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

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October 31, 2005

Michigan: Court orders civil rights initiative on the ballot

AP reports: A proposal to end some affirmative action programs in Michigan should be allowed on the November 2006 ballot, the state appeals court ruled Monday.

The ruling is a victory for the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, which backs the proposed constitutional amendment to ban racial and gender preferences in government hiring and university admissions.

The group filed the lawsuit after the Board of State Canvassers failed to approve or reject its ballot petitions this summer.

In its ruling Monday, a three-judge panel of the appeals court said the elections board was obligated to certify the petitions. There is no dispute that the petitions are proper and that enough signatures were collected, the court said. -- Newsday.com: Mich. Court: Proposal Should Go on Ballot

Here's the opinion.

Alito: another election decision

Cross-posted to DearSenator.org

Ballot Access News reports: Judge Samuel Alito authored a New Jersey ballot access decision in 1999, Council of Alternative Political Parties v Hooks, 179 F 3d 64. It upheld New Jersey’s early June petition deadline for non-presidential minor party and independent candidates. Alito upheld the deadline based on the state’s interest in “voter education” (in other words, if candidates could get on the ballot as late as, say, August, there might not be even time for voters to learn about them). Also, Alito said that a state has an interest in treating all candidates equally. The major parties hold their primaries in June, the same day minor party and independent candidate petitions are due; Alito felt it would be unfair to the major parties if minor parties could enter the race later than the primary. -- Judge Alito’s Ballot Access Decision

I did a quick Westlaw search this morning as I heard the news about Alito. This was the only case I found in the election area.

Alito: People For the American Way report

Cross-posted to DearSenator.org

People for the American Way has issued a report on many of Judge Alito's decisions. There are only two cases in the report dealing with elections:

Rappa v. New Castle County, 18 F.3d 1043 (3d Cir. 1994) -- at the bottom of page 18

Patriot Party v. Allegheny County Dep’t of Elections, 1998 U.S. App. LEXIS 12688 (3d Cir. 1998), aff’d en banc, 174 F.3d 305 (3d Cir. 1999) -- on page 19

Iowa: court upholds Governor's executive order restoring voting rights to ex-felons

The Des Moines Register reports: An Iowa court Friday upheld Gov. Tom Vilsack's executive order restoring voting rights to all felons who have served their state sentences.

Muscatine County Attorney Gary Allison challenged the July action by Vilsack, filing a petition to block it in District Court in Muscatine.

Vilsack, a Democrat, was criticized by Republicans for the move, which puts Iowa among 47 states that allow felons the right to vote.

Before Vilsack signed the order, felons could ask to have their voting rights restored but were subject to a lengthy process involving the state parole board and governor's office.

Republicans accused Vilsack of having a partisan motive for the action, which they said favored Democrats in the closely divided political battleground state. -- DesMoinesRegister.com

Thanks to TalkLeft for the link.

Texas: Dem chairman refuses to produce fund-raising materials subpoenaed by DeLay

AP reports: The chairman of the Texas Democratic Party today rejected a subpoena asking him to provide five years of fund-raising materials in connection with the criminal case against former Republican House Majority Leader Tom DeLay.

Charles Soechting, the state chairman, said he would attend, as ordered, a court hearing Tuesday to decide whether a Democratic judge should remain on DeLay's case. But, he will not bring the documents requested by DeLay's attorney Bill White unless ordered by the court.

White issued the subpoena on Thursday, asking Soechting for mail-outs, brochures, e-mails and other requests seeking Democratic support and donations "particularly, but not limited to, materials that mention Tom DeLay, or Texas redistricting, or the Texas Legislative races of 2002." -- HoustonChronicle.com - Democrat refuses to produce data sought by DeLay

Texas: DeLay subpoenas judge to recusal hearing

AP reports: Democratic state district Judge Bob Perkins has been subpoenaed to testify Tuesday at a hearing to determine whether he is too biased to preside over U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay's criminal case.

DeLay's attorneys want Perkins replaced as the presiding judge because of multiple contributions he's made to Democrats.

Perkins filed a motion to quash the subpoena to avoid testifying. He cited previous court rulings that support a judge's absence in his own recusal hearings. ...

DeLay's attorneys have cited 34 political contributions Perkins made to Democrats since 2000, including donations to MoveOn.org, a liberal advocacy group that has waged a campaign against DeLay and generally attacks Republicans and their policies. -- AP Wire | 10/31/2005 | Judge under fire by DeLay subpoenaed to testify

Indiana: AARP concerned about voter I.D. law

AP reports: The head of Indiana's chapter of the American Association of Retired Persons says a new state law requiring Hoosier voters to show an ID at the polls could put a burden on older, ailing Hoosiers who don't have driver's licenses.
State AARP director Nancy Griffin said a recent survey by the group found that 10 percent of registered Indiana voters age 60 and older lack driver's licenses.

She said the results "trouble" her because she worries the law passed this spring by lawmakers could "make it tough for our members -- particularly our older, sicker members -- to exercise their constitutional right to vote."
However, the law's author -- state Sen. Vic Heinhold, R-Kouts -- says AARP is "stacking their numbers" for dramatic purposes.
He said a simple photo ID is permissible, and points out that only 3 percent of the 843 people AARP surveyed don't have any such ID. -- Voter law bad for seniors, AARP says | IndyStar.com

October 30, 2005

Democrats consider new primary & caucus calendar

The Washington Post reports: A plan to shuffle the 2008 Democratic presidential calendar -- placing several states between the traditional Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary -- is gaining momentum on a commission studying the party's nominating process.

A consensus is developing to recommend scheduling nominating contests in two or possibly three states in the days between Iowa and New Hampshire, according to some members of a Democratic National Committee panel looking at ways to revamp the nominating schedule. ....

If such a recommendation were adopted, it likely would diminish the influence of two small states that for decades have enjoyed outsized influence in picking presidential nominees, and would cause aspiring presidential candidates to rethink their strategies about travel and spending, and potentially even their campaign messages, in pursuit of the nomination.

Some proponents of a new calendar say adding caucuses rather than primaries in states voting immediately after Iowa would be consistent with a New Hampshire state law that mandates the Granite State's primary be held at least one week before any "similar" nominating election. This would allow both Iowa and New Hampshire to claim that each preserved elements of their coveted first-in-the-nation status, while also bowing to critics who have long complained that the traditional calendar is unfair to other states. -- Deal Near on Democratic Presidential Schedule

October 27, 2005

New Mexico: suit filed against ABQ Voter ID Ordinance

AP reports: The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico sued the city of Albuquerque on Thursday over its new voter ID ordinance, contending it's unconstitutional.

The ordinance, approved by voters Oct. 4, requires people who vote at the polls to present a current, valid identification card that includes their name and photograph. People who vote absentee are exempt from photo ID requirements. ...

Mark Shoesmith, an assistant city attorney, said the city could not comment because officials had not seen the lawsuit.

However, he said the ordinance contains fail-safe procedures to make sure people get to vote — even if they lack a photo ID — by using paper provisional ballots. A canvassing board later counts those that are ruled valid. -- ABQJOURNAL: ACLU Challenging ABQ Voter ID Ordinance

Georgia: 11th Circuit refuses to allow voter I.D. law for November elections

The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports: The federal appeals court in Atlanta today denied a request to set aside an injunction barring enforcement of the state's new voter ID requirement in the upcoming municipal elections held statewide.

In a brief order, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a motion by the state Attorney General's Office to throw out a order last week by U.S. District Judge Harold Murphy in Rome that suspended enforcement of the law. The decision was made by 11th Circuit Judges Stanley Birch, Joel Dubina and Frank Hull. -- U.S. court backs order suspending voter ID in Ga. | ajc.com

Texas: SCOTUS to consider redistricting case on Friday

Legal Times reports: It is widely agreed that Republican Rep. Tom DeLay plays politics the way Ty Cobb ran the base paths -- spikes up. How lawful that style is depends on who is answering the question. The Supreme Court may soon be weighing in on DeLay's conduct if it agrees to hear arguments on his orchestrated reshaping of federal representation for his home state of Texas.

The Supreme Court will consider Travis County, Texas, et al. v. Rick Perry, Governor of Texas, et al., along with several other related Texas redistricting cases, during its private conference on Friday. They are among dozens of cases the Court will review at the conference to determine if they should be added to the Court's docket for argument.

In October 2004 the Supreme Court remanded the Texas redistricting case back to a three-judge federal panel, which then rejected, for a second time, legal challenges to the new Texas congressional map, passed in 2003 and followed in the 2004 election.

The appellants, which include elected officials and special interest groups, are asking the Court to throw out the new map in favor of one drawn shortly after the 2000 census. They also want the Court to explicitly define what constitutes partisan gerrymandering -- an act the Court last year deemed unconstitutional. If the Court agrees to hear the case, opening arguments could begin next spring. -- High Court May Take Up Texas Redistricting

House restricts voter registration by housing groups

The New York Times reports: Responding to the accounting scandals at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the House of Representatives approved legislation on Wednesday overhauling the regulatory oversight of the two huge mortgage financing companies. ...

The House bill sets aside 3.5 percent to 5 percent of the company's profits over the next five years for grants to build low-income housing. But a provision inserted in the bill at the 11th hour to assuage conservative Republicans provoked considerable debate because it would prohibit any group that engages in voter mobilization efforts from applying for grants.

The provision was opposed by more than 600 nonprofit and faith-based groups, including the National Urban League, Catholic Social Services, the N.A.A.C.P. and the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights. They said the provision was unconstitutional, contending that it interfered with voter registration efforts, and undermined the purpose of creating the housing fund. -- House Approves Overhaul at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac - New York Times

October 26, 2005

Alabama: State Supreme Court denies Governor's request to stay special primary election

The Mobile Register reports: The Alabama Supreme Court denied Gov. Bob Riley's request to delay an upcoming special election to fill a vacancy on the Mobile County Commission.

The unanimous decision, announced Tuesday, means that the election most likely will proceed as scheduled with party primaries on Nov. 22. The general election is set for Jan. 3. ...

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court also agreed to expedite its review of a lower court ruling in the case. Briefs could be accepted as late as Dec. 8, well after the primaries. ...

The vacancy occurred when longtime District 1 Commissioner Sam Jones, a Democrat, was sworn in as mayor of Mobile earlier this month.

Three Mobile County legislators, all Democrats, sued to force a vote for the seat. Trial Judge Eugene Reese, a Democrat on the Montgomery County Circuit Court, ruled that there should be a special election to choose someone to serve the three years remain ing on Jones' commission term. The special election is projected to cost $189,000. -- High court clears way for primaries

States taking a look at 527 groups

Stateline.org reports: State and federal regulators are cracking down on nonprofit political groups, so-called 527s, suspected of circumventing state campaign finance laws.

According to the Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit, nonpartisan political watchdog group, the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC), which backs state-level GOP candidates, is drawing scrutiny for its role in the 2004 Pennsylvania attorney general’s race. The RSLC also has been fined $20,000 in Louisiana and $10,000 in North Carolina, according to the Center.

In a new report, it said Minnesota regulators had levied a record $400,000 penalty against a Democratic political organization that failed to file proper state disclosure forms. And an Arizona nonprofit agreed to disband this year after a nearly year-long battle with state campaign finance officials who fined the group $5,000, the Center said.

It said an audit by the Internal Revenue Service estimates that more than 30 percent of such groups are improperly registered as nonprofit organizations. The IRS is planning to investigate all similar state-level political groups, which are exempt from federal limits on campaign contributions and spending, and make sure they are following state limits. -- 527s under scrutiny from states

Democrats support bill to give absentee ballot to Katrina evacuees

The Birmingham News reports: Rep. Artur Davis' proposal to give displaced hurricane evacuees a chance to vote absentee in their home state elections has gained support on Capitol Hill but so far only from Democrats.

The legislation, if approved, would treat evacuees from Louisiana and Mississippi like military personnel and let them vote back home in the 2006 and 2008 federal elections.

Since its introduction Sept. 13, Davis' bill has attracted 33 co-sponsors, all of them Democrats, and a Senate version of the bill has three Democratic supporters. ...

The proposal would require voters to certify that they are storm evacuees, provide their former address, and attest that they plan to return to their original residence after the election. Each state's own absentee voting laws would also apply. -- Democrats support bill to allow absentee voting by evacuees

October 25, 2005

Colorado: GOP appeals redistricting case to SCOTUS

AP reports: Republicans who lost a federal court battle over Colorado congressional redistricting said Tuesday they will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, setting off another round in the contentious battle over new election maps.

John Zakhem said a decision by federal judges to throw out the last remaining challenge to Colorado's congressional districts was unconstitutional because it deprived citizens of their right to hold their legislators accountable.

A special three-judge panel dismissed the challenge on grounds the state Supreme Court resolved the case when it upheld a congressional redistricting plan drawn by a district court judge and supported by Democrats.

Zakhem said he will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to rule before next year's elections. -- Summit Daily News for Breckenridge, Keystone, Copper and Frisco Colorado - News

Today's VRA Hearings

AP reports: A Justice Department official urged Congress Tuesday to renew an essential part of the Voting Rights Act, saying it deterred local election changes that could discriminate against minorities. ...

But Edward Blum, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, said the department's own figures prove that the requirement is outdated. He also cited a recent study that shows the turnout rate for black voters exceeds white voters in Georgia and that black candidates have little trouble getting elected there.

Rep. Tom Feeney, R-Fla., dismissed that argument, saying it was akin to doing away with meat inspectors just because there has been a drop in the number of infected cows. -- AP Wire | 10/25/2005 | DOJ official urges Voting Rights renewal

Wisconsin: U.S. House holds hearings on voter I.D.

AP reports: Requiring voters to show a photo identification card would disenfranchise minorities, the elderly and the poor, U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Milwaukee, told a congressional committee Monday.

But Rep. Mark Green, R-Green Bay, told the Committee on House Administration that a voter ID requirement is a simple way to restore people's trust in the integrity of elections.

The committee held the hearing in Milwaukee at Green's request to discuss problems from last year's presidential election in Wisconsin. ...

Sharon Robinson, the director of Milwaukee's Department of Administration, said many instances of voter irregularity in 2004 were more a result of administrative oversight than outright fraud. For example, some 4,600 more ballots were cast than voters tallied at the polls, but Robinson said poll workers sometimes forgot to tear up the pink voter numbers that kept count of voters for each ballot distributed. The result, she said, was that the same voter number might have been used more than once.

Moore asked Robinson whether a voter ID bill could prevent such administrative snafus in the future.

"Photo IDs would not have fixed the problem," Robinson said. She said the greater priority should be to provide effective and uniform training to poll workers. -- The Capital Times

House GOP to push amendment to stop non-profit voter registration and GOTV

The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights emails: The U.S. House of Representatives will likely vote this week on a provision that would dramatically restrict the ability of Americans to engage in our democratic process. Financial Services Committee Chair Mike Oxley, R-Ohio, will propose a "manager's amendment" to the Affordable Housing Fund (AHF) in the Federal Housing Finance Reform Act (H.R. 1461) that would have a chilling effect on the nonprofit community's ability to participate in nonpartisan voter activities.

Take action! Call your U.S. Representative TODAY at (202) 224-3121.

The egregious "manager's amendment" provisions would restrict nonprofit entities from receiving AHF grants if the organization has, in the 12 months prior, engaged in voter registration, voter identification, get-out-the-vote, other nonpartisan voter participation activities, or some types of lobbying or grassroots advocacy. Further, any nonprofit that has "affiliated" with an organization that engages in these activities would be barred from receiving grants. Nonprofits that did receive grants would be prohibited from engaging in any of these activities, even if non-federal funds were used to pay for them. Notably, for-profit companies are exempt from these restrictions.

These provisions are blatantly undemocratic and likely unconstitutional. Further, they conflict with requirements of the National Voter Registration Act (the "motor voter law"), which requires many agencies that receive state funding to conduct voter registration with their residents or clients. These provisions seem intended for no other purpose than to reduce access to voting by low-income people.

While the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR) supports the Affordable Housing Fund, which would establish grants to produce and preserve housing that is affordable to extremely low and very low-income families, LCCR strongly opposes the anti-democratic provisions in the manager's amendment.

A broad coalition of housing, community development, faith-based, nonprofit rights, and civil rights organizations are working to have the egregious language removed. It is also critically important that your representative hear from you!

October 24, 2005

R I P: Rosa Parks

CNN reports: Rosa Parks, whose act of civil disobedience in 1955 inspired the modern civil rights movement, died Monday in Detroit, Michigan. She was 92.

Parks' moment in history began in December 1955 when she refused to give up her seat on a bus to a white man in Montgomery, Alabama.

Her arrest triggered a 381-day boycott of the bus system by blacks that was organized by a young Baptist minister, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. (See video on an activist's life and times -- 2:52)

The boycott led to a court ruling desegregating public transportation in Montgomery, but it wasn't until the 1964 Civil Rights Act that all public accommodations nationwide were desegregated. -- CNN.com - Civil rights icon Rosa Parks dies at 92 - Oct 24, 2005

Thanks to Kos for the link.

Appeals Court denies stay to FEC

AP reports: The Federal Election Commission must begin work on writing tougher campaign finance rules to govern the 2006 elections after a federal appeals court declined to intervene in a challenge.

In a one-page order, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit declined to reconsider a decision requiring the FEC to write new rules to carry out a 2002 campaign finance law.

The FEC requested the full court's review in August after a three-judge panel upheld U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly's 2004 ruling striking down several FEC rules interpreting the new law.

Commissioner Michael Toner said Friday's order means the FEC must start drafting tougher rules on political donations, including how Internet activity will be regulated. The FEC could still appeal to the Supreme Court, but has not indicated whether it will do so. -- Appeals court declines to review decision on campaign finance rules - Boston.com

South Dakota: federal court orders redistricting of malapportioned county plan

AP reports: The county commissioner districts in Charles Mix County are unconstitutional because there is too large a deviation in the population of the three districts, a federal judge ruled Monday.

U.S. District Judge Lawrence Piersol of Sioux Falls gave Charles Mix County officials until Nov. 14 to file a new redistricting plan that would comply with constitutional requirements.

If the county decides not to file its own remedial plan, the judge could impose a new districting plan.

American Indian voters filed a lawsuit alleging that the county commissioner districts were improper because they violated the constitutional requirement for one-person, one-vote; violated a federal law by diluting Indian voting strength; and violated constitutional provisions because they were drawn to harm the voting rights of Indians. -- AP Wire | 10/24/2005 | Judge strikes down Charles Mix County commissioner districts

October 23, 2005

Wyoming: Indians sue Fremont County over at-large voting

AP reports: A federal lawsuit filed Thursday by five American Indians challenging the system of at-large elections in Wyoming's Fremont County is part of a continuing, nationwide effort by Indians to assert their voting rights, attorneys say.

Five members of the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes charge that Fremont County's system of at-large elections dilutes the Indian vote. Although nearly 20 percent of Fremont County's 35,800 residents are Indian, none of the five county commissioners is Indian.

The plaintiffs are represented by local lawyers and Atlanta lawyers with the American Civil Liberties Union. -- Arizona Daily Sun-

October 22, 2005

Virginia: Dems accuse GOP of hiding campaign money

WDBJ in Roanoke reports: Virginia Democrats say Republican organizations broke state campaign finance laws. And now the Democrats have filed a complaint with the State Board of Elections.

The Democrats claim the Republican State Leadership Committee is using cash from a hidden donor to air campaign ads for Republican attorney general candidate Bob McDonnell.

State Democrat leaders believe the R-S-L-C is doing the bidding of a wealthy and perhaps well-known individual donor and hiding his identity until after the November Eighth election. R

-S-L-C officials say they are confident they have complied with Virginia laws, as does the McDonnell campaign. -- Democrats accuse Republican group of breaking campaign finance laws

"Who Should Redistrict?"

The Sunday New York Times Magazine's Idea Lab column will report: Rising out of the farmland south of Sacramento, Elk Grove is a pleasant, unremarkable collection of scrubbed subdivisions with artificial lakes and velveteen lawns. What makes Elk Grove special - and of intense interest to politicians - is that in a state where political segregation is the norm, Democrats and Republicans live side by side in almost equal numbers.

When the residents of Elk Grove choose their state legislators, however, their votes are divided into two improbable assembly districts that meander into outlying rural areas and give each a Republican majority. Those districts are the legacy of a statewide redistricting in California in 2001 from which both parties benefited. The Democrats retained firm control of the State Legislature and the 53-member Congressional delegation, while Republicans were assured 20 safe seats in Congress and a spoiler's share of the seats in the state Capitol. ...

The drawing of legislative boundaries is one of the most politicized and corruptible practices in American-style government, and few people will say they approve of the gerrymandering it has unleashed. Boundary-rigging infamously kept blacks from gaining political power in the South. (One Mississippi district, mapped in the late 1870's with the single purpose of preventing the re-election of a black congressman, was 500 miles long and 40 miles wide.) In the early part of the 20th century, rural lawmakers held onto power by simply ignoring their obligation to draw new boundaries as people migrated to the cities and populations shifted, thus denying the swelling cities the political representation their numbers warranted. ...

But while it's easy to make a case against gerrymandering, it's much harder to say how districts should be drawn. Most states require that district boundaries be revisited every 10 years, after the release of new census data and the reapportionment of the country's Congressional seats. The creation of contiguous districts is the most widely accepted and uncontroversial criterion. Every state requires contiguity, and in 1842, Congress passed the first federal law that mandated the drawing of contiguous Congressional districts. A few other rules apply: the Supreme Court decisions of the 1960's forced Congressional districts to be roughly equal in population. The Voting Rights Act also prohibits "retrogression" in minority voting rights in certain states and the diluting of the political strength of minority communities anywhere. But beyond these piecemeal and often vague criteria - contiguity, after all, can accommodate serpentine shapes - legislators are free to create the maps as they see fit. -- Who Should Redistrict? - New York Times

Florida: 3 GOP representatives challenge redistricting initiative

AP reports:
Three U.S. representatives, all Cuban-American Republicans from Miami, have challenged a proposal to strip the Florida Legislature of its redistricting power and hand that job to an independent commission.

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and brothers Lincoln and Mario Diaz-Balart filed written arguments Thursday with the Florida Supreme Court against a proposed state constitutional amendment that would create a 15-member panel to reapportion legislative and congressional districts.

They alleged it would violate the Florida Constitution's requirement that amendments deal with a single subject, arguing that congressional and legislative redistricting are separate matters.

They also contend the ballot title and summary are misleading on a variety of grounds including a failure to disclose that the governor would lose power to veto congressional redistricting plans. Legislative redistricting does not go to the governor. -- Dateline Alabama

Miers' position evolved during the redistricting case in Dallas

The Dallas Morning News reports: It was the city's most divisive issue of the time.

Harriet Miers, a newly elected Dallas City Council member considered to be the choice of the business community, was thrust into the city's voting rights battle as a moderate voice who would become a swing vote. ...

She said she also supported retaining two at-large seats but didn't want to fight the judge's order. Yet she later voted to see whether the alternate plan, approved by voters, would hold up on appeal.

At the same time, she was one of the first two white council members to favor the court-ordered plan that minorities wanted.

When Judge Buchmeyer ordered the city to hold council elections under the plan with all single-member districts, Ms. Miers again voted to appeal. As the swing vote on the issue, she said she wanted to see a legal test of the city's plan since voters approved it.

By March 1991, even the business community had had enough.

"We want the city to realize that it has more important priorities than staying in the courthouse," Sam Coats, chairman of the Convention and Visitors Bureau, said at the time. "The absurdity of this continued appeal is appalling to me."

He was joined by the Greater Dallas Chamber of Commerce, on whose board Ms. Miers had served. Even so, Ms. Miers said she would not be swayed by business leaders. Only when it was clear the city could not win in court did she and the other holdouts consent. ...

Dallas lawyer Adelfa Callejo headed a coalition of Hispanic organizations that backed the court-ordered plan. She said she felt Ms. Miers was trying to do the right thing.

"She met with us many times. I think she learned a lot about us. She's a person who wants to learn," she said. "It may take her a while, but she will do what is fair." ...

Lawrence Sager, a University of Texas law professor and constitutional scholar, said Ms. Miers' willingness to change her position on the issue makes her a more attractive candidate for the high court.

"There is a general sense that people not only change but grow," he said. "The worst thing said about Harriet Miers was said by President Bush when he insisted he knew who she was and that she would not change." -- Dallas Morning News | News for Dallas, Texas | Nation

Legal scholars grade Miers' paper -- and find it wanting

The St. Petersburg Times reports: The White House has portrayed Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers as well-versed in constitutional law, someone who could easily handle the unique legal turf of the nation's highest court.

But law professors who have reviewed Miers' Senate questionnaire say it shows little work on important constitutional issues. And, perhaps more troublesome for Miers, they say she made a significant error explaining her experience, referring to a 14th Amendment protection that does not exist.

"She is unquestionably an intelligent person and a competent lawyer," said Cass Sunstein, a law professor at the University of Chicago. "But she's had very little experience in constitutional law." ...

In her initial 11/2-page response, Miers said she dealt with those issues as White House counsel, as a corporate lawyer and during her two years on the Dallas City Council.

"For instance," she wrote, "when addressing a lawsuit under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, the council had to be sure to comply with the proportional representation requirement of the Equal Protection Clause."

But law professors said the clause, which is part of the 14th Amendment, does not have a "proportional representation requirement."

"Whatever she is trying to say there, she didn't say it well," said Cheh, adding that the error "is worrisome because it might be a basic misunderstanding about the Voting Rights Act."

Sunstein, a well-known constitutional scholar, said Miers may have made the mistake because of "a simple brain freeze, the sort that all human beings are subject to. On the other hand, it is at least mildly embarrassing to make a mistake of that magnitude." -- Worldandnation: Miers falls flat with scholars

Miers nomination: another uh-oh moment for the nomination -- this one involves lots of money

Knight Ridder Newspapers reports: Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers collected more than 10 times the market value for a small slice of family-owned land in a large Superfund pollution cleanup site in Dallas where the state wanted to build a highway off-ramp.

The windfall came after a judge who received thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from Miers' law firm appointed a close professional associate of Miers and an outspoken property-rights activist to the three-person panel that determined how much the state should pay.

The resulting six-figure payout to the Miers family in 2000 was despite the state’s objections to the "excessive” amount and to the process used to set the price. The panel recommended paying nearly $5 a square foot for land that was valued at less than 30 cents a square foot.

Mediation efforts in 2003 reduced the award from $106,915 to $80,915, but Miers, who controls the family’s interest in the land, hasn’t reimbursed the state for the $26,000 difference, even after Bush appointed her to the Supreme Court.

The case raises new questions about Miers’ judgment at a time when her nomination is troubled by doubts about her qualifications for the nation’s highest court and accusations that she was chosen mostly because of her close friendship with President Bush.

Nothing indicates that Miers sought out the judge or engineered the appointments to the panel, but there’s also no indication that she reported the potential conflicts of interest in the case or tried to avoid them. -- Miers family received 'excessive' sum in land case

Lots of detail in the story. It might be useful to have a pencil and paper to draw yourself a chart of all the connections between the dramatis personae.

Georgia: state appeals order voiding voter i.d. law

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports: State attorneys on Friday asked a federal appeals court to overturn by Halloween a judge's order that puts a new voter ID law on hold — in time for poll workers to organize 350 county and city elections.

In a flurry of motions and strong language at the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta, state attorneys accused U.S. District Court Judge Harold Murphy of wrongly substituting his judgment for that of the state Legislature, and of creating "a constitutional right to vote in person."

State attorneys, who want the law back in place for the Nov. 8 municipal elections, said voters who didn't have the proper ID to vote in person could easily qualify for absentee ballots.

Meanwhile, the state Board of Elections devolved into partisan theater over the voter ID suit — yet another sign of how politically charged the issue has been since the legislation was introduced this spring. The board's three controlling Republican members demanded that Democratic Secretary of State Cathy Cox step down from the suit, and one asked for her resignation. -- State appeals ruling that halts voter ID law

October 21, 2005

Upgraded

I have just upgraded to Movable Type 3.2 (from 2.661) in about 90 minutes, including some piddling around.

I may be adjusting some stuff in the next few weeks, so look for announcements.

Update: I have turned comments back on. But they aren't working yet.

Update Saturday morning: Apparently there will have to be a lot of updating to get all my code up to the new standard. I will be working on that as I get a chance.

Update Saturday evening: OK, I have comments working. Not pretty, but working. They will be working on all posts from now on. I will also turn them on for the last day or two of posts.


October 20, 2005

New Hampshire: to the winner goes the top spot

AP reports: A judge upheld a state law that has allowed Republicans to remain listed at the top of election ballots for decades.

The 90-year-old New Hampshire law says the party that won the most votes in the previous election goes first on the general election ballot. A group of Democrats, independents, Libertarians and some Republicans argued that the GOP has had the advantage of numbers for years, and likely is to continue to be first.

In her ruling last week, Merrimack County Superior Court Judge Kathleen McGuire agreed with the group, who had challenged the Legislature and Secretary of State's office.

"All credible evidence demonstrates that a small portion of the population in the absence of other information to grade their choices will vote for the first item or name on a list simply because it appears first," McGuire wrote.

But McGuire decided it was the Legislature's prerogative to write such a law. She also felt that the GOP's advantage over other parties wasn't big enough. -- New Hampshire judge upholds ballot order - Boston.com

October 19, 2005

Iraq: where were the international election monitors

The American Prospect reports: It's too early to know whether early reports of implausibly high numbers of "yes" voters in Saturday's referendum in Iraq will cast doubt on the legitimacy of the country's new constitution. While there's still hope for a clean victory, sufficient doubts have been cast on the results to open a door for those who would wish to cry foul. Whether whiffs of ballot-stuffing or fraud are validated, the absence of a large-scale international observer contingent on hand to monitor this high-stakes election was a glaring gap in the planning for this pivotal event.

The presence of international observers has become a mainstay of election planning in transitional societies, as their presence deters would-be spoilers from planning shenanigans. Observers can watch balloting, oversee the collection and storage of votes, and monitor counting. Tasks range from reporting on improper campaign activities at polling stations, to preventing people from voting more than once, to imposing fair and transparent methods for tallying votes. International monitors have played essential roles in recent elections in the Palestinian territories, Afghanistan, and Ukraine. -- Ballot Botch

Arizona: court of appeals sends redistricting case back to trial court

The Arizona Republic reports:
The Democrats' dream of using new legislative boundaries to gain a stronger foothold in the Legislature was dashed Tuesday by a court ruling that could affect everything from tax cuts to school choice to access to health care.

A three-member panel of the Arizona Court of Appeals scrapped a redistricting plan that would have created as many as four more competitive, and some say potentially Democratic, legislative districts in Arizona. ...

The three-judge panel reversed a Maricopa County Superior Court judge's ruling that cleared the way for more-competitive districts. Most legislative districts in Arizona are so solidly Republican or Democrat that there is little chance for the party in the minority to win. The plan approved by Judge Kenneth Fields would have increased the number of competitive districts, those where Republican and Democratic registration is relatively even, to seven or eight from four.

The appellate panel ruled that Fields used the wrong "standard of review" for his ruling and that both sides must return to his court to sort the case out. Democrats and Republicans both interpreted that as a Republican victory and said it's a virtual certainty the boundaries favored by Republicans will remain in place for the 2006 election.

The suit had been filed by a coalition of Hispanic Democrats, including legislators, who said minorities' rights had been violated by the lack of competition. -- Court axes Democrats' dreams of redistricting

The opinion is here. Disclosure: I represented three citizens attacking the congressional plan, but my clients did not appeal their portion of the case.

October 18, 2005

Progressive Law Blogs

You will notice that I have a new logo over on the right hand column -- Progressive Law Blogs. This is an aggregator blog -- one that gives you the headline and first few lines of the posts from the following blogs:

Armando (from DailyKos)
Balkinization
Discourse.net
Is That Legal?
Nathan Newman
Sentencing Law and Policy
TalkLeft
Votelaw

We expect our merry band to grow and we hope you will stop by frequently to check what's new on our end of the blawgosphere. We have practitioners and professors, and we cover issues like who is coming in (Supreme Court nominations), who is going out (PlameGate), election law, constitutional law, labor law, criminal law and sentencing, and the like.

We hope you find it useful.

Panels on "Political Equality and Campaign Cash"

Political Equality and Campaign Cash: Should the Supreme Court Uphold Campaign Spending Limits?

Tuesday, October 25, 2005, 2:00 p.m. - 5:00 pm
Butler Board Room, American University
Enter through Mary Graydon Center, Main Campus

For directions, please visit www.american.edu/maps/
To RSVP, please email mgormly@american.edu

Co-sponsored by American Universitys Center for Democracy and Election Management, AU Washington College of Laws Program on Law and Government,
the National Voting Rights Institute, and U.S. PIRG

Panel I: The Legal Arguments For and Against the Vermont Campaign Spending Limits Law
- John Bonifaz, Founder and General Counsel, National Voting Rights Institute, Co-counsel for intervenors in defense of the Vermont law
- James Bopp Jr., General Counsel, James Madison Center for Free Speech, Co-counsel for plaintiffs challenging the Vermont law
- Moderated by Charles Lane, Washington Post

Panel II: The Broader Implications of the Supreme Courts Review of the Vermont Cases
- Cleta Mitchell, Partner, Foley & Lardner LLP
- Chellie Pingree, President and CEO, Common Cause
- Jamin Raskin, Professor of Law, AU Washington College of Law, Co-director of WCLs Program on Law and Government
- Bradley Smith, former Chairman, Federal Election Commission
- Moderated by Juan Williams, National Public Radio

DC: Evans charged PAC for companion's travel expenses to Far East

The Washington Post reports: D.C. Council member Jack Evans now says that his political action committee paid some of the travel expenses of a close friend when she went on a trade mission to Asia with him last year.

In his weekly newsletter released Friday, Evans (D-Ward 2) said, "One of the expenses that the PAC covered was for the lodging of a friend, who traveled to China as part of an official Washington delegation." ...

An attorney for the PAC, N. William Jarvis, said yesterday that the $6,772.72 reimbursement not only went toward Ralls's lodging but also covered some of her travel inside China and Thailand and perhaps some meals that she and Evans had together. Jarvis said the reimbursement went to Evans because he was the one who covered those costs.

Asked whether it was appropriate to use the PAC to pay for some of Ralls's travel expenses, Jarvis said: "The PAC clearly believes so. It was a business-related trip in the political life of Jack Evans." ...

The campaign finance office, citing the audit it is conducting, said it would have no statement about the PAC's reimbursement for some of Ralls's travel expenses. -- Evans PAC Helped Pay for Friend's Trip

Georgia: federal court enjoins voter i.d. act

Judge Harold Murphy has enjoined the Georgia law requiring in-person Voters to show photo IDs. Rick Hasen has some details. I will add more when I have a chance to read the opinion.

The opinion is 123 pages long. It is on Pacer in 4 parts, but I had to divide it up for uploading. Here they are:

Part 1a

Part 1b

Part 2a

Part 2b

Part 3a

Part 3b

Part 4a

Part 4b

October 17, 2005

Former Sen. Mathias calls from VRA renewal

The Capital reports: Key provisions of the federal Voting Rights Act must be renewed, said a former Republican senator from Maryland heading a panel created to document the need for the measures.

Sen. Charles Mathias Jr., the honorary chairman of a nonpartisan commission investigating voting rights abuses nationwide, said Friday the Voting Rights Act in 1965 changed the status of black voters in American society.

"The Voting Rights Act was really the whole core of the civil rights movement. It made a tremendous improvement," Mr. Mathias said in an interview with Capital News Service. "There was a new recognition of black citizenship."

The National Commission on the Voting Rights Act, an eight-member panel backed by the nonprofit Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, has been gathering testimony on discrimination against minority voters and held its first of 10 hearings in Montgomery, Ala., in March. -- HometownAnnapolis.com, Government - Former Sen. Mathias calls for Voting Rights Act renewal

Congressional committee starts VRA hearings tomorrow

AP reports: Supporters of the Voting Rights Act acknowledge they know no member of Congress who wants to scrap it. But with hearings beginning Tuesday, Congress is hardly their biggest concern.

The House Judiciary Committee this week holds the first two of what could be more than a dozen congressional hearings into extending key provisions of the 1965 law for another 25 years. While congressional approval may seem inevitable, advocates insist exhaustive hearings are necessary to ensure the extension stands up in court.

"We're trying to build a record," said Laughlin McDonald, attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union's Voting Rights Project. "We are anticipating a challenge to what Congress might do." ...

McDonald says he expects to win the political fight in Congress. But if it comes down to a legal fight, all bets are off, which is why the evidence presented at this week's hearings could be critical. -- Congress to Consider Voting Rights Act

Iraq: electoral commission will audit unusual results

AP reports: Iraq's electoral commission said Monday it intended to audit "unusually high" numbers in results coming from most provinces in the country's landmark referendum on the draft constitution. ...

The electoral commission's statement came as Sunni Arab lawmaker Meshaan al-Jubouri claimed fraud had occurred in Saturday's election -- including instances of voting in hotly contested regions by pro-constitution Shiites from other areas -- repeating earlier comments made by other Sunni officials over the weekend.

"Statements coming from most provinces indicating such high numbers ... require us to recheck, compare and audit them, as they are unusually high according to the international standards," the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq said in a statement.

The commission said it would take random samples from some ballot boxes to check the results.

An official with knowledge of the election process said that in some areas the proportion of "yes" or "no" votes seemed unusual. The official cautioned that it was too early to say whether the unusual figures were actually incorrect or what caused the high or low numbers. -- Iraqi electoral commission to audit 'unusually high' numbers in referendum results - Boston.com

Thanks to TalkLeft for the link. MyDD has more details and analysis.

Texas: DeLay's campaign website attacks Earle

AP reports: Stung by his recent indictment in Texas, Tom Delay is trying to turn his legal woes into a financial boon for his re-election. The former House majority leader is using his congressional campaign to distribute to voters derogatory information about the prosecutor who brought the charges against him and to solicit donations for his re-election.

"Help Tom fight back," reads one of the solicitations on the Web site that voters are being directed to as part of an Internet-based campaign funded by DeLay's re-election committee.http://www.TomDelay.com

Contributors, voters and others who sign up can get regular e-mails and an electronic "toolkit" from DeLay's campaign with the latest disparaging information his legal team has dug up on Texas prosecutor Ronnie Earle. -- My Way News

"What Baker-Carter Got Right"

Rob Richie and Steven Hill wrote on TomPaine.com on 27 Sept.: Last weeks release of the report of the election reform commission headed by Jimmy Carter and James Baker has drawn fierce fire from civil rights and electoral reform organizations for recommending that voters be required to present photo identification at the polls. Because the ID recommendations in isolation would shrink the electorate, many reformers have pronounced the Baker-Carter recommendations DOA.

We believe it a mistake to condemn the entire report because of the understandable voter ID objections. Dominated by aging politicians of the creaky two-party duopoly, the Commission on Federal Election Reform certainly was less than bold in many important areas. But building on his vast experience observing elections around the world and experiencing elections in the South, Carter earned bipartisan support for several forward-looking recommendations.

The commissions boldest call is for universal voter registration, a practice used by many democracies around the world in which all eligible voters are automatically registered to vote. Universal registration would add more than 50 million unregistered Americansnearly three in 10 eligible votersto the voter rolls. These potential voters are disproportionately under 25, low-income and people of color. Their absence from the voter rolls helps to explain the shocking disparities in our voter turnout based on traditional measures of class status: income, education and race.

Of course, the devil is in the details, and the commission fails to outline a clear plan for how the government would ensure that all eligible voters are registered. But if implemented fully, this would be one of the single most important government civil rights actions since the Voting Rights Act of 1965. -- What Baker-Carter Got Right

October 16, 2005

Miers' testimony in the Dallas voting rights case

AP reports: Miers' comments were a brief moment in lengthy testimony during a lawsuit in federal district court in Dallas. Black leaders challenged the way city council members were elected in Dallas. Miers had been elected to the council in 1989, just as the battle over racially charged redistricting plans was heating up. The lawsuit led to a court-supervised redistricting plan that enlarged the council from 11 to 14 seats.

Miers testified that the city should keep some at-large seats whose members were elected by voters citywide, not just from small districts. Black leaders opposed at-large districts, viewing them as a tool to limit minority representation.

Miers said at-large members can consider the entire city's interests while politicians elected from local districts must also consider the interests of their own district.

Miers said, however, that one drawback of at-large seats was that many successful citywide candidates came from north Dallas, which is predominantly white and more affluent than south Dallas.

"We needed to encourage additional African-American, Mexican-American representation on the council," Miers said.

"We needed to encourage additional African-American, Mexican-American representation on the council," Miers said.

Miers added that she would not have run in 1989 if a viable minority candidate had jumped in the race first.

"I felt like the time was right that such a candidate could be elected, and I had other things to do," she said.

Miers testified that voting in Dallas was sometimes along racial lines and "race is an issue" in city politics but that economic differences drove most of the disagreements in the city.

Ideally, each district should have similar numbers of rich, poor and middle-income residents, she said.

Miers rejected a plaintiff lawyer's argument that a heavily Hispanic district would necessarily elect Hispanic candidates. She also said she didn't like the concept of creating safe seats for minorities by drawing heavily minority districts. -- AP Wire | 10/14/2005 | Miers testimony in voting rights case xxx

Remember that Miers ran for (and won) an at-large seat. Thus, she was saying, "I felt like the time was right that such a candidate could be elected [at large]."

White House to re-focus its efforts for Miers

Time reports: Get ready for a whole new Harriet. After a disastrous two weeks, White House officials say they hope to relaunch the nomination of Harriet Miers for the Supreme Court by moving from what they call a "biographical phase" to an "accomplishment phase." In other words, stop debating her religion and personality and start focusing on her resume as a pioneering female lawyer of the Southwest. "We got a little wrapped around the axle," an exhausted White House official said. "As the focus becomes less on who she's not and more on who she is, that's a better place to be."

So, as the White House counsel begins her formal prep sessions this week for a confirmation hearing that's likely to start in early November, President Bush will hold a photo op with former chief justices of the Texas Supreme Court who will testify to Miers' qualifications and legal mind. The White House's 20-person "confirmation team" will line up news conferences, opinion pieces and letters to the editor by professors and former colleagues who can talk about Miers' experience dealing with such real-world issues as the Voting Rights Act when she was a Dallas city council member and Native American tribal sovereignty when she was chairwoman of the Texas Lottery Commission. -- TIME.com: Mike Allen: Why They Can't Hit The Right Note -- Oct. 24, 2005 -- Page 1

October 14, 2005

New Hampshire: What was DeLay's money for?

AP reports: Democrats say three donations made to the New Hampshire Republican Party just before Election Day 2002 raise troubling questions about who paid for a scheme to jam phone lines set up to get voters to the polls.

Rep. Tom DeLay's political action committee, Americans for a Republican Majority, gave $5,000 to the state Republican Party on Nov. 1, 2002, four days before the election in which Republican John Sununu won his Senate seat by defeating former Democratic Gov. Jeanne Shaheen.

Four days earlier, the state party received $5,000 each from two Indian tribes represented by Jack Abramoff, a lobbyist with close ties to DeLay. Together, the three donations nearly equal the $15,600 Republicans paid a telemarketing firm to make repeated hang-up calls to the Democratic phone banks. -- Democrats question timing of 2002 GOP donations - Boston.com

Thanks to Elwood Dowd's diary on Daily Kos. Elwood calls it "Scandal Convergence."

Louisiana: Katrina may have lessened Democratic and black voting power

The Washington Post reports: The massive population shift caused by hurricanes Katrina and Rita holds seismic political implications for Louisiana, which faces a near-certain reduction of its congressional delegation and a likely loss in black-voter clout that could severely affect the state's elected Democrats.

Less than two months after Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast, leaving much of New Orleans and surrounding areas unlivable, Louisiana officials are beginning to grapple with the bewildering new political landscape. The storms and resultant flooding caused more than 1 million residents to flee their homes, many for far-flung destinations from which they may never return. -- Storms Alter Louisiana Politics

Georgia: voter i.d. case now in the hands of Judge Murphy

The Walker County Messenger reports: A federal judge promised a quick decision Wednesday on a motion to temporarily stop election officials from requiring photo identification at the polls.

Judge Harold L. Murphy heard arguments from both sides in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia in Rome.

Murphy said he would consider the days testimony and reread submitted depositions and briefs before issuing an order. While he gave no hint of his opinion during questioning from the bench, his final statement indicated his ruling will hinge on constitutional law.

I have a lot of respect for the (state) Legislature, Murphy said. But I also say I have more respect for the Constitution of the state and the United States. ...

A coalition of diverse organizations is challenging the new state law, which was enacted by the Georgia General Assembly this year and precleared by the U.S. Justice Department. Their lead attorney, Emmet Bondurant, asked for a preliminary injunction until the issue is settled.

Bondurant argued that the requirement violates a constitutional guarantee that registered voters who meet age and residency requirements shall be allowed to vote unless they are convicted felons or mentally incompetent.

He also said the $20 ID cost makes it an illegal poll tax and the legislatures claim it addresses fraud is a pretext because it does not apply to absentee ballots or registration the only areas where fraud has been documented. ...

Attorney Mark Cohen ... said the Georgia General Assembly has the authority to regulate elections as it sees fit. He also noted that the ID fee cant be considered a poll tax because photo identification is not required with absentee ballots. -- Judge promises quick decision in voter photo ID case

October 13, 2005

DeLay's PAC used corporate funds for last-minute campaigning for House candidates

The Daily DeLay reports:
AP has more explosive news to report -- DeLay's ARMPAC used corporate soft dollars to influence House races, including Indiana Congressman Chris Chocola's. Here's the lede:

Tom DeLay's political group used nearly $100,000 in corporate and unlimited donations to mail last-minute political appeals praising five congressional candidates despite rules meant to keep such money out of federal races, documents released Thursday show.

A few months back, the FEC audited DeLay's PACs records and came up with more than $200,000 of irregularities. I speculated at the time it was likely that DeLay's PAC used corporate soft dollars as hard money to influence races and that there was more to come on this matter. The documents obtained by PoliticalMoneyLine.com confirm this. -- THE DAILY DELAY

"We the People" calls anonymously to ask for refund of DeLay's contributions

The Houston Chronicle reports: Using new technology to exploit gray areas in election law, a mystery group has been making anonymous, automated calls to voters in Republican congressional districts across the country, telling them that their representatives should return money received from Rep. Tom DeLay's political action committee.

Officials from national Democratic and Republican organizations say they cannot determine who is behind the group, which calls itself We the People. The calls began shortly after DeLay was indicted by two Travis County grand juries on a conspiracy charge and a money-laundering charge late last month and forced to step aside as House majority leader.

"Although we don't have a face behind the name, it seems to go along with the Democratic strategy" of targeting DeLay, said Ben Porritt, a spokesman for the Sugar Land Republican.

Under federal election law, caller identification is typically required for political calls that solicit contributions, advocate support for a candidate, or are paid for by a candidate or political committee.

Unless We the People falls into the last category which is unknown because the group has no Web site, phone number or organizational listing the calls would appear to be legal, said Federal Election Commission spokesman George Smaragdis. -- Anonymous phone calls target those who took DeLay funds

R I P: Vivian Malone Jones

AP reports: Vivian Malone Jones, one of two black students whose effort to enroll at the University of Alabama led to George Wallace's infamous "stand in the schoolhouse door" in 1963, died today. She was 63.

Jones, who went on to become the first black to graduate from the school, died at Atlanta Medical Center, where she had been admitted Tuesday after suffering a stroke, said her sister, Sharon Malone.

"She was absolutely fine Monday," Sharon Malone said.

Jones, a retired federal worker who lived in Atlanta, grew up in Mobile, Ala. She had enrolled at historically black Alabama A&M University in Huntsville when she transferred to the University of Alabama in 1963. The move led to then-Gov. Wallace's infamous stand in defiance of orders to admit black students. Jones and James Hood, accompanied by then-Deputy U.S. Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach, enrolled after Wallace finished his statement and left. -- HoustonChronicle.com - University of Alabama's first black grad dies

Democratic bills to ensure right to vote for Katrina evacuees are advancing

Roll Call reports: A Democratic-led effort to ensure voting privileges for the displaced residents of the Gulf Coast region appears to be picking up steam in Congress, with legislation now filed in the House and Senate that would provide Hurricane Katrina refugees with the same voting privileges granted to other absentee residents.

The Displaced Citizens Voter Protection Act of 2005 was introduced in the House by Rep. Artur Davis (D-Ala.) one month ago and Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) dropped a similar version in the Senate last week. Davis and Feingold are planning to hold a news conference on Capitol Hill next week to highlight the legislation.

The bill would grant residents of hurricane-ravaged areas who have temporarily relocated to other addresses the ability to vote absentee - the same way college students, military personnel and overseas voters do - in the 2006 federal elections.

"There's no question in my opinion that displaced voters, if they choose, should be able to participate in federal races in Louisiana and Mississippi if they intend to return to those states," Davis said in an interview Wednesday.

The legislation specifies that voters would have to sign an affidavit certifying that they are qualified to vote in their original place of residence and that they plan to return to that residence in the near future. -- "Democrats Advance Effort to Secure Voting Privileges for Hurricane Victims," Oct. 12, 2005. [Sorry, no link]


October 12, 2005

Georgia: First testimony in voter ID trial

AP reports: Georgia Secretary of State Cathy Cox testified at a hearing Wednesday in Rome that she had problems with a bill requiring voters to show a photo identification before casting ballots.

Cox testified in federal court that she had written Gov. Sonny Perdue in April that she had concerns about the bill and said Wednesday that she had hoped he would veto it.

Opponents of the law hope the court will pass an injunction blocking its enforcement. U.S. District Court Judge Harold L. Murphy said he has to wait for more filings expected Thursday from attorneys filing on behalf of the state and then will make a decision.

The measure - which later became state law - requires photo identification for people voting in person but not absentee. The law eliminates the use of several previously accepted forms of identification to vote, including Social Security cards, birth certificates and utility bills, and requires voters to produce a picture ID such as a driver's license, military identification or state-issued identification card. -- AP Wire | 10/12/2005 | Georgia photo ID law attacked in court

Alabama: RGA sez it did not give gambling money to Riley

The Birmingham News reports: Gov. Bob Riley, an anti-gambling candidate, did not receive gambling contributions routed through party groups in his 2002 campaign, national GOP officials said Tuesday.

The Republican Governors Association insisted that national party money sent in 2002 to Riley and the Alabama Republican Party did not come from corporate donors, including former Riley aide Michael Scanlon, whose work for tribal gambling interests is under federal investigation. RGA officials said they have researched their campaign accounts and determined that the money sent to Riley and the state party came from individual donors, not corporations. ...

RGA filed the amended financial records more than a year after Riley's victory in 2002. The records showed two $250,000 contributions. The money came from Capitol Campaign Strategies, Scanlon's Washington firm, which represented Indian tribes with casinos, including the Mississippi Choctaws. The checks were received by the RGA a few days before the election between Riley and Siegelman.

The RGA during that same time transferred huge sums to the Republican National State Elections Committee, which disbursed the money to state candidates and parties around the country, including Riley. In fact, the committee was a major contributor to Riley's campaign in 2002, giving more than $2.5 million.

Scanlon's company gave a total of $500,000 to RGA on Oct. 17 and Oct. 22. On Oct. 17, the Republican state elections committee gave $350,000 to Riley's campaign and $150,000 to the Alabama Republican Party. On Oct. 23 and Oct. 24, Riley's campaign received another $300,000 from the committee, records show. ...

In addition to questions about whether gambling money was helping finance Riley's race against Siegelman, Scanlon's political work is of interest because of the recent indictment of former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas on campaign finance-related charges. Scanlon, who also worked as an aide to DeLay, is under investigation along with lobbyist Jack Abramoff for charging exorbitant amounts to Native American clients. The Department of Justice and a Senate committee are investigating. -- Group: Riley contributions not from gambling

October 10, 2005

Missouri: Blunt learned from DeLay about money

John B. Judis writes on TNR Online: issouri Representative Roy Blunt, who is filling in for Tom DeLay as majority leader while DeLay is under indictment, owes his rise in the House to the Texas congressman. But he may also one day blame DeLay for his fall, because DeLay appears to have taught him not only how to count votes and woo lobbyists, but arguably how to play fast and loose with campaign finance ethics. ...

But the PAC's activities from January through June 2000 raise all kinds of questions. During that time, Blunt's PAC raised $190,025. This included $150,000 from the fund that DeLay's PAC, ARMPAC, had set up to stage events at the 2000 Republican convention. (Blunt also raised $3,000 from the Concorde Garment Manufacturing Co. of the Northern Mariana Islands, one of the firms that lobbyist Jack Abramoff was trying to protect from American labor laws.) So, including the money it already had on hand from the previous period and accrued interest, the PAC had $252,788.43 to spend.

Of that amount, it spent only $126,000 on candidate or party contributions. Much of the money went to the Byzantine network of lobbying and political consulting firms that DeLay had established with his former aides Ed Buckham and Jim Ellis. (Buckham has since become known for his ties with lobbyist Jack Abramoff, and Ellis for being indicted in Austin along with DeLay and another associate.) Blunt's non-federal PAC paid $70,000 to Alexander Strategy Group, which Buckham set up in 1998 with a huge initial lobbying contract that DeLay secured from Enron. DeLay's wife, Christine, also worked for the Alexander Strategy Group and for ARMPAC, which was run by Ellis. -- The money trail that links Tom DeLay and Roy Blunt

Thanks to the Daily DeLay for the link.

The Funeral Oration

Still Angry says, Et tu, W?:
Friends, Americans, bloggers, lend me your ears
I come to bury Miers, not to confirm her.
The evil that Justices do lives after them;
The good is oft preserved by rejecting their nominations;
So let it be with Miers.

Read the whole thing.

DC: Councilman may have used PAC improperly

The Washington Post reports: D.C. Council member Jack Evans has controlled the finances of a political action committee for the past 11 years, using it to make political contributions and reimburse himself thousands of dollars in entertainment and travel expenses while regulators believed that others were operating the fund.

Evans has written some checks, in 2004 and again this year, that bear the same account number as the PAC but display only his name and home address. Officials at the D.C. Office of Campaign Finance, who have begun an audit to determine whether the PAC's operations violated D.C. laws or regulations, said they did not realize that Evans was directing the PAC's expenditures or that he was using personalized checks.

Evans acknowledged in an interview that he has played a principal role in deciding how the PAC's money should be spent. Campaign finance records show that it has taken in $223,245 and spent $206,264 since summer 1993. ...

PACs are generally formed to help political candidates, parties and the causes they support. But a public official cannot use a PAC, as he would a campaign fund, to make expenditures that promote his candidacy.

Officials at the D.C. Campaign Finance Office said their audit will examine, among other issues, whether some of the reimbursements Evans received from the PAC were improper and should have been paid for instead by his campaign committee or his D.C. Council constituent-services fund. -- D.C.'s Evans Wielded Control Over Finances of PAC Account

October 9, 2005

Alabama: State Bar pushes merit selection of judges; GOP objects

AP reports: As candidates begin to announce for the state Supreme Court elections next year, the Alabama State Bar is trying to do away with partisan elections for that court and Alabama's two other appellate courts.

The lawyers' group is pushing for an appointed system that it says will end the practice of judges having to raise millions of dollars from special interest groups and will restore public confidence in the fairness of the judiciary.

Republicans hold every seat on the Alabama Supreme Court and Alabama Court of Civil Appeals and all but one seat on the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals. With that 18-1 margin, the Alabama Republican Party is determined to kill the Bar Association's proposal when the Legislature considers it in January.

House Minority Leader Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn, calls it "simply an attempt to pack our state's courts with liberal trial lawyer judges rather than the conservative judges our citizens have wisely selected."

Alabama is one of seven states that use totally partisan elections to select the judges for their top courts. Two other states pick their nominees in partisan primaries or party conventions, but use nonpartisan general elections. -- Dateline Alabama

October 8, 2005

More details on Miers and the voting rights suit against Dallas

The Dallas Observer reports: Mike Daniel is one of a tiny coterie of tough activist lawyers who in the 1970s and '80s pushed through a series of federal anti-segregation, anti-housing discrimination, anti-disenfranchisement lawsuits that changed the city forever. Of that barrage of litigation, the piece that struck the deepest blow was a suit seeking the overthrow of the old city council system.

Daniel represented plaintiffs Marvin Crenshaw and Roy Williams, who argued that Dallas had used a series of tricky arrangements to prevent black people and Latinos from achieving power on the city council. When their lawsuit was coming to a head in 1991, Harriet Miers was nearing the end of her single two-year term as an at-large city council member.

Daniel and Roy Williams, his former client, remember Miers as a smart and thoughtful council member who eventually came to support a version of the all single-member district "14-1" council system they were seeking.

"She's really not an ideologue," Daniel says. "She came over to 14-1 way sooner than the mayor."

The mayor at the time was Annette Strauss, nominally a Dallas liberal, sister-in-law to Robert ("Mr. Democrat") Strauss, who was a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Both Daniel and Williams remember Miers as far more interested in fair representation issues than Strauss or any of the other big Democrats still in town in those days. -- dallasobserver.com | News & Features | Schutze | Die-In | 2005-10-06

On how confirming a Supreme Court nominee is like choosing a federal jury

The literature on persuasion says that I must start with something you know and understand to persuade you of the truth of something new. Im afraid I have to violate that rule because many of you will not understand my beginning point.

In the federal courts I have practiced in (and maybe all over the country), the jury is chosen by a method of striking people who are essentially standing in line. If I will have a six-member jury, the clerk presents me with a board with all the jurors names on attached to magnets. All the names are in a line and the first six are in the box that represents the jury box. If I go first, I can strike one or more of those people (I can also strike none). When I strike a person, lets say juror 2, juror number 7 is moved into the box, so that it always contains six people. The total number of people I can strike is limited usually six so I have to be careful that I dont use up my strikes in a way that results in a worse juror (from my perspective) being moved into the box to replace someone I found mildly objectionable.

My job is complicated because the opposing counsel is also striking jurors in alternation with me. I dont know ahead of time who he will strike, but I usually assume that he will want the people I find most disagreeable. And that he will strike those I find most agreeable.

Lets say we get to a point where we each have one strike left, and it is my turn to strike. I dont like juror 12 who has just moved into the box. If I strike juror 12, juror 13 will replace her. If I think that my opponent will strike number 13 (or anyone else), I have to consider what I know about number 14.

I stand there looking at the board in the clerks hands. Beads of sweat trickle down my neck. I can hear Dirty Harry saying, Well, do you feel lucky today PUNK?

Thus it must be for some Senate Democrats who find themselves less than enthusiastic with the nomination of Harriet Miers for the Supreme Court. Whether they take the position of Professor Bainbridge (does she have the chops for the Show?) [believe me, you have to read Bainbridges post to get the whole, rib-tickling argument] or the position of Confined Space that Miers is a corporate lawyer from a union-busting firm so she will be bad for working people, they must be wondering who is the next juror/justice who will step into the box if I strike this one?

I have turned comments on, for this post, so comment away.

Rep. Feeney wants photo ID for all voters

Rep. Tom Feeney (R-FL-24) has introduced H.R. 3910, the Verifying the Outcome of Tomorrow's Elections Act of 2005. In keeping with the current trend, the acronym must spell something, in this case VOTE.

The title is, "To amend the Help America Vote Act of 2002 to require individuals to present a government-issued photo identification as a condition of voting in elections for Federal office, to prohibit any individual from tabulating votes in an election for Federal office unless the individual has been subject to a criminal background check, and for other purposes."

Among the other purposes: an auditable paper record of each vote cast; and prohibiting per-application payment for distribution or collection of voter registration applications.

"Active Liberty" by Justice Stephen Breyer

In the left column you will see an ad for "Active Liberty" by Justice Stephen Breyer. I picked up a copy of the book a month ago at a conference and read some of it. Unfortunately, I have been so busy I have not gotten back to it, but I was impressed enough with the first chapter to use a bit of it in my Constitutional Law class two days after I returned from the conference.

Click on the ad and get more information from Random House about the book.

Texas: DeLay accuses Earle of grand-jury misconduct

The Washington Post reports: Lawyers for former House majority leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) asked a Texas court yesterday to quash his indictment on Oct. 3 for money laundering in the 2002 election on the grounds that the charge resulted from misconduct by the Texas prosecutor overseeing the case.

The Texas prosecutor promptly disputed the claim.

The motion, introduced in Austin, followed the themes struck by DeLay in public appearances since the grand jury's action, but it also added new details to his allegations of wrongdoing by Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle in the past two weeks. That was the period in which Earle presented the facts of his case to three separate grand juries and obtained two indictments that named three specific charges.

One was an allegation of conspiracy by DeLay and two political aides to violate Texas election laws by injecting illegal corporate contributions into state election campaigns. The other two were allegations that DeLay and his aides laundered the illegal corporate contributions through the Republican National Committee in Washington, and that they conspired together in organizing the scheme. -- DeLay Accuses Earle of Misconduct

Miers urged broad reading of Constitution in 2000

Tim Grieve writes on Salon.com: OK, so we take it all back. It turns out that Harriet Miers does have experience in matters of constitutional law: As the Wall Street Journal reports today, she has argued a case involving the rather obscure 12th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Her client: George W. Bush. Her argument: Dick Cheney wasn't really a resident of the state of Texas even if he was really a resident of the state of Texas.

As the Journal says, the 2000 case of Jones v. Bush was mostly lost amid the clamor over a case called Bush v. Gore. But the Jones case could have been just as important for the man who would be president, and Miers was there to help him out.

The 12th Amendment prohibits the Electoral College votes of any one state from going to both a presidential candidate and a vice presidential candidate who come from that state. In the days after the 2000 presidential election, some Texas residents filed a lawsuit in federal court arguing that Texas couldn't cast its Electoral College votes for the Bush-Cheney ticket because both Bush and Cheney were Texas residents. Bush didn't dispute his Texas-ness, but Cheney did -- despite the fact that he had lived and voted and held a driver's license in Texas until just after Bush picked him as his running mate in July 2000.

Miers led the legal team that successfully fought off the lawsuit. There's nothing surprising about that: While Miers doesn't have a national reputation as a litigator on constitutional law issues, she was Bush's personal attorney and apparently well respected in Texas. What is unusual, the Journal notes, is the argument that Miers' legal team made. While conservatives like to say they believe in reading the Constitution strictly, the Miers team had to rely on what it called a "broad and inclusive" reading of the Constitution to ensure that Bush made it to the White House. Miers' co-counsel argued that, whatever the 12th Amendment might have meant when it was adopted in 1804, the provision's meaning had evolved over time. "Differences between the year 1800 and 2000 is more than two centuries, it's light-years," her co-counsel argued, noting the "rapidity with which each of us [has] changed addresses from schools and college to various marriages and jobs."

In any other situation, that sort of argument would elicit groans of protest from Antonin Scalia, who counters talk of a "living Constitution" by insisting that the document is very much dead. But 2000 wasn't like any other situation, and the legal wrangling over the disputed 2000 election wasn't like anything else. At least that's what Republicans on the Supreme Court told us when they suddenly found themselves interested in an expansive reading of the Equal Protection Clause -- and then just as suddenly warned that the decision they were handing down in Bush v. Gore shouldn't be considered precedent for any other case.-- Salon.com - War Room

Texas: Roving Rove's qualification to vote challenged

Tim Grieve writes on Salon.com: It's not quite an indictment in the Valerie Plame case, but Karl Rove may soon have some legal trouble back home in Texas, too. A resident of Comfort, Texas, is urging her local district attorney to follow up on a newspaper report that Rove has been voting in Texas even though he doesn't live there anymore. ...

That might have been the end of things if it weren't for Comfort resident Frances Lovett, who has written a letter to the Kerr County district attorney asking for an investigation into whether Rove has been voting in Texas illegally. There's no word yet on what the district attorney will do, and the White House is insisting that Rove has acted within the dictates of the law -- at least this time. -- Salon.com - War Room

Virginia: independent candidate sues to get into debate -- and loses

The Daily Progress reports: A federal judge on Friday rejected Independent candidate H. Russell Potts Jr.s bid to participate in the only statewide televised gubernatorial debate.

Judge Norman K. Moon made the ruling six hours after hearing arguments surrounding the rules of Sundays scheduled debate to feature Democrat Timothy M. Kaine and Republican Jerry Kilgore and sponsored by the University of Virginias Center for Politics.

The center and its director, Larry J. Sabato, were named in the lawsuit, which claimed that Pottss exclusion is constitutionally unjustifiable. -- Judge rules against Potts

For an earlier story, ...

The Washington Post reports: H. Russell Potts Jr., the independent candidate for governor, made his final play on Thursday to get into Sunday's debate between Democrat Timothy M. Kaine and Republican Jerry W. Kilgore -- or stop it if he can't.

Having failed to meet the requirement for participation -- 15 percent of likely voters in two public polls -- Potts turned to the federal courts in a last-ditch effort to win his way into the third and final debate of the 2005 campaign.

"This is an artificial, 15 percent criteria," Potts said in an interview. "The whole arrogance and smugness of establishing this threshold, it's a discrimination issue and a fairness issue."

In a lawsuit filed Thursday afternoon in U.S. District Court in Charlottesville, Potts asked a judge for a temporary restraining order that would force organizers to either cancel the hour-long televised event or invite him onstage with the other candidates. -- Potts Sues for Place In Final Va. Debate

October 7, 2005

Alabama: Court asks parties to brief connection between current and earlier GOP suits

The Mobile Register reports: A federal judge has asked parties in a legislative redistricting lawsuit to explain again any links between the ongoing dispute and a similar suit that was decided three years ago.

A ruling in the earlier suit, brought by Republican voters, upheld the legislative districts that Democratic lawmakers drew after the 2000 Census. The redistricting plan was also backed by then-Alabama Attorney General Bill Pryor, a Republican, and ratified by the Bush administration's Justice Department in Washington, D.C.

State lawyers have written in briefs submitted to U.S. District Judge Ginny Granade that the latest suit is indeed a repeat argument that cannot be adjudicated again under a legal principle known as "res judicata."

Should Granade side with the state's attorneys, the latest challenge by GOP voters would likely be moot. Should the plaintiffs convince her that this case is different, it will proceed to trial, Montgomery attorney Mark Montiel predicted Thursday. -- Judge to hear sides in legislative redistricting lawsuit

Note: I am one of the counsel for House Speaker Seth Hammett, who has intervened in the case. The Court's order and other pleadings are here.

October 6, 2005

Texas & Missouri: "DeLay, Blunt traded secret donations"

AP reports: Tom DeLay deliberately raised more money than he needed to throw parties at the 2000 presidential convention, then diverted some of the excess funds to longtime ally Roy Blunt through a series of donations that benefited both men's causes.

When the financial carousel stopped, DeLay's private charity, the consulting firm that employed DeLay's wife and the Missouri campaign of Blunt's son all ended up with money, according to campaign documents reviewed by The Associated Press.

Jack Abramoff, a Washington lobbyist recently charged in an ongoing federal corruption and fraud investigation, and Jim Ellis, the DeLay fundraiser indicted with his boss last week in Texas, also came into the picture.

The complicated transactions are drawing scrutiny in legal and political circles after a grand jury indicted DeLay on charges of violating Texas law with a scheme to launder illegal corporate donations to state candidates. -- AP Wire | 10/06/2005 | AP: DeLay, Blunt traded secret donations

California: committee returns $1.75 million to governor's committee

AP reports: A campaign committee backing Proposition 77, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's attempt to take the powerful job of drawing legislative and congressional districts away from lawmakers, has returned $1.75 million donated by the Republican governor.

The ballot measure's opponents said Schwarzenegger's contributions exceeded limits imposed by voters in 2000. They said the donations violated Proposition 34's restrictions and suggested their preparations to file a lawsuit prompted the return of the money.

"The governor is so eager to grab power, he's willing to break the law to do it," Lance Olson, an attorney for Californians for Fair Representation, the committee fighting Proposition 77, said Thursday.

A spokesman for Schwarzenegger's campaign, Todd Harris, said the governor's aides asked for the money back because they didn't want to "push the limits" of Proposition 34.

The money will be used in other ways to support several Nov. 8 ballot measures backed by the governor, including Proposition 77, said Tom Hiltachk, an attorney for Schwarzenegger's California Recovery Team campaign committee. -- AP Wire | 10/06/2005 | Redistricting committee returns $1.7 million from governor

Georgia: Rep. Lewis says no challenge to redistricting likely

AP reports: Rep. John Lewis says it's unlikely Georgia Democrats will mount a legal challenge to a recently approved congressional map, even though he contends at least one of the new districts will limit the influence of black voters.

Lewis, a civil rights leader and the dean of the state's Washington delegation, said a lawsuit would likely be too costly for the party. Besides, he says few of the black voters he believes would be disenfranchised have done much complaining.

"You don't have people in the district making noise about what happened there - about retrogression," Lewis said. "If people aren't prepared to fight their own fight, it'll be very hard to get others to."

The district in question is western Georgia's 11th District, currently represented by Republican Phil Gingrey.

Under the new map approved last week by the U.S. Justice Department, the seat would appear much safer for Gingrey or any Republican. Lewis says blacks would have less of a chance at electing a candidate they support because their numbers in the district would dwindle substantially. -- AP Wire | 10/06/2005 | Lewis says Democrats likely won't challenge redistricting

Spokane: Mayor recall ready for balloting

AP reports: A petition to recall Mayor Jim West, who is accused of a sex scandal, collected more than enough signatures to set a special vote-by-mail election in December, a county elections official said Thursday.

West, who is accused of using his office to set up dates with young men, told The Associated Press he will fight the recall attempt by touting the progress Spokane has made under his leadership. -- Recall of Spokane Mayor Heads to Ballot

Miers seems pragmatic on voting issues

The Knight Ridder Newspapers report: In what appear to be some of her only public statements about a constitutional issue, Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers testified in a 1990 voting rights lawsuit that the Dallas City Council had too few black and Hispanic members, and that increasing minority representation should be a goal of any change in the city's political structure.

In the same testimony, Miers, then a member of the council, said she believed that the city should divest its South African financial holdings and work to boost economic development in poor and minority areas. She also said she "wouldn't belong to the Federalist Society" or other "politically charged" groups because they "seem to color your view one way or another."

Miers' thoughts about racial diversity placed her squarely on the progressive side of the 1990 suit, which was pivotal in shifting power in Dallas politics to groups outside the traditional, mostly white establishment.

And some constitutional scholars say that if Miers were to embrace the same views as a justice on the high court, she would fall more in line with the court's pragmatic, moderate wing than with its doctrinaire extremes. -- KRT Wire | 10/06/2005 | Miers espoused progressive views as elected official, records show

This plows much of the same ground as Rick Hasen's post (summarized below).

Miers has real-world experience on redistricting

Rick Hasen has done some digging on Harriet Miers' experience on the Dallas City Council. Dallas was sued in the late '80s by blacks and Hispanics seeking fairer representation on the Council. Miers had been elected to an at-large seat and most public officials I know elected to an at-large seat believe that at-large seats provide the best representation (after all, the at-large system elected me, didn't it?). But Miers testified in the suit that the then-current plan (8 SMD and 3 at-large) was unfair. She supported the plan with 14 SMD and a mayor over a plan with 10 SMD, 4 larger, overlapping districts, and the mayor.

Rick has done a good job on his research. I recommend you read the whole thing. Here's his conclusion:

What to make of all of this? It is not entirely clear. We appear to have someone sensitive to minority voting rights and skeptical of incumbency protection. Miers may not be the next Sandra Day O'Connor, but her vote in upcoming Voting Rights Act and partisan gerrymandering cases may be just as nuanced (and perhaps unpredictable). At least they would be informed by some real-world experience. -- Election Law: Harriet Miers and Election Law: Might She Be a Supporter of the Voting Rights Act and an Opponent of Partisan Gerrymandering?

You know, maybe a little real-world experience might help the Court -- or, at least, a Justice.


Georgia: request for preliminary injunction in voter ID case

Daniel Levitas emails: Voting rights advocates filed documents in federal court in Rome, Georgia, today in support of their motion for a preliminary injunction enjoining the enforcement of Georgias photo identification requirement for voting. The filing consists of the plaintiffs motion for a preliminary injunction, a 74-page brief in support of the motion, and 31 sworn declarations attesting to the negative impact of House Bill 244 on Georgia voters.

The case, Common Cause/Georgia v. Billups, 4:05-cv-201, was filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, Rome Division, on September 19, 2005 and was assigned to the Hon. Harold Murphy.

The next hearing in the case will be at 10 a.m. on October 12th in Room 300 of the federal courthouse in Rome, Georgia.


Career lawyers leaving DOJ Civil Rights Division

NPR's Morning Edition reports: Tension has been growing between career lawyers and political appointees in the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division. Now the Senate Judiciary Committee is holding confirmation hearings for a new leader of the politically sensitive group.

Some career professionals who have left the division recently say they left because they were shut out of the decision making process in a way that did not occur under previous administrations. -- NPR : Career Lawyers Leaving Justice Department

The story also contains a link to two letters of the Voting Section which show the change in the way the Section is explaining its decisions not to go forward with investigations.

October 5, 2005

Georgia: state proposes regulations restrictions on private voter registration drives

The Charles H. Wesley Education Foundation announces: The State Election Board in Georgia has recently enacted a very restrictive regulation, Rule 183-1-6-.03(3)(o), governing the distribution and collection of voter registration forms by private individuals and groups. The new rule which requires all voter registration applications collected by private volunteers to be sealed before being handed to the volunteers; prohibits photocopying of applications; and requires all volunteers to submit applications within 72 hours of receipt is in the process of being submitted to the U.S. Department of Justice for preclearance, pursuant to the Voting Rights Act.

If allowed to become law, this new regulation will make it extremely difficult
for nonpartisan voter registration groups to carry out their important verification
and quality control functions, particularly during busy registration drives. Many
common errors or omissions on voter registration applications (e.g., missing dates of birth, personal identification numbers, or signatures; failure to check required boxes; etc.) are typically not identified by private voter registration workers until after the conclusion of the registration drive, when volunteers can focus more carefully on each application. If these errors are not caught prior to submitting the applications to local election officials, applicants may risk having their applications rejected and/or not being processed in time for an upcoming election. This could have a particularly devastating impact in low income communities and communities of color, where many private voter registration efforts are focused. For these reasons, Georgias newly enacted rule has been opposed by several civil and voting rights organizations, including Advancement Project, Project VOTE, the Service Employees International Union, Georgia for Democracy, and our own group, The Charles H. Wesley Education Foundation.

You may view the Action Alert and the proposed regulations by clicking on these links.

Texas: New information lead to second Delay indictment

The Washington Post reports: The Texas prosecutor overseeing an investigation of former House majority leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) fired back yesterday at criticism by DeLay's lawyers that he brought a new indictment against the powerful legislator on Monday to fix a legal flaw in the first indictment of DeLay last week.

Travis Country District Attorney Ronnie Earle said in a written statement released late yesterday that the new indictment charging DeLay with the criminal felonies of money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering was based on new information that "came to the attention of the District Attorney's Office" last weekend. ...

But the statement was Earle's most detailed account of why the money laundering charges leveled against DeLay on Monday by one grand jury were not issued earlier, during the three-month tenure of a different grand jury that on its final day, Sept. 28, issued a lesser charge of conspiracy to violate the Texas election laws. ...

Earle said in the statement that "issues have arisen regarding that [first] indictment that will be argued in court and resolved by a judge." He also disclosed that Monday's money laundering charge was initially brought before yet another grand jury without success last week.

This third grand jury "declined to indict on the last day of its regular term," Earle said. Then his office acquired "additional information" over the weekend and succeeded in getting the indictment on Monday. There is no law in Texas barring prosecutors from presenting a case to different grand juries, DeGuerin explained. -- Texas Prosecutor Cites New Input on DeLay

October 4, 2005

Nebraska: Legislature hires lawyer for recommendation on impeachment of Hergert

Lincoln Journal Star Online
The Lincoln Journal Star reports: University of Nebraska Regent Dave Hergert now has another attorney looking into his campaign finance violations, this time to help determine whether they are impeachable offenses.

On Monday, a special legislative committee that will recommend what, if any, action the Legislature should take against the new regent approved the hiring of attorney Clarence Mock of Oakland.

Mock, who will be paid $175 an hour, is expected to focus on whether Hergerts actions warrant impeachment and the legal viability of pursuing impeachment, said Sen. Pat Bourne of Omaha, chairman of the legislative committee.

Bourne will ask Mock to review constitutional and statutory provisions related to impeachment, he said. Mock likely will not be asked to look into the possible criminal component of Hergerts case. --

Meirs' term on the Dallas City Council

Business Week reports: Miers joined the Dallas city council in 1989, at a time when the city's African-American community was pushing for greater representation after decades of segregation and voting-rights violations. Miers was recruited by the Dallas business community to run for the city council as a voice of moderation and conciliation. She attempted to broker a compromise between the defenders of the status quo and the African-American politicians who were demanding all single-member districts to maximize black representation. In the end, despite her efforts, Miers couldn't pull it off and retired from the council after a single term -- with both sides sniping at her. -- The Real Harriet Miers

Alabama: Governor wants to delay Mobile County Commission special election

The Mobile Register reports: Gov. Bob Riley wants to delay a special election in Mobile County while he appeals a trial judge's ruling to the Alabama Supreme Court, according to a motion filed Monday.

Last week, Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Eugene Reese ordered the election to fill a vacancy on the Mobile County Commission. The governor, a Republican, believes that he has the right to appoint someone to the post.

The District 1 seat opened up Monday, when longtime Commissioner Sam Jones, a Democrat, was sworn in as mayor of Mobile.

That started the clock ticking for Mobile County Probate Judge Don Davis to schedule a District 1 vote within 60-90 days. Plaintiffs in the lawsuit want election preparations to proceed, said attorney Cecil Gardner. -- Riley wants to delay special election

Louisiana: Katrina may have blown away a congressional seat and New Orleans' dominance of state legislature

The New York Times reports: The two recent gulf hurricanes may result in a significant loss of population for Louisiana, and state officials are now virtually certain that Louisiana will lose a Congressional seat - along with federal financing and national influence - after the 2010 census.

Having dislodged more than a million people in southern Louisiana alone, Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita are also likely to alter the state's political landscape, demographers and political experts say, reducing the domination of New Orleans over the State Legislature and increasing the influence of suburban and rural areas.

With a low-wage economy and consistently poor educational performance, Louisiana was losing population even before the hurricanes. The state had a net loss of more than 75,000 people from 1995 to 2000, according to census figures. But the physical and psychological damage inflicted by the hurricanes could push tens of thousands, and possibly hundreds of thousands, of people out of the state for good, state officials say, comparable only to the Dust Bowl during the Great Depression and possibly the 1927 floods. -- Population Loss Alters Louisiana Politics - New York Times

October 3, 2005

Texas: DeLay indicted again

Bloomberg reports: U.S. Representative Tom DeLay was indicted for the second time in less than a week by a Texas grand jury in connection with alleged campaign-fundraising abuses.

DeLay, 58, was charged with money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering today. Under House of Representatives rules, he had to step down as majority leader, the No. 2 Republican post in that body, after the initial indictment handed up on Sept. 28 charged him with a single count of conspiracy.

Lawyers for DeLay earlier today had tried to get the conspiracy indictment thrown out, saying it wasn't applicable because the law making it illegal went into effect after the alleged infraction. The new charges followed. DeLay has denied any wrongdoing and called the latest charges brought Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle ``an abomination.'' ...

The statute of limitations in Texas would have run out tomorrow on the money-laundering activities, so today was the last day Earle could bring the new indictment, Baran said. Dick DeGuerin, DeLay's attorney, said the latest grand jury was empaneled today and handed up the indictment five hours later. -- Bloomberg.com: U.S.

What do we know about Harriet Meirs?

What do I know about Harriet Miers' views on voting rights and campaign finance?

Not much. Well, really ... nothing. This is where you come in. If you know something about her that might lead to information, email me.

October 2, 2005

Alabama: federal court allows governor and legislative leaders to intervene in GOP redistricting suit

The federal court in the Southern District of Alabama allowed Governor Riley and the legislative leadership to intervene in the Gustafson v. Johns case. The suit, brought by a number of Republicans, seeks to void the redistricting of the state legislature on the theory that the districts are malapportioned -- even though they are all within plus or minus 5% of the ideal size. Selected pleadings in the case may be found here.

Disclosure: Jim Blacksher and I represent the Speaker of the House in the case.

Democratic Commission to dilute the New Hampshire-Vermont influence on presidential primaries

Spencer Overton writes on the Blackprof blog: I serve on the Democratic National Committees Commission on Presidential Nomination Timing and Scheduling, and today we had our fourth meeting. Traditionally, the Iowa Caucus and New Hampshire Primary have led the primary season for both parties. According to critics like Carl Levin (who sits on the commission and was instrumental in its formation), voters in Iowa and New Hampshire set the stage and have much more influence than other Americans in determining the partys nominee (those who perform well in Iowa and NH often pick up contributions and endorsements that allow them to do well in later primaries). ...

Today our Commission made three decisions. First, the status quo is inadequate. Second, two to four other states should be allowed to hold their Democratic presidential contests in advance of the window (the period between the first Tuesday in February and the second Tuesday in June that the party generally allows states to hold their contests). Third, in the 2008 presidential season, the Iowa and New Hampshire contests should continue to be held in advance of the window. At our next meeting in December, well make recommendations about how the other two to four states should be selected (presumably diversity will be a major factor) and the timing of those other states relative to Iowa and New Hampshire. -- White Primary?

October 1, 2005

Alabama: judge orders special election for Mobile County Commission

The Mobile Register reports: A judge has ruled that an upcoming vacancy on the Mobile County Commission should be filled by special election, but a spokesman for Gov. Bob Riley said the administration will appeal the decision to the Alabama Supreme Court.

Montgomery County Circuit Judge Eugene Reese ruled in a lawsuit filed by three Democratic legislators to prevent Riley, a Republican, from appointing a new commissioner.

Longtime District 1 Commissioner Sam Jones, a Democrat, will leave his position to be sworn in Monday as Mobile's first black mayor. ...

Reese, a Democrat, issued a one-page order following a short hearing Thursday morning. Reese states that he adopts the legal reasoning of the Legislative Reference Service, the legal research and bill-writing office of the Alabama Legislature.

The judge wrote that the order also adopts the reasoning of Attorney General Troy King, whose office issued an opinion a year ago on a similar question from Houston County. King is a Republican. -- Judge rules for special commission election