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

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June 30, 2006

Alabama: Siegelman and Scrushy guilty; a campaign contribution can be a bribe

The Birmingham News reports: A federal jury convicted former Gov. Don Siegelman and HealthSouth Corp. founder Richard Scrushy Thursday on corruption charges alleging that Scrushy bought a seat on a state board with $500,000 in contributions to Siegelman's lottery campaign. ...

Outside the courthouse, a smiling Siegelman showed no sign of distress, casually chatting with reporters and praising his defense team.

"If I'm really guilty of this, then every other person in public office better look out. I mean, everybody's raising money and putting people on boards and commissions," Siegelman said. -- Siegleman, Scrushy guilty of bribery

June 28, 2006

Catching up

I have been off at a convention and short vacation for most of the past week. What a time to go on vacation -- Vermont and Texas both coming down. I'll be catching up over the next few days.

Alabama: doesn't anybody read these bills?

AP reports: When the Alabama Legislature tried to make Alabama a player in presidential politics, it inadvertently moved the state's entire primary election — not just the presidential preference primary — from June to February in 2008.

Some state officials first learned of the mistake Wednesday, making it the second foul-up of lawmakers trying to make Alabama an early state for presidential candidates to court votes. Election officials already were worried that the new primary date, Feb. 5, 2008, happens to be Mardi Gras Day, a major holiday and tourist event in Mobile, where businesses shut down as tens of thousands jam streets for Carnival parades.

Alabama primaries for state and county offices traditionally have been held in June or September, never so early as February. -- al.com: NewsFlash - AP Newsbreak: Alabama moved entire 2008 primary to February

June 22, 2006

Problems in estimating turnout

If you compare the figures shown in the Census Bureau spreadsheets in the post below and the figures from the Alabama Secretary of State, you will notice that the Census has 9 to 17% more people who say they voted than did vote for president in Alabama. I think it is highly unlikely that many people went to the polls to vote in 2000 and 2004 and found the race for president so uninteresting that they did not bother to vote, but did vote on a constitutional amendment, a county commission, a judge, or a member of the Public Service Commission. Don't you?

The problem is caused by the methodology of the Census. It asks people if they voted; no double check of actual election results is done. Social scientists know that many people misrepresent whether they voted when asked in surveys. They give the answer expected.

The effect of the Norwood amendment

Before the House leadership suddenly stopped the consideration of the Voting Rights Act renewal yesterday, the Rules Committee had adopted a rule allowing only two amendments. The substance of the two amendments can be found here.

The Norwood amendment contains an "updated formula [which] would be a rolling test based off of the last three presidential elections. Any state would be subject to Section 5 if it currently has a discriminatory test in place or voter turnout of less than 50% in any of the three most recent presidential elections." The text of the amendment makes clear that this is 50% of the citizen voting age population (CVAP).

Let's check on which states would be covered under that half of the formula. The Census Bureau publishes information after each federal election on the CVAP turnout. The three most recent are 2004, 2000, and 1996. (For the first two, look for Table 4C). This means the States that would be covered would be Georgia (1996) and Hawaii (1996, 2000). If someone can point me to a source of sub-state data, I can see if any subdivisions of states would be covered.

After a bit more research, I may be able to give you a report on the "discriminatory test" half of the proposed trigger.

Update: Thanks to Dan Levitas for correcting my misreading of the Georgia data.

June 21, 2006

House leadership dragging its feet on VRA renewal

AP reports: House Republican leaders on Wednesday postponed a vote on renewing the 1965 Voting Rights Act after GOP lawmakers complained it unfairly singles out nine Southern states for federal oversight.

"We have time to address their concerns," Republican leaders said in a joint statement. "Therefore, the House Republican Leadership will offer members the time needed to evaluate the legislation."

It was unclear whether the legislation would come up this year. The temporary provisions don't expire until 2007, but leaders of both parties had hoped to pass the act and use it to further their prospects in the fall's midterm elections.

The statement said the GOP leaders are committed to renewing the law "as soon as possible." ...

"The speaker's had a standing rule that nothing would be voted on unless there's a majority of the majority," said Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, R-Ga., who led the objections. "It was pretty clear at the meeting that the majority of the majority wasn't there." -- Chron.com | House Delays Renewal of Voting Rights Act

RFK Jr says he may sue somebody somewhere over the 2004 election

Tim Grieve reports on Salon.com: In an interview with PRWeek, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. says he'll follow up on his Rolling Stone story about the 2004 presidential election by bringing lawsuits against as-yet undisclosed defendants.

In his Rolling Stone piece, Kennedy said that he has "become convinced that the president's party mounted a massive, coordinated campaign to subvert the will of the people in 2004." Now he says he's meeting with lawyers to devise a "litigation strategy" to address the problems raised in his article. "And I would say very soon we'll be announcing lawsuits against some of the individuals and companies involved," Kennedy tells PRWeek. -- War Room - Salon.com

Voting Rights Act to be considered today

The House will take up the Voting Rights Act renewal today with two amendments detailed in this Rules Committee report.

Alabama: prosecutors ask judge to reconsider on instruction to Siegelman jury

The Birmingham News reports: Prosecutors in the government corruption trial of former Gov. Don Siegelman have asked a federal judge to change the answer he gave jurors last week about campaign contributions and bribes.

As jurors concluded their fourth day of deliberations without coming to a verdict, prosecutors remained concerned about the instructions U.S. Chief District Judge Mark Fuller gave in response to jurors' question.

According to defense lawyers, prosecutors filed a sealed motion Monday asking Fuller to tell jurors that, in regard to a bribery charge against Siegelman, it doesn't matter whether he received personal financial benefit from campaign contributions arranged by HealthSouth founder Richard Scrushy. -- Prosecution still concerned at jury instructions

My comment: Members of Congress had better pay attention to this issue. If prosecutors can get the jury to consider a payment to a PAC for a referendum issue as a "thing of value" to a politician who is the chief sponsor of the referendum, how much easier it will be to argue that a contribution to a campaign committee is a thing of value to the politician.

June 20, 2006

"Proactive bailout"?

Rick Hasen writes on his Election Law blog: I have been advocating a proactive bailout amendment for VRA renewal that I think can increase the chances that a renewed VRA passes constitutional muster without weakening the important protections of section 5. Rep. Lynn Westmoreland will be offering this amendment on proactive bailout today to the House Rules Committee. That committee will determine if the amendment gets offered on the floor of the House during the vote on VRA renewal on Thursday. His office also has issued this explanation of the proposed amendment. -- Election Law: Hasen: Proactive Bailout Amendment to Be Offered in House Rules Committee

I commented to Rick: The problem with "proactive" bailout provisions such as Westmoreland proposes is the lack of understanding about who has the most opportunity, ability, and incentive to gather evidence proving the matters called for by the bailout provision.

Take a look at the bailout requirement found in Section 4(a) of the VRA. Four requirements (A-C and E) are matters that can be found in the AG's files. Paragraph D requires the jurisdiction to show that it has not made any change that has not been submitted. How is the AG going to know that unless the Voting Section conducts an audit of every law, every regulation, every administrative bulletin implemented since 1964, 1968, or 1972? Paragraph F requires proof of the jurisdiction's affirmative steps beyond the prohibitions of Section 5 "changes" to have made things better for minorities. Again, how will the DOJ know this without doing a fact-intensive investigation "on the ground"?

I have been involved with some preclearance requests on behalf of jurisdictions. I know it is tough just trying to get some small places to find all the election procedures they changed so we can tell the DOJ that previous practices have all been precleared.

Rick responded: I think your argument proves my point. A proactive bailout proposal shifts the incentive to the DOJ (or rather, mandates the DOJ) to work in gathering this information. I want the DOJ to conduct those audits, with the cooperation of the local jurisdiction. If a local jurisdiction does not want to cooperate with a fact intensive investigation that DOJ conducts, then the jurisdiction will remain covered.

Now perhaps the argument is that DOJ doesn't have the resources to do this. If that's right, then give DOJ more resources in the VRA bill. And if the argument is that it would take longer than a year to go through all the jurisdictions, then the amendment could be reworked to require DOJ to begin with those jurisdictions that appear most likely to be able to bailout, and to complete a review within three years of the Act of all jurisdictions.

Gerry Hebert (a/k/a Mr. Bailout) commented on the Campaign Legal Center Blog: I doubt seriously that the Attorney General has the staff or resources to undertake the investigations contemplated by Ricks proposal. Like the proposals to extend Section 5 nationwide, they would tax the DOJ resources beyond the breaking point.

My final comment (for now): How large a swarm of federal officials will it take to "proactively" demand to see the records of all the myriad of governments we have in the VRA-covered jurisdictions? Of course, they will all be nice and say, "I'm from the government, and I'm here to help you." Take Alabama for example. It had in 1997 67 county governments, 127 school boards (70+ of which were popularly elected), and 446 municipalities, according to the 1997 Governments Integrated Directory online query system.

After they get through with that, will they proactively come around and do my taxes for me? Or better yet, for you?

Episcopal reject call for ban on gay bishops

AP reports: Episcopal clergy and lay delegates Tuesday rejected a demand from fellow Anglicans that they temporarily stop electing gay bishops, leaving little chance the proposal could be revived at a national church meeting.

Anglican leaders, angered by the 2003 consecration of an openly gay Episcopal bishop, had asked the Episcopalians pass a moratorium _ at least for now _ on homosexuals leading dioceses.

But in a complex balloting system, a majority of the Episcopal House of Deputies voted against a measure that would have urged dioceses to refrain from electing homosexuals to lead them. Conservatives said the measure stopped short of a moratorium, but supporters argued it would have at least signaled that the American church understood the concerns of Anglican leaders. -- Episcopalians Reject Ban on Gay Bishops

My comment: Notice the third paragraph's reference to a "complex system." This is a newspaper code word for "it is not like the way we vote in the good old US of A, but we don't want to explain it right now." Well, I will explain it to you.

The House of Delegates has four lay delegates and four clergy delegates from each diocese. Some states have one diocese, some more, and a few are shared between states. (Alabama for instance has the Diocese of Alabama and the Diocese of the Gulf Coast which also includes West Florida.) As you can see in these Rules of Order (page 16 of the PDF), the vote may be taken "by Dioceses and Orders." The "Orders" are the lay and the clergy.

By the way, the vote at the U.S. Constitutional Convention was taken by States, so the vote there could be "aye," "no," or "divided" -- just as provided in the Episcopal Church rules.

Here endeth the Lesson.

Florida: Hispanics will drop the dilution against Kissimmee

The Orlando Sentinel reports: Demographics have nullified the need for a class-action suit over city elections, those behind a federal complaint said Monday.

The suit alleging Hispanic voting power is diluted was filed in August, but attorneys for the four residents behind it asked a federal judge in Orlando for a voluntary dismissal earlier this month. The judge will rule on the motion at a later date.

"The lawsuit is unsustainable," said Armando Ramirez, one of the four residents behind the complaint. Because the number of registered Hispanic voters outnumbers white voters by about 900, he said that the suit "doesn't fall within federal guidelines. Instead of waiting for the judge to tell us that, we directed our attorneys to" seek the dismissal.

The four originally alleged that the "at-large" method of electing city commissioners dilutes the power of the Hispanic vote and violates a section of the Voting Rights Act. They sought to force Kissimmee to elect commissioners by district instead. -- Hispanics ask to drop Kissimmee vote suit - Orlando Sentinel : Osceola County News Hispanics ask to drop Kissimmee vote suit - Orlando Sentinel : Osceola County News

Georgia: Cox expects 'pandemonium' over missing voter I.D.s

The Macon Telegraph reports: More than 675,000 Georgia voters lack a driver's license or some other state ID card, Secretary of State Cathy Cox said Monday, predicting that that could cause "pandemonium" before next month's primary when new voter-ID laws will be enforced.

Cox is on the July 18 ballot in the gubernatorial race against fellow Democrat Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor.

She said an analysis by her office compared Georgia's 5 million registered voters to a Department of Driver Services database, and found 676,246 voters either with no record of a license or state ID, or whose license had been revoked, suspended, canceled, denied or surrendered.

"We continue to believe that this law has the potential to disenfranchise thousands of Georgia voters," said Cox.

The Macon state senator who co-sponsored the voter ID law noted that many registered voters sit elections out. -- Macon Telegraph | 06/20/2006 | Cox: Lack of photo ID may cause 'pandemonium'

California: state senate to consider redistricting commission this week

AP reports: California lawmakers are considering giving up one of their most politically potent powers -- the ability to draw their own districts.

A constitutional amendment that would transfer those duties to an 11-member commission seems to have enough votes to pass, a year after voters rejected a somewhat similar attempt that sparked a fight between Democrats and Republicans.

''I don't see a whole lot of opposition to this at this point,'' said Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuez, D-Los Angeles. ''It's a clear effort to try and do the right thing by way of allowing for broader citizenship participation in the political process.''

Twelve states currently take the power to draw districts out of the hands of legislators and give it to commissions. Five others use commissions if lawmakers fail to approve new districts by a deadline.

If the California amendment passes, it would be the first time a state legislature had voted to give up its redistricting role, said Sen. Alan Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, the measure's author. The other commissions were created by voter initiatives, he said. -- Monterey County Herald | 06/19/2006 | Redistricting resurfaces

June 19, 2006

Arizona: TRO denied in suit re federal voter mail registration form

Nina Perales of MALDEF emails: Today, Judge Roslyn Silver of the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona denied MALDEF's motion for a TRO blocking Arizona's refusal to accept the federal mail voter registration form without the additional proof of citizenship required by state law.

The case, Gonzalez v. Arizona, was filed May 9, 2006 by MALDEF and challenges both the proof of citizenship and voter ID provisions of Proposition 200. The TRO sought preliminary relief on the question whether Arizona could refuse properly-completed federal voter registration applications because Prop 200 requires documentary proof of citizenship with all applications.

The court held that we had not shown a likelihood of success on the merits, concluding that the NVRA permits states to require more information from applicants than that set out on the federal mail voter form.

Washington State: Pierce County to vote on IRV in November referendum

The Tacoma News Tribune reports: Come November, Pierce County voters will decide a smorgasbord of proposals to remodel county government, including making the job of sheriff an elected position, adopting a different way to elect some county officials and bolstering property rights.

In a series of votes, the Charter Review Commission on Saturday decided to send nine of 15 possible changes to the county’s constitution to voters on the Nov. 7 ballot. ...

The commission also adopted a proposal to use a different system for electing all county officials except for judges and the prosecuting attorney: instant runoff voting. Under that system, voters would cast ballots allowing them to rank all candidates for an office in their order of preference. -- Charter changes now up to you | TheNewsTribune.com | Tacoma, WA

Hat tip to Rob Richie for the tip.

June 18, 2006

Episcopal Church has elected Bishop Schori as Presiding Bishop

Reuters reports: The U.S. Episcopal Church chose Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori on Sunday as its first woman leader, a move unprecedented in the Anglican church and one likely to produce more turmoil in a faith divided over the ordination of an openly gay bishop.

Her election came 30 years after the 2.3 million-member Episcopal Church, the U.S. branch of the worldwide Anglican Communion, approved the ordination of women to the priesthood.

The selection seemed likely to provoke controversy, since most other Anglican communities, including the Church of England, do not allow women bishops. -- First woman named to head US Episcopal Church | Reuters.com

Bishop Schori was the leader (or tied) on all each of the five ballots, followed closely by the Rt. Rev. Henry Parsley of the Diocese of Alabama. Under the rules of the Episcopal Church [see pages 17 of this PDF], the House of Bishops first decides among the candidates and then asks for the concurrence of the House of Delegates (made up of 4 lay delegates and 4 clerical delegates from each diocese) [see this diagram for a simplified explanation of the way we Episcopalians run our church].

June 16, 2006

Alabama: the jury asks "is a campaign contribution a 'thing of value'?"

AP reports: Jurors in the government corruption trial of former Gov. Don Siegelman and three others interrupted their deliberations Friday to ask a question at the heart of the government's case: Does a campaign contribution constitute a thing of value for Siegelman?

The jury's question concerned Count 3 of the 34-count indictment, which charges that Siegelman, as governor, bribed former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy by promising him a seat on an influential hospital regulatory board in exchange for Scrushy arranging $500,000 in contributions to Siegelman's campaign for a statewide lottery.

U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller told jurors "a campaign contribution may be a thing of value," but left the final determination up to the jurors.

"The bottom line is it is for you to decide if any contribution to the Alabama Education Lottery Foundation or the Alabama Education Foundation is a thing of value," Fuller told jurors. -- al.com: NewsFlash - Judge: campaign donation may be thing of value to Siegelman

New Hampshire: judge dismisses 5 of 8 claims in Democrats' phone-jamming suit

AP reports: A judge has dismissed most of a Democratic lawsuit against Republicans stemming from the jamming of Democratic phone lines in the November 2002 elections.

State Democratic Chairwoman Kathy Sullivan said Thursday a judge in Manchester dismissed five of eight claims Democrats had made in the civil lawsuit.

Both parties called the decision a victory. ...

The five dismissed counts dealt with conspiring against constitutional rights to vote and associate, civil conspiracy, civil harassment and conspiracy to commit civil harassment. ...

The scheme jammed get-out-the-vote and ride-to-the-polls phone banks run by Democrats and the nonpartisan Manchester firefighters union for over an hour on Election Day 2002, during a hotly contested U.S. Senate race between then-Democratic Gov. Jeanne Shaheen and Republican John Sununu, who won. -- Judge dismisses most of Democrats' phone-jamming lawsuit - Boston.com

June 15, 2006

Texas: TRM treasurer settles with Democratic candidates

The Austin American-Statesman reports: The treasurer for Texans for a Republican Majority, a political committee at the heart of almost four years of criminal investigations and civil litigation, has paid $65,000 to former Democratic candidates in an attempt to end his role in the campaign finance saga.

During the 2002 elections, former Dallas lawmaker Bill Ceverha was treasurer of the committee founded by former U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay. Ceverha filed for personal bankruptcy last fall after a judge ruled he had violated state law by failing to disclose $600,000 of corporate money the committee spent to defeat Democrats.

State law generally bars the spending of corporate money in connection with a campaign.

Ceverha always maintained he did nothing wrong, but he filed for bankruptcy as an attempt to remove himself from years of appeals and other lawsuits. The Democrats, however, claimed his bankruptcy was a sham, arguing that Ceverha had transferred assets and paid "friendly creditors" to deny claims by the Democratic candidates. -- GOP steward pays Democrats for campaign infractions

Florida: if you don't like the test results, stop doing the tests

AP reports: Florida elections supervisors opposed a state proposal Monday that would require them to get approval before testing voting equipment.

The issue, in part, resulted from a secret test several months ago when elections-office workers hacked into a Diebold optical-scan voting system in Leon County to show that it could be made to produce false results.

"The action by the Division of Elections to limit how I can do these tests, I find an imposition on my statutory authority," said Ion Sancho, the Leon County supervisor who questioned the secretary of state's standing to make a rule change without legislative approval.

Maria Matthews, the assistant general counsel for the Division of Elections, which hosted the 90-minute workshop, said the state was comfortable it had the authority to go ahead with the rule changes. -- Elections chiefs don't like rules - Orlando Sentinel : State News Elections chiefs don't like rules - Orlando Sentinel : State News

Missouri: voter I.D. bill signed

The St. Louise Post-Dispatch reports: The state will begin issuing free nondriver identification cards today to help people comply with a new law requiring state-issued photo IDs to vote.

The law, which Gov. Matt Blunt signed Wednesday, requires that voters who go to the polls Nov. 7 show a Missouri drivers license, a nondriver ID or a military ID.

But getting a nondriver ID won't be simple. Applicants must show a birth certificate or passport, as well as documents such as a Social Security card and recent bank statements. ...

Critics said the state will be hard-pressed to publicize the changes adequately so that people can comply in less than five months. A coalition of groups is considering a legal challenge on grounds that the law discriminates against people with disabilities. ...

An estimated 170,000 people lack state-issued ID cards. For the November election, they can cast provisional ballots if they have other forms of identification, such as utility bills, student IDs or out-of-state licenses. -- STLtoday - News - St. Louis City / County

June 14, 2006

Pam Karlan on Congressional power to renew the VRA

The American Constitution Society for Law and Policy (ACS) is pleased to distribute an analysis by Pamela S. Karlan examining Congress’s power to extend the preclearance provisions of the Voting Rights Act. Professor Karlan is the Kenneth and Harle Montgomery Professor of Public Interest Law, Stanford Law School and Co-Director of the Stanford Supreme Court Litigation Clinic.

Alabama: federal PAC transfers money to state PAC, but state PAC discloses money is from companies

The Birmingham News reports: An Alabama political action committee that contributed nearly all of its money to Attorney General Troy King's campaign lists 20 companies and organizations as its donors, but that is not precisely where the money came from.

Internal documents rarely seen in the world of campaign finance show the 20 companies and organizations gave the money to a related federal political organization, and they didn't learn until later that their money had been routed to Alabama.

It's all perfectly legal, operators of the federal political group say. But it also shows how difficult it can be to identify the true source of a candidate's contributions. In this case, by identifying 20 donors as the source of the Alabama money but not identifying the federal committee that handled the contributions, hundreds of other companies that also gave to the federal committee were obscured.

Alabama election reports clearly state that 20 companies and organizations gave $101,750 to the Republican State Leadership Committee's Alabama PAC in 2005 and 2006. But the documents show the checks were written to the parent federal group - the Republican State Leadership Committee - not the Alabama PAC. The Alabama PAC gave King's campaign account two $50,000 checks, in August and February. -- National PAC routes funds to AG King

June 12, 2006

Massachusetts: outing the signers of anti-gay marriage petition

The Boston Globe reports: A controversial campaign to identify supporters of a constitutional ban of gay marriage in Massachusetts plans to launch a similar website in Florida today.

KnowThyNeighbor.org, a website that contains a searchable database of the names of Massachusetts residents who have signed a petition for a constitutional amendment to outlaw gay marriage, has helped a church in Jacksonville, Fla., build a similar database of Floridians who have signed a ``marriage protection" ballot initiative in their state. The Florida names will be available on KnowThyNeighbor.org or through a link on the church's website, christchurchofpeace.org .

The website's creators say its purpose is twofold -- to root out signature fraud and to provide public information that gay marriage supporters can use to identify petition signers they know and engage them in ``open and meaningful dialogue." But opponents of the site say its real purpose is to intimidate.

Kris Mineau , the president of The Massachusetts Family Institute , a sponsor of the amendment banning gay marriage, said Massachusetts' latest export was meant to scare Floridians away from the petition. -- Another website to list gay-marriage foes - The Boston Globe

Hat tip to Sean Sirrine at Objective Justice.

Colorado: Holtzman on the GOP primary ballot -- for now

The Denver Post reports: A Denver District Court judge Friday ordered the secretary of state's office to put gubernatorial candidate Marc Holtzman on the Republican primary ballot. ...

However, whether Holtzman has enough valid signatures to legally stay on the Aug. 8 ballot will not be decided for at least 10 days. If he doesn't, his name will still appear on the ballot but votes cast for him won't be counted.

Judge R. Michael Mullins said it was in the public interest for Holtzman to be put on the ballot Friday, which was the legal deadline for the secretary of state to certify the ballot. Under those tight state-mandated deadlines for certification and printing, Holtzman's name might not be able to be added to the ballot if it's later found he did collect sufficient signatures.

"What's at risk here is if Mr. Holtzman is successful on his challenge ... then he doesn't have a remedy if he is not allowed on the ballot, which in effect denies his access to the ballot," the judge said. -- DenverPost.com - Holtzman put on ballot

Hat tip to Taegan D. Goddard's Political Wire.

New Hampshire: "You always want to polarize somebody"

The Boston Globe reports: For nearly a decade, Allen Raymond stood at the top ranks of Republican Party power. ...

Raymond, 39, has just finished serving a three-month sentence for jamming Democratic phone lines in New Hampshire during the 2002 US Senate race. The incident led to one of the biggest political scandals in the state's history, the convictions of Raymond and two top Republican officials, and a Democratic lawsuit that seeks to determine whether the White House played any role. The race was won by Senator John E. Sununu , the Republican.

In his first interview about the case, Raymond said he doesn't know anything that would suggest the White House was involved in the plan to tie up Democrats' phone lines and thereby block their get-out-the-vote effort. But he said the scheme reflects a broader culture in the Republican Party that is focused on dividing voters to win primaries and general elections. He said examples range from some recent efforts to use border-security concerns to foster anger toward immigrants to his own role arranging phone calls designed to polarize primary voters over abortion in a 2002 New Jersey Senate race.

``A lot of people look at politics and see it as the guy who wins is the guy who unifies the most people," he said. ``I would disagree. I would say the candidate who wins is the candidate who polarizes the right bloc of voters. You always want to polarize somebody." -- Fallen star blames self, GOP tactics - The Boston Globe

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

Colorado: proposed initiative cannot appear on ballot

AP reports: The Colorado Supreme Court ruled Monday that a proposal to deny most state services to illegal immigrants cannot appear on the November ballot.

The proposed constitutional amendment, promoted by Defend Colorado Now, violates a state constitutional requirement that initiatives deal with only one subject, the court said in a 5-2 opinion. -- Colorado Supreme Court rules measure to deny services to illegals cannot be on ballot

The opinion is here.

Alabama: Fake group ran ad for conservative candidates in GOP primary

The Birmingham News reports: A Birmingham man is asking the state attorney general and Jefferson County district attorney's offices to investigate who was behind what he says is a fraudulent ad linking Rep. Jim Carns to Roy Moore and several controversial Supreme Court candidates.

Orrin R. Ford, a lawyer from Mountain Brook, mailed certified letters Friday to Alabama Attorney General Troy King and Jefferson County District Attorney David Barber. He contends the ad, which ran May 31 in The Birmingham News, violates the state's fair campaign practices law.

Specifically, Ford claims the ad lists a fictitious political action committee as having paid for it. Ford said the fictitious PAC - the Assembly of Republicans - also used a fictitious address, all without the knowledge or consent of the candidates mentioned in the ad and in violation of the anti-fraud provisions of state law. ...

The fictitious PAC name is similar to the real Alabama Republican Assembly, a PAC that bills itself as "the Republican wing of the Republican party." It in fact endorsed Moore, Brooks, Parker, Zeigler and Carns in their separate races. -- Officials asked to study ad with Carns, Moore

Alabama: appellate court races have been costly

The Birmingham News reports: Alabama's national reputation as the most expensive place to run for state Supreme Court will grow, based on spending patterns in this year's primaries, judicial watchdog groups say.

The 11 candidates in the five Republican primary races for Alabama Supreme Court spent a combined $4.6 million through the end of May, state campaign finance disclosure forms show.

By contrast, the nine people vying to become Alabama's next governor spent $8 million total.

"That's a lot of money," said Jesse Rutledge, spokesman for Justice at Stake, a Washington-based group that tracks the campaign financing in judicial races. "I'm sure the spending really took off the last week of the campaign." -- Bids for state court carry high price tags

June 11, 2006

Alabama: preliminary relief in HAVA case

The federal court in the Middle District of Alabama has issued a preliminary injunction in the United States' HAVA case against the State. Basically the injuction requires the state to file a compliance plan by 29 June. The court will hold a hearing on any objections of the United States on 20 July. The complaint is here.

Alabama: DOJ gets relief for overseas voters

UPDATED
From a DOJ press release: The Justice Department today announced the successful resolution of its lawsuit against the state of Alabama to enforce the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA).

The lawsuit, filed on March 9, 2006, contended that the three-week period between Alabama’s primary and second primary elections was too short for run-off ballots to be created, mailed, and returned from absentee voters living in distant places such as American servicemembers in Iraq. In response to the lawsuit, the Alabama General Assembly enacted legislation that extends the period between the primary and run-off elections to five weeks, and allows ballots cast by military and overseas voters to be counted if they are received within seven days after the election. A new state law will help ensure that military and overseas voters have an opportunity to participate fully in the state's primary run-off elections for federal office, as required by UOCAVA. The reforms in Alabama follow similar actions in North Carolina and South Carolina in 2006 in which the Civil Rights Division pressed to obtain full UOCAVA compliance in advance of the 2006 federal primary elections. ...

The Governor promptly signed the bill into law, but an unanticipated consequence of the extension of the run-off date was a change in absentee voting requirements: absentee voters would now have to file separate requests for primary and run-off absentee ballots. With little time for effective publicity and the absentee voting process under way, this change could have affected numerous voters. Moreover, because data provided by the state of Alabama suggests that African American voters use absentee ballots at a higher rate than other voters, this change could have had particular implications for African American voters. The Justice Department obtained an Order suspending the dual-request provision until 2008, and the state agreed, among other steps, to provide each 2008 applicant with two applications and a prominent notice of the need for two separate applications. Having resolved the potential impact of the change, the Justice Department determined that the change satisfied the Voting Rights Act and moved for dismissal of its complaint. -- #06-354: 06-08-06 Justice Department Announces Resolutions to Protect Rights of Military and Overseas Citizens to Vote in Federal Primary Elections in Alabama and South Carolina

Thanks to Mike Pitts for pointing me to this.

You can view complaint , the US's motion, and the injuction with these links.

Thanks to John Tanner for pointing out the mistaken uploads to me.

June 8, 2006

Gulf Coast: population impact of 2005 hurricanes

The New York Times reports: After the twin barrages of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita last year, the City of New Orleans emerged nearly 64 percent smaller, having lost an estimated 278,833 residents, according to the Census Bureau's first study of the area since the storms.

Those who remained in the city were significantly more likely to be white, slightly older and a bit more well-off, the bureau concluded in two reports that were its first effort to measure the social, financial and demographic impact of the hurricanes on the Gulf Coast.

The bureau found that while New Orleans lost about two-thirds of its population, adjacent St. Bernard Parish dropped a full 95 percent, falling to just 3,361 residents by Jan. 1. The surveys do not include the influx in both areas that has occurred this year as more residents begin to rebuild.

While the New Orleans area lost population, the Houston metropolitan area emerged with more than 130,000 new residents, many of them hurricane evacuees. Whites made up a slightly smaller percentage of Houston's population — 62.8 percent of the city in January compared with 64.8 percent last July, a month before Hurricane Katrina hit. -- Reports Reveal Katrina's Impact on Population - New York Times

The Times also has a good map of the Gulf Coast with population losses and gains marked for each county.

changes at EdwardStill.com

I have added about 150 pages of information on Employee Rights at my other site, EdwardStill.com. This information should help employees answer the question, "Can they do that?" without having to call a lawyer.

Let me know if there are general questions you want answered, and I will see what I can do about working up an answer for the site.

June 6, 2006

Alabama: the sludge that passes for campaigning

Courtney Haden writes in the Birmingham Weekly: If Ed Vaughn or any candidate needs some guidance in the contemporary approach to ad hominem campaigning, he need look no further than my windshield wiper, under which Monday I found a remarkable black-and-white document paid for, but not exorbitantly, by “Citizen of District 54 for Truth.” “Citizen” was thoughtful enough to lay out the “Political Facts/Rap(Profile)” pertinent to those running for the state house in that particular district.

At the top of the page, one Kamau Afrika is lauded as a father, a widower, an investor and a college graduate with an “unorthodox (crazy) way of getting things done but he gets it done.” Mr. Africa is said to be not only a member of JCCC and AOA but also of AARP, and – this is underlined – ”WILL NOT SUPPORT THE GAY & LESBIAN SAME SEX MARRIAGE AGENDA.”

Other candidates on the page fare less well with “Citizen.” For example, “Gaynell Hendrix” – she doesn’t actually spell her name that way – merits a semicolon in her excoriation: “This elitist; better than the rest of those blacks and whites attitude corporate welfare queen of ‘we don’t care’.” “Citizen” asserts that she was put in the race as a spoiler by the current representative, George Perdue, and she “supports Perdue’s $150.00 yearly tag tax height.” Which might be about five-foot-eight, unless he’s wearing lifts.

Patricia Todd? “Never married, no children, BSC and UAB graduate. Endorsed, financed and totally supported by extremist gay, lesbian same sex marriage, political & Marxist PACs that are ‘cumming out’ in a solid block vote.” I believe if “Citizen” could have figured out a way to work in Osama bin Laden and denying the Holocaust, he’d have hit the quinella.

However, the worst is saved for Emanuel Ford: “Adopted, never married(?), no children(?), no girlfriend(?).” “Citizen” employs the parenthesis and the interrogation point with a delicacy usually found only on Jerry Springer. What’s more, “his 22 years of incompetent stewardship over East Thomas has left that community devastated like a war zone over run with illegal Mexicans.” Picturesque, but then “Citizen” lets you know why Mr. Ford is truly unworthy of elective office: “Recently recovered from hemorrhoids.”

Somewhere in Washington, Karl Rove is penning admiring fan mail to “Citizen,” saying, “I wish I’d thought of that one.” -- Birmingham Weekly Online

Georgia: when and how will Georgia provide voter I.D. cards?

The Savannah Morning News reports: Ask Sandra Williams, Chatham County's voter registration director, if Georgia's new voter ID program will run smoothly and she laughs.

"I really don't know," she said last week. "We're still waiting for complete information from the state. ... They haven't said when it will be forthcoming."

Williams and her counterparts in Georgia's 158 other counties have received some of the gadgetry they will need and have been trained to use it.

But no one knows when the effort to provide voter ID cards to people who lack drivers licenses or other state-approved identification will start. -- SavannahNOW | Questions stalk voter ID program - 06/04/2006

Georgia: federal court allows 2 on Effingham Co. ballot, but excludes 1

The Savannah Morning News reports: Two Effingham County Commission hopefuls were approved by a federal judge for this year's election, but a third was left scratching his head after being rejected.

U.S. District Court Judge Avant Edenfield's ruling on residency requirements stemming from a 1982 civil rights suit permits Steve Collins to run in District 5 and Michael King in District 2. ...

Questions about the residency of the three candidates were raised just hours after the April 28 qualifying deadline when county officials came across a residency requirement set 22 years ago by Edenfield. As part of a civil rights lawsuit settlement between a minority organization and county officials, Edenfield wrote a consent order aimed at giving minorities more voting strength.

Part of the agreement stipulated a five-year residency requirement for candidates, a regulation which was soon forgotten and never enforced.

Voting rules have changed over the years since the consent order, nearly eliminating residency requirements.

Collins and King are Effingham residents, but not for five consecutive years. Wilkins has lived in Effingham for more than five years, but wanted to qualify for a district that he hopes to relocate to by the election. -- SavannahNOW | Two Effingham candidates get go-ahead, third rejected - 06/05/2006

Alabama: Libertarian fails to get enough petition signatures to run for governor

AP reports: The colorful Libertarian Party nominee for governor, Loretta Nall, said Monday she will run as a write-in candidate after failing to get enough signatures to get her name on the general election ballot.

"I'm not dropping out," Nall said.

Tuesday is the deadline for third-party candidates to turn in voters' signatures to the secretary of state to get ballot access for Nov. 7. Nall needed 41,300 signatures to get on the general election ballot. She said she and her supporters collected between 10,000 and 15,000 signatures, which she plans to turn in Tuesday to make a point about Alabama having one of the nation's toughest ballot access laws for third parties.

"In almost any other state, that would have been enough to get ballot access," she said. -- Libertarian nominee Loretta Nall fails to get enough signature - Tuscaloosa

Ohio: Blackwell's voter registration rules criticized

The Columbus Dispatch reports: Critics of Ohio’s new election law say Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell has implemented rules that make it more difficult to register voters than the law itself does.

At a hearing yesterday, some said Blackwell’s rules would shut down voter-registration efforts in Ohio that use paid workers. Afterward, state Democrats said the rules were reminiscent of Blackwell’s 2004 edict that the paper for registration forms had to be a certain weight. ...

Peg Rosenfield, elections specialist for the League of Women Voters, said she fears that the league and other voter-registration groups would have to abandon their efforts in Ohio.

"The combination of ambiguity and the restrictions — we don’t know what to tell people," Rosenfield said. "The bill is restrictive but (the rules) are more restrictive than the bill." --
New election rules draw fire

June 2, 2006

Montana: deception charged on ballot petitions

The Helena Independent Record reports: A number of voters in Helena say signature gatherers trying to get a measure on the November ballot have tried to dupe them into signing two other ballot petitions.

Political Practices Commissioner Gordon Higgins said his office has spoken to several voters who complained about the signature-gatherers' methods, and the secretary of state's office also has received complaints.

But Trevis Butcher, campaign coordinator for a group pushing all three measures, said he thinks the complaints are unfounded. He said he contacted the signature-gathering coordinator in Helena and was assured that no deceptive practices are being used. ...

Helena resident Libbi Lovshin told Lee Newspapers that when she agreed to sign a property rights ballot measure petition Thursday outside a grocery store, the signature-gatherer said the measure required three separate signings.

But when Lovshin looked closely at the other documents she was told to sign, she saw they were separate petitions for two ballot measures she did not support: One to cap state spending and another to make it easier to recall judges. -- IR // News // Signature gatherers accused of deception

Today's vote on Wal-Mart political contributions

John Dimsdale reports on Marketplace: Resolutions forcing corporate disclosures of political contributions have been gaining popularity over the last two years. They usually get around 10 to 20 percent support. Last year's effort at Wal-Mart received 9 percent.

This year, for the first time, the movement is endorsed by Institutional Shareholder Services, which advises investors on how to vote their proxies. That's welcome news for the Center for Political Accountability, which has spearheaded the political contribution disclosure drive. ...

Tomorrow's Wal-Mart resolution is sponsored by the Teamsters. The union's secretary treasurer, Tom Keegel, says the company's political contributions have hurt shareholder investments. -- Marketplace: Who's getting Wal-Mart's money?

June 1, 2006

Ohio: Noe pleads guilty to campaign finance violations

AP reports: For more than a year, Ohio’s Republican Party and its governor have been swept up in a scandal threatening to end the GOP’s dominance in state politics.

State and federal investigations into free golf outings, campaign donations and the state’s unusual investment in rare coins put party leaders on the defensive. Republicans from President Bush on down rushed to rid themselves of contributions considered tainted.

All the while, the businessman and prominent Republican fundraiser at the center of the scandal waited out his fate at his oceanside home in the Florida Keys.

On Wednesday, coin dealer Tom Noe pleaded guilty to federal charges that he illegally funneled about $45,000 to Bush’s re-election campaign. -- cantonrep.com

FEC refuses to adopt 527 regulations

The New York Times reports: The Federal Election Commission has decided not to issue rules to regulate so-called 527 organizations that used millions of dollars in private donations to become powerful voices in the 2004 presidential election.

A federal judge had told the commission that it had two choices: issue uniform rules or issue a fuller explanation of why it was dealing with 527-related cases one by one even as the 2006 elections near. The commission voted 4 to 2 not to appeal the judge's ruling, and chose the second option.

Its chairman, Michael E. Toner, a Republican, dissented, saying, "The failure to issue rules has fostered uncertainty about what is legally permissible and has undermined the McCain-Feingold law" that governs campaign financing.

The vote by the panel set the stage for another round of court battles that could affect the 2006 Congressional elections, as well as the 2008 presidential race. -- Election Panel Won't Issue Donation Rules - New York Times