Votelaw, Edward Still's blog on law and politics: January 2006 Archives

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January 31, 2006

Politicization of Section 5 Decisionmaking

The American Constitution Society for Law and Policy announces: The American Constitution Society for Law and Policy (ACS) is pleased to distribute an analysis by Mark A. Posner, examining recent administration by the Justice Department of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Mr. Posner served as an attorney in the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice from 1980 to 2003, and assisted in supervising the Division’s reviews of Section 5 preclearance submissions from the mid-1980s to 1995. He currently serves as Adjunct Professor of Law at American University’s Washington College of Law and the University of Maryland School of Law.

Over the next year, Congress is expected to decide whether to renew Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, one of the most effective civil rights protections ever enacted. Section 5, which will expire in August 2007 unless renewed, requires particular states and localities to obtain federal approval (“preclearance”) whenever they enact or seek to administer a change in any aspect of their election law or procedure. Recent reports suggest that some significant precelarance decisions have been driven by partisan political interests, rather than good faith application of the law to the facts. In his white paper, "The Politicization of Justice Department Decisionmaking Under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act: Is it a Problem and What Should Congress Do?," Mark Posner takes a hard look at the politicization question and ways Congress can address this concern in renewing Section 5 of the Voting Rights Acts.

Prisons: where should the census (and the redistricters) count the prisoners

The Washington Post reports: Since the first U.S. census in 1790, there has been a rule for keeping track of the convicts sitting in prisons: They are counted in the state and region where they are serving their time, not necessarily the place they did their crime or will call home once they are out of the joint.

How to count inmates historically has not been a big issue. But the fast-expanding prison population -- now about 1.5 million -- is prompting a debate because government spending and electoral district boundaries are in part decided by population. Opponents say the practice unfairly rewards rural, often sparsely populated regions where many prisons are built, at the expense of the cities where many prisoners had resided.

"For people in prison, their bodies count but their voices don't," said Kirsten Levingston, director of the criminal justice program at the Brennan Center for Justice. "Their presence in the tabulation column expands the influence of those who have an incentive to keep them in prison, not those who need the resources to help keep them out."

Now, after a congressional directive, the Census Bureau is studying what it would take to change the policy, and the National Academy of Sciences will also report on the question. -- Census Bureau, Activists Debate How and Where to Count Inmates

January 30, 2006

New York: federal court holds convention system for nominating trial judges unconstitutional

The New York Law Journal reports: The system of electing Supreme Court justices in New York violates the rights of voters and judicial candidates and must be scrapped, a federal judge said Friday in a scathing ruling that could change forever the way judicial offices in the state are filled.

Eastern District of New York Judge John Gleeson enjoined the New York State Board of Elections from using the unique -- and likely unconstitutional -- system of conventions and delegates that now determines which candidates for Supreme Court judgeships appear on election ballots.

Gleeson said Supreme Court justices should be nominated by primary elections until the state Legislature enacts a new statutory scheme to replace New York Election Law §6-106.

"The plaintiffs have demonstrated convincingly that local major party leaders -- not the voters or the delegates to the judicial nominating conventions -- control who becomes a Supreme Court Justice and when," he wrote in Lopez Torres v. New York State Board of Elections, 04 CV 1129. "The highly unusual processes by which that extremely important office is filled perpetuate that control, and deprive the voters of any meaningful role. The result is an opaque, undemocratic selection procedure that violates the rights of the voters and the rights of candidates who lack the backing of the local party leaders." -- Law.com - Federal Court Determines Party Bosses Control N.Y. Judicial Nominations

January 28, 2006

Honda ad

Not related to elections at all: If hope you got to see the Honda ad about a year ago including the Rube Goldberg contraption made of various parts of the car. If not, you can see it here. Honda has a new ad, just as creative, which is linked at the bottom of the page with the first ad.

Have some fun, today.

Abramoff clients gave less to Democrats after hiring him

The American Prospect reports: A new and extensive analysis of campaign donations from all of Jack Abramoff's tribal clients, done by a nonpartisan research firm, shows that a great majority of contributions made by those clients went to Republicans. The analysis undercuts the claim that Abramoff directed sums to Democrats at anywhere near the same rate.

The analysis, which was commissioned by The American Prospect and completed on Jan. 25, was done by Dwight L. Morris and Associates, a for-profit firm specializing in campaign finance that has done research for many media outlets. ...

The analysis shows:

  • in total, the donations of Abramoff's tribal clients to Democrats dropped by nine percent after they hired him, while their donations to Republicans more than doubled, increasing by 135 percent after they signed him up;
  • five out of seven of Abramoff's tribal clients vastly favored Republican candidates over Democratic ones;
  • four of the seven began giving substantially more to Republicans than Democrats after he took them on;
  • Abramoff's clients gave well over twice as much to Republicans than Democrats, while tribes not affiliated with Abramoff gave well over twice as much to Democrats than the GOP -- exactly the reverse pattern.
  • "It's very hard to see the donations of Abramoff's clients as a bipartisan greasing of the wheels," Morris, the firm's founder and a former investigations editor at the Los Angeles Times, told The Prospect. --
    Dems Don’t Know Jack

    Thanks to DailyKos for the link.

    This analysis shows the necessity of before-and-after comparisons as well as side-to-side comparisons. For instance, saying the crop yield per acre on two farms is the same gives a different impression than saying that one farm used to have 25% more per acre but now has fallen to the level of its rival after the formerly more fertile farm changed cultivation methods.

    January 27, 2006

    Tennesee: Ford's 13-vote victory being shaved

    AP reports: The state's list of questionable votes has grown to 10 in the special election that gave Ophelia Ford a 13-vote victory for a seat in the Tennessee Senate.

    Challenged returns from the Sept. 15 election have led to a federal court lawsuit and disrupted the Senate during a special session on ethics reform.

    A judge who stopped Senate Republicans from voiding the election is expected to rule next week on a suit filed by Ford, a Democrat, and five other voters from Memphis Senate District 29.

    Terry Roland, Ford's Republican opponent, contends that more than 160 ballots were cast by voters who may have been ineligible because of residency outside District 29, paperwork errors or prior criminal convictions. -- 10th questionable vote reported in election won by Ophelia Ford - Friday, 01/27/06

    New Jersey: Gov. can't call special election for Menendez seat

    AP reports: The U.S. House seat vacated when Robert Menendez was appointed to the U.S. Senate would remain open until it can be filled through the November election, under an opinion issued by a state agency.

    The non-partisan arm of the state Legislature, the Office of Legislative Services, has determined that Governor Corzine does not have the authority to call an early special election for a House vacancy, according to an opinion made public Thursday by Assembly Democrats. -- North Jersey Media Group providing local news, sports & classifieds for Northern New Jersey!

    North Carolina: Elections Board will investigate contributions to Black and Decker (the politicians, not the tool company)

    The News & Observer reports: The State Board of Elections announced a formal inquiry Thursday into campaign committees that aided House Speaker Jim Black and a key ally who helped keep him in power, former Rep. Michael Decker.

    The inquiry takes place Feb. 8-10. It follows an investigation election officials started after Democracy North Carolina, a campaign finance watchdog, filed a complaint in June 2004 over video poker contributions to Black in the previous election cycle.

    The complaint reported that Black, a Mecklenburg County Democrat who has led the House since 1999, had received more than $100,000 in contributions from people associated with the video poker industry. Some of those contributions came from people who either did not know they made them or acknowledged that they were either paid or reimbursed, the nonprofit said.

    But the board's investigation has gone beyond the video poker industry. Besides examining the industry's political action committee, state elections director Gary Bartlett said Thursday the inquiry will also look at campaign filings for Black and Decker, as well as another fund-raising organization -- the N.C. State Optometric Society PAC -- that has contributed heavily to Black. Black is an optometrist. -- Board to probe donations

    Minnesota: GOP legislators call for voter I.D.

    AP reports: Minnesota should join seven other states in requiring voters to present a photo ID before casting a ballot, two Republican legislators said Thursday.

    State Reps. Tom Emmer of Delano and Joe Hoppe of Chaska want election law changed so that voters must prove their identity by bringing a government-issued picture identification card to the polls. If they don't have a driver's license, a passport or another official ID, they would be able to sign an affidavit swearing to their identity.

    They said the bill isn't in response to any particular cases of voter fraud in Minnesota. -- Bill would require voters to present photo ID

    Indiana: House passes bill for independent redistricting commission

    The Indianapolis Star reports: The interests of voters, not politicians, would be the deciding factor when legislative districts are mapped in the future under a bill passed Thursday by the Indiana House.

    House Bill 1009, which creates a bipartisan commission to draw House and Senate maps beginning in 2011, passed the House 54-43, with three Democrats joining Republicans in voting for the measure.
    The bill was one of many passed Thursday as lawmakers worked late into the night, including one tightening restrictions on government's ability to seize private property under eminent domain.

    But House Speaker Brian C. Bosma, R-Indianapolis, told lawmakers nothing they do this session will have greater long-term impact on the state than reforming the way legislative districts are drawn. -- House OKs redistricting change | IndyStar.com

    Louisiana: ACLU opposes turning over the FEMA list to election officials

    AP reports: The American Civil Liberties Union is weighing in on whether a federal agency should provide information on where residents displaced by hurricanes are living.

    ACLU president Joe Cook said the information on the Federal Emergency Management Agency lists should remain private.

    "The Federal Privacy Act, which governs information about individuals who have applied for assistance, protects them against scam artists, abusive spouses, data miners and a host of others who would misuse the information, if it became public," Cook said in a news release.

    But some state lawmakers want the FEMA list.

    Attorney General Charles Foti has it and Reps. Charmaine Marchand and Cedric Richmond, both D-New Orleans, want to see it. Both represent heavily damaged areas of New Orleans and they said in a court petition to a district court in Baton Rouge that they were seeking the list so they could contact their constituents. -- Nola.com: NewsFlash - ACLU says FEMA list should stay private

    January 26, 2006

    Arizona: Supreme Court ousts legislator for violation of Clean Elections law

    AP reports: The Arizona Supreme Court on Thursday ordered state Rep. David Burnell Smith to leave office because of overspending in his publicly funded 2004 primary election campaign.

    The decision makes Smith the first legislator in the nation removed from office for violating a state's public campaign funding system.

    The Supreme Court decision affirms a lower court ruling that upheld the state campaign finance commission's order removing the one-term Scottsdale Republican from office. ...

    The state Citizens Clean Elections Commission last year ordered Smith to leave office after finding that he overspent his publicly funded 2004 primary election campaign by approximately $6,000. The overspending exceeded 10 percent of his total spending, triggering a provision in the law requiring Smith's removal from office. -- State's high court orders legislator to leave office

    Delaware: independent redistricting commission bill advances

    The Cape Gazette reports: Election-district map making is big business in politics. It is time consuming, tense and tentative to the very end. Although the next federal census is five years away, redistricting is emerging as a divisive issue in the state capital.

    Bipartisan support is lending momentum to legislation aimed at establishing an Independent Redistricting Commission. If approved, SB 215 would dramatically alter the process of drawing the boundaries of state Senate and House districts.

    “It is simply a fair concept. Regardless of which party is in the majority in either chamber, pure incumbent protection is not good,” said Sen. Gary Simpson, R-Milford. ...

    As the issue gets traction, legislative watchdogs such as John Flaherty, executive director of Common Cause of Delaware, are gaining enthusiasm about the fate of SB 215. -- Independent redistricting bill gaining momentum in General Assembly

    Alabama: Legislative redistricting hearing cancelled

    The Mobile Register reports: A trial originally scheduled for Wednesday related to a federal lawsuit challenging Alabama's legislative districts has been canceled.

    A three-judge panel in Mobile was to have heard evidence this week before deciding whether the lawsuit should be allowed to move forward. Lawyers for Democratic legislators have argued that a redistricting lawsuit in 2002 precludes the most recent suit, filed last year by Republican voters in southwest Alabama.

    The voters contend that the Democratic-dominated Legislature's redistricting improperly packed them into overpopulated districts.

    Plaintiffs made similar arguments in the 2002 case.

    The many lawyers involved agreed last week to submit testimony from depositions rather than present live witnesses. The judges will review that testimony, along with written arguments from the lawyers, before making a decision. -- Hearing on legislative redistricting canceled

    Disclosure: I am one of the counsel (for the Speaker of the House) in the case.

    Georgia: governor signs voter i.d. bill

    AP reports: Gov. Sonny Perdue signed the latest version of Georgia's voter identification bill into law today, sending it to the U.S. Justice Department for the second time in two years.

    Perdue acted one day after the House gave final approval to the measure requiring voters to show a driver's license or other government-issued photo identification at the polls.

    The bill eliminates most forms of ID that are currently accepted - including Social Security cards, birth certificates and utility bills.

    Perdue called it an attempt to crack down on voter fraud in the state. -- Macon Telegraph | 01/26/2006 | Perdue signature sends voter ID back to feds

    Maryland: Dems push bill to restore ballot to all released prisoners

    The Washington Times reports: Democratic lawmakers, who have long pushed to restore voting rights to Maryland felons, say racial politics and election-year considerations make this the year they open the polls to every ex-convict.

    "This law seriously disenfranchises a large number of African-Americans," said Delegate Salima Siler Marriott, a black Baltimore Democrat who is gathering sponsors for a voting-rights restoration bill she plans to submit.

    "Their disenfranchisement impacts the power of African-Americans in this state," said Mrs. Marriott, whose bill would give all felons the vote immediately upon release from prison.

    If Mrs. Marriott's bill succeeds this time -- it has died in committee the past three years -- an estimated 150,000 felons would be able to cast ballots in Maryland. About 85,000 of them are black and likely Democrats, according to Justice Maryland, a penal reform group that supports felon voting rights. -- Measure restores vote to all felons-Metropolitan-The Washington Times, America's Newspaper

    Louisiana: 2 representatives sue for FEMA's list

    AP reports: Two state representatives from New Orleans want a state judge to force Attorney General Charles Foti to turn over a Federal Emergency Management Agency list that shows where residents displaced by the hurricanes are living.

    Reps. Charmaine Marchand and Cedric Richmond, Democrats who represent heavily damaged areas of New Orleans, said in their petition to a district court in Baton Rouge that they were seeking the list so they could contact their constituents.

    The petition — filed Thursday by state Sen. Cleo Fields, D-Baton Rouge, on behalf of the representatives — also says Foti refused to provide the list for "voting purposes." -- Nola.com: NewsFlash - State representatives ask judge for FEMA list

    January 25, 2006

    Florida: bill to require voter registration in gun and bait shops

    The St. Petersburg Times reports: A bill requiring gun and bait shops to offer customers voter registration forms passed a House committee Wednesday after its sponsor made changes to allay concerns it could hurt the businesses.

    Rep. Greg Evers, R-Baker, eliminated fines up to $2,500 if shop clerks do not provide registration material, saying he did not want to put an "undue burden" on the shops.

    He also made clear that store clerks would not help customers complete the forms nor collect them - a response to elections officials who fear the bill could undo the Legislature's own efforts to tighten the flow of voter registration information.

    "It's up to the individual's responsibility to mail them" to a supervisor of elections office, Evers said.

    But even those changes did not settle controversy over the proposal, which affects any business that sells hunting or fishing licenses, including Wal-Mart. The bill is a priority of the National Rifle Association. -- State: Voter drive bill moves forward

    Voter lures? Bullets for ballots? Hmm, we need a catchy name for this.

    Arizona: legislator proposes repeal of clean election program

    AP reports: A state lawmaker has proposed a ballot measure that would repeal funding for Arizona's public financing of political campaigns, saying the system's rules are enforced unevenly and that candidates are essentially penalized for not using that money for their campaigns.

    If it's approved by the Legislature, the proposal by Republican Rep. Rick Murphy of Glendale would appear on the November ballot.
    Voters approved the campaign finance system in 1998. It gives participating candidates for state offices public money if they collect a certain number of contributions of at least $5. The system, which is funded mostly by traffic and criminal fine surcharges, has been used in elections in 2000, 2002 and 2004 to provide funding for participating candidates for governor and numerous other state offices.

    A judge threw out an initiative in 2004 that would have asked voters to repeal the system, ruling that the initiative violated the Arizona Constitution by posing two separate questions in one measure. -- Lawmaker proposes repeal of public campaign financing system | www.azstarnet.com

    Alabama: witness testified that Scrushy traded a campaign contribution for a board appointment

    AP reports: Former HealthSouth Corp. CEO Richard Scrushy threatened to fire the company's investment banking firm if it didn't provide money for Gov. Don Siegelman's campaign for a state lottery, a former executive told a grand jury.

    The grand jury testimony of former HealthSouth Chief Financial Officer Mike Martin was among several documents unsealed by a federal judge handling the government corruption charges against Siegelman, Scrushy and two former members of Siegelman's Cabinet. The judge has set their trial for May 1 in Montgomery.

    Scrushy and Siegelman repeatedly have said they are innocent, and Scrushy has predicted that prosecutors will be embarrassed at trial.

    In an appearance before the grand jury in August 2004, Martin said Scrushy initiated the push for a $250,000 donation. Prosecutors contend the money was part of a plan for Scrushy to provide $500,000 in lottery donations for Siegelman in return for influence on a state hospital regulatory board. -- montgomeryadvertiser.com�::� Scrushy threat to firm alleged

    Michigan: ballot wording for anti-affirmative action initiative okayed

    The Detroit Free Press reports: Forced to choose between the wishes of angry affirmative action supporters and a court order, a state elections panel chose the latter Friday and approved wording for a ballot proposal that would ban the use of race and gender in government hiring, contracts and university admissions.

    The Board of State Canvassers, which failed to act at a chaotic session in December on the same issue, approved wording proposed by state Elections Director Christopher Thomas on a unanimous 3-0 vote with one member absent.

    Backers of the proposed constitutional amendment, called the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, said they were satisfied with the wording adopted by the board and looked forward to a vigorous debate between now and November.

    The ballot question approved by the board will ask voters whether they wish to ban "affirmative action programs that give preferential treatment" based on race, gender, color or ethnicity.

    Opponents said the inclusion of the words "preferential treatment" would unfairly influence voters. -- Rights wording OK'd for ballot

    "Voter Fraud=Political Bait-and-Switch"

    Lorraine C. Minnite writes on Democracy Dispatches: From the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal, to pundits like Michelle Malkin, the vast rightwing political blogosphere, and the Republican Policy Committee of the U.S. Senate, voter fraud is being trumpeted as a dire threat to American democracy. The proffered antidote: restore integrity to our electoral system through "reform" by way of stricter voter identification requirements at the polls.

    Before the 2004 election, Malkin warned that, "Voter fraud is breaking out all over." To back up her claim, she followed the standard formula used by voter fraud scaremongers--she rattled off on-going "investigations;" she vilified the "motor voter" law, citing no evidence connecting the law to fraud; she bemoaned a lack of "swift, stiff punishment" for violators and blamed for the alleged fraud the "illegal alien lobby and ethnic grievance groups" or anyone else who opposed the new voter ID movement. ...

    The fact is there is no data supporting the argument that voter fraud of the kind conjured by the Right is imperiling American democracy. None. -- Democracy Dispatches

    Maine: Clean Election fund needs more money

    Blethen Maine Newspapers reports: Rep. Earle McCormick, R-West Gardiner, used the state's public funding system to pay for his last two campaigns. He plans to do it again.

    But there may not be enough money to pay for all the candidates who want to use the system if the state doesn't restore at least $2 million, supporters of the system said Monday.

    The Legislature has taken $6.7 million out of the fund to fill gaps in the budget since 2001 -- and has given back only $2.4 million to date. ...

    Smith, McCormick and Ann Luther, president of the League of Women Voters of Maine, told the editorial board of the Morning Sentinel that a bill to restore $2 million to the fund is needed to pay for this year's elections.

    The current fund balance is nearly $7.4 million, according to the Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices. How much will be needed depends on how many legislative and gubernatorial candidates apply and qualify for the money. -- Clean elections funding may be restored

    Florida: redistricting initiative has enough signatures, group claims

    AP reports: A group that thinks drawing political boundaries is a job for an independent commission and not politicians said Tuesday it has enough signatures to put the issue on November's ballot.

    The Committee for Fair Elections said it has turned in more than 900,000 signatures, far more than the 611,009 needed to put it on the ballot. As of Tuesday evening, elections supervisors had certified almost 580,000 signatures. The deadline for certification is Feb. 1.

    The ballot question would ask voters to create a 15-member commission to draw congressional and legislative districts. Members would be selected in a nonpartisan process and would not be able to seek elected office for four years after serving. Two-thirds of commissioners would have to agree on the districts, and if they couldn't agree by a deadline, the Supreme Court would set political boundaries. -- Gainesville.com | The Gainesville Sun | Gainesville, Fla.

    Georgia: Senate approves voter I.D. bill

    The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports: Georgia lawmakers on Tuesday moved closer to final approval of a bill requiring that voters show some form of government-issued photo identification at the polls.

    The Georgia Senate voted 32-22 in favor of the measure, mostly on party lines, overriding the protests of many Democrats who contended that it would disenfranchise poor, black and elderly voters while doing nothing to effectively combat vote fraud.

    Republican Senate leaders said they have listened to those concerns and have worked to make the new voter ID measure a better piece of legislation. They said they are confident that this version will withstand legal challenges.

    Last year, the Legislature approved and Gov. Sonny Perdue signed into law a measure requiring government-issued photo identification for Georgia voters. But in October, U.S. District Judge Harold Murphy temporarily suspended the law, calling it an unconstitutional poll tax that would not effectively prevent vote fraud. -- Senate approves voter ID | ajc.com

    Louisiana: New Orleans elections set for 22 April

    The Baton Rouge Advocate reports: Under pressure from a federal judge, Gov. Kathleen Blanco set an April 22 date for New Orleans elections, postponed after Hurricane Katrina scattered thousands of city residents and destroyed hundreds of voting precincts.

    Though Blanco solidified the election date Tuesday with her executive order, the state doesn’t have all the approvals it needs to proceed with April elections in New Orleans for mayor, city council, sheriff and tax assessors.

    The Legislature and the U.S. Justice Department need to approve Secretary of State Al Ater’s emergency election plan for the city, which includes beefed-up absentee balloting and the creation of “mega-polling” sites to replace those damaged by the hurricane.
    Meanwhile, state Attorney General Charles Foti is trying to find out whether it’s OK to release information to elected officials and prospective candidates on where hurricane-displaced residents are residing. -- April 22 firm date set for N.O. election

    January 24, 2006

    Alabama: trial date set for former Gov. Siegelman and Richard Scrushy

    AP reports: A federal judge on Monday ordered the government corruption trial of former Gov. Don Siegelman and three co-defendants to begin May 1, which means Siegelman should have a verdict before he runs in the Democratic primary for governor on June 6. ...

    The indictment against Siegelman and Hamrick, Siegelman's former chief of staff, accuses them of violating racketeering laws, with Siegelman accused of soliciting more than $1 million in payoffs.

    The indictment alleges Scrushy made disguised payments totaling $500,000 to Siegelman's campaign for a state lottery in return for getting appointed to a key state hospital regulatory board. -- Judge sets Siegelman case trial for May 1

    Georgia: more re-redistricting on the horizon

    Morris News Service reports: A controversial plan to craft new political boundaries in Clarke County could be the first of several attempts to shift the state's political maps, though Republican leaders vow that a wholesale redrawing of legislative districts is not in the offing.

    House leaders gave representatives and senators the opportunity to propose redistricting plans for their areas - as long as all affected lawmakers sign off on them.

    In a memo to representatives, the chairman of the House committee charged with overseeing the state's political lines said the Georgia General Assembly would not "redraw" the lines throughout the state.

    "However, we do recognize that for a long time there has been a general understanding that if ALL members affected agree to change district lines or precincts, the House would permit such a change," wrote Reapportionment Committee Chairman Bobby Franklin, R-Marietta. "In keeping with that tradition, we will permit a similar practice of consensual redistricting during the 2006 session" as long as the proposals are in line with a list of rules Franklin laid out. -- OnlineAthens.com | News | Clarke's split may not be last 01/24/06

    A list of 2005 corruption charges

    The Kansas City infoZine has a list of statehouse corruption investigations: Investigations into political corruption and ethics violations roiled statehouses in 2005 and could cloud 2006 elections in several states. -- Kansas City infoZine - Rundown of Statehouse Ethics Scandals - USA

    Supreme Court says courts must consider "as applied" challenges to BCRA

    The New York Times reports: The Supreme Court, ruling today in an important campaign finance case, opened the door to a new round of legal challenges to the limits Congress placed four years ago on election advertisements paid for by corporations and broadcast during the weeks before federal elections.

    The court's opinion was surprising, coming only six days after the argument. It was unsigned, barely two pages long, and unanimous.

    It may, however, have considerable impact, given that the court itself, two years ago, had appeared to foreclose further challenges to the "electioneering communications" portion of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002. The Supreme Court at that time upheld the law, usually known as McCain-Feingold after the names of its Senate sponsors, in a 5-to-4 decision that considered multiple free-speech challenges to the statute "on its face" rather than in particular applications.

    The court ruled today that both the government and a special three-judge federal district court here had misinterpreted its earlier decision to foreclose future challenges to the advertising restrictions as they applied to particular advertisements or to particular corporate sponsors.

    The justices vacated the lower court's opinion and ordered it to consider the merits of an anti-abortion group's argument that the statute, if applied to an advertisement the group sought to broadcast on Wisconsin television stations in the summer of 2004, would violate the First Amendment rights to free speech and to petition the government. -- Justices Ask Court to Reconsider Campaign Finance Case - New York Times

    Alabama: Judge reverses the result of the Greensboro mayoral election

    The Demopolis Times reports: After finding that 162 votes in the 2004 Greensboro mayor's race were cast illegally, Hale County Circuit Judge William Shashy set aside the election Greensboro mayor J.B. Washington Monday, and declared challenger Vanessa Hill the rightful winner.

    After throwing out 162 absentee ballots for a variety of reason - including forgery, lack of voter identification and absence of postmarks - Shashy declared Hill the winner of the long-disputed Sept. 14, 2004 election, 664-614. ...

    Based on the report of Special Master James H. Anderson, who solicited testimony from handwriting and elections analysts in his examination of the case, Shashy threw out 148 Washington ballots and eight ballots cast for Hill

    Of those thrown out, 18 Washington votes were declared forgeries. The Hill ballots were thrown out due to improper voter ID. -- ::The Demopolis Times::

    January 23, 2006

    North Carolina: House speaker makes grants to non-profits and gets contributions back

    The Charlotte Observer reports: Three nonprofit programs in Charlotte have something in common with House Speaker Jim Black: money. Some of the programs' leaders contributed to Black's campaign, and Black secured state funding for those organizations.

    • The Duke Mansion and Lee Institute received $200,000 from a discretionary fund Black controlled during the last fiscal year. Seven of the mansion's board members or their spouses gave Black $39,000 over the past three years.

    • Florence Crittenton Services received $50,000 from Black's fund. Its chief volunteer fundraiser is also on the Duke Mansion board and is a fundraiser for Black.

    • The Greater Enrichment Program got $150,000. Its founder and board vice chairman, AME Zion Church Bishop George Battle, gave Black $7,500 over the past five years.

    Black said Thursday that he has never been influenced by campaign contributions. ...

    Black's grants were not illegal, and the Republican co-speaker, Richard Morgan, controlled a similar fund. Leaders of both parties have funded special projects when they controlled the House. -- Money links Black, Charlotte nonprofit groups

    Thanks to NC Rumors for the link.

    New Hampshire: Tobin asks judge to overturn his conviction

    The Bangor Daily News reports: Attorneys for a Bangor, Maine, man have filed three motions in federal court seeking to overturn his conviction last month in a phone-jamming scheme.

    James Tobin, 45, of Bangor is asking U.S. District Judge Steven McAuliffe to grant him a new trial, enter a judgment of acquittal, and to arrest or nullify the judgment in his case. The U.S. attorneys prosecuting the case have 10 working days to reply to the motions.

    Tobin is scheduled to be sentenced on March 21 in U.S. District Court in Concord. McAuliffe is expected to rule on the motions before then.

    In one of the motions, filed Tuesday, Tobin's Washington, D.C., attorneys argue that the allegations in the indictment don't fit the alleged crime because the phone-jamming plan did not intend to threaten, frighten or cause serious emotional distress on the recipient. -- Tobin disputes jamming verdict - Judy Harrison (176)

    Georgia: voter I.D. bill before the Senate on Tuesday

    AP reports: Voter identification - the issue that in the past year has prompted walkouts, a lawsuit and heated debates that saw some lawmakers singing spirituals and brandishing shackles - is set to return to the state Capitol this week.

    Tuesday, the Senate is expected to take up the thorny issue of requiring Georgia voters to show a picture ID when they arrive at the polls.

    The vote, which is expected to pass in the Republican-dominated Senate largely along party lines, would set the new law in motion for the second time in two years and would need a signature by Gov. Sonny Perdue and approval by the U.S. Department of Justice if it is to go into effect before this year's elections.

    The legislation would require a driver's license, military ID or a state-issued identification card with a photo to vote. It removes several forms of identification currently accepted, including Social Security cards, birth certificates and utility bills. -- Macon Telegraph | 01/23/2006 | Voter ID heading back before Ga. legislators

    DOJ Voting Section still in controversy

    The Washington Post reports: The Justice Department's voting section, a small and usually obscure unit that enforces the Voting Rights Act and other federal election laws, has been thrust into the center of a growing debate over recent departures and controversial decisions in the Civil Rights Division as a whole.

    Many current and former lawyers in the section charge that senior officials have exerted undue political influence in many of the sensitive voting-rights cases the unit handles. Most of the department's major voting-related actions over the past five years have been beneficial to the GOP, they say, including two in Georgia, one in Mississippi and a Texas redistricting plan orchestrated by Rep. Tom DeLay (R) in 2003.

    The section also has lost about a third of its three dozen lawyers over the past nine months. Those who remain have been barred from offering recommendations in major voting-rights cases and have little input in the section's decisions on hiring and policy.

    "If the Department of Justice and the Civil Rights Division is viewed as political, there is no doubt that credibility is lost," former voting-section chief Joe Rich said at a recent panel discussion in Washington. He added: "The voting section is always subject to political pressure and tension. But I never thought it would come to this." -- Politics Alleged In Voting Cases

    Wisconsin: Milwaukee tire-slashing case ends in plea deals for 4 and guilty verdict for 1

    MilwaukeeChannel.com reports: A judge on Friday accepted no contest pleas by four of five Democratic presidential campaign workers to misdemeanor criminal damage to property for puncturing the tires of Republican vehicles on Election Day 2004.

    Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Michael Brennan accepted the pleas after a jury deliberated for a second day after an eight-day trial on felony property damage charges. The defendants had faced potential 3 1/2-year prison terms and $10,000 fines.

    The lesser misdemeanor charges carry potential nine-month jail terms and fines of $10,000.

    Defendant Justin Howell was the only one not included in the deal, and jurors found him not guilty Friday of the felony charge. -- TheMilwaukeeChannel.com - Steps Away - GOP Tire-Slashing Trial Comes To Surprising End

    January 21, 2006

    Pennsylvania: Allegheny county coroner Cyril Wecht indicted

    TalkLeft reports: High-profile Allegheny county coroner Cyril Wecht has been indicted on 84 counts of mail fraud, wire fraud and related offenses arising from his alleged use of government resources to benefit his private practice.

    And quotes an AP report: [The charges include] using county employees to campaign for him and handle his private lab work. The indictment also accuses Wecht of trading unclaimed bodies stored by the county coroners office, which he headed, to a Pittsburgh university in exchange for use of a laboratory there for his private practice....[it] accuses him of using county employees to run private errands and do work for his private practice between 1996 and December 2005.... [they include] mail fraud, wire fraud, theft of honest services and theft from the county coroner's office. -- PA Coroner Cyril Wecht Indicted - TalkLeft: The Politics of Crime

    January 20, 2006

    Alabama: Orange Beach mayor indicted for bribery and campaign finance violations

    The Mobile Register reports: Orange Beach Mayor Steve Russo was indicted Thursday on federal criminal charges that he violated Alabama elections laws by not reporting more than $33,000 in campaign contributions prior to his 2004 re-election and used the money to pay for vacations, casino trips, clothing, a computer and other personal expenses.

    In addition, the mayor, former City Councilman Joe McCarron, City Attorney Larry Sutley and local developer Jim Brown were indicted on state charges alleging a web of bribery, conflict of interest and other ethics violations in which Russo wound up with a BMW automobile and 33 percent interest in a corporation that holds a $1.6 million beach property in Gulf Shores.

    All four men were briefly jailed at the Baldwin County Corrections Center in Bay Minette on Thursday morning as they were booked on the state charges. McCarron, Sutley and Brown each were released after posting $10,000 bond while the mayor, who was also charged by the state for campaign finance violations in a separate indictment, was required to pay $20,000 before being freed, according to prosecutors. ...

    he nine-page, seven-count federal indictment against the mayor was originally returned by a grand jury in late December but not unsealed until Thursday. In it, prosecutors trace how the mayor wrote checks drawn from his "Steve Russo Campaign Account" -- which he reported in required court filings as being empty -- to pay credit card bills he rung up shopping in New Orleans and gambling and dining in Biloxi. -- Orange Beach Mayor Steve Russo and three others indicted

    Alabama: DeLay's PAC gave $11,000 to Gov. Riley campaign

    The Birmingham News reports: A political campaign committee run by former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay registered in Alabama in 2002 because it contributed to Bob Riley's campaign for governor, according to its treasurer.

    The Americans for a Republican Majority's account for state candidates filed paperwork with the Alabama Secretary of State on May 15, 2002, the same day the committee made a $1,000 contribution to Riley's campaign.

    The treasurer of the committee, Barbara Bonfiglio, said the filing was in response to Alabama law that requires registration by committees that spend at least $1,000 on a state candidate. The issue is coming up now because one Alabama Democrat is questioning why the committee, which is at the heart of a criminal investigation in Texas, filed in Alabama.

    Although it registered in Alabama, the committee did not raise or spend any money in the state that it wasn't already reporting to the Internal Revenue Service, according to a review of IRS and Secretary of State records. The committee supported nonfederal candidates around the country and was a 527 account, so named for the section of the tax code that allows the tax-exempt organizations to engage in political activities using unlimited contributions. -- DeLay's PAC gave Riley $11,000

    Wisconsin: jury deliberating in tire-slashing case

    The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports: The prayers of U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, former Acting Mayor Marvin Pratt and a dozen others who clutched their hands in a Milwaukee courtroom went unanswered Thursday.

    Their vigil continues this morning as jurors resume deliberating whether the sons of Moore, of Pratt, and three other defendants are guilty of slashing tires to cripple Republican get-out-the-vote efforts on election day 2004.

    The trial took eight days, including half a day spent on closing arguments, before jurors got the case midafternoon Thursday. Less than three hours later, the jury went home for the evening, having asked to look at a few cell phone records and police reports, a request that made defense attorneys somewhat nervous.

    Assistant District Attorney David Feiss told jurors in his closing argument that those cell phone records were strong evidence that Michael Pratt, 33, and Lavelle Mohammad, 36, had been on the phone with each other on W. Capitol Dr. at about 3:30 a.m., about the time someone cut tires on 25 rented vans. -- JS Online: Jury starts deliberation in tire-slashing case

    January 19, 2006

    Indiana: bill to create redistricting commission approved by House committee

    AP reports: A bill that would create a five-member commission to draw up new maps for congressional and legislative districts each decade advanced to the full Indiana House on a party-line vote Thursday.

    All seven Republicans on the House Elections and Apportionment Committee endorsed the proposal while all five Democrats voted against it. Maps are currently drawn by the Legislature.

    Lawmakers would not be allowed to serve on the panel, but leaders of the four caucuses in the General Assembly would each appoint one member, and the chief justice of the Indiana Supreme Court would choose a chairman.

    The commission would be required to base new district boundaries on nonpolitical factors that include population, compactness and attempts to keep communities together. The General Assembly would then meet in a special session during the redistricting year to vote on the proposal. -- AP Wire | 01/19/2006 | Bill that creates redistricting commission advances

    Georgia: Cox breaks tie in favor of paying for defense of voter I.D. law

    AP reports: A Democratic opponent of Georgia's voter identification law on Thursday blasted Secretary of State Cathy Cox for supporting an allotment of more than $2 million to defend the law.

    "This vote is a betrayal," state Sen. Gloria Butler said. "It is a vote against every poor, minority and elderly voter in the state."

    Cox, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor, opposes the voter ID law, which critics have dubbed racist. But, as chairwoman of the state Elections Board, Cox this week voted to provide $2 million to pay for future legal fees in the case. Cox's vote broke a 2-2 tie on the board.

    Her spokesman, Chris Riggall, said that as a state official Cox was responsible for ensuring that the state's legal bills are paid. The state elections board and Cox herself are named as defendants in the lawsuit. -- AP Wire | 01/19/2006 | Cox draws fire for voting to fund defense of state's voter ID law

    Minnesota: city councilman indicted for seeking bribe to pay his redistricting legal bills

    AP reports: A former Minneapolis City Council member who portrayed himself as a champion of the downtrodden was indicted Wednesday for allegedly using his position to solicit cash and favors from developers seeking help with their projects.

    A federal grand jury indicted Dean Zimmermann on three counts of accepting cash and one count of soliciting property — a retaining wall he wanted built at the home of his former girlfriend.

    The indictment alleges that Zimmermann, a member of the city's zoning committee, accepted $5,000 from the developer of the Chicago Commons condo and retail complex, who was seeking a change in zoning rules to allow more retail space. ...

    According to an FBI agent's affidavit filed in September, the exchanges between Zimmermann and the Chicago Commons developer were recorded on audio- and videotape. The FBI agent said Zimmermann wanted the $5,000 to help pay for his legal fees in a lawsuit against the city over a redistricting plan. The affidavit said the $1,200 and $1,000 payments were donations to Zimmermann's re-election campaign. -- Former council member indicted

    Poor guy. He had a monkey lawyer on his back.

    Georgia: local officials oppose re-redistricting of Georgia Senate

    The Athens Banner-Herald reports: Local officials took advantage of a home-field crowd Wednesday night to join rank-and-file Democrats in lambasting state Sen. Ralph Hudgens' plan to split Clarke County into two state Senate districts, hours after two Republican Senate leaders came to Athens to defend the proposal.

    At a Thursday morning press conference, Rep. Chip Rogers, R-Woodstock, backed Hudgens' previous statements that he was acting on the request of the Madison County Commission and the Athens Area Chamber of Commerce when he introduced a bill to retool lines of Districts 46 and 47.

    The chamber represents the will of the people more than the Democratic Athens-Clarke County commissioners who oppose the new map, the Senate Reapportionment Committee chairman said.

    "The wisdom of the chamber of commerce, given the makeup of the chamber of commerce, may surpass that of the commissioners," Rogers said. -- OnlineAthens.com | News | Senators scolded over redistricting proposal 01/19/06

    And what group would be wiser than the Georgia Legislature, Senator?

    Louisiana: federal judge gives state until Tuesday to set date for New Orleans elections

    AP reports: Louisiana’s top election official assured a federal judge Wednesday that hurricane-delayed elections can be held in New Orleans by late April, and the judge gave the state a week to set the dates.

    U.S. District Judge Ivan Lemelle stopped short of saying he would order elections himself if the state fails to do so by Tuesday, but said he would take steps to make sure voters are not disenfranchised. “I feel like a bull in a China closet if you throw the elections in my hands,” Lemelle told attorneys.

    Lemelle scheduled a status conference on the case for Jan. 25.

    Gov. Kathleen Blanco postponed the Feb. 4 elections for mayor, sheriff, tax assessors and City Council members after Secretary of State Al Ater said it was impossible to ready the devastated city and track down voters so soon after Hurricane Katrina. -- Judge wants dates for N.O. elections set by Tuesday

    Alabama: senator proposes easing the rules on restoration of ex-felons' voting rights

    The Birmingham News reports: A state senator has proposed a bill that would automatically restore voting rights to felons who are eligible.

    Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro, said his bill would end the need for felons to apply to the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles. Felons would be able to go the county registrars, he said.

    Singleton said his bill would strengthen a 2003 law, which allows most Alabama felons to apply to the parole board for approval to vote. "When you look at the bill that has already passed, we've had a lot of problems with it."

    He said the number of people who have applied for their voting rights to be returned has resulted in long delays for the board, keeping eligible offenders from voting for many months. -- Bill proposes automatically restoring voting rights

    January 16, 2006

    Ohio: religious group seeks IRS investigation of 2 Ohio churches

    The New York Times reports: A group of religious leaders has sent a complaint to the Internal Revenue Service requesting an investigation of two large churches in Ohio that they say are improperly campaigning on behalf of a conservative Republican running for governor.

    In their complaint, the clergy members contend that the two Columbus-area churches, Fairfield Christian Church and the World Harvest Church, which were widely credited with getting out the Ohio vote for President Bush in 2004, have allowed their facilities to be used by Republican organizations, promoted the candidate, J. Kenneth Blackwell, among their members and otherwise violated prohibitions on political activity by tax-exempt groups.

    They are asking the I.R.S. to examine whether the churches' tax exemptions should be revoked and are requesting that Mark W. Everson, the federal tax commissioner, seek an injunction to stop what they consider improper activities.

    Both churches denied that any of their activities violated limitations on nonprofit political activity. "We endorse values, but not candidates," said the Rev. Russell Johnson, Fairfield's leader. -- Group Seeks I.R.S. Inquiry of Two Ohio Churches - New York Times

    Remember Martin Luther King

    When I say, "Rev. Martin Luther King's speech at the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington," you probably think of the "I Have a Dream" speech. But in 1957 there was a March on Washington, and King made a speech. In that speech he said,

    So our most urgent request to the president of the United States and every member of Congress is to give us the right to vote. Give us the ballot and we will no longer have to worry the federal government about our basic rights. Give us the ballot and we will no longer plead to the federal government for passage of an anti-lynching law; we will by the power of our vote write the law on the statute books of the southern states and bring an end to the dastardly acts of the hooded perpetrators of violence. Give us the ballot and we will transform the salient misdeeds of blood-thirsty mobs into calculated good deeds of orderly citizens. Give us the ballot and we will fill our legislative halls with men of good will, and send to the sacred halls of Congressmen who will not sign a Southern Manifesto, because of their devotion to the manifesto of justice. Give us the ballot and we will place judges on the benches of the South who will "do justly and love mercy," and we will place at the head of the southern states governors who have felt not only the tang of the human, but the glow of the divine. Give us the ballot and we will quietly and nonviolently, without rancor or bitterness, implement the Supreme Court's decision of May 17, 1954.

    New Hampshire: bill proposes tagging provisional ballots for tracking

    AP reports: Secret ballots may not always remain secret under one of several proposals going before New Hampshire lawmakers seeking to tighten voting rules.

    The House could vote as early as Wednesday on a bill that would allow certain ballots to be tagged and later removed if it is discovered that individuals voted improperly.

    Opponents, including the secretary of state's office and town and city clerks, say so-called provisional ballots interfere with the cherished right to keep one's vote private. ...

    The plan calls for ballots to be flagged when a voter shows up without proper identification and signs an affidavit to certify residence or citizenship as part of same-day registration. Those signing affidavits would be informed that their ballots are being tagged for possible later identification. -- Ballots could be tagged to fight fraud - Concord Monitor Online - Concord, NH 03301

    Michigan: Feiger predicts indictment for reimbursing his employees' contributions to John Edwards

    The Detroit Free Press reports: Just two days after avoiding state criminal charges, attorney Geoffrey Fieger predicted Monday that a federal grand jury will indict him for illegal fundraising on behalf of John Edwards' 2004 presidential bid.

    The federal charges would focus, Fieger said, on bonuses he gave to "civic-minded employees."

    "I fully expect that I will be indicted by a grand jury who will indict a bottle of beer if the Republican U.S. attorney told them to do it," Fieger said in a prepared statement at a news conference. Federal investigators are trying to determine whether he tried to skirt federal limits on campaign contributions by funneling money through his employees.

    Fieger's pre-emptive strike against possible felony charges came as little surprise to people who have become accustomed to his confrontational style during a meteoric career that has made him Michigan's best-known attorney, specializing in personal injury cases. At stake now are his freedom and his multimillion-dollar law practice. -- KRT Wire | 01/16/2006 | Fieger expects federal indictment over fundraising for Edwards

    Texas: Bexar water district takes up redistricting again

    The San Antonio Express-News reports: Less than two years after a bungled redistricting effort led to delayed elections for Bexar Metropolitan Water District, the utility's board is trying again.

    The board last Monday approved a realignment of districts' boundaries that nearly equalizes the population in each based on the 2000 U.S. Census. The new boundaries must be approved by the Voting Rights Section of the Justice Department before they become valid.

    Board President Victor Villarreal said he doesn't foresee problems with federal approval because the new plan appears to meet all the criteria laid out for acceptance and preserves the five current predominantly Hispanic voting districts. ...

    The plan [two years ago] proposed to move more than 27,000 people out of the two districts scheduled to vote that November because they were overpopulated, but it left those people with the prospect that they might go 10 years without a chance to vote. -- MySA.com: Metro | State

    California: VRA-covered counties seek change in VRA

    Scripps Howard News Service reports: Several San Joaquin Valley counties remain ensnared in a voting rights law originally written to stop anti-black discrimination in the Deep South.

    Now, some hope to change that.

    With lobbyists on board, and Congress preparing to rewrite the far-reaching Voting Rights Act, Merced County officials are trying to finally escape the election restrictions that have bound them for three decades.

    If successful, Merced County would no longer need Justice Department approval for the myriad precinct and ballot changes that precede every election. Merced County's campaign, in turn, could shake up things for Kings, Yuba and Monterey counties _ the other three in the state that are likewise closely regulated under the Voting Rights Act. -- Scripps Howard News Service

    Of course, the counties could have spent that lobbying money on cleaning up their act and getting a "bailout" under the present law.

    Canada: prisoners voting in national election

    CBC News reports: Advance polls opened across the country Friday, including at the Stony Mountain Institution, north of Winnipeg, where inmates cast their ballots in the federal election.

    Inmates were allowed a few at a time into an open area in the prison where a polling station was set up. Officials at the institution expect voter turnout to exceed 50 per cent.

    Many inmates said they had a strong interest in the parties' crime and justice platforms.

    Les Henry, who was convicted of manslaughter for killing his wife, would not say how he voted, but he said the mandatory minimum sentences proposed by all three major parties would not work. -- CBC Manitoba - Inmates interested in parties' law-and-order platforms

    January 14, 2006

    Alabama: GOP drops anti-crossover proposal

    AP reports: The Alabama Republican Party won't ban crossover voting by Democrats in the Republican runoff June 27.

    The Alabama Republican Party's steering committee voted unanimously Friday not to pursue a ban at this time.

    The 21-member steering committee had originally recommended that the 350-member State Republican Executive Committee vote today to ban crossover voting.

    But after getting feedback from party members and voters, the committee voted Friday to study the issue more. It directed party Chairman Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh to appoint a group to conduct the study and make recommendations. --
    Republican committee holds off ban on crossover voting

    January 13, 2006

    New Jersey: township ordinance prohibits political signs more than 30 days before election

    The Asbury Park Press reports: Brick Township Councilman Stephen C. Acropolis pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges that he violated a township ordinance prohibiting political signs from being posted more than 30 days before an election.

    The plea was made before Jackson Township Municipal Court Judge Daniel D. Hyman, who said he will notify both Acropolis and Edward C. Mueller, who challenged Acropolis and Mayor Joseph C. Scarpelli in November's mayoral election, when the hearing has been scheduled. Both Acropolis and Mueller told Hyman they did not believe they would have any witnesses.

    Mueller signed the complaint against Acropolis on Sept. 26. In the complaint, he listed eight addresses where the Republicans' signs were posted. Although the signs may not have been on Acropolis' property, Mueller said he believes he is responsible because he was "at the top of the ticket." -- APP.COM v4.0 - Acropolis pleads not guilty to political sign complaint | Asbury Park Press Online

    Thanks to TalkLeft for the link.

    Georgia: House passes new voter i.d. bill

    AP reports: After more than four hours of tense, racially charged debate, House lawmakers approved changes to Georgia's voting standards Thursday meant to address a federal judge's concerns that requiring a state-issued ID at the ballot box amounts to a poll tax.

    Republican backers contend the bill will help prevent voter fraud, but Democrats argued in fiery terms that it blocks voters from casting their ballots. One Democrat called some of the proposal's supporters "racist."

    The changes approved Thursday would devote about $150,000 to arm registrars in each of Georgia's 159 counties with the equipment to issue photo IDs, which voters must present to cast their ballots. The bill, which passed by a 110-64 vote, also offers the ID cards for free. It now awaits the approval of the GOP-controlled Senate, where it is expected to pass.

    Critics said the requirements to show a form of state-issued ID suppresses the votes of the poor, minorities and the elderly. -- Macon Telegraph | 01/13/2006 | House backs voter ID changes

    Oregon: ex-senator disbarred after campaign contribution conviction

    AP reports: Former Republican state Rep. Dan Doyle has resigned from the practice of law in Oregon following his convictions for falsifying campaign finance reports.

    The Oregon Supreme Court accepted his resignation this week from the bar under terms that prevent his return to practicing law.

    "He cannot reapply for admission," Kateri Walsh, a spokeswoman for the Oregon State Bar, said Thursday. "It is the functional equivalent of being disbarred and is permanent in Oregon." ...

    Doyle pleaded guilty last September to 11 felony counts of falsifying campaign finance reports. Prosecutors said it was to conceal the diversion of about $150,000 in contributions to Doyle's personal use. -- kgw.com | News for Oregon and SW Washington | AP Wire

    Georgia: another re-redistricting to hurt the Dems

    AP reports: Republicans in the state Senate on Thursday pushed through a change to their chamber's political map that would divide Athens - a Democratic stronghold - into two districts.

    The plan's sponsor called it an effort to honor a five-year-old request from commissioners in rural Madison County. But Democrats dubbed it an election-year ploy designed to hurt the chances of a House Democrat who is seeking the seat and help the brother-in-law of a Republican senator.

    "This is a battle I've been fighting since 2001," said Sen. Ralph Hudgens, R-Comer, the plan's sponsor, who showed senators a 2001 letter from Madison County commissioners asking that their county remain whole.

    But Democrats argued the plan appears aimed at hurting the odds of Rep. Jane Kidd, D-Athens, who has announced plans to run for the seat this year.

    Under the proposed change, which passed 34-18, the district that currently includes all of Athens would include half of the city and Republican-leaning Walton County. -- Macon Telegraph | 01/13/2006 | Senate pushes map change that would divide Athens

    Texas: LULAC files its brief in Supreme Court

    The San Antonio Express-News reports: Opponents of a Republican-drawn congressional redistricting map in Texas filed briefs with the U.S. Supreme Court that claim outdated Census data was used to establish political lines that diminish minority voting strength.

    "They diluted the voice of Latinos by using this old data," Rolando Rios, a lawyer for the League of United Latin American Citizens, said Thursday.

    The state of Texas has until Feb. 1 to respond to the briefs, which were filed Wednesday with the Supreme Court as part of an accelerated plan by justices to hear oral arguments in the case on March 1, one week before party primaries are held.

    The court agreed Dec. 12 to hear oral arguments in the Texas redistricting case that helped Republicans win new congressional seats and cement their majority in Congress. -- MySA.com: Metro | State

    South Carolina: GOP charges Dems donated too much to their gubernatorial candidate

    AP reports: The state Republican Party said Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tommy Moore has to give $4,000 to the Children's Trust Fund because his campaign accepted too much cash from the party.

    Moore, a state senator from Clearwater, had already accepted a total of $4,000 from local Democratic parties in Edgefield and McCormick counties for his race when a $50,000 contribution came from the South Carolina Senate Democratic Caucus on Dec. 30.

    "The maximum in any one election cycle from a party through all of its committees is $50,000 for a statewide race," said Herb Hayden, executive director of the state Ethics Commission. Under the law, Moore's campaign would have to donate the $4,000 excess to the Children's Trust Fund, Hayden said.

    "We have found there was an oversight and have accepted $4,000 more" than the law allows, Tim Shock, Moore's campaign manager, said. Shock said the $50,000 check came in at the last minute as the campaign was in a crunch of tallying donations and preparing to use the state's new online contribution reporting system. -- State GOP says Democrats broke donation limit to Moore

    New Hampshire: fighting back against the Democratic primary schedule plan

    The Union Leader reports: Gov. John Lynch yesterday backed legislation designed to help the state’s top election official ward off challenges to the state’s leadoff Presidential primary from the national political parties and other states.

    Portsmouth Democratic Rep. Jim Splaine’s bill allowing the Secretary of State to schedule the filing period for the Presidential primary whenever he considers appropriate will provide him “with an extra measure of flexibility, enhancing his ability to schedule the New Hampshire primary in accordance with state law,” Lynch said in a letter of the House Election Law Committee.

    Lynch called efforts to protect the primary, now under siege by some national Democrats, a “critical issue.” -- Lynch backs bill to bolster protection for NH primary

    January 12, 2006

    Alabama: Roy Moore opposes change in Republican rules and sees it as directed at him

    AP reports: Former Chief Justice Roy Moore, who qualified Wednesday for the Republican nomination for governor, doesn't want his political party to ban crossover voting in any Republican primary runoff.

    The party's steering committee has recommended that the State Republican Executive Committee vote Saturday to change party rules so that people who vote in the Democratic primary on June 6 can't vote in the Republican runoff on June 27.

    Moore opposes the change, describing it as an attempt to interfere with the election.

    The Alabama GOP has traditionally allowed crossover voting as a tool to build the party, but now that Republicans hold many of the offices elected statewide in Alabama, the steering committee said the time has come for a change. -- Tuscaloosa

    January 11, 2006

    Texas: candidates play "whack the opponent"

    The Dallas Morning News reports: Several incumbents and veteran candidates have seized on flaws in their primary opponents' ballot applications, using lawsuits and challenges brought before the state parties to eliminate their opponents before the campaign begins.

    Political consultants and election officials said they're seeing more challenges this year. Many have occurred in judicial races, in which candidates typically have less money to mount a statewide campaign and are looking for any advantage.

    "One of the first things you do before you spend your campaign money is try to find something to challenge, so you don't have to spend your campaign money," said Jim Boynton, primary director for the Texas Democratic Party.

    The Democratic Party is researching challenges made in two races for the appellate courts and one for a state House district. Several Republican contenders have already scored early knockouts with ballot challenges.

    Some candidates bringing the challenges offered no apologies for holding opponents to the letter of the law. But the losing candidates and advocates of more political participation said the punishment was too harsh for what amounted to political misdemeanors and robs voters of choices. -- Dallas Morning News | News for Dallas, Texas | Latest News

    Thanks to reader Dave Rausch for telling me about one of these challenges.

    Louisiana: Secretary of State pushes for exception to absentee voting rules

    BayouBuzz.com reports: Secretary of State Al Ater is requesting that the state allow for first-time voters who have already registered by mail to be able to vote by absentee voting. This provision failed during the recent legislative session, but Ater says that a federal judge who is now involved in the matter due to two lawsuits lodged in his court believes those voters who would normally be required to be present to vote for the first time be allowed to vote by the absentee process. Ater says that the federal judge might block the election if the first-time absentee voters are not allowed to vote. In some respects, the Judge’s statement flies in the face of those plaintiffs who wanted elections as soon-as-possible and adds more uncertainty to the election date. However, there is a sense of fairness that should be considered as long as there is certainty that this new process is not tainted with any voter fraud. -- Louisiana Politics: Police Consolidation; New Orleans Election Delay; Villere, Alito, Landrieu and Dobson

    Louisiana: petition to recall Gov. Blanco

    The Advocate reports: A St. Martin Parish voter Tuesday officially launched a drive to recall Gov. Kathleen Blanco.

    Kat Landry, a 51-year-old Republican, filled out recall papers with the Secretary of State’s Office.

    That started a 180-day period in which Landry must collect nearly 1 million voters’ signatures to force an election to oust Louisiana’s highest elected official.

    Many frustrated voters, in print and on radio talk shows, have called for the Lafayette Democrat’s recall because of her response to two devastating hurricanes that she acknowledged have overwhelmed state resources.

    But Landry has a high hill to climb. Recall petitions must be signed by at least one-third of the state’s 2.8 million voters to force an election in which voters would decide to either fire Blanco or keep her for the rest of her term. She has already announced intentions to seek a second term in fall 2007. --
    Petition to recall governor started

    Alabama: sheriff and lawyer convicted in election case

    AP reports: Federal jurors convicted former Jefferson County Sheriff Jim Woodward and his one-time lawyer Wednesday on charges of conspiring to illegally run background checks on absentee voters in a contested election.

    Woodward and Albert Jordan, a prominent Republican attorney, were convicted in their second trial more than five years after the first one ended with a judge dismissing charges and accusing prosecutors of mishandling the case.

    Woodward and Jordan will be sentenced March 22. The men could face at least six years in prison. -- al.com: NewsFlash - Former sheriff convicted in election case in Birmingham

    January 10, 2006

    Delaware: state launches online campaign finance filings

    The News Journal reports: Election officials hope an improved electronic filing system will lead to more online filings of campaign contribution reports from candidates and political action committees this year.

    State Election Commissioner Frank Calio said the new system will be available for candidates and PACs, starting with the filing of 2005 annual reports, which are due by Jan. 23.

    The system is designed around campaign finance rules, and Calio said it should be more user-friendly, on par with home bookkeeping systems. He hopes it will encourage more candidates and PACs to file by computer, which would cut down on staff time needed to handle paper forms. -- delawareonline � The News Journal � Del. unveils online campaign finance filing

    Texas: Choctaws to Abramoff to DeLay's PAC

    AP reports: Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay tried to pressure the Bush administration into shutting an Indian-owned casino that lobbyist Jack Abramoff wanted closed.

    The Sugar Land Republican went into action shortly after an Abramoff tribal client donated to a DeLay political action committee.

    In a Dec. 11, 2001, letter to Attorney General John Ashcroft, Mr. DeLay demanded closure of the Alabama-Coushatta casino in Livingston, Texas. The Associated Press obtained the letter from a source who did not want to be identified because of an ongoing federal investigation of Mr. Abramoff and members of Congress. ...

    The DeLay letter was sent at least two weeks after the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, an Abramoff client, contributed $1,000 to Texans for a Republican Majority, also known as TRMPAC. That political action committee is at the center of a state campaign finance investigation. An Austin grand jury returned money laundering charges against Mr. DeLay, forcing him out of the majority leader's job. --
    DeLay sought casino closure

    Alabama: A.G. refuses to list disfranchising crimes

    AP reports: Attorney General Troy King says he will not issue a comprehensive list of felonies that would bar convicts from voting because of the ongoing litigation against Secretary of State Nancy Worley, who says such a list is greatly needed by Alabama's registrars.

    King, in a letter delivered to Worley Tuesday, said lawsuits filed against her by convicted felons claiming Alabama has wrongly denied their voting rights prevent him from intervening on the issue. He said the issue is now a matter for the courts. ...

    The issue of felons registering to vote came to light after the state Board of Pardons and Paroles announced in May that, according to a 1996 amendment to the Alabama constitution, many state prisoners convicted of drug and alcohol felonies may be eligible to vote — despite common belief that felons are prohibited from casting ballots.

    The board received a March advisory opinion from King, who said only felonies involving "moral turpitude" — meaning the crimes are inherently immoral — disqualify a convict from voting.

    The finding caught state voting officials off guard, prompting a request by Worley to King seeking a comprehensive list of crimes that forfeit voting rights and those that don't. -- al.com: NewsFlash - Ag declines to issue list of crimes that ban felons from voting

    Disclosure: I am one of the plaintiffs' attorneys in the litigation against the Secretary of State.

    Alito veers toward the mainstream on voting rights

    Washingtonpost.com reports: Sen. Herb Kohl questioned Alito at length on the 1985 job application he wrote expressing his opposition to the direction of the Warren Court, eliciting some actual news as he sought to settle some of the hottest controversies surrounding his nomination.

    Alito stated that he had no objection to the "one-man, one vote" principle" enunciated by the Warren Court in Reynolds v. Simms and Baker v. Carr, and also that he had no objection to Griswold v. Connecticut, the Warren Court ruling establishing a "right to privacy" that later served as the basis for Roe v. Wade. He agreed also, said Alito, with a 1972 Supreme Court opinion barring the executive branch from conducting "domestic security" wiretaps without a proper warrant.

    In this exchange, Alito also distanced himself from Judge Robert Bork, who he once praised as a worthy Supreme Court nominee but has since come to symbolize the unconfirmable candidate.

    The principle of "one man, one vote" is a fundamental principle of constitutional law, Alito said. "I don't see any reason why it should be reexamined.....I never was opposed to the one-person one-vote concept."

    So what was it that concerned him, asked Kohl.
    He said his father, then working for the New Jersey legislature, had brought to his attention the question of "how exactly equal districts had to be." It seemed that the Supreme Court, at one point, was saying they had to be exactly equal and "that would have wiped out" some of the New Jersey re-mapping. -- Campaign for the Supreme Court - The Politics of the Nomination of Samuel A. Alito Jr.

    Judge Alito's new position is quite interesting to me. Republicans in Alabama have sued to overturn the legislative redistricting on the grounds that it does not have "exactly equal districts." I am one of the attorneys for the Democratic Speaker of the House, who has intervened as a defendant.

    South Carolina: campaign finance reports now on the Web

    AP reports: Campaign finance reports from South Carolina political candidates hit the Internet for the first time Monday on the State Ethics Commission's Web site.

    "It's a very exciting time for us," Ethics Commission Executive Director Herb Hayden said. "We've been trying for seven years to get this accomplished and it's very nice to know that we've caught up to the 21st century."

    The state campaign finance reporting filing deadline is today. In the past, the public had to wait two days to view paper reports at the commission and then pay 50 cents a page if they wanted copies.

    With the new system, reports are online within a few hours of being submitted. And the public now can search the records by candidate or donor name for free. For now, the system only covers statewide races, including governor, treasurer and education superintendent. -- The Post and Courier | Charleston.net | News | Charleston, SC

    Indiana: GOP proposes independent redistricting commission

    The Indianapolis Star reports: The drawing of legislative districts would be taken away from lawmakers and handed to a bipartisan commission in a bid for more competitive races, under a proposal unveiled Monday by House Republicans.

    The plan, House Bill 1009, is part of an extensive House GOP agenda outlined Monday by House Speaker Brian C. Bosma, R-Indianapolis. Other elements include tax breaks for businesses and homeowners; vouchers to send autistic children to any school their parents choose, including private; and local government consolidation, including removing assessment duties from township trustees.
    But no proposal may have more long-term impact than changing the way legislative and congressional districts are drawn. Currently, the party that wins control of the House or Senate in a census year also wins the once-in-a-decade right to draw the maps.
    In Indiana, both parties have been upfront about using the maps to try to maximize their political advantage. They have protected incumbent lawmakers, ensuring that no two were drawn into the same district, and carefully studied voting patterns in order to come up with districts that were predictably Republican or Democratic. -- GOP plan: New body should draw maps | IndyStar.com

    Alabama: Jordan and Woodward deny improper use of criminal database

    The Birmingham News reports: Former Jefferson County Sheriff Jim Woodward and attorney Albert Jordan told jurors in their federal trial Monday they did not conspire to illegally run criminal history checks on absentee Bessemer voters for Woodward's election contest.

    Woodward, testifying in his own defense, said he gave Sheriff's Department employees authorization to conduct background checks using restricted federal databases as part of a legitimate investigation into allegations of voter fraud in Bessemer.

    His office started receiving more calls about voting irregularities following the Nov. 3, 1998, general election, he testified. ...

    Woodward said he sought Jordan's assistance because of his past expertise in challenging voter fraud.

    "He was my attorney," Woodward said. "I thought I could provide my attorney with anything." -- Ex-sheriff, attorney deny conspiracy

    January 9, 2006

    Texas: Texas court denies speedy appeal to DeLay

    The Austin American-Statesman reports: The state's highest criminal court refused Monday to intervene in the prosecution of U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay on money-laundering charges.

    The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals denied DeLay's motions without comment just two days after DeLay announced he was abandoning his efforts to reclaim the job of majority leader for the U.S. House of Representatives. DeLay had been pressing for an immediate trial, hoping to reclaim the job he had to give up when he was indicted last fall. ...

    DeLay and his co-defendants, John Colyandro of Austin and Jim Ellis of Washington, are accused of laundering $190,000 of corporate money into the same amount of political donations to Texas legislative candidates from the Republican National Committee. State law generally prohibits spending corporate money in connection with campaigns, but the defendants argue the exchange was not money-laundering because it was two separate transactions.

    The defendants still have appeals pending at the Texas Third Court of Appeals. -- Appellate court turns down DeLay appeal

    January 8, 2006

    Alabama: Alito's views on "Reynolds v. Sims"

    The Birmingham News reports: A landmark decision from 1964 on drawing political boundaries in Alabama is likely to be an issue during this week's confirmation hearings of Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito Jr.

    The 41-year-old ruling in Reynolds v. Sims established the principle of "one man, one vote" by ordering Alabama's legislative districts nearly equal in population. The decision ended the political advantage of sparsely populated rural areas over more populated urban areas, a situation that evolved over the 60 years when the district lines were not adjusted for population changes. ...

    In a 1985 job application to the U.S. Department of Justice under then-President Ronald Reagan, Alito wrote that he was drawn to constitutional law in part by his disagreement with the reapportionment decisions of the Warren Court. The statement has drawn criticism from civil rights and voting rights activists who believe it is a sign that a Justice Alito could be unfriendly to their causes.

    "Recognizing the concept of `one person, one vote,' the court enshrined the principle that every citizen has the right to an equally effective vote, rather than the right to simply cast a ballot," according to a written review of the Warren Court's reapportionment decisions by the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. "Judge Alito's strong disagreement with some if not all of these pivotal rulings is extremely troubling." -- Alabama redistricting likely to arise

    New Hampshire: GOP claims Dem suit is interfering with GOP's civil rights

    The Union Leader reports: The state Republican Party is charging that a Democratic lawsuit against it for an illegal phone jamming operation in 2002 was actually part of a national Democratic plan to “advance their political agenda” in the 2004 general election.

    The state Democratic chairman calls the claim baseless and “pretty sad.”

    The conviction last month of a former high-ranking Republican official for conspiring to jam state Democratic Party and firefighters union get-out-the-vote telephone banks on Election Day 2002 has re-focused attention on an 18-month-old civil suit filed by the Democrats seeking damages for the illegal GOP operation.

    The case is expected to go to trial later this year, and a series of motions have been recently filed.

    The Republican State Committee’s attorney, Ovide Lamontagne, contends in court papers that the state Democratic Party filed its civil suit against the Republicans “in attempt to use the court system to interfere with the (GOP’s) constitutionally protected election activities.” -- Phone jamming: GOP fires back

    January 5, 2006

    Georgia: proposal to make photo I.D.s easier to obtain

    AP reports: The leader of the Georgia House said Wednesday a new proposal to revise the state's controversial voter ID requirements would likely put the brakes on expanding a program that brings licensing services to the doorsteps of the poor.

    Few have sought out the Georgia Licensing on Wheels bus, which began to rove neighborhoods after Georgia lawmakers passed a law requiring voters to bring a state-issued photo ID to the polls. The law eliminated the use of some forms of identification to vote, including Social Security cards, birth certificates and utility bills.

    "It's not successful because there's not that many people who don't have some form of photo identification," said House Speaker Glenn Richardson, R-Hiram. "It's out there, and they can get to it, but there's not that many people out there without those IDs. I doubt if we'll do any more buses."

    Richardson said the new proposal, which will likely be introduced next week, would "make it so easy to get a photo ID to vote that if you complain, you're just looking for something to complain about."

    The proposal is still being drafted, but Richardson said it would allow photo IDs to be issued for free to voters who can't afford them. Critics argue that the state-issued cards - which cost as much as $35 - will suppress the vote of the poor, the elderly and minorities. -- Macon Telegraph | 01/05/2006 | Speaker: Proposal could halt voter ID service

    Arizona: state supreme court refuses to hear appeals of redistricting decision

    AP reports: The Arizona Supreme Court on Wednesday turned away appeals aimed at forcing the state to adopt new congressional and legislative district maps, apparently ending the challenge to the congressional map and ensuring that the current legislative map will be used again this year.

    The Arizona Supreme Court without comment declined to consider multiple appeals to an Oct. 18 ruling by the Court of Appeals that upheld Arizona's congressional map and told a trial judge to reconsider his ruling against the legislative map.

    A lawyer for the state redistricting commission said the Supreme Court's action should end the challenge to the congressional map and ensures that the legislative map will be used again in this year's elections as that part of the case is sent back to a lower court for reconsideration. ...

    Hispanic Democrats who wanted a new legislative map with more districts where either major party has a chance of winning had urged the Supreme Court to review the ruling by the Court of Appeals. -- '06 legislative maps likely won't change | www.azstarnet.com

    Disclosure: I was previously involved in the Congressional portion of this case.

    Alabama: ex-sheriff, lawyer on trial for misuse of criminal database

    The Birmingham News reports: The retrial of former Jefferson County Sheriff Jim Woodward and lawyer Albert Jordan started Wednesday, nearly six years after they were indicted on charges they conspired to illegally use criminal databases to contest a 1998 election.

    Prosecutors began presenting evidence they contend will show that Woodward and Jordan conspired to illegally use the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) and state criminal databases to run background checks on thousands of absentee Bessemer voters following the Nov. 3, 1998, sheriff's race.

    Woodward and Jordan originally went to trial in October 2000. The trial judge dismissed the case after three days of testimony, citing prosecutorial misconduct. An appeals court found no misconduct and sent the case back to the trial court.

    Prosecutors maintain the men planned to use the information about absentee voters illegally gathered from criminal databases in Woodward's election contest after hearing he lost the race to then-Democratic challenger Mike Hale. The prosecution contends the men then launched a voter fraud task force as a cover-up after a state investigator raised questions. -- Testimony starts in retrial of ex-sheriff, lawyer

    Bert Jordan is a friend and frequent opponent in election-related cases.

    Illinois: appellate court allows candidates to qualify for circuit judge seats

    The Chicago Tribute reports: The Illinois Appellate Court reversed a temporary restraining order Tuesday in a case involving three judges who missed a filing deadline to run for retention, opening the door for other candidates to seek their seats.

    The ruling could soon be moot, however, if a Cook County circuit judge grants the judges' motion for summary judgment on grounds that the current December filing deadline violates the state constitution. ...

    Lawyers for the three judges obtained the temporary restraining order preventing other candidates from filing for the seats while a court battle is waged to get the three judges on the ballot. -- Chicago Tribune | Reversal of court order opens door to candidates

    Connecticut: state won't use electronic voting this year

    The Connecticut Post reports: Connecticut electors this year will return, one more time, to the state's clunky but dependable mechanical voting machines, after a computer-based model failed to meet crucial criteria.

    The announcement was made at a Capitol news conference Wednesday, when Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz and Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said they now hope to have the new technology in place for the 2007 municipal elections.

    They said the planned contract with a Simsbury company, selected to provide about 3,300 electronic voting machines statewide, was withdrawn after a recent meeting when the firm said it had not won approval for its design from federal authorities.

    The firm, Danaher Controls of Simsbury, had not started manufacturing the machines, nor had it set up a contract to create certified paper trails with its German subcontractor. -- The Connecticut Post Online - News

    Alabama; 3 plaintiffs' lawyers seek to withdraw from redistricting case

    AP reports: Within weeks of a pivotal hearing, three of the four lawyers seeking Republican gains in their legislative redistricting suit in Mobile federal court have asked to withdraw.

    Atlanta lawyers Frank B. Strickland, Anne W. Lewis and Luanne M. Bonnie, who helped the GOP win a similar redistricting suit in Georgia, have asked U.S. District Judge Ginny Granade to allow them to leave the Alabama case, citing "professional considerations," without elaborating.

    In a Dec. 30 court filing, the attorneys in the firm of Strickland Brockington Lewis LLP said they could not reveal "client confidences" that led to the pullout. Granade did not immediately rule on the request. ...

    Their absence would leave Montgomery attorney Mark G. Montiel as the sole attorney for the Republican plaintiffs who filed suit last June, challenging the constitutionality of the current district boundaries for the Alabama Legislature. -- Some in redistricting suit seek to withdraw

    Disclosure: I am one of the attorneys for the Speaker of the Alabama House, one of the defendant-intervenors.