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

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May 31, 2006

California: Assembly passes national popular vote plan

The Los Angeles Times reports: Seeking to force presidential candidates to pay attention to California's 15.5 million voters, state lawmakers on Tuesday jumped aboard a new effort that would award electoral votes to the candidate who wins the popular vote nationwide.

As it is now, California grants its Electoral College votes to the candidate who wins the popular vote in the state. Practically speaking, that means Democrat-dominated California spends the fall presidential campaign on the sidelines as candidates focus on the states — mostly in the upper Midwest — that are truly up for grabs.

Under a bill passed by the Assembly, California would join an interstate compact in which states would agree to cast their electoral votes not for the winner in their jurisdictions but for the winner nationwide. Proponents say that would force candidates to broaden their reach to major population centers such as California.

The bill is part of a 3-month-old movement driven by a Bay Area lawyer and a Stanford computer science professor. The same 888-word bill is pending in four other states and is expected to be introduced in every state by January, its sponsors say. The legislation would not take effect until enough states passed such laws to make up a majority of the Electoral College votes — a minimum of 13 states, depending on population. -- Bill to Bolster Election Clout Gains - Los Angeles Times

Alabama: voting rights suit for felons dismissed

The Birmingham News reports: A federal lawsuit filed by three Alabamians who accused Secretary of State Nancy Worley and some county registrars of denying certain felons the right to vote has been dismissed.

A three-judge panel Friday ended the lawsuit filed by the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund on behalf of Dothan resident Ekeyesto Doss and Richard Gooden and Andrew Jones, both of Birmingham. The judges found the men lacked the legal standing to bring the case.

"None of the plaintiffs have a current injury that a favorable decision could remedy," the judges wrote.

Doss, Gooden and Jones contended Worley violated Alabama's constitution by requiring all felons to apply to the Board of Pardons and Paroles to have voting rights restored.

The suit said the state constitution is clear 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. -- Voting rights suit focused on felons dismissed due to no legal standing

May 30, 2006

Half-Day course on the National Popular Vote Plan

[Re-updated information:] For those interested in the National Popular Vote Plan for electing the president, there will be a short course on the plan at the American Political Science Association meeting. The details are in the extension to this post. All short courses are held on August 30.

In a nutshell, the NPVP would work through an interstate compact that would come into effect when enough states holding a majority of the electorate votes had adopted it. Thereafter, the member states' electors would be those pledged to vote for the national popular vote winner. For more details, go to the National Popular Vote website.

SC 21: The National Popular Vote Plan to Revamp the Electoral College

Co-Sponsors: Section on Representation and Electoral Systems & FairVote

Contact:Bill Shein (bill@fairvote.org), FairVote, 6930 Carroll Avenue, Suite 610, Takoma Park, MD 20912 P: 301.270.4616

Time: 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm

Location: Friends Center, 1501 Cherry Street, Philadelphia – Conference Room (2 blocks North of City Hall and near APSA hotels)

Registration: No fee. Call to register as space is limited.

Presenters: George Edwards (Texas A&M University, Editor of Presidential Studies Quarterly and author, "Why the Electoral College is Bad for America"),
Alexander Keyssar (Kennedy School of Government and author of "The Right to Vote"),
Rob Richie (Executive Director, FairVote),
Joseph Zimmeran (SUNY-Albany),
Arend Lijphart (UC-San Diego and former American Political Science Association President),
Alex Willingham (Professor of political science and director of multicultural affairs at Williams College)
Jack Nagel (Associate Dean for Graduate Studies and Professor of Political Science, University of Pennsylvania)
Todd Donovan (Professor of Political Science at Western Washington University and co-author, "Reforming the Republic: Democratic Institutions for the New America")
Dick Engstrom (University of New Orleans, etc)

Description:
Leading presidential scholars and reformers review the modern case against the current Electoral College system, explain the recently unveiled National Popular Vote plan that is advancing in a number of states and explore the proposal's potential impact on presidential elections and electoral reform.

Alabama: federal court dismisses Section 5 action for lack of standing

On Friday, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama dismissed a challenge to the practice of the Secretary of State of encouraging registrars to bar applicants convicted of any felony from registering. The State Constitution bars only those convicted of felonies involving moral turpitude. The NAACP Legal Defense Fund and I had brought suit under Section of the Voting Rights Act to require the Secretary of State to cease this practice until she obtained preclearance for it. You can download the file here.


Alabama: federal court upholds petition deadline

Richard Winger writes (and attaches this opinion in Swanson v. Worley): Dear Ed, it's your state, so you should know about this decision today. It's abysmal. The two US Supreme Court decisions about early petition deadlines are Mandel v Bradley, and Anderson v Celebrezze. The only 11th circuit decision on petition deadlines is New Alliance Party v Hand. Judge Thompson didn't mention any of those cases. He relied on Jenness v Fortson, but in Mandel v Bradley, Justice John Paul Stevens warned lower courts not to assume Jenness v Fortson means anything for deadlines (anything in Jenness about deadlines is just dicta, since the Socialist Workers Party didn't complain about the June petition deadline).

Under Mandel v Bradley, early petition deadlines are unconstitutional if the record shows that minor parties and independent candidates seldom qualify. The deadline was mid-July before 2001. Since it was moved to the first week in June, in 2001, no minor party or independent candidate has managed to qualify for statewide office (president is an exception, since the presidential deadline is early September and presidential independents only need 5,000 signatures, not the 41,000 that other independents, and all minor parties, need for statewide office.

Richard is the editor of Ballot Access News and knows ballot access cases backwards and forwards. Just this last weekend, I asked him a question about Jenness v. Fortson, and he referred me to his article on the case (1 Elec. L. J. 235 (2002)).

Computerized-voting problems debated

The Washington Post reports: The already-cantankerous debate over high-tech voting machines, which have been installed in great numbers in recent years, is growing more intense and convoluted as primaries get underway and the midterm election nears.

A coalition of voting rights activists and prominent computer scientists argues that some of the machines are not sufficiently secure against tampering and could result in disputed elections, while voting machine vendors and many election officials say that view is exaggerated.

The latest dispute occurred several weeks ago after it was discovered at a test in Utah that someone with a reasonable knowledge of computer code could gain access to and tamper with the system software on a popular brand of voting machine manufactured by Diebold Election Systems. The developments prompted California and Pennsylvania to send urgent warnings to counties that use Diebold's touch-screen voting systems to take additional steps to secure them.

But the vastly differing assessments of the severity of the problem offered by computer scientists, Diebold and election officials made clear that four years after Congress passed a law to improve the reliability of elections, Americans still lack definitive word on whether the nation's voting machines are secure. -- Debating the Bugs of High-Tech Voting

Hasen on VRA renewal

Rick Hasen writes on Findlaw.com: Important provisions of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) expire next year, unless renewed by Congress. The good news is that a vigorous debate is taking place over whether, and how, the relevant VRA provisions should be amended before they are renewed. The bad news is that this debate is taking place among academics, not among Members of Congress.

Rather than considering changes to the relevant VRA provisions, Congress seems poised to simply renew them in their present form for another 25 years . But that move could embolden the new Roberts Supreme Court to strike the Act down as unconstitutional. Moreover, a simple renewal squanders an opportunity for Congress to take a more serious look at how it can fix its voting laws to better protect minority voting rights in the Twenty-first Century.

Before it closes the "deal" on VRA renewal, Members of Congress should look more carefully at what can, and should, be done. -- FindLaw's Writ - Hasen: What Congress Should Consider Before Renewing the Voting Rights Act A Chance to Preempt Supreme Court Invalidation, and Better Protect Minority Voting Rights

May 26, 2006

Alabama: Steve Small asks Supreme Court for special primary

The Birmingham News reports: Former Jefferson County Commissioner Steve Small has asked the Alabama Supreme Court to hold a special election to allow Small to try to regain his seat against incumbent Shelia Smoot in District 2.

Walter Braswell, an attorney for Small, said his client's case has been accepted on appeal by the Alabama Supreme Court and granted expedited consideration.

A Jefferson County circuit judge in April upheld the Democratic Party's decision to bar Small from the primary ballot as a candidate for the County Commission. -- Small wants court to order special election

May 25, 2006

South Dakota: drive to repeal abortion law by referendum begins

AP reports: Opponents of South Dakota's new ban on nearly all abortions began a petition drive Friday to let voters decide its fate.

The law, among the strictest in the nation, is scheduled to take effect July 1 but will automatically be placed on hold if opponents collect the 16,728 signatures necessary for a voter referendum.

A coalition of groups opposed to the law have until June 19 to collect the signatures. The secretary of state's office received initial paperwork signed by a lead opponent, Dr. Maria Bell. -- News from The Associated Press

Thanks to How Appealing for the link.

Dick Engstrom on "exaggerated" claims of pro-minority districting causing GOP victories

Dick Engstrom has emailed me his chapter from "Writing Southern Politics." He says, " It argues that the perverse effects hypothesis concerning African American majority districts resulting in the election of Republicans has been exaggerated, in light of the empirical research on this issue."

The file is large because of the method used to make the PDF.

Download part 1

Download part 2

Download part 3

Download part 4

May 23, 2006

Colorado: initiative to term-limit judges is on the ballot

AP reports: A proposed constitutional amendment to impose 12-year term limits on judges of Colorado's two highest courts cleared a key hurdle Monday as the state Supreme Court said the ballot language is not misleading, as critics have said.

The ruling means voters will decide on the measure in November if backers gather the nearly 68,000 valid signatures of registered voters required. ...

The proposal would replace the current system of retention for justices and appeals court judges. Under existing law, they serve a provisional two-year term after they are appointed by the governor. After that, appeals court judges can stand for retention every eight years, and Supreme Court justices can stand for retention every 10 years. Retention questions are presented to voters on the general election ballot.

Opponents argued the proposal's language was misleading because it failed to fully explain certain provisions, including that term limits would be applied to current justices and appeals court judges, converting their terms to four years; and that it implied the initiative imposes new terms of office, not that it changes existing terms. -- cbs4denver.com - Court Upholds Language In Term-Limits Initiative

Michigan: Civil Rights Commission holds hearings on fraud in initiative petitions

The Detroit News reports: The Michigan Civil Rights Commission will hold its fourth and final hearing in Grand Rapids tonight on claims that people were duped into signing petitions demanding a statewide vote on affirmative action.

The controversial measure, which will be on the November ballot, would ban the use of race as a factor in determining university admissions and government hiring. It's a white-hot political issue in an already contentious election year.

The commission is investigating whether petition signers were misled about the nature of the ballot question by petition circulators. The commission is also hearing from petition circulators, some of whom claim they misled petition signers because they were not told the measure would ban affirmative action programs in Michigan, said Harold Core, spokesman for the Michigan Civil Rights Commission.

Turnout at the three other hearings -- held in Detroit, Lansing and Flint -- was so large that there wasn't time for every person to address the commission, he said. Another couple hundred people submitted written reports, he said. -- Group hears stories of fraud in affirmative action ballot bid - 05/22/06 - The Detroit News

California: "Save Loma Linda" asks court to reconsider invalidation of its petitions

The San Bernadino Sun reports: A conservation group is asking a judge to reverse her earlier decision invalidating an initiative that sought to impose strict limits on hillside and citywide development.

The attorney representing Save Loma Linda last week filed a motion asking a judge to dismiss her March ruling that the group's initiative petition was invalid because it was not translated into Spanish.

U.S. District Judge Audrey Collins should reverse her decision because it was based on a ruling in another case that is now being reconsidered by a higher court, said Kathy Glendrange, Save Loma Linda spokeswoman.

A three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last year that recall petitions in Orange County had to be translated into Spanish as a requirement of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. -- San Bernardino County Sun - Group seeks reversal of ruling

Massachusetts: Springfield unlikely to settle vote dilution suit

The Springfield Republican reports: City Solicitor Edward M. Pikula said last night that the city has a strong case in a voting rights lawsuit pending in federal court and settling the suit is an unlikely option. ...

Three organizations and seven minority city residents filed the suit April 5, 2005, in U.S. District Court. They say the at-large system is a violation of the Voting Rights Act of 1973, the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, and the 15th Amendment.

Plaintiffs want ward representation added to the City Council and School Committee.

Otherwise, they say, Hispanic and black voters who don't live in large enough numbers in all areas of the city are unable to elect their preferred candidates. -- Council receives lawsuit update

Alabama: court rules against GOP redistricting suit

The Mobile Register reports: A three-judge federal panel on Monday decided not to change the boundaries of Alabama's legislative districts, ruling that previous litigation settled the issue.

A group of Republican voters in southwest Alabama filed a federal lawsuit in Mobile last year, arguing that the Legislature's redistricting plan following the 2000 Census intentionally discriminated against GOP voters by packing them into districts that were as much as 5 percent more populous than the ideal number.

Lawyers from the state attorney general's office and the Democratic leaders in the House and Senate argued the lawsuit should be barred because it made essentially the same case made in other challenges to the boundaries and that the plaintiffs were closely associated with the plaintiffs in the previous cases. -- Judges uphold legislative districts

May 22, 2006

Alabama: GOP loses latest redistricting case

The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Alabama has just dismissed the Republicans' suit against the 2002 state legislative redistricting plan on the basis of res judicata. Here's what the Court says in its conclusion:

Having held that Gustafson and Montiel [an earlier redistricting case] involve the same cause of action and having found that the parties are in privity, and Plaintiffs having conceded the other requirements, we hold that the instant suit is barred by res judicata. Accordingly, judgment is due to be entered against Plaintiffs and in favor of all Defendants.
Jim Blacksher and I represented the defendant-intervenorSeth Hammett, Speaker of the House. Bobby Segall, Larry Menefee, and Shannon Holliday represented defendant-intervenors Senators Lowell Barron and Hank Sanders.

Here is the opinion.

Texas: Tom DeLay, "reluctant movie star"

AP reports: Former House majority leader Tom DeLay, given the nickname "The Hammer" during his political career, can add one more title to his r�sum�: reluctant movie star.

The Texas Republican is the focus of a new documentary that premiered Friday night in Houston examining the scandals that drove him from office.

The film, titled "The Big Buy: How Tom DeLay Stole Congress," features interviews with Democratic and Republican lawmakers from Texas, as well as liberal stalwarts such as Molly Ivins and Jim Hightower.

DeLay, who plans to resign from the House on June 9, did not talk with the filmmakers.

The first part of the 75-minute film details DeLay's efforts to win GOP seats in the state legislature in 2002 to push through a redistricting plan that helped Texas send more Republicans to Congress in 2004. -- Film Follows DeLay as He Paints the State Red

The intersection of immigration policy and VRA language provisions

Deroy Murdock writes at National Review Online: “The success of our country depends upon helping newcomers assimilate into our society, and embrace our common identity as Americans,” President Bush declared in his Oval Office address on immigration reform. “English allows newcomers to go from picking crops to opening a grocery, from cleaning offices to running offices, from a life of low-paying jobs to a diploma, a career, and a home of their own.”

As the son of legal, Costa Rican immigrants whose mother learned English, taught in the Los Angeles city schools, and earned a masters degree from Pepperdine University, I found the president’s words pertinent, touching, and heartwarming.

How crushing, then, to discover Bush’s remarks at jarring variance with federal policy. Rather than persuade immigrants to speak English and flourish—as my parents did, to their children’s ultimate benefit—the Bush administration actively steers immigrants away from English while actually prosecuting those who expect immigrants to speak America’s (and Earth’s) lingua franca.

From ballot boxes to hospitals, workplaces, and even the Internet, President Bush’s words and deeds are perpendicular to each other.

*The Bush administration aggressively promotes multilingual voting. “The Civil Rights Division has made the vigorous enforcement of the [1965] Voting Rights Act’s language-minority requirements one of its primary missions,” explained Rena J. Comisac, principal deputy assistant attorney general for civil rights, to the House Judiciary Constitution Subcommittee on May 4. “Since 2001, this administration has filed more minority language cases under sections 4 and 203 than in the entire previous 26 years in which these provisions have been applicable,” she bragged. But DOJ will not rest! “And the pace is accelerating,” Comisac continued, “with more cases filed and resolved in 2005 than in any previous year, breaking the previous record set in 2004 . . . The enforcement actions include cases in Florida, California, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Washington. Among these cases were the first suits ever filed under section 203 to protect Filipino and Vietnamese voters,” who vote in those tongues. “Our enforcement program shows the continuing need for the minority language provisions of the Voting Rights Act, and we support their reauthorization,” Comisac concluded. The Bush Administration thus supports legislation to extend multilingual voting through 2031. -- Deroy Murdock on Immigration on National Review Online

Alabama: Montiel now asks for criminal investigation of AG

The Birmingham News reports: A dispute among the Republican candidates for attorney general has evolved into a complaint filed with prosecutors.

Mark Montiel, the Montgomery lawyer challenging Attorney General Troy King in the June 6 GOP primary, has asked local and state prosecutors to review issues relating to campaign contributions made to King by a political action committee based in Washington, D.C.

A Mobile lawyer who helped King defend the contributions in a civil case said it's wrong for Montiel to argue to prosecutors that a crime has been committed.

King and other Alabama candidates have relied on more than a dozen attorney general opinions when raising campaign cash, said Matt McDonald, a lawyer representing King. The state finance laws, and the advisory opinions that helped interpret them, are all anyone has to go by, he said. ...

[Montiel] sent the complaint last week to Mobile District Attorney John Tyson Jr. and Montgomery District Attorney Ellen Brooks. He took the step after a state judge dismissed his civil case based on arguments from King's lawyer that Montiel's claim about violations of criminal law had no place in a civil court. -- Candidate takes issue with PAC

May 21, 2006

Not about elections or law -- much more important

Ernie The Attorney
Ernie "the Attorney" Svenson rode out Katrina and meditated during the howling of the storm. After he evacuated from the city, he realized,

Something powerful had happened to me. Katrina and my meditations were a perfect wave that I somehow rode to a new kind of awareness. I realized that I had wasted so much time trying to change things that I had no control over and I hadn't focused on what I could control. The only thing that I could reliably control was my attitude ---that is, the way that I approached the world. I was aware that I was surrounded by an epic tragedy, but it didn't seem worth dwelling on.

I focused instead on the awesome sacrifices made by people helping others that they had never known before. Everywhere I looked I saw people being completely open with one another. I could see it and I could feel it. More importantly, I could influence it --in a ridiculously simple way: if I was upbeat and helpful then people, even those who were lost in some terrible concern, reacted positively.


Read Ernie's post and think about how you can change your attitude about the stuff around you.

Mississippi: Southern GOP'ers stalling VRA renewal

Gannett News Service and Clarion-Ledger report: A group of Southern Republicans, including a Mississippi congressman, have stalled House leadership plans to renew key provisions of the Voting Rights Act before lawmakers recess for the Memorial Day holiday.

About 20 GOP members led by Rep. Lynn Westmoreland of Georgia met Thursday to discuss their concerns about certain provisions of the act they say are no longer needed or impose a financial burden on states.

First District Rep. Roger Wicker said he did not attend the meeting because of scheduling conflicts. Wicker, a Republican from Tupelo, shares some of the concerns with the lawmakers who stalled renewal of the provisions.

Like those lawmakers, Wicker is troubled by a provision that requires states with a history of discrimination to get approval from the U.S. Department of Justice or a federal court before making election changes. Known as pre-clearance, it applies to 16 states, including Mississippi and most other Southern states. -- Voting Rights Act stalled - The Clarion-Ledger

May 18, 2006

New York: civil rights groups sue NY for HAVA non-compliance

A press release dated yesterday: Today in Albany, a group of voter-eligible citizens -- which includes individuals with various disabilities and limited-English-proficient Asian American voters – joined a broad coalition of disability, civic and civil rights organizations in filing a motion to intervene in the lawsuit brought by the Department of Justice against New York State and its election officials. These individuals and organizations seek an injunction requiring the State to comply with the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) and interrelated New York law, to submit an effective compliance plan with the court, and to ensure a legal implementation process that will vindicate the rights of all eligible voters, including those with disabilities and limited English proficiency. -- Download file

South Dakota: report details state's voting-rights shortcomings

The Rapid City Journal reports: American Indians in South Dakota continued to be denied fundamental voting rights, even as the U.S. Congress works to renew right-to-vote guarantees that are more than 40 years old, members of a civil-rights coalition said Wednesday.

“In the past 40 years, South Dakota has become a battleground for American Indian voting rights,” said Janine Pease, vice president of American Indian Affairs at Rocky Mountain College in Billings, Mont.

Pease, a member of the Crow Indian Tribe, is the author of “Voting Rights in South Dakota 1982-2006,” a compilation of allegations and examples of discriminatory actions and policies toward American Indians in the state. She spoke to reporters during a teleconference conference call that also included former Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D., and Wade Henderson, executive director of the Leadership Conference for Civil Rights.

The report by Pease was commissioned by the Leadership Conference for Civil Rights Education Fund. It comes as Congress faces the renewal of key provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the landmark legislation signed by President Lyndon Johnson to break down barriers to minority voting. -- The Rapid City Journal

May 17, 2006

Arizona: Problems with the new voter I.D. requirement

The Arizona Star reports: The first election in Pima County since Proposition 200 passed two years ago caused some confusion at polling places Tuesday.

The law requiring voters to show ID before they could vote, approved by voters in 2004, resulted in an undetermined number of people having to cast provisional ballots, which require additional verification before they can be counted, said Brad Nelson, Pima County elections director. ...

Tucsonan John Sartin had to use his driver's license to vote because election workers wouldn't accept his active- duty military ID card. The Pima County Recorder's office says "valid U.S. federal, state or local government issued identification" is acceptable.

Sartin was incredulous that military identification would be rejected, but utility bills would be accepted.

Voters without a government-issued photo ID could still vote with two other forms of identification from a list published repeatedly in newspapers, and on a yellow card sent to all voters.

Charles Allen said he took his voter registration card and American passport to the polls, but was told his passport wasn't acceptable.
Although the approved list included utility bills, vehicle registration and insurance cards, bank and property tax statements and voter registration cards, it does not include passports.

"What better proof of citizenship could you ask for than an American passport?" Allen asked. -- ID requirement, polling site changes confuse, rile voters | www.azstarnet.com �

New Hampshire: Tobin sentenced to 10 months

AP reports: Former Republican National Committee official James Tobin was sentenced to 10 months in prison Wednesday for his role in an Election Day phone-jamming plot against New Hampshire Democrats.

Tobin, of Bangor, Maine, was found guilty in December on two felony telephone harassment charges. He also was fined $10,000, followed by two years probation. Prosecutors had asked for a two-year prison sentence.

Tobin, 45, was convicted of helping a top state GOP official find someone to jam Democratic get-out-the-vote lines on Election Day 2002. Republican John Sununu defeated then-Gov. Jeanne Shaheen for the U.S. Senate that day in what had been considered a cliffhanger. -- Union Leader - Tobin sentenced to 10 months for phone-jam plot - Wednesday, May. 17, 2006

May 16, 2006

Mississippi: Jackson Co. Dems will use paper ballots

AP reports: The U.S. Justice Department has given Jackson County Democrats permission to use paper ballots in the June 6 party primary, local party chairman Melton Harris says.

Harris told county supervisors on Monday that the department also is allowing the county to reduce the number of precincts from about 60 to 21.

David Blount, spokesman for the Mississippi Secretary of State's office, said Tuesday that new electronic touch-screen voting machines also will be available for use in Jackson County precincts in the primary.

The reduction in the number of precincts will save the county money on a primary that's expected to have a light voter turnout. The primary is to select a Democrat to oppose longtime Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., who is from Jackson County. -- AP Wire | 05/16/2006 | Dems in one coast county get OK for paper ballots in June

New Hampshire: Tobin to be sentenced

The Portland Press Herald reports: For more than three years, a plot to jam Democrats' phone lines on Election Day in 2002 has been shadowing New Hampshire Republicans. Yet as recently as December, when a GOP political insider from Maine was convicted in the scheme, the scandal wasn't attracting much attention outside of New England.

That's changed in the past few months, as Democrats have tried to link the phone-jamming case to disgraced Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff, former Republican National Committee Chairman Haley Barbour and the White House.

James Tobin, the convicted political operative from Bangor, is scheduled to be sentenced Wednesday, near the start of a new campaign season. Depending on which political party is talking, his court date represents either one of the scandal's last chapters or another step in a long-running cover-up. ...

In December, Tobin was convicted of two telephone harassment charges. A jury acquitted him of a third, more serious, charge of conspiring against voters' rights.

The Justice Department is recommending that he spend as much as two years in federal prison, which is beyond what sentencing guidelines recommend. Tobin's lawyers, meanwhile, are asking for probation, a fine and community service, while still seeking a new trial. -- Tobin's case: Winding down or heating up?

Maine: Supreme Court will not speed up challenge to McCain-Feingold

AP reports: The Supreme Court refused Monday to speed up an appeal by a conservative organization seeking to air a radio ad on same sex marriage around election time.

The proposed ad by the Christian Civic League would refer to the two U.S. senators from the state of Maine, a format the Federal Election Commission says would violate the ban on "electioneering communications" in the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002.

The reform law bars corporations or labor unions from paying for any broadcast referring to a candidate for federal office within 30 days of a federal primary election or 60 days of a general election.

On May 9, a three-judge panel of the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., rejected the civic league's request for a preliminary injunction to fund the ad, saying that it represents "the sort of veiled attack that the Supreme Court has warned may improperly influence an election." -- Court won't rush appeal on same-sex ad | TheNewsTribune.com | Tacoma, WA

Pennsylvania: polling places to be moved from private sites

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports: Philadelphia's long-standing - and, some argue, necessary - practice of using private houses as polling places will be sharply curbed under a controversial bill Gov. Rendell signed into law yesterday.

The measure will require city officials to move several dozen polling spots from houses to the nearest public building in an adjacent ward before this fall's election - but after Tuesday's primary. It will also prohibit locating polling places in party headquarters or the homes of elected officials, as occurs now.

Although the law applies to all counties, Philadelphia appears to be affected the most. Since the state's election code was passed in 1937, the city has liberally tapped nonpublic sites, from private houses to funeral homes, to operate polls.

According to the city commissioners, who run elections in Philadelphia, at least 90 polling places might have to be changed - 77 of them in private houses. The remainder either are not handicapped-accessible or are located in bars or partisan headquarters. -- Philadelphia Inquirer | 05/13/2006 | Pa. law sharply restricts poll sites

May 15, 2006

Washington State: 55,000 purged from the voting list as dead or duplicates

The Seattle Times reports: The Secretary of State's Office has deleted about 55,000 registrations from Washington's voter rolls after finding duplicate records and dead voters with the aid of a new statewide database.

The database, put in place earlier this year, allowed the state to find 19,579 dead people still on the rolls and 35,445 duplicate voter records.

"It's a critical piece to help regain the trust and confidence of the voters of the state of Washington," Secretary of State Sam Reed said Friday. "I think we are slowly but surely rebuilding trust in the system."

Voter confidence was shaken in 2004, when Democratic Gov. Christine Gregoire narrowly beat Republican Dino Rossi after two recounts. The tumultuous election was replete with lost ballots, mismatched signatures, and dead people and convicted felons casting ballots. Rossi challenged the election in court and lost. -- The Seattle Times: Local News: 55,000 dead or duplicate voters deleted from state database

Hat tip to Taegan D. Goddard's Political Wire for the link.

I'm back

After a couple of weeks of sinus infections, finals grading, and back problems that sucked up my energy and time, a friend and I took a long weekend and went to the Georgia Mountain Fair Bluegrass Festival in Hiawassee, Georgia. Among the highlights for us were the Greencards, Darrell Scott, and the Seldom Scene.

Combine several hours of bluegrass with the beautiful scenery of Helen, Unicoi State Park, Anna Ruby Falls, and the historic district of Gainesville, mix well, and bake in the temperate weather. Serves as many as you please.

May 10, 2006

New Hampshire: Dems accused GOP of hiding large contribution

AP reports: A Democratic research group is accusing the state Republican Party of illegally accepting a $10,000 contribution from a Mississippi Indian tribe in 2002, then concealing half of it because it exceeded the $5,000 cap on contributions for federal races.

Two pro-gambling Indian tribes that were clients of convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff gave $10,000 each to the state Republican Party shortly before a close U.S. Senate race won by Republican John Sununu, records show.

The party split a $10,000 check from the Mississippi Band of Choctaws between accounts used for federal and state races. Lawyer James Merrill said there was nothing wrong with doing that and the contributions were properly disclosed.

"The party split the money half to the federal account, half to the state account, and the party reported that," Merrill said. "Nothing was hidden." -- Dems group accuses state GOP of hiding illegal donation in 2002 - Boston.com

Arizona: Maldef sues over Prop. 200's voting rules

The Arizona Star reports: A Hispanic rights law firm filed suit Tuesday asking a federal judge to void the voting provisions of Proposition 200.

The lawsuit by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund attacks provisions of the law which requires proof of citizenship to register to vote and certain forms of identification to cast a ballot. Attorney Nina Perales said Latinos are less likely to have the kinds of ID required.

"As a result, significant numbers of Latinos attempting to register and turn out to vote are denied the right to vote,'' she said. And Perales said because Hispanics are a significant proportion of the people who are naturalized - people who need different documents - the law has a harsher effect on them, making it illegal. ...

Joe Kanefield, the state elections director, countered there is a big difference between requiring someone to pay money to the government to exercise the right to vote and simply mandating that they provide proper documentation - even if it does cost them money to get those documents. -- Lawsuit seeks to void Prop 200 voting provisions | www.azstarnet.com �

Alabama: Sessions is "proud" of Alabama's accomplishments

The Birmingham News reports: The Voting Rights Act and its protections for minority voters may no longer be necessary in parts of the South and Alabama, but Congress should consider expanding it to northern cities and states, Sen. Jeff Sessions said Tuesday.

The civil rights-era law is up for renewal this year, and a group of leading Republicans and Democrats are actively supporting its extension. Sessions is not among them, and instead is advising caution because parts of the law have become burdensome and irrelevant, he said.

"We don't want a fight over this," Sessions said in an interview after a congressional hearing on the topic. "Alabama is proud of its accomplishments, but we have the right to ask why other areas of the country are not covered by it." ...

The National Commission on the Voting Rights Act reported recently that the U.S. Department of Justice since 1982 has sent 626 letters objecting to voting changes in those places covered by Section 5. Since 1969, the Justice Department has objected 102 times to changes in Alabama, according to the agency's Web site, with the most recent in 2000 over an Alabaster annexation. -- Sessions advises Voting Act caution

May 9, 2006

New Orleans: the political effects of Katrina

John R. Logan writes in Population Displacement and Post-Katrina Politics: The New Orleans Primary: New Orleans’ first election after Hurricane Katrina was conducted under unusual conditions. A large share of the population remained displaced outside the city, and the majority of displaced persons were living outside the State of Louisiana. The foreseeable result was that the electorate was much smaller than in prior elections, and the political voice of black neighborhoods – the ones most affected by flood damage – was much diminished.

This report reviews what was known about displacement prior to the election and analyzes its impacts on the primary results. The major findings are:

1. It was well known in the weeks leading up to the April 22 primary that the majority of New Orleans voters were living outside the city, and the greater share of these was living outside of Louisiana. Displacement was not random in terms of race or social class. Those living away from home were disproportionately black residents and among blacks they were disproportionately low-income. Among displaced persons, blacks were considerably more likely than white to be living outside the metropolitan area and outside the state.

2. Total voter turnout, 108,000, was considerably below previous elections – 17% less than the usual turnout in a mayoral election (represented by the March 2002 mayoral race) and 45% less than the potential turnout (represented by the November 2004 national election). Even this level of participation depended on the unprecedented number of absentee ballots that were cast (21,000). -- report2.pdf (application/pdf Object)

Alabama: Montiel sues to block King from spending PAC funds

The Birmingham News reports: A state judge will consider Friday whether Attorney General Troy King received illegal campaign contributions from PACs, an argument that could affect how Alabama candidates use political action committees to raise millions of dollars.

Mobile County Circuit Judge James C. Wood scheduled the hearing to consider a complaint filed Monday by King's campaign opponent in the June 6 GOP primary, Montgomery lawyer Mark Montiel. The complaint targets the fund-raising practice that allows companies to give tens of thousands of dollars to dozens of PACs, which then send the money to candidates.

Montiel argues that King's campaign received $100,000 from a Washington, D.C.-based political action committee in violation of state campaign finance laws.

King received all but $1,750 of the more than $100,000 raised by the Republican State Leadership Committee. The PAC received its money from 13 companies that otherwise would have been limited to giving King $500. -- King opponent challenges PAC gifts

May 8, 2006

Texas: you call thousands of voters being rejected by the voter registration database a "glitch"?

The Star-Telegram reports: Dallas County Elections Administrator Bruce Sherbet was panicking. The new state voter-registration database was rejecting thousands of registered voters each day because the state could not match their names with those in driver's license and Social Security records.

Each time the state turned away voters, Sherbet's office sent them a letter saying they had been rejected.

In Tarrant and Denton counties, elections administrators had another problem. The state's computer system initially required driver's license numbers. If your number began with a zero, you got kicked off the voter rolls for insufficient digits.

Those glitches have cropped up as Texas hustles to meet a federal requirement to have a statewide database designed to rid election rolls of fraudulent voters. But some are worried that the database will kick out legitimate voters. -- Star-Telegram | 05/08/2006 | Officials work on registration glitches

Does anyone test these things before they roll them out to the public?

Colorado: a litany of problems with Sequoia Voting Systems

The Rocky Mountain News reports: The company Denver is relying on for voting machines for this year's elections has a history of computer glitches, delayed counting, supply problems and a brush with a bribery scandal.

Malfunctions in Sequoia Voting Systems' machines contributed to a four-week delay in getting full results in Chicago's March primary election - prompting a Cook County official to threaten to withhold payment of some of the $50 million the county owes Sequoia.

Although Denver will be using some of the same machines implicated in Chicago, city election officials say they have worked with Sequoia for decades and they will be ready for the Aug. 8 primary.

Essex County, N.J., election officials, however, are waiting for Sequoia to deliver 616 machines for its June primary. If they don't arrive in time, the county could lose $5 million in federal funds. -- Rocky Mountain News: Elections

Mississippi: county Dems want to use paper ballots for primary

The Biloxi Sun Herald reports: Melton Harris, head of Jackson County's Democratic Party, is sticking to his belief that next month's primary would be run best if the party used paper ballots.

Secretary of State Eric Clark disagrees and wants Jackson County Democrats to use the new high-tech voting machines with touch screens, like other counties in the state, because he says the law requires it.

That's a matter of interpretation, Harris says. Paper ballots were fine in 2004 and the U.S. Justice Department tentatively gave its approval to use them now, at least until the secretary of state interfered and complained, Harris said.

With one month until the June 6 primary, Harris says he's not going to run the election if he can't use paper, and Clark says, through his official spokesman, that if Jackson County Democrats refuse to run the election it's a criminal misdemeanor. -- The Sun Herald | 05/06/2006 | Push comes to shove in Demo primary

May 7, 2006

New Hampshire: Governor vetoes voter I.D. bill

The Nashua Telegraph reports: Gov. John Lynch, in his first veto of the year, killed a bill Friday that would have required people to show photo identification before they could vote.

“Our responsibility as elected officials is to protect every citizen’s constitutional right to vote and to ensure that any proposed changes to our voting system do not create unnecessary barriers to voting. We should be encouraging people to vote, not discouraging them,” he said in his veto message. -- Nashuatelegraph.com: Lynch vetoes voter identification bill

May 5, 2006

Alabama: Secretary Worley's voter-education ad campaign delayed by legislative committee

AP reports: Secretary of State Nancy Worley's plans for a voter education advertising campaign before the June 6 primary, where she's a candidate, got blocked Thursday by the Legislature's Contract Review Committee.

Rep. Blaine Galliher, R-Gadsden, called the radio and TV campaign a waste of public funds. At his request, the committee delayed the contract proposal for 45 days, which is the maximum action the committee can take.

Adam Bourne, attorney for the secretary of state's office, said the 45-day delay would block the ad campaign for the primary election.

Worley, a former Decatur High School teacher, did not attend the committee's meeting. But, in an interview later in the day, the Democratic officeholder said "partisan political reasons" were behind the committee's action. Worley said she is required by law to do voter education, and she will look for other methods to carry out that duty. -- Worley's ad campaign scuttled

Ohio: GOP proposes redistricting commission plan

The Cleveland Plain Dealer: The biased, one- party process for drawing Ohio political districts would be erased and remade by a nonpartisan commission under a plan introduced Thursday by Republican House leaders.

"Nobody can honestly look at this and say that it is an unfair proposal, that it favors one party over another," said Rep. Kevin DeWine, a Dayton- area Republican and the resolution's sponsor.

But with a similar redistricting pro posal overwhelmingly rejected by voters just six months ago, House Minority Leader Joyce Beatty said lawmakers should move on to more- pressing matters, like the economy. ...

DeWine's resolution has the support of House Speaker Jon Husted and is intended to show up on November's election ballot as a constitutional amendment. To get there, it needs approval from 60 percent of both the House and Senate. -- GOP proposes new redistricting panel

Missouri: House passes voter I.D. bill

The Columbia Missourian reports: The Missouri House passed a bill Thursday that would require Missourians to show a state or federally issued photo identification card to vote.

Lawmakers voted down the partisan line, with 94 Republicans voting in favor of the bill and 65 Democrats opposing it.

Rep. Jeff Harris, D-Columbia and the House Democratic leader, said the bill would prevent the elderly and disabled from voting. ...

But Rep. Bryan Stevenson, R-Webb City, cited voter fraud as the reason for promoting the bill. -- Columbia Missourian - Mo. House passes bill to require photo ID to vote

Indiana: Dems will appeal voter I.D. case

The Indianapolis Star reports: An appeal will be filed today to try to overturn Indiana's voter ID law, Democratic National Chairman Howard Dean said Thursday.

Dean, in his second trip to Indianapolis in recent weeks, and Indiana Democratic Party Chairman Dan Parker said Tuesday's primary election showed some Hoosiers were denied the right to vote. A hotline set up by the national party received a few hundred complaints, with more still coming in.
In April, U.S. District Judge Sarah Evans Barker upheld Indiana's law, the most stringent in the nation, saying Democrats had not proved their contention that the law was too burdensome. -- Dean to fight voter ID statute | IndyStar.com

Rhode Island: Senate approves voting by felons on probation or parole

AP reports: The Senate approved a bill Thursday that could pave the way for convicted felons on probation or parole to gain the right to vote.

Last year the General Assembly approved sending the issue to the ballot for voters to decide if they want to amend the state constitution to allow felons to vote. Thursday's bill details the process for registering felons to vote and is contingent on voter approval of the ballot question in November.

The Department of Corrections would provide the felons with voter registration forms and offer help to fill them out.

Sponsors of bill are mostly Providence's lawmakers who have a significant number of constituents serving probation or parole.

The legislators said Rhode Island has the nation's second highest rate of people on probation and is the only state in New England that prohibits voting for residents serving time in prison or on probation or parole. -- Felons' right to vote goes to the ballot - Boston.com

May 4, 2006

VRA hearings: testimony today

Today's hearing in the House Judiciary Committee (Subcommittee on the Constitution) will hear from Roger Clegg, Gerry Hebert, and Debo Adegbile. Click on these links to read their testimony.

May 3, 2006

Alabama: the HAVA complaint

Here are the documents from the US v. Alabama HAVA case:

Complaint: Download file
Motion for preliminary injunction: Download file

I will add more documents as I have the time.

California: some contributions are not disclosed -- and it's all legal

The Sacramento Bee reports: For the second year in a row, business-oriented political action committees are coming under fire for making big campaign contributions without having to immediately disclose where they're getting their money.

This time, supporters of actor-director Rob Reiner's preschool initiative have filed a complaint with the Fair Political Practices Commission accusing four business PACs opposed to the measure of not fully disclosing the source of their campaign funds.

Campaign finance experts say that a quirk in state election law enables "general purpose" recipient committees - those that support multiple candidates or ballot measures, such as the four PACs - to get around reporting their last-minute political cash transactions. ...

Under current election law, candidate campaign committees as well as "primarily formed" recipient committees - those created to support or oppose specific candidates or ballot measures - are required to report any contribution of $1,000 or more within 24 hours. -- Politics - Election law quirk spurs protests - sacbee.com

Alabama: candidate wants investigation of out-of-state money coming to PACs

The Birmingham News reports: A special prosecutor should investigate the millions of dollars in campaign cash flowing from PACs to Alabama candidates, a practice that violates state campaign finance laws, one candidate is arguing.

Montgomery lawyer Mark Montiel, who is challenging Attorney General Troy King in the June 6 Republican primary, asked King and Gov. Bob Riley on Tuesday to appoint a special counsel to review the way PACs fund Alabama candidates.

King's office declined to appoint a special prosecutor, and Riley's office said the governor didn't have the authority to make the appointment.

In his request, Montiel referred to $100,000 that King's campaign received from a Washington, D.C., PAC that was funded mostly by out-of-state companies. Montiel asked King in a hand-delivered letter Monday to appoint a special counsel to review the matter to "determine whether criminal wrongdoing has occurred involving your campaign and these corporations." -- Candidate wants PAC probe

Indiana: few problems at the polls

Indianapolis Star reports: Some voters might have received two school board ballots. A few Indianapolis townships had to count ballots by hand, resulting in tallying delays. And there was a fleeting problem with U.S. Rep. Julia Carson's identification.

Aside from those setbacks, Tuesday's primary election came and went with few hitches despite a new state law requiring all voters to show a photo ID. ...

Democrats disputed the upbeat assessments. They also argued that the primary was not a good measure of how well the new ID law worked because turnout was low and enforcement was spotty.
Fran Quigley, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana, said his organization received reports of some people who had difficulty voting because of the ID requirements. -- Not perfect at the polls, but no meltdown either | IndyStar.com

Mississippi: DOJ sues for discrimination against whites

AP reports: Ike Brown is a legend in Mississippi politics, a fast-talking operative both loved and hated for his ability to turn out black voters and get his candidates into office.

Now, he's at the heart of a federal lawsuit that's about to turn the 1965 Voting Rights Act on its end.

For the first time, the U.S. Justice Department is using the law to allege racial discrimination against whites.

Brown, head of the Democratic Party in Mississippi's rural Noxubee County, is accused of waging a campaign to defeat white voters and candidates with tactics including intimidation and coercion. Also named in the lawsuit is Circuit Clerk Carl Mickens, who has agreed to refrain from rejecting white voters' absentee ballots considered defective while accepting similar ballots from black voters. -- Worldandnation: For first time, 1965 act used to protect white voting rights

Leaders of both parties introduce bill to reauthorize Voting Rights Act provisions

AP reports: Bilingual interpreters and foreign language ballots at polling places are becoming an issue in the reauthorization of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, legislation that has won rare election-year agreement between Republicans and Democrats.

A group of conservatives say some portions of the act are outdated, including provisions requiring bilingual interpreters and ballots in several languages.

But in a rare shoulder-to-shoulder show of unity, leaders of both parties pledged to push the renewal past the opposition this year in an effort to safeguard the right to vote.

There was another reason the bill is headed for passage: Election-year politics. Republicans hope it will inoculate GOP candidates against charges of racism stemming from controversial proposals to overhaul immigration policy. Democrats believe it will energize minorities who are a major component of the party's base. -- AP Wire | 05/02/2006 | Parties unite to renew Voting Rights Act

May 2, 2006

Alabama: DOJ sues Alabama for failure to meet HAVA requirements

AP reports: The U.S. Justice Department is suing Alabama, contending it missed a deadline for creating a statewide computerized database of voters for this year's elections.

The suit says the database is needed to provide accurate voter rolls, and it asks a judge to require Alabama to develop a plan within 30 days to get its voter registration system into compliance with federal law.

Alabama Secretary of State Nancy Worley, who was named as a defendant in the suit, acknowledged the state was not in compliance and cited opposition from some counties and a lack of funding as some of the reasons for the failure to comply.

"We've faced some roadblocks," Worley said Tuesday. "But ultimately Alabama will have a single statewide database that will protect our elections from fraud." -- Justice Department sues state over voter database

===earlier story===
From a Justice Department press release of yesterday: The Justice Department announced today that it has filed suit against the state of Alabama, alleging violations of the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA). With this lawsuit, Alabama becomes the second state in the nation to be sued by the Department of Justice for not complying with the database requirements of HAVA, after New York.

The government's complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama (Northern Division) in Montgomery, alleges that the state has failed to create and implement a statewide computerized voter registration database, which is required by HAVA. The government contends that Alabama missed the Jan. 1, 2006 federal deadline for completing the statewide database, and that, as of the date of this lawsuit, the state has not selected the database vendor who would start this process. This lawsuit was undertaken only after several contacts and extensive efforts by the Civil Rights Division to convince Alabama to meet its Federal obligations in a timely fashion.

"HAVA's database requirements are designed to ensure the accuracy of the voter rolls and the integrity of the electoral process in elections for Federal office," said Wan J. Kim, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. "This lawsuit is intended to vindicate the rights of the voters of Alabama, who do not, at present, enjoy all of the protections that HAVA affords."

HAVA was enacted with bipartisan support after the 2000 presidential election and was signed into law by President Bush on Oct. 29, 2002. HAVA was the first federal statute to provide federal funds to states to support reform of federal elections. Alabama received over $41 million to assist it in meeting the federal mandates contained in HAVA. Under HAVA, if Alabama fails to comply with HAVA's various requirements, it runs the risk of losing some of these funds when it is audited by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, a federal agency that is responsible for assuring state compliance in the expenditure of HAVA funds.

Today's lawsuit seeks a determination that the state has not fulfilled HAVA's database requirements, and an order requiring the state to submit a plan describing how it will come into compliance. -- U.S. Newswire : Releases : "Justice Department Sues Alabama Over Voting Rights..."

Minnesota: anti-gay marriage group asks for investigation of pro-gay marriage group's campaign status

AP reports: A group pushing to ban gay marriage asked state campaign finance regulators Tuesday to investigate whether several gay rights organizations broke Minnesota's public disclosure laws.

Minnesota Citizens in Defense of Marriage - whose own reporting practices have been under scrutiny - contended that OutFront Minnesota isn't revealing enough about its activities to keep the issue of same-sex unions off the ballot in November.

The complaints from Jeff Davis, president of the marriage group, also said several smaller groups - Faith, Family, Fairness Alliance; Equality Minnesota; PFLAG Northfield; and an unnamed St. Cloud group - should be registered with the state as political committees working to influence a ballot question on the definition of marriage. --

Gay marriage groups fight for credibility

Georgia: federal court refuses to undo the re-redistricting

AP reports: A three-judge panel Tuesday rejected an attempt from an Athens lawmaker to throw out a state Senate map that splits the Democratic stronghold of Athens in half.

State Rep. Jane Kidd had asked the federal panel to rule a map that shifts Athens-Clarke County into two Republican-dominated districts unconstitutional and prevent it from being used in this year's elections.

Kidd, who had announced plans to seek an open Senate seat, and other Democrats accused Republicans of redrawing the map to give their party an advantage to win a seat now held by Republican Sen. Brian Kemp. -- AP Wire | 05/02/2006 | Judges back Republican plan to split Athens vote

Indiana: problems caused by voter I.D.

AP reports: It took one of the most-recognized faces in Indiana politics to create the first glitch for Indiana's new voter ID law.

U.S. Rep. Julia Carson, a Democrat seeking her sixth term in Washington after 18 years in the General Assembly, was delayed at her Indianapolis polling site Tuesday when the congressional ID card she presented to confirm her identity didn't have the expiration date required under the new law.

"It says for the 109th Congress, so that takes care of that," Carson joked later, referring to the term that expires at the end of this year. ...

In South Bend, Notre Dame sophomore Steve Przywara from Cincinnati wasn't allowed to vote because the only photo identification he had was his Ohio driver license and his university ID. He was aware of the new voter ID law, but thought his student identification would be acceptable. ...

He was offered a provisional ballot, but turned it down because he didn't think he'd be able to get his birth certificate from home soon enough. -- AP Wire | 05/02/2006 | New voter ID law snags Indiana congresswoman

May 1, 2006

Mississippi: federal court hearing vote dilution suit today

The Clarion-Ledger reports: A three-judge federal panel in Jackson will hear a lawsuit today that says the 2002 state legislative redistricting plan gerrymandered Senate District 45 to remove any chance of a black being elected.

"This should have never been approved," said Forrest County Supervisor Rod Woullard, the main plaintiff in the lawsuit against the state.

The federal panel will decide if the changes violate the Voting Rights Act, which was created during the civil rights era to guarantee fair election practices nationwide.

The suit contends that minority voting strength in the redrawn district is 20.42 percent, compared with 42.96 percent before redistricting. -- Judges to hear redistrict suit - The Clarion-Ledger