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

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March 31, 2006

Court says FEC must regulate 527 groups or explain why not

The Washington Post reports: U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan has rejected requests by the Bush-Cheney campaign and by two advocates of campaign finance legislation to order the Federal Election Commission to impose tough regulations on "527" political committees that put more than $400 million into the 2004 elections.

Instead, in a ruling issued late Wednesday evening, the judge gave the FEC a choice: Either explain in detail why regulations are not needed or begin proceedings to develop such rules. ...

The judge warned that if the FEC continues to treat 527 committee complaints on a case-by-case basis instead of issuing encompassing rules, it will have to explain how the interests of complainants will be protected under time-consuming processes that often do not produce any action until the election is over.

"Cases arising from the 2004 campaign have languished on the Commission's enforcement docket for as long as 23 months, with no end in sight, even as the 2006 election campaign has begun," Sullivan wrote. "The FEC can take years to complete an administrative action, and penalties, if they come at all, come long after the money has been spent and the election decided." -- FEC Ordered to Rethink '527' Rules

Read this in conjunction with the story below and you will understand why 527s might feel like they are between a rock and a hard place. Have you hugged your 527 today?

GOP aims at 527 groups

The New York Times reports: To many Republicans, the liberal activist organization is a political boogeyman that they hope to chase off with new restrictions on so-called 527 groups.

But the pursuit may turn out to be fruitless. Like other major groups planning to inject themselves aggressively into the midterm elections through advertisements, voter drives and issue fights, has already figured out what it thinks is a better, and less controversial, way to spend its millions. Its 527 — named for a section of the tax code — is being put on ice.

"Our 527 is dormant," said Eli Pariser, executive director of He said his group would predominantly operate as a conventional political action committee, allowing it to more freely mix explicit political support and issue advocacy in a way that Mr. Pariser described as "squeaky clean." might be moving on from its 527, but Congress is not. Two years after 527's burst onto the political scene, gaining notoriety by raising unlimited amounts from private donors, Congressional Republicans are moving to rein in the groups — just in time for the November midterm elections. Leading Democrats are threatening a fight. -- G.O.P. Is Taking Aim at Advocacy Groups - New York Times

March 30, 2006

Missouri: Secretary of State says voter I.D. bill would keep 200,000 from voting

The Columbia Missourian reports: Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan told protestors gathered at the Capitol on Wednesday that a proposed bill requiring voters to present a federal or state voting identification card could keep citizens out of the polls.

“It’s a bill that I think could risk disenfranchising up to 200,000 Missourians,” Carnahan said in the Capitol’s rotunda.

These 200,000 people affected could include senior citizens, the disabled and some students, Carnahan said.

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Delbert Scott, said otherwise. “That’s absurd,” he said.

Legislation proponents argue the measure would crack down on voter fraud. -- Columbia Missourian - Bill sponsor, secretary of state differ on voter ID cards bill

The bill is here.

Alabama: court hears argument on Mobile special election law

The Mobile Register reports on my argument yesterday: An attorney representing three south Alabama lawmakers told a panel of three federal judges Wednesday that Gov. Bob Riley broke the law when he named Juan Chastang to the Mobile County Commission last November.

The legislators sued the governor in a Montgomery federal court, saying Riley failed to follow a provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that requires the U.S. Justice Department to review in advance any changes to Alabama election practices.

Riley maintains that there was no change, so preclearance was not needed for him to fill the District 1 post, emptied when Sam Jones became Mobile's mayor in October.

The suit was filed by state Reps. Yvonne Kennedy and James Buskey, both D-Mobile, and Bill Clark, D-Prichard. They asked the court to order a belated Justice Department review. If clearance is not granted, they asked the court to set a special election for the seat and remove Chastang, a Republican, from office. -- Attorneys spar over appointment

Documents from the case can be downloaded from my office website.

Israel: 53% of prisoners voted

The Jerusalem Post reports: Voting has closed in Israel's prisons, and a total of 53 percent of the 9000 prisoners eligible to vote in the elections for the 17th Knesset exercised their right. -- Jerusalem Post | Breaking News from Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World

Fifteenth Amendment Day

AP reports: Today is Thursday, March 30, the 89th day of 2006. There are 276 days left in the year. ...

In 1870, the 15th amendment to the Constitution, giving black men the right to vote, was declared in effect. -- NewsFlash - Today in history - March 30

March 29, 2006

Pennsylvania: "glitch" found in Allegheny Co.'s voting machines

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports: After four hours of testing yesterday, a glitch was found in the voting system Allegheny County is planning to use in the May 16 primary.

"So far, it's not fatal," said Michael Shamos, the Carnegie Mellon University professor who will recommend whether the system should be certified in Pennsylvania.

"You do have some diagnosing to do," he told representatives of Sequoia Voting Systems, the Oakland, Calif.-based manufacturer of the AVC Advantage voting machines tested yesterday.

A week ago elections were disrupted in Chicago and the rest of Cook County because of a rash of problems with two of Sequoia's other voting systems. Problems occurred there when poll workers tried to transfer results from the machines onto tabulators that compile vote totals, said Joan Krawitz, executive director of Vote Trust USA and a resident of Cook County. -- Minor glitch found in Allegheny County voting machines

Florida: AG sends subpoenas to voting machines companies

AP reports: Attorney General Charlie Crist said Wednesday that his office has issued subpoenas to the three companies certified to sell voting machines in Florida as he reviews a dispute between the firms and Leon County's elections supervisor.

Diebold Election Systems Inc., Election Systems & Software Inc., and Sequoia Voting Systems Inc. have refused to sell equipment to let disabled voters cast ballots without help in Leon County. Elections supervisor Ion Sancho has been outspoken about his concern that the devices can be easily manipulated to change race outcomes.

The subpoenas are seeking information about whether the companies agreed among themselves not to do business with Leon County, which is in violation of the federal Help American Vote Act without the equipment.

"It is critical for our democratic process to work efficiently and effectively, but of most importance, fairly," Crist said. "These subpoenas are to ensure that the rights of our voters with disabilities as well as all Florida voters are secured." -- AP Wire | 03/29/2006 | Attorney general subpoenas voting machine companies

California: court of appeals okays splitting Santa Clara in redistricting

The Metropolitan News-Enterprise reports: A legislative redistricting plan does not violate the state Constitution merely because it splits a city, the Third District Court of Appeal ruled yesterday.

The justices affirmed a Sacramento Superior Court judge’s ruling that lawmakers acted within their discretion when they drew up and passed the current redistricting plan five years ago. Santa Clara voters had challenged the decision to split their city between Assembly District 22 and District 24.

District 24 is currently represented by Rebecca Cohn, D-San Jose, and District 22 by Sally Lieber, D-Mountain View. Most of Santa Clara is in Lieber’s district.

The plaintiffs argued that splitting the city violated Art. XXI, Sec. 1(e) of the Constitution, which mandates that “[t]he geographical integrity of any city, county, or city and county, or of any geographical region shall be respected to the extent possible without violating the requirements of any other subdivision of this section.” -- Court of Appeal Rejects Challenge to State Assembly Redistricting

Georgia: groups ask DOJ to block voter I.D. bill

AP reports: Civil rights groups have asked the U.S. Department of Justice to block a new Georgia law that requires a photo ID to cast a ballot.

More than two dozen civil rights, community, religious and citizen advocacy groups sent a letter to the Justice Department Tuesday.

The law was signed by Gov. Sonny Perdue in January but the Justice Department must endorse it before it can be enforced. Even if the Justice Department approves it, a federal judge could stall the law, which Georgia leaders would like to have in place starting with the July 18 primaries. An earlier version of the voter ID law was halted by a federal judge in Rome, Ga., in October.

It makes Georgia one of only seven states that require a photo ID to cast a ballot. The law requires a voter to present one of five types of government-issued cards. The law eliminates several forms of identification currently accepted at the polls, from Social Security cards and birth certificates to utility bills. -- AP Wire | 03/29/2006 | Civil rights groups urge feds to block voter ID law

California: Monterey Co. removes Measure from ballot because of lack of Spanish initiative petitions

The Monterey Herald reports: Monterey County supervisors, despite a barrage of personal barbs, decided Tuesday to remove Measure C, a ballot measure regarding the controversial Rancho San Juan development, from the county's June ballot.

The 4-1 vote, with Supervisor Dave Potter dissenting, sets up a new round of lawsuits over a blossoming conflict between county land-use policies and compliance with Spanish-language requirements of the federal Voting Rights Act.

Besides the supervisors' vote to pull the Measure C referendum off the ballot, there were other developments Tuesday on the litigation front:

• Two county Latinos filed a federal lawsuit challenging Measure C because supporters of the ballot measure didn't circulate referendum petitions in both English and Spanish.

Their suit mirrors almost exactly a case decided last week by U.S. District Court Judge James Ware, who ruled the controversial General Plan Initiative, which qualified for the ballot after another petition drive, violated minority language requirements of the Voting Rights Act. -- Monterey County Herald | 03/29/2006 | Board braces for Measure C fight

Virginia: Williamsburg blocks students from registering

The Daily Press reports: The ACLU of Virginia said Tuesday that it would back College of William and Mary President Gene Nichol in his goal to change the city registrar's mind about allowing college students to register to vote in local elections.

The ACLU has offered to review the applications of rejected students and help them correct any mistakes or include any necessary - but missing - information. Kent Willis, the organization's director, said the ACLU was prepared to file lawsuits on behalf of students if circumstances warranted.

Willis said that students effectively lived in Williamsburg for four years while in school and that it's important for them to participate in the community. "Registrars who create barriers for people to vote in their communities aren't doing their jobs," Willis said.

Nichol sent a letter to students last week, encouraging them to register to vote in Williamsburg by Monday, the deadline before the May 2 municipal election, if they chose to. -- W&M students get ACLU backing to vote

Washington State: AG to appeal decision over felons' fines

AP reports: The state will appeal a King County judge's ruling that restores voting rights to convicted felons who have served their time but owe court-imposed fines, Attorney General Rob McKenna and Secretary of State Sam Reed announced today.

In a joint written statement, McKenna and Reed said each state has the right to "determine the process for restoring voting rights to felons."

"We believe a rational basis does exist for the Legislature to deny felons the right to vote until they have completed their entire court-ordered sentences, including payment of criminal penalties, victim's restitution, and legal fees, rather than separating out various sentencing aspects," they wrote.

King County Superior Court Judge Michael Spearman ruled Monday that the state's requirement that ex-felons pay all court-ordered fines and fees before they can vote again violates the equal-protection clauses in the U.S. Constitution and the state constitution. -- The Seattle Times: Local News: State to appeal ruling granting voting rights to felons who owe fines

Rhode Island: judge bans investigation of Governor's campaign by election board

The Providence Journal reports: After castigating the state Board of Elections for not doing its job, a Superior Court judge yesterday permanently barred the board from investigating an alleged election-law violation by the Republican Party and Governor Carcieri's campaign before the 2002 election.

Judge Stephen J. Fortunato said that the board's years-long failure to make it clear to candidates and political organizations what they can and can't do and how the board would handle violations meant that the investigation trampled on the First Amendment and due process rights of the Republicans.

The underlying question of the case is whether the Republicans did anything wrong in 2002, when the state party got $250,000 from the Republican National Committee and used part of it to finance a pro-Carcieri TV commercial.

During several hours spent listening to arguments and questioning lawyers yesterday, Fortunato focused on the fact that while the state has laws governing the conduct and financing of elections, the Board of Elections has not, in his view, written and adopted rules and regulations that spell out what the laws mean and how the board intends to enforce them.

Some of the regulations are inadequate, he said, and some don't exist at all. -- Rhode Island news | | The Providence Journal | Local News

Thanks to James Bopp for the link.

VRA extension likely to pass

The New York Times reports: A multiyear campaign by civil rights leaders to reauthorize the act, parts of which expire in August 2007, appears to be on the verge of success.

Liberal supporters and conservative opponents say they expect it to be reauthorized and, probably, even strengthened in coming weeks, well ahead of the deadline.

"The Republicans know that if they question the wisdom of reauthorization the Democrats will relentlessly demagogue them on the issue," said Roger Clegg, president of the Center for Equal Opportunity, which opposes reauthorization. "They'll be called racist and accused of wanting to turn back the clock on civil rights. The Republicans would really like to have this off the table."

The Voting Rights Act, a follow-up to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, was intended to break down barriers that had kept blacks from registering to vote, mostly in the Deep South. It prohibits officials from disenfranchising blacks through gerrymandering or vote rigging. -- Extension of Voting Act Is Likely Despite Criticism - New York Times

March 28, 2006

Arizona: group threatens suit over state's proof-of-citizenship requirement

The Arizona Republic reports: A coalition of advocacy groups plans to sue Secretary of State Jan Brewer over the state's new voter identification requirements, claiming her rigid application of the law could prevent some out-of-state Arizonans, such as military members or college students, from registering in their home state.

Brewer dismissed the legal threat Wednesday as little more than politics and vowed not to back down from the challenge.

The latest confrontation is part of the continuing legacy of Proposition 200, a ballot measure approved by Arizona voters in 2004. The measure imposed new proof-of-citizenship requirements on registrants and strict voter ID rules at the polls.

This dispute centers on whether Arizona voters who register using a nationwide federal voter registration form also must produce the proof of citizenship, such as a passport, birth certificate or valid Arizona driver's license, demanded by state law. Federal law requires registrants using the federal form only to sign the document after checking boxes attesting to their citizenship and age. -- Voter ID coalition will sue Brewer

Missouri: Carter-Baker report cited by both sides in I.D. fight

AP reports: As legislation requiring a photo identification to vote lingers in the Senate, both supporters and opponents are pointing to recommendations from a commission co-chaired by former President Jimmy Carter to justify their positions.

The bill would require voters to show a government-issued photo identification to cast a ballot — a change supporters say is necessary to prevent voter fraud, but which critics say would be a hassle that discourages people from voting.

Both sides cite the Commission on Federal Election Reform, which was organized by American University and led by Carter and former Secretary of State James Baker.

The commission called for states to require photo identification at the polls and said such ID cards should follow a federal law requiring people to prove they are legally in the country before obtaining driver's licenses or state ID cards. -- | Local News

527 proposal targets Democrats

The Washington Post reports: In 2001, when Karl Rove first outlined plans for a $50 million get-out-the-vote program, his PowerPoint presentation made one point clear: The effort would be a "joint project of the White House and the Republican National Committee."

Rove's declaration points to a crucial difference between the Republican and Democratic parties. Less than a year later, top Democratic strategists began moving in precisely the opposite direction. During the Bush years, voter mobilization in large measure has been run by what analysts call a "shadow Democratic Party" -- consisting of outside groups operating independently from the Democratic National Committee and the party's top office seekers. ...

Over the past 30 years, the Republican National Committee has centralized control and funding of such basic political functions as voter mobilization and message development.

The RNC contracts out work to consultants who operate under strict oversight. Those who fall out of favor face being cut off from party-generated work. Independent groups, such as the Club for Growth, are viewed by the party establishment as disruptive, encouraging conservative primary challenges to moderate incumbents as much as contributing to the defeat of Democrats.

Democrats, by contrast, tend to view the independent groups with gratitude rather than resentment -- because they are doing essential political work that is not being done by others. -- '527' Legislation Would Affect Democrats More

Louisiana: "I.Q." nickname removed from 7 candidates for New Orleans assessor candidates

The New Orleans Times-Picayune reports: In the wake of court decisions stripping the initials "I.Q." from the ballot listings of two candidates for separate Orleans Parish assessor districts, Louisiana Secretary of State Al Ater has removed the label from the listings of five other assessor candidates on the "I Quit" ticket.

The state 4th Circuit Court of Appeal last week upheld rulings by two district judges that candidates Chase Jones and Ron Mazier could not include "I.Q." as a nickname on their listings for the April 22 election, and the state Supreme Court refused Friday to hear an appeal from that ruling.

Although state law permits the use of nicknames on the ballot, it prohibits "designations," and the courts ruled that listing "I.Q.," which Jones and Mazier admitted they had never used as a nickname before agreeing to join the "I.Q." ticket, therefore was illegal.

With no public announcement, Ater's office then stripped the term from the ballot listings of the five other candidates, although no legal challenges had been filed against them. ...

The "I Quit" ticket qualified candidates against the incumbents in all seven New Orleans assessor races, and all included "I.Q." in their names. If elected, all seven have pledged to forgo their annual salary and use the money to hire a professional appraisal firm to handle property valuations. Their ultimate goal is to consolidate the seven assessor offices into one, a move that would require state legislation and voter approval, and they have promised to step down if such legislation is approved. -- All 'I.Q.' initials taken off ballots

Louisiana: judge refuses to stop New Orleans election

The New York Times reports: The battle among candidates for city office has begun, but running alongside it is a fight over the election itself.

Seven months after Hurricane Katrina, thousands of voters, particularly black ones, have yet to return to the city.

In their absence, community groups and activists have repeatedly challenged the legitimacy of the election, on April 22, for mayor, City Council and a host of lesser offices.

On Monday, a federal judge turned away their arguments, suggesting that the need to vote trumped all.

But even as he did so, the judge, Ivan L. R. Lemelle of Federal District Court in New Orleans, told his own history of displacement and loss, acknowledging that the election, with its shifting and destroyed polling places, its thousands of absentee ballots not yet mailed and its participants scattered throughout the country, would be far from perfect. -- Judge Orders New Orleans to Proceed With Election - New York Times

March 27, 2006

New Hampshire: 4th man charged in phone-jamming

AP reports: The former co-owner of a telemarketing firm pleaded not guilty Monday to participating in a Republican scheme to jam Democrats' get-out-the-vote phone lines on Election Day 2002.

Shaun Hansen, 34, of Spokane, Wash., was indicted by a federal grand jury on March 8, but the charges were not made public until his arraignment Monday.

Hansen is charged with conspiring to commit and aiding the commission of telephone harassment. Prosecutors say he was paid $2,500 to have employees at Idaho-based Mylo Enterprises place hundreds of hang-up calls to phone lines installed to help voters get rides to the polls on Nov. 5, 2002. Among the contests decided that day was the close U.S. Senate race in which Republican Rep. John Sununu beat outgoing Democratic Gov. Jeanne Shaheen. -- Fourth man charged in GOP phone-jamming scam -

Washington State: felons with fines may register

AP reports: Convicted felons who have served their time but owe court-imposed fines cannot be denied the right to vote, a King County Superior Court judge ruled Monday.

Washington prohibits felons currently on probation, in prison, or on parole from voting. Ex-felons in the state also must satisfy all court-related costs before getting their rights restored. More than 150,000 ex-felons are unable to vote, about 3.6 percent of the state's population.

"It is well recognized that there is simply no rational relationship between the ability to pay and the exercise of constitutional rights," Judge Michael Spearman wrote. -- King County court rules convicted felons with outstanding fines can vote

March 26, 2006

California: GOP candidate sends "handwritten" campaign material with no campaign disclosures

DavidNYC writes on DailyKos: Fun stuff. Until recently, the CA-50 special election had been a surprisingly low-key affair. However, with the election now less than three weeks away, the Republicans are - unsurprisingly - resorting to dirty tricks. When it comes to sending out campaign communications, there's a little thing called "the law," and one GOPer candidate (Eric Roach) looks to have broken it. Check out 2 USC § 441d:

Whenever a political committee makes a disbursement for the purpose of financing any communication through any... mailing... such communication... if paid for and authorized by a candidate... shall clearly state that the communication has been paid for by such authorized political committee....

In other words, if you send out a mailer, you've got to put one of those little disclaimers on it, saying who authorized and paid for the mailer. The Roach campaign sent out a two-page letter - purporting to be from his wife, Meg - but didn't include any disclaimers at all. Not on page one, not on page two, not on the front of the envelope, not on the back of the envelope. -- Daily Kos: CA-50: GOPer Sends Out Possibly Illegal Mailer (& More!)

Indians still want the Voting Rights Act's protection

AP reports: Despite these achievements, tribes point to restrictive voting laws around the country. South Dakota's new voter identification law -- passed after Johnson's election -- requires residents to show photo identification at the polls, a problem for many on the reservations who don't have IDs. The law permits those without identification to sign an affidavit, but opponents argue there is confusion about what is allowed. The American Civil Liberties Union has challenged other voter identification statutes seen as restrictive to Indians in Albuquerque, N.M. and Minnesota.

"The tribes are still very concerned about the targeted efforts to disenfranchise their vote," says Jacqueline Johnson, executive director of the National Congress of American Indians. "We are having to change a mind-set that exists."

Others imply the problems are exaggerated. Chris Nelson, South Dakota's Republican secretary of state, focuses on the positive -- a huge differential in American Indian turnout between 2000 and 2004, after two major Senate races -- and says he has seen little evidence of voter intimidation.

Nelson says he is even willing to support removing some federal protections on South Dakota's reservations. Shannon and Todd Counties -- historically home to the state's largest population of American Indians -- are included in Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, meaning that any major changes in election policy there must be federally approved. -- Sioux City Journal: American Indians still face obstacles in voting

Alabama: in defense of ranked-choice ballots

The Montgomery Advertiser publishes my letter: While we want and need to be fair to our overseas voters, we must remember that they are about one-half of 1 percent of the electorate. Inconveniencing the other 99.5 percent by a longer runoff primary period just does not make sense. Doubling the runoff period from three to six weeks means twice as many ads we have to watch, and twice as much money the candidates have to raise for that period.

In the 2004 general election, Alabama's election officials sent out 8,000 overseas ballots but only 4,200 were returned. Those 4,200 voters already have problems that prevent their equal participation in our elections. The ranked-choice ballot would cut the administrative burden of the overseas voters in half. They would have to review the candidates only once, seek out the official to verify their signature only once, and mail the ballot back to Alabama only once. -- Ranked-choice primaries work

Alabama: why not fax the overseas absentee ballots?

Ed Packard writes in the Montgomery Advertiser: While I have no quarrel with extending the absentee voting period, we should also look at easier and quicker methods for the military to request, receive and vote their absentee ballots. The Pentagon already has an established service that allows for the fax or e-mail transmission of voting materials.

During the first Gulf War, Alabama had no problem allowing our soldiers to transmit voting materials via fax. But now, leaders in the Legislature and the executive branch say they cannot support these methods, despite the fact that all other states allow the military to utilize some kind of electronic or fax transmission to complete all or part of the absentee voting process. -- State must empower military voters

March 25, 2006

Florida: Harris now switches her story about where the money is coming from

The Orlando Sentinel reports:
In an effort to jump-start her sputtering Senate campaign, Rep. Katherine Harris went on national television invoking the memory of her late father and saying the money he left her will form the financial foundation of her challenge to Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson.

Now the Harris campaign says that's not the case.

Campaign spokeswoman Morgan Dobbs said Thursday that Harris will sell her existing assets rather than rely on money from her father, a bank executive who died in January. ...

The mixed messages left campaign observers puzzled.

"She pledged all her inheritance from her dad," said Susan MacManus, a political analyst at the University of South Florida. "Obviously, that's where people think it's coming from.

"To say something different now just confuses matters. And the last thing her campaign needs right now is to confuse people."

Ed Still, a Birmingham, Ala., attorney who specializes in voting law and campaign-finance law, said he was unaware of any legal reason that might prompt Harris to use existing assets rather than inheritance money.

The attorney, who maintains an election law Web site, said, "As long as the money's hers, it doesn't matter whether she earned it or it was left to her." Still said it may be that the estate money will take time to make its way through the court. -- Campaign says Harris won't turn to inheritance - Orlando Sentinel : State News

March 24, 2006

Blogs on Louisiana after Katrina

Luke E. Debevec writes in the Legal Intelligencer: As the Gulf Coast struggles to recover from the multiple traumas inflicted during and after Katrina and Rita, numerous blogs and other Internet resources are addressing the legal ramifications of the storms and their aftermath. -- After the Storms:
Blogs Step Up
Response to Hurricanes

Among the blogs listed on voting rights issues are FairVote, Paper Chase, and yours truly.

New York: county election boards are blocking ex-felon registration

The North Country Gazette reports: Many of New York’s local boards of election are systematically and illegally preventing thousands of eligible New Yorkers from registering to vote, according to a new study released by the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law and Demos.

Under New York law, the right to vote is restored to citizens with felony convictions once they have served their maximum sentences, or have been discharged from parole. New Yorkers on probation never lose their right to vote. Despite these facts, the new survey shows that more than one-third of New York’s 63 local election boards, including four boards in New York City, are unlawfully disfranchising potentially thousands of eligible voters with criminal convictions.

In the survey, 24 of New York’s 63 local boards reported, incorrectly, that individuals on probation are not entitled to vote, or stated that they did not know if probationers are eligible. Twenty local boards also request unwarranted documentation—beyond that authorized by New York law—before allowing an individual with a felony conviction to register to vote. Frequently, the documents requested do not exist, making it impossible for individuals to register even if they attempt to comply with the illegal requests. -- Study Shows Election Boards Blocking NY’ers From Voting

Ohio: Justice Department to sue Euclid

NPR's Morning Edition reports: The Justice Department is planning to file a voting rights suit against a city in Ohio. The last time the department brought a lawsuit alleging a pattern of discrimination against black voters was in 2001. -- NPR : Ohio City Investigated for Voting Discrimination

March 23, 2006

Census Bureau report

The Census Bureau has released Voting and Registrationin the Election of November 2004. The report covers turnout and registration rates by

  • gender
  • race and ethnicity
  • income
  • nativity status
  • age
  • marital status
  • educational attainment
  • employment status and income
  • veteran status
  • methods of registration.
  • Pennsylvania: Pastor's Network responds to CREW complaint

    Let Freedom Ring, Inc. announces: The sponsor of the Pennsylvania Pastor’s Network, Let Freedom Ring, Inc., called yesterday’s complaint against it and others over a Pastors Convocation earlier this month filed by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (“CREW”) ‘groundless’ and is confident that “this IRS complaint filed by CREW today will be dismissed just as the last IRS complaint CREW filed against us was dismissed.”

    Colin Hanna, President of Let Freedom Ring, sponsor of the Pennsylvania Pastor’s Network (“PPN”) said, “CREW is a partisan front group masquerading as a non-partisan, non-political organization. The complaint filed today is no different from the one CREW filed against Let Freedom Ring for the work we did in 2004. CREW claimed then (as now) that we were violating the law – the IRS agreed with us that we had not violated the law by informing pastors and religious leaders of their rights under the First Amendment to be involved in their community’s public policy debate(s), to educate them about issues of concern to people of faith, to conduct non-partisan voter registration drives and to exercise their rights as citizens. We and all our participants have followed and will continue to follow both the letter and spirit of the law.” -- 'Let Freedom Ring' Calls Washington Group's Latest Harassment of Religious Conservatives Baseless

    Florida: state supreme court okays marriage initiative, strikes redistricting initiative

    AP reports: A proposed state constitutional amendment that would have stripped lawmakers of their power to redraw legislative and congressional districts was knocked off the ballot Thursday by the Florida Supreme Court.

    In a separate ruling, the high court unanimously approved putting on the 2008 ballot another citizen initiative that would put a ban on same-sex marriages in the Florida Constitution. Sponsors had hoped to send it to voters this year but failed to get enough petition signatures.

    The justices ruled in a 6-1 opinion that the redistricting proposal failed to meet requirements to address only a single subject and have clear and unambiguous language.

    The citizen initiative would have set up a 15-member commission to handle redistricting every 10 years. Sponsors had collected the 611,009 signatures needed to put the amendment on the Nov. 7 ballot. -- AP Wire | 03/23/2006 | High court kills redistricting amendment, OKs gay marriage one

    The advisory opinions may be seen here: marriage amendment; independent redistricting commission.

    Indiana: 12 indicted for vote fraud in East Chicago

    The Gary Post-Tribune reports: A Lake County police officer was among 12 people indicted Wednesday for vote fraud in East Chicago.

    Ponciano Herrera, a 12-year veteran of the Lake County Police Department, an associate of Sheriff Roy Dominguez and an East Chicago precinct committeeman, was charged with four counts of perjury and four counts of fraud, all felonies.

    Herrera and the other indictees allegedly induced people to sign false or incomplete absentee ballots, or themselves voted outside their home precincts during the 2003 East Chicago Democratic primary, which featured a hard-fought campaign for mayor between incumbent Robert Pastrick and challenger George Pabey.

    According to a probable cause affidavit, Herrera convinced four of his neighbors — a deaf brother and sister and two mentally retarded people — to sign their absentee ballots and turn them over to him without voting. -- News - Post-Tribune (Northwest Indiana)

    Alabama: Moore says people don't have "enough sense" to rewrite state constitution

    The Montgomery Advertiser reports: Republican gubernatorial candidate Roy Moore answered directly Wednesday when he was asked whether voters are capable of picking delegates for a state constitutional convention.

    "No." ...

    A woman brought up the subject of constitutional reform and wanted to know if Moore thought the people of Alabama "had enough sense" to elect representatives to a constitutional convention.

    The former state Supreme Court chief opposes rewriting the document state constitution, a document that has been criticized for being voluminous and out of date. --�::� Moore says voters not capable

    March 22, 2006

    Texas: appeals court hears argument on DeLay's case

    AP reports: Prosecutors seeking to restore dropped charges against Rep. Tom DeLay told an appeals court Wednesday that Texas' prohibition on using corporate money in political campaigns is a felony and should be subject to the state's criminal conspiracy law.

    A lower court judge dismissed a conspiracy charge against DeLay in December, agreeing with defense arguments that when the alleged offense was committed the conspiracy law did not cover election code violations.

    DeLay is accused of funneling illegal corporate donations to Republican candidates for the Texas House. The Republicans went on to win control of the Legislature in 2002 and pushed through a DeLay-engineered redistricting plan that helped Texas send more Republicans to Congress in 2004. ...

    Travis County Assistant District Attorney Richard Reed and DeLay's lawyer, Dick Deguerin, each offered brief oral arguments Wednesday focused mostly on technical legal questions about the state's conspiracy law.

    The three-judge panel of the 3rd Court of Appeals was not expected to rule for at least a month. -- Dallas Morning News | News for Dallas, Texas | Latest News

    Pres. Carter promotes use of voter I.D.

    AP reports: Requiring voters to show a free photo identification is just one of several changes the U.S. electoral system needs to catch up with most of the rest of the world, former President Carter said Wednesday.

    He said Mexicans, Palestinians and Venezuelans all had fairer and more doubt-free elections than Americans recently.

    "We've got a long way to go," he said. "It's disgraceful and embarrassing." Carter made the observation as he filmed a TV and radio program on the recommendations made last year by a commission he co-chaired to restore public confidence in elections.

    The former president said requiring voters to show a free photo identification at the polls was just as "practical" as the many identification needs of daily life. -- AP Wire | 03/22/2006 | Carter promotes requirement of voter ID

    Virgin Islands: federal judge promises decision by May

    The Virgin Islands Daily News reports: Court procedures are again in motion to make a long-awaited decision on a federal court case demanding that territory residents who are United States citizens be represented with votes in Congress and be allowed to vote for president.

    The first hearing since 2002 in a voting rights case filed by St. Thomas resident Krim Ballentine went forward in District Court on Monday morning. New Jersey District Judge Anne Thompson made no decisions, but she pronounced the case - completely argued and briefed years ago - ripe for judgment.

    Ballentine, a St. Thomas activist and 2004 candidate for V.I. delegate to Congress, filed a lawsuit in District Court in 1999 challenging the Revised Organic Act of 1954. Ballentine's lawsuit claims that he is a disenfranchised voter because he is a U.S. citizen but has no real representation in the federal government.

    Residents of the Virgin Islands - and other U.S. territories and possessions - are not represented in the Electoral College, which selects the nation's president. While all states have two U.S. senators and members of the House of Representatives based on population, the Virgin Islands - as well as other U.S. territories and possessions and the District of Columbia - is represented in Congress only by a nonvoting delegate who can propose legislation and serve on committees. -- Virgin Islands, Virgin Islands Newspaper, A Pulitzer Prize Winning Newspaper, Virgin Islands Guide, Virgin Islands Info

    Pennsylvania: CREW files complaint against Pastors Network

    CREW announces: Earlier today, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) alleging that a get-out-the-vote training session offered by the Pennsylvania Pastors Network (PPN) may have violated IRS rules governing charities.

    The PPN is organized by four conservative organizations: Let Freedom Ring, the Pennsylvania Family Institute, the Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation, and the Urban Family Council. Let Freedom Ring is a section 501(c)(4) organization and the Pro-Life Federation has section 501(c)(4) and section 501(c)(3) components, but the Pennsylvania Family Institute and the Urban Family Council are both section 501(c)(3) organizations. IRS law explicitly prohibits section 501(c)(3) organizations from engaging in political activities.

    According to an article by David D. Kirkpatrick appearing in the March 21, 2006 edition of The New York Times, the first training get-out-the-vote session set up by the Pennsylvania Pastors Network took place on March 6, 2006 and included a videotaped message from Senator and candidate for the United States Senate, Rick Santorum (R-Pa.). According to the article, after the videotape of Sen. Santorum was played, copies of the Senator's book, "It Takes a Family," were handed out. -- U.S. Newswire : Releases : "CREW Files IRS Complaint Against PA Pastors..."

    March 21, 2006

    Pennsylvania: Pastors Network may draw IRS scrutiny

    The New York Times reports: Weeks after the Internal Revenue Service announced a crackdown on political activities by churches and other tax-exempt organizations, a coalition of nonprofit conservative groups is holding training sessions to enlist Pennsylvania pastors in turning out voters for the November elections.

    Experts in tax law said the sessions, organized by four groups as the Pennsylvania Pastors Network, could test the promises by the tax agency to step up enforcement of the law that prohibits such activity by exempt organizations.

    Such a test could define the boundaries for churches and other groups.

    Although the tax agency has often overlooked political activity by churches, it has repeatedly warned the clergy and religious groups that it intends to enforce its rules with new vigor this year, in part to correct what it considers to have been too much political intervention by churches and charities in 2004.

    The first training session, on March 6 in Valley Forge, included a videotaped message from a single candidate, Senator Rick Santorum, the Pennsylvania Republican who faces a difficult re-election fight. -- Pastors' Get-Out-the-Vote Training Could Test Tax Rules - New York Times

    Maine: Democratic chairman quits and party swears off out-of-state contributions

    The Bangor Daily News reports: Maine Democratic Party Chairman Patrick Colwell, citing personal reasons but battling a campaign finance controversy, has announced he will step down from his post next month.

    The resignation, which blindsided many of those attending Sunday's state committee meeting in Augusta, comes amid media scrutiny over whether the party's $10,000 donation to a U.S. Senate candidate in Rhode Island was part of an effort to skirt campaign finance laws. ...

    The party's ruling committee also put forward rules on Sunday to prevent similar out-of-state contributions in the future, but it did not take direct action to remove Colwell, said Stanley Gerzofsky, a party executive committee member and state representative. -- Maine Democratic Party chairman resigns - Jeff Tuttle

    Maryland: Steele steers state grants to non-profits and their board members give contributions to Steele

    The Baltimore Sun reports: Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele has collected thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from board members of the not-for-profit organizations selected by his office to receive unrestricted state grants, a review of campaign finance records shows.

    Officials with three of four African-American groups that in early 2004 received a combined $250,000 - the result of an insurance settlement received by the state - gave $13,711 to the lieutenant governor about the same time or in the months after, according to a state elections board database. ...

    The grant money was awarded by the Maryland Insurance Administration, whose administrator, Alfred W. Redmer Jr., asked Steele to recommend African-American organizations to receive the proceeds of a settlement with the Monumental Life Insurance Co. The Maryland-based company had been accused of race-based pricing policies.

    The proceeds were distributed to four groups without a competitive application process and were announced in letters stating that the money was given "on behalf of Lieutenant Governor Michael S. Steele." -- Donations scrutinized -

    Alabama: Huntsville Times opposed HB 711

    The Huntsville Times editorializes:
    Why complicate an issue that can be solved simply?

    Simple solutions aren't always the best solutions. But simple solutions ought to be considered first, not last.

    Alabama has a problem with its party primary runoffs in June. The runoff date of June 27 is too close to the primary date of June 6 to allow some absentee voters, especially military personnel in such places as Iraq and Afghanistan, to take part. In fact, the U.S. Justice Department has sued the state. Something must be done.

    The logical solution is to postpone the runoff, and Attorney General Troy King and Secretary of State Nancy Worley endorsed that idea. -- Runoffs: bad solution

    March 20, 2006

    New Hampshire: Tobin argues for dismissal of charges or new trial

    The Bangor Daily News reports: A Bangor man's hopes of avoiding prison for being part of a scheme to jam get-out-the-vote phone lines now rest with a federal judge after an hour-long hearing Friday.

    U.S. District Judge Steven McAuliffe took under advisement three motions seeking to keep James Tobin, 45, from being sentenced in May on his conspiracy conviction. One motion asks the judge to set aside the verdict, another seeks a new trial, and a third asks that the indictment against Tobin be dismissed.

    The longtime Republican political consultant was convicted in December after a six-day trial by a jury of 11 women and one man of conspiring to jam New Hampshire Democrats' get-out-the-vote phone lines three years ago and guilty of aiding and abetting the jamming of those phone lines. -- 3 motions seek to keep Tobin free - Judy Harrison (176)

    Alabama: Mobile Register opposes HB 711

    The Mobile Register editorializes: LEGISLATORS NEED to reverse course on an election law change that could benefit themselves -- to the disadvantage of military personnel -- and also spawn unnecessary election challenges.

    A better solution would be to delay this summer's runoff election from June 27 to July 18, as Attorney General Troy King and Secretary of State Nancy Worley suggest.

    Legislators are trying to resolve a U.S. Justice Department lawsuit that claims military personnel wouldn't have time to vote in this summer's runoff elections, which traditionally occur three weeks after a primary. -- Fairness demands delay

    Puerto Rico: Supreme Court refuses to hear PR's presidential vote case

    AP reports: The Supreme Court turned down an appeal Monday that sought to open U.S. presidential elections to voters in Puerto Rico.

    The court's action, taken without comment, is the latest setback in a long-running legal fight over voting rights of residents of the U.S. territory.

    Attorney Gregorio Igartua, who filed the appeal, said that "for 107 years and 22 presidential elections since Puerto Rico became part of the United States, the American citizens of Puerto Rico" have been unfairly treated. He told justices that the residents have "an inferior type of American citizenship." -- - Puerto Ricans dealt blow in U.S. presidential vote - Mar 20, 2006

    Alabama: Montgomery Advertiser opposed HB 711

    The Montgomery Advertiser editorializes: Legislation that would make service men and women serving overseas vote for candidates in possible June 27 party runoff elections at the same time they vote in the June 6 primary elections would treat military voters like second-class citizens, which they decidedly are not.

    The Alabama House approved such a bill last week, but the Senate should see that it does not pass.

    The legislation attempts to address a serious problem in Alabama's voting process - one that should have been addressed long ago. There is not enough time between the June 6 primary elections and the June 27 runoff elections to print new ballots, mail them to U.S. troops serving overseas, and have them returned in time to be counted in the runoffs. --�::� Treat those voters in military same

    March 19, 2006

    Alabama: why the Senate should adopt HB 711

    The Birmingham News published my commentary piece: Our service men and women overseas deserve a ballot - an effective ballot. That much is uncontroversial. How to do it - that is the question.

    The U.S. Justice Department filed suit against Alabama nine days ago because the three-week period between our first and second primaries is too short to get an absentee ballot from Alabama to Iraq or to Afghanistan or to our fleet and back. Under the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act, the Justice Department has the duty to make sure all overseas citizens, including our armed forces personnel, have the right to cast a ballot in elections with federal candidates. But Alabama needs to make certain these folks can vote for state and local candidates in the runoff as well.

    There are several ways under consideration. -- Soldiers stationed overseas deserve a better ballot

    The whole commentary is also available here. In the rush to catch up with events in the Legislature, a typo crept into the piece. In the fifth paragraph, it should refer to the bill passed by the Senate, not the House.

    Alabama: "felon disenfranchisement creep"

    Ryan Paul Haygood writes in the Birmingham News: Alabama's constitution, which was passed into law by the people, permits those convicted of felony offenses not involving "moral turpitude" to register to vote. Alabama's courts, the state attorney general and the state Board of Pardons and Paroles also have made it clear that people convicted of felony offenses like Gooden's, such as driving under the influence of alcohol or drug possession, do not lose their voting rights.

    Unfortunately, Secretary of State Nancy Worley, the state's chief election official, is flouting Alabama's constitution and laws by advising county registrars throughout Alabama to refuse to register these potential voters unless they have a Certificate of Eligibility from the Board of Pardons and Paroles, a document they do not need and indeed cannot receive.

    The secretary of state's behavior is a symptom of "felon disfranchisement creep," a practice that occurs when election officials - whether intentionally or through ignorance of the law - improperly expand existing felon disfranchisement laws to deny the vote to eligible citizens. -- State doesn't need repeat of vote denial

    The article is also available here.

    March 18, 2006

    Alabama: Ed Packard on HB 711

    Ed Packard writes on his Election Administration blog that Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) is not the answer to the Justice Department's suit against Alabama over military and civilian overseas absentee voting.

    Background: The Justice Department has sued Alabama under the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA) because, the complaint says, the time between Alabama's first and second primaries is too short to allow many absentee ballots to be sent and returned by civilian and military overseas voters. In response, two bills are working their way through the Alabama Legislature. One would change the date of the runoff (second) primary to allow time for the mail-out and mail-back of the absentee ballots. The House bill (HB 711) will create a ranked-order ballot that will allow the overseas voters to cast one ballot that can be counted twice, if necessary.

    [Let me stick in a disclaimer here: I may be indirectly responsible, I think, for the IRV amendment to the original HB 711 (which was to change the date of the second primary). I spoke to House Majority Leader Ken Guin at the beginning of the week about using IRV as a method of saving money and complying with UOCAVA). I mentioned the bill pending in South Carolina and the act already adopted in Arkansas. I think that Guin picked the language out of one of those and offered it as an amendment to HB 711.]

    Ed Packard (whom I greatly respect) has three objections to HB 711. First, he says, "HB711 as passed does not do anything to increase the amount of time for this absentee voting period." True, but irrelevant. Since one ballot will be used by the overseas voter to vote in the first and second primaries, the date change is unnecessary.

    Second, he says, "HB711's instant runoff provision assists military voters in the runoff election only if they have applied to vote in the primary election." Again this is true, but I thing not very much of a problem. How many absentee voters apply to vote only in the runoff? A very small percentage, I would suggest. (Ed Packard probably has greater access to those figures than I do.) Rather think of it in terms of the overseas voter. If I want to vote by absentee ballot in any election, I have to meet a deadline for getting my ballot in the mail. If I want to vote in the runoff, but not the first primary, then I can do request the special absentee ballot and let it sit in my footlocker till I know who is still in the runoff and vote then. (I don't know why anyone would want to do that.) Even under the mailing time quoted by the Department of Justice in its suit, this would be plenty of time to mail the absentee ballot back to the U.S.

    Third, he says, "The violations alleged by DOJ involve citizens who live overseas, not just military personnel." I think Ed just misread the bill. HB 711 refers to "the qualified electors who are overseas citizens and active duty military personnel stationed overseas" as the ones eligible to receive a special absentee ballot.

    I hope Ed Packard will take another look at HB 711.

    March 17, 2006

    Conference announcement: "Making Every Vote Count: A Colloquium on Election Reform Legislation"

    On behalf of the Policy Research Institute for the Region at Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law and the Fels Institute for Government at the University of Pennsylvania, we would like to invite you to attend a conference on election reform that we are hosting this spring. The conference, titled "Making Every Vote Count: A Colloquium on Election Reform Legislation" will take place at Princeton on April 6th and 7th, and will bring leading figures in the scholarly, policy, and advocacy communities together to consider the myriad urgent yet delicate questions currently confronting the nation's electoral systems. For attorneys, the conference will also count as CLE credit. There is no charge to attend.

    "Making Every Vote Count," will focus on three particularly important federal laws -- the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA, or McCain-Feingold), the Voting Rights Act (VRA), and the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) – with a special emphasis on the implications of these acts for practice and policy in the New York/New Jersey/Pennsylvania region. Among the questions we hope to address are:

    • “How has the McCain-Feingold Act both limited and driven policymaking at the state level;”

    • “In what ways does HAVA challenge common definitions of voting equity, and what are the implications of those challenges for the future of policymaking;"

    • "How might the Voting Rights Act best reflect minority voters’ concerns, in the renewal process and beyond;"

    • “What are some important goals in election reform that both HAVA and the VRA fail to address?”

    Several pieces of specially commissioned research will provide the foundation for the event. Authors who will be presenting their work include Ned Foley of Ohio State’s Moritz College of Law, Richard Pildes of New York University School of Law, Richard Briffault of Columbia Law School, and Guy Charles of the University of Minnesota Law School. Along with panels based on these papers, there will be roundtable discussions with critical regional election officials, as well as keynote addresses by leading figures in the election reform movement, including former EAC Chair DeForest Soaries.

    For more information, please contact Andy Rachlin at or (609)258-9531. To register, please go to or contact Georgette Harrison at or (609)258-9065. Please register online if at all possible, as it makes it easier for us to provide updates on the conference as the date nears. Note that the conference will begin at 9:15 a.m. each day and continue until mid-afternoon.

    We hope you will be able to join us for what is sure to be a timely and provocative event.

    House GOP proposes putting 527's under campaign finance restrictions on contributions

    The Washington Post reports: House Republican leaders proposed changes in lobbying laws yesterday that would include a crackdown on independent, big-money committees that heavily aided Democrats in the 2004 elections. ...

    As part of the House GOP proposals, "527" organizations that operate independently of the political parties would no longer be allowed to collect unlimited sums from individuals. Democratic-leaning 527s have accepted tens of millions of dollars from such wealthy backers as investor George Soros and insurance mogul Peter B. Lewis.

    Instead, the groups would be governed by federal campaign finance laws that would restrict such giving to a total of $30,000 from individuals per year. By contrast, during the 2004 election cycle, Soros gave $27 million and Lewis gave nearly $24 million to Democratic-oriented 527 groups, according to PoliticalMoneyLine, a nonpartisan research company.

    Republicans were excited at the prospect of crippling these groups. "We strongly commend these efforts as an important step towards much-needed reform," said a spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee.

    Democrats spoke out against the proposal. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) "does not personally support additional restrictions on 527 contributions," a Pelosi spokeswoman said. -- GOP Seeks Curbs On '527' Groups

    March 16, 2006

    Louisiana: DOJ preclears New Orleans voting plan

    The Washington Post reports: The Justice Department approved plans yesterday for the first New Orleans election since Hurricane Katrina, despite objections from civil rights groups who said the voting arrangements do not adequately accommodate the city's displaced black voters.

    The storm has tilted the racial balance of city residents in favor of whites, many believe, and controversy has surrounded the question of what kind of accommodations should be made to allow the tens of thousands of black evacuees to vote from outside the state.

    The state plan for the election calls for sending mass mailings to evacuees, easing restrictions on absentee ballots, and setting up satellite polling stations around Louisiana. But it stops short of arranging for balloting in other states such as Texas, Mississippi and Georgia, where many evacuees are dispersed.

    Several civil rights groups, including the NAACP, urged the Justice Department to call for out-of-state polling places. -- Election Plan for New Orleans Approved

    South Carolina: IRV bill passes House committee

    AP reports: A House subcommittee has approved changes in the state's primary elections forced by the threat of a federal lawsuit.

    The panel approved creating "instant runoffs" for the state's June 13th primaries. -- Columbia, SC: House subcommittee approves "instant runoffs"

    Alabama: House passes bill adopting IRV for overseas voters

    AP reports: The Alabama House approved a bill Thursday that will allow military personnel overseas to cast a ballot for the June 27 party runoffs at the same time they vote in the June 6 primary elections - a change lawmakers hope will resolve a lawsuit filed against the state by the U.S. Justice Department.

    The House voted 101-1 to approve the legislation sponsored by Rep. Lesley Vance, D-Phenix City. Vance's bill would have originally moved the date of the runoffs to July 18, but the House approved an amendment by Majority Leader Rep. Ken Guin, D-Carbon Hill, to instead allow soldiers to use the special runoff ballots.

    But the issue is still not settled. A Senate committee Thursday approved a bill to change the runoff date and some senators said the final version of the bill still must be worked out.

    The Justice Department's lawsuit claims there is not enough time between the June 6 party primaries and the June 27 runoffs for military personnel overseas, particularly those fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, to receive and return absentee ballots. -- Welcome to

    The bill as engrossed (that is as it passed the House) is here.

    South Dakota: Wisconsin group files to begin initiative on abortion law

    The Argus Leader reports: An out-of-state group that opposes South Dakota's ban of most abortions filed paperwork Tuesday to begin collecting signatures for a referendum vote.

    If 16,728 signatures are collected by mid-June, South Dakotans would vote Nov. 7 to approve or reject the state abortion law.

    The paperwork filed Tuesday lists the sponsor of the petition drive as Noah Beck Hahn-Walter of Basic-Abortion-Rights Network of Waukesha, Wis. ...

    Secretary of State Chris Nelson said there's nothing in South Dakota law that prevents an out-of-state group from beginning the petition drive. -- Argus Leader - News

    Alabama: county in the red over the voting machine blues

    The Montgomery Advertiser reports: Montgomery County officials are ready to take Alabama's chief election official to court to get back the $2 million they spent on a new voting system.

    Secretary of State Nancy Worley returned the Jan. 11 reimbursement request herself, saying the county had not met her office's guidelines.

    County commissioners have gone into executive session in their last two meetings to discuss Worley's decision with the county attorney. ...

    Worley contends the county bought its system, which uses paper ballots and an optical scan reader to tabulate votes, before she had set purchasing guidelines and a reimbursement procedure. ...

    County officials counter that Worley established her rules more than a month after the Jan. 1 deadline for compliance with the federal Help America Vote Act and after they submitted their documentation. --�::� County might sue over $2 million vote system

    Florida: Harris promises to spend her fortune on Senate race

    The St. Petersburg Times reports: In an attempt to salvage her sagging U.S. Senate campaign, Rep. Katherine Harris announced on national TV Wednesday night that she plans to pump $10-million of her own money into the race.

    "I'm going to put everything on the line. Everything. Not just my career and my future but my father's name," Harris said. "It's going to take everything that I have and I'm going to put it in this race. I'm going to commit my legacy from my father."

    Under federal campaign finance laws, kicking in millions of her own money could trigger a so-called "millionaire's amendment," which allows rivals to receive bigger campaign contributions.

    But that will do little to help Nelson, unless Harris spent millions of her own money on the general election after the September primary. -- State: Harris: I'm in race all the way

    March 15, 2006

    California: Senate committee passes redistricting reform bill

    Scripps Howard News Service reports: Legislation to strip California lawmakers of their power to draw state Senate, Assembly and other political boundaries narrowly passed a legislative committee Wednesday.

    Supported by Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, the measure comes four months after voters soundly defeated Proposition 77, which also called for independent redistricting but differed significantly in its process and timing.

    Sen. Alan Lowenthal, a Long Beach Democrat who helped craft SCA 3, hailed the proposed constitutional amendment as a way to give political power "back to the people."

    "We can only depoliticize the redistricting process by working together," Lowenthal said in urging bipartisan support.

    Under SCA 3, boundaries for legislative, congressional and Board of Equalization districts would be drawn once every decade, beginning in 2011, after the federal census.

    Boundaries would be set by a citizens commission, with legislative leaders choosing a majority of its members from a pool of candidates nominated by a panel of retired appellate judges. -- Scripps Howard News Service

    I'm sure that Rick Hasen will have all the details at Election Law

    Texas: Court invalidates prosecution subpoenas

    UPI reports: U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Texas, won a legal skirmish when a court invalidated 30 prosecution subpoenas and ordered that no more be issued, reports said.

    A Texas State Court of Appeals ruled Monday that all prosecution subpoenas must wait until it rules on an appeal brought by the state.

    The appeal, on which oral arguments will be held March 22, contests a judge's dismissal of conspiracy charges against the former U.S. House majority leader involving Texas' 2002 legislative elections. -- Breaking News: Court Orders DeLay Subpoenas Halted - The Post Chronicle

    Missouri: Senate wrangles over voter I.D. bill

    AP reports: Senate Democrats spent hours talking about how a voting bill would limit people’s access to the polls, but in the end the starting date is what stalled the legislation.

    The bill would require voters to show photo identification to cast a ballot — a change supporters say is necessary to prevent voter fraud, but which critics say would be a hassle that discourages people from voting.

    After hours of talk on the bill, the Senate took a break to see if a compromise could be reached. But Democrats insisted on putting off the photo ID requirement until at least 2008, saying voters need time to learn of the new requirement, while Republicans want it done this year. -- Lawmakers defer decision on voter ID bill

    Minnesota: straight party line vote in House committee on voter I.D. bill

    Minnesota Public Radio reports: A bill moving through the Minnesota House would create stricter requirements for people trying to register to vote in Minnesota. The House Civil Law Committee approved the legislation on Wednesday on a straight party-line vote. The proposal brought emotional pleas from supporters who called for stronger measures to prevent voter fraud. But critics say the bill is an attempt to keep people of color, the poor and the elderly from voting.

    Right now Minnesota law allows people to register to vote on the day of an election. People can register with a photo ID, a utility bill with an up to date address or through a neighbor who can vouch for a voter's residency.

    Rep. Tom Emmer's legislation basically does two things: it would require citizens to provide a passport, a birth certificate or naturalization papers when they register to vote. Voters would also have to provide proper photo identification when they go to the polls on election day. -- MPR: Voting bill stirs strong emotions at Capitol

    Pennsylvania: Governor vetoes voter I.D. bill

    The Governor's Office announces: Pennsylvania Governor Edward G. Rendell today formally vetoed House Bill 1318, calling the bill an unnecessary burden that will result in some Pennsylvania residents losing their right to vote.

    In taking action to veto the bill, Governor Rendell said, "I am vetoing this bill because I believe it violates the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. It also places an unnecessary new burden on electors that will result in some losing their right to vote, and I will do all I can to make sure that actions like this cannot happen on my watch.

    "With voter participation in our country dropping to alarming levels, the government should not be taking action that will turn away bona fide voters from our polls," the Governor said.

    Governor Rendell said that those who want to decrease voter participation by passing this bill did so under the ruse that voters need to show identification to prevent voter fraud. The Governor added that he is concerned that the legislation would have disenfranchised people living in nursing homes, a displaced family or the state's poorest, who may not have any government-issued identification. -- Pennsylvania Governor Rendell Signs Veto Message Protecting Fundamental Right to Vote of PA Citizens, Says Bill Places Unnecessary Burden on Voters

    The FIFTH Amendment !?!

    Alabama: House consider IRV amendment to primary runoff bill

    AP reports: The Alabama House delayed a vote Wednesday on a proposal to change the date of political party primary runoff elections from June 27 to July 18 to give members time to study a different plan for giving military personnel overseas an opportunity to vote in the runoff.

    The U.S. Justice Department has filed a lawsuit against the state, claiming there is not enough time between the June 6 party primaries and the June 27 runoffs for military personnel overseas, particularly those fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, to receive and return absentee ballots.

    Attorney General Troy King and Secretary of State Nancy Worley had recommended a bill to delay the date of the runoff to resolve the problem.

    But when that bill came up on the House floor for debate Wednesday, House Majority Leader Rep. Ken Guin, D-Carbon Hill, suggested an amendment that would leave the runoffs on June 27, but would allow counties to send soldiers absentee ballots for the runoffs when they mail out the primary ballots.

    The special runoff ballots, to be sent only to service members overseas, would list the names of all candidates in races where there are more than two candidates and there is a possibility there will be a runoff. The service members would be asked to rank those candidates from favorite to least favorite and return the runoff ballot with the primary ballot, Guin said. -- Welcome to

    House leadership wants to regulate 527's in the lobbying reform bill

    The New York Times reports: After weeks of internal wrangling over a measure to tighten lobbying laws, the House Republican leadership decided Tuesday night to back a measure that would temporarily bar lawmakers from privately financed trips and require lobbyists to disclose their gifts to lawmakers. ...

    The officials also said the lawmakers discussed placing limits on political advocacy groups, or 527's, that are allowed to receive unlimited donations from individuals. But they were not certain if such limits would be included in the final legislative package.

    Earlier Tuesday, Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio, the House majority leader, told reporters the leaders would have a lobbying law package by the end of the week. -- House Leaders Plan to Support Measure Restricting Lobbying

    March 14, 2006

    California: money a politician has but can't use

    The Argus reports: California's political watchdog agency ruled former Assemblywoman Ellen Corbett improperly wanted to tap nearly $100,000 in leftover campaign funds for her current Senate race — a stinging decision she is appealing today.

    If Corbett wins her appeal by faulting her campaign treasurer, she could open what state officials called a Pandora's box of other politicians trying to sidestep campaign finance laws by citing employees' errors.

    Corbett is in a tight race against former Assemblyman John Dutra of Fremont and Assemblyman Johan Klehs of San Leandro for the Democratic nomination to the 10th Senate District, which includes Fremont, Newark, Union City and other East Bay cities.

    Fair Political Practices Commission advisers are fighting Corbett's appeal, which asserts her "grossly negligent" campaign treasurer failed to meet the legal deadline for transferring funds from Corbett's old Assembly account to her new Senate campaign. -- Corbett appeals ruling on finances

    Arizona: Secretary of State defies EAC

    The Arizona Daily Star reports: Secretary of State Jan Brewer will tell county election officials to ignore a ruling that Arizonans do not need to show proof of citizenship when they register to vote with a federal registration form.
    In an angry letter to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, Brewer dismissed the ruling as "completely inconsistent, unlawful and without merit."
    The commission informed Brewer last week that "Arizona may not refuse to register individuals to vote in a federal election for failing to provide supplemental proof of citizenship," as required under Proposition 200.

    Overwhelmingly approved by voters in November 2004, Prop. 200 made Arizona the first state in the nation to require proof of citizenship for voter registration.
    Under its terms, county election officials must reject any voter registration form that is not accompanied by documentation such as a birth certificate, passport, tribal ID card or an Arizona driver's license issued after Oct. 1, 1996, when proof of legal residency for licenses became necessary. -- Ignore voter registration ruling, state official says |

    March 13, 2006

    Democrats still fiddling with primary and caucus schedule

    The Washington Post reports: The Democratic Party's Rules and Bylaws Committee yesterday dealt a blow to New Hampshire Democrats hoping to keep their coveted place in the presidential nominating schedule, agreeing by voice vote to a plan that would place one or two caucuses between the Iowa caucuses on Jan. 14, 2008, and the New Hampshire primary eight days later.

    The proposal, which grew from recommendations by a commission studying how to make the nominating process more diverse both racially and geographically, would also add one or two primaries after the New Hampshire contest but before Feb. 5 -- the date after which any state is free to schedule a vote. -- Democrats to Alter Caucus Schedule to Boost Diversity

    Louisiana: voting rights symposium at Southern University

    The Louisiana Weekly reports: "Preserving Power: Protecting Katrina Voting Rights and Renewing the Voting Rights Act," is a free two-day symposium that being hosted by the Southern University Law Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on Friday and Saturday, March 24 and 25, 2006. Keynote speaker will be Theodore Shaw, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. -- Louisiana Weekly - Your Community. Your Newspaper.

    Pennsylvania: Allegheny Co. wants paper trail

    The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports: In Allegheny County, everyone seems to want a veepat.

    County Chief Executive Dan Onorato wants it. All 15 County Council members, both Republicans and Democrats, want it. And VotePA, a group of impassioned voting rights activists, desperately wants it.

    The "veepat," or VVPT, is a voter-verified paper trail, a printed record that voters can check before casting their choices on electronic voting machines.

    Because of the federal Help America Vote Act, electronic machines are making their debut in thousands of voting precincts across Pennsylvania in the May 16 primary. But many won't have a paper trail for voters, a distinction that puts Pennsylvania in a shrinking minority. -- Allegheny County officials, voters group want paper trails

    Astroturf regulation or threat to free speech?

    The New York Times reports: In the eyes of one conservative group, a lesser-known Senate lobbying proposal would have forced Revolutionary patriots to reveal their leafleting routes to King George.

    A fanciful leap, for sure, but what the provision would do is require the disclosure of money spent on the kind of grassroots campaigns that involve paying lobbyists to recruit large numbers of people to call or write or e-mail their lawmakers and press their views on, say, school prayer or trigger locks or greenhouse gases.

    To its supporters, the provision would unmask "Astroturf" ventures, fake grassroots operations with big money funneled through shell groups that employ friendly voices and benign names to cajole voters into swamping government officials with messages. Nearly every elected official has felt the onslaught of mass campaigns: phone lines clogged, letter bins overflowing, servers jammed with e-mail.

    This proposal attracted little attention at first, overshadowed as it was by the clamor over trips on corporate jets and golfing excursions to Scotland. But in recent weeks, it has provoked a lot of noise from outside groups, ranging from the free-speech group American Civil Liberties Union to the conservative Concerned Women for America. They have proved formidable enough that leading Republican senators distanced themselves from the amendment last week to the point where the provision's survival is doubtful. -- The Senate Takes a Look at All Those Happy Pamphleteers - New York Times

    "Tricks of virtual redistricting"

    Lani Guinier and Gerald Torres write in the Boston Globe: DURING ORAL arguments on the Texas redistricting case March 1, Chief Justice John Roberts asked the lawyer for the Mexican-American appellants: ''What's the difference between 'being one' and 'looking like one?' "

    Though Roberts was asking about the claim that the Legislature was hiding its partisan shenanigans behind an ersatz majority Latino election district in Southwest Texas, he could easily have been inquiring about the identity of the residents of that district and of their congressman. The question looms large because the legality of the Republicans' mid-decade redistricting will probably rise or fall with the proposition that appearances matter, i.e., that the legality of the plan depends on what the district, the politician who represents it, or the people living inside the district ''look like."

    That the case will turn on identity, not partisan politics is not surprising since the probable swing voter, Justice Anthony Kennedy, objected that the mapmakers' twists and turns camouflaged a racial ''affront and insult" within the partisan landscape. Kennedy grounded his objection in a series of cases in the 1990s, where the court expressed displeasure with Democrats who allowed race to predominate on the map of congressional districts in North Carolina.

    In North Carolina, blacks, who were one-fifth of the electorate, had not elected a representative of their choice to Congress for almost a century. Yet Democrats, concerned about the reelection of a white Democrat incumbent, chose not to create a compact district in the southeastern and central part of the state where blacks and Native Americans lived in close proximity. Motivated by their own brand of political engineering, North Carolina Democrats ignored the potentially compact district to fashion instead a majority black ''highway district" that followed the lines of a zigzagging interstate. One legislator mused that if you drove down Interstate 85 with both car doors open, you would mow down all the voters in the district. The court objected. Appearances mattered. -- Tricks of virtual redistricting - The Boston Globe

    March 11, 2006

    Montana: Baptist Church fined for electioneering

    BP News reports: In a decision that conservatives say chills religious expression, a Montana state official March 7 ruled that a Southern Baptist church violated state election laws in 2004 by endorsing a constitutional marriage amendment petition drive without notifying the state.

    In a 10-page ruling, Gordon Higgins, Montana's commissioner of political practices, said that Canyon Ferry Road Baptist Church was required by state law to fill out paperwork and report itself as an "incidental political committee," which it did not do. The church placed petitions for the amendment, known as CI-96, in the foyer, and its pastor, Berthold G. Stumberg III, encouraged support for it from the pulpit. The church is located in East Helena.

    The amendment passed by a margin of 66-34 percent.

    "Use of the church’s facilities to obtain signatures on CI-96 petitions, along with Pastor Stumberg’s encouragement of persons to sign the CI-96 petitions during regularly scheduled church services, obviously had value to the campaign in support of CI-96," Higgins wrote. -- State rules against Mont. church for backing marriage amend.

    Thanks to Religion Clause blog for the link.

    Alabama: text of the DOJ suit against Alabama

    The U.S. Justice Department website has the text of the UOCAVA suit it filed on Friday against the State of Alabama.

    I have two questions about the suit. I hope my readers can answer them.

    First, why is the Justice Department suing? It appears that the relief it seeks is redundant of the provisions of the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act -- specifically, the use of the blank Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot.

    Second, if the suit is still pending in four weeks and there are no Congressional races with more than two candidates, will the feds dismiss the suit? Qualifying deadline for the primaries is 7 April. If there are only one or two candidates in each party for each Congressional seat, there will not be a runoff.

    March 10, 2006

    Alabama: DOJ files suit over military absentee ballots

    AP reports: The U.S. Justice Department has filed a lawsuit against the state of Alabama to force state officials to make sure military personnel overseas can vote in this summer's primary runoff elections.

    The lawsuit, filed late Thursday in federal court in Birmingham, said there is not enough time after the June 6 Democratic and Republican primaries to deliver ballots to service members in Iraq and other overseas locations and have them returned by the June 27 runoffs.

    Attorney General Troy King told The Associated Press on Friday he believes a bill pending in the Legislature to delay the runoffs until July 18 will resolve the problem. The bill was approved by the House Constitution and Elections Committee Thursday and is expected to be voted on in the full House next week.

    King said the Justice Department offered to let state officials sign a consent decree, agreeing to allow service members to vote by fax and to delay the date of the runoff. But the attorney general said he declined to sign the consent decree because he believes only the Legislature - not a consent decree - can change state election law. -- AP Wire | 03/10/2006 | Justice Department sues state over military voting issue

    Pennsylvania: candidate's residency challenged

    The Philadelphia Daily News reports: Former state Sen. Milton Street is considering another run for public office. But it will take approval from the Commonwealth Court to put him on the ballot.

    Street, who listed a home address in New Jersey as recently as November, surfaced this week as a potential candidate for the Pennsylvania state House.

    But his nomination petitions were rejected by the Pennsylvania Department of State, a spokeswoman said yesterday, because Street was unable to identify the district he was running in.

    "That's something that can be amendable through Commonwealth Court," said the spokeswoman, Allison Hrestak. But it would take a petition to the court and focus early attention on Street's residency claims.

    The state constitution specifies that House members be residents of their districts for one year before their elections, unless they are absent "on public business of the United States or this state," such as for military service. -- Philadelphia Daily News | 03/09/2006 | Milton Street's residency at issue in Pa. House try

    Maryland: bill would allow non-residents to vote in some vacation towns

    The Ocean City Dispatch reports: A bill introduced in the Maryland General Assembly, which, if passed, would extend voting rights to non-resident property owners in municipalities where at least 75 percent of the real estate is owned by non-resident property owners, is directly related to Ocean City and could change the face of government and politics in the resort forever.

    Enfranchising non-resident property owners in Ocean City is certainly not a new issue and has been debated in the resort for decades. Currently, over 90 percent of all real estate in the resort, including commercial property, is owned by non-resident property owners with around 77 percent of the residential property owned by out-of-towners.

    Conversely, just 2,600 of the roughly 32,000 residential units in Ocean City are currently owner-occupied year round, but the small resident owner minority has all of the political clout in the resort. The vast number of disenfranchised non-resident property owners in Ocean City has made appeals in the past to gain voting rights in the resort to no avail, but a bill introduced in the General Assembly could settle the decades-old issue once and for all.

    House Bill 1508, introduced by Frederick County Delegate Galen Clagett, attempts to address the issue of voting rights for non-resident property owners in a municipality. The bill states if more than 75 percent of the property in a municipality is owned by persons who reside outside the municipality, the municipal government shall grant the non-resident property owners the right to vote and participate in elections. -- Nonresident Voting Bill Linked To Ocean City

    North Carolina: state board says two legislators failed to report campaign contributions

    The News & Observer reports: Two state lawmakers representing overlapping districts in northeastern North Carolina failed to report thousands of dollars in campaign contributions and expenses as required by state law, and one of the two may have tried to avoid scrutiny by providing a false campaign report, state elections officials said Thursday.

    The State Board of Elections asked Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby to investigate state Sen. Robert Holloman, an Ahoskie Democrat, for failing to disclose more than $23,000 in campaign contributions, accepting $1,300 in cash donations into his campaign account, accepting donations from businesses and for producing a campaign report that might be fraudulent. ...

    The board said it will seek a civil penalty against Rep. Howard Hunter, a Hertford County Democrat, for failing to report campaign donations in the past two election cycles. Hunter had told the board in letters that he would not raise more than $3,000 in either cycle, which would have allowed him to not file a campaign report. But an audit of his bank records showed that he received and spent more than $3,000 in both cycles. -- | Local & State

    Louisiana: groups criticize confusing voter information

    The New Orleans Times-Picayune reports: Voter rights groups accused state elections officials Thursday of mailing out "totally confusing" or incomplete election information to more than 700,000 Louisiana residents displaced by hurricanes.

    Voter information posted on Secretary of State Al Ater's Web site also has been incomplete and misleading, although improvements have been made in recent days, said Jean Armstrong, president of the League of Women Voters of Louisiana and spokeswoman for the Louisiana Voting Rights Network.

    The Louisiana Voting Rights Network includes the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, ACORN, the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana, Common Cause of Louisiana, the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law and other groups.

    The conflicting or incomplete information may keep some residents displaced by Hurricanes Katrina or Rita from voting in the New Orleans primary April 22, said Tory Pegram, the ACLU's development and public education associate. -- Voter rights groups criticize election mailings

    Alabama: DOJ sues over military voters

    The Justice Department announces: The Justice Department today announced that it has filed a lawsuit to protect the opportunity of military and overseas voters to participate fully in the 2006 federal primary elections in Alabama. The lawsuit was brought under the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA), which requires states to allow military and other overseas citizens to register to vote and vote absentee for all elections for federal office. The lawsuit names as defendants the State of Alabama, Governor Bob Riley, Attorney General Troy King and Secretary of State Nancy Worley.

    The lawsuit contends that the three-week period between Alabama's federal primary and run-off elections is too short for run-off ballots to be created, mailed, and returned from absentee voters in distant places including war zones. The complaint asks the court to order adoption of a special blank run-off ballot, state and county Internet notice and media publicity of run-off candidates, expedited return of run-off ballots from overseas voters, and extra time for the receipt and counting of those ballots. The Civil Rights Division had notified each of the state officials of the need for action to comply with the UOCAVA by letter received by each of the state offices on Dec. 20, 2005. -- U.S. Newswire : Releases : "DOJ Announces Filing of Lawsuit To Protect..."

    Alabama: House committee votes to delay runoff

    AP reports: A House committee voted Thursday to delay the primary runoff elections from June 27 to July 18 to give military personnel overseas, particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan, time to cast ballots.

    Members of the House Constitution and Elections Committee approved legislation moving the runoff after Attorney General Troy King told them the Justice Department is expected to file a lawsuit, possibly as early as today, to force the state to make sure soldiers in Iraq and around the globe have time to vote.

    "I think we should be sued," King said. "Everybody, especially those defending others' right to vote, ought to have their own rights defended by this Legislature."

    The problem is that the runoff ballot will not be set until after the June 6 party primaries and it currently takes 10 to 15 days to get mail to many soldiers fighting in Iraq, making it almost impossible to deliver the ballots and have them returned in the 21 days between the primary and the runoffs. -- Delay sought in primary runoff

    Alabama: excluded candidates sues Democratic Party

    The Birmingham News reports: The Alabama Democratic Party has unfairly singled out a former Jefferson County Commissioner for punishment by keeping him out of the upcoming June primary, according to a complaint filed Thursday in Jefferson County Circuit Court.

    The complaint accuses the party of not accepting qualifying papers from former Commissioner Steve Small.

    Walter Braswell, who filed the complaint on Small's behalf, said the party doesn't want his client to run in District 2 because incumbent Shelia Smoot is vulnerable.

    Joe Turnham, chairman of the Alabama Democratic Party, said on Thursday that Small violated the party rules by running against Smoot as an independent after Small lost in a runoff in the last election. -- Small says Democrats single him out for ban

    March 9, 2006

    Vermont: IRV in Burlington worked

    FairVote reports on its website: On Tuesday March 7, Burlington, VT became the first city in the U.S. in over 30 years to elect its mayor using instant runoff voting. After the first round of counting, no candidate garnered the required majority to win outright. Progressive candidate Bob Kiss received 39% of first-choice votes, Democrat Hinda Miller 31%, and Republican Kevin Curley 26%. At this point an instant runoff kicked in. Curley and two other independent candidates were eliminated and their second choices counted. This gave Kiss enough votes to cross the majority threshold and win the race.

    Voters found the system easy to use and understand, and almost no trouble with the balloting was reported. The Progressive Party has been active in Vermont politics for decades, and Burlington has elected several Progressive mayors in the past under the previous plurality system.

    March 8, 2006

    Cherokee Nation: "Freedmen" are citizens and can vote

    The Muskogee Phoenix reports: Cherokee Freedman retain tribal citizenship under the tribe’s 1975 constitution and are legally entitled to vote, the tribe’s highest court ruled 2-1 Tuesday.

    “This will end up being a decision of historic importance,” said Tahlequah attorney Nate Young III, a Cherokee.

    Freedmen will again have the right to access tribal services and to vote in tribal elections, Young said.

    Judicial Appeals Tribunal Justices Tracy Leeds and Darrell Dowty concurred that to exclude a class of citizens from membership, the constitution would have to do so with specific and clear language.

    “Exclusion cannot be left to inference by omission or by silence.,” Dowty said.

    Lucy Allen, 73, a Freedmen, sued the tribal council, the tribal registrar and the tribal registration committee in November 2004 because legislation at the time said she had to prove she was “Cherokee by blood.” -- Freedmen are tribal citizens

    "Freedmen" are the descendants of slaves owned by the Cherokees. The Court's decision is here.

    ACLU pushes for VRA renewal

    AP reports: The Voting Rights Act would be severely weakened if provisions such as federal clearance of some local election changes and protections for voters who do not speak English are not renewed, activists say.

    That's why the American Civil Liberties Union is involved in a nationwide campaign to raise public awareness about the importance of the historic act, passed in 1965, and to encourage Congress to reauthorize expiring sections of the law. The provisions in the law expire in the summer of 2007, but Congress is already starting to consider the reauthorization.

    "If there's not a major push for the renewal of the Voting Rights Act, many of the advances we've seen in the past two decades will be severely undermined," LaShawn Warren, legislative council for the ACLU, said Tuesday.

    Some conservative lawmakers have voiced opposition to renewing the clearance provision of the Voting Rights Act.

    That provision requires local officials in nine states to get any changes to voting practices or procedures cleared beforehand by federal officials to ensure that local officials do not try to discriminate against minorities. -- Voting Rights Act Gets ACLU Push to Renew

    Alabama: preliminary hearing in federal suit on felon disfranchisement

    The Birmingham News reports: A panel of three judges presiding over a federal lawsuit that claims some felons have a right to vote encouraged both sides in the case Tuesday to try and settle the issue.

    The suit, filed in December, contends that Alabama Secretary of State Nancy Worley and some county registrars are violating the state constitution by requiring all felons to apply to the Board of Pardons and Paroles to have voting rights restored.

    The suit claims Alabama's constitution provides that people convicted of certain felonies such as DUI and drug possession - unlike rape, robbery or murder - do not lose their voting rights and do not need to apply for an eligibility certificate from the board. ...

    An issue in the case, the lawyers said, is having registrars, many of whom have no law experience and are political appointees, decide which convicted felons are eligible to vote. Alabama law provides for county boards of registrars to approve or disapprove each voter's qualifications. A felon that has been denied the right to vote then can appeal the board's decision to the circuit court. -- Federal judges urge settlement in voting lawsuit

    The suit is Gooden v. Worley and the complaint is here. Ryan Haygood (of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund) and I represent the plaintiffs.

    March 7, 2006

    Virgin Islands: 3rd Circuit reassigns long-delayed voting rights case

    The Virgin Islands News reports: The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reassigned the lawsuit demanding that territory residents have the rights to vote for president and have voting representation in Congress to a federal judge from New Jersey.

    Krim Ballentine, a St. Thomas activist and 2004 candidate for V.I. delegate to Congress, filed a lawsuit in District Court in 1999 challenging the Revised Organic Act of 1954.

    Residents of the Virgin Islands - and other U.S. territories and possessions - are not represented in the Electoral College, which selects the nation's president. While all states have two U.S. senators and members of the House of Representatives based on population, the Virgin Islands - as well as other U.S. territories and possessions and the District of Columbia - is represented in Congress only by a nonvoting delegate who can propose legislation and serve on committees.

    Ballentine, a retired U.S. marshal who was born in the mainland United States, said that his lawsuit was a measure of last resort. The government that transferred him to the Virgin Islands did not warn him that he would be losing his right to vote for president when he moved here. -- Virgin Islands, Virgin Islands Newspaper, A Pulitzer Prize Winning Newspaper, Virgin Islands Guide, Virgin Islands Info

    Thanks to Michael Richardson for the tip.

    Brennan Center warns of "no-match, no-vote" policy

    The Brennan Center announces: Today, the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law released new research suggesting that improper implementation of statewide voter registration databases required under the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) could result in millions of eligible voters being denied access to the rolls.

    The report, Making the List: Database Matching and Verification Processes for Voter Registration, is the first extensive national survey of current state practices relating to the implementation of statewide voter registration databases required by 2006 under HAVA.

    “HAVA was meant to ensure that voter registration rolls are accurate and that all eligible citizens are able to cast their vote,” said Deborah Goldberg, Director of the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program. “Unfortunately, this report makes clear that poor implementation of HAVA’s database requirement has the potential to disenfranchise millions of Americans.”

    The Brennan Center found that the practice of using Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and Social Security Administration databases to verify information on voter registration forms could create unwarranted hurdles to registration and, in at least seven states, could result in 20% of eligible voters being incorrectly left off the rolls.

    “Databases compiled at different times and for different purposes record information differently: ‘William’ may not match ‘Will’ or ‘Billy’ and a maiden name may not match a married name. Given that, a ‘no-match, no-vote’ policy would be a disaster for voters,” stated Wendy Weiser, Deputy Director of the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program and one of the report’s authors. -- New State Voter Registration Databases Could Bar Millions from Voting, Brennan Center Report Shows

    This ought to give us all a wake-up call. I know, in my own case, my driver's license shows only part of my middle name -- truncated back when it was first issued (when dinosaurs roamed the earth). And my Social Security card has name different from my full legal name.

    Illinois: US Supreme Court refuses to hear judge non-recusal case

    ACSblog reports and comments: On Monday, the Supreme Court declined to hear the case of Avery v. State Farm Automobile Ins. Co., which raised the timely question of whether the due process clause can create a duty for a judge to recuse himself in cases where a significant campaign contributor is a party. In 2004, current Illinois Supreme Court Justice Lloyd Karmeier was in the midst of what has subsequently been deemed the most expensive state judicial election in American history. More than $9 million was raised between the two candidates with Justice Karmeier alone raising nearly $5 million. Briefs allege that over $1 million raised by the Karmeier campaign came from State Farm Insurance, who happened to have an appeal pending before the Illinois Supreme Court seeking the reversal of a lower court verdict which ordered State Farm to pay $1 billion in damages for using "off-brand replacement parts in car repairs." Despite the campaign contributions from State Farm, Justice Karmeier refused to recuse himself from the case and ended up casting the deciding vote in reversing the lower court. -- ACSBlog: The Blog of the American Constitution Society: The Cost of Justice?

    New Hampshire: House will consider bill to link voting and driving

    The Concord Monitor reports: After a week's vacation, the House is scheduled to consider about 300 bills and resolutions, on issues ranging from gay marriage to voting rights. Lawmakers will try to pack all that work into a three-day period, starting this afternoon. The schedule includes: ...

    A bill that would require voters who register on the day of the election and who drive to obtain a New Hampshire license and car registration within 40 days of that election. Opponents say this could interfere with voting rights by equating voting with motor-vehicle residency and registration. Proponents say it would not affect voters who do not drive. The Election Law Committee voted to support the bill, 12-4. -- Long menu of bills awaits House - Concord Monitor Online - Concord, NH 03301

    New York: county election commissioners move to intervene to defend lack of e-voting

    The Daily Star reports: Hank Nicols wants to be sued by the federal government, which is suing New York state over its slow implementation of voting regulations and installation of equipment.

    On Wednesday, the federal Justice Department sued the state in the U.S. District Court of the Northern District, prodding the state to move more quickly.

    On Friday, Nicols, Otsego County’s Democratic elections commissioner, joined the League of Women Voters of New York State; New Yorkers for Verified Voting; Stephen DeWitt, Democratic elections commissioner of Tompkins County; and others in filing a memorandum with the court, asking to be included as defendants in the case.

    Nicols said Monday that he is trying to intervene in this case because he is not confident that state officials will do what is best for the voters of the state. -- Local commissioner joins voting-reform suit

    March 6, 2006

    Vermont: Burlington to use IRV Tuesday

    AP reports: Runoff elections are traditionally cumbersome processes, taking weeks and sometimes months to determine a winner. On Tuesday, Burlington will do it all instantly.

    The results for the first election and whatever runoffs are needed to settle a five-way race for mayor will be known soon after poll closing.

    That's because voters, for the first time in a mayoral election in the United States, will vote Tuesday not only for their top choice, but also for their second, third and fourth choices through an innovation known as instant runoff voting.

    Voters will be handed a ballot listing the five candidates, three of them representing major parties, with columns indicating first through fifth choices. If none of the five gets 50 percent of the vote on the first round, the candidate with the lowest vote total would be eliminated. The second choice of voters who made that candidate their initial top choice then would count. -- Times Argus: Vermont News & Information

    Arizona: redistricting case is back before Judge Fields

    AP reports: His previous ruling overturned by an appellate court, a trial judge has begun reconsidering Hispanics Democrats' challenge to a map of legislative district maps that favor Republicans.

    Judge Kenneth Fields of Maricopa County Superior Court said during Monday's hearing that he doesn't want the 4-year-old case to languish, and a lawyer for the Democrats left open a slim possibility that districts could be put in place for use in this year's election.

    In January, the Arizona Supreme Court let stand a state Court of Appeals ruling that overturned Fields' 2004 ruling that ordered the state redistricting to replace the legislative district map with a new version that included additional districts winnable by either major party.

    The Court of Appeals said Fields used incorrect legal standards in judging the map and ordered him to reconsider the Democrats' challenge under a standard that gives more discretion to the Independent Redistricting Commission. -- Welcome to the Tucson Citizen

    Internet campaign donations changed the pool

    Thomas Edsall writes in the Washington Post: The surging number of campaign contributors in 2004, especially the small donors who gave online, changed the character of one of the most important constituencies in U.S. politics, the people who finance presidential elections. This key group has become more reflective of the middle class, has a higher percentage of women and is far more willing to contribute without being directly solicited.

    The new small donors, who played a much bigger role in 2004 than in the past, are polarized on ideological, cultural and economic issues in much the same way that large givers are, according to a survey by the Institute for Politics, Democracy & the Internet at George Washington University of all donors, both those using the Internet and those who did not.

    "The presidential campaign of 2004 was a watershed moment in political fundraising because of the convergence of a new regulatory regime, a bitterly fought campaign and closely divided electorate, and the increasing sophistication of Internet technology," wrote Joseph Graf, project director of the institute, and three colleagues. ...

    Because there is not a major ideological difference between all large and small donors, the authors of the study concluded that the "increasing numbers of small donors are not a polarizing influence." -- Rise in Online Fundraising Changed Face of Campaign Donors

    The full report may be downloaded here.

    March 5, 2006

    Georgia: State signs consent decree on NVRA compliance

    I received this press release from Bradley Heard: Senior U.S. District Judge William C. O'Kelley approved a Consent Decree on Thursday, March 2, resolving a lawsuit brought by a Georgia nonprofit charitable foundation to challenge the State of Georgia's noncompliance with the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA). The judgment upheld earlier federal court decisions in the case which found that private entities have a right under the NVRA to engage in organized voter registration activity in Georgia at times and locations of their choosing, without the presence or permission of state or local election officials. (To view a copy of the ruling, go to )

    The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Atlanta in June 2004 by The Charles H. Wesley Education Foundation, Inc., the nonprofit charitable affiliate of the Nu Mu Lambda Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. The Wesley Foundation's Complaint alleged that the Georgia Secretary of State's long-standing policy and practice of rejecting mail-in voter registration applications that were submitted in bundles and/or by persons other than registrars, deputy registrars, or the individual applicants, violated the requirements of the NVRA. The dispute arose after Secretary of State Cathy Cox's office rejected several voter registration applications submitted by the Wesley Foundation and Nu Mu Lambda following a voter registration drive that they had organized in DeKalb County in June 2004.

    In July 2004, Judge O'Kelley issued a preliminary injunction requiring Secretary Cox to accept and process the applications submitted by the Wesley Foundation and prohibiting state election officials from rejecting voter registration applications solely because they had been submitted in bundles or by persons other than registrars or deputy registrars. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit affirmed Judge O'Kelley's order in May 2005 and sent the case back to the district court for final resolution. Secretary Cox continued vigorously to defend her office's voter registration restrictions in court until late last month, when her attorneys finally agreed to reach a settlement in the case.

    As part of the Consent Decree, the Secretary of State's policy has been declared invalid and unenforceable, and the Secretary of State's Office has been permanently enjoined from enforcing the policy in the future. In addition, Judge O'Kelley's order requires Secretary Cox to notify all 159 of Georgia's county boards of registrars that they are not authorized to reject applications submitted by private voter registration organizers in the future solely for the reasons stated in the Secretary's previous policy.

    The decree also requires Secretary Cox to provide written acknowledgment to the Wesley Foundation and to the 63 voter registration applicants whose applications her office rejected that the Foundation, Nu Mu Lambda, and its volunteers and members did not engage in any improper conduct or violate any law in connection with their voter registration drives.

    Judge O'Kelley also ruled that a recently-amended State Election Board regulation restricting the manner in which private entities may collect and submit voter registration applications cannot be interpreted in a manner that requires registrars and deputy registrars at private voter registration drives or that regulates the times, locations, and circumstances wherein private groups can organize registration drives.

    Still unresolved is the question of whether the SEB's recent amendments (which were passed shortly after the Eleventh Circuit appellate court ruling in the case) unreasonably interfere with private entities' federal rights to engage in voter registration activity within Georgia. The Wesley Foundation and others continue to challenge these issues both in and out of court, with the hope that they will be resolved prior to the onset of major voter registration activities in advance of Georgia's statewide primary elections this summer.

    Another issue not resolved in the Consent Decree is how much this 20-month-long battle that Secretary Cox's office has waged is going to cost the State of Georgia in attorneys' fees and costs to the Wesley Foundation and its counsel. The parties' attorneys are currently attempting to come to an agreement as to that issue by the end of the month, so as to avoid the necessity of having the Court make that determination.

    Atlanta attorney Bradley E. Heard, a Foundation and Nu Mu Lambda board member who represented the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, said he is "gratified that the merits of this case have now been finally determined. The resolution of this matter by Secretary Cox and her office is a substantial and positive step in the effort to make voter registration accessible and available to all citizens. My only wish is that Secretary Cox and her attorneys would have come to this sensible decision back in the summer of 2004, when the court made its initial ruling, rather than choosing to continue defending a clearly illegal policy. That would have saved everyone a lot of time, money, and needless aggravation."

    Jaru Ruley, Nu Mu Lambda's vice president and one of the individually named plaintiffs in the lawsuit, said that the consent decree "absolutely vindicates the position that our organization and other like-minded organizations have taken with regard to this important voting rights issue." Ruley, who is also a federal government attorney, said he is hopeful that the decisions in this case will cause the Secretary of State and the State Election Board to be more responsive and proactive in the future to citizens' expressed concerns that Georgia's voting and voter registration policies may violate provisions of federal law.

    The State Election Board, which is chaired by Secretary Cox, meets on Wednesday, March 8. The Wesley Foundation has formally petitioned the SEB to make several necessary changes to its voter registration rules in light of the courts' rulings in this lawsuit. (Click here to view a copy of the petition.) The Foundation has also petitioned the SEB to adopt a comprehensive set of rules and regulations that would provide for training of voter registration volunteers and for the secure and timely submission of voter registration applications by private voter registration organizers. (Click here to view of copy of the petition.) State Senator Gloria Butler (D–DeKalb Co.) and others have also introduced a bill, S.B. 590, to adopt most of the Wesley Foundation's proposals in this area.

    March 3, 2006

    Virginia: 300-page indictment against mayor of Appalachia plus 13

    The Briston Herald Courier reports: It had nothing to do with pork rinds.

    It was about 14 people who schemed to put Ben Cooper in charge of the town of Appalachia and its police department, prosecutors said Thursday.

    With Cooper firmly entrenched as mayor, town manager and head of the police department, some would get town jobs and others could engage in unchecked criminal behavior, according to a 269-count election fraud and conspiracy indictment returned by a Wise County grand jury.

    The 300-page indictment outlines an alleged conspiracy to fix the Town Council race so the 14 people charged Thursday would benefit in various ways.

    For the scheme to work, they had to help Cooper retain his Town Council seat and get Owen Anderson Sharrett III and another man elected so Cooper would be tapped as mayor, the indictment alleges. -- - News - It had nothing to do with pork rinds

    Maryland: 100 churches make campaign contributions

    Tribune News Services reports: Campaign finance reports show that more than 100 churches in Maryland have gone against federal tax law by making campaign contributions to political candidates in recent years.

    Across Maryland, at least 115 churches have given to about 40 candidates of both major parties since 2000, according to a review by The Sun newspaper, Baltimore. Although the donations are generally small and sporadic, they go against Internal Revenue Service regulations that prohibit churches from advocating for specific political candidates.

    Churches that give to candidates can face revocation of their tax-exempt status or a 10 percent excise tax on the contributions, according to the IRS. -- Chicago Tribune | Churches break IRS rule on gifts

    March 2, 2006

    Florida: Katherine Harris and the MZM quid pro quo

    Paul Kiel writes at TPM Cafe: Last Friday, Mitchell Wade, the former president of the defense contractor MZM and one of the two who so impressively and repeatedly bribed Duke Cunningham, pled guilty. He admitted, among other things, that he illegally contributed to two Congressional campaigns. They've since been identified as Harris' and Rep. Virgil Goode's (R-VA).

    Now, Wade told the government that neither Harris nor Goode knew that the contributions were illegal, i.e. that Wade reimbursed his employees and their spouses for the $2K they laid out to the campaigns.

    But in both cases, Wade approached the Member of Congress after having delivered the contributions and asked if they wouldn't be so kind as to throw an appropriation his way. In Goode's case, that resulted in a $9M MZM facility in Goode's district.

    Now it's coming out that Harris followed through too. And she's been lying, breaking promises, and doing her best to cover up her involvement with Wade.... -- The Daily Muck | TPMCafe

    Texas: another take on the re-redistricting argument

    The Washinton Post reports: The Supreme Court hosted its own performance of "Beauty and the Beast" this week. On Tuesday, it heard the plea of Anna Nicole Smith, the former stripper and Playboy Playmate seeking a share of her deceased husband's fortune. Yesterday, the justices debated the aesthetics of three congressional districts in Texas.

    "Particularly grotesque shapes," judged Justice John Paul Stevens. "Much less compact" than before.

    Justice Stephen Breyer offered a partially concurring opinion. "A long walking stick is what it looks like . . . It's not a circle . . . It's not absolutely terrible."

    Lawyer Ted Cruz, defending the state of Texas, found the map much more pleasing than the old one, which he said had "fingers" coming out of it. "It's not like they snake around," Cruz argued, rattling off what he called the districts' "perimeter to area score" and using fancy words like "equipopulosity."

    Breyer demanded a more precise description of the shapes. "Either it is reasonably compact or it isn't," he said. -- The Justices Look at Some Shapely . . . Congressional Districts

    Texas: Supreme Court argument on the re-redistricting case

    The New York Times reports: Texas Democrats had their day in the Supreme Court on Wednesday to challenge the unusual middecade redistricting of the state's Congressional delegation that led to the loss of five Democratic seats and helped solidify Republican control of Congress.

    While the Democrats may not come away completely empty-handed, it appeared unlikely by the end of the intense two-hour argument that a majority of the court would overturn the 2003 redistricting plan, or any other plan, for that matter, as an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander.

    The new districts were drawn under a plan that was engineered by Representative Tom DeLay of Texas, then the House majority leader, after Republicans gained control of both houses of the Texas Legislature. And they are not necessarily invulnerable. Several justices, including, most significantly, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, who may be in a position to cast the deciding vote, expressed concern with aspects of how particular districts were dismantled and reconfigured.

    As a result, it appeared possible that the court would find a violation of the Voting Rights Act or the Constitution's equal protection guarantee in the way the new lines were drawn in South Texas. The legislators removed 100,000 Mexican-American residents of Laredo from a district in which the Republican incumbent, Representative Henry Bonilla, had become more vulnerable with each passing election, while creating a new Latino-majority district in a narrow strip running 300 miles from Austin to the Mexican border. -- Supreme Court Justices Express Concern Over Aspects of Some Texas Redistricting - New York Times

    California: "Live Free or Diebold"

    The Sacramento Bee reports: Dan Ashby's button asked, "Who did your voting machine vote for?" Michelle Gabriel held a sign accusing Secretary of State Bruce McPherson of flip-flopping on voting security procedures.

    Other activists promoted the slogan, "Live Free or Diebold."

    Electronic voting critics rallied Wednesday at McPherson's downtown headquarters to denounce his decision last month to certify Diebold machines for 2006 and testify against three other computer-based systems under review.

    They charged that electronic voting machines are prone to hackers and testified they would prefer paper ballots.

    McPherson certified Diebold on Feb. 17 after receiving a state-conducted analysis that found Diebold's election system had "a number of security vulnerabilities," but concluded that "they are all easily fixable" and "manageable." -- Politics - No-confidence vote on electronic system -

    Alabama: DOJ threatens suit against Alabama over military absentee ballots

    AP reports: The U.S. Justice Department plans to file a lawsuit to force the state to come up with a plan to insure that military personnel overseas can vote in the June 27 primary runoff elections, Secretary of State Nancy Worley said Wednesday.

    The lawsuit could result in the state having to delay the runoffs until after the July 4 Independence Day holiday.

    Worley said her office received a letter this week from the Justice Department saying that a lawsuit has been authorized. The letter from Assistant Attorney General Wan Kim gives the state until March 10 to come up with a plan that would insure that soldiers have enough time to receive the ballots and return them.

    The letter was also sent to Attorney General Troy King and to Gov. Bob Riley's legal adviser, Ken Wallis.

    In his letter, Kim said federal law requires that uniformed military personnel be permitted to vote by absentee ballot.

    "To effectuate this right, election officials must send absentee ballots sufficiently in advance of the election to allow all such voters a reasonable opportunity to return their ballots in time to be accepted," Kim said in the letter. -- AP Wire | 03/01/2006 | Justice Department: state to be sued over military voting issue

    New York: DOJ sues NY State over voting machines

    The New York Sun reports: A lawsuit filed by the federal government yesterday against the state of New York could mean chaotic elections this fall, experts warn.

    With the lawsuit, the Department of Justice seeks to force the state Board of Elections to purchase voting machines that are accessible to the disabled in time for the primary election in September.

    But some experts who have criticized New York for doing next to nothing in recent years to procure new voting machines warn that the lawsuit might prompt state officials to make the wrong decisions.

    "After all the fiddling of thumbs at the state Board of Elections, we're in no position to have a wholesale change to our voting process in time for this September election," an election law expert at the New York Public Interest Research Group, Neal Rosenstein, said. "If the Justice Department's goal for this year's election is chaos they should go full steam ahead." -- Critics Say Voting Machines Suit May Cause Chaos at Fall Elections - March 2, 2006 - The New York Sun - NY News

    Washington State: House moves primary one month earlier

    The Seattle Times reports: The state's primary election will be a month earlier next year.

    The state House on Wednesday voted 94-3 to move the primary from the third Tuesday in September to the third Tuesday in August starting in 2007. The legislation had cleared the Senate. Gov. Christine Gregoire has said she'll sign it.

    Lawmakers have debated moving the primary for years, but the idea gained momentum after the tumultuous 2004 gubernatorial contest between Democrat Gregoire and Republican Dino Rossi.

    The Republican Party alleged, among other things, that election officials were too slow in mailing military absentee ballots. Moving the primary to a month earlier will give election workers more time to get out absentee and overseas ballots to voters for the general election.

    "We had real problems of how tight that timetable was. There were only 19 days between the time the primary was certified and the time the ballots had to be in the mail," Secretary of State Sam Reed said. -- The Seattle Times: Local News: House agrees to bump primary to August

    March 1, 2006

    Vermont: Campaign Finance Law Faces Tough Sledding in Supreme Court

    The New York Times reports: The Supreme Court displayed little appetite on Tuesday for making basic changes in its approach to campaign finance law, under which the government may place limits on political contributions but not on a candidate's spending.

    Vermont's aggressive effort to drive much private money out of politics, through a law it enacted in 1997 that set tight limits on both contributions and expenditures, appeared unlikely to withstand the court's scrutiny after an argument that included a low-key but withering cross-examination by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. of Vermont's attorney general, William H. Sorrell.

    The chief justice challenged the attorney general's assertion that money was a corrupting influence on Vermont's political system, the state's main rationale for its law. "How many prosecutions for political corruption have you brought?" he asked the state official.

    "Not any," Mr. Sorrell replied.

    "Do you think corruption in Vermont is a serious problem?"

    "It is," the attorney general replied, noting that polls showed that most state residents thought corporations and wealthy individuals exerted an undue influence in the state.

    The chief justice persisted. "Would you describe your state as clean or corrupt?" he asked.

    "We have got a problem in Vermont," Mr. Sorrell repeated. -- Vermont Campaign Limits Get Cool Reception at Court - New York Times

    Would this indicate that the Chief Justice, for one, is ready to abandon the "corruption or appearance of corruption" rationale for campaign finance laws in favor of "how many corruption cases have you prosecuted?"