-hiatus period."

Indeed it is. Ron has posted an update nearly every day for the past two weeks. I recommend it highly.

North Carolina: Waynesville pastor backpeddles

AP reports: Calling it a "great misunderstanding," the pastor of a small church who led the charge to remove nine members for their political beliefs tried to welcome them back Sunday, but some insisted he must leave for the wounds to heal.

The Rev. Chan Chandler didn't directly address the controversy during the service at East Waynesville Baptist Church, but issued a statement afterward through his attorney saying the church does not care about its members' political affiliations.

"No one has ever been voted from the membership of this church due to an individual's support or lack of support for a political party or candidate," he said.

Nine members said they were ousted during a church gathering last week by about 40 others because they refused to support President Bush. They attended Sunday's service with their lawyer and many supporters. -- - Pastor tries to calm waters over political oustings - May 8, 2005

May 7, 2005

North Carolina: praise the Lord and pass the ballots

AP reports: Some in Pastor Chan Chandler's flock wish he had a little less zeal for the GOP. Members of the small East Waynesville Baptist Church say Chandler led an effort to kick out congregants who didn't support President Bush. Nine members were voted out at a Monday church meeting in this mountain town, about 120 miles west of Charlotte.

"He's the kind of pastor who says do it my way or get out," said Selma Morris, the church treasurer who was among those voted out. "He's real negative all the time."

Chandler didn't return a message left by The Associated Press at his home Friday, and several calls to the church went unanswered. He told WLOS-TV in Asheville that the actions were not politically motivated.

The station also reported that 40 others in the 100-member congregation resigned in protest after Monday's vote.

During the presidential election last year, Chandler told the congregation that anyone who planned to vote for Democratic Sen. John Kerry should either leave the church or repent, said former member Lorene Sutton. -- AP Wire | 05/07/2005 | Democrats voted out of Baptist church

May 6, 2005

Massachusetts: feds to indict Finneran

The Boston Globe reports: Federal prosecutors are preparing to indict former House Speaker Thomas M. Finneran for perjury, in allegedly lying when he testified in a federal trial that he was unaware of the contents of a House redistricting plan, according to two sources familiar with the progress of the investigation.

Finneran's lawyers have launched a last-ditch effort to lobby US Attorney Michael J. Sullivan against bringing such a charge, arguing that the evidence gathered against Finneran in a year-long probe doesn't warrant federal prosecution, and that such a move would be viewed as excessive, said the sources, who asked not to be identified.

The case has centered on testimony Finneran gave during the 2003 civil trial, when he was still speaker and said under oath that he had no knowledge of the controversial redrawing of House districts. Federal judges, in an unusual move, later publicly questioned the truthfulness of his testimony.

According to one of the sources, federal prosecutors have made clear to Finneran's lawyers that they intend to bring a perjury charge against the former speaker, a felony that could carry jail time and would strip him of his license to practice law, if he is convicted. The source said the prosecutors rejected a suggestion by Richard Egbert, one of Finneran's lawyers, that the former speaker plead guilty to a misdemeanor, agree not to practice law for a period of time, and serve no jail time. -- / News / Local / Mass. / Indictment of Finneran is expected

UK: a great win (?) for Blair

As I write this, the BBC's web page (BBC NEWS | Election 2005 | Results) shows Labour with 355 of the 646 seats, Conservatives with 197, the Liberal Democrats with 62, and a scattering of other parties with 30.

That sounds like Labour trounced the others.

But look at the share of the vote: Labour 35.2%, Conservative 32.3%, and Liberal Democratic 22.1%. That means that Labour got just less than 8% more than the Conservatives, yet got 80% more seats.

It's even worse for the Lib Dems. Labour received 59% more votes than the Lib Dems, but received nearly 6 times the seats.

The culprit is the winner-take-all system of elections. With three "major" parties and lots of regional parties, most seats are won by pluralities (as we Americans call them) rather than "absolute majorities" (as the Brits call a majority). With that sort of situation, you have the Lib Dems spin doctors telling this to Kos:

When the dust settled, the Lib Dems had gained four points from 2001, and won 11 additional seats: lower than hoped, but it still gave them plenty to be excited about.

"The real number is that the Lib Dems moved into second place in over 160 constituencies, which is 50 more than they had in 2001, so they've moved up increasingly as the alternative party," Mr Ridder said. "In a three party system, you have to get to second place before you can win.

The Labour Party has shown interest in alternatives to winner-take-all elections. Under Labour, Parliament has adopted these:

  • An additional member system for Scotland's parliament, the Welsh Assembly, and the London Assembly. Under the AMS, each voter casts one vote for a district representative and another vote for a party. The vote for the party will be used within each region (8 in Scotland, 5 in Wales, the whole metropolitan area of London) to give each party approximately the percentage of members as the party's share of the vote.

  • The Mayor of London is elected by the Supplementary Vote. Each voter may vote for a first and second choice. If no one is elected by a majority of the first-choice votes, all candidates are eliminated except the top two and the votes of the ballots for the eliminated candidates are counted, if possible, for the second choice shown on each ballot.
  • Why has Labour not adopted some alternative to winner-take-all for Parliament? I invite your comments.

    "10 Steps to Better Elections"

    Steven Hill writes on the website: THE U.S. ELECTORAL SYSTEM is our nation's crazy aunt in the attic. Every few years she pops out and creates a scene, and everyone swears that something must be done. But as soon as election day passes, we're happy to ignore her again — at least until the next time she frustrates the will of the people.

    Under a fair, equitable, and democratic system of voting, Al Gore would have been elected president in 2000, and George W. Bush would still be whacking weeds in Crawford. In 2004, even though Bush won the popular vote by some 3 million ballots, the election was still tarnished. Florida replayed its 2000 debacle with attempts to purge African-American voters from the rolls, and voters who requested absentee ballots but never received them were barred from voting in person. ...

    Here are a few of Steven's suggestions:

    3] DEVELOP "PUBLIC INTEREST" VOTING EQUIPMENT. The voting-equipment industry is dominated by three companies: Sequoia Voting Systems, Election Systems and Software (ES&S), and Diebold Election Systems. These companies develop their own private software and hardware that is then certified by state authorities, although the rigor of the certification procedures varies widely from state to state. Laxness is encouraged by the revolving door between state officials and the industry.

    6] GIVE THIRD PARTIES A CHANCE. Our current plurality (that is, "highest vote-getter wins") method of electing political representatives hobbles our choices by casting third-party candidates as potential spoilers. Last year's furious battles over Ralph Nader's candidacy demonstrated that our system is not designed to accommodate more than two choices, yet important policy areas can be completely ignored by major-party candidates.

    9] MAKE VOTING A RIGHT. As American voters
    discovered in 2000, we have no legal right to vote directly for president. In Bush v. Gore, the Supreme Court reaffirmed that, under the Constitution, voting for president is reserved for state legislatures, who decide whether they wish to delegate it to the voters. A constitutional amendment spelling out our right to vote could guarantee the franchise to all citizens. -- F A I R V O T E -- the Center for Voting and Democracy

    Thanks to Donkey Rising blog for the link.

    May 5, 2005

    Kentucky: State Senator indicted for vote fraud

    AP reports: State Sen. Johnny Ray Turner and two others were indicted Thursday for mail fraud and conspiracy to rig his 2000 campaign with bought votes and phantom contributors. ...

    The indictment alleges Turner and his coconspirators funneled money from Harris through straw contributors and illegally paid people to vote and hid it by claiming to pay them for driving voters to the polls during the 2000 Democratic primary.

    The charges also allege Turner filed false reports to the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance.

    "Vote hauling," as it is known and widely practiced, has long been acknowledged as a way to influence elections. But paying vote haulers is not illegal in Kentucky.

    [U.S. Attorney George F.] Van Tatenhove said Turner's campaign never expected or received legitimate services for the payments. -- AP Wire | 05/05/2005 | State senator indicted for mail fraud relating to campaign

    Now we see that Turner was not accused of "vote hauling" but of NOT vote hauling.

    May 4, 2005

    Kentucky: What is "vote hauling"?

    The Cincinnati Post carried this editorial in January 1998: For those unfamiliar with the practice, money - $50 to $100 a day - is paid by campaigns to individuals to ''haul'' voters to the polls. Payment must be made by check and a report must be made. Outside of that there are no other restrictions.

    More often than anyone knows or would ever admit, those paid to haul voters actually only hauled themselves or maybe their spouse to the polls to vote. In some cases, people who were paid for vote-hauling in 1996 didn't even own a car or have a driver's license. The reality is ''vote-hauling'' is just legalized voter fraud - the money buys votes.

    In some parts of the state, like Eastern Kentucky and in other rural areas, vote hauling is a tradition.

    But Republicans note that vote hauling was a major thrust of the Democrats' get-out-the-vote effort in Jefferson County during the 1995 gubernatorial election. That effort in the Louisville area remains under investigation by a grand jury. -- Editorial: Thinly disguised fraud

    May 3, 2005

    Wisconsin: Assembly fails to override veto of voter i d bill

    Ap reports: After failing to override Gov. Jim Doyle's veto, Republican lawmakers Tuesday introduced a plan to amend the state constitution to make voters show a government-issued photo identification before casting ballots.

    Republicans were thwarted by Doyle's veto for the second time in two years in their attempts to require voters to produce a photo ID at the polls.

    The Assembly's 61-34 vote fell short of the two-thirds required to override Doyle, a Democrat who said in his veto message Friday the bill would disenfranchise 100,000 senior citizens who do not have the type of photo ID required in the legislation.

    Immediately after the vote, Rep. Jeff Stone, R-Greendale, introduced the amendment, accusing Doyle of standing in the way of a reform that most people would support. -- AP Wire | 05/03/2005 | Assembly fails to override Doyle's veto of voter ID bill

    Indiana: Dems file suit against voter i d bill

    AP reports: The Indiana Democratic Party sued in federal court Monday, seeking to overturn a new state law that requires most voters to show government-issued photo identification before casting a ballot.

    The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Indianapolis claims Indiana’s voter-ID law violates the U.S. Constitution, the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 and the Help America Vote Act of 2002.

    The Indiana Civil Liberties Union has also filed a lawsuit to block the law slated to take effect July 1.

    Critics say requiring a photo ID at the polls unfairly affects the poor, minorities, people with disabilities and the elderly, who are more likely to lack driver’s licenses and might struggle to obtain a photo ID.

    Dan Parker, chairman of the state Democratic Party, said there have been no recorded instances of voter fraud at the polls that could be prevented by the bill. -- News Sentinel | 05/03/2005 | Lawsuits target new voter-ID law

    Kentucky: Senator to be indicted for "vote hauling"

    AP reports: A federal grand jury is expected to indict a Democratic Senate leader from eastern Kentucky for election fraud, his attorney said Tuesday.

    Sen. Johnny Ray Turner of Drift is expected to be charged with mail fraud and conspiracy to commit voter fraud, his attorney, Brent L. Caldwell of Lexington, said in a written statement. The charges relate to the campaign finance reports he filed in connection with his 2000 campaign, Caldwell said. ...

    Turner defeated 20-year incumbent Benny Ray Bailey in a bitter primary election in 2000. Turner, a high school basketball coach and a political newcomer with strong local ties and a well-known name, defeated Bailey by about 1,500 votes out of 20,000 cast.

    Vote hauling played a big part in the surprising victory. The practice of paying people $50 or $100 to take voters to the polls has long been common in many eastern Kentucky counties, and has often been criticized as tantamount to buying votes.

    According to campaign finance reports, Turner doled out about $34,000 to pay more than 650 people to haul voters or perform other campaign work. Bailey spent $16,700 to pay more than 330 people to take voters to the polls. -- AP Wire | 05/03/2005 | Senator likely to be indicted, lawyer says

    So, when will Bailey be indicted?

    Georgia: Governor signs congressional re-redistricting plan

    AP reports: Gov. Sonny Perdue signed off Tuesday on a new map for Georgia's congressional districts, declaring it dismantles a Democratic gerrymander and puts people "back in charge" of deciding who will represent them in Washington. ...

    Democrats scoffed, saying the map approved in March by the state's first-ever Republican-led Legislature was just as partisan as the one Democrats crafted after the 2000 Census. ...

    The map cannot take effect until it is approved by the U.S. Justice Department. Georgia, like other states with a segregationist past, must get federal approval for changes in voting laws.

    The new Republican-drawn map significantly restructures the state's 13 congressional districts, dividing fewer counties and voting precincts and eliminating many of the bizarre shapes Republicans have criticized. -- AP Wire | 05/03/2005 | Perdue signs congressional redistricting map