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

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July 31, 2006

Texas: 5th Circuit judges appear skeptical of DeLay's change of residence ploy

The Houston Chronicle reports: A federal appeals panel indicated today that the ability of Republicans to replace former U.S. Rep. Tom Delay on the ballot rests on whether there was "conclusive" evidence that he had moved to Virginia.

The three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals did not indicate when it would rule. But questions from the panel seemed to favor the Democrats' position that Republican officials could not declare DeLay ineligible for office based on residency prior to election day.

Republican lawyer James Bopp Jr. told the panel that DeLay had given Texas Republican Chairwoman Tina Benkiser enough evidence that she could make a "reasonable prediction" that DeLay would not be a resident of Texas on election day. That evidence included a change of driver's license and voter registration, plus a letter stating he had moved to Virginia. ...

But Judges Pete Benavides and Edith Clement noted that a candidate like DeLay could move back to Texas by election day and be eligible for office. They said the U.S. Constitution would prohibit a state party official from throwing a candidate off the ballot in such circumstances.

"How can it be conclusive if you can always change your voter registration," Clement asked. -- Chron.com | Judges quiz lawyers in DeLay ballot battle

"Bench-Crawling Brawl"

Bert Brandenburg writes in Slate: A lot of state judges will be staying up election night this November, and not just because many of them will be on the ballot. One of the most overlooked political stories of 2006 is a cluster of state ballot initiatives designed to hobble courts. Their backers seek the aura of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. But the measures look more like On the Waterfront: They point toward a political intimidation racket benefiting special interests that want courts to deliver results, not justice.

In Colorado, there's a push for retroactive term limits for appellate judges. The measure would write pink slips for 12 judges in the near future and clear off most of the Supreme Court in just a couple of years. In Montana, where every judge already runs for office, Constitutional Initiative 98 would create a new layer of recall elections to oust judges over specific decisions. An Oregon measure seeks to throw out justices from Portland by creating geographical districts for the Supreme Court. And in South Dakota, a "J.A.I.L. 4 Judges" initiative would amend the state constitution to create a fourth branch of government: a special grand jury to sue judges and others for their decisions. -- Judges need to join the fight to save the courts. By Bert Brandenburg

Colorado: state supreme court upholds disfranchisement of parolees

AP reports: The Colorado Supreme Court on Monday upheld a state law that prohibits convicted felons from voting while they are on parole, a ruling that will keep some 6,000 people from casting ballots this year.

Colorado law denies felons the right to vote while they are serving their sentences, and the justices said in a unanimous opinion that parole must be considered part of a sentence. ...

Attorneys for Danielson, the Colorado Criminal Justice Coalition and Colorado-CURE argued that under the state Constitution, prisoners' voting rights should be restored when they are released from prison, even if they are still on parole.

But the Supreme Court agreed with the secretary of state and Denver District Judge Michael Martinez, who said convicted felons have not served their full sentence until all components - including parole - are completed. -- Colo. Court Upholds Ban on Parolee Voting

New York: politics played a role in squelching demonstrations at 2004 convention (gasp)

The New York Times reports: When city officials denied demonstrators access to the Great Lawn in Central Park during the 2004 Republican National Convention, political advocates and ordinary New Yorkers accused Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of squelching demonstrations that could embarrass fellow Republicans during their gathering.

The Bloomberg administration denied being guided by politics in banning the protests. Instead, officials said they were motivated by a concern for the condition of the expensively renovated Great Lawn or by law enforcement's ability to secure the crowd.

But documents that have surfaced in a federal lawsuit over the use of the Great Lawn paint a different picture, of both the rationale for the administration's policy and the degree of Mr. Bloomberg's role in enforcing it.

Those documents, which include internal e-mail messages and depositions in the court case, show that Mr. Bloomberg's involvement in the deliberations over the protests may have been different from how he and his aides have portrayed it. They also suggest that officials were indeed motivated by political concerns over how the protests would play out while the Republican delegates were in town, and how the events could affect the mayor's re-election campaign the following year. -- In Court Papers, a Political Note on '04 Protests - New York Times

Alabama: absentee ballots made the difference in one legislative runoff

The Mobile Press-Register reports: Almost a third of the 426 absentee ballots cast in the disputed Democratic primary runoff for Alabama House District 98 came from nine addresses, a Press-Register review of public records found.

But the executive director of an Eight Mile nursing home, which produced the most absentee votes from a single location, said the voting practices at his facility were not out of the ordinary.

Runoff winner Darren Flott said his campaign did not engage in any special push to increase his absentee ballot totals. And, he said, neither he nor his volunteers engaged in gathering illegal votes from District 98 residents.

The high number of absentee ballots are at the center of chiropractor James Gordon's accusation that illegal votes delivered Flott, a respiratory therapist, his 65-vote margin of victory in the second round of voting July 18. ...

Of 426 absentee ballots, 15.5 percent of the total turnout, Flott won 283 votes to Gordon's 143. That 140-vote advantage is more than double Flott's margin of victory. Gordon posted a 75-vote advantage among ballots actually cast on July 18 in precincts around the district. -- Arguments continue over absentee ballots

Mexico: election now before the Electoral Court

The McClatchy Newspapers report: The drab concrete building of fortresslike towers, surrounded by a high steel fence of spiked poles, hints little at the momentous history that's about to unfold inside. Only the colorful sidewalk camp of hunger strikers suggests its importance: They're vowing not to eat again until they see a recount.

The seven justices who will decide Mexico's bitterly disputed presidential election work here. ...

For the 10-year-old Electoral Court of the Federal Judiciary -- as well as for Mexico's nascent democracy -- this is uncharted territory: Left-leaning populist Andrés Manuel López Obrador refuses to concede defeat to conservative Felipe Calderón, claiming fraud in a July 2 election that left them separated by barely a half-percent of the 41 million votes.

Although there are faint echoes of the U.S. election crisis in 2000, Obrador vs. Calderón isn't Bush vs. Gore in Spanish.

For one, there's no U.S. equivalent to the tribunal. It was created in 1996 to handle election challenges in a nation with a history of stolen or fixed elections. Presiding over the tribunal is Leonel Castillo, a career jurist who started in 1981 as a district court judge. Those who know him say he's a by-the-book constitutionalist who's not likely to be swayed by the public demonstrations López Obrador has held. -- Metro/Regional News - Mexico judges to get the last word - sacbee.com

July 29, 2006

Alabama: Hendricks contests Todd's victory

The Birmingham News reports: An Alabama Democratic Party committee has been asked to review the House District 54 runoff after the result was contested by the mother-in-law of Gaynell Hendricks.

Hendricks lost by 59 votes to Patricia Todd for the Birmingham seat in the July 18 election. Todd had 1,173 votes, 51 percent, to Hendricks' 1,114 votes, or 49 percent. There is no Republican candidate.

Mattie Childress, 76, a retired beautician, filed the contest with the state Democratic Party after office hours Thursday. She is the mother of former Birmingham City Councilman Elias Hendricks. ...

Among the claims in the contest is that "illegal votes were given" to Todd, that Todd did not file her report of contributions and expenditures with the secretary of state until July 17 and that Jefferson County elections officials "failed to follow proper chain of custody procedures when handling voting machine tabulations, tapes and voting machine memory cards." -- Hendricks' in-law contests vote

Disclosure: I represent Patricia Todd.

July 28, 2006

Alabama: Hendricks has not decided whether to contest her primary loss

The Birmingham News reports this non-news: Gaynell Hendricks said she hasn't decided whether she will contest her 59-vote loss to Patricia Todd in the House District 54 democratic runoff July 18.

She rallied supporters at a Thursday news conference where backers vowed support and called for further investigation of voting procedures.

In the July 18 runoff, Todd had 1,173 votes or 51 percent and Hendricks had 1,114 or 49 percent. The Jefferson County Democratic Executive Committee has canvassed the votes and determined the totals were accurate. The Alabama Democratic Party is expected to certify the votes today in the secretary of state's office, said Jim Spearman, the state party's executive director. Hendricks would then have until noon Monday to contest the election, he said. -- Hendricks hasn't decided on contesting vote

Comment: Patricia Todd has hired me to represent her in this matter.

Kyle Whitmire wrote this analysis of the election in the Birmingham Weekly: Gaynell Hendricks doesn’t understand why she lost her race for Alabama House District 54. If you ask her, or any of her campaign faithful, you’ll be told that Hendricks was robbed on election night. She was robbed all right, but it happened long before the polls closed Tuesday and she let the thieves through the door herself.

Hendricks could have won. But she listened to bad advice from people — including the mayor of Birmingham — whose understanding of Birmingham’s political landscape is defective. Someone told Hendricks that bigotry was still a shortcut to public office. She took that shortcut, only to end up farther from where she wanted to be. As of the last tally Tuesday night, Patricia Todd nudged past her with 59 more votes.

The race for District 54 was ugly and divisive. Hendricks is a black businesswoman who, before moving to the building she and her husband own downtown, claimed a Mountain Brook address. Todd is a white, openly gay administrator who received campaign financing from gay and lesbian groups who wanted her to win.

Most legislative districts in the county are gerrymandered to skew toward one racial/political majority or the other, but District 54 has become a mix of demographics — a virtual fault line of black and white. -- Turning off whitey

Alabama: Demo Party chairman objects to Governor taking over voter registration

AP reports: Development of a statewide voter registration database is getting politically charged, with the state Democratic Party chairman going to court Thursday to try to stop the Republican governor from getting appointed to take over the duty from the Democratic secretary of state.

Democratic Party Chairman Joe Turnham said moving the responsibility to Gov. Bob Riley looks like "a partisan attempt to affect the Democratic secretary of state negatively in the upcoming election, while affecting the Republican governor and other Republican candidates positively."

Riley's communications director, Jeff Emerson, said, "Governor Riley's only concern is the state be in compliance," and it's fine if a federal judge wants to appoint someone else to complete the voter database.

The Republican-led U.S Justice Department sued Secretary of State Nancy Worley in May, saying she had failed to meet a federal deadline for implementing a single statewide computerized voter registration database. Alabama received $41 million from the federal government for elections improvements, and Worley has allocated $12 million of that to a computer company and buy equipment. -- montgomeryadvertiser.com :: Turnham fights voting change

Comment: Turnham is represented by James Anderson, Shannon Holliday, and me.

July 27, 2006

How big business supported the VRA renewal

Peter Overby reports on NPR: When the Voting Rights Act extension ran into resistance from some southern senators earlier this month, supporters turned to a surprising constituency for support: big business. Officials from big companies like Wal-Mart and Walt Disney lined up in support of the bill. They say it benefits their employees and customers. -- NPR : Voting Rights Bill Finds Friends in Big Business

North Carolina: House passes instant runoff bill

AP reports: The House needed three tries to finally get a bill through that allows up to 20 communities to operate "instant runoff" elections through 2008. The bill, which also pushed back by three weeks the date of the primary runoff date for legislative and statewide elections during even-numbered years, now goes to Gov. Mike Easley for his signature. "This thing's like a vampire, it just won't die," said Rep. Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, before the measure finally passed 60-51. The House narrowly rejected twice this week a Senate version of the measure creating the pilot in which voters in local elections to rank their order of preference among the candidates. It's meant as a way to improve voter participation and reduce expensive runoff elections. No county will be forced to participate. "There won't be any local instant runoff voting if the counties don't agree to do that," said Rep. Deborah Ross, D-Wake, who supported the bill. -- Wednesday at the General Assembly

North Carolina: more restrictions on 527 groups

AP reports: Lawmakers took another strike against "527" groups in North Carolina, agreeing Wednesday to require the politically active organizations or individuals to reveal more information about how much money they give or spend.

A bill heading to Gov. Mike Easley would require groups or individuals that spend more than $10,000 in an election year on commercials, mailers or phone banks that identify a candidate to report their expenses to the State Board of Elections. Donors who contribute more than $1,000 also would be identified.

These disclosures are in addition to tougher restrictions the General Assembly agreed to earlier this month on expenses that mention a candidate more than 30 days before a primary and more than 60 days before a general election. -- Winston-Salem Journal | N.C. Legislature approves more 527 restrictions

Colorado: federal court hears arguments on GOP redistricting suit

The Pueblo Chieftain reports: Federal judges again are considering whether to throw out a Republican lawsuit challenging the current congressional district lines in Colorado.

A three-judge panel heard arguments Wednesday on whether they must dismiss the lawsuit on grounds they are precluded from ruling on it.

The lawsuit seeks to overturn a Colorado Supreme Court decision, supported by Democrats, that upheld congressional district lines drawn in 2002 by a state court judge in Denver. The judge drew the districts after legislators could not agree on boundaries before the 2002 elections.

The lawsuit alleges the state Supreme Court decision violates a U.S. Constitution provision about elections by restricting legislators' ability to redistrict. The plaintiffs want legislators to have another chance to draw the boundaries. ...

The Colorado secretary of state contends the lawsuit is barred by a legal doctrine known as "issue preclusion" because the lawsuit presents the same issue "that was litigated to final judgment" by the supreme court. The secretary of state oversees elections. -- The Pueblo Chieftain Online - Pueblo, Colorado U.S.A

July 26, 2006

Missouri: poor need not apply

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports: With about 14 weeks left before the Nov. 7 election, officials charged with publicizing and providing the new government-issued photo IDs face a daunting task:

Of the roughly 170,000 Missouri voters who lack such identification, only 629 have gotten the free state-issued cards in the six weeks since Gov. Matt Blunt signed the new mandate into law.

Trish Vincent, head of the state Department of Revenue, said Tuesday it will be another week or so before her agency's workers begin traveling the state with mobile units to visit facilities for the elderly and disabled. The units will collect the necessary information and take photographs, but they won't be able to issue the cards on site. They will be mailed out within two days from Jefferson City, a spokeswoman said.

Vincent also emphasized that her department will not be using the units to go into low-income areas to help the poor obtain the voter identification cards.

"The law is clear," she said. "We are to work with older folks, the seniors and the disabled, not the low-income." ...

The law stipulates that the state provide free nondriver identification cards for those who need them to vote. But some of the documents needed to get the cards - such as a birth certificate or passport - cost money to obtain. A Missouri-issued birth certificate costs $15. -- STLtoday - News - St. Louis City / County

Texas: high-stake negotiations plus back-room deals

Columnist Jaime Castillo writes in the San Antonio Express-News: A week from Thursday, a panel of three federal judges will try to figure out the best way to redraw Henry Bonilla's 23rd Congressional District to satisfy the concerns of the U.S. Supreme Court.

But it has become clear that one of the plans judges will consider was the result of high-stakes negotiations between the four area congressmen with dogs in this fight.

To hear one side tell it, Austin-based Congressman Lloyd Doggett went along his colleagues -- U.S. Reps. Bonilla, Henry Cuellar and Lamar Smith -- to get what he wanted in the proposal and then pulled out of the compromise at the 11th hour.

And if you listen to Doggett, he was the one being played by Bonilla who was simultaneously working with state officials on another map that eradicated Doggett's Travis County base. -- MySA.com: Metro | State

Alabama: Gov. Riley may be appointed to run the voter registration program

AP reports: Gov. Bob Riley likely will get appointed by a federal judge to implement Alabama's new voter registration computer system after Secretary of State Nancy Worley missed the deadline for getting the job done.

The U.S. Justice Department, which sued Worley over not completing the job, and state Attorney General Troy King, who is required by state law to defend Worley, both recommended to a federal judge Tuesday that he appoint Riley.

Riley would be given the power of "chief election official of the state of Alabama" to implement a centralized computer system of Alabama's voter registration records, the Justice Department said in a court filing.

U.S. District Judge Keith Watkins ruled last week that he would appoint a "special master" to complete the job, which is required by the federal Help America Vote Act. The judge has scheduled a hearing Aug. 2 to discuss the appointment, but state officials expect Riley to get the task since both sides recommended him. -- montgomeryadvertiser.com :: Election job may switch to governor

July 25, 2006

ACS video on civil rights enforcement and paper on ranked-choice voting

An email from the American Constitution Society: Earlier today, ACS distributed two sets of materials of likely interest to your readers and the civil rights community.

First, we posted streaming video of a recent panel discussing recent changes in federal civil rights enforcement at the 2006 ACS National Convention. The issue has been in the news cycle since Charlie Savage’s Justice Department expose in The Boston Globe this Sunday. Panelists included the following:

* Roger Clegg, President and General Counsel, Center for Equal Opportunity

* Stuart Ishimaru, Commissioner, U.S. EEOC

* Brian Landsberg, Pacific McGeorge School of Law

* Bill Lann Lee, Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, LLP; former U.S. Assistant Attorney General

* Bill Taylor, Chair, Citizens’ Commission on Civil Rights

* Judith A. Winston, Winston, Withers & Associates, LLC

Second, we released an ACS Issue Brief by David Cobb, Patrick Barrett and Caleb Kleppner proposing ranked-choice voting as an alternative to plurality systems. “Preserving and Expanding the Right to Vote: Ranked-choice Voting” suggests that that ranked-choice voting presents a unique opportunity to improve our democratic structure by diminishing negative campaigning, improving voter choice, promoting greater discussion of the issues, eliminating the need for costly runoff elections and, ultimately, increasing the political power of all voters.

Missouri: court upholds rejection of initiative petitions

AP reports: A group backing ballot measures to restrict government spending and eminent domain suffered a double loss Monday as a judge ruled the initiative petitions were illegally disorganized.

The rulings by Cole County Circuit Judge Richard Callahan upheld Secretary of State Robin Carnahan's decision to reject the petitions, which were targeted for the Nov. 7 ballot.

Besides citing the organizational problems, Callahan also upheld Carnahan's rejection of the eminent domain petition because its signatures were gathered on pages bearing a previously invalidated financial summary.

Both amendments were sponsored by a group called Missourians in Charge, which turned in hundreds of thousands of petition signatures in May just minutes before the deadline. The group plans to appeal both of Callahan's decisions, said leader Patrick Tuohey of Kansas City. -- News-Leader.com | Local News

Wisconsin: Wal-Mart pays $1253 fine for campaign violation

The Wisconsin State Journal reports: Retail giant Wal-Mart has agreed to settle a civil forfeiture action stemming from its failure to register with the Monroe city clerk before a 2005 referendum on so-called big box stores, in violation of state campaign finance law.

Wal-Mart agreed to pay the maximum fine of $500 plus fees and assessments for a total of $753, Dane County District Attorney Brian Blanchard said Monday. -- Wisconsin State Journal

My comment: Don't you expect that $1253 will really sting the largest corporation in the world?

North Carolina: 2 GOP candidate face residency challenges

AP reports: A Wake County judge won't rule for several days on whether Republican candidates in two state House primaries should have been disqualified because elections officials said they didn't meet residency requirements to run.

Superior Court Judge Don Stephens heard arguments Monday in the appeals of Frank Mitchell and Tommy Pollard, who weren't allowed to receive votes in the May 2 primary.

The state board ruled that Pollard didn't meet the one-year residency requirement to qualify as a candidate in the 15th House District primary against Rep. Robert Grady, R-Onslow.

The board also disqualified Mitchell because he still lived outside the 79the House District even though he bought land with a mobile home in Rep. Julia Howard's district in October 2005. -- AP Wire | 07/24/2006 | Wake County judge hears N.C. House candidate challenges

July 24, 2006

Ohio: Blackwell's role in elections causes criticism

The Cincinnati Enquirer reports: Lingering debate over the 2004 presidential election, continues to haunt Secretary of State Ken Blackwell in his campaign to become governor.

Those who blame the Cincinnati Republican for long lines and rulings leading up to the 2004 election predict even more chaos during the upcoming Nov. 7. election.

That's when a new law requiring identification for voters at the polls takes effect statewide for the first time.

Add to that a federal requirement that 68 of Ohio's 88 counties replace punch card ballots with electronic voting machines, and politicians and voting experts worry that the stage is set for another difficult election. -- The Enquirer - Blackwell's dual role criticized

Alabama: federal court accepts HAVA plan and appoints special master

AP reports: A federal judge has accepted Secretary of State Nancy Worley's proposal to comply with election system changes under the federal Help America Vote Act, but with certain modifications.

U.S. District Judge W. Keith Watkins also will appoint a special master to administer the plan.

In an order Friday, Watkins sustained the Justice Department's objections to the state's plan, but said because there were no objections to the substance of the plan, it could be used provided some changes are made.

Watkins noted the "potential for disruption of the November 2006 general election substantially outweighs any benefit of taking further action" on the current voter registration system. -- Judge accepts Worley’s voting plan

You can read the whole order here.

July 22, 2006

Democratic committee adopts new primary & caucus calendar

The Chicago Tribune reports: The Democratic Party intends to add Nevada and South Carolina to the opening chapter of the 2008 presidential campaign, with a key panel deciding Saturday to introduce the voice of Western and Southern voters to the Iowa-New Hampshire duet.

At a meeting in Washington, the rules and bylaws committee of the Democratic National Committee voted to place Nevada between the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary, the two contests that traditionally have launched the race. The group voted to add a South Carolina primary soon after New Hampshire's.

Nevada, which will hold a party caucus, edged out Arizona for the Western slot, and South Carolina beat Alabama for the Southern position in the first significant calendar restructuring in years. ...

Unless there is unexpected maneuvering, the Democratic calendar will begin with the Iowa caucuses on Jan. 14, 2008, likely followed by Nevada's caucuses on Jan. 19, New Hampshire's primary on Jan. 22 and South Carolina's primary a week later. After Feb. 5, other states would be allowed to weigh in. -- KRT Wire | 07/22/2006 | Democratic committee votes to add Nevada, South Carolina to lineup

Texas: reactions to the state's proposal

The Houston Chronicle reports: The state's proposed fix for a flawed South Texas congressional district invited scorn Friday from organizations hoping to convince federal judges of a better plan. ...

"The state plan changes two or three districts by partisan makeup. It's a partisan get-even plan," said lawyer Rolando Rios, who represents the League of United Latin American Citizens.

"State Republican leaders chose to put a partisan agenda ahead of the interests of Hispanic voters, whose voting rights have been violated," said Ed Martin, a Democrat consultant and redistricting expert. ...

"I'm disappointed that the Republicans are using this as a cocktail party joke opportunity rather than to submit real evidence before real judges who are going to determine the future of our state," GOP consultant Royal Masset said. "The Republican plan makes no sense. It's not responsive to anything. It's like a political statement."

Democrats wrote that the state's proposal should be called, "The Roadrunner That Ate Travis County," referring to the new 23rd District drawn in the Texas Hill Country for Bonilla. -- Chron.com | State's new map for Dist. 23 draws fire

My comment: I am not sure what there is about redistricting that brings out the similes and metaphors like a Heywood Hale Broun column ("Sweat is the cologne of accomplishment").

Texans: who moved my cheese [district]?

The New York Times reports: Once upon a time, Congressional district lines were redrawn once a decade, after each federal census. But last month the Supreme Court made it clear that redistricting could occur far more often, and the resulting sense of impermanence was on display this week in a weather-beaten house on this city's Hispanic, working-class South Side.

A few dozen people clustered around the color-coded maps pinned to the wall, each map showing the jigsaw patterns of how South and West Texas’ Congressional districts might be redrawn in the next few weeks. One keeps this part of southern Bexar County in the 28th Congressional District, another puts it in the 23rd, some split it into both and one plan divides the neighborhood among three districts.

“It’s a mess,” said Jimmie Casias, a military veteran and school board official from nearby Somerset. “And what’s worst about it, the way things are now, if whoever’s running things doesn’t like the way an election turns out, they can come back and change the lines all over again.”

The Supreme Court’s 5-to-4 ruling said that a 2003 redistricting plan, spearheaded by Tom DeLay, the former leader of the Republican majority in the House, was not an unconstitutional gerrymander even though it resulted in the defeat of four Democratic incumbents. But the court also ruled that one district, the 23rd, stretching for 700 miles from Laredo to the outskirts of El Paso was illegal under the Voting Rights Act and needed 100,000 more Hispanics in it to comply. -- Ruling Has Texans Puzzling Over Districts - New York Times

July 21, 2006

The Next Big Thing in campaign communications

The Los Angeles Times reports: Donnie Fowler has seen the future of American politics. Pull out your cellphone and you can see it as well.

As people increasingly tailor their leisure time to suit their lifestyles — through blogs, MySpace, iPods, video on demand — politicians and their promoters are facing the same problem as Hollywood and the makers of toothpaste: How do you sell your product to an increasingly fragmented audience?

To Fowler, a veteran Democratic strategist, the next big thing is the small screen on the cellphone in your purse or pocket. In just a few years, he said, the tiny device will allow you to access the Internet in all its vastness, as though you were seated in front of a computer.

"You'll not only be able to text people with messages, you'll be able to raise money, deliver video, audio, create viral organizing — where one person sees something really interesting and it gets passed on and on," said Fowler, who recently started a company, Cherry Tree Mobile Media, to promote wireless communication as a campaign tool. -- Campaign '08 Preview: Podcasting Politicians - Los Angeles Times

Democratic committee to vote on changed primary and caucus calendar

AP reports:
WASHINGTON -- Democrats are on track to jumble the states in the presidential primary calendar in response to growing criticism that the same predominantly white states hold many of the cards in early voting.

And not even complaints from a former president and a half-dozen White House hopefuls can stop them.

Iowa would still go first in the new calendar, but a Western state -- possibly Nevada or Arizona -- would be wedged in before the New Hampshire primary. A Southern state -- possibly Alabama or South Carolina -- would follow New Hampshire.

The national Democrats' rules and bylaws committee expects to vote on the proposal this weekend. -- Democrats Set to Shake Up Primary Calendar - Los Angeles Times

ARMPAC pays fine to FEC and shuts down

AP reports: The fundraising organization that helped vault former Rep. Tom DeLay to GOP leadership and distributed election money to numerous fellow Republicans has been fined for campaign finance violations and is shutting down.

Under an agreement with the Federal Election Commission, Americans for a Republican Majority's political action committee agreed to pay a $115,000 fine and close. The agreement, reached July 7, was made public late Wednesday.

The agreement resulted from an audit by the FEC of the committee's records for Jan. 1, 2001 to Dec. 31, 2002. The audit found DeLay's committee had not properly reported contributions, disbursements and cash on hand.

It also found the committee failed to properly report outstanding debts and obligations and did not follow federal rules for paying for shared federal and nonfederal activities. -- PAC Tied to DeLay Fined, Shutting Down

Senate passes Voting Rights Act without changes

The Washington Post reports: The Senate voted 98 to 0 to renew key provisions of the Voting Rights Act yesterday, permitting the federal government to continue its broad oversight of state voting procedures for the next quarter-century, and allowing Republicans to claim equality with Democrats in protecting minorities' clout at the ballot box.

The act requires several states, mostly in the South, to obtain Justice Department approval before changing precinct boundaries, polling places, legislative districts, ballot formats and other voting procedures. It also requires many jurisdictions throughout the nation to provide bilingual ballots or interpreters for voters whose English is not strong.

Those two provisions caused a mini-revolt among House Republicans last week. GOP leaders had to scramble -- and rely on heavy Democratic support -- to defeat proposed amendments that they said would dilute the bill and prove politically embarrassing.

The law, first passed in 1965, retains near-iconic status in civil rights circles, even though some elected officials say it is no longer needed. GOP leaders were eager to renew it before the November elections. Unlike the House, where some Southern Republicans opposed provisions that focus on their states, the Senate passed the bill unanimously after hours of one-sided debate in which member after member praised leaders of the 1960s desegregation movement. -- Voting Rights Act Extension Passes In Senate, 98 to 0

July 20, 2006

Florida: how to turn $50 into $5000 in fines and penalties

The Orlando Sentinel reports: It started small, like most troubles do.

A mundane $50 late fee back in the 2000 election has festered in years of disregarded registered letters, escalating fines and unpaid default judgments by both the Florida Elections Commission and a Leon County court. ...

And on the eve of the day state Rep. Bruce Antone, D-Orlando, intends to file for a seat on one of the most powerful county governments in the state, it's come to light that he has flouted election laws and owes the state more than $5,000, official records show.

A final judgment was issued in March 2003 after the Elections Commission was forced to take Antone to Leon County Circuit Court for his failure to pay up, appeal its rulings -- or even respond other than signing the receipt for the certified mail. -- Rep. Antone on debt: 'If I owe, I'll pay' - Orlando Sentinel : Orange County News

Mississippi: Tupelo spending big bucks on two suits

The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal reports: Soaring legal costs for Tupelo's annexation case and other lawsuits could climb to $200,000 when the year is finished.

City leaders Tuesday agreed to set aside $100,000 more for iits annexation fight with Lee County plus another high-profile case. ...

In the other major suit, Rev. Robert Jamison and other black leaders are upset there's only one minority on the nine-member council. They want to eliminate the two at-large council seats.

The new council should have either nine or seven wards, they say. Tupelo city officials want to keep the current form of government. The trial date is uncertain. -- djournal.com

Texas: analyses of the re-redistricting proposal

Kuff's World reports: Ready to get back to reviewing and analyzing redistricting map proposals? Of course you are. Good news: there are a couple of thorough efforts to examine. First up is this report (PDF) by local political consultant Mustafa Tameez, which looks at all of the maps and their relevant briefs where possible. When you're done with that, check out this report by Phillip Martin on another case-by-case overview done by the Lone Star Project. And finally, Vince Leibowitz runs all the partisan index numbers on the different plans, which he posts here. Take a look at them all and know what the lawyers will be talking about on August 3.

The one comment I'll make at this time has to do with the state's plan, which would effectively defenestrate Austin Democrat Lloyd Doggett by splitting Travis County up again into three districts, only this time anchoring each one to a heavily Republican area outside Travis, while moving Doggett's CD25 south and thus leaving him without a base. Doggett could probably still win, at least in 2006, given his huge cash advantage, but the writing would be on the wall for him. -- Kuff's World: Still more redistricting map analysis

Kuff's blog has links to the various reports he describes.

Wisconsin: elections board adopts rule for voter I.D.

AP reports: Voters without a driver's license could still cast a ballot on Election Day under action taken Wednesday by a state board.

But their ballot would be tossed if they didn't come up with their license within a day.

The plan was part of what the state Elections Board said was a compromise to deal with people who show up at the polls on Election Day and want to register to vote.

The issue has become highly politicized, with two Republican congressmen saying the state was inviting a federal lawsuit under a previous rule adopted by the board. Democrats argue that Republicans were trying to limit people's access to the polls.

The rule adopted Wednesday on a voice vote would require a person seeking to register at the polls to produce their driver's license.

If they have it, they can register. If they don't, they can cast a provisional ballot if they produce either their state identification card or give the last four digits of their Social Security number. -- AP Wire | 07/19/2006 | Driver's license would not be required to vote under rule adopted

July 19, 2006

Georgia: McKinney claims Diebold machines "flipped" her votes

Atlanta Progressive News reports: "You've got electronic voting machines. Many people called in and shared their concern. They pushed the button for Cynthia McKinney and Hank Johnson came up. It wasn't one time, it wasn't two times, it was many, many times," Karen Fitzpatrick, who has been monitoring elections for US Rep. McKinney's re-election campaign, told Atlanta Progressive News in an exclusive interview. ...

"It started early this morning. There were well over 25 to 30 calls that came in [to the campaign office]. Many of them went to the poll manager [after this happened]. In some cases, the poll managers said there's nothing we can do. In some cases the voter left frustrated as if their vote had been compromised, as if it had been stolen," Fitzpatrick said.

And many voters hadn't even selected the "cast ballot" button yet, when they were told it was already too late, Fitzpatrick said. -- Atlanta Progressive News

Georgia: some poll workers asked for photo I.D., despite court orders

The Macon Telegraph reports: Some Bibb County poll workers did not seem to know that Georgia's new voter ID law was not in place for Tuesday's primary.

The Telegraph observed workers at several polling places refusing one of the 17 approved forms of identification unless accompanied by a photo ID or telling would-be voters that a picture ID was required.

Originally, Tuesday's primary was to have been the first election to require a photo ID for voting. But last week, a U.S. District Court judge blocked the state from enforcing the law after civil rights groups challenged it in court, arguing that it discriminated against poor, elderly and rural voters. -- Macon Telegraph | 07/19/2006 | Not all Bibb workers knew photo ID not required

Michigan: Dems file brief asking state supreme court to rule against voter I.D. law

AP reports: The Michigan Democratic Party, the Michigan Legislative Black Caucus and the Democratic caucuses in the state House and Senate filed a friend-of-the-court brief Tuesday in a case that could decide whether Michigan can require voters to show photo identification at the polls.

The Michigan Supreme Court voted 5-2 in April to issue an advisory opinion on the constitutionality of a 1997 state law requiring voters to show photo identification to get a ballot. A court spokeswoman said the ruling would be binding, although it could be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Former Attorney General Frank Kelley, a Democrat, issued an opinion nine years ago that the law violated the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees U.S. citizens the right to vote.

Opponents of the law say the requirement would keep poor people, nondrivers and others away from the polls. They cite figures showing that about 370,000 of the state's registered voters do not have driver's licenses or state ID cards.

But supporters say the law is needed to prevent election fraud. The U.S. Justice Department, for example, has been investigating allegations that Detroit votes were cast last year in the names of dead people. -- Dems try to stop voter ID measure

July 18, 2006

Georgia: state suppreme court will hear appeal of the Athens re-redistricting

AP reports: The Georgia Supreme Court will hear an appeal in October of a lawsuit challenging changes to three northeast Georgia state Senate districts.

State Rep. Jane Kidd, D-Athens, said attorneys for three Democratic voters have filed briefs for the appeal. The state's response is due by Aug. 1, she said.

But a nearly identical lawsuit in federal court will not be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, according to Kidd who is running for an Athens-based seat that was reconfigured after she announced her campaign.

Atlanta attorney Emmet Bondurant, representing the three voters, will attempt to overturn a June 20 Clarke County Superior Court decision that upheld changes to the district boundaries. -- AP Wire | 07/17/2006 | State Supreme Court to hear Athens redistricting case

New Hampshire: Dems will depose GOP leadership in phone-jamming civil suit

AP reported on Friday: A judge yesterday gave state Democrats the go-ahead to question high-ranking Republicans in a civil suit over Republican phone jamming in 2002.

Democrats want to know who knew about a plan to jam Democrats' phone lines on Election Day 2002, a crime that has led to convictions of three former GOP officials.

They point to a record of phone calls that show that national GOP official James Tobin, one of those convicted, made two dozen calls to the White House within a three-day period as the phone jamming operation was finalized, carried out and then abruptly shut down.

The national Republican Party, which paid millions in legal bills to defend Tobin, said the contacts involved routine election business and that it was "preposterous" to suggest the calls involved phone jamming. -- Dems can question top GOP - Concord Monitor Online - Concord, NH 03301

Missouri: cities claim voter I.D. imposes costs in violation of state constitution

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports: The first courtroom battle over Missouri's new voter ID law will focus on a relatively simple question: Does the law impose extra costs on local governments without the state picking up the tab?

In a suit filed Monday in Cole County Circuit Court, three Democratic officials contend that the Republican-backed law will cost local election authorities $6 million this year.

For example, the suit says, more staff must be hired and trained because in the November election, voters without state-issued photo IDs will cast provisional ballots. They will be counted only if a voter's signature matches one on file.

The suit says the added costs violate the Hancock Amendment. That amendment, adopted by state voters in 1980, bars the state from requiring any new or expanded activities by counties and other political subdivisions without full state financing. -- STLtoday - News - St. Charles

July 16, 2006

Alabama: state GOP complains about VRA

The Birmingham News reports: Alabama's top Republicans unanimously passed a resolution Saturday urging GOP congressmen to support amendments to the 1965 Voting Rights Act that would end special restrictions on Southern states and would require some cities to print ballots in multiple languages.

The vote took place at the Wynfrey Hotel during the annual summer meeting of the 350-member Alabama Republican Party Executive Committee. ...

aturday's resolution was passed by a voice vote without debate.

Tim Howe, the state GOP's executive director, said he did not think the resolution ran counter to his party's attempts to court minority voters. The party did not want to neuter the act, he said, but to make sure it was applied across the board. ...

Howe, as well as several members of the executive committee, said they did not care whether the special requirements for Southern states were eliminated or extended to the rest of the country. The South has made great strides in voters rights, they said, and many of the country's worst voting irregularities have recently occurred in the North, they said. -- Voting Rights Act riles Alabama GOP

July 15, 2006

Texas: a rundown on the re-districting proposals

CQ Politics reports: The legal proceedings to amend one of the 32 House districts in Texas, as ordered by the Supreme Court in a June 28 ruling, moved forward on Friday -- the deadline for the parties in the case to submit proposals for revised district maps to a three-judge federal panel in Austin.

The future of the state's 23rd District, represented by seven-term Republican Rep. Henry Bonilla, is the one remaining issue from a long-running legal dispute over an unusual and highly partisan mid-decade redistricting plan implemented by the Republican majority in the Texas legislature prior to the 2004 elections. The map overhaul, spearheaded by then-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas, replaced one more favorable to Democrats that had been invoked by a state court panel prior to the 2002 elections. ...

A redrawing of the 23rd District necessarily requires the reconfiguration of a few other districts. The major map proposals submitted to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas would also make alterations to the 21st District, a Republican-leaning district near Austin and San Antonio that is represented by 10-term Republican Rep. Lamar Smith; the 25th District, a heavily Hispanic and elongated district from Austin to the Mexico border that is represented by six-term Democratic Rep. Lloyd Doggett; and the 28th District, a south Texas district that is represented by freshman Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar.

Friday’s deadline was set under an expedited schedule issued by the federal court June 29, one day after the Supreme Court ruling. The parties now have until July 21 to file comments on the proposed maps, and the court will hear oral arguments in Austin on Aug. 3. -- CQPolitics.com - TX: Remap Plans Vary Widely; New Primaries a Possibility

[The article has details of the various proposals.]

July 14, 2006

Alabama: GOP mistake adds 30,000 votes to one candidate

AP reports: A typo by the Alabama Republican Party gave a civil appeals court candidate 30,000 extra votes in the June 6 primary in Tuscaloosa County, where fewer than 17,000 ballots were cast.

The error doesn't change the Place 3 runoff between Autauga County District Judge Phillip Wood and Terri Willingham Thomas, a district and juvenile court judge in Cullman County. However, it gave front-runner Wood a far wider margin over Thomas than was officially reported by the party June 16.

The GOP has now reported the error to the Alabama secretary of state's office, Tim Howe, executive director of the party, said Thursday. ...

The amended returns keep Wood in first place with 130,277 votes, or 41 percent of the vote. Thomas is still in second place with 99,203 votes, or 31 percent. Circuit Judge William Shashy of Montgomery has 91,524 votes, or 29 percent. -- Republican typo gives candidate 30,000 extra votes

July 13, 2006

House passes VRA renewal without amendments

AP reports: The House voted Thursday to renew the 1965 Voting Rights Act, rejecting efforts by Southern conservatives to relax federal oversight of their states in a debate haunted by the ghosts of the civil rights movement.

The 390-33 vote sent to the Senate a bill that represented a Republican appeal to minority voters who doubt the GOP's "big-tent" image. Southern conservatives had complained that the act punishes their states for racist voting histories they say they've overcome. ...

The House overwhelmingly rejected amendments that would have shortened the renewal from 25 years to a decade and would have struck its requirement that ballots in some states be printed in several languages.

Supporters of the law as written called the amendments "poison pills" designed to kill the renewal because if any were adopted by the full House, the underlying renewal might have failed. -- House passes 1965 Voting Rights Act renewal

Georgia: Secretary of State candidate receives campaign funds from Choicepoint president

Atlanta Progressive News reports: With the Georgia Primary for Secretary of State only days away, Atlanta Progressive News has learned Democratic Candidate Michael "Scott" Holcomb has accepted campaign contributions from the President of Choicepoint Corporation and the President's wife.

Choicepoint has come under scrutiny for its well-researched acquisition of the company responsible for the false felon voter list which disenfranchised tens of thousands of minorities in the 2000 elections in Florida. Choicepoint, headquartered in Alpharetta, Georgia, with over a billion dollars in revenue in 2005, is synonymous with voter fraud and Bush cronyism to many advocates. It has billions of data points about individuals and has contracts with the US government to provide much of that information to them toward their goal of total information awareness.

Mr. Douglas Curling, the President of Choicepoint, gave $1,000 to Holcomb's Campaign on December 19, 2005, according to campaign finance disclosures dated December 31, 2005.

Curling's wife, Donna Curling, gave $500 to Holcomb's Campaign on December 21, 2005. -- Scoop: Choicepoint Pres. Funds Would Be GA SoS Holcomb

North Carolina: elections board will hold hearings on primary contest

AP reports: The State Board of Elections refused to affirm an 11-vote victory for a House Republican primary challenger, instead agreeing Wednesday to hold more hearings in Lenoir County next month to investigate possible voting irregularities.

The Lenoir County elections board in May ordered a new election in the race between Rep. Stephen LaRoque, R-Lenoir, and Willie Ray Starling. Starling edged LaRoque 913-902 in the May 2 primary in a district that covers Greene County and parts of Lenoir and Wayne counties.

After hearing nearly two hours of arguments, the state board voted 3-2 to reject a motion to certify Starling as the winner. Now the board will travel to Kinston Aug. 7-8 to hear more testimony before making a decision. Any new primary would have to be held before mid-September to give election officials enough time before the November general election.

A majority of board members said the evidence they heard leads them to question seriously whether the outcome can be trusted. -- Winston-Salem Journal | N.C. elections board plans more hearings in House primary dispute

Massachusetts: legislature defeats redistricting commission proposal, approves absentee voting proposal

AP reports: Here is a list of all of the proposals before the Legislature at Wednesday's constitutional convention. Some issues appear twice because of minor differences in language or because they were brought to the convention in separate ways, such as through citizen petitions or by lawmakers. ...

ABSENTEE VOTING (1) -- The amendment would permit a city or town to vote to allow absentee voting for any reason.

Lawmakers voted for a substitute amendment allowing absentee voting, then gave it initial approval.

SEPARATE ELECTIONS -- The proposal would repeal an amendment to the constitution that was enacted in 1966 to group the governor and lieutenant governor in teams according to party in the general election. This amendment would allow a governor and lieutenant governor from different parties to be elected.

Lawmakers rejected initial approval of the proposal.

LEGISLATIVE TERMS (1) -- The amendment would increase the legislative term from two to four years.

Lawmakers rejected initial approval of the proposal.

REDISTRICTING (1) -- The proposal would create an independent redistricting commission in an effort to establish transparency and fairness in the redistricting process.

Lawmakers voted to move this item to the end of the calendar.

BALLOT QUESTIONS -- The amendment would increase the current signature requirement for qualifying initiative petitions for the ballot and place title and language setting authority in a new commission.

Lawmakers rejected initial approval of the proposal. -- A look at the proposed constitutional amendments before lawmakers - Boston.com

Arizona: judge disqualifies GOP candidate for forgery

AP reports: A judge ruled that a Republican legislator committed petition forgery and ordered him removed from the ballot in a key Senate race.

If upheld on a possible appeal, the ruling by a Maricopa County Superior Court judge removing Rep. Russell Jones of Yuma from the ballot would deal a serious blow to Republican hopes of winning a veto-proof majority in the Arizona Legislature in November.

State law requires that a person who signs the back of a nominating petition as its circulator be present when voters sign the front.

Judge Kenneth Fields ruled in a challenge filed by Democrats that Jones engaged in forgery to get a place on the September primary ballot when he signed at least nine petitions as the circulator "knowing that he did not obtain the electors' signature in his presence." -- Petition violation could keep GOP's Jones off ballot | www.azstarnet.com ®

Arizona: group sues to block anti-gay-marriage initiative

The Arizona Republic reports: Opponents of a same-sex marriage ban initiative filed suit in Maricopa County Superior Court on Wednesday, saying the initiative is unconstitutional.

Representatives of Arizona Together argue that the initiative asks voters to decide on two separate issues that should be decided with separate votes: same-sex marriages and civil unions.

"Voters have the right to assess one issue at a time and may support one issue without supporting the other," said Lisa Hauser, co-counsel for Arizona Together.

Protect Marriage Arizona, the group proposing the same-sex marriage ban, said they believe the amendment addresses a single subject and therefore is constitutional. -- Opponents of marriage initiative sue

Georgia: Judge Murphy blocks new voter I.D. law

UPDATE: The Rome News-Tribune has a more detailed story: U.S. District Court and the Georgia Supreme Court both dealt blows to the state’s voter ID law on Wednesday, issuing orders that will prevent enforcement of the law at next Tuesday’s primary and possibly the general election in November.

U.S. District Court Judge Harold L. Murphy found the law unconstitutional, blocking its enforcement on grounds that it violates the First and Fourteenth amendments. The General Assembly could offer another version of the law, he said, but it “cannot pass and enforce a voter ID law with a discriminatory purpose.”

Murphy had not yet made that ruling Wednesday afternoon when attorneys arguing over the matter received word of a Georgia Supreme Court decision that upheld a temporary restraining order against the law issued in Fulton County Superior Court last week.

The justices did not offer any reasoning for their decision but noted that all concurred other than Presiding Justice Carol W. Hunstein, who did not participate. -- Voter ID pulled for primary

AP reports: The same federal judge who threw out Georgia's voter photo identification law last year issued a ruling today that blocks the state from enforcing its revised law during this year's elections.

The federal ruling came down less than an hour and a half after the Georgia Supreme Court denied the state's emergency request to overrule a state court order that blocked enforcement of the new photo ID law during next week's primary elections and any runoffs.

If the rulings stand, Georgia voters will not have to show a government-issued photo ID to cast a ballot. The state's primary elections are scheduled for Tuesday and the general elections will be Nov. 7. -- Macon Telegraph | 07/12/2006 | Under rulings, Georgia can't require voter photo IDs this year

My comment: I just checked the Pacer system and the order is not there yet. If anyone has it, please email it to me. And when the inevitable emergency motion to the 11th Circuit is filed, please email that to me. I will post both.

July 12, 2006

"Revitalizing Democracy" video

The American Constitution Society for Law and Policy has posted the video of the “Revitalizing Democracy” panel at its recent National Convention. On June 17, ACS hosted a panel at its 2006 National Convention exploring the sources of the growing sense of disenfranchisement among Americans and avenues for reform that could make our democratic system more responsive to ordinary Americans. Panelists explored issues such as the impact of money in politics and campaign finance reform, the effect of redistricting on political polarization, the merits of the electoral college, how technology will affect political campaigning in the coming years and the implementation of the Help American Vote Act. Panelists also discussed ways that we can encourage a national conversation on these issues and broaden participation in our democracy. Included on the panel were:

  • Ron Klain, Executive Vice President and General Counsel, Revolution LLC; former assistant to President Clinton; former Chief of Staff and Counsel to Vice President Gore;
  • Donna Brazile, Brazile and Associates, LLC; former campaign manager for Vice President Al Gore;
  • Representative Artur Davis (D-AL);
  • Heather Gerken, Professor of Law, Yale Law School;
  • Benjamin Ginsberg, Patton Boggs LLP;
  • Robert Lenhard, Vice Chairman, Federal Election Commission; and
  • John Podesta, President and Chief Executive Officer, Center for American Progress; former Chief of Staff to President Clinton.
  • Ohio: DOJ sues Euclid over election system

    AP reports: This Cleveland suburb's mayor bristled Tuesday at a Justice Department lawsuit over the city's election system, calling the attempt to block elections premature and unwarranted.

    The lawsuit, filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Cleveland, alleges that majority whites voting as a bloc in an at-large election setup have made it impossible for a black candidate to get elected. It's the third time the Bush administration has filed a civil rights lawsuit on behalf of black voters, Justice Department spokesman Eric Holland said.

    "Euclid has been proactive in fostering racial harmony and full participation of all residents through programs sponsored by city government, nonprofit organizations and the many churches and congregations throughout our community," Mayor Bill Cervenik said in a news release Tuesday.

    The Lake Erie city of roughly 53,000 is 30 percent black, but no black person has been elected to a local seat. There have been eight recent black city council candidates, but the council's four wards and four at-large seats dilute black voters' power, the Justice Department lawsuit alleges. -- AP Wire | 07/11/2006 | Mayor rejects claims in Justice Department's voting-rights suit

    Georgia: federal court hearing set for today on voter I.D.

    AP reports: A federal court is set to consider a request to block a Georgia law that requires voters to show photo identification less than a week before the law would apply for the first time at the polls.

    Civil rights groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the AARP and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund plan to ask a federal judge Wednesday to halt the law.

    Making voters go to the county registrar's office to get a picture ID is an inconvenience that does nothing to address fraud at the ballot box, said ACLU attorney Neil Bradley.

    "It's a complete sham," Bradley said. "The possession of an ID is an unnecessary burden, since the oath that you execute to get the ID is the same one you'd use on Election Day." -- AP Wire | 07/12/2006 | Ga. court considers halting voter ID law

    Georgia: Voter I.D. hearing today -- background story

    NPR reports: The high-profile voter identification debates in Georgia and Arizona are only the beginning of a larger trend. More state legislatures are pushing strict voter identification requirements, to the dismay of civil rights groups. Ari Shapiro reports. -- NPR : States Move to Enact Voter Identification Laws

    Note: The audio will be available about 10:00 a.m. ET this morning.

    July 10, 2006

    Alabama: Wallace wants Dems to vote in GOP runoff

    AP reports: With no Democratic runoff for statewide offices, George Wallace Jr. is telling Democrats they are welcome to cross over to the Republican runoff July 18 to vote for him for lieutenant governor.

    His runoff opponent, Luther Strange, said seeking Democratic crossover voters has backfired on GOP candidates who did it in previous Republican runoffs.

    "Addressing our message to Democrats is not a strong strategy," Strange said.

    In a speech Thursday to the Lincoln Kiwanis Club, Wallace recounted how the Republican Party has an open primary and runoff. People who voted in the Democratic primary on June 6 can cross party lines and vote in the Republican runoff on July 18, he said. -- montgomeryadvertiser.com :: Wallace encourages crossover voting

    Mexico: Lopez Obrador files election contest

    AP reports: Mexico's leading leftist presidential candidate asked the country's top electoral court late Sunday to order a ballot-by-ballot recount of last week's election, as his party turned over nine boxes of evidence of alleged fraud and dirty campaign practices.

    The 900-page claim alleged that some polling places had more votes than registered voters, the ruling party funneled government money to conservative Felipe Calderon's campaign and exceeded spending limits, and a software program was used to skew initial vote-count reports. ...

    Mexico's Federal Electoral Court will review the case, which includes videos, campaign propaganda and electoral documents. The court has until Sept. 6 to declare a winner.

    The legal challenge came a day after Lopez Obrador, a former Mexico City mayor, held a mammoth rally in Mexico City's historic center and called on his followers to help overturn Calderon's narrow victory. Lopez Obrador isn't seeking to annul the election, but to force authorities to conduct a manual recount of all 41 million ballots. -- Mexico Candidate Claiming Election Fraud

    July 8, 2006

    Washington State: federal court dismisses felon voting rights case

    A lawyer in the case emails me: Thursday afternoon the Eastern District of Washington (Judge Robert H. Whaley) issued the attached adverse ruling in favor of Defendants in Farrakhan v. Gregoire, our challenge to Washington State's racially discriminatory felon disfranchisement regime. The Court, on Cross-Motions for Summary Judgment, granted Defendants' Motion, thereby dismissing the case in its entirety.

    Needless to say, we are extremely disappointed by this decision on its merits, particularly because the Court found that Plaintiffs presented "compelling evidence of racial discrimination and bias in Washington's criminal justice system," and that such discrimination "clearly hinder[s] the ability of racial minorities to participate effectively in the political process."

    Though the Court concluded that it "has no doubt that members of racial minorities have experienced discrimination in Washington's criminal justice system," it held that "[o]ther factors, particularly Washington's history, or lack thereof, of racial bias in its electoral process and in its decision to enact the felon disenfranchisement provisions, counterbalance the contemporary discriminatory effects that result from the day-to-day functioning of Washington's criminal justice system."

    Florida: Osceola County suit delayed for 2 months

    The Orlando Sentinel reports: Osceola County won a two-month delay Friday in the trial of a federal voting-rights lawsuit. ...

    Lawyers for the county asked the judge for a delay in order to take depositions for close to 30 potential witnesses in the wake of a three-day hearing that resulted in Presnell's June 26 injunction halting commission elections. Presnell's ruling to move the trial to September came after a telephone hearing Friday.

    There remains one unanswered question for experts to answer, the county said in paperwork asking for the delay.

    It "concerns whether a constitutionally proper and proportionate district can be drawn using 2006 population and registration data which still provides for a Hispanic majority. To this point, no expert on either side has tried to do this, and defendants submit it cannot be done," the legal filing said.

    The county argued it would take time for experts to flesh out that issue for trial. -- Voting trial in Osceola postponed 2 months - Orlando Sentinel : Osceola County News Voting trial in Osceola postponed 2 months - Orlando Sentinel : Osceola County News

    New Hampshire: Hansen will argue White House okayed phone jamming

    Raw Story reports: The fourth man indicted in a New Hampshire phone-jamming scheme -- in which Republican operatives jammed the phone lines of Democratic get-out-the-vote efforts in a 2002 Senate race -- will argue at trial that the Bush Administration and the national Republican Party gave their approval to the plan, according to a motion filed by his attorney Thursday.

    Shaun Hansen, the former owner of the company that placed hang-up calls to jam Democratic phone lines, was indicted in March for conspiring to commit and aiding and abetting the commission of interstate telephone harassment relating to a scheme to thwart get out the vote efforts on Election Day, 2002.

    His lawyer's motion signals that Hansen intends to argue that he was entrapped because the Administration allegedly told his superiors the calls were legal. The filing indicates, however, that Hansen does not have firsthand knowledge of Administration intervention. -- The Raw Story | Man indicted in phone jamming case will argue Administration approved election scheme

    Arizona: petition for anti-gay marriage intiative challenged

    The East Valley Tribune reports: Supporters of a measure outlawing same-sex marriage ran into a fight almost immediately after they turned in a petition Thursday to put the issue on November’s ballot.

    Officials at the Arizona Together Coalition, who oppose the measure, promised a legal battle to block it. They said it won’t get to voters this fall because it violates state laws limiting constitutional amendments to a single issue.

    Protect Arizona Marriages initiative would change the state constitution to define marriage as only between a man and a woman. It also would restrict local governments from offering employees domestic partnership benefits normally reserved for married couples.

    Lisa Hauser, an attorney hired to fight the measure, said it violates rules designed to ensure that voters who want one provision are not forced to accept another. -- Gay-union ban up for a fight | EastValleyTribune.com

    Georgia: state judge blocks voter I.D. law

    AP reports: With 11 days to go before Georgia's July 18 primary elections, a judge on Friday issued a restraining order blocking enforcement of the state's voter photo ID law. The state immediately announced plans to appeal the decision to the Georgia Supreme Court.

    In a sharply worded ruling, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Melvin Westmoreland said Friday that Georgia's voter ID law "unduly burdens the fundamental right to vote rather than regulate it" and would cause "irreparable harm."

    Westmoreland went on to write that "where the right of suffrage is fixed in the Constitution it cannot be restricted by the legislature, but only by the people through an amendment to the Constitution."

    Westmoreland, who was appointed to the bench by former Democratic Gov. Zell Miller, said that the 17 forms of ID - some with photos and some without - that had been allowed in previous elections can be used at the polls for the upcoming primary. Voters who lack one of those IDs can also continue to attest to their identity under oath. -- Macon Telegraph | 07/08/2006 | Judge blocks voter ID law

    July 7, 2006

    "Improving Voter Participation"

    The Century Foundation has published "Improving Voter Participation": Despite much attention to election reform efforts, voter registration, and get out the vote efforts during the hotly contested presidential election of 2004, only slightly more than half of eligible voters went to the polls. As we enter another crucial election season, TCF Democracy Fellow Tova Andrea Wang examines the reasons for perennially low turn-out numbers and presents a set of common-sense proposals to boost participation.

    Proposals reviewed in the brief include:

    * Voters should be allowed to register up until and on Election Day.
    * Election Day should be a national holiday.
    * As long as a voter appears at any precinct within the county in which the voter resides, the provisional ballot cast by the voter should be counted for all countywide, statewide and presidential races.
    * States should not have restrictive voter identification requirements.
    * Social service agencies and departments of motor vehicles must comply with the National Voter Registration Act and provide citizens with an effective opportunity to register to vote.
    * Take the partisan politics out of redistricting.
    * Extend free media time to candidates.
    * Parties and candidates should do more to personally engage voters. -- Improving Voter Participation

    Alabama: Siegelman was personally liable for the lottery campaign's debts

    The Birmingham Weekly reports: Even before Siegelman took the oath of office, the campaign to legalize a state lottery was underway. The plan would have to clear two major hurdles: it would have to pass the Alabama Legislature and then face approval from voters at the ballot box.

    For Siegelman it was almost as though his campaign for governor had never ended. Some of his politically savvy allies encouraged the governor to wait until 2000, to put the lottery on the ballot during a large election season with broader participation. Siegelman refused, though, and lottery was set for a special referendum in the fall of 1999.

    It was a fatal mistake. Religious conservatives who opposed the lottery on moral grounds turned out with a fervor to kill it. The lottery campaign cost millions of dollars and the political committee set up to fund it incurred more than $1.2 million of debt. Siegelman personally signed on much of that debt and would have had to pay it, had not other new donors agreed to bear that burden.

    In Alabama political circles, Siegelman was known as the most aggressive fundraiser the state had ever seen. If donors promised pennies, he squeezed them for dollars.

    “The hardest person to say ‘no’ to for funds was the governor, so that was the person we set up to solicit donations,” his fundraising consultant Darin Cline testified during the trial. -- Birmingham Weekly Online

    My comment: Siegelman's personal liability for the debt puts him in a different category than I thought at first. I can see now why the jury would find that a contribution to the lottery campaign was a "thing of value" to Siegelman.

    July 6, 2006

    Rhode Island: Ethics commission investigates campaign contributions to A.G.

    AP reports: The state Ethics Commission has agreed to look into a complaint against Rhode Island's attorney general about campaign donations he accepted from a lawyer for DuPont Co. while he was negotiating to drop the company from a lawsuit.

    The commission will conduct a preliminary investigation to decide if there is evidence to launch a full-scale probe of Attorney General Patrick Lynch, said Dianne Leyden, staff attorney for the Ethics Commission.

    The complaint was filed last week by Bill Harsch, a Republican who is running for attorney general in November. Harsch has called the contributions and the state's deal with DuPont "completely inappropriate." ...

    The complaint accuses Lynch of influence peddling and conflict of interest for accepting $4,250 in campaign contributions from several people with ties to DuPont, including attorney Bernard Nash and his wife, who gave Lynch's campaign a total of $2,500.

    Nash, an attorney hired by DuPont, has said there was nothing improper about the donations.

    Nash was the company's chief negotiator of a deal in which it was dismissed from the state's lead paint lawsuit in exchange for charitable donations totaling about $12.5 million. -- Rhode Island Attorney General Investigated

    Texas: poor ole Tom DeLay must remain on the ballot

    The US District Court for the Western District of Texas has restrained the Republican Party from disqualifying Tom DeLay as a candidate and from certifying anyone else as a candidate in his place. The judgment and opinion are attached.

    Mississippi: group sues Hattiesburg over racial dilution

    The Hattiesburg American reported on 27 June: A lawsuit filed by 10 leaders of Hattiesburg's black community alleges that city council and election officials used 3,358 transient student residents to unfairly sway political power to maintain a white voting bloc in city council.

    "It's all about political power," said Ellis Turnage, a lawyer from Cleveland who represents a group of 10 city residents. "They cheated an African-American out of one seat on city council."

    The lawsuit alleges the redistricting plan created by city council and approved by the U.S. Justice Department in 2002 violates the Voting Rights Act by diluting the strength of black voters in the city.

    The suit cites statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau and the 2005 election results that show a much smaller number of people turned out to vote in Ward 1 - where the student population resides - than in the four remaining wards. The group is asking the court to order city council to eliminate the college students from the equation and redistrict the city in accordance with the new numbers. -- Hattiesburg American - www.hattiesburgamerican.com - Hattiesburg, Miss.

    July 5, 2006

    Georgia: a new motion on the voter I.D. act

    From an ACLU press release: A coalition of civil rights groups and private attorneys filed a motion in U.S. District Court in Rome, Georgia, today seeking a federal injunction to block implementation of the state’s latest photo identification requirement for in-person voting. The groups, who are acting on behalf of Georgia voters, charge that the state law known as S.B. 84 constitutes a poll tax and places an unconstitutional burden on the right to vote.

    Today’s motion is the latest development in the ongoing lawsuit, Common Cause/Georgia v. Billups, 4:05-CV-201. ...

    In the motion filed today, attorneys argue that S.B. 84 violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the 24th Amendment by imposing requirements for voting that disproportionately affect Georgia’s elderly, low-income and minority voters.

    “Senate Bill 84 doesn’t address the root problem of Georgia’s photo ID requirement,” said Bradley, “The law continues to impose an unnecessary burden on voters and does nothing to protect against fraud in voting. No amount of tinkering can cure the many flaws in this unconstitutional statute.”

    Not many places the Dems might re-redistrict

    The Washington Post reports:
    Democrats cried foul three years ago when Texas Republicans rammed through a highly partisan redistricting to gain an advantage in several House races. Now, a recent Supreme Court ruling that blessed the Texas plan gives Democrats a chance to show that turnabout is fair play.

    But early indications are that Democrats will probably resist the temptation to do unto Republicans as Republicans did unto them. ...

    First, Democrats must compile a list of states where a DeLay-like strategy is feasible. It will be remarkably short. Several states assign the redistricting task to commissions, shielding the process from partisan control. Some states, such as Texas, are controlled by Republicans. Many others have divided government, in which neither party controls both the governorship and the two legislative chambers, making blatantly partisan redistricting impossible. Finally, some Democratic-controlled states have already carved out all the Democratic-leaning House districts they can, leaving no room for gains.

    The result, redistricting experts say, yields perhaps four states where Democrats conceivably could try a mid-decade gerrymander comparable to that of Texas's: Illinois, North Carolina, New Mexico and Louisiana. In each one, however, such a move seems unlikely because of factors that include racial politics, Democratic cautiousness and even a hurricane's impact. -- Democrats Not Eager to Emulate Texas's Redistricting

    North Carolina: Conservatives now tying voter I.D. to illegal immigration

    AP reports: Declaring a partial victory in their battle against the state's gas tax, a coalition of North Carolina conservatives shifted their message Monday, beginning a new radio campaign focused on the state's growing population of illegal immigrants.

    Bill Graham, chairman of North Carolina Conservatives United, said illegal immigration is burdening taxpayers and jeopardizing the integrity of the state's elections. ...

    In his group's latest advertisement, Graham attacks illegal immigrants for abusing the state's education and health care programs. He also questions the state's electoral process, which he suggests may be ripe for fraud.

    "Now we need to pass a law that prevents illegal immigrants from getting a driver's license and requires a photo ID to vote, because a nation of immigrants must also be a nation of laws," Graham says in the ad. -- AP Wire | 07/03/2006 | Conservatives begin new campaign targeting illegal immigration

    Mexico: Lopez Obrador demands full recount

    AP reports: The party of leftist presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador demanded a ballot-by-ballot recount Tuesday in Mexico's closest-ever presidential race, claiming vote counts were manipulated and renewing fears of violent protests if the fiery politician does not get his way.

    Lopez Obrador's demand for a full recount of all 41 million votes cast in Sunday's vote set up a possible marathon showdown that could go to Mexico's electoral courts, stirring memories of the bitter Florida recount in the 2000 U.S. presidential race. ...

    At the close of voting Sunday, volunteers at tens of thousands of polling places counted the ballots in each box and attached a report, sending it to district headquarters. A preliminary count of those tallies gave Calderon of the ruling National Action Party a 400,000-vote advantage over Lopez Obrador.

    But electoral officials said Tuesday about 3 million ballots were not part of that count due to problems including ballots that were set aside for being incorrectly marked or appearing invalid. Lopez Obrador initially said such ballots were "missing," but electoral officials said the ballots were in their control and would be examined -- and counted if valid. -- Sioux City Journal: Leftist Mexican presidential candidate demands vote-by-vote recount

    July 4, 2006

    It was four years ago today ...

    that I sat down at my computer and started the Votelaw blog. All those fireworks you hear are in celebration of that event. :-)

    Seriously, I began this 4th as I have done many for a couple of decades -- listening to the reading of the Declaration of Independence by the folks at National Public Radio. One year I missed it because I was in England. That day, I had fun asking the Brits what they thought the American Revolution was about. One said, "It was something about tea, wasn't it?" Another said, "No taxation without representation."

    What was the Revolution about for you?

    Connecticut: Lieberman's plan to be an "independent Democrat" has a problem

    The Hartford Courant reports: Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman announced today he will petition for a place on the November ballot as an "independent Democrat," giving him a chance to stay alive politically should he lose an Aug. 8 primary for the Democratic nomination.

    Lieberman, 64, a three-term senator whose outspoken support of the war in Iraq has brought months of grief and inspired a strong primary challenge from Greenwich businessman Ned Lamont, announced his decision this afternoon at a brief press conference at the State Capitol. -- courant.com | Lieberman Will Petition

    But My Left Nutmeg reports: Despite the BS he was flinging at his press conference, Joe Lieberman will not appear on the ballot as an "independent Democrat." The law ... says so.

    Sec. 9-453u. (Formerly Sec. 9-378m). Reservation of party designation.

    (a) An application to reserve a party designation with the Secretary of the State and to form a party designation committee may be made at any time after November 3, 1981, by filing in the office of the secretary a written statement signed by at least twenty-five electors who desire to be members of such committee. ...

    (c) The statement shall include the party designation to be reserved which (1) shall consist of not more than three words and not more than twenty-five letters; (2) shall not incorporate the name of any major party .... --
    The "Independent Democrat" Lie

    July 3, 2006

    Texas: ripple effects from the Supreme Court decision

    The Washington Times reports: Last week's Supreme Court ruling on the constitutionality of the 2003 Tom DeLay-led Texas redistricting coup was a distinct victory for the Republican Party, but it could spawn some interesting fallout.

    There was only one instance in which the court said the Republican gerrymandering could not be upheld -- District 23, which sprawls from San Antonio to far West Texas. The court criticized the redrawing of a second district, District 25, which meanders from Austin to the Mexican border, and said it expected that district would be somewhat redrawn.

    Despite the fact that the redrawing of district lines took months to accomplish -- resulting in the defeat of a half-dozen Democratic congressional incumbents throughout the state -- a panel of judges overseeing the changes is making sure they are determined well before this November's elections.

    Within hours of the ruling, a federal judge from Texas' Eastern District ordered that all participants in the lawsuit claiming that the Voting Rights Act had been violated must have new maps and arguments submitted to the court within two weeks. Oral arguments are scheduled for Aug. 3 in Austin. -- Fallout felt from Texas redistricting ruling - Nation/Politics - The Washington Times, America's Newspaper

    Mexico: presidential election is too close to call

    If you listen to the news bulletins on NPR, you will only hear about the top two candidates. Reuters reports the latest figures about 7 a.m. CDT: Here are the partial official results with 92,1 percent of votes counted in Mexico's fiercely contested presidential election on Sunday.

    Rival candidates Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, the leftist former mayor of Mexico City, and Felipe Calderon of the conservative ruling party both claimed victory.

    But the Federal Electoral Institute, or IFE, said the race was too close to call and a recount would be needed. Third-placed candidate Roberto Madrazo said the IFE should be left to declare the winner once the recount is finished.

    CALDERON 36.63 pct

    LOPEZ OBRADOR 35.53 pct

    MADRAZO 21.12 pct
    -- UPDATE 1-TABLE-Mexico presidential election returns | Reuters.com

    July 2, 2006

    Alabama: is it a bribe or a contribution?

    The Birmingham News reports: Minutes after a jury convicted him on bribery charges, former Gov. Don Siegelman was outside the federal courthouse saying that, if he was guilty of a crime, so were most of Alabama's politicians.

    "If I'm in trouble for this, every public official who has ever taken money and appointed that person to a board, agency or commission is up the creek without a paddle," Siegelman said.

    It's obvious that people give money to politicians thinking their interests will be served and that board appointments, votes on legislation and other favorable actions might follow.

    But prosecutors in the corruption case said the difference is when a deal is struck - when the politician agrees to do a certain thing for a certain amount of cash. That crosses the line into bribery and selling your public office.

    That was the assessment of Louis Franklin, the lead prosecutor in the case.

    "It's not a run-of-the mill, `This guy gave me a decent contribution so I'll give him a spot in my Cabinet.' This was a specific agreement," Franklin said. ...

    One politician predicted the Siegelman verdict will cause politicians to choose their words more carefully when talking to contributors - at least until they forget about the case.

    "I learned a long time ago from the feds that you never talk about money and legislation in the same conversation. You don't want to give the perception you are selling your vote," said Rep. John Rogers, D-Birmingham. -- A contribution vs. a bribe