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

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September 29, 2006

Florida: Rep. Foley resigns and drops re-election bid

AP reports: Rep. Mark Foley, R-Fla., resigned from Congress on Friday, effective immediately, in the wake of questions about e-mails he wrote a former teenage male page. ...

Foley, 52, had been a shoo-in for a new term until the e-mail correspondence surfaced in recent days.

His resignation comes less than six weeks before the elections and further complicates the political landscape for Republicans, who are fighting to retain control of Congress. Democrats need to win a net of 15 Republican seats to regain the power they lost in 1994.

Florida Republicans planned to meet as soon as Monday to name a replacement in Foley's district, which President Bush won with 55 percent in 2004 and is now in play for November. Though Florida ballots have already been printed with Foley's name and cannot be changed, any votes for Foley will count toward the party's choice. -- Foley resigns from Congress over e-mails - Yahoo! News

Update: DailyKos has the text of the statute:

"In the event that death, resignation, withdrawal, removal, or any other cause or event should cause a party to have a vacancy in nomination which leaves no candidate for an office from such party, the Department of State shall notify the chair of the appropriate state, district, or county political party executive committee of such party; and, within 5 days, the chair shall call a meeting of his or her executive committee to consider designation of a nominee to fill the vacancy.

The name of any person so designated shall be submitted to the Department of State within 7 days after notice to the chair in order that the person designated may have his or her name on the ballot of the ensuing general election. If the name of the new nominee is submitted after the certification of results of the preceding primary election, however, the ballots shall not be changed and the former party nominee's name will appear on the ballot.

Any ballots cast for the former party nominee will be counted for the person designated by the political party to replace the former party nominee. If there is no opposition to the party nominee, the person designated by the political party to replace the former party nominee will be elected to office at the general election. For purposes of this paragraph, the term "district political party executive committee" means the members of the state executive committee of a political party from hose counties comprising the area involving a district office."

California: Governor uses non-profit group to skirt campaign finance laws

The Los Angeles Times reports: A tax-exempt group set up to create jobs is being used by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to bankroll a pair of splashy bill-signing events designed to attract publicity as he runs for reelection.

Unlike contributions to Schwarzenegger's campaign account, donations to the nonprofit are not subject to caps or disclosure requirements. ...

The events were meant to showcase the governor's environmental credentials at a time when he wants to maximize his appeal to independent voters.

Part of the cost is being picked up by the Commission for Jobs and Economic Growth, a nonprofit panel that Schwarzenegger launched in 2004 to lure business to California. The commission is planning to raise about $25,000 to help pay for the events, according to executive director Mark Mosher. -- Corporate Gifts Help Governor Fund Bill-Signing Ceremonies - Los Angeles Times

... and now, the Muslim voter's guide

The Washington Post reports:
National Muslim civic leaders announced a new push yesterday to get the country's estimated 2.2 million registered Muslim voters to the polls, unveiling a Web site that spells out key races of "Muslim interest" and ATM-like voter registration machines that will be put in mosques and Islamic student centers.

The campaign by the Washington-based Muslim American Society is a continuation of an effort that has been underway since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to increase American Muslims' involvement in the political process. A 2005 survey by the Muslim American Political Action Committee said 84 percent of registered Muslims voted in the November 2004 election, compared with 41 percent in 2000.

The efforts are getting more tailored, Muslim leaders said in announcing the creation of the society's Center for Electoral Empowerment. The center's main feature is a Web site that offers details on issues that the political action committee says are the most important to Muslim voters: concerns about "the erosion of civil liberties," "fair" immigration reform and foreign policy, said Mukit Hossain, president of MAPAC. ...

The focus on Muslim voting -- both by Muslim American leaders and political candidates -- rose again after the 2004 election, when the Muslim vote moved significantly away from the Republican Party. -- Effort Aims To Push Muslims To the Polls -

"Religious-Right Voter Guides Facing Challenge From Left"

The Washington Post reports: A new group called Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good said yesterday that it will distribute at least 1 million voter guides before the Nov. 7 elections, emphasizing church teachings on war, poverty and social justice as well as on abortion, contraception and homosexuality.

The 12-page booklet, called "Voting for the Common Good: A Practical Guide for Conscientious Catholics," is part of a broader effort by liberal and moderate religious groups to challenge the Christian right on moral values, said Alexia Kelley, the group's executive director and a former employee of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. ...

In Protestant churches, the Christian Coalition's guides will face competition this year from "Voting God's Politics," a brochure produced by the liberal evangelical magazine Sojourners and the anti-poverty group Call to Renewal. Like the Common Good guide, it discusses issues, not individual candidates.

"Even the term 'voter guide' has been so tainted by the religious right that people are afraid that ours is going to be just a left-wing version of theirs, a thinly camouflaged signal to vote for particular candidates," said Jim Wallis, editor of Sojourners. "Our guide levels the playing field; it makes clear that God is not a Republican or a Democrat." -- Religious-Right Voter Guides Facing Challenge From Left -

September 28, 2006

Unions and U.S. Chamber of Commerce agree on one thing: McCain-Feingold interferes with their speech

AFL-CIO, Chamber of Commerce, National Education Association
and OMB Watch issued this statement earlier this week:
Sept. 8, 2006 marked the beginning of a 60-day blackout period for broadcasts that mention federal candidates, even if the broadcasts are wholly unrelated to the election. During this time, it will be a federal crime for unions, other nonprofits, and business corporations to air a message asking citizens to contact representatives in Congress to vote yes or no on a bill.

As organizations deeply concerned with public policy issues, we condemn this clampdown on free speech and call on the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to use its power under the McCain-Feingold campaign reform law to exempt broadcasts that are unrelated to federal elections.

Campaign finance rules are supposed to protect us from corruption, but blocking off legislative and issue broadcast communications with the public does not serve that purpose. In order for democracy to function and government to be held accountable, citizens must be able to contact legislators and legislators need to hear from them. One of the most effective ways for citizen groups to reach the public is through broadcast communications. -- OMB Watch - Law Meant to Regulate 'Sham' Issue Ads Instead Silences Citizens Groups

Mississippi: candidate sues over new qualifying deadline

AP reports: A candidate in a special legislative election has filed a petition in Hinds County Circuit Court trying to block a state Election Commission decision that reopened the qualifying deadline in his contest and four others around the state.

Jim Arnold of Kosciusko, a candidate for the state Senate District 14 seat, filed the petition Wednesday.

The seat is open because of the death of Sen. Robert “Bunky” Huggins, R-Greenwood. One other Senate seat and two House seats also will be filled Nov. 7.

Originally, candidates’ qualifying deadline for the four special legislative elections was Sept. 8. But, the state Election Commission voted 2-1 last week to extend the deadline to Oct. 24.

Attorney General Jim Hood and Gov. Haley Barbour voted for the extension. Secretary of State Eric Clark voted against it.

Hood cited a state law that calls for the qualifying deadline in a special election to be “not less than 10 days” from the election. Clark said this meant a deadline could be more than 10 days, but Hood said it meant exactly 10 days.

In his petition for an injunction, Arnold — an attorney — says the extension is illegal and is designed to disenfranchise voters. The petition represents only one side of a legal argument, and it was not immediately clear when a judge would rule on it. -- Candidate seeks to stop new filing deadline in legislative races - The Clarion-Ledger

Georgia: federal court stops restrictive voter registration rules

Bradley Heard informs me by email: Today, a federal judge in Atlanta blocked enforcement of Georgia state regulations that went into effect earlier this year that imposed needlessly restrictive administrative requirements on voter registration activities. The plaintiffs, civic organizations and voting rights groups, said the laws were in violation of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA), and would severely limit the effectiveness of efforts to increase and encourage participation in the political process.

( To view the legal documents, go to: )

“These regulations would have made the operation of an effective voter registration program nearly impossible by removing our ability to check applications,” said Dana Williams, Chairman of Georgia ACORN. “ACORN helped over 22,000 Georgia citizens register to vote in our 2004 registration drive. We knew we were doing that work with success and with integrity because we had a quality control system that checked the applications collected by our staff and volunteers.”

Today’s decision is one in a series of victories in the past two years arising from litigation in Florida, Georgia, Maryland, and Ohio blocking enforcement of state laws and regulations that severely burdened third-party voter registration activities and denied traditionally disenfranchised citizens assistance in registering to vote.

New 527 set up by reality-based community

The New York Times reports: Several prominent scientists said yesterday that they had formed an organization dedicated to electing politicians “who respect evidence and understand the importance of using scientific and engineering advice in making public policy.”

Organizers of the group, Scientists and Engineers for America, said it would be nonpartisan, but in interviews several said Bush administration science policies had led them to act. The issues they cited included the administration’s position on climate change, its restrictions on stem cell research and delays in authorizing the over-the-counter sale of emergency contraception.

In a statement posted on its Web site (, the group said scientists and engineers had an obligation “to enter the political debate when the nation’s leaders systematically ignore scientific evidence and analysis, put ideological interest ahead of scientific truths, suppress valid scientific evidence and harass and threaten scientists for speaking honestly about their research.” ...

Mike Brown, the group’s executive director, said it would be a 527 organization under tax laws, meaning that it could be involved in electoral politics, and that contributions to the group would not be tax deductible. He said it would focus its resources — Internet advertising, speakers and other events — on races in which science issues play a part.

The group is looking at the Senate race in Virginia between George Allen, the incumbent Republican, and James Webb, a Democrat; a stem cell ballot issue in Missouri; the question of intelligent design in Ohio; and Congressional races in Washington State, Mr. Brown said. -- Scientists Form Group to Support Science-Friendly Candidates - New York Times

September 27, 2006

3 Senate Democrats propose federal government payment for paper ballots

The New York Times reports: Three Senate Democrats proposed emergency legislation on Tuesday to reimburse states for printing paper ballots in case of problems with electronic voting machines on Nov. 7.

The proposal is a response to grass-roots pressures and growing concern by local and state officials about touch-screen machines. An estimated 40 percent of voters will use those machines in the election. ...

Republican leadership aides were skeptical about the prospects for the measure. It would have to advance without opposition from any senator and then make it through the House in the short time available before Election Day.

Dozens of states are using optical-scan and touch-screen machines to comply with federal laws intended to phase out lever and punch-card machines after the hanging-chads confusion of the 2000 presidential election. Widespread problems were reported with the new technology and with the poll workers using them this year in primaries in Arkansas, Illinois, Maryland, Ohio and elsewhere. -- Bill Would Reimburse States for Printing Alternate Ballots - New York Times

Maryland: state senator switches parties despite "sore loser" law

The Washington Post reports: Two weeks after a stinging Democratic primary defeat, Maryland state Sen. John A. Giannetti Jr. announced last night that he had switched parties and would seek reelection as a Republican. ...

Giannetti's challenger, James C. Rosapepe, won about 59 percent of the vote in the Sept. 12 primary. ...

"Evidently, [Giannetti] found a loophole in the state sore-loser law,'' Rosapepe said, referring to a Maryland law that generally bars candidates who lose a primary from running again in the general election.

GOP officials said the law makes an exception when a party's nominee withdraws after the primary. John Stafford, the winner of the Republican primary in the district, stepped aside this week. -- Giannetti Switches To GOP After Loss -

September 26, 2006

Ohio: microtargeting takes macro work

The Washington Post reports: There is no sexier topic in politics these days than "microtargeting." That's the new science (some say dark art) by which candidates use the latest data-mining technology to vacuum every last scrap of information about voters, then churn out custom-tailored messages designed to herd their supporters to the polls.

Here in Rep. Steve Chabot's campaign headquarters, microtargeting does not seem quite as glamorous as advertised. There are 10 phones arranged neatly on a long wooden table. Nearby sit two stacks of paper, each filled with names, each name assigned a bar code.

Every evening, volunteers file into this room to place waves of phone calls aimed at identifying the people who are most likely to reward this six-term Republican with a seventh. At the end of the evening, the results -- a trove of the likes and dislikes of 1st District voters -- are scanned into a database. It is painstaking work.

But Chabot and his Democratic challenger, Cincinnati City Council member John Cranley, have placed large bets that it will prove effective. Both candidates have spent months combing through voter lists to find "drop-off" voters -- those who turn out in presidential election years but rarely in midterm contests. In a district as evenly divided as this one -- President Bush won it by just 3,000 votes in 2004 -- the party best equipped to find and persuade these individuals to turn out on Nov. 7 will probably end up on top. -- In Ohio, a Battle of Databases -

Both parties gathering lawyers for election day

AP reports: Democrats are openly lining up election-day teams of lawyers around the country to fight what they allege could be GOP efforts to suppress votes.

Republicans quietly say they have their own strategies for potential problems Nov. 7 but won't give specifics. They say Democrats' concerns are overblown. ...

Scrutiny of vote counting is sure to he high this election with parties fighting in many close congressional races around the country. Republicans are struggling to keep their House majority, while in Ohio Democrats have their best chance in almost a decade to take back the governor's office.

The Democratic National Committee has set up a toll-free hot line for voters having problems and boasts it will have thousands of volunteer lawyers in 18 states available to fight ballot challenges. -- AP Wire | 09/25/2006 | Parties lining up lawyers for election day challenges

Georgia: state appeals voter I.D. case to state supreme court

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports: The state has filed a notice that it intends to appeal to a Superior Court judge's ruling that declared Georgia's photo ID law unconstitutional, blocking enforcement of the law in this fall's general election.

The notice was filed Monday in Fulton County Superior Court by Attorney General Thurbert Baker on behalf of Gov. Sonny Perdue and the state Board of Elections. Superior Court Judge T. Jackson Bedford Jr. last week rejected the state's latest attempt to require voters to present a government-issued photo ID at the polls.

The notice puts the state on record that it will at some point file the appeal, raising specific points. -- State appeals rejection of photo ID law |

Stricter voting I.D. law cause a partisan split

The New York Times reports: Eva Charlene Steele, a recent transplant from Missouri, has no driver’s license or other form of state identification. So after voting all her adult life, Mrs. Steele will not be voting in November because of an Arizona law that requires proof of citizenship to register. ...

Russell K. Pearce, a leading proponent of the new requirement, offers no apologies. ...

Mrs. Steele and Mr. Pearce are two players in a spreading partisan brawl over new and proposed voting requirements around the country. Republicans say the laws are needed to combat fraud, especially among illegal immigrants. Democrats say there is minimal fraud, if any, and accuse Republicans of suppressing the votes of those least likely to have the required documentation — minorities, the poor and the elderly — who tend to vote for Democrats.

In tight races, Democrats say, the loss of votes could matter in November.

In Maricopa County, Arizona’s largest in population, election officials said that 35 percent of new registrations were rejected for insufficient proof of citizenship last year and that 17 percent had been rejected so far this year. It is not known how many of the rejected registrants were not citizens or were unable to prove their citizenship because they had lost or could not locate birth certificates and other documents. -- Stricter Voting Laws Carve Latest Partisan Divide - New York Times

September 25, 2006

California: Peter Paul accuses Clintons of "looting" his company for campaign contributions

The Washington Times reports: A Hollywood producer who sought to hire President Clinton as a "rainmaker" has told a California court the former president and his wife, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, cheated him out of a multimillion-dollar Internet venture and he wants his money back.

In a complaint to be heard today in Superior Court in Los Angeles, Peter F. Paul says the scheme was orchestrated by Mrs. Clinton, who convinced him to spend $1.9 million on campaign fundraisers prior to her November 2000 election to the Senate and then reneged on promises to help him on the Internet deal.

The 43-page complaint, which also accuses Mr. Clinton and others involved in Mrs. Clinton's "New York Senate 2000" campaign of taking part in the conspiracy, seeks $30 million in stock losses and $1.9 million in cash. The complaint is part of a pending lawsuit against Mr. Clinton and will be heard by Superior Court Judge Aurelio N. Munoz.

In a telephone interview from his California home, Paul, a convicted felon, said the Clintons "looted" his business to generate the largest contribution to Mrs. Clinton's 2000 Senate campaign in New York. Describing himself as a "disgruntled business associate" and not a "disgruntled contributor," he said the Clintons reneged on promises they made that Mr. Clinton would work with him after he left the White House. -- Producer accuses Clintons of 'looting' - Nation/Politics - The Washington Times, America's Newspaper

Texas: mega-donors' contributions called into question

The Houston Chronicle reports: Fewer than 125 people have contributed 40 percent of the money raised in the governor's race, focusing a spotlight on mega-donors and their interests.

An analysis by the Houston Chronicle of the $25 million raised by the four major candidates between last year and the first six months of this year found key donors with interests ranging from energy and tort laws to food processing and home building. ...

Texas is one of seven states with no limits on the size of campaign contributions. Critics say the absence of limits has created super-donors who wield a disproportionate amount of political power.

Last week a coalition of citizen groups, including the League of Women Voters and Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission, called for a $100,000 aggregate limit on the amount individuals can give to all state candidates and political committees. -- Mega-donor trend spurs call for cap on political spending

Alabama: GOP will not challenge Democratic candidate over non-vacancy issue

The Tuscaloosa News reports: State Rep. Gerald Allen, R-Cottondale, said he isn’t going to challenge the candidacy of Democratic opponent Ann Skelton and neither will the state Republican Party. “If Gerald’s not, we’re not," said GOP Chairwoman Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh.

The Democratic Executive Committee nominated Skelton, who also lives in Cottondale, to run against Allen after Allen’s original opponent withdrew because he lived just outside state House District 62 and wasn’t legally qualified to run.

Allen and Cavanaugh had considered a challenge to Skelton’s nomination because they believed the Democratic Party couldn’t nominate a new candidate when there wasn’t a legal vacancy. Allen said a challenge would take too much money that could be used elsewhere. Besides, he said, a legal challenge might last beyond the Nov. 7 primary. Democrats disagreed that a replacement nominee couldn’t be chosen. -- DANA BEYERLE: Organizations shell out political endorsements - Tuscaloosa

New Hampshire: one phone-jammer is working on plea deal

AP reports: The former owner of the telemarketing company that carried out a GOP phone jamming plot against New Hampshire Democrats is negotiating a plea deal with federal prosecutors.

Shaun Hansen, 34, is charged with conspiring to commit and aiding the commission of telephone harassment. His trial had been scheduled to begin Oct. 3. However, documents filed Friday indicate the trial would be postponed until Dec. 3 while lawyers work out a possible plea deal.

If no deal is reached, lawyers agreed to use the time to review depositions obtained in a related civil case Democrats have filed in Hillsborough County Superior Court. -- - Plea being negotiated in GOP phone jamming

September 23, 2006

Washington Post has political ads database

If you just can't get enough of political advertising, go to the Washington Post "Mixed Messages": The database includes political advertisements funded by campaigns, parties, committees, and independent advocacy groups. Most of the ads are tied to specific U.S. House, U.S. Senate, or gubernatorial races throughout the country. Some of the ads are more general "issue" or advocacy ads not tied to a particular race or candidate. You can search for ads based on the criteria listed below.
101 Ads Catalogued

» By Candidate/Organization
» By State
» By Party
» By Type of Race
» By Issue
» By Character
» By Cue
» By Dissemination
» By Music
» By Narrator Gender
» By Type
-- Mixed Messages: Tracking Political Advertising |'s Political Ads Database

Arizona: judge gets more time to rule on legislative redistricting

AP reports: A judge who had been due to rule on the constitutionality of Arizona's legislative district map has been granted a 60-day extension to review evidence from a trial conducted nearly three years ago.

Arizona Supreme Court Chief Justice Ruth McGregor signed an order dated Sept. 15 authorizing the extra time for Judge Kenneth Fields of Maricopa County Superior Court to review evidence from a nonjury trial conducted over a month's span in late 2003.

Fields ruled in early 2004 that the legislative map was unconstitutional, but the Arizona Court of Appeals in 2005 overturned his ruling and ordered him to use different legal standards when considering the case again.
After further proceedings, Fields took the case under advisement after a hearing July 21 and had been due to rule within 60 days, a period that ended Tuesday. McGregor granted Fields' request for an extension until Nov. 15. -- District-map ruling delayed | ®

Alabama: Chapman asks for quick ethics ruling on Worley's "campaigning"

The Montgomery Advertiser reports: State Auditor Beth Chapman called on the Alabama Ethics Commission to quickly issue a ruling on voter education commercials featuring Secretary of State Nancy Worley that she said are essentially campaign ads.

Worley dismissed the allegations as an election-year stunt.

Chapman, who faces Worley in the Nov. 7 election for secretary of state, also asked that Worley stop hand-delivering checks reimbursing county government for expenses to comply with federal election law. She said the practice is a campaign photo opportunity delaying much-needed money to counties.

The trips are also an unnecessary expense, potentially costing taxpayers $3,350 compared with the $26.13 it would cost to mail the checks, Chapman said. -- :: Worley's actions draw criticism

Evangelical leaders campaigning for GOP

The Los Angeles Times reports: Worried that discontent among conservatives and the lack of a clear standard-bearer to follow President Bush might cost Republicans in November, top evangelical leaders pleaded with their followers Friday to put aside frustrations and turn out for GOP candidates.

The appeals, coming on the opening day of a weekend-long rally and strategy conference, included entreaties to pastors to use their pulpits on behalf of the social conservative agenda. ...

The Values Voter Summit — which will include appearances by several potential GOP presidential hopefuls — underscores evangelicals' growing power in national politics. The agenda serves as a road map of their tactics for energizing voters, including sessions on fighting gay marriage, attacking Hollywood liberalism and denouncing embryonic stem-cell research.

Kicking off the conference Friday, Dobson joined other evangelical chieftains in lobbying pastors to feel more free to advocate for conservative causes from the pulpit despite recent investigations by the Internal Revenue Service into alleged partisan activities by churches. One such investigation has ensnared the liberal All Saints Church in Pasadena, over a sermon denouncing the Iraq war shortly before the 2004 election. -- Tactic Uses Pulpits to Power the GOP - Los Angeles Times

Missouri: state supreme court will hear voter I.D. appeal quickly

AP reports: The Missouri Supreme Court agreed yesterday to quickly consider an appeal of a judge’s ruling throwing out a new law requiring voters to show a photo identification before casting a ballot.

A Cole County judge last week ruled the identification requirement is an unconstitutional infringement on the fundamental right to vote.

The offices of the attorney general and secretary of state asked the Supreme Court to consider the matter quickly so the issue is resolved before Election Day. The court agreed and set a hearing for Oct. 4, when it is meeting to consider an appeal of a decision placing a tobacco tax increase on the Nov. 7 ballot. -- Supreme Court plans to expedite voter ID appeal

Georgia: elections board votes to appeal voter I.D. ruling, but not seek stay

AP reports: After two years of battles at both the courthouse and the state Capitol, a law requiring photo ID at the polls will not be enforced when Georgians vote for governor, lieutenant governor and other state races in November.

A judge's rebuff this week of the Republican-backed plan, which would have pared down the forms of identification a voter can show from 17 to 6, was the latest in a two-year series of legal setbacks for the effort.

While the state's election board said Friday that it would not ask a higher court to rule on their appeal before the Nov. 7 election, top Georgia Republicans were saying that it may take a constitutional amendment to finally get the law enforced. ...

Friday's election board vote directs state lawyers to appeal the ruling, but not to ask a judge to speed up a decision. -- Macon Telegraph | 09/23/2006 | Election board vote means no photo ID required in November

September 22, 2006

Ohio: ACORN sues Blackwell for impeding voter registration

The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports: A community-action agency that has clashed with Secretary of State Ken Blackwell over Ohio's new voter-registration rules is suing Blackwell, claiming he also failed to enforce the national "motor voter" law.

In a lawsuit to be filed this morning in U.S. District Court in Cleveland, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now and two public assistance recipients from Northeast Ohio accuse Blackwell and Barbara Riley, director of the Ohio Department of Job & Family Services, of failing to give thousands of low-income Ohioans the opportunity to register to vote.

While Elections officials in Iowa and North Carolina have worked with ACORN to improve voter registration, Blackwell has done little more than provide a toll-free number for human services directors to call when they run out of registration forms, said Lisa Danetz, an attorney at the National Voting Rights Institute who is handling the case. ...

Blackwell, the Republican candidate for governor, has been hounded by partisan claims that he has tried to disenfranchise poor, mostly Democratic voters. The lawsuit, whose other two plaintiffs are welfare recipients Carrie Harkless of Lorain and Tameca Mardis of Cleveland, piles on new charges, blaming Blackwell and Riley for low registration rates and the absence of registration forms at many county human services offices. -- Blackwell sued, accused of failing voter registrations

Note: A copy of the complaint is here. Thanks to Brenda Wright of NVRI for the tip and complaint.

California: state set to become first to adopt "national popular vote" system

The New York Times reports: In his early 20’s, John R. Koza and fellow graduate students invented a brutally complicated board game based on the Electoral College that became a brief cult hit and recently fetched $100 for an antique version on eBay.

By his 30’s, Dr. Koza was a co-inventor of the scratch-off lottery ticket and found it one of the few sure ways to find fortune with the lottery.

Now, a 63-year-old eminence among computer scientists who teaches genetic programming at Stanford, Dr. Koza has decided to top off things with an end run on the Constitution. He has concocted a plan for states to skirt the Electoral College system legally to insure the election of whichever presidential candidate receives the most votes nationwide. ...

The first fruit of his effort, a bill approved by the California legislature that would allocate the state’s 55 electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote, sits on Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s desk. The governor has to decide by Sept. 30 whether to sign it, a decision that may well determine whether Dr. Koza’s scheme takes flight or becomes another relic in the history of efforts to kill the Electoral College. -- Innovator Devises Way Around Electoral College - New York Times

California: All Saint's Episcopal Church will defy IRS subpoena

The New York Times reports: A California church under investigation by the Internal Revenue Service for possible violations of laws against political activities by churches has denied the agency’s request for documents.

The decision forces the I.R.S. either to drop the case or to ask the Justice Department to take the church, All Saints Episcopal Church, in Pasadena, to court. The agency could also revoke the church’s tax exemption, but legal experts said that was unlikely.

The church said it regarded an I.R.S. investigation of an antiwar sermon delivered by the church’s former rector on the Sunday before the 2004 election as an attack on freedom of speech and religion.

“We have nothing to hide, but there are principles here we think we need to uphold,” said Robert A. Long, the lay leader, or senior warden, of All Saints.

Mr. Long said the 26 members of the church’s vestry, or governing body, had voted unanimously to decline to comply with two formal requests, called administrative summonses, for documents, testimony and other information that it received from the I.R.S. last Friday. -- I.R.S. Inquiry Into Sermon Is Challenged by Church - New York Times

September 21, 2006

Texas: lawsuit claims AG is targeting elderly, disabled, and minority voters for voter fraud suits

AP reports: The state attorney general is using a 2003 law about mail-in ballots to intimidate elderly, disabled and minority voters who typically favor Democrats, according to a civil lawsuit filed Thursday by the Texas Democratic Party.

The lawsuit aims to overturn parts of the Texas Election Code that criminalize people who help voters with their mail-in ballots.

The defendants are Secretary of State Roger Williams and Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, a pair of Republicans accused by Democrats of selectively targeting blacks, Hispanics and old people through his voter fraud task force.

The statutes in question make it illegal for anyone other than voters to possess their own mail-in ballots. That prevents political parties and community activists from helping voters mail their ballots, a "common practice by individuals, political parties and other organizations ... to maximize voter turnout," the lawsuit reads.

Abbott's voter fraud task force has 13 open cases, all involving Democrats, according to the Texas Democratic Party. Twelve of the 13 defendants are black or Hispanic, and in eight of those cases Abbott prosecuted someone for mailing or delivering someone else's sealed ballot, Democrats said. -- Dallas Morning News | News for Dallas, Texas | Texas/Southwest

Note: Read more background on the case at the Lone Star Project's website, including a copy of the complaint.

Alabama: federal court orders new election plan be adopted for Chilton County

The federal court in the Middle District of Alabama has ordered Chilton County to develop a new election plan to be used in the 2008 election. The order stems from a suit brought by two white voters to dismantle the cumulative voting plan used in the county since 1988. The CV plan was agreed by the plaintiffs and defendants and put into effect by a consent decree.

The court's opinon and
order may be downloaded here.

Note: James Blacksher and I represent the plaintiffs in this action. We have already appealed the decision setting aside the 1988 injuntion.

House passes voter I.D. bill

NPR has an audio report: The House has approved a bill that requires all people voting in federal elections to show a photo ID in 2008 and proof of citizenship by 2010. Supporters say it's the only way to fight election fraud. Opponents say the bill would put hurdles in the way of some voters. -- NPR : Congress Debates Imposing Voter ID Rules

Maryland: governor says "don't fix it, junk it"

The Washington Post reports: A week after the primary election was plagued by human error and technical glitches, Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) called yesterday for the state to scrap its $106 million electronic voting apparatus and revert to a paper ballot system for the November election.

"When in doubt, go paper, go low-tech," he said.

Linda H. Lamone, the administrator of the Maryland State Board of Elections, quickly denounced the plan to swap voting systems just seven weeks before the general election as "crazy." And Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) said it "cannot happen. It will not happen."

Ehrlich said that, if necessary, he would call a special session of the Maryland General Assembly to change the law to allow paper ballots. But Miller and House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) dismissed the idea of a special session, saying elections officials should focus instead on fixing the current system. -- Ehrlich Wants Paper Ballots For Nov. Vote -

Virginia: elections board decertifies punch-card and lever voting machines

The Richmond Times Dispatch reports: The State Board of Elections voted unanimously yesterday to decertify the use of punch-card and mechanical-lever voting machines in Virginia.

Punch-card machines gained infamy in the Florida presidential election in 2000 when the question of how to count pregnant, dimpled and hanging chads created a near constitutional crisis.

Congress then passed the Help America Vote Act, which required all the states to replace the punch-card and mechanical-lever machines by 2006. Congress appropriated $3 billion to do it.

All the old machines were replaced in Virginia by the end of last year. The state expects about $67 million to buy and install the new machines and make other voting upgrades. -- | Board votes to decertify use of old voting machines in state

New York: high cost, low turnout on the accessible voting machines

The New York Daily News reports: As few as 29 disabled voters may have participated in the city's limited use of electronic voting machines in last week's primary election - at a cost of nearly $52,000 per voter.

Intended to be used primarily by disabled voters, 22 electronic ballot scanners were deployed at polling sites set up in each of the Board of Elections' five borough offices.

The board spent at least $500,000 to buy the machines, and an additional $1 million on an advisory mailing about them that was sent to all 3.7 million enrolled voters before the primary.

Election officials have said that 580 voters used the voting devices, but gave no information on whether those voters were disabled or not. -- New York Daily News - Politics - Disabled vote tab: 52G each

Utah: GOP proposes 4-district congressional plan

The Salt Lake Tribune reports: Utah's lone Democrat in Congress may get carved into a Democratic-leaning district under a plan Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. and legislative leaders are pushing as a way to drum up support for Utah to get a fourth congressional seat.

Huntsman, House Speaker Greg Curtis and Senate President John Valentine - all Republicans - endorsed a map Wednesday for four congressional districts, in which Matheson would represent northern Salt Lake County and Summit and Morgan counties.

Matheson was first elected in a district that was wholly within Salt Lake County, but was gerrymandered into a more Republican district stretching from Salt Lake City's Avenues all the way to the Utah-Arizona state line.

The state leaders' move comes as an attempt to assuage congressional Democrats' fear that if they vote to give Utah a fourth U.S. House seat, Matheson would be merged into a district more Republican than his current rea. A bill awaiting action in Congress would grant Republican-dominated Utah another House seat as a way to counterbalance a seat for the Democratic haven of the District of Columbia, which currently has no voting member of Congress. -- Salt Lake Tribune - GOP pitches congressional district plan

September 20, 2006

9th Circuit holds that recall petitions may be English-only

The Los Angeles Times reports: Recall petitions need to be printed only in English, even when some voters are not proficient in the language, a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday.

The federal Voting Rights Act requires ballots and other government-produced election material to be published in other languages if more than 5% of the voters speak a different language.

But in a case involving the Santa Ana Unified School District, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that the requirement did not apply to recall petitions written and circulated by citizens.

The court reversed a decision last year by a 9th Circuit panel that said petitions to recall Santa Ana school board Trustee Nativo V. Lopez in 2003 should have been printed in Spanish as well as English. Lopez was recalled by a large margin. -- Ruling Against Santa Ana's English-Only Recall Petitions Is Reversed - Los Angeles Times

California: church may resist IRS subpoena

The Los Angeles Times reports: A liberal Pasadena church facing an IRS investigation over alleged politicking sounded a defiant note Sunday, with its leaders and many congregants saying the probe amounted to an assault on their constitutional rights and that they were inclined to defy the agency's request for documents.

"These people are offended," said the Rev. Ed Bacon, rector of All Saints Episcopal Church, after delivering an impassioned sermon about the investigation to a standing-room-only crowd of about 900. "Freedom of speech and freedom of religion have been assaulted by this act of the IRS, and I think my people want to be heard in court."

Bacon said he would consult with attorneys and church officials before deciding a course of action but that the vast majority of parishioners with whom he spoke Sunday thought the church should resist a summons demanding copies of newsletters, e-mails and other records.

"I believe we should respectfully decline to produce the documents," said Cathy Shearon, an All Saints parishioner "off and on" for more than 20 years. "Being passive plays into the culture of oppression." -- Pasadena Church May Fight IRS Summons - Los Angeles Times

Nebraska: state judge blocks law on Omaha-area school districts

AP reports: A Douglas County judge issued an order Monday blocking the implementation of a law that would divide the Omaha district into three smaller districts and create a new "learning community" of all districts in Sarpy and Douglas counties. ...

offey also said the voting structure of the learning community is "grossly disproportionate" and violates the Nebraska Constitution.

The schools law says any proposal must win approval from a majority of the learning community council's 11 voting members, and the "yes" votes must represent at least one-third of the public school enrollment in Douglas and Sarpy Counties.

"Nothing in the act in any way attempts to equalize the voting rights of the various and varied member school districts and those they represent," Coffey said. -- Sioux City Journal: Judge issues order blocking law that divides Omaha district

U.S. House to vote on voter I.D. bill

The Baltimore Sun reports: A measure requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls is expected to pass the House today, the latest example of the push toward stricter scrutiny of citizenship status in the United States.

The legislation is one of a series of tightly focused bills crafted by House Republican leaders who want to strengthen border security and crack down on illegal immigration. It is described by its sponsor, Rep. Henry J. Hyde, an Illinois Republican, as a safeguard against voter fraud.

The proposed Federal Election Integrity Act follows a spate of state-level laws passed this year that require ID or proof of citizenship to vote. One such law was declared unconstitutional yesterday by a Georgia judge, who said the state's new photo ID requirements infringed on voter rights.

Democrats say that the move to impose a national photo ID requirement is part of a larger Republican effort to discourage participation by low-income and minority voters likely to back Democratic candidates - a charge GOP lawmakers strongly deny. -- Bill requiring photo ID to vote is before House -

Georgia: state judge voids voter I.D. law as violation of state constitution

AP reports: A state judge has thrown out the latest version of Georgia's law requiring voters to show photo ID, ruling that it violates the constitutional rights of the state's voters.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge T. Jackson Bedford Jr. issued the ruling Tuesday, nearly three weeks after lawyers argued both sides of the issue, which is likely headed for the Georgia Supreme Court before the Nov. 7 general elections.

Bedford said the photo ID requirement disenfranchises otherwise qualified voters and adds a new condition to voting that violates the state constitution.

In his 17-page ruling, Bedford took issue with the burden placed on voters to prove who they are using photo ID. Even if voters are allowed to cast ballots without the required identification, they must return within 48 hours with one of the six necessary photo IDs or their vote is forfeited.

"This cannot be," Bedford wrote, pointing out that photo ID are not even required to register to vote in Georgia.

"Any attempt by the Legislature to require more than what is required by the express language of our Constitution cannot withstand judicial scrutiny," Bedford wrote. -- Judge voids voter photo ID law |

September 19, 2006

Hawai'i: call for FEC investigation of automated calls

The Honolulu Advertiser reports: Two Honolulu attorneys will ask the Federal Election Commission today to investigate whether the U.S. Chamber of Commerce violated election law by making automated telephone calls steering absentee voters toward U.S. Rep. Ed Case in the Democratic primary for Senate.

The chamber's calls describe Case as supporting tax cuts that help Hawai'i families and expanding small-business healthcare plans. The calls direct voters to a chamber Web site that favorably compares the congressman to U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka on jobs, the economy and protecting small businesses.

The chamber has endorsed Case over Akaka in Saturday's primary.

Corporations such as the chamber are allowed to conduct unlimited issue advocacy that describes public policy or compares candidates on issues. But corporations are prohibited from using corporate money or express advocacy that promotes the election or defeat of candidates. -- FEC to investigate calls for Case - The Honolulu Advertiser

Missouri: state stops free voter I.D.s and considers appeal

The Kansas City Star reports: State officials Monday halted efforts to give voters free photo identification cards, and they killed a public information campaign saying the IDs were needed to vote in November.

That’s because a ruling by Cole County Circuit Judge Richard Callahan last week struck down the new law requiring voters to present state-issued photo IDs at the polls. Attorney General Jay Nixon’s office has not said yet whether it is going to appeal the ruling to the Missouri Supreme Court, but Republican proponents of the law were expected to do so.

A successful appeal could reverse the situation again shortly before the Nov. 7 election, requiring the state to once more start issuing the IDs for free and restart efforts to spread the word about the law.

As of Monday, the Missouri Department of Revenue started charging $11 for the non-driver’s license IDs it had been issuing for free to Missourians who want to vote in November. It also stopped sending vans to nursing homes and senior centers to issue the photo IDs to elderly voters without driver’s licenses. -- Kansas City Star | 09/19/2006 | Missouri stops free ID effort

Illinois: 7th Circuit strikes down ballot access law restricting independent candidates

The Chicago Tribune reports: In a decision that could increase the number of candidates who seek state office, a federal appeals court in Chicago ruled Monday that state election law unconstitutionally restricts independent candidates and must be changed.

Taking up the case of a Heyworth man who sued the Illinois State Board of Elections in 2004, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the General Assembly must create "a new ballot-access scheme that will pass constitutional muster." ...

The appeals court did not suggest any new laws but ruled two key requirements that independent candidates must meet are far too restrictive and violate the Constitution.

The first, that independent candidates file for ballot access in mid-December or nearly a year before a general election, "is by far the earliest deadline in the nation," the ruling stated. ...

Illinois' second requirement forces prospective independent candidates to gather signatures totaling 10 percent of all votes cast in the previous election for the office they seek. -- U.S. court voids vote law on independents | Chicago Tribune

Comment: The case is Lee v. Keith. The decision can be viewed here.

Maryland: at least 3 races hinge on provisional ballots

The Baltimore Sun reports: Local election officials began the painstaking process yesterday of sorting through thousands of sealed provisional ballots that could determine the outcome of a Washington-area congressional race and at least two state legislative contests.

"I'm not sure how many [provisional ballots] we have because it took us three days just to get them out of all of the bags," said Jacqueline K. McDaniel, the director of elections in Baltimore County, where some races hang in the balance. "We know what we sent out, but we have to figure out how many are spoiled."

Provisional ballots are cast on paper and are most commonly used when a voter's eligibility is in question. But major mistakes during Tuesday's primary, including equipment that abruptly turned off or went missing, forced some precincts to rely on them for several hours. A few precincts ran out and resorted to instructing voters to write their choices on scrap pieces of paper.

State elections chief Linda H. Lamone has ordered local elections officials in Baltimore and three counties to draw action plans to make sure the problems are not repeated during the Nov. 7 general election. -- Provisional ballots getting close attention -

September 18, 2006

Washington State: King County without an Elections Director

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports: Just when it looked like the King County Elections Department might be out of the woods, stuff happened.

After surviving the horror show of the 2004 governor's election and leading the beleaguered department back to respectability, Elections Director Dean Logan decamped for Los Angeles in July, in the middle of a year with a high-profile U.S. Senate race on the fall ballot in Washington state. A permanent successor has not been hired and likely won't be until after the November voting.

Plus, for the primary Tuesday, the department will be deploying touch-screen voting machines for the first time countywide. The electronic machines, required under federal law to improve access for disabled voters, will supplement paper fill-in-the-bubble ballots at each of the county's 508 polling places.

But department managers say they're confident heading into the primary. -- Election 2006: All-new touch screens and no one at the top

Colorado: suit against computer voting machines

The Rocky Mountain News reports: Voting on computer screens is so vulnerable to massive fraud that Colorado's November election is "headed for a train wreck," says an attorney who is seeking to have the equipment barred at trial next week.

An expert would need just 2 minutes to reprogram and distort votes on a Diebold, one of four brands of computerized voting systems attacked in the suit, says attorney Paul Hultin. His firm, Wheeler Trigg Kennedy, has taken on the case pro bono for a group of 13 citizens of various political stripes.

And he's not the only one alarmed as details of the case spread this week.

The Colorado Democratic Party on Thursday urged all voters to cast absentee ballots for the November election to avoid potential fraud, after a key state official said in a deposition that he certified the computer voting equipment even though he has no college education in computer science and did little security testing. -- Rocky Mountain News: Elections

Thanks to Vince Leibowitz for the link.

California: Prop. 89 looks to Arizona for "clean elections" idea

The San Francisco Chronicle reports: Six years into its brave new world of publicly financed campaigns, Arizona's "clean money" elections system already is creaking with signs of age.

Backers of California's Proposition 89, which would provide $200 million a year for public financing of California candidates, point to the success of the Arizona system as an example of what could happen in California. But many of the political pros who work every day with the system have curbed their enthusiasm.

"On the whole, it has opened up the political process to a new pool of candidates,'' said Michael Frias, campaign director for the Arizona Democratic Party. "But we need to look and see where it can be improved.''

Some Republican leaders have harsher feelings about Arizona's public financing system.

"There are a lot of good things California and other states could pull from Arizona, but this isn't one of them,'' said Glenn Hamer, executive director of the Arizona Republican Party. -- The 'clean' campaign finance idea grows / Arizona experience mixed as California considers Prop. 89

IRS reviewing churches' political activity

The New York Times reports: With midterm elections less than two months away, Christian conservatives are enlisting churches in eight battleground states to register voters, gather crowds for rallies and distribute voters’ guides comparing the candidates’ stands on issues that conservatives consider “family values.”

This election year, however, the religious conservatives are facing resistance from newly invigorated religious liberals and moderates who are creating their own voters’ guides and are organizing events designed to challenge the conservatives’ definition of “values.”

Both religious flanks are looking nervously over their shoulders at the Internal Revenue Service, which this year announced a renewed effort to enforce laws that limit churches and charities from involvement in partisan political campaigns. ...

The I.R.S. issued a report in February that said nearly half of the 110 tax-exempt organizations it investigated after the 2004 elections for improper political activity were churches. Of the 40 churches that the I.R.S. had finished investigating, 37 were found to have violated the law. These churches were given warnings or penalized with excise taxes and, although none lost their tax exemptions, the I.R.S. is still investigating seven more cases against churches. -- I.R.S. Eyes Religious Groups as More Enter Election Fray - New York Times

Texas: suit to challenge state's "possession of absentee ballots" law

The San Antonio Express-News reports: At issue for the three North Texas women and others investigated by [Attorney General] Abbott is a 2003 Texas law that makes it a crime to put other voters' absentee ballots in the mail or deliver them to election officials.

Backers of the law say it's needed to prevent election fraud by paid political operatives who take advantage of the elderly or even steal their votes. Detractors say the law is overly broad, goes too far in criminalizing legitimate political activity and infringes on voters' rights to assistance in casting ballots.

This week, a Washington-based voting rights attorney aligned with Texas Democrats plans to challenge the state law in federal court, arguing it violates the Voting Rights Act and the U.S. Constitution's guarantees of free speech, free association and equal protection.

Democrats complain, and the suit will argue, that Abbott is selectively enforcing the law against Hispanics and blacks to intimidate minority voters and dilute their strength at the polls. ...

Yet of the 13 individuals indicted for voter fraud during Abbott's term, 10 are accused of simply possessing another's absentee ballot for delivery to election officials or to a mailbox, Democrats say. Such activities had been legal until the 2003 law turned them into crimes.

Both Democratic and Republican political activists have traditionally assisted elderly or homebound voters who need help in voting, said attorney J. Gerald Hebert, executive director of the Washington-based Campaign Legal Center, who plans to file the lawsuit on behalf of Democrats. -- Metro | State

September 17, 2006

California: IRS demands documents and emails from church

AP reports: The Internal Revenue Service has ordered a prominent liberal church to turn over documents and e-mails it produced during the 2004 election year that contain references to political candidates.

The IRS is investigating whether All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena violated the federal tax code when its former rector, Rev. George F. Regas, delivered an anti-war sermon on the eve of the last presidential election.

Tax-exempt organizations are barred from intervening in political campaigns and elections, and the church could lose its tax-exempt status.

Rev. Ed Bacon received a summons Thursday ordering the church to present any politically charged sermons, newsletters and electronic communications by Sept 29. -- IRS investigating liberal Calif. church - Yahoo! News

Comment: The church ought to turn over the Bibles, the Book of Common Prayer, and the hymnal, too.

Mississippi: Tupelo fighting a redistricting case and annexation case next month

The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal reports: City leaders will sit for days in courtrooms next month for two major trials coming just weeks apart.

Tupelo's redistricting case will be heard in federal court in Oxford beginning Oct. 10 before U.S. District Judge Mike Mills, city attorney Guy Mitchell III said Friday.

A second high-profile case, on Tupelo's annexation plan, goes before retired Chancellor Charles Thomas of Pontotoc at the Lee Justice Center on Oct. 23. ..

Thirteen days after the case begins in Oxford, Tupelo officials will be back in court to press for the annexation of 10.2 square miles to meet growth needs. Lee County supervisors and a group of citizens are fighting the move, fearing it will raise their taxes. The case may last several weeks.

Earlier this week, a group of African-American residents announced they also are fighting the annexation. Their lawyer Kenneth Mayfield of Tupelo filed papers claiming it will dilute black voter strength. --

Ohio: Euclid might redraw ward boundaries while still fighting DOJ suit

The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports: The city might redraw ward boundaries while also contesting a federal lawsuit that accuses the city's existing election system of keeping black candidates out of office.

Council President Ed Gudenas has drafted legislation that would give City Council the authority to propose new districts to ease a "statistical imbalance in population" in time for the 2007 election. The legislation is listed on the agenda for Monday's council meeting.

Hilary Taylor, the attorney representing the city in the Department of Justice lawsuit, said City Council might lack the authority to adopt a redistricting plan without voter approval. ...

The city has struggled to compromise with the Justice Department ever since a three-year investigation concluded that too many at-large council seats and districts that cover a large geographic area have diluted minority voting strength. -- Euclid council drafts law to propose new districts

Florida: Bob Graham opposes effort to require 60% to pass constitutional amendments

AP reports: Former Democratic Gov. and U.S. Sen. Bob Graham joined the chairman of a conservative think tank and a Republican ex-legislator Friday in forming a group opposed to a ballot proposition that would make it more difficult to amend the Florida Constitution.

Amendment 3, placed on the Nov. 7 ballot by the Legislature, would require at least 60 percent of voters casting ballots instead of a simple majority to approve any amendment to the constitution. That includes those proposed by lawmakers as well as citizen initiatives.

Graham called it one of the most important decisions voters will make this year. ...

Panama City businessman-lawyer Charlie Hilton, chairman of the James Madison Institute, former state Rep. Bill Sublette of Orlando and Graham are co-chairing the group called Trust the Voters. -- Graham Opposes Amendment |

New Hampshire: Tobin's appeal brief filed

The Bangor Daily News reported on 9 September: Defense attorneys filed an appeal Friday in U.S. 1st District Court of James Tobin's conviction in a scheme to jam New Hampshire Democrats' get-out-the-vote phone lines four years ago.

Attorneys for Tobin, 45, of Bangor argued in their 59-page brief that the telephone harassment statute should not have been used to prosecute him and three others. The attorneys also argued that the way the statute was used to prosecute Tobin violated the U.S. Constitution.

Tobin, who remains free pending the outcome of the appeal, was sentenced in April in U.S. District Court in Concord, N.H., to 10 months in federal prison. He also was fined $10,000 after being convicted in December after an eight-day jury trial.

The longtime Republican strategist was found guilty of conspiring to make more than 800 repeated hang-up calls and of aiding and abetting the making of those calls. He was acquitted of the more serious charge of conspiring to deprive New Hampshire residents of their right to vote. -- Tobin appeals conviction in election phone-jamming case - Judy Harrison (176)

Massachusetts: More than one-third of Springfield's poll workers will be bilingual

AP reports: The city has hired 73 new bilingual poll workers - more than a dozen more than it agreed to employ after being sued by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Last month, the city said it would hire 57 bilingual poll workers, appoint a Hispanic voting coordinator and make other changes to help more Hispanic people vote. The move came after the Justice Department sued the city for violating the voting rights of Spanish-speaking residents by not giving them enough help at the polls. -- Worcester Telegram & Gazette AP State News

Presidential campaign fund is "broke"

AP reports: hose three dollars you've set aside in your tax returns as a good deed toward clean presidential elections? Forget about it. Nobody wants them anymore.

Strategists from both parties estimate the White House race in 2008 could cost each nominee $500 million -- far more than the Presidential Election Campaign Fund can afford. As a result, this next presidential campaign could mark the first time in 30 years that the Democratic and Republican nominees turn down the fund's millions in both the primary and the general elections.

"The public financing system was a great system, but it's broke," said Steve Elmendorf, the deputy campaign manager for Democrat John Kerry when the Massachusetts senator ran in 2004.

"There's not enough money in it anymore. It's highly unlikely that any candidate in any party will stay in the public funding system," Elmendorf said. -- | 09/17/2006 | Presidential candidates likely won't want your money

Alabama: Will there be justice for Jimmie Lee Jackson?

The Selma Times-Journal reports: It was a warm, sunny early September afternoon. The district attorney had just finished a late lunch at Lottie's restaurant across from the Perry County Courthouse.

As he does most afternoons Michael Jackson embarked on a leisurely stroll back to the courthouse, walking off the fried fish plate, suit jacket flung over his shoulder. The only black district attorney in Alabama is squeezing more into each lunch hour these days, detouring for an interview that will hopefully offer some leads to his largest investigation yet. ...

There were reports of newsmen assigned to cover the mass voter registration meeting at Zion Methodist Church who had their camera lenses "sprayed with black spray paint," according to sworn statements. Following the meeting, a night march was planned. The troopers were there to halt the march.

The atmosphere was tense. Activist James Orange was held in the Perry County jail, and the late Albert Turner Sr. received a tip that Orange was going to be turned over to Klansmen that night and killed. To counter the Klan's plan, Turner helped organize the candlelight march that drew about 500 protesters, and chaos ensued. --

He's working on the case in his spare time, for now. There are plenty of murders, drug cases and other files that demand his immediate attention. But this day yields a start, though only a start, looking into the death of Jimmie Lee Jackson, a Perry County man whose 1965 death in this sleepy town helped spark the civil rights movement. -- Perry County DA pours heart into 1965 slaying

September 16, 2006

Arkansas: delay in online filing of campaign report

The Arkansas News Bureau reports: The introduction of a new system to file campaign finance reports online has been delayed until early next year, Secretary of State Charlie Daniels said Friday.

Daniels said he hopes to have an online filing option for candidate and lobbyist financial disclosure forms available by the first of the year, which would allow all reports to be put directly into a computer network.

The secretary of state's office had hoped to have the system online by the beginning of filing period in April but other projects took priority, Daniels said. His office has been heavily involved in working out problems with the installation of new electronic voting machines statewide that caused delays in vote tallying during the May party primaries. -- Arkansas News Bureau - New online campaign filing option delayed

New York: $136,000 in undisclosed contributions

Newsday reports: Pressured by a grand jury subpoena for his campaign finance records, North Hempstead Town Councilman Thomas Dwyer offered a mea culpa: More than $136,000 in campaign contributions he raised in the past two years were never disclosed to the county Board of Elections as required by state law.

According to records submitted to the board Sept. 1, Dwyer, who campaigned for the town council and also conducted an exploratory campaign fundraiser for the State Senate in 2005, raised $136,383 from September 2004 to January 2006. ...

State law mandates candidates for political office file disclosure statements on Jan. 15 and July 15. The law, which requires a candidate to establish a committee once he or she raises $1,000, calls for a $500 penalty plus interest for each period the candidate fails to disclose, said state Board of Elections spokesman Lee Daghlian. Dwyer, who established two unreported accounts, missed four filing periods for each. -- Councilman admits undisclosed funds -

Florida: Sarasota county to decide on electronic voting machines

The Ledger reports: Voters in this Southwest Florida county [Sarasota] will be able to decide in November whether to continue using computerized voting booths or go back to paper ballots, a circuit judge ruled.

County attorneys argued a proposed ballot initiative asking voters to choose between the county's current electronic voting and the old paper system was unconstitutional. But Circuit Judge Robert B. Bennett Jr. ruled Wednesday that the initiative was legal. -- Voters Will Choose Voting Technology |

Alabama: Gees Bend ferry resumes; it was closed 44 years ago to prevent blacks from voting or demonstrating

AP reports: In 1962, as the civil rights movement was picking up speed, the ferry along this stretch of the Alabama River was shut down in what was widely seen as an attempt by whites to prevent blacks from the town of Gee's Bend from coming across the water to vote or take part in demonstrations.

The shutdown of the 15-minute ferry ride meant that the people of poor, mostly black Gee's Bend had to drive more than 40 miles over narrow rural roads to get to the county courthouse in Camden, then 40 miles back. And it has been that way ever since.

On Monday, though, ferry service will resume for the first time in 44 years.

After a frustratingly long effort, Gee's Bend residents will be closer to jobs, stores, medical care and county offices. -- AP Wire | 09/15/2006 | New ferry to open in isolated Ala. town

New Jersey: judge stops borough from English-only referendum reports: The borough [of Bogota] cannot place a question on the November ballot asking voters if they want to recognize English as the town's official language, a judge ruled Friday.

State Superior Court Judge Estela De La Cruz upheld Bergen County Clerk Kathleen Donovan's decision last month to reject the proposed non-binding referendum.

De La Cruz agreed with Donovan that Bogota has no power to make English its official language. Under state law, ballot questions may only address issues that a town can act upon. The judge said state statutes already govern the use of language by municipalities. -- North Jersey Media Group providing local news, sports & classifieds for Northern New Jersey!

Alabama: 2 Enterprise police officers may have to resign to run for office

The Southeast Sun reports: The U.S. Office of Special Counsel in Washington, D.C, is expected to tell Enterprise Police Department officials this week whether two officers running for public office can keep their jobs.

Capt. Mike Lolley, EPD public affairs officers, said the department requested an opinion from the Office of Special Counsel last week after a Dothan police officer running for Houston County sheriff resigned because of the federal Hatch Act. The act prohibits state and local employees from running for partisan office if they are paid with or have control over any federal funds.

The EPD employs Lance Tindol, the Democratic nominee for Coffee County sheriff, and Corey Mason, who is running as an independent for coroner of the Enterprise division.

Lolley said Tindoll is not a supervisor and his salary is not paid by any federal funds. Mason is a supervisor, but Lolley said he did not know for certain without guidance from the counsel's office if either candidate would be affected by the Hatch Act. -- Southeast Sun: Content

September 15, 2006

Colorado: Trailhead Group reports contributions and receipts that don't show up on others' reports

Jason Bane writes on dailyKos: As this high-stakes political season enters its final weeks, one of the biggest and most influential political committees at work in Colorado appears to be playing fast and loose with the campaign finance rules. Are they cheating? An exclusive Colorado Confidential investigation of the Trailhead Group reveals questionable financial transactions that literally don't add up.

Over the course of several days, Colorado Confidential examined publicly available financial reports filed with the IRS by the Trailhead Group - a political committee created by some of Colorado's biggest Republican names - and found several transactions totaling $200,000. Contributions to other political committees that Trailhead claims in its IRS filings are not found on the recipient's books, and contributions from those committees back to Trailhead either don't match Trailhead's records or don't appear at all. And on one occasion, a contribution was made to an organization for which Colorado Confidential can find no record of existence. ...

Consider, for example, a $50,000 contribution that Trailhead reports making to the Colorado Leadership Fund - a separate 527 organization filed with the IRS - on April 21, 2006. Just two days later, Trailhead reports receiving a donation of $50,000 from the very same Colorado Leadership Fund (CLF). There is no rule prohibiting 527 organizations from giving money to each other, but the rules are clear that any contribution over $200 and any expenditure over $500 must be reported during the same federally-mandated reporting period.

A review of finance reports filed by CLF shows no record of either a contribution or an expenditure involving Trailhead. Only Trailhead claims both a contribution and expenditure of $50,000. -- Daily Kos: EXCLUSIVE: Colorado GOP 527 Cooking the Books or Sloppy Chefs?

House committee considers national voter I.D. bill reports: Rep. John Doolittle, a California Republican, was mad as hell and he wasn't going to take it anymore.

"It's outrageous to hear my colleagues sit there and say that the Republican Party is embarking on a move to suppress the vote of ethnic minorities throughout the country," he shouted Thursday at a meeting of the House Administration Committee. "That is blatantly false. I am not going to sit here and by my silence give any credence to that assertion. That's ridiculous."

The outburst was so remarkable that the ranking Democrat on the committee, a fellow Californian, couldn't resist prodding Doolittle a bit more. "Who is presenting the legislation here?" asked Rep. Juanita Millender-McDonald, who was speaking out of order.

That was, of course, a rhetorical question. For about an hour, the committee had been debating a GOP-sponsored bill that would require every voter in the nation to produce a government-issued photo I.D. to cast a ballot in federal elections. Most major civil rights organizations, from the NAACP to the National Council of La Raza, have said that the proposal will disproportionately prevent poor and minority citizens from voting. AARP, a nonpartisan lobby for the elderly, has cautioned that "many persons who are qualified to vote but do not have ready access to documents -- such as birth certificates, driver's licenses and passports -- that never have been deemed necessary in the past may lose the fundamental right to vote." Democrats have charged that Republicans are just trying to keep liberal voters from the polls. -- The GOP wants to see your I.D. | Salon News

District of Columbia: House committee holds hearing on House member for DC

The Washington Times reports: Law experts and officials testified on the Capitol Hill yesterday on the constitutionality of a bill that would give the District one vote in Congress.

The bill, introduced early this year by Rep. Thomas M. Davis III, Virginia Republican, and Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat and the District's non-voting member of the House, also would give Utah, a primarily Republican state, an extra vote.

The District is not considered a state and does not have voting representatives in the House or in the Senate.

The hearing was held before the House Judiciary Constitution subcommittee. -- Officials testify on a vote for D.C. - Metropolitan - The Washington Times, America's Newspaper

Utah: governor testifies on additional Congressional representative for state

The Deseret Morning News reports: Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. told a U.S. House subcommittee Thursday that Utah would take a "fair and objective" approach in drawing new congressional districts for the state, if required to do so to gain an extra seat in the House of Representatives.

A pending bill would create an at-large seat for Utah until the 2010 Census is completed and would give the District of Columbia a House vote. But a key lawmaker wants to change the at-large element for the Utah seat and instead create four districts for the state.

Huntsman told the House Constitution Subcommittee that he prefers the at-large seat as it stands in the bill now. The measure would create a fourth seat for Utah that would represent the whole state until the 2012 election. ...

House Judiciary Chairman James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., is likely to offer an amendment taking away the at-large status and calling for four districts in Utah. His spokesman, Jeff Lungren, said the chairman wants Utahns to each have only one representative, like residents of other states, and creating the at-large seat would give each Utahn two representatives. -- | Realigning would be fair, Huntsman says

Georgia: federal judge blocks voter I.D. for next week's local elections

AP reports: For the third time in nearly a year, the same federal judge has blocked Georgia from requiring voters to show photo identification before casting a ballot - this time during 30-plus local special elections next week. ...

While Murphy on Thursday again blocked enforcement of the new voter ID law for another round of elections, he didn't prevent the state from moving forward with educating the public about the law in time for the Nov. 7 elections.

In fact, Murphy commended the state for its efforts to inform voters that under the new law they must present at the polls a valid form of government-issued photo ID, such as a driver's license or U.S. passport. ...

Murphy said he will hear arguments later on whether or not the law should be in effect in November. -- Macon Telegraph | 09/15/2006 | Judge blocks Georgia voter ID law

September 14, 2006

Missouri: judge voids voter I.D. law

AP reports: A judge struck down Missouri's new voter identification law Thursday as an unconstitutional infringement on the right to vote.

The law required voters to show a federal or Missouri-issued photo ID at the polls, which Cole County Circuit Judge Richard Callahan said was an unconstitutional burden on voters because the paperwork required to get those IDs is not free.

The right to vote is "a right and not a license," the judge wrote.

Callahan said the requirement is a particular burden to women, the poor, the undereducated and the elderly. Missouri law requires those getting or renewing a driver's license to show they are lawfully in the country, generally with a birth certificate or passport.

Those whose name has changed, such as some married women, also must provide documents showing those changes. And some people may not have the knowledge of how to navigate bureaucracy to obtain a license, he said. -- Judge strikes down Mo. voter ID law - Yahoo! News

Dems form "September Group" as 527

The New York Times reports: Sensing both political danger and opportunity, a top Democratic operative and a group of major party donors have banded together to deliver a barrage of late advertising and on-the-ground action to secure Democratic victories in November.

The operative, Harold M. Ickes, a top aide to former President Bill Clinton and informal adviser to Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, and a group of allies are soliciting money for a new organization called the September Fund.

They hope to raise and spend as much as $25 million to influence not only crucial Congressional races but also other campaigns and ballot initiatives at the federal and state level. ...

The September Fund, like the groups Mr. Ickes helped organize in 2004, is set up under a loophole in campaign finance law that allows political groups to escape federal donation limits that apply to party committees and candidates. Such groups, called 527 groups for the relevant section of the Internal Revenue Code, cannot advocate the election or defeat of any candidate but can engage in issue advertising that draws distinctions between the two parties. -- Democrats Form New Group for Fund-Raising and Ads - New York Times

Rhode Island: GOP GOTV A-OK

The Washington Post reports: The turnout campaign that Republican operatives used to help pull Sen. Lincoln D. Chafee to victory in the Rhode Island primary was a potent demonstration of how money and manpower can transform a race even in an unfavorable political environment -- and a preview of the strategy that national party officials say they plan to replicate in the most competitive House and Senate races over the next 55 days.

In the past two national elections, in 2002 and 2004, Republicans outperformed Democrats in bringing their backers to the polls, but many Democrats and independent analysts have suggested that the competition may be different this year, in part because of slumping morale among GOP activists. But Chafee's performance -- combined with reports of late-starting organization and internal bickering on the Democratic side -- suggest that the Republican advantage on turnout may remain intact even as many other trends are favoring the opposition.

The Republican National Committee, convinced that Chafee is the party's only chance of keeping a seat in a Democratic-leaning state, spent $400,000 to ship 86 out-of-state volunteers and several paid staff members to Rhode Island. They targeted not just Republicans but also independent voters during the final days of the campaign, following a blueprint developed months ago by the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the Chafee campaign. ...

As the campaign wore on, Republicans began another slew of phone calls to unaffiliated voters to tell them that they could vote for Chafee and then immediately change their registration back to unaffiliated or Democrat. The RNC road-tested a new technology in the race that officials said is making their targeting program faster and more precise. It is based on a program that allows volunteers to call potential voters, note their political views and preferences on sheet of paper and immediately scan the results into a huge database known as the Voter Vault. Experts in the political practice known as microtargeting can then instantly analyze the results to determine which issues are moving voters and adjust their pitch. -- In R.I., a Model for Voter Turnout -

Georgia: hearing today in voter I.D. challenge

The Rome News-Tribune reports: U.S. District Judge Harold L. Murphy, Rome, will hear arguments today on a motion to halt enforcement of a state law requiring the use of photo identification at the polls.

Murphy granted a temporary injunction that expired after the Aug. 8 primary runoff but about 20 counties, including Gordon and Walker, are holding special elections Sept. 19.

Advance voting started Monday with the 2006 Photo ID Act in place. ...

In Murphy’s Sept. 6 order, he said the brief hearing today at 1:30 p.m. will focus only on the state’s educational efforts for voters, the number of Georgia registered voters who potentially lack photo ID and the number of Voter ID cards issued.

In July, Murphy cited concerns with the law’s constitutionality and the state’s hasty voter education efforts, adding he would later address whether the law could be applied to the Nov. 7 general election. -- Rome News - Tribune

Note: The story has links to the briefs of the parties filed for the hearing.

Texas: Criminal Appeals Court agrees to review precedents blocking DeLay's charges

The Houston Chronicle reports: Former U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay's efforts to get his campaign finance criminal case to trial suffered another setback Wednesday as the state's highest criminal court agreed to hear arguments on reinstating a conspiracy charge against him. ...

Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle appealed Priest's ruling.

Earle and his lawyers argued that the state's conspiracy statute applied to the election code in 2002 and that the Legislature added conspiracy language to the election laws in 2003 only to erase any doubt.

The 3rd Court of Appeals upheld Priest's ruling but said Earle made some compelling arguments in favor of reinstating the charge.

The three-judge panel said, however, that reinstating the charge would require the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals to overturn some of its rulings in other cases.

That prompted Earle to take the case to the all-Republican appellate court.

The court could have rejected Earle's appeal outright, sending the case back to Priest's court for additional pretrial motions and a possible trial.

But by accepting the case for review, the high court likely pushed any trial in DeLay's case off until next year. No date for oral arguments has been set. -- Move likely pushes any DeLay trial to next year

September 13, 2006

How to steal an election with a Diebold AccuVote-TS machine

The abstract of a paper by Ariel J. Feldman, J. Alex Halderman, and Edward W. Felten states: This paper presents a fully independent security study of a Diebold AccuVote-TS voting machine, including its hardware and software. We obtained the machine from a private party. Analysis of the machine, in light of real election procedures, shows that it is vulnerable to extremely serious attacks. For example, an attacker who gets physical access to a machine or its removable memory card for as little as one minute could install malicious code; malicious code on a machine could steal votes undetectably, modifying all records, logs, and counters to be consistent with the fraudulent vote count it creates. An attacker could also create malicious code that spreads automatically and silently from machine to machine during normal election activities — a voting-machine virus. We have constructed working demonstrations of these attacks in our lab. Mitigating these threats will require changes to the voting machine's hardware and software and the adoption of more rigorous election procedures. -- Center for Information Technology Policy » Voting Study

Comment: Instead of reading the paper, just watch the video of the researchers stealing an election.

Maryland: finger-pointing over the voting snafus

The Baltimore Sun reports: Maryland's first statewide run of an all-electronic voting system stumbled out of the gate yesterday, with major glitches in Baltimore City and Montgomery County that frustrated thousands of would-be voters and forced election officials in those two localities to hold polls open an extra hour.

The snafus, which also cropped up to lesser degrees in other counties, were so severe that they produced a flurry of finger-pointing between Democratic and Republican gubernatorial candidates and promised to become an issue in the final two months of the campaign. ...

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. wasted no time after learning that voters in two of the state's largest jurisdictions were having trouble voting before setting up a toll-free hot line in his office so he could compile complaints. ...

The Maryland Democratic Party and its nominee for governor, Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley, instead laid the blame at the feet of Ehrlich's nominees to boards of election around the state who manage elections county-by-county. -- Electronic system beset by problems -

Maryland: widespread voting problems in primary

The Washington Post reports: The irregularities that led Maryland courts to extend voting hours yesterday in Montgomery County and Baltimore under some circumstances could provide a basis for challenging the outcomes of contests decided in part or entirely by voters in those jurisdictions, experts said.

From the top of the ticket to the bottom, campaigns remained focused into the evening on efforts to get voters to the polls. Many declined to say whether they considered legal challenges likely even as the Democratic Party filed court petitions asking judges to keep the polls open in the county and the city.

But election experts said the narrower the margin in any race, the more likely a future challenge. As a general rule, they said, challengers need not prove intentional fraud, only that errors were widespread enough to give a potentially decisive boost to one candidate.

Yesterday's irregularities in Maryland presented "the kind of scenario that could lead to a challenge," said Steven J. Mulroy, a professor at the University of Memphis law school who is an expert on revotes. -- Voting Problems Could Spark Legal Challenges to Results -

The nationwide battle over voter I.D. laws

The Los Angeles Times reports: Little noticed by U.S. voters, a nationwide melee has broken out pitting liberal and conservative groups in a duel over restrictive new voting laws that could determine who wins close elections in November and beyond.

The dispute, which is being fought in disparate and often half-empty courtrooms in as many as nine states, concerns new state laws and rules backed primarily by Republicans that require people to show photo identification to vote and, in some cases, proof of citizenship and identification when registering to vote.

One measure prompted the League of Women Voters to halt its voter registration drives in Florida out of fear of facing criminal penalties. That law, and a similar provision in Ohio that threatened voter registration drives by other groups, were blocked in recent weeks by federal courts. ...

The legal battle reflects a deep partisan divide, with Republicans arguing that the new requirements are needed to prevent voting fraud and to boost confidence in election results, and Democrats charging that they disenfranchise senior citizens, minorities, students and others who tend to vote with the party. -- Journal Gazette | 09/13/2006 | Challenges to voter ID laws casting doubt on fall ballots

Michigan: 6th Circuit refuses stay on anti-affirmative action initiative

AP reports: A federal appeals court declined Monday to block an anti-affirmative action proposal from appearing on the Michigan ballot, saying the plaintiffs failed to show they are likely to win their case against the measure's backers.

Opponents of the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative had asked the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for an injunction to keep the measure off the Nov. 7 ballot while it appeals a decision by U.S. District Judge Arthur Tarnow, who dismissed their claims under the Voting Rights Act and ruled that the proposal could go forward. ...

By Any Means Necessary, a pro-affirmative action group, appealed Tarnow's ruling to the Ohio-based 6th Circuit and asked for an injunction.

In Monday's order from the 6th Circuit, judges Alan E. Norris, R. Guy Cole Jr. and Deborah L. Cook said the plaintiffs "failed to demonstrate sufficient likelihood of success on the merits of their claims" for an injunction to be granted. -- South Bend Tribune

Alabama: Governor appoints committee to oversee creation of statewide voter database

WSFA TV reports: Governor Bob Riley has appointed four people to oversee the development and implementation of a uniform, statewide computerized voter registration list as required to bring Alabama into compliance with the Help America Vote Act (HAVA).

A federal judge appointed the governor "Special Master" as a result of a federal lawsuit against the state and Secretary of State Nancy Worley for failing to meet some of the HAVA requirements related to voter registration by the federal timetable and guidelines.

Sid McDonald will serve as the committee's chairman; Lawrence County Probate Judge Richard "Rip" Proctor; Alabama Labor Commissioner and former Secretary of State Jim Bennett; Trey Granger, Director of Elections for Montgomery County. ...

Under a section on the Planned Activities for the Immediate Future. the filing states the governor has "instructed the Chairman and members of his HAVA Implementation Committee that they are to reactivate and re-engage the 24-member HAVA Advisory Committee, as soon as reasonably possible, and to give serious input to their input and recommendations." -- WSFA TV Montgomery, AL - Update: Governor Appoints Members to Oversee Voter Registration Compliance; Files First Interim Report

Alabama: AG asks for complete stay of felon-voting order

AP reports: The state attorney general has asked the Alabama Supreme Court to delay all parts of a judge's order allowing felons to vote in Alabama.

Attorney General Troy King's motion argues that the entire ruling last month by Jefferson County Circuit Judge Robert Vance Jr. should be shelved until the high court can rule on an appeal.

Vance had ruled last month that felons must be allowed to vote until the Alabama Legislature clarifies crimes of "moral turpitude."

At a Sept. 1 hearing, Vance agreed to stay much of his order until after the Nov. 7 general election and until the Supreme Court could rule on the appeal, but he allowed felons convicted of certain offenses to vote. -- AG asks court to delay judge's felon voting ruling

Comment: Ryan Haygood and I represent the plaintiffs in this case.

September 12, 2006

Arizona: federal judge refuses to stop voter I.D. for today primary

AP reports: A federal judge on Monday refused to block implementation of a 2004 state law that requires Arizona voters to present specified types of identification when casting ballots at polling places and to submit proof of citizenship when registering to vote. ...

While refusing to grant the preliminary injunction requested by groups challenging portions of the law approved by voters in November 2004, Silver ordered additional legal briefs to be submitted on several issues in the case. She scheduled an Oct. 19 hearing to consider those issues. -- Judge refuses to block Ariz. voter ID requirement

September 11, 2006

Alabama: New York Times editorial on felon voting rights

The New York Times editorlizes today on the Alabama felon voting rights case: It has been decades since federal laws overturned the literacy tests and poll taxes that were the most blatant
forms of discrimination barring black people from voting in Southern states. But even today, felony
disenfranchisement is an enormous obstacle to voting for black people in the Deep South. These laws are the
worst in the free world. The process for restoring voting rights for people who have been convicted of crimes
can be so byzantine that officials don’t know who is eligible. The confusion bars some eligible voters from
the polls for life. -- Denying the Vote

Comment: I am one of the attorneys for the plaintiffs in this case. I have uploaded a PDF of the editorial here.

September 10, 2006

city council may spend public funds on "vote no" signs in initiative campaign

ACSblog reported on Friday: The Sixth Circuit held today that public funds may be used to fund a campaign intended to influence an election. The case arose out of a ballot initiative intended to overturn the act of a local city council. To defeat the initiative, the council used public money to fund "hanging of 'Vote No' banners, mailing of leaflets to residents, advertising in local newspapers, and using the town newsletter to support the Council’s position."

A decision by Judges Julia Smith Gibbons and Richard Allen Griffin, both George W. Bush appointees, held that "the electoral process – not First Amendment litigation – is the appropriate recourse" against elected officials using public funds to influence an election. -- ACSBlog: The Blog of the American Constitution Society

More: The case is Kidwell v. City of Union, No. 04-4153 (6th Cir., 8 Sept. 2006).

September 9, 2006

James deAnda, R.I.P.

James deAnda, 81, Lawyer in Case for Hispanic Jurors, Dies - New York Times
The New York Times reports:
James deAnda, a retired federal judge who as a lawyer in the early 1950’s had a leading role in a Supreme Court decision that prohibited courts from keeping Mexican-Americans off juries, died on Thursday at his summer home in Traverse City, Mich. Judge deAnda, who lived in Houston, was 81. ...

On May 3, 1954, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled in Hernandez v. Texas that Hispanic people deserved the same constitutional protections as other minorities.

For some proponents of civil rights for Hispanics, the case ranks with the ruling two weeks later in Brown v. Board of Education that barred segregation in public schools.

Mr. deAnda, then a lawyer in a small practice in Houston, wrote most of the briefs for the Hernandez case, in which a Mexican migrant worker appealed his murder conviction by an all-white jury in Jackson County, Tex. --

Alabama: AG changes opinion on campaign finance filings

The Birmingham News reports: Attorney General Troy King agreed Friday that candidates must report campaign spending even if they are unopposed, but he stopped short of saying four powerful Democratic senators who didn't file should be prosecuted and kept off the November ballot.

King's office reviewed the issue raised by state Sen. Gerald Dial, D-Lineville. Dial has argued that some of the Senate's leaders should be yanked off the November ballot because they didn't report spending more than $500,000 before the June primary. ...

The Senate Majority PAC reported receiving $180,000 from Senate Majority Leader Zeb Little's campaign; $75,000 from Senate President Pro Tempore Lowell Barron's campaign; $230,000 from Hank Sanders, chairman of the Senate Education Budget Committee; and $100,000 from Roger Bedford, chairman of the Senate General Fund Budget Committee.

King said all candidates are required to file campaign finance reports if they raise and spend enough money to trigger filing requirements, which are outlined in state law. The four senators raised and spent far more than the state minimum, but they didn't file reports because they said a 1990 attorney general's opinion states that unopposed candidates don't have to file. -- King cites campaign spending rule

"Grey Lady" starts a politics blog

The New York Times has started a politics blog, The Caucus - U.S. - New York Times Blog. It has a double-column blogroll listing Votelaw, among many others.

I wonder if the Times will put the archives of the blog behind the Times Select pay-to-view firewall?

September 7, 2006

Colorado: FEC clears gift-offering candidate

The Greeley Tribune reports: The Federal Election Commission recently cleared Colorado Democratic congressional hopeful Angie Paccione of charges that she improperly offered potential campaign donors gifts -- including trips to Washington for her swearing-in ceremony. ...

Republicans complained to the FEC that the Paccione campaign sent an illegal e-mail in February offering trips, dinners and other prizes in exchange for donations of $5,000 or more. Such an offer is illegal, the complaint contended.

The FEC dismissed the matter, saying Paccione took immediate action to retract the offer. According to a statement from the FEC, Paccione and her campaign had not authorized the e-mail messages. She also sent an e-mail correcting the situation less than four hours after learning about it. -- The Tribune - News

Wisconsin: duty still working and running, despite Hatch Act complaint

The Dunn County News reports: On Wednesday afternoon, Deputy Kathy Ertz, 52, announced she was ready to resign, if necessary, to pursue her bid to become Dunn County sheriff.

As of Friday, she was still on the job — and in the race — with incumbent Sheriff Dennis Smith for the Democratic Party nod in the Sept. 12 primary. When she declared her candidacy for the sheriff’s office, Ertz was unaware that she was in possible violation of the Hatch Act which says that state and local government employees cannot run for partisan office if they have received federal money as part of their salary.

A complaint filed by an unknown party alleged that she received $1,100 over the course of two years for her participation in alcohol compliance checks performed in conjunction with Arbor Place, Inc.’s prevention programming staff. Unbeknownst to Ertz until recently, the project n— under which businesses are “tested” by an underage subject (chaperoned by an adult) to make sure bartenders ask for identification before serving alcohol — is funded by a federal grant.

During a press conference Wednesday, Ertz revealed that she was awaiting a response from the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) to a letter composed by her attorney, Michael Wittenwyler of the Madison firm of LaFollette Godfrey and Kahn. -- The Dunn County Online Community - News

Missouri: state court considers voter I.D.; new suit filed in federal court

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports: A state judge said Wednesday that Missouri's photo identification law would impose extra costs on some voters, particularly women who have changed their names and must prove their identities.

But the judge, Cole County Circuit Judge Richard Callahan, also declared that he was "just not convinced" that the Legislature purposefully discriminated against certain groups such as African-Americans by requiring the IDs to vote.

Callahan's comments came as he grappled with points raised by attorneys challenging and defending the law. The judge promised to issue a ruling no later than Sept. 15.

Whatever he decides is likely to be appealed to the Missouri Supreme Court. But even that court's decision won't be the final word.

Another attack on the law emerged Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Jefferson City. The NAACP and several groups that help people with disabilities filed a federal suit on behalf of people who say they will be disenfranchised by the voting requirements. -- STLtoday - News - Story

Georgia: federal and state judges asked to block used of voter I.D. in more elections

Online Athens reports: Days before dozens of local governments open polls in Georgia, a federal judge will hear arguments once again about whether voters should have to show photo identification to cast a ballot.

U.S. District Court Judge Harold Murphy on Wednesday scheduled a hearing for next Thursday in Rome that will determine if the law will be in effect for county and city special elections Sept. 19.

Opponents of Georgia's voter ID law asked for the hearing so they can argue to extend an injunction that was in place for this summer's statewide primary and runoff elections. ...

A separate injunction request will be heard Friday in State Court in Fulton County. As part of that lawsuit, former Gov. Roy Barnes will argue for the law to be suspended during both the Sept. 19 special election and Nov. 7 general election. -- | News | Judge again asked to block photo IDs 09/07/06

Alabama: Worley accused of ethics violation

AP reports: A leader of the state voter registrars' organization has filed an ethics complaint against Secretary of State Nancy Worley, which she said is a baseless attempt to damage her in an election year.

Lester Sellers of Equality, legislative chairman of the Alabama Association of Boards of Registrars, accused Worley of not making a proper accounting of money received from the federal government to update Alabama's voting records and voting equipment.

The ethics law bars public officals from using their office for personal financial gain, and Worley questioned whether anything in the complaint fell under ethics rules. ...

In Sellers' complaint, he accuses Worley of not being a good steward of public funds by:
# Using federal money to appear in "voter education" ads on TV before she stands for election.
# Traveling the state at state expense to present checks to counties to buy voting equipment and then using the events to get her picture in newspapers. -- Voter registrar complains against secretary of state

September 6, 2006

Alabama: Gov. Riley asks for delay in filing report on HAVA compliance

WSFA reports: U.S. District Judge Keith Watkins has given Governor Bob Riley another week to submit his first progress report as Special Master appointed by the court in the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) case filed by the federal government against the state of Alabama and Secretary of State Nancy Worley. The report was initially due today, September 5, 2006, the first Tuesday of the month as outlined previously by the court.

In the Motion for Extension request filed and granted on September 1, 2006, by the governor's chief legal adviser, Ken Wallis, Riley says "Though this team is very nearly assembled, there remains one person who has not fully committed to serve and cannot be briefed on the matter until next week. Thus providing the Governor until September 12, 2006, to submit his initial progress report will enable him to then announce the entirety of his implementation team, rather than an incomplete slate." -- WSFA TV Montgomery, AL - Governor Riley Given Extension to Submit First Report in Voter Registration Case

New Hampshire: problems for 8 candidates found by using statewide voter database

The Concord Monitor reports: State officials have discovered that eight House candidates on next week's primary ballots are not actually registered members of their declared political party. The attorney general's office has asked the state Ballot Law Commission to decide whether the candidates should be disqualified from running.

Of the eight, one is an incumbent lawmaker: Rep. Jim Danforth of Andover, who has served one term as a Republican and is seeking re-election to the Legislature as a member of that party. But Danforth is registered to vote as a Democrat, the secretary of state and attorney general discovered recently. They found similar problems with seven other candidates. State law requires candidates for office to run in the primary of their registered political party. ...

State law says that the "name of any person shall not be printed upon the ballot of any party for a primary unless he is a registered member of that party." In addition to Danforth, seven other candidates violate that law:

q Four candidates filed to run as Democrats despite being registered as undeclared voters: Maureen "Mo" Baxley of Andover, Fran Defeo of Conway, Matthew Preston of Seabrook and Greta Cocco of Somersworth.

q Two candidates filed to run as Republicans despite being registered as undeclared: Matthew Covey of Carroll and Ron Peddle of Danville.

q One candidate, Roberto Ordonez of Merrimack, filed to run for the House despite the fact that he was not registered to vote anywhere in the state; when he filed his candidacy, Ordonez said he was a registered Democrat. -- Concord Monitor Online Article - 8 candidates may be tossed from ballot - Your News Source - 03301

September 5, 2006

Washington State: big money in the judicial races

The Olympian reports: More than $1.1 million has flowed into Supreme Court candidates' campaigns this year, and an additional $690,000 has been raised by independent political committees working on the candidates' behalf.

The mass of money - totaling $1.8 million, according to state campaign finance reports - puts the state on a record pace for spending on judicial races, according to Washington, D.C.-based Justice At Stake.

The nonpartisan group advocates for an independent judiciary and has both Republican and Democratic members on its board. -- Money pours into court races - The Olympian - Olympia, Washington

"Just Try Voting Here: 11 of America's worst places to cast a ballot (or try)"

Sasha Abramsky writes in Mother Jones: We used to think the voting system was something like the traffic laws -- a set of rules clear to everyone, enforced everywhere, with penalties for transgressions; we used to think, in other words, that we had a national election system. How wrong a notion this was has become painfully apparent since 2000: As it turns out, except for a rudimentary federal framework (which determines the voting age, channels money to states and counties, and enforces protections for minorities and the disabled), U.S. elections are shaped by a dizzying mélange of inconsistently enforced laws, conflicting court rulings, local traditions, various technology choices, and partisan trickery. In some places voters still fill in paper ballots or pull the levers of vintage machines; elsewhere, they touch screens or tap keys, with or without paper trails. Some states encourage voter registration; others go out of their way to limit it. Some allow prisoners to vote; others permanently bar ex-felons, no matter how long they've stayed clean. Who can vote, where people cast ballots, and how and whether their votes are counted all depends, to a large extent, on policies set in place by secretaries of state and county elections supervisors -- officials who can be as partisan, as dubiously qualified, and as nakedly ambitious as people anywhere else in politics. Here is a list -- partial, but emblematic -- of American democracy's more glaring weak spots. -- Just Try Voting Here: 11 of America's worst places to cast a ballot (or try)

Michigan: BAMN will appeal loss on anti-affirmative action initiative

AP reports: A group opposing a November ballot initiative that would end some affirmative action programs in Michigan has begun the process of filing its latest legal appeal.

By Any Means Necessary, a pro-affirmative action group, said it notified the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday that it will contest a ruling made by U.S. District Judge Arthur Tarnow earlier this week. Legal briefs outlining the appeal likely will be filed next week.

The appeal aimed at keeping the proposal off the ballot was expected.

The ballot proposal, backed by the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, would ban the use of race and gender preferences in public university admissions and government hiring. -- South Bend Tribune

September 3, 2006

Florida: state senatorial candidate fails to file campaign finance report

The Sun-Sentinel reports: State Rep. Irv Slosberg, who has been spending his own money at a blistering pace in the race for a state Senate seat, didn't file his final campaign finance report due at midnight Friday, ahead of Tuesday's Democratic primary election.

Campaign spokeswoman Tara Krischner said Saturday that Slosberg's accountants had not completed the report, and she said she didn't know when it would be filed. ...

Slosberg had dumped $1.28 million of his own money into his campaign and spent $1.5 million as of Aug. 11, according to the campaign finance report he filed Aug. 18. Friday's report was to include contributions and expenditures by his campaign through Thursday.

Slosberg is running for state Senate District 30, which covers a large swath of southern Palm Beach County and dips into northern Broward. -- Slosberg fails to file final finance report: South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Alabama: 40 years ago, registering to vote meant losing a home

The Montgomery Advertiser reports: Some sharecroppers who tried to register to vote 40 years ago got more than rejection at the registrar's office in Lowndes County.

They lost their homes.

"The man who owned the land I lived on told me he was going to run barbed wire through my house for some reason or another and I had to move," Elijah Gordon said Saturday afternoon. "Six or seven other families had to leave, too."

About 40 families who were evicted from their homes for registering to vote in 1965 were honored Saturday by the Lowndes County Friends of the Selma-to-Montgomery National Historic Trail.

A large crowd had lunch on the grounds outside the White Hall Town Hall auditorium, which was filled with civil rights artifacts, including a tent similar to those used by some who were evicted. -- :: Group honors farmers who lost homes because they registered to vote

Comment: We should never forget the struggle and the sacrifice that many made to register.

Alabama: op-ed in favor of reforming felon voting rights

Steven Taylor writes in the Birmingham News: It is often amazing to note how a specific word or phrase within the law can create a great deal of confusion. Sometimes, such words are used to purposefully create confusion; other times, such words are carelessly chosen. Today's exhibit: "moral turpitude."

Under Alabama law, persons who commit crimes of "moral turpitude" will have their rights to vote revoked. Further, a 2003 law was passed to allow felons who had committed such a crime to petition for restoration of voting rights. Felons who commit felonies that aren't crimes of moral turpitude can vote. ...

The base problem: There is no settled legal definition in Alabama as to what the term "crime of moral turpitude" means. ...

Merriam-Webster's dictionary defines "turpitude" as relating to "inherent baseness; depravity" or refers to "a base act." Given that all felonies are serious crimes, this all begs the question as to what felonies wouldn't be acts of moral turpitude. Even the state Supreme Court's definition (an "act of baseness, vileness or depravity in the private and social duties which a man owes to his fellowmen or to society in general") does little to provide clear direction. -- Banning felon votes not worth time, money

Alabama: few military absentee ballots in the delayed runoff

AP reports: After a Justice Department suit and legislative action to extend the primary runoff from three weeks to six weeks, only a small number of military personnel stationed overseas voted in the July 18 primary runoff.

The runoff was extended to give soldiers more time to receive and return absentee ballots and to keep their votes secret. Incomplete figures in the Alabama Secretary of State's office show that some counties received no overseas military absentee ballots and in many the number was fewer than five.

Just 13 overseas military absentee ballots were received for the runoff in Jefferson County, the state's most populous. -- Few overseas soldiers voted in state runoff

Comment: As I said at the time, a better solution would be to send overseas and military voters an instant-runoff ballot.

Alabama: Echoes of '86

The Tuscaloosa News reports: Democrats likely had the summer of 1986 in mind last weekend when they rejected a challenge in a Birmingham state House race. ...

The committee’s decision, though far from unanimous, was doubtlessly influenced by the tempest that ensued when Democratic Party leaders denied the gubernatorial nomination to Charles Graddick. It’s been two decades since that public relations fiasco accelerated a political power shift in Alabama that’s still resonating today.

Voter backlash over the Graddick matter led to the election of Guy Hunt, the first Alabama Republican governor since the 1870s, underscoring the importance voters gave their ballots in a state with a history of voting shenanigans.

“The election 20 years ago represents the anniversary in which the Democratic Party started its own demise," said Auburn University Montgomery political science professor D’Linell Finley. -- ’86 election changed political scene - Tuscaloosa

Comment: I was one of Bill Baxley's lawyers in that contest. Dr. Finley may believe it was the beginning of the demise of the Democratic Party. I beg to differ. The big-business interests in Alabama wanted to control the Democratic Party with a pseudo-Democratic candidate (Graddick). If Graddick had won, it would have stunted the growth of the real Democratic Party in Alabama. Instead, Graddick would have continued the infiltration of Republicans into the Democratic Party.

September 2, 2006

Nevada: judge denies Angle's request for new GOP primary

AP reports: A judge on Friday denied a defeated congressional candidate's request for a new Republican primary, saying the state court lacks jurisdiction.

Assemblywoman Sharron Angle lost to Secretary of State Dean Heller by 421 votes the three-way Aug. 15 GOP primary. They were seeking to replace U.S. Rep. Jim Gibbons, who is running for governor. ...

After a daylong hearing, District Judge Bill Maddox said there was no evidence election officials in Washoe County committed malfeasance when some voting locations opened late because polling workers didn't show up. -- Judge denies bid for new Nev. primary - Yahoo! News

Alabama: voting after a felony conviction

I have posted on a set of instructions for registering to vote in Alabama if a person has been convicted of a felony.

September 1, 2006

Alabama: GOP doesn't like the felon voting decision or Judge Vance or felons or ...

The Alabama Republican Party offers this opinion: The Alabama Republican Party on Thursday said a liberal ruling by Jefferson County Circuit Judge Robert Vance, Jr., who was appointed to office by Don Siegelman, may be an attempt to help Democrats at the ballot box in the fall.

Vance’s controversial ruling ordered registrars to begin allowing felons across the state to register to vote, including those currently incarcerated in Alabama prisons. The state’s chief elections official told the Birmingham News that the ruling might require voting stations to be placed in Alabama prisons.

The head of the Alabama Republican Party responded strongly to the ruling.

“The Alabama Republican Party has consistently opposed the automatic restoration of voting rights for ex-felons, and we certainly don’t believe incarcerated felons should help decide the future of our state,” GOP chair Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh said. “With a tap of his gavel, Don Siegelman’s hand-picked judge may have given convicted drug dealers, and other incarcerated felons the same right to vote that honest and upstanding citizens enjoy.” -- Alabama Republican Party :: News Item

Alabama: The Alablawg comments on the felon voting decision

Wheeler writes on The Alablawg: I finally had a chance to read Judge Vance’s decision, in which he affirmed Alabama’s power to disenfranchise people convicted of crimes of moral turpitude, but said everyone gets to vote until the legislature defines moral turpitude. It confirmed my initial impression of the decision, as well as my criticisms of Twinkle and her kind.

Overall, it’s a fascinating decision.

The first thing to get straight is what it did not do – say Alabama has to let all felons vote. In Alabama, no one convicted of a crime involving “moral turpitude” can vote. -- Alabama, Felons, Moral Turpitude, And Voting, Part 2 « The Alablawg

Ohio: federal court throws out new voter registration rules

AP reports: A federal judge threw out new state rules governing voter registration drives on Friday, saying they appear to violate the First Amendment and are hurting efforts to sign up new voters.

U.S. District Judge Kathleen O'Malley issued an order from the bench immediately halting the enforcement of the registration rules, saying they appeared to be unconstitutional. She said she planned to issue a detailed written order sometime next week.

A coalition of voter advocacy groups and Democratic lawmakers sued the state, asking O'Malley to throw out the regulations, which they claimed would hurt their registration drives because the rules carry potential criminal penalties. ...

The judge said that, in light of her ruling, voters should ignore the references to the criminal penalties on forms used to sign up new voters. She gave the secretary of state's office five days to remove references to the rules and penalties on its Web site. -- Ohio voter registration rules thrown out

IRS decides NAACP did not engage in partisan activities

The Washington Post reports: Nearly two years after a controversial decision to investigate the NAACP for criticizing President Bush during the 2004 presidential campaign, the Internal Revenue Service has ruled that the remarks did not violate the group's tax-exempt status.

In a letter released yesterday by the NAACP, the IRS said the group, the nation's oldest and largest civil rights organization, "continued to qualify" as tax-exempt. ...

The commissioner said the investigation of the NAACP was undertaken because two congressional leaders, whom he declined to name, requested it. They were unhappy because Bond criticized Bush in a speech in July 2004, saying his administration preached racial neutrality and practiced racial division.

"They write a new constitution of Iraq and they ignore the Constitution at home," Bond said.

After filing four freedom-of-information requests, NAACP lawyers discovered that far more than two members of Congress called for an investigation and that all were Republicans. -- IRS Ends 2-Year Probe Of NAACP's Tax Status

Alabama: judge grants partial stay of judgment on felon voting rights

This afternoon, Judge Robert S. Vance, Jr., granted a partial stay of his judgment while the State appeals to the Alabama Supreme Court. The plaintiffs, represented by Ryan Haygood of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and me, had urged the court to issue only a partial stay -- although we had a few more bells and whistles in our proposed order.

The effect of this order is that those convicted of felonies involving moral turpitude may not register to vote unless their right to vote has been restored. Those convicted of a crime not involving moral turpitude may register to vote. For more details on crimes of moral turpitude, see this post on my other website,

For details on the judgment, see this earlier post.

Arkansas: secretary of state candidates spar over voting rights ... for the National Guard

Rhe Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports: By the Nov. 7 general election, about 1, 700 Arkansas National Guardsmen are expected to be deployed overseas, largely in Iraq, and 200 others are expected to be in Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.

Making sure that military voters get to cast their ballots and get them counted has emerged as a contentious issue in the secretary of state’s race.

Currently, 800 Arkansas guardsmen are overseas, 900 are in Oklahoma, Mississippi, Texas and Wisconsin in preparation to go overseas, and 200 are in Southwestern states, said Chris Heathscott, a spokesman for the Arkansas National Guard.

Republican secretary of state candidate Jim Lagrone says Secretary of State Charlie Daniels has failed to do enough to make sure that the out-of-state votes of Arkansas military personnel get counted.

Daniels, the Democratic nominee seeking re-election, says he’s done everything he can. -- :: Northwest Arkansas' News Source

Ohio: groups files suit against Blackwell and asks for special master to run elections

The Columbus Dispatch reports: A coalition of critics of the 2004 election is insisting it has uncovered new evidence of ballot tampering in Ohio that caused a number of John Kerry’s votes to get tossed out.

The group filed a federal civilrights lawsuit yesterday, asking U.S. District Judge Algenon L. Marbley to declare that Ohioans’ voting rights were violated in 2004 and to appoint a special master to ensure fairness in the 2006 election.

The lawsuit alleges that Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell and others conspired to deprive Ohioans of their right to vote. Prior election-related lawsuits by those affiliated with the coalition have been dismissed by various judges.

Richard Hayes Phillips, a Canton, N.Y., resident working with groups such as the Ohio Honest Elections Campaign, said he has examined thousands of punch-card ballots cast in heavily Democratic inner-city precincts that were tossed out because of over- or under-voting in the presidential race. ...

Someone, he said, punched the slot for an independent candidate beforehand, so a vote for Bush or Kerry was invalid. The problem, he said, impacted Kerry far more. -- The Columbus Dispatch - Local/State

Alabama: Secretary of State has no attorneys on staff now

AP reports:
Four attorneys have left the secretary of state's office in the last couple of years -- two of them dismissed by Secretary of State Nancy Worley -- leaving the office for now without a lawyer to answer questions from county voting officials as the Nov. 7 election draws near. ...

Worley was left without an attorney this week when she dismissed Adam Bourne, who was working in the election office and was answering many of the voter registration questions. Staff attorney Hope Ayers also resigned from the office this week to take another job.

Bourne, who had been working in the office for about a year, said Thursday he believes he was dismissed because he turned over a campaign finance complaint against state Sen. Jim Preuitt, D-Talladega, to the attorney general's office.

"As far as I can tell, that's what happened," Bourne said. "She read in the paper I had turned a complaint over to the attorney general's office. She asked me to resign."

Bourne said he refused to resign and was informed he had been removed from the payroll. -- :: Secretary of state's office without attorney