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

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October 31, 2006

Ohio: U.S. court of appeals reinstates voter I.D. law for absentee voting

AP reports: A federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that Ohio can require absentee voters to provide proof of their identification, overturning a lower court's order suspending the new law.

U.S. District Judge Algenon Marbley had granted a temporary restraining order last week to labor and poverty groups who claimed in a lawsuit filed days earlier that county elections boards were enforcing the law inconsistently. That meant some voters would be disenfranchised, the plaintiffs argued.

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals lifted the restraining order Sunday at the request of Attorney General Jim Petro and ruled Tuesday that Marbley should not have intervened after absentee voting had begun.

"There is a strong public interest in smooth and effective administration of the voting laws that mitigates against changing the rules in the middle of the submission of absentee ballots," Judge Julia Smith Gibbons wrote on behalf of the three-judge panel. -- Court Keeps Ohio ID Law for Absentees - Tuscaloosa

Maryland: settlement reached; state will notify "unmatched" voters of their rights

From a press release by Advancement Project and Project Vote: Advancement Project and Project Vote reached a settlement agreement with the Maryland State Board of Elections to protect the voting rights of voter registration applicants who have been classified as "pending" because their identification number did not produce an exact match against the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration or Social Security Administration database.

Nationwide statistics have shown that matching results in a high percentage of legitimate applications being denied through no fault of the applicants. If Maryland did not discontinue its practice of placing applicants whose personal ID number cannot be verified on pending status rather than registering such applicants, it would have lead to the inevitable and unlawful disenfranchisement of thousands of eligible voters throughout the state.

"Maryland was relying on computers to accurately identify eligible voters in a way that did not account for human error," said Elizabeth Westfall, senior attorney, Advancement Project, a national civil rights organization, "A disenfranchisement by typo rule would have mistakenly rejected too many registration applications, too close to the election. We are pleased that state has agreed to take immediate action to rectify this problem." -- Settlement Reached To Protect Maryland Voters

Alabama: judge will decide Wednesday about moving suit seeking ouster of 4 Democratic candidates

AP reports: A judge said he will rule Wednesday on whether a Republican attorney can go forward with a lawsuit that seeks to remove four powerful Democratic state senators from the Nov. 7 ballot.

Autauga County Circuit Judge Ben Fuller heard nearly two hours of arguments on the case Tuesday night and told attorneys he would rule by Wednesday afternoon on whether the case was properly filed in Autauga County or must be moved to the seat of state government in Montgomery, as the Democratic Party contends.

The suit, written by former Republican attorney general candidate Mark Montiel, was filed on Friday, Oct. 13 and the judge heard the arguments on Halloween night. ...

Montiel argues that they should be removed for not filing the proper campaign finance reports in the Democratic primary in June. ...

The four senators did not file campaign finance reports in the primary showing their contributions because they had no opposition and that had been the practice in the state. But Attorney General Troy King recently issued an advisory opinion saying the reports should be filed in the future. -- Judge to rule Wednesday in suit to disqualify state senators - Tuscaloosa

Important voting survey form

Verified Voting has a survey on accessibility of polling places. Everyone should participate. Please download the survey form here, print it before you go vote, fill it out, and send it back to the address on the bottom of the form.

"Challenges to Fair Elections"

Demos announces a new publication: Across the nation, states are failing to meet a Federal mandate to boost voter registration among low-income Americans by offering registration opportunities in public assistance offices--a requirement established by Congress under the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA). Demos, a national, non-partisan public policy center, published the findings in a new briefing paper this week. ...

The National Voter Registration Act briefing paper, part of Demos' Challenges to Fair Elections series, shows that there is widespread failure in implementing the public assistance provisions of the NVRA, and that states are not adequately addressing the representation gap in American democracy the law was meant to reverse--one that has closely mirrored the income gap that has steadily increased over the last 40 years. According to the 2004 U.S. Census, nine years after the NVRA was required to be implemented by the states, 59 percent of citizens in households making less than $15,000 a year were registered to vote versus 85 percent of those in households making $75,000 or more. Data collected by state and federal agencies, in combination with public assistance office site visits and surveys conducted outside public assistance offices, have found that a large number of states are poorly enforcing, and some actively disregarding, their responsibility to offer voter registration in these agencies. --
Demos - A Network for Ideas & Action - Demos: A Network for Ideas & Action

The briefing papers so far are
> Voter ID/ proof of citizenship requirements
> Provisional Ballots
> Ballot access for disabled and language-minority voters
> The Case Against Felony Disfranchisement
> Poll Worker Training
> National Voter Registration Act

Judges -> money -> politicians

Salon reports: At least two dozen federal judges appointed by President Bush since 2001 made political contributions to key Republicans or to the president himself while under consideration for their judgeships, government records show. A four-month investigation of Bush-appointed judges by the Center for Investigative Reporting reveals that six appellate court judges and 18 district court judges contributed a total of more than $44,000 to politicians who were influential in their appointments. Some gave money directly to Bush after he officially nominated them. Other judges contributed to Republican campaign committees while they were under consideration for a judgeship.

Republicans who received money from judges en route to the bench include Sens. Arlen Specter and Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, Sens. George Voinovich and Mike DeWine of Ohio, and Gov. George Pataki of New York.

There are no laws or regulations prohibiting political contributions by a candidate for a federal judgeship. But political giving by judicial candidates has been a rarely scrutinized activity amid the process that determines who will receive lifelong jobs on the federal bench. Some ethics experts and Bush-appointed judges say that political giving is inappropriate for those seeking judicial office -- it can appear unethical, they say, and could jeopardize the public's confidence in the impartiality of the nation's courts. Those concerns come as ethics and corruption scandals have roiled Washington, and on the eve of midterm elections whose outcome could influence the makeup of the federal judiciary -- including the Supreme Court -- for decades to come.

The CIR investigation analyzed the campaign contribution records of 249 judges appointed by Bush nationwide since 2001. The money trail leading from Bush judges to influential politicians runs particularly deep through the political battleground states of Ohio and Pennsylvania. -- Money trails lead to Bush judges | Salon News

"Why Tuesday?"

The Los Angeles Times reports: Why do we vote on Tuesdays?

A bipartisan voter-reform group is paying prospective voters to videotape themselves asking elected officials that question face to face.

The first person to post a clip of a particular official onto YouTube or another video-sharing website cashes in.

The bounty hunting is lucrative: For a current U.S. House member, the payoff is $300, while a sitting U.S. senator or governor is worth $500. A vice president, either sitting or not, brings $2,500; President Bush or a predecessor commands $5,000. -- Ask an official, post the answer, get paid - Los Angeles Times

For the answer, click here.

Tracked down at a biodiesel gas station in Indiana, Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.) said he liked the idea of making election day a national holiday, but was unclear about the Tuesday tradition. "I don't know," Lugar said.

It turns out, Soboroff tells Lugar on the video, the practice dates to 1845 when Congress tried to select a convenient time for voters living in the mostly rural society.

By November, harvest was usually over but harsh weather hadn't set in. Saturdays were a workday for farmers, and Sunday was for church. And Wednesday was market day in most towns. Considering it might take a full day to travel by horse to a polling station, Tuesday in early November became the choice.

"Thank you for the piece of education," Lugar said to Soboroff with a grin.

Texas: Bush says "bring a pencil" -- but most use electronic voting machines

The Houston Chronicle reports: President Bush, his collar open and his sleeves rolled up, told thousands of cheering Republicans in Sugar Land on Monday to "bring your pencil" to the polls and write in the name of Shelley Sekula-Gibbs to succeed Tom DeLay in the U.S. House. ...

Most voters won't really need a pencil to cast write-in votes because they'll use electronic voting machines. If they write in the councilwoman's name, they'll turn a dial selecting the 18-letter name a character at a time. ...

Sekula-Gibbs is the party-backed write-in candidate to succeed DeLay, R-Sugar Land, who resigned from Congress after winning the Republican nomination for a 12th term. -- Bush tells voters to pencil in candidate

"Voting Problems Crop Up Ahead of Elections"

NPR : Voting Problems Crop Up Ahead of Elections
NPR's Morning Edition reports: Signs of possible voting trouble are popping up ahead of midterm elections. The reports range from hackers getting into an official registration database to ballots being printed incorrectly. Pam Fessler reports.

Note: Audio for this story will be available at approx. 10:00 a.m. ET.

Military emailed ballots face problems

The Washington Post reports: Time was when soldiers, if they wanted to vote, had to request ballots by snail mail, fill them out and return them the same way.

The process typically took weeks.

This year, thousands of soldiers around the world have the opportunity to vote in the Nov. 7 elections by e-mail. It's part of a Pentagon effort to make it easier for overseas military personnel to cast ballots in federal and state elections, and it reflects how the Internet has changed life in the combat zone.

But computer security experts inside and outside the government warned that the Pentagon's Federal Voting Assistance Program ignores the risks associated with unencrypted e-mail: interception, hacking and identity theft. -- E-Mail Voting Comes With Risks - washingtonpost.com

October 30, 2006

Alabama: gaming magnate asks Chief Justice to recuse himself because of anti-gambling ads

AP reports (in a story about Chief Justice Nabers' recusal from an oil company case): In a related matter, attorneys for dog track operator Milton McGregor have asked [Chief Justice Drayton] Nabers to step aside from hearing an appeal involving the legality of electronic sweepstakes machines at the Birmingham dog track.

Their request, filed Thursday, cites Nabers' campaign ads where he accuses his opponent of taking money from gambling interests and says he has "fought against the gambling bosses."

A Jefferson County judge ruled that the sweepstakes games were legal, but Jefferson County District Attorney David Barber appealed that decision to the Supreme Court, which has not yet ruled. --

Note: The Alablawg discusses the same article and makes some good points.

Indiana: suit against "voting license" system filed

Joell Palmer, the plaintiff in Palmer v. Marion County posts his entire complaint on a new blog. It begins: 1. Introduction: This is an action to enjoin a threat to the integrity of the election process. Time is of the essence. Defendants are attempting to engage in voter fraud, by preventing voters without a voting license from voting. The result will be that the winners of the upcoming elections cannot be determined, because an unknown number of eligible voters will be prevented from voting. Without duly elected government officials, the government will lack legitimacy. The open door law claim provides a basis for statutory entitlement to an accelerated docket. A motion for a TRO and preliminary injunction is filed herewith, to prevent irreparable harm. -- palmer v marion county

Thanks to the Arbitrary Aardvark for the tip.

California: Rep. Jerry Lewis' legal bills top half million in latest quarter

CREW's blog reports: Earlier this month, Citizens Blogging broke the news that Congressman Jerry Lewis spent a whopping $551,419.43 on legal fees in the third quarter of 2006. That brought his total to $751,419.43 according to FEC reports. Lewis, who chairs the powerful House Appropriations Committee, paid those funds from his campaign account.

The latest FEC filing from Lewis, covering the period from October 1 - October 18, 2006, adds another $51,638.98 in legal expenses. That brings spending on his legal fee for 2006 to $802,059.41, so far. -- Citizens Blogging for Responsibility and Ethics In Washington

Comment: Maybe I have a different viewpoint, but I always see politicians actually paying their legal bills in a positive light. You'll get that way when you are stiffed by several pols.

Texas: Sekula-Gibbs faces problems in write-in effort

Kos has polling results for TX-22, showing that a large number of voters don't even know about the write-in campaign. He concludes: There are two differences in the poll methodology and real life --

1) going into the booth, no one will be listing Sekula-Gibbs as a write-in option. Voters will have to remember the name; and

2) the ballot WILL list Sekula-Gibbs -- as an option in a same-ballot special election to fill the remainder of Tom DeLay's term. People might think voting for her in that special election is enough and forget to write in her name in the general election portion of the ballot. -- Daily Kos: State of the Nation

Blawg Review #82 ... coming soon [Updated]

On Election Eve, 6 November, I will be hosting Blawg Review #82. As usual, the Blawg Review will include posts from law blogs and political blogs by lawyers and law profs and law students.

I would particularly like to hear from blawggers on the theme of "On Election Day, I will be ..." However, your usual champerty, maintenance, and blawggery will be welcome as well. Please see the Submission
Guidelines
and submit your posts to the address listed there.

"Election Night Cheat Sheet"

Contrapositive has posted the Election Night Cheat Sheet -- an hour-by-hour guide to election night 2006.

Election problems: "The worst software ... is often the human brain"

The Orlando Sentinel reports: Long lines, faulty machines and new voting rules could mar Election Day throughout the country, warn several groups that study and monitor elections.

With control of Congress at stake, even a small blunder Nov. 7 has the potential to escalate into a crisis similar in scope to the 2000 election.

"The ingredients are there," said Dan Seligson, who edited an independent report detailing the potential troubles.

Among them:

* Electronic machines that could fail or be hacked.

* Stricter voting requirements that already have sparked lawsuits.

* A divided electorate that could make many races across the U.S. very close, putting added pressure on an already imperfect system.

"The worst software in an election is often the human brain," said Seligson, whose nonpartisan organization Electionline.org predicted "the possibility -- if not certainty -- of problems at polls nationwide." -- ContraCostaTimes.com | 10/30/2006 | Balloting brouhahas could be brewing

527s spending $300 million on campaigns

The Los Angeles Times reports: Unions, corporations and wealthy individuals have pumped nearly $300 million this year into unregulated political groups, funding dozens of aggressive and sometimes shadowy campaigns independent of party machines.

The groups, both liberal and conservative, air TV and radio spots, conduct polls, run phone banks, canvass door-to-door and stage get-out-the-vote rallies, with no oversight by the Federal Election Commission. Set up as tax-exempt "issue advocacy" committees, they cannot explicitly endorse candidates. But they can do everything short of telling voters how to mark their ballots.

Because they can accept unlimited donations from any source, the committees — known as 527s — have emerged as the favored vehicle for millionaires and interest groups seeking to set the political agenda. ...

Named for a section of the IRS code, 527s have been around for years but became a political force in 2004 after the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 — also known as the McCain--Feingold Bill — limited donations to political parties. Groups such as Swift Boat Veterans for Truth on the right and America Coming Together on the left contributed $600 million that year, with a heavy focus on the presidential race. -- UNREGULATED GROUPS WIELD MILLIONS TO SWAY VOTERS - Los Angeles Times

Sequoia asks government to investigate it

AP reports: A U.S. manufacturer of touch-screen voting machines has asked the government to investigate reports the company is connected to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, company officials said Sunday. They deny any connection to Chavez.

Sequoia Voting Systems Inc., based in Oakland, California, said the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States was conducting the formal inquiry into it, as well as its parent software company, the Smartmatic Corp., at the firms' request after news articles suggested improper ties.

The inquiry was focusing on last year's acquisition of Sequoia by Smartmatic, a company owned by three Venezuelans based in Boca Raton, Florida. The government also is investigating whether Chavez's leftist government has any influence over the companies' operations. -- Vote machine firm seeks inquiry into reported Chavez ties - CNN.com

Texas: twists and turns in the race for Tom DeLay's seat

The New York Times reports: Hoping against the odds to keep a prize Republican Congressional seat from falling to the Democrats next week, President Bush travels to his home state on Monday for a rally in the district long led by his Texas ally Tom DeLay. ...

But discord broke out Friday after Ms. Sekula-Gibbs showed up inside a Sugar Land polling place where voters were casting early ballots, setting off charges by Texas Democrats and the Lampson camp that she had willfully broken the law by campaigning inside a polling place. Ms. Sekula-Gibbs said she had been campaigning outside and briefly went in to use the restroom and inquire about voter turnout.

In one of the many oddities of the race, Ms. Sekula-Gibbs, 53, is running twice, as her campaign jingle, “Vote Twice for Shelley,” to the tune of “Roll Out the Barrel,” reminds voters. She is on the ballot with three other Republicans and a Libertarian in the special election that Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican, waited until the last minute to call to fill Mr. DeLay’s unexpired term until January. And she is a write-in candidate against Mr. Lampson as well as a Libertarian and two other write-ins in the general election to the 2007-8 Congress.

Only the Libertarian candidate, Bob Smither, 62, an engineer, appears on the ballot in both elections. -- A Tangle of a Race to Fill DeLay's Old Seat - New York Times

October 29, 2006

Catch a Fire

I was telling my son about "Catch a Fire" -- a move that opened this weekend about Patrick Chamusso, an apolitical South African worker who became a guerrilla/freedom fighter/terrorist for the African National Congress in 1980 after being arrested and tortured by the South African secret police even though he was completely innocent. Martin is 19, and I was trying to think of something that would relate the time and place of the movie to him. I remembered seeing Nelson Mandela in the movie. I asked Martin if he remembered us watching TV all one day to catch sight of Mandela being released from prison. He remembered Mandela's name, but I am not sure if remembered that day when he was only 3. (I was misremembering the date of his release and thought it was a couple of years later, so that Martin would have been 5.)

On the day of his release, Mandela said:

Our struggle has reached a decisive moment. We call on our people to seize this moment so that the process towards democracy is rapid and uninterrupted. We have waited too long for our freedom. We can no longer wait. Now is the time to intensify the struggle on all fronts. To relax our efforts now would be a mistake which generations to come will not be able to forgive. The sight of freedom looming on the horizon should encourage us to redouble our efforts.

It is only through disciplined mass action that our victory can be assured. We call on our white compatriots to join us in the shaping of a new South Africa. The freedom movement is a political home for you too. We call on the international community to continue the campaign to isolate the apartheid regime. To lift sanctions now would be to run the risk of aborting the process towards the complete eradication of apartheid.

Our march to freedom is irreversible. We must not allow fear to stand in our way. Universal suffrage on a common voters' role in a united democratic and non-racial South Africa is the only way to peace and racial harmony.

In conclusion I wish to quote my own words during my trial in 1964. They are true today as they were then:

'I have fought against white domination and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.'

The idea that theirs was a struggle against apartheid, not against whites, is also made in the movie. When Chamusso goes to Mozambique to join the ANC military wing. One of the recruits says, "Give me a gun, commander, and I will go kill Boers." The commander responds by saying that is not what they are training to do. "South Africa belongs to all who live in it," he says.

I don't think anyone in "Catch a Fire" ever talks about voting, but to me that is what the movie is ultimately about.

It also has a lot to say about torture, the loss of civil rights, treating others as The Other. It calls all of us to live up to our ideals. Chamusso says to Nik Vos, his police interrogator, "My children will say, 'He stood up for what is right.' What will yours say about you?"

That's the question all of us have to answer.

US is investigating Venezuelan owners of Sequoia Voting Systems

The New York Times reports: The federal government is investigating the takeover last year of a leading American manufacturer of electronic voting systems by a small software company that has been linked to the leftist Venezuelan government of President Hugo Chávez.

The inquiry is focusing on the Venezuelan owners of the software company, the Smartmatic Corporation, and is trying to determine whether the government in Caracas has any control or influence over the firm’s operations, government officials and others familiar with the investigation said.

The inquiry on the eve of the midterm elections is being conducted by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, or Cfius, the same panel of 12 government agencies that reviewed the abortive attempt by a company in Dubai to take over operations at six American ports earlier this year.

The committee’s formal inquiry into Smartmatic and its subsidiary, Sequoia Voting Systems of Oakland, Calif., was first reported Saturday in The Miami Herald. -- U.S. Investigates Voting Machines' Venezuela Ties - New York Times

"How to Steal an Election by Hacking the Vote" available as PDF

Arstechnica announces: Shortly after we published our newest feature on electronic election fraud, "How to Steal an Election by Hacking the Vote," we received a flood of requests that we release a free copy of the article's PDF, which is typically only available to Premier Subscribers. Quite a few readers also suggested that the PDF should be emailed to elected officials, especially congresspersons and Secretaries of State, as a kind of wake-up call for how insecure our elections are.

So, you asked for it, and here it is: How to Steal an Election by Hacking the Vote, in a portable, easily readable/printable PDF format. -- Send your elected officials our free PDF guide to hacking the vote

Thanks to Jim Blacksher for the tip.

Maryland: Diebold replaced motherboards on 4,700 voting machines without informing election officials

AP reports: Diebold Election Systems quietly replaced flawed components in several thousand Maryland voting machines in 2005 to fix a "screen-freeze" problem the company had discovered three years earlier, according to published reports Thursday.

State Board of Elections Chairman Gilles W. Burger said Diebold's failure to fully inform board members of the repairs at the time raises questions about whether the company violated its state contracts. ...

The screen freezes prompted Diebold, a division of ATM maker Diebold Inc., to replace motherboards on 4,700 machines in Allegany, Dorchester, Montgomery and Prince George's counties, the Washington Post reported. Those counties introduced the machines in 2004 in the first phase of Maryland's transition to a uniform electronic voting system.

The unpredictable freezes don't cause votes to be lost, officials said, but they confuse voters and election judges who sometimes wonder whether votes cast on a frozen machine will be counted. -- Wired News: Diebold Made Fixes, on the QT

30% of state legislative candidates running unopposed

AP reports: At a time when the Democrats and Republicans appear so evenly divided that control of many state legislatures hangs in the balance, this Election Day should be a long night of high anxiety.

But the truth is many candidates can turn in early.

Nationwide, more than 30 percent of the roughly 6,100 legislative seats on the ballot already have been decided because the candidates are running unopposed, according to an Associated Press analysis. ...

Forty-seven states in all have legislative contests this fall. In 11 states, more than half of the races for state House and Senate are uncontested. -- Thirty percent of state candidates running unopposed - CNN.com

1-866-OUR-VOTE

The Baltimore Times reports: As the November elections approach, the nonpartisan Election Protection Coalition is launching its national 1-866-OUR VOTE voter assistance hotline and the poll location web site www.MyPollingPlace.com. 1-866-OUR-VOTE is the only national voter assistance hotline staffed by live call center operators trained to provide state specific assistance to all voters. Lawyers, poll monitors and additional volunteers will be mobilized in 16 key states across the nation to assist voters in the days leading up to the election and on Election Day.

Led by People For the American Way Foundation, the NAACP, and the Lawyers' Committee For Civil Rights Under Law, Election Protection (EP) has operated in every election cycle since 2001, and is the nation's most far-reaching nonpartisan effort to provide voter assistance and protect voter rights. The services will include bilingual assistance for areas with a heavy concentration of Spanish-speaking voters.

Trained volunteers will staff the hotline providing immediate, state specific, assistance to callers. Call center operators will inform voters and solve problems on issues such as voter identification requirements, voting machine malfunctions, problems at the polling place, and voter intimidation. National call centers will be located in Washington, New York, Baltimore, and San Francisco. Local call centers will be hosted in Florida, Georgia, Louisiana and Minnesota. -- Baltimore Times - Article - local news

Comment: I will be participating in this program again this year.

New York: "I see dead people" [voting]

The Poughkeepsie Journal reports: A new statewide database of registered voters contains as many as 77,000 dead people on its rolls, and as many as 2,600 of them have cast votes from the grave, according to a Poughkeepsie Journal computer-assisted analysis.

The Journal's analysis of New York's 3-month-old database is the first to determine the potential for errors and fraud in voting. It matched names, dates of birth and ZIP codes in the state's database of 11.7 million voter registration records against the same information in the Social Security Administration's "Death Master File." That database has 77 million records of deaths dating back to 1937. ...

Among the Journal's findings:

- There were dead people on the voter rolls in all of New York's 62 counties and people in as many as 45 counties who had votes recorded after they had died.

- One Bronx address was listed as the home for as many as 191 registered voters who had died. The address is 5901 Palisade Ave., in Riverdale, site of the Hebrew Home for the Aged.

- Democrats who cast votes after they died outnumbered Republicans by more than 4 to 1. The reason: Most of them came from Democrat-dominated New York City, where the higher population produced more matches. -- Dead voters continue to cast ballots in New York

Pennsylvania: DOJ sues Philadelphia over Spanish-speaking poll workers

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports: Two weeks before Election Day, the city is fighting an attempt by the U.S. Justice Department to appoint federal observers for Philadelphia elections beginning Nov. 7 and lasting past next year's presidential race, until the end of 2009.

The effort to appoint the observers stems from a lawsuit filed by the federal government 14 days ago alleging that the city has violated the rights of its Hispanic voters.

Specifically, it charges that the city hasn't adequately recruited and trained bilingual poll workers, failed to provide sufficient election-related materials in Spanish, and prohibited Hispanic voters with limited English from choosing someone to help them inside the voting booth, which law permits. ...

With the election fast approaching, the city has been struggling to implement new federal rules on handicapped access, as well as a new state law requiring dozens of city polling places to be moved (they can no longer be inside bars or elected officials' homes, for instance). -- Philadelphia Inquirer | 10/27/2006 | Phila. opposes U.S. observers at polls

Tennessee: Dems working on presidential-level turnouts

The Washington Post reports: While Republican Bob Corker and Democratic Rep. Harold E. Ford Jr. slug it out in the Tennessee Senate race, voters there are already going to the polls in record numbers. Early voting began in the state Oct. 18, and turnout is reported to be especially high in Ford's home town of Memphis. ...

Second, to counter the Republicans' potent turnout operation, Democrats have zeroed in on 200,000 voters who party officials believe could push Ford over the top. These "drop-off" voters show up during general-election years but tend to skip nonpresidential contests.

About three-quarters of the Democratic drop-off voters are African Americans, and many live in Shelby County, where Memphis is located and where Ford and his relatives have a history of running well. Corker, in fact, has criticized the Ford family "machine" and its long hold over Memphis politics. -- Tennessee Democrats Seek to Mobilize 'Drop-Off' Voters - washingtonpost.com

Ohio: Dems using minimum wage initiative to mobilize their voters

The Washington Post reports: On a recent Saturday afternoon, a team of canvassers armed with handheld digital devices spread out across the city. Their aim was to urge residents to support a ballot initiative requiring an increase in Ohio's minimum wage.

But one beneficiary could be someone hoping for a new job that pays a good bit better than minimum wage: Rep. Sherrod Brown (D), who is running to unseat Sen. Mike DeWine (R), the two-term incumbent, on Nov. 7. ...

n 2004, Republicans in Ohio and elsewhere tended to benefit from ballot initiatives. Measures to ban same-sex marriage, for example, passed easily. In the process, some election analysts said, the measures revved the conservative base to help Republican candidates from President Bush on down.

In 2006, Democrats are hoping to prove that ballot politics can work in the other direction. Measures to increase the minimum wage are before voters in six states. Four of those, Arizona, Ohio, Missouri and Montana, feature close Senate races with a GOP incumbent. In Missouri, moreover, a measure backing stem cell research is ahead in the polls -- which Democrats say could lift their candidate. -- This Time, Ballot Issues Could Rally Liberal Base - washingtonpost.com

October 28, 2006

"Election Day Bloggers' Legal Guide

The Center for Citizen Media is soliciting questions from bloggers: Lots of bloggers are planning to cover the 2006 general elections on November 7. But what are the legal issues that you need to understand?

Such as: Can you be in the voting area except to vote? (Not in Delaware) Can you ask people how they voted? (Not within 50 ft of polling place in Rhode Island). Can you take photos? (In CA it is illegal to photograph, videotape or otherwise record a voter entering or leaving a polling place). And so on.

Student Fellows at Stanford University Law School's Center for Internet and Society will be answering those kinds of questions and more in coming days. Do you have one? Ask it here. We'll compile and publish a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ), and post it before the election.

Please note that some election laws vary from state to state. We ask you to tell us your state so we can answer the questions based on the laws of your state. We will also try to answer the question for other states as time permits. -- Election Day Bloggers' Legal Guide: Your Questions | Center for Citizen Media

Thanks to Media Law for the tip.

North Carolina: Blue replaces deceased Allen on the ballot

AP reports: In a decision that could shake up the race for speaker in 2007, Wake County Democrats have chosen former Speaker Dan Blue to replace the late Rep. Bernard Allen at the General Assembly.

Democratic leaders in the 33rd House District unanimously chose Blue to succeed Allen, who died two weeks ago. The law requires Gov. Mike Easley to follow the wishes of the local Democrats and appoint Blue to the General Assembly.

The decision means that Blue will complete the remaining two months term and receive votes for Allen on the Nov. 7 ballot. Because Allen was unopposed next month, Blue will have the job through 2008. -- Winston-Salem Journal | Ex-speaker Blue will return to House

Colorado: election commission to hand-copy 30,000 absentee ballots

The Denver Post reports: An editing mistake on Denver's absentee ballots has turned a little-discussed referendum on recall protections into an issue that could affect controversial statewide campaigns.

The concern is actually not with the mistake, but the solution: On election night, Denver plans to have election judges hand-copy as many as 30,000 voted absentee ballots onto new ballots.

The same process of "duplication" is a common practice in elections, but not on the scale Denver plans to attempt.

The idea has prompted "very serious concerns" from watchdogs such as Colorado Common Cause. -- DenverPost.com - Up to 30,000 ballots will be hand-recopied

Maryland: challenge to Demo A.G. candidate rebuffed

The Washington Post reports: Democrat Douglas F. Gansler's bid for state attorney general is "constitutionally acceptable," a judge ruled yesterday, rejecting a lawsuit that asserted Gansler did not have the 10 years' experience in Maryland required for the post.

Anne Arundel County Circuit Court Judge Ronald A. Silkworth released an opinion declaring that the Montgomery County prosecutor's 17 years as a member of the Maryland State Bar, combined with his legal work in that time, satisfies the standard set in the state constitution. ...

Gansler's Republican opponent, Frederick County State's Attorney Scott L. Rolle, said that he had nothing to do with the suit but that it had been worth pursuing. "It was a constitutional question that needed to be resolved," Rolle said yesterday evening. "If it's been decided in his favor -- no harm, no foul."

The suit was brought by a registered voter, Nikos Liddy of Bowie, who was represented by Rolle's campaign manager, Jason Shoemaker. -- Challenge To Gansler Candidacy Rejected - washingtonpost.com

October 27, 2006

"Of Challengers and Challenges"

Jason Conn emails: I thought that as the election nears and many attorneys sign up to serve as election monitors, there might be some interest in an article I published in the Toledo Law Review ( 37 U. Tol. L. Rev. 1021), entitled "Of Challengers and Challenges." As far as I know, it is the only academic article to look at the role poll watching and poll challenging play in our electoral process. In the article, I examine the ethical and constitutional issues that arise from lawyers' roles on Election Day.

Maryland: Erlich's dollar-bill letter is "no criminal violation," state prosecutor decides

The Washington Post reports: A state prosecutor has found no criminal violations stemming from a recent fundraising solicitation from Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. that included real dollar bills.

Last month's mailer was referred to the Office of the State Prosecutor by a state election official who determined that there was "probable cause" that Ehrlich's campaign had run afoul of the law.

But a letter received yesterday by the Ehrlich campaign stated that the prosecutor's office had "found no criminal violation of the election laws in connection with this fundraising solicitation" and that it was closing its file on the matter.

In the mailing, Ehrlich (R) wrote that he had "taken the extraordinary step of sending . . . a real dollar bill" and asked potential donors to return it along with a contribution of $25 or more for his reelection campaign. -- Ehrlich's Dollar-Bill Mailer Not Illegal, Official Says - washingtonpost.com

Florida: FEC rejects complaint against GOP Governors Ass'n's contribution to Florida GOP

The Tallahassee Democrat reports: The Florida Elections Commission won't investigate a charge by Leon County Democrats that the Republican Governors Association gave an illegal $1 million contribution to the Florida Republican Party earmarked for its gubernatorial nominee, Attorney General Charlie Crist.

FEC attorneys ruled that the complaints, filed by the Leon County Democratic Executive Committee last month, were ''legally insufficient.'' ...

Democrats filed the complaints when Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney visited Tallahassee last month. At a press conference, Romney pledged $1 million and said he wanted to help Crist keep the governor's mansion in Republican control.

But FEC investigators found the complaints, based only on news accounts of the press conference, baseless. -- Tallahassee Democrat - www.tallahassee.com - Tallahassee, FL.

Arizona: Pro-Prop 207 group asks for documents to show cities are opposing Prop 207

The Arizona Republic reports: The executive director of the pro-Proposition 207 campaign has hit 316 Arizona government agencies with massive requests for public records, digging for e-mails from public employees and elected officials opposing the Nov. 7 ballot measure.

Lori Klein insists that public officials are campaigning against her property-rights initiative, and she wants to prove they are doing it on public time.

But the request is so broad, and potentially affects so many documents, that Peoria City Attorney Steve Kemp estimated it could take as much as eight years to sift through all the information. ...

Proposition 207 would forbid municipalities from taking private property through eminent domain for another private development.

The more substantial provision in Proposition 207 would require local governments to compensate property owners if a government action, such as a zoning change or enactment of an environmental or other land-use law, makes the property's value drop. -- Group says towns are undermining Proposition 207

Ohio: federal court enjoins voter I.D. rule for absentee voters

The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports: Don't want to show ID? Vote absentee.

A federal judge Thursday evening blocked enforcement of new identification requirements for absentee voters, agreeing that the state's voter ID law is vague, confusing and unevenly applied by Ohio election boards since early voting began this month.

"Absentee voters are suffering irreparable harm right now," said U.S. District Judge Algenon L. Marbley in announcing his decision.

Marbley ordered Secretary of State Ken Blackwell's office to notify the state's 88 county election boards of the ruling by noon today.

The emergency order will be in effect until Nov. 1 when Marbley will hold a full hearing that will also address whether the ID requirements should be suspended at the polls on Nov. 7. -- Judge blocks ID rule for absentee voters Don't need ID for absentee, judge rules in voting suit Judge blocks new state law on absentee voter ID rules

October 26, 2006

Alabama: state supreme court denies stay on felon-voting case

The Alabama Supreme Court has denied a stay (sought by the Secretary of State) in Gooden v. Worley, in which the plaintiffs prevailed in the trial court and obtained an order requiring boards of registrars to follow the state constitution.

The Constitution of Alabama provides that those convicted of felonies "involving moral turpitude" are not allowed to register to vote. The plaintiffs alleged and proved that registrars were routinely denying all persons convicted of any felony the right to register.

The trial court (Circuit Judge Robert S. Vance, Jr.) had granted relief to the plaintiffs, including a requirement that registrars obey the Constitution. For some reason, the State sought a stay of this common-sense requirement.

Ryan Haygood of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and I represent the plaintiffs in this case.

Update:
The Birmingham News reports: The Alabama Supreme Court has cleared the way for people who have been convicted of felonies such as DUI, attempted burglary and liquor law violations to register to vote.

In a 5-4 decision released Thursday, the court denied the state of Alabama's request to stay a portion of Jefferson County Judge Robert Vance's August ruling that allowed all felons to vote. The portion required the Secretary of State and Jefferson County's registrar to stop refusing voter registration to people who have been convicted of crimes that do not involve moral turpitude.

Vance had ruled that all voter registrars in Alabama counties must allow all felons to register to vote until the State Legislature passes a law that defines crimes of moral turpitude. Vance had said state law does not define such crimes, and the state constitution holds that those guilty of crimes of moral turpitude forfeit the right to vote. -- Court clears some felons to vote

"Google bombing" the campaign

The New York Times reports: If things go as planned for liberal bloggers in the next few weeks, searching Google for “Jon Kyl,” the Republican senator from Arizona now running for re-election, will produce high among the returns a link to an April 13 article from The Phoenix New Times, an alternative weekly.

Mr. Kyl “has spent his time in Washington kowtowing to the Bush administration and the radical right,” the article suggests, “very often to the detriment of Arizonans.” ...

Fifty or so other Republican candidates have also been made targets in a sophisticated “Google bombing” campaign intended to game the search engine’s ranking algorithms. By flooding the Web with references to the candidates and repeatedly cross-linking to specific articles and sites on the Web, it is possible to take advantage of Google’s formula and force those articles to the top of the list of search results. ...

Each name is associated with one article. Those articles are embedded in hyperlinks that are now being distributed widely among the left-leaning blogosphere. In an entry at MyDD.com this week, Mr. Bowers said: “When you discuss any of these races in the future, please, use the same embedded hyperlink when reprinting the Republican’s name. Then, I suppose, we will see what happens.” -- A New Campaign Tactic: Manipulating Google Data - New York Times

Kansas: CREW files complaint against state A.G.

The New York Times reports: A nonprofit group has filed a complaint asking the Internal Revenue Service to investigate the role that two churches may have played in the re-election campaign of Kansas’ attorney general.

A nonprofit group has filed a complaint asking the Internal Revenue Service to investigate the role that two churches may have played in the re-election campaign of Kansas’ attorney general. ...

In his memorandum, Mr. Kline identified two Topeka churches, the Light of the World Christian Center and the Wanamaker Woods Church of the Nazarene, which he said had participated in “lit drops” by handing out campaign literature. A woman who answered the telephone at Wanamaker Woods Church said the church had no comment.

The Rev. Greg Varney, pastor of Light of the World Christian Center, issued a statement saying that Mr. Kline had preached at the church on July 9, but insisting that no illegal activity had occurred. “At no time here at our church did Phill bring up politics, re-election or campaign contributions,” the statement said. -- Watchdog Group Accuses Churches of Political Action - New York Times

North Carolina: reform group wants independent redistricting commission

AP reports: With half of North Carolina's legislative seats uncontested on Election Day, two former congressmen said Tuesday the General Assembly should change how district boundaries are drawn to promote voter choice.

"With little competition, accountability is lacking and voters start feel to discouraged and apathetic," said Republican Bill Cobey, who with Democrat Tim Valentine urged the creation of an independent redistricting commission at a news conference.

The state House and Senate perform their once-a-decade redistricting of their own seats and those of North Carolina's congressional delegation, based on U.S. census figures. ...

Cobey, also a former state GOP chairman and 2004 gubernatorial candidate, and other coalition members want lawmakers next year to create an independent panel that would make district decisions so that boundary lines aren't drawn to protect incumbents or their politically similar successors. -- CITIZEN-TIMES.com: Ex-congressmen, reformers wanted redistricting process changed

California: judge denies immediate relief in suit against Jerry Brown's candidacy

The San Francisco Chronicle reports: A Sacramento judge denied a request by Republicans for a preliminary injunction that would have removed Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown's name from the ballot as an attorney general candidate.

Superior Court Judge Shelleyanne Chang postponed ruling on the merits of a Republican lawsuit challenging Brown on his eligibility to serve as attorney general. The ruling was postponed to sometime after the Nov. 7 election.

The lawsuit claims Brown should not be on the ballot because he was an "inactive" member of State Bar of California from 1997 until 2003.

Chang did not say when in November she would begin court proceedings on the lawsuit, but indicated in a meeting with lawyers that no proceeding would occur until 16 days after Brown has been served. -- SACRAMENTO / Judge rebuffs GOP ballot challenge

Alabama: 7% of adults are disfranchised, according to new report

AP reports: During 40 long, hard years of living what Zeddie Mauldin calls "the street life," voting ranked low on a to-do list that was topped with getting his next fix from a myriad of drugs, preferably heroin.

He racked up four stints in prison and several judgments during those 40 years, but, he says, it was the latest conviction -- for stealing a car -- that took him off drugs and took him to God. Unfortunately, it also took away his right to vote.

"I've got a nice car, nice apartment, good job, I go to Atlanta to visit my daughter even if it's ... just for lunch," says Mauldin, a 64-year-old catering manager who lives in Birmingham. "These are the types of things that I'm doing in my life now that I get high off of. If I can be able to vote, I feel like I have really, totally got my life back together."

According to an analysis released Thursday by two felon rights advocacy groups, Mauldin is just one of an estimated 250,046 Alabamians who have been barred from voting because of felony convictions.

That's one of every 14 Alabama voting-age adults, which is three times the national average and the third highest rate of disenfranchisement in the country, according to the report by The Alabama Alliance to Restore the Vote and the Washington, D.C.-based The Sentencing Project. -- montgomeryadvertiser.com :: Analysis: Alabama among top states in felon disenfranchisement

Alabama: Republicans file suit to remove 4 Democratic senators from the ballot

AP reports: A judge has scheduled a hearing Oct. 31 for a Republican-backed lawsuit that seeks to disqualify four powerful Democratic state senators who are seeking re-election.

The suit, filed by former Republican attorney general candidate Mark Montiel, seeks to remove from the Nov. 7 ballot Senate President Pro Tem Lowell Barron of Fyffe, Senate Majority Leader Zeb Little of Cullman and Senate budget committee chairmen Hank Sanders of Selma and Roger Bedford of Russellville.

Autauga County Circuit Judge Ben Fuller has scheduled the hearing for Halloween. ...

Montiel argues that the four senators should be removed for not filing the proper campaign finance reports with the secretary of state in the Democratic primary. The four senators said they followed a long-standing state practice of not filing a detailed campaign finance report when a candidate has no primary opposition. -- Hearing set on suit seeking to disqualify Alabama senators - Tuscaloosa

October 25, 2006

Missouri: St. Louis Co. accuses ACORN of fraudulent voter registration forms

AP reports: Hundreds of fraudulent voter address changes have been submitted to St. Louis County election officials by ACORN, the activist group that has been criticized for its voter sign-up work elsewhere in the nation.

An ACORN official said it could be the fault of overzealous employees of the organization.

Voters who don't get a polling-place notification card in the mail right before the election could find that their addresses have been changed without their knowledge, said Joseph Goeke, one of the county's two elections directors.

The address changes, including forged signatures, are among hundreds of questionable or fraudulent voter registration cards submitted to the county within the past couple of months, election officials said. -- ACORN accused of bogus forms in Mo. - Yahoo! News

California: Secretary of State sends letter counteracting Nguyen's letter

AP reports: The California Secretary of State mailed letters Wednesday to counteract an intimidating flier linked to a Republican congressional candidate's campaign that warned immigrants they could go to jail if they vote.

The bilingual letter, endorsed by several Hispanic civil rights groups, encourages U.S. citizens to vote Nov. 7, informs them of the official state requirements to register and tells them to ignore the "false and misleading" information in the earlier flier.

The letter went out to all 14,000 Hispanic voters who received the flier sent this month. It was linked to the campaign of Tan Nguyen, who running for Democratic Rep. Loretta Sanchez (news, bio, voting record)'s seat in Orange County. Written in Spanish, it warned: "You are advised that if your residence in this country is illegal or you are an immigrant, voting in a federal election is a crime that could result in jail time."

In fact, naturalized U.S. citizens have the right to vote. -- Calif. letter debunks intimidating flier - Yahoo! News

Ohio: groups sue state over new voter registration law

The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports: A union and a group that helped hundreds of homeless people register to vote say Ohio's new voter-identification law created a confusing mess that will lead to an unfair Nov. 7 election.

The two groups -- the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless in Cleveland and the Columbus-based Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1199 -- on Tuesday asked a federal judge to strike down the rules, in part because county election boards are applying them differently. ...

The lawsuit said the new rules, which require voters to confirm their identity by presenting photo ID cards, utility bills or the last four digits of their Social Security number, "are confusing, vague, and impossible to apply."

Rules regarding how boards should determine whether provisional ballots are eligible to be counted also are too vague, the groups contend.

Some boards - including Cuyahoga and Lucas counties - require voters to provide more than their Social Security numbers if they appear at the board to cast a ballot early rather than mailing in an absentee ballot, the lawsuit said. -- Suit calls Ohio's voter ID law a mess, asks court to void it

Note: The complaint is available on the Moritz Law School site.

"Report Warns of Potential Voting Problems in 10 States"

The Washington Post reports: Two weeks before the midterm elections, at least 10 states, including Maryland, remain ripe for voting problems, according to a study released yesterday by a nonpartisan clearinghouse that tracks electoral reforms across the United States.

The report by Electionline.org says those states, and possibly others, could encounter trouble on Election Day because they have a combustible mix of fledgling voting-machine technology, confusion over voting procedures or recent litigation over election rules -- and close races.

The report cautions that the Nov. 7 elections, which will determine which political party controls the House and Senate, promise "to bring more of what voters have come to expect since the 2000 elections -- a divided body politic, an election system in flux and the possibility -- if not certainty -- of problems at polls nationwide."

In a state-by-state canvass, the 75-page report singles out places, such as Indiana and Arizona, where courts have upheld stringent new laws requiring voters to show poll workers specific forms of identification. It cites states such as Ohio and Pennsylvania, which have switched to electronic voting machines whose accuracy has been challenged. And it points to states such as Colorado and Washington, which have departed from the tradition of polling sites in neighborhood precincts. -- Report Warns of Potential Voting Problems in 10 States - washingtonpost.com

Note: The Electionline.org report is here.

October 24, 2006

Florida: judge throws out the anti-exit-poll law

AP reports: A federal judge on Tuesday threw out a Florida law that prohibits exit polling within 100 feet of a voting place, finding there was no evidence that such surveys were disruptive or threatened access to voting. ...

U.S. District Judge Paul C. Huck said Florida's law was unconstitutional and ordered state officials not to enforce it in the Nov. 7 election. He left intact the 100-foot limit for other activities such as distributing campaign material or peddling.

The ruling came on a lawsuit brought by The Associated Press and five television networks that want to conduct exit polls at about 40 Florida polling places next month.

The 2005 law, the judge concluded, violates the First Amendment's free speech and freedom of the press protections. The judge also said the law was too broad. -- Judge rules on exit polls in Florida - Yahoo! News

Illinois: Chicago election board web site vulnerable to hackers

Chicago Voter Info Vulnerable to Hackers
AP reports: The city is investigating a security glitch in its elections Web site that hackers could have used to swipe Social Security numbers and the personal information of about 1.3 million voters, officials said.

It wasn't immediately clear if anyone actually stole or misused any of the information, Chicago Board of Elections spokesman Tom Leach said.

He said the problem had been fixed and a forensic computer expert would be brought in to examine the site's logs for any signs of illegal access. ...

A watchdog group, the Illinois Ballot Integrity Project, exposed the vulnerability and alerted officials last week, Leach said.

Virginia: candidates' long names chopped off by voting machines

The Washington Post reports: U.S. Senate candidate James Webb's last name has been cut off on part of the electronic ballot used by voters in Alexandria, Falls Church and Charlottesville because of a computer glitch that also affects other candidates with long names, city officials said yesterday.

Although the problem creates some voter confusion, it will not cause votes to be cast incorrectly, election officials emphasized. The error shows up only on the summary page, where voters are asked to review their selections before hitting the button to cast their votes. Webb's full name appears on the page where voters choose for whom to vote.

Election officials attribute the mistake to an increase in the type size on the ballot. Although the larger type is easier to read, it also unintentionally shortens the longer names on the summary page of the ballot.

Thus, Democratic candidate Webb will appear with his first name and nickname only -- or "James H. 'Jim' " -- on summary pages in Alexandria, Falls Church and Charlottesville, the only jurisdictions in Virginia that use balloting machines manufactured by Hart InterCivic of Austin. -- Some Voting Machines Chop Off Candidates' Names - washingtonpost.com

Comment: Don't you just love computers?

California: Nguyen bought the mailing list for the "immigrant" letter

The Los Angeles Times reports: Congressional candidate Tan Nguyen personally bought the list of voters to whom a racially charged letter was mailed, warning that immigrants could be jailed or deported for voting, according to the president of the company that sold the list and sources familiar with the still-unfolding investigation.

Nguyen requested information on registered Democrats in the central Orange County Congressional district with Spanish surnames who were born outside the United States, according to people familiar with a state investigation into the letter. Nguyen, a Republican, is running an underdog campaign against Democratic incumbent Loretta Sanchez. ...

Nguyen, who has drawn national scorn for his campaign's role in the mailing, maintains that he had nothing to do with the letter's production or distribution, saying a campaign office manager misappropriated the list. Nguyen fired the worker last week but said Sunday that he had offered to rehire her because he came to believe that the letter was accurate and did not violate the law.

Separately, sources have told The Times that a Los Angeles Police Department officer who is close to Nguyen used an alias to order the letter produced and then paid $4,000 for it on his credit card. -- Candidate reportedly bought voter list for controversial letter - Los Angeles Times

North Carolina: blank checks lead to perjury charge against PAC official

AP reports: A felony perjury trial for the treasurer of a political action committee of North Carolina optometrists will begin Feb. 4, a Superior Court judge said Monday.

M. Scott Edwards of Murfreesboro, a longtime friend of fellow optometrist House Speaker Jim Black, is accused of signing false campaign finance reports. Edwards was indicted last month on four felony perjury charges related to reports filed by the North Carolina State Optometric Society PAC in 2002 and 2003.

The charges stem from a State Board of Elections investigation that found individual optometrists had sent checks with blank payee lines to the political action committee managed by Edwards. The payee line was filled in later on at least $14,000 in checks, which went to individual candidates, including Black, D-Mecklenburg.

The political action committee decided which candidates would receive those donations, the board said, allowing the group to give candidates more than the $4,000 per-election limit set by state law. Those donations should have been listed in the PAC's finance reports, according to the board. -- News-Record.com - Greensboro, North Carolina: News: Optometry PAC treasurer trial set for February

North Carolina: Gov. Easley received campaign contributions immediately after state bought land from the donors

The News & Observer reports: Gov. Mike Easley's 2004 re-election campaign got a financial boost from 13 people connected to the state's multimillion dollar purchase of more than 5,000 acres of land in the Caldwell County foothills, according to a report in The Charlotte Observer. ...

Easley's staff strongly rejected the suggestion there was a connection between the land sale and the donations. His office said the governor didn't learn about the deal until it was considered by the Council of State, only a few days before North Carolina took ownership of the land, and he knew none of the campaign donors with a connection to the sale. ...

After the sale closed, 13 donors with direct or indirect connections to the Mingo Tribal Preservation Trust donated to Easley's campaign. Each donor gave $4,000, the most allowed for a single election. Two of the donors were 19 and 20 at the time, and none had contributed reportable amounts to the Democratic governor in previous elections. More than half are registered Republicans. ...

Bob Hall of Democracy North Carolina, a campaign-finance watchdog group, said only two of the 13 had given more than $100 to a candidate for statewide office in the past decade. -- newsobserver.com | Donations flowed after land deal

New York: 7 PACs over-contributed to legislative campaigns

The Poughkeepsie Journal reports: At least seven political-action committees have violated campaign-donation limits in recent years with excess contributions to legislative campaign committees, government-watchdog groups charged Monday.

The groups said more than $30,000 was donated over the limits between 2000 and 2006, in amounts ranging from $100 to $15,600.

"As riddled with loopholes as the campaign-finance law is in New York, even the law that exists isn't enforced," Blair Horner of the New York Public Interest Re-search Group said. "It's a bad, horrible, disgraceful system."

State law now limits contributions by political-action committees, known as PACs, to $84,400 a year for party and campaign committees, which Horner and the other critics said is far too high. But some of the PACs gave even more, according to a review of the records by the watchdog groups, which also include the League of Women Voters, Common Cause and the Sierra Club. -- PoughkeepsieJournal.com - Groups: Campaign-finance violators found

Google Earth adds congressional district markers

Vnunet.com reports: Google has added information on the forthcoming November 7th US congressional races to its Google Earth application.

The company said that it has included a feature in the Google Earth sidebar that will have 'place marks' for 435 races around the country. ...

The place marks will allow users to view candidate images and news from Google's web, image, and news search engines. Users can also find campaign finance information from the Federal Election Commission and the Center for Responsive Politics. The program will also include voter registration information for every state. -- Google Earth offers US election info - vnunet.com

October 23, 2006

Ohio: appeals court stops hearing on Strickland's residency

AP reports: A state appeals court on Monday ordered the Columbiana County Board of Elections to cancel its planned Tuesday hearing on Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ted Strickland's right to vote based on a challenge to his residency.

Strickland on Friday filed a lawsuit with the 7th Ohio District Court of Appeals in Youngstown, naming his Republican opponent Ken Blackwell in his role as secretary of state. Blackwell's office had ordered the county board of elections to hold the hearing.

The lawsuit, which also names the board, sought to block the hearing, saying it was ordered 13 days after the challenge to Strickland's residency was filed - beyond a 10-day window in which the state was required to act.

In it's ruling, the appeals court gave Blackwell and others named in the lawsuit until Thursday to challenge the decision. -- AP Wire | 10/23/2006 | Court won't allow hearing on Strickland's residency

Utah: Ogden police chief told to quit race for Senate or give up job

The Salt Lake Tribune reports: U.S. government investigators are telling Police Chief Jon Greiner to either quit his job or withdraw from the race for a Utah Senate seat - or risk penalties against him and Ogden city.

Greiner's attorney, Jim Bradshaw, confirmed Friday that the chief received a letter from the U.S. Office of Special Counsel on Thursday, advising him that investigators believe his campaign violates the Hatch Act.

For now, Greiner is neither quitting his job nor the race to represent Senate District 18 in Ogden and northern Davis County. He has two weeks to decide whether to challenge the special counsel's letter. The election is Nov. 7 - 2 1/2 weeks from today. ...

The Ogden Police Department is not budgeted to receive federal funds this year, but federal grant money was in the budget for the year that ended July 1, well after the chief began his campaign that unseated incumbent Sen. Dave Thomas in the primary. -- Salt Lake Tribune - Senate District 18: Feds impose dilemma for Ogden cop/candidate

Connecticut: $387,000 in "petty cash"

AP reports: Ned Lamont's campaign filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission on Monday, accusing Sen. Joe Lieberman of failing to account for $387,000 in petty cash his campaign spent days before the Democratic primary. The Lieberman campaign has denied any wrongdoing.

"The public has a right to know how nearly $400,000 in cash was spread around the streets of Connecticut," said Lamont campaign co-chairman George Jepsen at a news conference.

Records must be kept of petty cash expenditures, Jepsen said.

Lieberman spokeswoman Tammy Sun said Sunday, when the allegations first surfaced, that the cash was paid to field coordinators who then distributed money to workers who were canvassing. The payments to workers, many of them students, ranged from $50 to $100 per day, Sun added. -- Lieberman challenger complains to FEC - Yahoo! News

"No Umbrella: Election Day in the City"

"No Umbrella - Election Day In The City," director Laura Paglin’s documentary chronicling 2004 Election Day troubles in one of Cleveland’s poorest neighborhoods, makes its television debut Thursday, November 9th, 7:30 PM (EST)/ 10:30PM (PST) on the Cinemax cable network. The half-hour film, which stars Cleveland Councilwoman Fannie Lewis and captures the chaos and frustration faced by inner city voters, was acquired by HBO Documentary Films after premiering at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival and taking an Audience Award at the Sydney International Film Festival. For your own copy, go to www.noumbrella.org.

A Pentecostal preacher, two Catholics, a Methodist Sunday school teacher, an Episcopalian, a progressive evangelical, several Baptists, and a rabbi walk into a political party ...

The Religion News Service reports: At a meeting of the House Democrats' Faith Working Group, a perplexed congressman turned to his colleagues for pastoral guidance. How could he counter a local preacher who argued that all of Jesus's moral teachings were about the world to come, not the here and now?

Rep. David E. Price (D-N.C.) stood amid the sympathetic sighs and "you can't convert everyone" comments to offer a new spin on an old parable.

The Good Samaritan is walking down the road and cares for a stranger who has been beaten and robbed, Price said. The next day, on the same road, another person has been beaten and robbed. So it goes for another week -- more robberies, more victims.

"How long is it going to take before the Samaritan says, 'Hey, maybe we ought to patrol this road,' " Price said. In other words, the lawmaker argued, there are some problems that individuals can't solve on their own. They require the resources of a morally responsible government.

As Democrats seek to reframe America's debate over moral values and close their "God gap" with religious communities, conversations such as these are blowing like a mighty wind through party circles. -- Helping Democrats Bridge the 'God Gap' - washingtonpost.com

October 22, 2006

Early and absentee voting changing the way of campaigning

The New York Times reports: For millions of Americans, Election Day is already over.

Thirty states now allow no-excuse absentee voting, and most of them also allow voters to cast early ballots in person at county clerks’ offices or satellite polling places.

In Montana, absentee ballots were mailed Sept. 22. As many as 40 percent of Florida’s voters will cast their ballots before Election Day, Nov. 7. Oregon’s elections are conducted entirely by mail, and Washington is moving that way. California sent out 3.8 million absentee ballots the week of Oct. 8.

Candidates are maneuvering to adapt to a changed political calendar, accelerating their advertising, their mailings and their get-out-the-vote calls. They are figuring out exactly who votes early and are trying to get to them before they cast their ballots. They are raising more money and spending it faster. -- Growing Absentee Voting Is Reshaping Campaigns - New York Times

October 21, 2006

Joseph Forest, R.I.P.

The Marin Independent Journal reports: In 1965, Joseph Forest, then a Novato resident, was among 40 Northern California lawyers who traveled to Mississippi to take depositions from blacks who said they had been denied the right to vote.

Some of the lawyers had their windshields shattered and their tires slashed. "We really felt that, in a sense, we were at war with the white community down there," Mr. Forest told reporters when he returned.

Mr. Forest, once a prominent Marin county lawyer and Democratic Party activist, died Oct. 14 at 74 after a brief battle with the neuromuscular disease commonly known as Lou Gehrig's Disease. -- Marin Independent Journal - Joseph Forest, 1932-2006: Lawyer fought for civil rights, shaped land use in Marin

California: police raid Nguyen's home and office over "immigrant" letter

The Los Angeles Times reports: Even as he prepared to step before the cameras Friday in an effort to mend his tattered candidacy for Congress, the worst week of Tan Nguyen's political life got bleaker still, as state agents raided his Garden Grove campaign headquarters and Santa Ana home, hauling off computers and bags of evidence.

The investigation by California Department of Justice agents stems from a racially charged letter that Nguyen admits his office sent to about 14,000 registered voters in central Orange County. The letter, which warned "immigrants" they could be jailed or deported if they tried to vote, has spurred condemnation across the political spectrum and an investigation into possible voting rights violations.

Nguyen, a Vietnamese immigrant who is running to unseat Democratic U.S. Rep. Loretta Sanchez, maintains that he neither wrote nor authorized the instantly infamous letter, claiming it was the work of a campaign manager he refused to name. According to the head of the Orange County Republican Party, however, the mailing house that sent the letter said Nguyen had a direct hand in it.

State agents arrived both at Nguyen's campaign office and his home about 1 p.m. Friday with search warrants, scouring files, plumbing cabinets and bagging evidence. -- Raids Widen 'Immigrant' Letter Probe - Los Angeles Times

MIssouri: GOP trying to figure out another way to do voter I.D.

AP reports: The state spent more than $680,000 implementing a photo ID requirement for voters that the Missouri Supreme Court overwhelmingly threw out, and now Republican lawmakers are pondering how to pass one that courts will allow. ...

While the law made the ID cards free, a separate state law requires people to meet several criteria, including showing they’re lawfully in the country, to obtain the identification card. Most people meet the lawful presence requirement with a birth certificate or passport, both documents that cost money.

So lawmakers are looking at a mechanism to cover those costs, though they say it’s too early to know how it would work. The legislature reconvenes in January.

"I’m confident that we’ll take another stab at it early next session and do it again," said Rep. Bryan Stevenson, R-Webb City, who handled the measure in the House this year. "We’ll have to come up with some way to reimburse them for any and all costs of getting documentation they should have to get anyway."

Stevenson said options could be creating a tax deduction or allowing people to reimbursed by having them submit their costs to the Department of Revenue with their ID application. -- State weighs next step on voter ID

Arizona: reactions to the reinstatement of voter I.D.

The Arizona Republic reports: Arizona voters will have to present identification at the polls on Nov. 7 after all.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Friday that the state's new voter-ID requirements, passed as part of 2004's Proposition 200, can be enforced for the general election. ...

Proponents of the voter-ID requirement hailed Friday's decision in Gonzalez vs. Arizona as a victory.

"Every once in a while you live to see justice," said Kathy McKee, author of Proposition 200. She said the ruling sends a message to "activist judges" and allows the state to take important steps to protect the integrity of its elections. ...

Linda Weedon, deputy director of the Maricopa County Elections Office, said they will now go forward with public-service announcements and commercials that were canceled after the 9th Circuit's injunction.

Opponents are warning that they expect there will be a sizable number of legal voters turned away Nov. 7. ...

Linda Brown, executive director of the Arizona Advocacy Network, whose organization is among those challenging the law, said many other voters were turned away by poll workers and not offered the chance to cast a provisional ballot. She said that although supporters of the law make it sound like an easy requirement, disabled voters, elderly voters and the poor often don't have up-to-date drivers licenses, utility bills or vehicle registration cards to prove who they are.

But her organization is gearing up to document what happens at the polls on Nov. 7 to meet the challenge presented in a concurring opinion Friday by Justice John Paul Stevens. Stevens said by allowing the law to be enforced on Nov. 7, it gives opponents the chance to prove people are disenfranchised and supporters to substantiate the kind of fraud they are trying to prevent. -- Voters, bring your ID to polls

October 20, 2006

Maryland: FBI invetigating possible theft of voting machine software

The Washington Post reports: The FBI is investigating the possible theft of software developed by the nation's leading maker of electronic voting equipment, said a former Maryland legislator who this week received three computer disks that apparently contain key portions of programs created by Diebold Election Systems.

Cheryl C. Kagan, a former Democratic delegate who has long questioned the security of electronic voting systems, said the disks were delivered anonymously to her office in Olney on Tuesday and that the FBI contacted her yesterday. The package contained an unsigned letter critical of Maryland State Board of Elections Administrator Linda H. Lamone that said the disks were "right from SBE" and had been "accidentally picked up."

Lamone's deputy, Ross Goldstein, said "they were not our disks," but he acknowledged that the software was used in Maryland in the 2004 elections. Diebold said in a statement last night that it had never created or received the disks.

The disks bear the logos of two testing companies that send such disks to the Maryland board after using the software to conduct tests on Diebold equipment. A Ciber Inc. spokeswoman said the disks had not come from Ciber, and Wyle Laboratories Inc. said it was not missing any disks. -- Officials Probing Possible Theft of Voting Software in Md. - washingtonpost.com

Florida: federal judge may strike down 100-foot ban on exit polling

AP reports: A federal judge raised strong doubts Friday about the constitutionality of a Florida law banning exit polls within 100 feet of a voting place, a restriction being challenged by The Associated Press and five television networks.

U.S. District Judge Paul C. Huck said he was leaning toward ruling in favor of the news media in a written order to be issued next week, in time for exit polling to be done during the Nov. 7 election. Huck said he could find no evidence that exit polling had hindered the right to vote. ...

At issue is a 2005 Florida law that set a 100-foot limit around every polling place where a number of activities are banned, including polling, solicitation, distribution of campaign material, selling goods or seeking contributions.

The AP and five networks — CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN and Fox — sued to challenge the law on grounds that prohibiting exit polls violates the First Amendment's freedom of the press and free speech protections. They have jointly conducted exit polls for numerous elections, using the results to project winners in key races as well as analyze political and social trends. -- Judge doubts legality of exit poll law - Yahoo! News

Colorado: Beauprez's source revealed

AP reports: Confidential law enforcement information that Republican Rep. Bob Beauprez (news, bio, voting record) used in an attack ad against his opponent for governor came from a federal immigration agent, a person in government who was briefed on the matter said Friday.

Cory Voorhis, a registered Republican who lives in Colorado, provided the information, said the person, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because of the case is the subject of an
FBI investigation. ...

At issue is an ad criticizing Beauprez's Democratic opponent, former Denver District Attorney Bill Ritter, for giving a plea bargain to an illegal immigrant suspected of heroin trafficking. The man was later arrested in California on suspicion of sexually assaulting a minor.

The Colorado Bureau of Investigation has said the information came from the National Crime Information Center, a federal database available only to law enforcement officials. Its use for any purpose other than law enforcement is a crime punishable by up to a year in prison. -- Agent identified as Beauprez ad leaker - Yahoo! News

Arizona: SCOTUS allows election to proceed with state's new voter I.D. rule in place

Nina Perales emails: Today, the U.S. Supreme Court vacated an injunction ordered by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in Gonzalez v. Arizona, the challenge to voting restrictions in Arizona.

The Ninth Circuit had enjoined the operation of Proposition 200's voting restrictions pending consideration of the appeal of the district court's denial of a preliminary injunction.

The Supreme Court's decision means that the November 7, 2006 election will go forward with onerous proof of identity requirements for voters at the polls and also that people who seek to register to vote will have to provide documentary proof of citizenship.

MALDEF represents Maria Gonzalez, the lead plaintiff in the case, as well as other Latino individuals and organizations challenging the law.

Judicial Selection in the States

The American Judicature Society is in the process of updating its website on judicial selection methods (a full update will be done by next summer). Professor Rachel Paine Caufield, a Research and Program Consultant at the American Judicature Society, is seeking folks who can double-check the information for their own states. If you are interested, please contact her at rcaufield@ajs.org.

Kentucky: Yarmuth failed to give "millionaire's amendment" notice

The Louisville Courier-Journal reports: John Yarmuth violated a federal campaign finance law by failing to notify his 3rd Congressional District opponents that he has loaned his campaign more than $350,000, according to three campaign finance experts.

The so-called “millionaire’s amendment” that took effect with sweeping campaign finance reform in late 2002 is intended to offset wealthy candidates’ financial advantage, but also can protect incumbents who aren’t as likely to rely on their own funds for a campaign.

And it has the potential to allow incumbent U.S. Rep. Anne Northup to broaden her financial advantage in the race by tripling how much she can get from individuals — from $2,100 to $6,300.

Yarmuth, a wealthy Democrat seeking to unseat the well-financed Northup, a five-term incumbent, has contributed $390,000 to his general election campaign — going over the $350,000 limit on Sept. 29, according to his latest campaign report filed Sunday. -- Yarmuth may have violated campaign law

Oregon: supreme court upholds 2000 initiative on police seizures of property

The Salem Statesman Journal reports: A divided Oregon Supreme Court decided Thursday to uphold restrictions that voters approved on police seizures of property and cash connected with illegal activity.

Voters barred police agencies from using civil lawsuits to seize and sell property unless it was tied to a criminal conviction of the property owner. The measure also directed proceeds from such sales to drug treatment rather than police operations. ...

A legal challenge was filed in 2001 by the Lincoln Interagency Narcotics Team. Marion County Judge Pamela Abernethy upheld the measure in 2001, but a divided Oregon Court of Appeals overturned it in 2003. The high court, by a 4-3 vote, upheld Abernethy. ...

A court decided that the 2000 measure did not violate the constitutional ban on multiple amendments contained in a single measure unless the changes are "closely related." The court struck down four other voter-approved measures in the past eight years, based on the ban. -- State Government - StatesmanJournal.com

Georgia: supreme court discounts write-in votes, confirms win

The Southern Voice reports: The Georgia Supreme Court on Oct.16 unanimously confirmed the razor thin re-election victory of lesbian Atlanta City Councilmember Anne Fauver over gay opponent Steve Brodie, erasing doubt over who will continue to represent District 6.

The court’s seven justices ruled that nine write-in ballots that were in dispute were for candidates not qualified to serve if elected.

“Because unqualified write-in candidates cannot assume office, counting the write-in votes for these unqualified candidates would be a futile act by the board,” the ruling states.

Fauver, who defeated Brodie by only five votes in November 2005, said the state Supreme Court’s ruling “vindicated” her. ...

According to state law, in order to win an election without a runoff, a candidate must receive 50 percent plus one of the votes cast. Brodie contended that if the nine write-in ballots were included in the total vote count, Fauver would have received 49.97 percent of the vote. -- Southern Voice Online

October 19, 2006

Florida: Secretary of State appeals ruling on Negron signs in polling places

AP reports: Florida's secretary of state on Thursday appealed a ruling that prohibits the posting of signs to tell voters in the district of disgraced former Rep. Mark Foley (news, bio, voting record) that his votes will go to another Republican.

Circuit Judge Janet Ferris ruled Wednesday that state law did not permit such signs to be posted in polling places.

Florida Secretary of State Sue Cobb, an appointee of Republican Gov.
Jeb Bush, asked the 1st District Court of Appeal to reverse the ruling. The court agreed to expedite the case. Early voting for the Nov. 7 election begins Monday. ...

Cobb has until noon Monday to file written arguments, and the Democratic Party has until noon Wednesday to reply. -- Fla. official appeals Foley sign ruling - Yahoo! News

California: GOP candidate sends letters threatening Hispanic voters

AP reports: Orange County Republican leaders on Thursday called for the withdrawal of a GOP congressional candidate they believe sent a letter threatening Hispanic immigrant voters with arrest.

Tan D. Nguyen denied knowing anything about the letter in an interview Thursday with The Associated Press but said he fired a campaign staffer who may have been responsible for it.

County Republican Chairman Scott Baugh, however, said that after speaking with state investigators and the company that distributed the mailer, he believes Nguyen had direct knowledge of the “obnoxious and reprehensible” letter. He told the AP that the party’s executive committee voted unanimously to Nguyen to drop out of the race against Democratic U.S. Rep. Loretta Sanchez. ...

State and federal officials were investigating the letter, which was written in Spanish and mailed to an estimated 14,000 Democratic voters in central Orange County. It warns, “You are advised that if your residence in this country is illegal or you are an immigrant, voting in a federal election is a crime that could result in jail time.”

Immigrants who are adult naturalized citizens are eligible to vote. -- GOP wants own candidate to pull out - Politics - MSNBC.com

Thanks to Daily Kos for the link.

Georgia: plaintiffs will drop contempt motion over voter I.D letters

AP reports: A legal team opposing Georgia's voter-photo ID law said Wednesday it will drop a contempt charge against the state after the approval of a mass mailing of more than 300,000 letters to inform voters they will not have to bring a photo ID to the polls in November.

A contempt hearing was scheduled for Friday, where lawyers planned to ask a judge to force the state to send voters a letter similar to the one approved Tuesday at a special meeting of the State Election Board.

"They have basically done everything that we were asking for in our motion for contempt," said Jennifer Auer Jordan of the Barnes Law Group, headed by former Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes. -- AP Wire | 10/18/2006 | Lawyers to drop contempt claim against Georgia over voter letters

Former secretaries of state worry about voting machinery

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports: In the past six years, the federal government has spent billions of dollars on election reform, hoping to prevent a replay of the 2000 Florida election debacle.

But, with less than three weeks to go before a critical mid-term election that could decide which party controls Congress, some experts still see the potential for significant mishaps as Americans head to the polls, many using a new generation of voting technology for the first time.

"We know more about car tires than we do about voting machines," the Rev. DeForest Soaries, a former New Jersey secretary of state, said yesterday during a conference call with reporters and other election administration specialists. ...

"We don't know what we don't know," he said. "No news is not good news, necessarily." ...

Miles Rapoport, former secretary of state in Connecticut, proposed a significant expansion of EAC's powers and resources, making it into a "NASA-style agency" that could research the development of electronic machines and set strict standards for the technology. --
Experts warn of foul-ups with new voting machines

Thanks to Brenda Wright for the tip.

FEC proposes internal financial controls for PACs

Update: Commissioner Robert D. Lenhard emailed me with a clarification about the proposal described below:

While I had hoped our documents were clear, your post left me concerned they were not.

The proposals put out for public comment yesterday were not new requirements.

One was a description of the types of protective internal controls a committee should consider when developing an internal controls policy.

The second was set of minimum standards that, if implemented, would lead the Commission to decide not to proceed with an enforcement action for the misreporting of receipts and disbursements that were a product of the embezzlement.

Neither document proposed establishing new requirements that committees had to follow.

That said, I want to thank you for your help in publicizing our interest in public comment on these proposals.

Original post (18 October): On the FEC agenda todaywas a proposal to require PACs to establish internal controls over their funds. Included in the proposal were the following:

  • All PAC bank accounts must be opened in the name of the PAC, never in the name of an individual.

  • Checks in excess of $1,000 and all wire transfers must be authorized in writing by two individuals, who are identified in writing in the PAC's internal policies.

  • The PAC officer who receives incoming checks and monitors incoming receipts may not handle the PAC's accounting or have authority over the PAC's bank accounts.

  • The PAC officer who handles incoming checks must make a list of all incoming receipts and must place a restrictive endorsement such as "For Deposit Only" and the PAC's bank account number on all checks.

  • Bank statements must be reconciled to the accounting records and list of receipts each month by someone other than the check signer or an individual handling the committee's accounting.

  • If the PAC has a petty cash fund, it must use an imprest system with no more than $200 outstanding at any one time.
  • The point of all this is to "provide the dual benefit of protecting [PAC] assets and facilitating the filing of accurate disclosure reports," according to the Audit Division, which sent the proposal to the Commission.

    The proposal will be published in the Federal Register soon to allow public comment on the proposal.

    Thanks to Brett Kappel who allowed me to copy the bullet points above.

    NAACP Legal Defense Fund intervenes in MUD suit [updated]

    A press release from LDF says: Today [18 October], the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) filed a motion to intervene on behalf of African-American voters in a lawsuit brought by the Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District Number One, a utility district located in Austin, Texas. LDF's motion was brought on behalf of voters who reside in the district and whose voting rights are directly impacted by the lawsuit.

    Note: The district court's Pacer system does not have the intervention papers posted yet. As soon as I get a copy of these papers, I will post them.

    Update: Here are the intervention papers for Rodney and Nicole Louis.


    "Barred from voting"

    Katharine Mieszkowski writes on Salon.com: When Koren Carbuccia went to prison for the second time, her son, Vaskan, was just 3 months old. Being incarcerated during the earliest years of his life changed hers. She wanted nothing more than to be home with him. ...

    Carbuccia won an early release in February 2005. Today, at 27, she is a student at Community College of Rhode Island, studying substance abuse counseling, and working toward a master's degree. While going to school and caring for her son, she also works 20 hours a week doing data entry at the Family Life Center in Providence, which provides assistance for ex-offenders and their families. Recently, she took Vaskan, now almost 5, to his first day of preschool. "I want to do the right thing," says Carbuccia, who describes herself as a PTA mom. "I want to be responsible and raise my child. "

    But there's one way Carbuccia isn't like other moms, and as the law in Rhode Island now stands, won't be until 2017. Only then, when she's completed both parole and probation, will she be allowed to vote. Until she's 38 years old, she'll be a second-class citizen, working, parenting, studying, paying taxes, but unable to cast a ballot. In a state of just 1 million, she's one of more than 15,000 disenfranchised voters because of prior felonies.

    Across the U.S., nearly 4 million people with felony convictions, who are out of prison, have no say in their own government, and won't be going to the polls on Nov. 7. Their lost votes could make a decisive difference in close Senate and House races this fall, especially in Florida, Kentucky and Virginia, where, unlike most states, felons, even after serving their time, never regain the right to vote. Among the races that could be affected are Virginia Sen. George Allen's attempt to retain his Senate seat, despite his recently exposed history of using racial slurs, and the House race for Kentucky District 3, where polls now show Republican Anne Northup essentially tied in her attempts to keep her seat from challenger Democrat John Yarmuth.

    Sociologists who have long studied the disenfranchisement of felons say that the lost votes amount to a built-in advantage for Republicans, seen most famously in the 2000 presidential race in Florida, in which Al Gore would have likely beat George W. Bush had ex-felons been allowed to vote. -- Barred from voting | Salon News

    "New Laws and Machines May Spell Voting Woes"

    The New York Times reports: As dozens of states are enforcing new voter registration laws and switching to paperless electronic voting systems, officials across the country are bracing for an Election Day with long lines and heightened confusion, followed by an increase in the number of contested results.

    In Maryland, Mississippi and Pennsylvania, a shortage of technicians has vendors for new machines soliciting applications for technical support workers on job Web sites like Monster.com. Ms. Oakley, who is also facing a shortage, raided the computer science department at the University of California, Davis, hiring 60 graduate students as troubleshooters.

    Arizona, California, Georgia, Indiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania are among the states considered most likely to experience difficulties, according to voting experts who have been tracking the technology and other election changes.

    “We’ve got new laws, new technology, heightened partisanship and a growing involvement of lawyers in the voting process,” said Tova Wang, who studies elections for the Century Foundation, a nonpartisan research group. “We also have the greatest potential for problems in more places next month than in any voting season before.” -- New Laws and Machines May Spell Voting Woes - New York Times

    Indiana: 7th Circuit hears arguments over voter I.D. law

    AP reports: A federal judge Wednesday sharply questioned arguments that Indiana’s voter identification rule is unfair to poor, elderly, minority voters and those with disabilities, saying opponents have failed to find a single person unable to cast a ballot under the new law.

    “By not even having found one of these people, that does not convey substantial disenfranchisement,” Judge Richard Posner told attorney Ken Falk of the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana during oral arguments before the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

    The Republican-controlled legislature approved the law last year, saying it would help prevent voter fraud. The law requires voters to show a government-issued identification, with some exceptions for absentee ballots, the indigent and those with a religious objection to being photographed.

    The Indiana Democratic Party and the ACLU contend the law unfairly affects people who may struggle to obtain a photo ID. Democrats estimate that nearly 1 million registered voters in the state do not possess a required ID. -- Journal Gazette | 10/19/2006 | Skeptical court hears ID appeal

    Ohio: county board to hold hearing on Democratic candidate's residency and right to vote

    The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports [regarding the Democratic candidate for governor]: A Lisbon apartment rented by Democrat Ted Strickland above his district office will be the focus of a Columbiana County hearing on a complaint challenging his voting residency.

    The complaint seeking to boot Strickland from the voting rolls might endanger his right to vote in November, but is unlikely to disqualify him for the ballot, according to Ohio election law experts.

    A letter sent Tuesday by Monty Lobb, assistant secretary of state, instructed the Columbiana County Board of Elections to hold a hearing on an East Liverpool woman's challenge to Strickland, who lists a Lisbon voting address while owning a Columbus condo where he's paid taxes since 2003. ...

    After the county elections board deadlocked, 2-2, along party lines on whether to throw out the complaint filed by Jacquelyn Long, Lobb ruled in favor of a hearing.

    The ruling by Lobb, whose boss, Republican Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, is running against Strickland for governor, brought howls of indignation from Team Strickland. -- Hearing to address Strickland's residency

    Illinois: only candidate for commission seat withdraws because of Hatch Act

    WQWQ-TV reports: Voters in Union County, Illinois have one less candidate to vote for. In the March primary, Anna Mayor Steve Hartline secured a spot on the democratic ticket for Union County commissioner. With 61% of the vote, Hartline bumped incumbent Union County commissioner Jack Eddleman out of the running. Now Hartline has withdrawn from the race.

    Hartline's withdrawal doesn't just leave voters without a democrat to vote for. Now, there is no county commissioner candidate on the ballot at all. Hartline withdrew from the race Tuesday after he learned that winning may mean breaking the law. ...

    Hartline is employed by Choate Mental Health and Development Center in Anna which operates programs supported by federal dollars. ...

    Another Union County resident could announce him or herself as a write-in candidate by October 31, and win the seat that way. Otherwise the county board will have to appoint someone to the open commissioner's seat.

    The Hatch Act only prevents Hartline from taking part in partisan politics - meaning he cannot run as a democrat or republican for public office. The Hatch Act does not prohibit him from taking part in non-partisan politics as he has in holding seats within Anna's City Government for the past 11 years. Candidates are elected to the offices of mayor, city council and school board without political party affiliation. -- Union County voters have no choice for commissioner

    New Jersey: Hatch Act complaint against councilwoman

    The Hammonton News reports: A Hatch Act complaint has been filed against longtime Councilwoman Jeanne Sparacino Lewis, The News has learned.

    The complaint was filed by resident Richard Jacobus with the Hatch Act Unit of the Office of Special Counsel in Washington, D.C. Receipt of confirmation was received Oct. 5. ...

    Sparacino Lewis, who is seeking her sixth term on Town Council, is the director of financial aid at the Richard Stockton College of New Jerseyin Pomona. She has worked there for 35 years.

    According to the complaint filed by Jacobus, "Jeanne Sparacino Lewis is a current sitting member of Hammonton Town Council and is currently running for re-election in this year's general election on Nov. 7, 2006. Jeanne Sparacino Lewis also conducted town business while on duty in her office via telephone during the 8/7/06 special meeting of Hammonton Town Council. The minutes of that meeting are attached. I do not believe that the educational exemption applies to her position as this exemption concerns teachers who instruct courses funded by federal grants. Mrs. Lewis is responsible for dispersing federal funds to students." -- Local News - The Hammonton News - www.thehammontonnews.com

    Florida: court rules against Foley-Negron signs inside polling places

    AP reports: Florida law doesn't permit polling place signs saying a vote for disgraced former U.S. Rep. Mark Foley will go to a replacement candidate, a judge ruled Wednesday.

    Circuit Judge Janet Ferris granted a temporary injunction to stop election officials from using signs to tell voters that while Foley's name remains on the ballot, Republican state Rep. Joe Negron will get his votes in a race against Democrat Tim Mahoney. Foley resigned last month after it was revealed he had sent suggestive messages to several male congressional pages. ...

    Ferris cited a 2005 law that repealed a provision which had called for putting replacement candidates' names on the ballot up to 21 days before a general election. The new law instead prohibits name changes after primary election results are finalized.

    Ferris wrote that lawmakers had a chance in that law to require explanatory signs, but declined. ...

    The law was changed a year after signs had been used as an alternative to reprinting or rubber-stamping ballots to indicate that votes for a Democratic congressional candidate who withdrew would go to a replacement in another South Florida congressional district. -- Court: No Foley signs at polls

    October 18, 2006

    Florida: both major-party candidate for governor agree on restoring felon voting rights

    The Miami Herald reports: Regardless of who becomes governor of Florida in three weeks, one thing now appears certain: The 136-year-old rule that keeps most felons from being able to vote after they have completed their sentences will be scrapped.

    Republican Charlie Crist has switched his position and joined Democratic opponent Jim Davis in favoring restoring the civil rights of all felons automatically after they have served their time. Until recently, Crist opposed automatic restoration.

    ''It all comes down to one fundamental question: Do you believe that an individual has paid his debt to society?'' Crist said Tuesday in an interview with The Miami Herald editorial board. ``If they've really paid their debt to society, then why not restore their right to vote?'' -- MiamiHerald.com | 10/18/2006 | Voting ban for felons could end with next governor

    Minnesota: pastor endorses candidate from the pulpit

    AP reports: A watchdog group filed a complaint Tuesday with the IRS against a Minnesota church, claiming the pastor violated the church's tax-exempt status by endorsing Republican congressional candidate Michele Bachmann.

    An official from the church, Living Word Christian Center in Brooklyn Park, Minn., said Tuesday that the pastor misunderstood IRS guidelines and promised it wouldn't happen again. But the watchdog group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, said it would not rescind the complaint. ...

    When he introduced Bachmann, Pastor Mac Hammond said that the church could not endorse any candidate.

    "But I can tell you, personally, that I'm going to vote for Michele Bachmann," he said to laughter and cheering, "because I've come to know her, what she stands for, and I want her to share her testimony with you tonight." -- Pastor endorsement angers watchdog group - Yahoo! News

    Colorado: Beauprez's attack ad gets him in hot water

    AP reports: Information in an attack ad run by Rep. Bob Beauprez (news, bio, voting record) against his Democratic opponent for governor used illegal confidential information from a federal law enforcement database, Colorado authorities said Wednesday.

    The Colorado Bureau of Investigation launched a criminal investigation into the ad after gubernatorial candidate Bill Ritter's campaign raised the possibility that the databases were illegally accessed because the information could not be verified through public records.

    Director Robert Cantwell said the information came from the National Crime Information Center, a federal database available only to law-enforcement officials. ...

    The TV ad refers to a suspected illegal immigrant who was arrested in Denver in 2001 on suspicion of heroin trafficking. The ad says that when Ritter was the district attorney for Denver, he chose to seek a plea bargain in the case, the man avoided deportation, and he was later arrested in California on suspicion of sexually assaulting a minor.

    The Beauprez campaign has said the information came from an informant and has refused to identify the source. -- Beauprez ad has illegal classified info - Yahoo! News

    MALDEF moves to intervene in NW Austin MUD's suit against VRA

    MALDEF, representing David and Lisa Diaz, has moved to intervene in the suit by Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District regarding the Voting Rights Act. A copy of the motion and memo are here.

    Thanks to Nina Perales for sending these to me.

    October 17, 2006

    Texas: DOJ answers suit seeking to overturn Section 5 of VRA

    The Campaign Legal Center has posted the answer of the Justice Department in the Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District Number One's suit seeking, among other things, a declaration that Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act is unconstitutional.

    Sen Reid will repay his campaign for Christmas gifts

    AP reports: Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) has been using campaign donations instead of his personal money to pay Christmas bonuses for the support staff at the Ritz-Carlton, where he lives in an upscale condominium.

    Federal election law bars candidates from converting political donations for personal use.

    Questioned by the Associated Press about the expenditures, Reid's office said yesterday that his lawyers had approved them but he nonetheless was personally reimbursing his campaign for $3,300 in donations he had directed to the staff holiday fund at his residence. ...

    Federal law permits campaigns to provide "gifts of nominal value" but bars candidates from using political donations for personal expenses, such as mortgage, rent or utilities for "any part of any personal residence." -- Philadelphia Inquirer | 10/17/2006 | Reid used campaign aid as bonuses for hotel staff

    Rhode Island: Fauntroy urges vote for amendment restoring felon voting rights

    The Providence Journal reports: A civil rights activist who worked with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. exhorted community leaders yesterday to urge high voter turnout next month for Ballot Question 2, which would restore voting rights to convicted felons.

    “If Martin Luther King Jr. were alive today, he would be right here standing with me, saying to you what I am saying, and that is that there’s nothing more important than to involve all of our people in the arena of public policy. They call it politics,” the Rev. Walter E. Fauntroy said, according to an audio recording of his speech provided by one of the participants in a rally yesterday in support of restoring voting rights.

    Besides having worked with King, Fauntroy represented the District of Columbia in the House of Representatives and was a founder of the Congressional Black Caucus.

    The Rhode Island Constitution bars felons from voting until they have completed their entire sentence, including probation. Question 2 would amend the Constitution to allow felons to vote when they are released from prison, even if their entire sentence has not expired. -- Rhode Island news | projo.com | The Providence Journal | Local News

    Mississippi: the slow path to voting rights for felons

    AP reports: Some say there are two problems with Mississippi's system that deals with voting rights of convicted felons.

    First is a provision in the Mississippi Constitution that sets forth the crimes that result in a loss of voting rights. The second is the process of restoring those rights to ex-convicts.

    The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit earlier this month challenging Mississippi's denial of voting rights to ex-convicts. The ACLU specifically is challenging a 2004 opinion from Attorney General Jim Hood that adds 11 more crimes to the 10 that appear in the constitution as grounds for denying restoration of voting rights.

    The ACLU argues that any changes should have been through legislative action. Hood contends that his opinion was based on a ruling by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

    Among the additional crimes in Hood's opinion are felony bad check, timber larceny and carjacking. The constitution lists crimes that include murder, rape and embezzlement. -- Restoring suffrage to felons won't be approved soon - The Clarion-Ledger

    California: Vote-PAD files claim against secretary of state

    The Eureka Reporter reports: Vote-PAD Inc., the developer of a disabled-assistive voting device by the same name, filed a formal claim against California Secretary of State Bruce McPherson on Monday, asserting that the certification process McPherson followed for the device violated a number of state and federal laws.

    The claim, filed with the Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board, names McPherson, the Secretary of State’s Office, Assistant Secretary of State for Elections Susan Lapsley and Voting Systems Program Manager Bruce McDannold.

    In late August, following two days of testing and a public hearing, McPherson announced that he would not grant certification to the Vote-PAD on the grounds that it presented limitations that could disenfranchise blind voters.

    The decision threw a number of California counties — including Humboldt County — into a tailspin as they scrambled to find a compliant replacement in time for the November elections. -- The Eureka Reporter - Article

    California: US wants some HAVA money back

    AP reports: Federal elections officials told California on Monday to repay nearly $3 million in Help America Vote Act funds, saying the money was mismanaged under former Secretary of State Kevin Shelley.

    The tab made final the U.S. Election Assistance Commission's finding from May that the state would have to pay back federal election funds that either were misspent during Shelley's tenure or lacked adequate documentation.

    Shelley's successor said the state should sue to try to force Shelley to repay the money. ...

    Shelley, a Democrat, resigned in February 2005 amid allegations that he mishandled the federal money designed to upgrade voting equipment and procedures, bent state hiring rules to reward political allies and accepted questionable campaign contributions. -- Monterey County Herald | 10/17/2006 | U.S. wants voting money repaid

    Alabama: Riley complains to court about Worley's lack of cooperation

    AP reports:
    Gov. Bob Riley's attorney told a federal judge Monday that Secretary of State Nancy Worley hasn't supplied all the records needed to implement a statewide voter registration system, despite the threat of contempt of court.

    Riley's legal adviser, Ken Wallis, gave U.S. District Judge Keith Watkins a list of eight types of documents that "would be helpful" but that haven't been turned over to the governor.

    They included e-mails between the secretary of state and voter registrars about the procurement of the voter registration system and many documents involving communications between Worley's office and companies interested in developing the computerized system. -- Riley’s office wants more documents from Worley

    October 16, 2006

    California: election guides growing larger each election

    AP reports: Voter guides are landing with a big thud on doorsteps across California, with residents confronted with an unusually large number of ballot measures and candidates in next month's election.

    Election officials worry that the state's largest guides — 192-page books sent to 12 million homes — will overwhelm and discourage would-be voters.

    The array of complicated issues on the ballot could also lead to long lines and delays at polling sites if people haven't done their homework. ...

    A majority of voters are expected to vote by mail. But the ballots are so big that election officials fear some may be returned for insufficient postage. -- Bulky voter guides cause worry in Calif. - Yahoo! News

    Georgia: lawyers ask for contempt citation against state for mailing misleading letters about voter I.D.

    AP reports: Lawyers opposing Georgia's photo ID law asked a judge Monday to hold the state in contempt for misinforming more than 200,000 voters in a mass mailing that was sent after a court order blocked the law's enforcement for the November general election.

    Attorneys are also asking the judge to force the state to send new letters to those voters.

    In all, the State election board mailed more than 300,000 letters to registered voters, telling them they may need to show either a free Georgia voter identification card or one of six forms of photo ID to vote in person. The letter also reminded voters they could vote absentee without a photo ID.

    Originally, State Election Board Vice Chair Claud "Tex" McIver said the agency mailed 20,000 of those letters after the Sept. 19 ruling which struck down the photo ID requirement. It later turned out that the number was closer to 200,000. ...

    A contempt hearing has been scheduled for Friday in Fulton County Superior Court. The state has appealed Judge T. Jackson Bedford's decision to the Georgia Supreme Court, and the law is also being opposed in federal court. -- AP Wire | 10/16/2006 | Lawyers ask judge for new letters on photo ID to 200,000 voters

    Missouri: state supreme court upholds injunction against voter I.D. law

    AP reports: The Missouri Supreme Court on Monday struck down a new law requiring voters to show a photo ID at the polls, upholding a lower judge's decision.

    A lower judge ruled last month that the ID requirement was an unconstitutional infringement on the fundamental right to vote. The Supreme Court agreed in a 6-1 unsigned opinion.

    The law required voters to present a photo identification card issued by Missouri or the federal government to cast a ballot starting with the November election. ...

    The court found the requirement violated several provisions in the state constitution. The court said requiring otherwise legitimate voters to obtain an appropriate ID imposed too big a burden on their voting rights. -- AP Wire | 10/16/2006 | Supreme Court tosses voter ID law

    Note: The opinion for Weinschenk v. State of Missouri is here on the court's website.

    Georgia: state supreme court hears argument today in re-redistricing case

    The Athens Banner-Herald reports: The Georgia Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments today in the legal fight to overturn a 2006 redistricting that split Athens into two state Senate districts.

    The General Assembly, at the request of state Sen. Ralph Hudgens, shifted district lines for three state Senate districts early this year. The change unified Madison County into one district, but split Athens' Democratic-leaning voters into two Republican districts.

    A handful of local voters sued dozens of election officials to try to stop them from following the new maps during July primaries, though a visiting Superior Court judge dismissed their claim in June.

    Attorneys for the voters appealed to the Georgia Supreme Court, arguing that the Georgia Constitution allows legislators to redraw district lines only when a 10-year census shows the population has shifted, leaving too few voters in one district and too many in another. -- OnlineAthens.com | News | Arguments on districts heard today 10/16/06

    Nebraska: Rickets gives another $2 million to his campaign against Ben Nelson

    The Sioux City Journal reports: Republican Pete Ricketts has given another $2 million to his campaign for U.S. Senate, meaning the former TD Ameritrade executive has now spent nearly $12 million in his attempt to unseat incumbent Ben Nelson.

    Ricketts gave his primary campaign $4.7 million, and has now given $6.925 million to his general election campaign, according to a filing Friday with the Federal Election Commission. ...

    Relying on outside donations, Nelson is outpacing his opponent 4-to-1 in fundraising, with more than $1.4 million alone from the state party, compared to $150,000 Ricketts received from his state party.

    In August, Ricketts triggered the so-called millionaire's amendment, a federal law that is meant to level the playing field in big-money races.
    -- Sioux City Journal: Ricketts gives $12 million to campaign

    Problems with electronic voter lists

    MIT Technology Review reports: What Americans should be most worried about this November, say elections experts like Thad Hall, a political scientist at the University of Utah, is not that someone might hack the Diebold machine they're using to vote--but that their names might disappear from the rolls entirely. According to him, the greatest risks of fraud or disenfranchisement concern voter registration.

    As Hall spells out in a report for the IBM Center for Business and Government, voter registration databases are difficult to maintain because there are no electronic standards for creating them. That makes it hard for elections officials to compare their databases with motor-vehicle registries and prison records--let alone other states' elections records.

    Earlier this year, the state of Kentucky was sued by its attorney general for attempting to remove 8,000 voters from the rolls--without notifying them--based on a comparison of its database with those in Tennessee and South Carolina, in search of voters registered in multiple states. Hall says that if the state had not been sued, many voters would have been disenfranchised because of database errors.

    Until 2002, when Congress passed the Help America Vote Act in response to mistakes made in administering the 2000 presidential election, the federal government had never spent any money on election administration. -- Technology Review: Computerized Voter Registration Databases Need a Major Overhaul

    October 15, 2006

    Pennsylvania: DOJ sues Philadelphia over treatment of Hispanic voters

    AP reports: The U.S. Department of Justice on Friday sued the city of Philadelphia, claiming it violated the rights of Spanish-speaking voters.

    The complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania said the city failed to provide language assistance at the polls to most Spanish-speaking voters in recent elections, the department said.

    Federal authorities also said the city prevented Spanish-speaking voters from receiving assistance from people of their choice, even in cases where bilingual assistance was otherwise unavailable. -- Feds sue Philadelphia over voting rights - Yahoo! News

    Note: I could not find the complaint on either the DOJ website or the District Court site. If anyone has a link to it, please email it to me.

    October 14, 2006

    Voters' guides, lots of voters' guides

    The New York Times reports: Voters’ guides have gone theological. “Voting God’s Politics.” “Voter’s Guide for Serious Catholics.” “Voting for the Common Good: A Practical Guide for Conscientious Catholics.” “Voting With a Clear Conscience.” And more.

    These are not the familiar guides that line up candidates by their views or votes on a list of selected issues and that, in some cases, give them ratings, a practice that has migrated from lobbies like those on gun control, tax cuts and environmental regulation to religious groups like the Christian Coalition.

    No, the new voters’ guides try to be mini-manuals of moral theology and church-state relations, offering voters a religious framework for making their choices, not endorsements of candidates or parties.

    Of course, it isn’t that simple. The complex entanglement of theology and politics is made clear in the case of competing Roman Catholic guides, a matter of political import in view of the belief that Catholics constitute a swing vote, especially in what are considered swing states. -- Voters' Guides Define Moral Compromises to Take to Polls - New York Times

    October 13, 2006

    Florida: Dems sue to block signs in polling booth about Foley-Negron switch

    The Palm Beach Post reports: The Florida Democratic Party filed a lawsuit today in hopes of keeping notices out of polling places that would inform voters that ballots cast for former U.S. Rep. Mark Foley will count for fellow Republican Joe Negron.

    The eight-county elections supervisors who will record the outcome in the 16th Congressional District agreed this week to print a notice that would be posted at registration tables and handed to voters who had questions about the race.

    Foley resigned Sept. 29 - too late to print new ballots - and was replaced as the Republican candidate by Negron, a state lawmaker from Stuart. Negron will receive any votes cast for Foley, according to state law.

    When Negron was picked as Foley's replacement, Florida Division of Elections Director Dawn Roberts asked the supervisors to mail a notice about the change with absentee ballots and to post the notice inside individual voting booths.

    Supervisors decided against her recommendation, but agreed this week to make a notice available in case of voter confusion. -- Democrats sue to stop Negron ballot signs

    LWV report on "Thinking Outside the Ballot Box"

    From the League of Women Voters' new report, "Thinking Outside the Ballot Box: Innovations for the Polling Place": Across the country, elections officials are changing the way Americans vote. Some of the changes—such as early voting and the use of vote centers—are dramatic and obvious. Others are more subtle, involving new technologies and changes in the procedures used to get voters in and out of the polling place. The common denominator linking many of the changes: convenience. Reports of long lines and widespread confusion at polling places in recent elections have forced elections officials to take a fresh look at how they do their work, while drawing attention to innovative approaches and new ideas.

    According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 20 percent of registered voters who did not vote in the November 2004 election said it was because they were too busy or had conflicting work or school schedules. By bringing added convenience to the voting process, elections officials hope to boost participation among these voters while making voting less of a hassle for one and all. -- Template.cfm (application/pdf Object)

    Thanks to Democracy Dispatches for the link.

    Denying the vote to pretrial detainees and "deadbeat dads"

    Scott Novakowski writes on Democracy Dispatches: In "Modern-Day 'Poll Tax' Costs GOP Votes," Human Events columnist Barry Weinstein argues that divorced fathers are being unconstitutionally stripped of their right to vote because they are in jail for failure to pay child support:

    "The issue is now playing out all across America's 3,141 counties and parishes. These individuals who have not committed any crime are the target of activist judicial discrimination based upon their sex. They have not been accused of a crime. They have not had a trial by jury of their peers. In fact, they have not been convicted of a crime. They are in jail until they - even if they cannot comply - pay a judge's arbitrary established sum in order to be released from jail," writes Weinstein.

    Despite several factual errors and an overabundance of silly rhetoric and conservative catch phrases, Weinstein has a valid point. Across the country, those in jail awaiting trial (typically referred to as "pre-trial detainees") are not provided with voting machines on Election Day or adequate access to the absentee ballot process. These untried and unconvicted individuals are a much larger group than the fathers to which Weinstein refers. For example, at Rikers Island, the largest jail in New York State, over 65 percent of those 13,751 being held at any given time are pre-trial detainees. Attempts to register eligible voters at Rikers and to facilitate absentee balloting have largely been unsuccessful. -- Democracy Dispatches

    Felon voting rights: "a crazy-quilt"

    Sasha Abramsky writes on Democracy Dispatches: Late this summer Judge Robert Vance, Jr., of the Circuit Court of Jefferson County, issued a decree that the blanket disenfranchisement of felons in Alabama violated the state's constitution. A few weeks later, at the urging of the state's attorney general, Vance agreed to put most of his order on hold until after the November elections. The delay would, he said, give the state's Supreme Court a chance to weigh in on the question.

    Vance's initial ruling was a brave one and ought to have been applauded by all who care about voting rights in America. Yet, even before political pressure led to his backtracking, Vance's decision was founded almost on a technicality, rather than on a principled objection to disenfranchisement per se . Let me explain.

    Because election law is generally left up to individual states, America has a crazy-quilt system of laws when it comes to felons and voting rights. In Maine and Vermont, felons can vote even while they're in prison. In Utah they cannot vote while in prison but their political rights are restored the moment they exit the prison gates at the end of their sentences. Elsewhere parolees cannot vote. Some states impose additional waiting periods at the backend of a person's sentence before they can vote, and still other states have a system of "permanent disenfranchisement" in place, whereby one-time felons have to go through a variety of difficult bureaucratic processes in order to apply to have their voting rights restored. If they don't make this effort, they remain voteless. Alabama, like many of its southern neighbors, is in the latter category.

    Yet, to make matters still more confusing, while a state like Florida simply disenfranchises all ex-felons until such time as they can convince the governor and his staff that they are worthy of re-enfranchisement, Alabama's disenfranchisement laws rest on Jim Crow-era language that was originally intended to allow elections' officials to remove the vote from people convicted of supposedly "black crimes." In Alabama, a felony conviction only triggers disenfranchisement if the crime involves a vaguely defined concept called "moral turpitude." A catch-all term largely defined by county officials in any way they chose, "moral turpitude" was, like the poll tax and the literacy test, a tool used by white authorities during the darkest days of racial segregation to preserve their political dominance over African Americans in the state. Hence people convicted of stealing food--a crime most likely to be committed by impoverished, landless, ex-slaves--lost their vote, while those convicted of a host of violent crimes that were thought to be more frequently committed by whites at the end of the 19th century didn't. -- Democracy Dispatches

    Disclosure: the Alabama case is Gooden v. Worley in which Ryan Haygood (of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund) and I are representing the plaintiffs.

    New Jersey: DOJ sues and settles with state over HAVA compliance

    From a Justice Department press release: The Justice Department today announced that it has reached an agreement with the state of New Jersey that will help to ensure an orderly process for the implementation of New Jersey's statewide computer voter database, in accordance with federal law. This agreement, which was filed contemporaneously with a lawsuit filed by the Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of New Jersey, sets a schedule for the state's completion and implementation of a statewide computer voter database that includes all eligible voters and for the identification and removal of ineligible voters from the voter rolls, in a manner that brings the state into full compliance with the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) and the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA). -- Justice Department Agreement Will Help Protect Voting...

    Illinois: state house candidate withdraws because of Hatch Act

    The Quincy Herald-Whig reports: Kelly Street said he is stunned by a ruling that has forced him to withdraw from the 93rd District race for the Illinois House.

    His departure leaves Rep. Jil Tracy, R-Mount Sterling, unopposed in her campaign for the Legislature.

    Street, a Democrat from Bluffs, got notice Tuesday afternoon that he might be in violation of the Hatch Act, which prevents some workers receiving federal funds from running for political office.

    Street is a stationary engineer at McFarland Mental Health Facility in Springfield, earning about $72,000 a year to do repairs and keep boilers and air handlers operating. The facility receives federal funds that help pay salaries.

    On Wednesday Street sought confirmation from a special counsel in charge of Hatch Act compliance in Washington, D.C. Hours later he was told he would either have to quit his state job or withdraw from the campaign for the Illinois General Assembly. -- Quincy Herald Whig

    Alabama: Worley responds to possible contempt citation

    AP reports: Secretary of State Nancy Worley sought to fend off a possible contempt of court citation by telling a federal judge Thursday that she has “willingly cooperated” with Gov. Bob Riley’s efforts to develop an overdue statewide voter registration system.

    In a one-page letter to U.S. District Judge Keith Watkins, Worley said she disagreed with a report filed with the court last week by the governor’s legal adviser, Ken Wallis. That report said Worley had not fully cooperated and had refused to work with a committee appointed by the governor to help develop the system, saying she would only deal with Riley.

    She said she has worked with the governor and Wallis and has searched “bookcases, file drawers” and other areas looking for documents on development of a voter registration system.

    Watkins had ordered Worley, a former Decatur High School teacher, to respond to him by Thursday on why she should not be found in contempt of court for violating his previous order that she help the governor. Watkins in August gave the Republican governor the title “special master” and put him in charge of developing the database, which is required by the federal Help America Vote Act. The judge’s decision came after Worley, a Democrat, was sued by the Justice Department for failing to meet a Jan. 1, 2006, federal deadline for implementing the computerized file. -- Worley tells judge she's cooperating on registration plan

    October 12, 2006

    Mark Warner decides *not* to run for president

    I just received an email from Mark Warner that he will not run for President. Chris Cillizza at the Washington Post has the skinny on Warner's Out: Winners and a Loser - The Fix

    I am sorry to see Gov. Warner leave the race. Since 2001 when I was part of his GOTV campaign legal team, I have admired his ability to work with Republicans and inspire Democrats.

    Gov. Warner's letter says in part,

    My decision does not in any way diminish my desire to be active in getting our country fixed. It doesn't mean that I won't run for public office again.

    I want to serve, whether in elective office or in some other way. I'm still excited about the possibilities for the future.

    In the short-term, I am going to do everything I can do make sure Democrats win in 2006. It's an exciting year to be a Democrat. I leave shortly to go to Iowa to support folks running for state and congressional office. Hope they are still excited to see me.

    Well, that was the good news part of the message.

    Mississippi: DOJ sues blacks for suppressing white voters

    The New York Times reports: The Justice Department has chosen this no-stoplight, courthouse town buried in the eastern Mississippi prairie for an unusual civil rights test: the first federal lawsuit under the Voting Rights Act accusing blacks of suppressing the rights of whites.

    The action represents a sharp shift, and it has raised eyebrows outside the state. The government is charging blacks with voting fraud in a state whose violent rejection of blacks’ right to vote, over generations, helped give birth to the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Yet within Mississippi the case has provoked knowing nods rather than cries of outrage, even among liberal Democrats.

    The Justice Department’s main focus is Ike Brown, a local power broker whose imaginative electoral tactics have for 20 years caused whisperings from here to the state capital in Jackson, 100 miles to the southwest. Mr. Brown, tall, thin, a twice-convicted felon, the chairman of the Noxubee County Democratic Executive Committee and its undisputed political boss, is accused by the federal government of orchestrating — with the help of others — “relentless voting-related racial discrimination” against whites, whom blacks outnumber by more than 3 to 1 in the county.

    His goal, according to the government: keeping black politicians — ones supported by Mr. Brown, that is — in office.

    To do that, the department says, he and his allies devised a watertight system for controlling the all-determining Democratic primary, much as segregationists did decades ago. -- U.S. Says Blacks in Mississippi Suppress White Vote - New York Times

    States relaxing restrictions on felon voting

    The New York Times reports: Legislatures in 16 states have loosened voting restrictions on felons over the last decade, according to a new report, a trend hailed by some rights advocates as a step toward democratic principles and fairness, especially for black Americans.

    Because of their high incarceration rate, blacks are most affected by the voting bans that vary widely among the states, with many barring current inmates and parolees from voting until they have fulfilled their sentences, and some barring felons for life.

    In recent years, Iowa, Nebraska and New Mexico have repealed their lifetime bans on voting by people who have been convicted of felonies, and several other states made it easier for freed prisoners or those on probation to vote, according to the report, issued yesterday by the Sentencing Project, a liberal advocacy group in Washington.

    The recent changes have restored voting rights to more than 600,000 individuals, the report said. But because the country’s prison population has continued to rise, a record number of Americans, 5.3 million, are still denied the vote because of criminal records, it concluded. -- States Are Growing More Lenient in Allowing Felons to Vote - New York Times

    Note: The Sentencing Project report is here.

    October 9, 2006

    Alabama: Hatch Act causes problem for GOP candidate

    The Decatur Daily reports: Alabama Democratic leaders may file a complaint with federal authorities to disqualify the Republican nominee for Morgan County probate judge.

    Party officials said GOP nominee Greg Cain is violating the Hatch Act, a federal law that prohibits a government employee whose job is financed with federal funds from running in a partisan election.

    Cain is a school resource officer for the Decatur Police Department. ...

    Allen Stover, grants administrator for the city of Decatur, said the Police Department receives four federal grants. The COPS grant that funded Cain's position expired two or three months ago; however, the department gets other grants, Stover said. -- Dems may dispute Cain's right to run: Hatch Act could disqualify GOP candidate for probate judge

    Kentucky: state purges many voters without telling them

    NPR reports: For the first time this year, states are required to have centralized voter registration lists. In Kentucky, a state effort to eliminate duplicate registrations resulted in at least several hundred voters being mistakenly removed from the rolls. Confusion and lawsuits followed. -- NPR : Kentucky Grapples with Confusion on Voter Lists

    October 4, 2006

    California: supreme courts hears argument on applicability of campaign finance law to Indian tribes

    AP reports: Tribal sovereignty trumps the state's ability to file campaign-finance enforcement lawsuits, an attorney representing a Palm Springs Indian tribe argued Wednesday in front of the California Supreme Court.

    The case pitting the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians against the Fair Political Practices Commission, the state panel that oversees campaign financing and spending, questions whether federally recognized tribes should be immune from most state intervention, including lawsuits to enforce state laws.

    The state's highest court must consider whether California tribes, which have become major political donors due to a windfall of casino revenues, should be bound by campaign-finance disclosure rules. The state's 100-plus tribes have contributed more than $200 million to campaigns and initiatives in the past decade.

    Attorney James Martin, who represents the Agua Caliente tribe, argued that tribes can't be sued in court because they are sovereign nations. Only Congress or the tribes themselves can waive sovereign immunity to allow lawsuits. -- Calif justices hear arguments on tribal campaign-finance rules

    FEC changes the rules on paying for recounts

    AP reports:
    Changing nearly 30 years of election regulations, House and Senate candidates as well as state parties will have to abide by federal fundraising limits to pay for vote recounts, federal regulators decided Wednesday.

    The 4-2 decision by the Federal Election Commission is especially significant this year when both political parties are bracing for potential post-election challenges to results in tight congressional races. ...

    In making its decision, the FEC recognized that recounts are expensive. As a result, the contributions that candidates raise from individual contributors for their recount accounts will not count against their fundraising for the election. Under current law, a candidate can receive donations up to $2,100 from individual contributors for each election. The FEC's advisory opinion approved Wednesday said a contributor who had already reached that limit with a candidate could contribute further to the recount account. -- Vote Recount Regulation Changed, Federal Regulators Deliver Split Decision on Fundraising for Recounts - CBS News

    Missouri: Supreme court hears arguments on voter I.D. law

    AP reports: Missouri Supreme Court judges raised many questions Wednesday as they considered the constitutionality of a new state law requiring people to show photo identification to vote.

    A lower judge threw out the law last month, saying it infringes on the fundamental right to vote.

    On Wednesday, judges honed in on the cost to obtain a birth certificate, one of the documents that can be used to get a state identification card or driver's license. In Missouri, a certified copy costs $15. A passport also can work to get a license or ID card, or to cast a ballot under the challenged law, but those cost more.

    "They all cost money," said Judge Richard Teitelman. -- AP Wire | 10/04/2006 | Missouri Supreme Court considers voter ID law

    Ohio, 2004, replayed -- Democrats still lose

    The New York Times reviews a film: A ‘what went wrong?’ documentary bristling with answers, “...So Goes the Nation” is a clear-eyed and utterly ruthless dissection of the battle for Ohio in the months leading up to the 2004 presidential election. Zeroing in on the strategic decisions of both major parties, the directors, James D. Stern and Adam Del Deo, illuminate not only the putative blunders of the Kerry-Edwards campaign but also the larger difficulties of the Democratic Party itself. It’s not pretty, but it is instructive.

    Facing in President Bush an incumbent burdened by a 48 percent approval rating and an unpopular war in Iraq, Senator John Kerry had “probably 20 different ways he could have won,” says the former Clinton adviser Paul Begala. “And he refused to execute on any of them.” -- ...So Goes the Nation - Review - Movies - New York Times

    R.W. Apple, Jr.: R.I.P.

    The New York Times reports: R. W. Apple Jr., who in more than 40 years as a correspondent and editor at The New York Times wrote about war and revolution, politics and government, food and drink, and the revenge of living well from more than 100 countries, died today in Washington. He was 71. ...

    He covered 10 presidential elections and more than 20 national nominating conventions. He led The Times’s coverage of the Vietnam war for two and a half years in the 1960’s and of the Persian Gulf war a generation later, chronicling the Iranian revolution in between.

    As a political correspondent, Mr. Apple, beginning in 1972, paid attention to the Iowa precinct caucuses when they were still largely ignored by the national press. Four years later, he helped turn the caucuses into an important test of a candidate’s strength by being one of the first reporters to spot the potential appeal of a little-known former governor of Georgia named Jimmy Carter. In later years he turned the same searching, child-like curiosity to writing about food, architecture and travel from around the nation and the globe. -- R.W. Apple, a Times Journalist in Full, Dies at 71 - New York Times

    October 3, 2006

    Maine: vote-by-phone system will aid voters

    The Portland Press Herald reports: For most Americans, being able to vote independently and privately is taken for granted. For Ross Dorr, however, voting has always meant having someone else fill out his ballot.

    Dorr, who has been blind for 30 years, is excited that a new federal law will change that come Election Day, Nov. 7. ...

    The most ground-breaking change will be a $1.2 million vote-by-phone system. A large-keypad phone and fax combination on a dedicated line will be set up -- at the government's expense -- at all 600 local polling places in Maine on voting days. According to the director of elections for the Maine Secretary of State's Office, Melissa Packard, the system can be used by the elderly, people with a problem reading and understanding the ballot, or those who are simply curious.

    A clerk will explain the system to the voter, then will dial the system's computer server on a secure line. Identification codes for the polling place and the ballot will be punched in and the voter, using a handset or headset, will be left to cast a ballot. -- Blind, others can vote by phone head voting goes here

    Ohio: group to challenge voter I.D. law; secretary of state distributes inaccurate information on I.D.

    The Cincinnati Enquirer reports: A new state law requiring Ohioans to show identification before they can vote Nov. 7 is to be challenged today in a federal lawsuit.

    Columbus attorney Clifford Arnebeck said he will ask U.S. District Judge Algenon L. Marbley for a stay of the ID requirement passed by the state legislature in January. ...

    lackwell, as Ohio’s chief elections officer, distributed to the county boards of elections a brochure titled: “Ohio Votes – Three Simple Steps.”

    However, the informational brochure inaccurately describes two of seven forms of acceptable voter ID:

    The first form of approved ID reads: “Your current and valid photo identification card."


    Yet a student’s UC ID card won’t be accepted on Election Day, according to state and county officials. That despite the fact the University of Cincinnati ID is a valid form of photo identification, and is issued by a government agency – a state university.

    Valid photo IDs the state legislature envisioned are issued by the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles: a driver’s license or state-issued ID for those who don’t drive.

    The second “proof of identity” in the secretary’s brochure and advisory to the county boards of election reads: “Military identification.”

    State Sen. Steve Stivers, R-Columbus, an Ohio National Guardsman and a veteran of the war in Iraq, says he made a mistake while lobbying to include military identification, because it does not include an address.

    All proof of identity required for voting purposes must have an address, according to the bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Kevin DeWine, R-Fairborn. -- The Enquirer - Court may get voter ID law

    Oregon: suit filed against ballot-access law

    AP reports: A Salem-based group has filed a federal lawsuit against the state of Oregon, claiming that voters have been constrained by a 2005 law that makes it tougher for independent candidates to qualify for the ballot.

    The lawsuit was filed by the Committee for Petition Rights, headed by Greg Wasson. It has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Thomas Coffin in Eugene, but no hearing has been set.

    The law prohibits anyone who votes in a partisan primary election from helping to nominate an independent candidate. Before the law was enacted, any registered voter could sign a nominating petition for an independent candidate, or attend a nominating convention. ...

    The first candidate to be affected by the law was state Sen. Ben Westlund, I-Tumalo, who said the new rules made it tougher to get the signatures he needed for his campaign for governor. He abandoned the campaign in August. -- OregonLive.com: NewsFlash - Lawsuit filed over Oregon law that impedes independent candidates

    October 2, 2006

    Supreme Court refuses to hear two campaign-regulation cases

    SCOTUSblog reports: Opening its new Term on Monday, the Supreme Court dismissed a new attempt to test the federal limit on "electioneering broadcasts" during campaign season. In a one-line order, the Court dismissed as moot the appeal in Christian Civic League of Maine v. Federal Election Commission, et al. (docket 05-1447).This was an appeal from denial of a preliminary injunction in a case involving an "as-applied" challenge to the new federal campaign finance law's restrictions on radio and TV ads by corporations and labor unions close to election time. This marked the second loss in a week for the Maine group; its plea for a permanent injunction was dismissed in U.S. District Court last week, also as moot.

    In another order, the Court refused to hear a challenge to the power of state governments to put limits on such election-time communications. That case involved an Alaska law that goes considerably beyond federal law in curbing such communications. The Court denied the petition in Alaska Right to Life Committee v. Miles, et al. (06-124) without comment. -- SCOTUSblog: Orders and Opinions

    Florida: engineering firm made contributions in the names of others

    The Miami Herald reports: It was March 15, 2002, and a top man in Atlanta for the engineering firm PBS&J had a political headache.

    A friend of Gov. Roy Barnes was clamoring for a contribution to the campaign of Sen. Max Cleland, a fellow Democrat from Georgia. To make things worse, a PBS&J rival for government contracts was hosting a Cleland fundraiser.

    So, James Breland, a PBS&J senior vice president, faxed a note and a donation request form to headquarters in Miami. The fax -- The Miami Herald obtained a copy from the company's former accounting manager -- relayed the promise that a contribution ``would not go unnoticed by Gov. Barnes.''

    That same day, PBS&J approved a $2,000 contribution. But when the money was handed over at a luncheon later, it was in the name of not the company, but Breland.

    The episode was part of a sweeping, decadeslong practice in which PBS&J used employees as ''straw'' donors to make thousands of illicit contributions to politicians across the country, according to the former accounting manager. Employees wrote the checks, and then the company reimbursed them. -- MiamiHerald.com | 10/02/2006 | PBS&J insider alleges donation scheme

    Thanks to Brett Kappel for the link.

    Florida: Wexler's touchscreen suit goes to the Supreme Court

    Lisa Cohen emails: The Center for Constitutional Litigation (CCL), a pro-consumer law firm that pursues Supreme Court cases, is representing Rep. Robert Wexler (D-Fla.), two Florida county commissioners, and a voter in a Supreme Court challenge to Florida's use of touchscreen voting machines.

    The CCL recently filed a cert petition with the Supreme Court to take the case. If the Supreme Court takes the case, it will be looking at the legal issues surrounding the touchscreen voting machines, which have caused all sorts of problems in terms of accurately recording votes and have been the subject of widespread attention in recent weeks. The CCL's brief argues that the Court should take the case given that it goes to the equal protection of voters and whether indeed every vote is being counted.

    Given the problems being experienced around the country (the Maryland Governor is advocating a return to paper ballots to avoid the problems that bedeviled the primary vote; Dodd and Boxer offering a bill to pay for paper ballots; OH in 2004; FL in 2000), the timing could be good to take a look at this case (we recognize it is a cert petition but wanted to pass on the item given the timeliness of it all).

    Alabama: blacks will not split from Democratic Party, Reed says

    The Montgomery Advertiser reports: It's only "Republican wishful thinking" that a meeting by the Alabama Democratic Conference on Saturday is a sign the group will split from the state Democratic Party, the chairman of the black caucus said.

    Although the meeting Saturday was an opportunity for members of the black caucus to discuss concerns, chairman Joe Reed said the event was about party building and generating support for Democratic candidates, not leaving the party.

    "I call it Republican wishful thinking," Reed said.

    Members who attended the closed meeting, which was moved from Prattville to Millbrook following media reports, said they discussed ensuring black votes generated by the caucus are complimented by efforts of white Democrats in their community. Some members said they don't want black voters, a loyal voting bloc for the party, to be taken for granted.

    "The thrust of it is get involved," Reed said.

    Reed and other members said it was also about the need for the state party to consistently apply its rules. For some members, that issue was highlighted in August when the nominee for a Jefferson County legislative seat was contested over a party bylaw. -- montgomeryadvertiser.com :: Black caucus leader denies party rift

    Disclosure: I represented Patricia Todd who was the nominee Reed accuses of breaking the party rule.

    October 1, 2006

    Maryland: Ehrlich mailing dollar bills to voters

    AP reports: Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. is mailing some Maryland voters a dollar in a fund-raising technique that is being reviewed by the State Board of Elections.

    Jared DeMarinis, director of the board’s candidacy and campaign finance division, told The Washington Post that the case could be sent to the state prosecutor’s office, depending on what officials conclude. ...

    It is clearly illegal under Maryland law for candidates to give people money to garner their vote. The propriety of what Mr. Ehrlich did is less clear, he said.

    The law also requires campaign expenditures to be made by check, and this involves cash, Mr. DeMarinis said. -- HometownAnnapolis.com, Government - Ehrlich's fund-raising technique scrutinized

    Missouri: federal-court suit against voter I.D. put on hold while state supreme court hears challenge

    AP reports: Attorneys for both sides in a federal lawsuit challenging the state's new requirement that voters present a photo ID have agreed to put that case on hold while a separate appeal is heard by the Missouri Supreme Court.

    Lawmakers this year passed legislation requiring all voters to provide photo identification issued by Missouri or the federal government starting with the November election.

    But opponents challenged the law in both state and federal court. A Cole County judge struck down the photo ID requirement Sept. 14, saying it's an unconstitutional infringement on the right to vote.

    The Supreme Court is to hear an appeal in that case Wednesday. -- News-Leader.com | Local News

    Michigan: county commission candidate withdraws because of Hatch Act

    The Daily Telegram reports: A Lenawee County Commission candidate called off her election campaign after learning of a legal conflict with her state government employment. But it is too late to take Allison MacArthur-Ruesink’s name off the ballot in the 9th commission district.

    The Adrian Township resident said she was told last week by her supervisor at the Department of Environmental Quality that her position as an environmental quality analyst is funded with federal money, making her ineligible to run for partisan office.

    The issue was not raised when she told her supervisor about her political plans before filing as a candidate on May 12. She was told last week that DEQ accounting staff verified she is in a federally funded position and was asked to voluntarily withdraw to avoid any federal sanctions under the Hatch Act. -- Candidate halts election campaign

    Alabama: yet another voter guide

    AP reports: The voter guide from the former Christian Coalition of Alabama won't be the only one distributed in churches before the election Nov. 7. There will be a new one that is already causing a split along party lines.

    Redeem the Vote, a Montgomery-based group that registered thousands of religious voters in 2004, plans to distribute what it calls an "alternative voter guide" on races for statewide offices and the Legislature.

    It will list candidates' responses to a questionnaire about issues of faith, rather than highlighting their responses to hot button issues like taxes.

    "Voters of faith are tired of shrill partisanship and are weary of wedge issues. However, a voter guide that gives a real glimpse into the heart and decision-making process of a candidate is a truer and fairer measurement of a candidate's moral position," the founder, Dr. Randy Brinson, said. -- Faith-based group plans alternative voter guide - Tuscaloosa

    ACORN charged with submitting false voter registration forms

    AP reports: An advocacy group that registered about a million voters two years ago is wrestling with new charges of voter fraud and sloppy work weeks before crucial midterm elections.

    In Philadelphia, the city's voter registration office has rejected about 3,000 cards submitted by the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now since April because of missing information or invalid addresses.

    Election officials in three of Ohio's largest counties have cited problems with hundreds of voter registration cards. ACORN is accused of submitting cards with nonexistent addresses, forged signatures and in one case for someone who died seven years ago.

    "In my opinion there's a lot of words but little action in terms of fixing the problem," said Matt Damschroder, the elections board director in Franklin County in Ohio.

    County election officials in Denver forwarded about 200 cards to the secretary of state's office after discovering identical handwriting on signatures. Colorado officials investigated similar problems two years ago. -- AP Wire | 10/01/2006 | Voter fraud charges still tripping up voting rights group

    Alabama: judge throws out election contest action over Greene County sheriff nomination

    The Tuscaloosa News reports: Greene County Circuit Judge Eddie Hardaway on Tuesday threw out a lawsuit brought by a Greene County Democratic Executive Committee member and declared Sheriff Johnny Isaac the rightful Democratic nominee for sheriff.

    The judge’s ruling clears the way for ballots to be printed with Isaac as the nominee for sheriff. Thursday is the deadline for county election managers to have ballots ready. In Greene County, Probate Judge Earlean Isaac, Johnny Isaac’s wife, is the election manager.

    The suit brought by Lester Brown contended that the Alabama Democratic Party had overstepped its bounds when the Democratic Executive Committee disqualified apparent nominee Ison Thomas and named Isaac the nominee. Thomas had defeated Isaac by 300 votes in the June 6 primary. The state threw out his election because he failed to comply with the Fair Campaign Practices Act.

    Brown’s lawsuit contended that it was up to the Greene County Democratic Executive Committee to choose a nominee and that he had been denied that right. -- Judge rules that Isaac is Greene sheriff nominee - Tuscaloosa

    Alabama: black Democrats considering "present relationship" with Democratic Party

    The Montgomery Advertiser reports: Black Democrats will meet today to discuss their future with the state party and if they should support candidates with an "unacceptable agenda," a move one political analyst said could hurt the party in the Nov. 7 general election.

    The meeting is detailed in a letter by Alabama Democratic Conference Chairman Joe Reed to the leadership of the Alabama Democratic Conference and other party officials.

    A copy of the Sept. 12 letter obtained by the Montgomery Advertiser states the meeting in Prattville is dedicated to determining the "quality and status" of the group's relationship to the party and "whether it is in our best interest to continue to maintain our present relationship, given the current political climate."

    It also states the group will decide what position to take regarding "Democratic candidates who, in our opinion, are not electable, or whose agenda is unacceptable or not compatible with our black agenda." -- montgomeryadvertiser.com :: Black Democrats may split from party

    California: Schwarzenegger vetoes national popular vote law

    The Los Angeles Times reports: Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger finished evaluating the year's crop of legislation Saturday by requiring landlords to give 60 days' eviction notice, banning people from riding in the trunks of cars and stopping vintners from associating their wine with Sonoma County except under certain conditions. ...

    The governor rejected legislation to have California join a campaign by states to elect presidents by a national popular vote instead of by the Electoral College. AB 2948 by Assemblyman Tom Umberg (D-Anaheim) was intended to compel contenders to campaign everywhere and not just primarily in swing states. -- Gov. Acts on Last of New Bills - Los Angeles Times

    Pentagon's newest voting system compromises voters' security

    The San Jose Mercury News: Just weeks before the November election, the Pentagon is struggling to fix its system for handling the votes of soldiers overseas.

    Yet experts in computer security and election technology say the Pentagon's current attempt to keep those ballots from being rejected in large numbers, as they have been in past elections, has created a system that is ripe for fraud.

    During the next six weeks, thousands of service members are expected to fax or e-mail ballots over international communications networks that are susceptible to interception and tampering, putting those votes at risk.

    ``I can't for the life of me figure out how the Defense Department decided this is the right thing to do,'' said Doug Jones, an associate professor of computer science at the University of Iowa. -- MercuryNews.com | 09/28/2006 | U.S. soldiers' overseas votes ripe for fraud

    Ohio: Supreme Court Justices usually rule in favor of contributors

    The New York Times reports: IIn the fall of 2004, Terrence O’Donnell, an affable judge with the placid good looks of a small-market news anchor, was running hard to keep his seat on the Ohio Supreme Court. He was also considering two important class-action lawsuits that had been argued many months before. ...

    Thirty-nine states elect judges, and 30 states are holding elections for seats on their highest courts this year. Spending in these races is skyrocketing, with some judges raising $2 million or more for a single campaign. As the amounts rise, questions about whether money is polluting the independence of the judiciary are being fiercely debated across the nation. And nowhere is the battle for judicial seats more ferocious than in Ohio.

    An examination of the Ohio Supreme Court by The New York Times found that its justices routinely sat on cases after receiving campaign contributions from the parties involved or from groups that filed supporting briefs. On average, they voted in favor of contributors 70 percent of the time. Justice O’Donnell voted for his contributors 91 percent of the time, the highest rate of any justice on the court.

    In the 12 years that were studied, the justices almost never disqualified themselves from hearing their contributors’ cases. In the 215 cases with the most direct potential conflicts of interest, justices recused themselves just 9 times. -- Campaign Cash Mirrors a High Court's Rulings - New York Times

    Congress is the new soft money source

    The New York Times reports: To move up the ladder in Congress, you must do more than win votes. You are, quite literally, expected to pay your dues.

    If you are a rank-and-file member of the House, the amount is up to $100,000. If your ambitions are to preside over a powerful committee, the duty is $300,000. For a top party leader, the tally can climb beyond $600,000.

    Make those checks payable to the Republican or Democratic Congressional campaign committees.

    Whether or not they are in competitive races, lawmakers are asked to mount vigorous fund-raising drives to fill their own campaign chests. Then they dole to the party, which spreads the money to the most competitive campaigns in the country.

    Four years after Congress tried to reduce the influence of money in politics by rewriting the rules of how campaigns are financed, Republicans and Democrats alike have found myriad replacements for the river of financial contributions known as soft money. -- Of Party Dues and Deadbeats on Capitol Hill - New York Times