Votelaw, Edward Still's blog on law and politics: March 2007 Archives

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March 31, 2007

Documents relating to the Hatch Act violation at GSA

beSpacific many more documents from the oversight hearings on the GSA Administrator's alleged political meetings on federal property.

Scotland: Electoral Reform Society

The Electoral Reform Society Scotland's website has details about the two election systems to be used in Scotland's local and parliamentary elections. Go to Electoral Reform Society - Voting Systems.

March 30, 2007

Gonzales-8: connecting the dots

Scott Horton, speaking at the Ole Miss Law School, said: Eight US attorneys were dismissed by Alberto Gonzales on prodding from Karl Rove. We now know the fateful decision was taken on December 7 (an ironic day, as FDR said, "a day that will live in infamy"). As Gonzales and his deputies Paul J. McNulty and William Moschella trotted out various and contradictory after-the-fact rationalizations for this decision, it has become increasingly clear that the dismissals were politically inspired. Indeed, in the testimony that he has submitted to the Senate Judiciary Committee within the last two hours, Gonzales' chief of staff acknowledges as much.

The prosecutors selected for discharge come from "battleground states" which will be key to the 2008 presidential election: New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona, Michigan, Washington and Arkansas. This is no coincidence. Shortly after the 2006 Congressional election, Karl Rove, licking his wounds over a serious defeat, indicated in a speech to Republican lawyers that the public perception of scandal surrounding GOP law-makers was key to that loss. Rove promised he would do something about it. Within a few days, a move to cashier these prosecutors was underway. It is tied to a plan to use their offices to go after Democrats, whether a basis existed or not, and to pursue a voter suppression program focused on prospective Democrats. In other words, it's pure politics. Not high politics in the sense that Aristotle uses the term. But the crude gutter politics of the partisan hack. This sort of politics is not the exclusive province of one party. But over the last years, one party has exercised a monopoly on political power, and this appears to have led to a particularly virulent strain of political hackery. -- Accountability and the Renegade Executive

March 29, 2007

Maryland: Senate approves National Popular Vote plan

The Washington Post reports: Maryland is poised to become the first state to agree to bypass the electoral college and effectively elect U.S. presidents by national popular vote under legislation moving briskly toward the desk of Gov. Martin O'Malley (D).

But the bill comes with a big caveat: It would not take effect until enough other states agree to do the same. "It's a long way from home," said Senate President Thomas Mike V. Miller Jr. (D-Calvert). "I don't know if it will happen in my lifetime."

The bill, which the Senate approved 29 to 17 yesterday, would award the state's 10 electoral votes to the presidential candidate who wins the most votes nationwide -- not statewide. A similar bill was approved yesterday by a House committee and is expected to come before the full chamber today, and O'Malley signaled his backing.

Supporters of the measure, being championed by a national nonprofit group, say deciding elections by popular vote would give candidates reason to campaign nationwide and not concentrate their efforts in "battleground" states, such as Florida and Ohio, that have dominated recent elections. -- Md. Senate Advances Bill To Dodge Electoral College - washingtonpost.com

"The Truth About Fraud"

The Brennan Center for Justice has opened a new website, The Truth About Fraud, explaining: Allegations of widespread fraud by malevolent voters are easy to make, but often prove to be inflated or inaccurate. Crying “wolf” when the claims are unsubstantiated distracts attention from real problems that need real solutions. Moreover, these claims are frequently used to justify policies – including restrictive photo identification rules – that could not solve the alleged wrongs, but that could well disenfranchise legitimate voters.

On a related note, the Washington Post publishes today an op-ed by Michael Waldman and Justin Levitt of the Brennan Center collecting the evidence for the tie-in between the firing of the Gonzales-8 and charges of "voter fraud."

March 28, 2007

Scotland: SNP pulls further ahead in latest poll

The Edinburgh Evening News reports: SCOTTISH Nationalists have increased their lead over Labour and are on course to become the biggest party at Holyrood, a new opinion poll showed today.

The Populus survey put the SNP ten points ahead on the constituency vote and seven points ahead on the regional vote.

This would give the Nationalists 50 of the Scottish Parliament's 129 seats, Labour 43, the Liberal Democrats 18, the Tories 17 and the Greens one.

But the poll also showed support for independence, the SNP's core policy, was just 27 per cent, well down on other recent polls. -- Edinburgh Evening News - Politics - SNP stretch lead over Labour but support for independence is falling

Ohio: "Liberal group challenges backers of 2004 gay marriage amendment"

AP Wire | 03/28/2007 | Liberal group challenges backers of 2004 gay marriage amendment

A liberal advocacy group asked the state's elections chief Wednesday to investigate whether backers of a 2004 gay marriage ban properly reported all the money they received and spent during the campaign.

Citizens for Community Values, the Cincinnati-based group behind the Ohio Campaign to Protect Marriage, immediately dismissed the claims by ProgressOhio.org as unfounded.

The constitutional amendment the group backed, which passed overwhelmingly, was credited with turning out Christian conservative voters who tipped the state's presidential results to President Bush.

In a letter to Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, ProgressOhio executive director Brian Rothenberg said the numbers didn't add up in a review the group conducted of campaign finance reports for various entities linked to the 2004 marriage campaign.

"Senate Committee Approves Bill to Speed Up Campaign Finance Disclosures"

CQPolitics.com reports: The Senate Rules Committee voted to expedite the Senate campaign finance disclosure process Wednesday after Republicans aired their growing frustrations with the limited opportunities for minority legislation.

The measure (S 223), approved by voice vote, would force members of the Senate to file with the Federal Election Commission electronically, which would shorten the process of making the filings available to the public by about a month.

Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein of California and other supporters of the legislation have argued that the billā€™s only chance for enactment is to pass it as a stand-alone mueasure under unanimous consent. Identical bills failed to win Senate passage in the both the 108th and 109th Congresses.

When ranking Republican member Robert F. Bennett of Utah floated an amendment to eliminate the caps on party coordinated spending — a proposal that has some Democratic opposition — the bill’s large group of supporters accused him of trying to sink the measure. -- CQPolitics.com - From CQ Today: Senate Committee Approves Bill to Speed Up Campaign Finance Disclosures

North Carolina: House approves Election Day Registration

The Greensboro News-Record reports: North Carolinians would be able to register to vote on the same day they cast their ballot under legislation the state House tentatively approved Wednesday.

The measure only would apply to the period scheduled for early voting. Those wishing to vote on Election Day would have to register in advance. ...

Seven states have similar provisions. Turnout figures show election participation is about 10 percentage points greater there -- as high as 65 percent of eligible voters -- than in states with advance registration requirements. -- News-Record.com - Greensboro, North Carolina: News: Legislature: House tentatively backs voter registration change

White House official may have violated Hatch Act

Federal Times reports: Democrats on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee want to know whether a presentation given by a White House official to senior General Services Administration employees last January was also given at other agencies.

Democrats released the PowerPoint presentation at a Wednesday hearing called to address allegations of a series of improper actions by GSA Administrator Lurita Doan.

Slides list Democrat “targets” and vulnerable Republicans, along with other Republican electoral information. It was presented by Scott Jennings, White House deputy director for political affairs, at a luncheon teleconference for GSA senior staff and political appointees. Jennings, an aide to Bush administration adviser Karl Rove, also was involved in the firing of Bud Cummins III, one of the eight U.S. attorneys fired last year.

A Jan. 19 e-mail regarding the slideshow, sent from an unofficial e-mail address by Jennings’ assistant to Doan’s, says “Please do not email this out or let people see it. It is a close hold and we’re not supposed to be emailing it around.”

Democrats said the e-mail and the PowerPoint showed a violation of the Hatch Act, which bars federal employees from partisan political activity while on the job. -- Federal Times

TalkLeft has a link to an excerpt of the C-SPAN coverage of the hearing. Ms. Doan keeps insisting she does not remember ever seeing that Powerpoint slide before.

Update: NPR has the Powerpoint if you would like to read it without the "I honestly don't remember seeing that."

Pennsylvania: judge blocks referendum in Allegheny County

AP reports: Allegheny County voters will not get to decide in May whether the sheriff should be appointed rather than elected.

County Judge Eugene B. Strassburger III on Wednesday blocked the proposed referendum, saying the county has to wait five years after its last change to home-rule government to make any new changes.

The county amended its form of government in 2005 by allowing six of 10 previously elected row offices to be appointed. The county tried to bypass the five-year rule by having the decision on the sheriff's position take effect in 2010. -- PennLive.com: NewsFlash - Judge bars May vote on appointing Allegheny County sheriff

New Jersey: test of public financing to be run in 3 districts

AP reports: New Jersey will offer taxpayer cash to Assembly and Senate candidates in three districts this year in an effort to remove special-interest money from campaigns under a measure signed into law Wednesday by Gov. Jon S. Corzine.

Supporters hope the law will push New Jersey closer to having a statewide publicly funded campaign program, as Arizona, Connecticut and Maine have done. ...

Under the bill, candidates for the Assembly and Senate in three districts would be eligible for public campaign financing by first raising $10,000 in seed money _ all donations coming from individuals in amounts of $500 or less.

Candidates would then be required to collect only donations of $10. Upon collecting 400 donations, candidates would get $50,000 for campaign expenses, while collecting 800 donations would earn them $100,000. -- Corzine approves campaign finance reform - Newsday.com

Hebert, Rich, and Bickerstaff to discuss "DOJ politicization"

Press release: Two former Department of Justice officials will join a University of Texas law professor and election law expert to discuss politicization of the United States Department of Justice at an informal press event at the National Press Club on Friday.

The discussion will cover recent episodes of Department of Justice decision-making, including the dismissal of the eight U.S. attorneys, recent voter fraud cases, partisan enforcement of the Voting Rights Act, hiring of attorneys in the Department and approval of the 2003 congressional redistricting in Texas masterminded by former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay.

The panel of three attorneys will discuss DOJ politicization under the present Administration. The panel includes two attorneys formerly with the Department of Justice -- J. Gerald Hebert, now Executive Director of the Campaign Legal Center and the lead attorney for the Congressional Democrats in the Texas Congressional redistricting suit, and Joseph Rich, who was Chief of the Division’s Voting Section from 1999 until 2005 and is now Director of the Fair Housing Project at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. Both Hebert and Rich served for decades in the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, spanning many Administrations.

University of Texas adjunct law professor and election law expert Steve Bickerstaff, joining Hebert and Rich on the panel, recently authored a book (Lines in the Sand) on the 2003 Congressional redistricting episode in Texas, the politicization of the DOJ and the downfall of Tom DeLay. He also was among the persons who wrote a recommendation letter calling for the confirmation of Alberto Gonzales as Attorney General in 2005, but has recently called for his resignation. Like Hebert and Rich, he has lengthy personal experience with the Department of Justice.

WHEN:

Friday, March 30, 9:30-11 a.m.

WHERE

Zenger Room, National Press Club

529 14th Street N.W., Washington, D.C.

Louisiana: Legislators ask AG to issue (or not issue) opinion on Breaux qualifications

The Shreveport Times
The Shreveport Times reports: A Republican and a Democrat on Tuesday jointly asked Louisiana Attorney General Charles Foti for a legal opinion on whether former U.S. Sen. John Breaux is a Louisiana citizen and eligible to run for governor this fall.

State Rep. William Daniel, R-Baton Rouge, and state Rep. Eric LaFleur, D-Ville Platte, chairman of the Legislative Democratic Caucus, asked Foti to respond "within the next five days if possible."

Later in the day, another bipartisan pair — state Sen. Noble Ellington, D-Winnsboro, and Rep. Jim Tucker, R-Metairie, chairman of the House Republican Caucus, who said they believe it's clear Breaux isn't a citizen — asked Foti not to issue an opinion, saying it would be improper because it is an issue likely headed for court.

Foti said his staff has been generally looking at the law since the question was raised by the Louisiana Republican Party through an ad campaign ironically developed by a media consultant who has worked for Foti. The attorney general said the research was merely preliminary and his office has only begun researching the specific question. His office will consider Ellington's and Tucker's issues, as well. --

Iowa: legislature adopts Election Day Registration

The Mason City Globe Gazette reports: Voter registration got a lot easier Tuesday as the Iowa Senate passed a bill that allows registration at the polls on Election Day, sending the measure to Gov. Chet Culver for an expected signature.

Also Tuesday, the Senate sent a bill to Culver that requires a paper backup for electronic voting machines.

Support for the Election Day registration bill was split 30-20 along party lines. Democrats said the measure would increase citizen participation, while Republicans warned that an easier process would lead to voter fraud. The current cutoff for registration is 10 days before an election. ...

Demos, a Washington D.C.-based advocacy group, issued a report Tuesday that says Iowa would have had 4.9 percent higher turnout in the 2004 general election if Election Day registration had been in place. Iowa set a turnout record in 2004, with more than 1.5 million ballots cast, which was roughly two-thirds of the voting-age population.

The report, written by faculty from New York University and the California Institute of Technology, says a disproportionate share of the new voters will be in the following categories: naturalized citizens, Latinos, African Americans, people ages 18 to 25, and people who have moved within the last six months. -- globegazette.com - Archived News Story

March 27, 2007

FL-13: ES&S memo shows company's "guidelines" in recount inquiry

The Bradenton Herald reports: Another memo from the maker of Sarasota County's touch-screen voting machines has mysteriously surfaced, with critics questioning whether this one showed the company tried to influence a review of the machines' source code.

In a Dec. 15 e-mail sent to a top Florida elections official, an Election Systems & Software vice president outlined several "guidelines" the company wanted an independent team of computer scientists to follow in its review. Among them were prohibitions against any statements about possible causes of more than 18,000 blank votes in the disputed 13th Congressional District race, which prompted the review.

The company also said it wanted to review the team's findings before they were made public, and that anything that violated a confidentiality agreement would be "destroyed (all copies hard of (sic) soft) and rewritten."

Critics quickly pounced Monday on the memo, first posted on a Wired magazine reporter's blog last week. -- Bradenton Herald | 03/27/2007 | Company's memo involving District 13 draws criticism

Maryland: paper-trail for voting machines appears dead in Senate

The Baltimore Sun reports: The Maryland Senate effectively sank a bill yesterday that would have required voting machines to generate a paper record that could be reviewed prior to election results being certified as official.

"This is obviously a ploy to kill any hope of getting it done in time for an election," said Del. Sheila E. Hixson, the Montgomery County Democrat who sponsored a House version of the bill. The measure mandated that the paper records be kept at polling places at a cost of $17 million to the state for fiscal year 2008 and $1.5 million for fiscal year 2009.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. was reluctant to back the Senate measure, which differed in some details, at a time when the state faces the prospect of significant deficits. Rather than vote on the bill, senators decided to send it back to committee. With two weeks left in the 90-day session, the measure is unlikely to be resurrected. ...

Last year, the House of Delegates approved similar paper-trail legislation, but the proposal died in the Senate. Linda H. Lamone, Maryland's elections chief, has warned lawmakers that rushing to implement a new system could complicate ballot counting in the 2008 presidential election. -- Vote trail hits dead end in Senate - baltimoresun.com

Connecticut: some 17-year olds will be allowed to vote in primaries

The Yale Daily News reports: Seventeen-year-olds who will turn 18 before Election Day may soon be allowed to vote in state primaries, pending the ratification of an amendment to Connecticut’s constitution.

Backed by Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz and State Rep. James Spallone, the bill, if passed, would make Connecticut the 10th state to enact such a constitutional revision. Bysiewicz said the bill — which was unanimously approved by the Government Administrations and Elections committee — is designed to encourage youth participation in the political process and to increase the amount of attention paid to youth issues.

Spallone said the proposal addresses the need to bolster voting among young people — the age group that consistently has the lowest turn-out — in order to encourage them to assume a more active role in politics. ...

Currently, 17-year-olds are not able to vote in primary elections even if they will be eligible to vote before the associated general election. The amendment would not lower the overall voting age to 17. -- Yale Daily News - 17-year-olds could vote in primaries

Maine: one candidate still owes the Clean Election fund

The Portland Press Herald reports: Four unsuccessful legislative candidates who faced possible legal action for failing to return or account for thousands of dollars in state campaign funds by the December 2006 deadline have since paid up.

But a fifth candidate who apparently owes more than $4,500 from last year's campaign has yet to refund the money, according to the state agency that administers the Clean Election Act.

The lone holdout among the five candidates is Debra Reagan of Sanford, a Republican who lost her bid for the Maine House of Representatives last November.

Reagan has neither returned nor explained how she used the $4,518 that she received for her campaign from the Clean Election Fund, according to the state Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices. -- All but one reimburse state election fund

March 26, 2007

Utah: CRS says at-large district would be constitutional

beSpacific
The Congressional Research Services says: Among other provisions, H.R. 1433 (110th Cong.), the District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act of 2007, would expand the U.S. House of Representatives by two Members to a total of 437 Members. The first of these two new seats would be allocated to create a voting Member representing the District of Columbia, and the second seat would be assigned in accordance with 2000 census data and existing federal law, resulting in the addition of a fourth congressional seat in the state of Utah. This report is limited to discussing only the constitutionality of the creation of an at-large congressional district. Based on the authority granted to Congress under the Constitution to regulate congressional elections and relevant Supreme Court precedent, it appears that federal law establishing a temporary at-large congressional district would likely be upheld as constitutional. -- Congressional Redistricting: The Constitutionality of Creating an At-Large District, March 20, 2007

Office manager indicted for embezzlement from the Women's Campaign Fund

The Washington Times reports: The office manager for a D.C.-based political committee has been indicted on charges of embezzling more than $80,000 and covering up the theft by destroying financial records.

Monica J. Cash, when office manager of the Women's Campaign Fund, wrote 58 checks to herself, then forged signatures before funneling the money into her bank account or cashing the checks, according to a recent indictment in federal court in the District. Miss Cash was arrested Wednesday and has been released on bond. ...

The group was not accused of wrongdoing. However, the purported theft resulted in the group apparently misstating expenditures in mandatory disclosure statements on file with the FEC, according to the indictment. -- Fund's ex-staffer indicted in fraud - Metropolitan - The Washington Times, America's Newspaper

March 25, 2007

Scotland: party policies preview

The ScotlandVotes website (produced by Weber Shandwick Public Affairs agency) describes the four principal parties' policies on several issues. Click on the "Party Policies" tab at the top of the page.


Scotland: SNP reveals details of its independence proposal

The Sunday Herald reports: SNP LEADER Alex Salmond would give Scots a vote on independence in 2010 should he replace Labour's Jack McConnell as first minister.

The Banff and Buchan MP has today confirmed, for the first time, the timing of the referendum, its cost, and the exact wording of the question, following talks with the civil service.

His plans, which have so far been kept secret, are revealed in an exclusive interview with the Sunday Herald, in which he sketches out the details of his referendum plan.

Salmond, whom opinion polls claim is in line to be the next first minister, has made a referendum on independence the number one priority of an SNP-led Scottish Executive. ...

Salmond also addressed the process by which he intends to deliver a referendum. A white paper, setting out the details of independence, would be laid within the first 100 days of the next parliament. An SNP-led Executive, he hopes, would then pass an enabling bill to give Scots the choice of independence in a referendum held in 2010.

However, in recent talks with the SNP, civil service officials expressed concern that the wording of the referendum question might not be covered by the powers of the parliament. ...

"Any talks with the civil service are private, but the wording on the ballot will be, The Scottish parliament should negotiate a new settlement with the British government, based on the proposals set out in the white paper, so that Scotland becomes a sovereign and independent state'. The responses would be Yes I agree' or No I disagree'."

In other words, a "Yes" vote would give Holyrood the right to negotiate an independence settlement, rather than a straight endorsement of a separate state.

As for the definition of independence in an SNP-led Executive's white paper, Salmond is keen to stress a separate state would involve ending the 1707 Treaty of Union, not the 1603 Union of the Crowns. -- The Sunday Herald - Scotland's award-winning independent newspaper

Scotland: who wants to run the country? -- Labour

Labour is the principal partner in the coalition government that leads Scotland now (the Liberal Democrats being the small, junior partner). Labour's leader, Jack McConnell is the First Minister (equivalent to the Prime Minister).

What does Labour want to do in the next term? Hard to tell right now from its website. The header across the top says, "More teachers More nurses More police," but there is no link from that to anything else. The headlines below that give the flavor of Labour's position now:

  • Labour budget lowers taxes while SNP propose increase
  • A budget for Scotland's families
  • Budget shows SNP oil gamble risky and expensive
  • The SNP’s first 100 days - it’s time to look forward to tax and turmoil
  • Breaking up Britain will leave Scottish families broke

    Translation: the Scottish Nationalists' program will leave you nasty, brutish, and broke.

    Maybe we will learn more when the party releases its "manifesto" -- the party platform.

  • March 24, 2007

    District of Columbia: Fenty to push DC voting rights bill, while Dem leadership pausing

    The Washington Post reports: D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty is scheduled to meet with a top Bush administration official Monday to press for congressional representation for the city, a goal that has grown more complicated in recent days as House Republicans and the White House have stepped up their opposition to a pending bill.

    Fenty announced his meeting with White House Chief of Staff Joshua B. Bolten as supporters of a D.C. vote bill hashed out strategies to send it back to the House floor for passage.

    The Democratic leadership of the House had expected that the measure giving the District its first full-fledged seat in the chamber would pass easily Thursday. But, at the end of a lengthy debate, Republicans moved to send the bill back to committee with new language that would overturn the city's strict gun laws.

    The surprise maneuver was aimed at winning support from conservative Democrats from pro-gun areas. Fearful they would defect, Democratic leaders pulled the bill from the House floor. -- Fenty to Meet With Bush Official to Push Measure - washingtonpost.com

    March 23, 2007

    New U.S. Attorneys have worked on voting-related cases before appointment

    McClatchy Newspapers wire reports: Under President Bush, the Justice Department has backed laws that narrow minority voting rights and pressed U.S. attorneys to investigate voter fraud - policies that critics say have been intended to suppress Democratic votes.

    Bush, his deputy chief of staff, Karl Rove, and other Republican political advisers have highlighted voting rights issues and what Rove has called the "growing problem" of election fraud by Democrats since Bush took power in the tumultuous election of 2000, a race ultimately decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.

    Since 2005, McClatchy Newspapers has found, Bush has appointed at least three U.S. attorneys who had worked in the Justice Department's civil rights division when it was rolling back longstanding voting-rights policies aimed at protecting predominantly poor, minority voters.

    Another newly installed U.S. attorney, Tim Griffin in Little Rock, Ark., was accused of participating in efforts to suppress Democratic votes in Florida during the 2004 presidential election while he was a research director for the Republican National Committee. He's denied any wrongdoing. -- KRT Wire | 03/23/2007 | New U.S. attorneys seem to have partisan records

    Massachusetts: Springfield trial suspended for legislative action

    The Springfield Republican reports: A federal judge today suspended a voting rights trial while legislation to reform the election system in Springfield is pending in the Legislature.

    U.S. District Judge Michael A. Ponsor said he did not want to interfere with a home rule petition providing limited ward representation on the City Council and School Committee. The petition was approved by the council and mayor last year. If it clears the Legislature, the measure will be decided by voters in the November election.

    "I think that process should go forward in its pure form," Ponsor said at a hearing in U.S. District Court today.

    Ponsor said he will stay the trial until one week after the November election. Either side may move to lift the stay in the meantime. -- Judge suspends Springfield voting rights trial

    Louisiana: Breaux will run ... if he gets the AG's OK

    AP reports (and reminds me of a story about former Earl Long): Former U.S. Sen. John Breaux said Friday he will run for Louisiana governor if the state attorney general determines he meets the legal requirements to enter the race.

    Breaux told The Associated Press he'll give up his lobbying job in Washington, D.C., and begin campaigning if the ruling is in his favor. He said he's aware that he would face tough attacks from Republicans but wants to be governor so he can help Louisiana recover from the 2005 hurricanes. -- NOLA.com: NewsFlash - Breaux: I'll run for governor if AG opinion says it's legal

    As soon as I read that first paragraph, I was reminded of one of Earl Long's campaigns. Earl had been committed to the Southeastern Louisiana State Hospital on grounds of mental instability during his last term as governor. While later running for a seat in Congress, Earl is reputed to have said, "I am the only candidate in this race who has a certificate that he is sane." (As a friend used to say, "If it ain't true, it ought to be.")

    Scotland: who wants to run the country? -- SNP

    In the years before the Scottish Parliament was established, I always thought of the Scottish National Party as a party working for the independence of Scotland. Perhaps I was wrong. Let's look at what they are campaigning on now.

    The SNP still talks about independence (and it is linked from the home page), but the three main issues mentioned on its home page are:

  • It's time to dump student debt.
  • It's time to keep healthcare local.
  • It's time for a government Scotland can trust.
  • Will the SNP push independence if it wins the election? The Sunday Herald reports:

    A NATIONALIST-LED Executive at Holyrood [*] would stage an independence referendum in its first term, according to SNP deputy leader Nicola Sturgeon.

    In a keynote speech to her party's conference in Glasgow yesterday, Sturgeon denied reports last week that the SNP would "park" their principal policy.

    Where does the SNP get its campaign funds? I will have to track that down, but a big donation just came from a controversial source. Again, as reported in the Sunday Herald:

    SNP LEADER Alex Salmond was last night accused of pandering to "homophobia" by accepting a £500,000 donation from an anti-gay businessman.

    The SNP yesterday confirmed that Brian Souter, who financed a high-profile campaign to keep Section 28, which banned "promoting" homo-sexuality in schools, was bankrolling their election hopes with a cheque for £500,000.

    Can the SNP win? In early March, Angus Reid Global Monitor, a polling organization reported:

    The Scottish National Party (SNP) remains the top political organization in Scotland, according to a poll by ICM Research published in The Scotsman. 34 per cent of respondents would give their local vote to the SNP in this year’s Scottish Parliament ballot.

    The figures for all the parties were as follows (the first figure is for the local constituency vote, the second for the regional vote):

    Scottish National Party ........34% 32%
    Scottish Labour ...................29% 28%
    Scottish Conservatives .......16% 15%
    Scottish Liberal Democrats ..16% 17%
    Scottish Green ........................ -- 5%

    [*] "Holyrood" is the location of the Scottish Parliament.

    Scotland: prison inmate loses in quest for release to vote

    BBC News reports: A judge has refused to free a prisoner who wanted to register to vote in the Scottish Parliament elections.

    However Donald Birrell - who complained that his human rights had been breached - may still be able to win damages.

    Birrell was let out on licence in May last year but is now back in jail after the licence was revoked last month. ...

    Under current laws - the 1983 Representation of the People Act - a ban on voting is imposed on all prisoners being held under a sentence.

    Remand prisoners and those freed on licence are allowed to cast their vote. -- BBC NEWS | UK | Scotland | Judge denies inmate's voting bid

    FEC splits over whether Bush '04 campaign overspent

    The Washington Post reports: The three Democrats on the Federal Election Commission revealed yesterday that they strongly believe President Bush exceeded legal spending limits during the 2004 presidential contest and that his campaign owes the government $40 million.

    Their concerns spilled out during a vote to approve an audit of the Bush campaign's finances, which is conducted to make sure the campaign adhered to spending rules after accepting $74.6 million in public money for the 2004 general election. ...

    The dispute centered on the use of what the commissioners called "hybrid" ads, which were intended to promote both the president and Republican members of Congress. The Bush campaign argued that it should not bear the full cost of these ads, so it split the tab with the Republican Party.

    As a result, only half of the cost would count toward spending limits imposed on the campaign when it agreed to take public funds. -- FEC Democrats Say Bush Violated Limits - washingtonpost.com

    Alabama: House passes campaign disclosure bill, despite charges of Bible-trampling

    AP reports: The Alabama House continued its efforts Thursday to reform the way election campaigns are financed.

    The House voted 105-0 for a bill that requires disclosure of those paying for advertisements about a candidate, including material sent by mail and calls from a phone bank. The sponsor, Rep. Randy Hinshaw, D-Meridianville, said the bill is aimed at anonymous ads, phone calls and flyers that say disparaging things about a candidate, but include no disclosure of who paid for the material.

    Current Alabama law requires financial disclosure only for ads that specifically ask people to vote for a certain candidate, Hinshaw said. ...

    Hinshaw received a warmer reception than he has in past years for similar legislation that would have forced nonprofit organizations to disclose the source of funding to influence votes on issues such as creating a lottery or tax increases. That bill elicited a negative response from some lawmakers, who said the bill was aimed at forcing the Alabama Christian Coalition to disclose the sources of its money.

    Several lawmakers questioned Hinshaw at length Thursday about whether this bill would force churches to disclose the names of contributors.

    "I want to make sure we are not restricting any religious freedom," said Rep. DuWayne Bridges, R-Valley. "I just want to make sure the Bible is not being trampled on by this bill or any other bill." -- House passes bill requiring disclosure of money for campaign ads

    Alabama: Senate leaders send PAC bill to new committee

    AP reports: A House-passed bill to ban PAC-to-PAC transfers of campaign funds got assigned to a fresh committee in the state Senate Tuesday by two leaders pushing for its passage.

    Lt. Gov. Jim Folsom Jr., the Senate's presiding officer, and Senate President Pro Tem Hinton Mitchem, D-Union Grove, teamed up to assign the bill to the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, where they said it will have the best chance of winning approval.

    In recent years, the House has passed the bill and watched it die in the Senate Constitution, Campaign Finance, Ethics and Elections Committee or get approved so late in the legislative session that it never came up for a vote in the Senate. -- AP Wire | 03/20/2007 | Senate leaders send PAC transfer bill to friendlier committee

    March 22, 2007

    Scotland: Who's in Parliament now

    The Scottish Parliament has 129 members -- some elected from constituencies and some elected on a proportional basis from party lists in regions. Here are the numbers for the biggest parties:

  • Scottish Labour, 46 from constituencies, 4 from regions, total 50 (38.7%)
  • Scottish National Party, 8 from constituencies, 17 from regions, total 25 (19.4%)
  • Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, 3 from constituencies, 14 from regions, total 17 (13.2%)
  • Scottish Liberal Democrats, 13 from constituencies, 4 from regions, total 17 (13.2%)
  • The regional seats are used to provide overall proportionality to the allocation of seats in the Scottish Parliament. Note that the Conservatives and LibDems have the same number of seats, but got them in very different ways.

    Finally, the Labour and LibDem parties are in the governing coalition.

    Joe Rich ties in the Gonzales-8 with earlier DOJ treatment of voting rights staff

    Joe Rich, the former chief of the Voting Section of the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department, testified at the House oversight hearings on the Civil Rights Division. His testimony is here.

    More on the Bilbray decision

    Paul Lehto writes exclusively for Votelaw.com: I was lead counsel in this case along with Ken Simpkins assisting in this unpublished 2-1 decision, and at trial and on appeal we expressly argued and pointed to the various and severable kinds of relief available in an election contest, and we expressly waived one small part of that relief, that of an order directing Congress to unseat Bilbray -- since that would be unconstitutional for any Court to do under Art. I, sec. 5.

    But despite carving this out of the case, many other issues remain, like vindicating the strong public policy in accuracy in elections, and the many other issues that could be summed up by saying: THE TRUTH IN ELECTIONS STILL MATTERS. The voters still have a California constitutional right to have their votes counted properly and tabulated properly, and time has not run out to have a look at vindicating those rights. The Court of Appeals ignored them, however, thus ignoring the voters.

    Also, the question of legitimacy and accuracy are ones that are relevant even now, were we to discover evidence about this or even some ancient election. Moreover, without substantive review, in any case the Registrar of Voters is going to repeat most of the same mistakes in all of future elections and indeed already has in the November 2006 election.

    One fact that this article and the North County Times omits but that the opinion references is that fully 68,500 votes were still uncounted according to the Congressional Record for the date of the premature swearing in, according to the letter therein sent by the California Secretary of State. (the number may be somewhat less because it was dropping daily, but still substantial numbers of votes had not been counted even once at the time Bilbray was sworn in, in a close race separated by around 4000 votes in final numbers but there were more suspicious absentee ballots than that margin, alone, without discussing other problems.)

    Also, the court dismissed on mootness grounds in a 2-1 opinion EVEN THOUGH the defendant appellee Bilbray did not brief or argue mootness, even at oral argument on January 8, 2007, which was after the close of the Congressional term that allegedly created the mootness. This makes sense that Bilbray failed to argue mootness because there are many other issues at stake besides the question of who sits in the seat of power, indeed the lawsuit for the election contest explicitly waived the right to an order directing Congress to unseat anybody.

    So, the only circumstance that occurred through the passage of time (expiration of the term and thus the availability of a seat-change) was the same thing that was waived all along (namely that of seat-change, because Constitutionally not available). If the court's opinion is correct, then, the suit was moot on the day it was filed because it could not directly change the seat in Congress. This would mean that all citizen election contests are barred on the day they are filed because they don’t DIRECTLY change who sits in Congress. But states still have an independent right to police their own election machinery, and existing judicial opinions already contemplate the procedure of a state court proceeding to judgment and then directly forwarding its decision to the House, which can adopt it or else conduct its own recount. In this sense, what might be considered an "advisory" opinion is expressly affirmed in the context of elections where state sovereignty is considered strong along with federal sovereignty... The Congress can still learn and act by not prematurely swearing in candidates in the future because it terminates the democratic process prematurely, changes the rules and expectations after the election compared to before, and upsets the balance of powers between state and federal jurisdictions in what is sometimes indelicately called a “power grab.”

    The CA Constitution contains an express provision providing CA citizens with the right to have their votes counted properly and tabulated properly. This was entirely ignored in the opinion.

    The Court, which implicitly treats congressional seats NOT as being from, by and for We the People, but as being the personal property of candidates whose concession is often considered of great weight if not dispositive, when really it has little or no weight from the standpoint of democracy. The 50th Congressional seat is owned by the People of the 50th, and only subletted to the legitimate winner of that seat, and then only for two years. The landlord of the 50th Seat, as it were, should not be treated this way.

    What this UNPUBLISHED 2-1 opinion seems to allow, as a secondary effect, is a state of affairs where short term special elections are free for the stealing or for swearing-in abuses -- because surely the clock will run out either by the first or second appeal in a short term.

    In fact, we asked for expedited appeal in September, but the Court of Appeals only offered December dates and later January dates, both of which would result in opinions being issued when the case was "moot." In effect, the Court's own scheduling decision resulted in the mootness opinion. If abortion cases were decided this same way, we'd never have a decision on an abortion case either, because that right lasts a maximum of 6 months, just like June 6 to early January special term is just over 6 months...

    We hoped to be more enlightened about the Interplay of Art I, esc 4 and Art. I sec. 5 of the federal Constitution, but that will have to wait for the next court that hears this issue, either in this case or the several other places around the country where this argument has been used to terminate recounts or vote counts in mid-stream (by Congress) just as the US Supreme Court issued a stay in 200 that terminated Florida recounts in mid-stream. Issues of election termination have a profound public interest attached to them and should not be the subject of failures to decide via “mootness” opinions.

    Arizona: petition drive starts to amend Independent Redistricting Commission law

    Capitol Media Services reports: Some former state lawmakers and their allies want voters to revamp a 7-year-old law on how congressional and legislative districts are drawn in hopes of creating some more competition at the general election ballot box.

    But the head of the Arizona Republican Party said it's simply an effort by a well-heeled Democrat to get more members of that party elected.

    An initiative drive formally launched Wednesday would revamp the Independent Redistricting Commission which actually draws the lines every decade, adding four new members. That change will ensure there are people from more parts of the state.

    But the real change would be to require that the commission pay more attention to creating "competitive" districts -- those where the Democratic and Republican candidates have relatively equal chances of getting elected. -- More 'competitive' districts wanted in revamp of law | www.azstarnet.com ®

    Wisconsin: Madison to consider public financing of council elections

    The Capital Times reports: Agreeing to let a committee with expertise in election finance reform draft a city election public financing ordinance for the Madison City Council to consider in September proved painful Tuesday night.

    As Ald. Brenda Konkel, who supported the proposal to work toward publicly financed local elections, said during the emotional hour and a half debate: "There is a lot of anger in the room." ...

    The successful resolution requires the mayor to appoint, with the approval of the council, seven citizens with a demonstrated interest and expertise in election financing. The committee will have six months to come up with recommendations on public financing of election campaigns for City Council, mayor and municipal judges. Then, the council will have to decide if it wants to implement the recommendations or even a modified version of them. Union Corners, etc.: In other business, the council voted 17-1, with Konkel dissenting, to grant a $4.9 million tax increment financing loan for Union Corners, a mixed-use development on 15 acres bounded by East Washington Avenue, Winnebago and Milwaukee streets. -- The Capital Times

    Maryland: paper-trail bill passes House

    The Washington Post reports: Voters in Maryland would have their electronic ballots backed up by a paper record under legislation that unanimously cleared the House of Delegates yesterday, one of several efforts underway in the General Assembly to change the way elections are run.

    But like many proposals in the legislature this year, the move to create a paper trail system could fall victim to a lack of funding because of a looming budget shortfall that's putting a crimp in new spending.

    Maryland would join 27 states that require paper receipts, amid concerns that the touch-screen machines now used across the country can't be verified for accuracy or checked in case of a recount. The House bill would not require paper records in time for next year's presidential election and allocates no funds to put a system in place. -- Electronic Ballot Backup Clears Md. House

    Wisconsin: college students run "Vote Naked" campaign

    The Wisconsin State Journal reports: Spring break fever may have UW-Madison students thinking more about sunny beaches and showing some skin than exercising their right to vote, but the "Vote Naked" campaign on campus is out to capitalize on that.

    Hundreds of flyers showing a body in the buff holding up a well-placed ballot reading "Vote Naked" have been posted all over campus and sent via e- mail as a way to encourage the idea of absentee voting.

    With the April 3 general election falling in the middle of spring break when many students won't be on campus, the "Vote Naked" blitz is among several approaches UW- Madison is taking to encourage students to vote by absentee ballot. -- Wisconsin State Journal

    California: state supreme court upholds state Voting Rights Act

    AP reports: A state law allowing voters to challenge at-large elections systems on the basis that they dilute the strength of minority voters will stand, after the California Supreme Court declined to review the case Wednesday.

    The high court's refusal to hear the case leaves intact an appeals court ruling that upheld the 2001 California Voting Rights Act.

    The Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights sued the city of Modesto in 2004 on behalf of Hispanic voters there, charging that electing city council members to at-large seats instead of from districts diminished the strength of their votes. Though the city is one-quarter Hispanic, just one Hispanic has been elected to Modesto's five-member city council since 1911.

    The city argued that the California Voting Rights Act, which the plaintiffs relied on to demand change, was unconstitutional because it benefited certain racial groups. -- Article - News - State Supreme Court upholds California Voting Rights Act

    California: suit over Bilbray's election dismissed as moot

    The North County Times reports: The appeal of a lawsuit that challenged the June 2006 election of Rep. Brian Bilbray, R-Solana Beach, to fill the remaining six months of disgraced former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham's term in office was dismissed Tuesday because Bilbray already has completed that term.

    Bilbray won the election in November 2006 to his own full, two-year term in office.

    A state appeals court in San Diego ruled Tuesday that the appeal of a judge's dismissal of the lawsuit was moot. ...

    Voters Barbara Gail Jacobson and Lillian M. Ritt filed a lawsuit July 31, 2006, in which they alleged problems existed with the voting machines used in the June 2006 election and asked for a hand-recount of the votes and a declaration that the candidate who received the most votes be declared elected to congress, the appeals court's written opinion stated. -- Appeals court dismisses challenge to Bilbray election - North County Times - San Diego / County -

    Mississippi: briefing deadline extended in Noxubee Co. case

    AP reports: A federal judge has extended until April 9 the deadline for attorneys to file final briefs in a government lawsuit in which a black Democratic Party official in Noxubee County is accused of trying to limit white voters' participation in local elections.

    U.S. District Judge Tom Lee, in an order filed Monday, gave attorneys for Ike Brown and the Justice Department an extra two weeks to file briefs in the case. The deadline had been March 26.

    Brown, the chairman of Noxubee County's Democratic Executive Committee, is accused of violating the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which was written to protect racial minorities when Southern states strictly enforced segregation. -- Judge extends briefs deadline in voting rights case - The Clarion-Ledger

    North Carolina: GOP pushes several election reforms

    AP reports: House and Senate Republicans held their weekly news conference, this time to talk about election-related bills. They highlighted measures that would create an independent redistricting commission, rotate the order of candidates on the election ballot and limit to four years the terms of House speaker and Senate president pro tempore. Senate Republican Leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, said it was up to Democrats - who control the Legislature and the Executive Mansion - to decide whether to support bills that he said would restore the public's confidence after recent scandal. -- Tuesday, March 20, 2007, at the North Carolina General Assembly - HendersonvilleNews.com - Times-News Online

    "How U.S. attorneys were used to spread voter-fraud fears"

    Mark Follman, Alex Koppelman and Jonathan Vanian write in Salon.com: A belief in rampant voter fraud in Democratic strongholds -- big cities, minority neighborhoods -- is widespread among Republicans, and claims of vote buying and the like have long been a mainstay of GOP rhetoric. The party has used these claims of voter fraud to help build public support for what it considers electoral reforms, like requiring voters to show photo ID -- reforms that also tend to suppress Democratic turnout on Election Day.

    During the Bush administration, a rhetorical tool became public policy. The Republicans could not get a photo ID law through the Senate, but they were able to enlist the 93 United States attorneys in their crusade against voter fraud. In 2002, then-Attorney General John Ashcroft announced an initiative that required "all components of the [Justice] Department" to "place a high priority on the investigation and prosecution of election fraud."

    Five years later, Ashcroft's initiative hasn't produced all that much in the way of convictions, at least relative to the overall Department of Justice caseload. Prosecutions for electoral fraud remain a minuscule part of the federal criminal docket. In 2002 alone, there were 80,424 criminal cases concluded nationwide in the 94 U.S. District Courts. By comparison, according to a DOJ document, between the fall of 2002 and the fall of 2005, there were only 95 defendants charged with federal election-fraud-related crimes in the whole country. ...

    But sometimes pursuing an investigation can be just as effective as a conviction in providing that ammunition and creating an impression with the public that some sort of electoral reform is necessary. The battle between Democrats and Republicans over photo ID has been most contentious in so-called battleground states like New Mexico. In one such purple state, the GOP used repeated and very public accusations of fraud to ram a photo ID law through the state legislature. In Missouri, Republicans have been accusing Democrats of fraud since the 2000 election. During the Bush administration, three different U.S. attorneys have launched investigations into electoral fraud in Missouri, indicting nine people. Last year, prior to the midterm elections, the administration even dispatched a key voting fraud expert from Washington to assume the job of U.S. attorney in Missouri's Eastern District. -- How U.S. attorneys were used to spread voter-fraud fears | Salon News

    District of Columbia: Mayor calls on citizens to march for voting rights

    The Washington Post reports: Mayor Adrian M. Fenty declared in his first State of the District address yesterday that he is moving fast to make Washington a better place to live, and urged residents to join him for a people's march on Capitol Hill to push for D.C. voting rights.

    "The United States government has brought democracy to Baghdad before bringing it home to the District," Fenty told hundreds of senior citizens at Congress Heights Senior Wellness Center in Ward 8. "We are the only capital of a democracy in the world that has no vote in the national legislature." ...

    Fenty's call came a day after advisers to President Bush said they would recommend that he veto a bill that would give the city a full vote in the House of Representatives. The D.C. vote bill, which would add two seats to the 435-member House, one for the heavily Democratic District and the other to Republican-leaning Utah, is expected to reach the House floor today.

    After his address, Fenty said he has left messages for White House Chief of Staff Joshua B. Bolten to talk with him about the bill. -- Fenty Says He and City Are on the Move - washingtonpost.com

    March 21, 2007

    New Hampshire: Tobin's convication reversed, remanded for new trial

    TalkLeft reports: RNC Regional Director James Tobin's phone jamming conviction has been reversed. It's remanded for a new trial. The opinion is here. (pdf). -- First Circuit Tosses Republican Phone Jammer's Conviction - TalkLeft: The Politics Of Crime

    Here is the nub of the decision:

    Tobin's first and most far-reaching claim of error relates to the proper meaning of section 223(a)(1)(D)'s "intent to harass" requirement. From the outset, the district judge was concerned that the government was seeking to extend the statute from one directed at harassment of the called party to one embracing the disruption of telecommunications systems. In the end, the judge adopted a compromise ....

    We side with Tobin on this single issue. The district judge made a creditable effort to make sense of the perplexing statute. But in the end, the district court's "unjustifiable motive" and "good faith" language, used virtually to define "intent to harass," broadens the statute unduly. In considering the objection, we are required to consider just what Congress meant by harassment and the problem is not straightforward.

    New Hampshire: DOJ investigation of GOP phone-jamming was mishandled, Dems claim

    TPMmuckraker.com reports: Now New Hampshire Democrats are raising questions about another DoJ investigation into Republican wrongdoing -- the New Hampshire phone jamming case.

    In a detailed, 10-page letter to Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) signed by Kathleen Sullivan, chair of the New Hampshire Democratic Party, and Paul Twomey, a lawyer for the Democrats, they argue that the investigation, which targeted prominent operatives in the Republican Party, was stalled and mishandled.

    On Election Day in 2002, Republicans schemed to jam the phone banks for Democratic get out the vote efforts. Two Republicans involved in the plan pled guilty, and James Tobin, formerly the New England Regional Political Director for the Republican National Committee, was convicted for his role. The case took years to play out; the first guilty pleas in the case were not until the summer of 2004, and Tobin was not indicted until after the 2004 election.

    One of the reasons the investigation was stalled, Democrats argue, is that "all decisions had to be reviewed by the Attorney General himself" -- first John Ashcroft and then Alberto Gonzales. To back up that claim, the Democrats say that lawyers working on the case were told by prosecutors that delays in the case were due to the extreme difficulty in obtaining authorization from higher levels at DOJ for any and all actions in the case. -- TPMmuckraker March 21, 2007 04:59 PM

    Help a graduate student -- take a survey

    Exploring the Role of Internet Advertising in American Politics

    This survey is designed to help us understand what Americans like you think about internet advertising, modern campaigns, and politics. We are very interested in your thoughts on this matter and greatly appreciate your participation.

    Click here to take the survey: http://www.ic.sunysb.edu/stu/crweber/TAKE%20SURVEY/internet_advertising.htm

    New York: State Senate votes to join the National Primary

    AP reports: New York's Republican-led Senate overwhelmingly approved legislation Wednesday to move the state's 2008 presidential primary from March 4 to Feb. 5, where it would join California and a host of other states for Super Tuesday.

    The Democratic-controlled Assembly was expected to approve the measure later Wednesday, and Democratic Gov. Eliot Spitzer indicated he would sign it into law.

    The February date was sought by former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and was supported by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton. The two lead national polls in the race for the Republican and Democratic presidential nominations, respectively. -- N.Y. Lawmakers Endorse Super Tuesday

    Scotland: the upcoming election

    I will be traveling to Scotland in a little over 5 weeks to observe the 3 May parliamentary and local elections. As a part of my self-study course in preparation for the trip, I thought I would post on what I learn. Over the next several weeks, I will be posting what I learn here.

    Let's begin with Wikipedia: The Scottish Parliament election, 2007, will be the third general election[1] to the devolved Scottish Parliament since it was created in 1999. Polling will take place on Thursday May 3 unless two-thirds of MSPs vote to dissolve Parliament before then. The election falls two days after the tricentenary of the political union of Scotland and England.

    Jack McConnell, as First Minister, will go into the election commanding a small majority consisting of a Labour and Liberal Democrat coalition. The coalition has been in power, with three different First Ministers, since the first Scottish Parliament election in 1999. Opinion polls suggest its majority could be lost in 2007, due to falling support for the Labour Party and rising support for other parties. No single party is likely to acquire an overall majority. Nor is there an obvious alternative coalition ready to form a new Executive. -- Scottish Parliament election, 2007 - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (go to Wilipedia for the links)

    Unfortunately, Wikipedia does not have much an explanation of the method of election (note to self: correct that omission), but you can find it on the votescotland.com site. After you read the technical explanation, go to this page of the site to vote in fun practice session.

    District of Columbia: White House threatens veto of DC vote bill

    The Washington Post reports: The White House stepped up its opposition yesterday to legislation that would give the District a full seat in the House of Representatives, saying that if it reaches President Bush, his top advisers "would recommend that he veto the bill."

    The statement came as the House Republican leadership began a vigorous campaign to persuade party members to vote against the bill when it reaches the House floor Friday.

    The D.C. vote measure easily cleared two House committees last week, with strong Democratic support and votes from several Republicans. Democrats have pledged to use their 32-seat House majority to pass it. Friday will mark the first time the full House has considered granting the District a full seat in Congress since 1993, when a statehood measure was defeated.

    But the threat of a presidential veto could harm the bill's chances in the Senate, where Republican support is needed to avoid a filibuster. -- Bush Advised To Issue Veto If D.C. Vote Bill Passes - washingtonpost.com

    Indiana: state sets up voter fraud hotline

    The Post-Tribune reports: Indiana government wants to make it easy for voters in Lake County to report fraudulent activity on and around the May primary.

    Voters can confidentially call a toll-free phone number set up by the offices of the Indiana Attorney General and Secretary of State if they suspect ballot tampering, voting under another name, voting in the wrong precinct or other criminal activity. ...

    Rokita said his office will also offer bipartisan pollworker training, focusing on photo identification requirements and voters' rights. ...

    The vote fraud hotline, paid for with federal funds, will be monitored by the state's Joint Vote Fraud Task Force. -- POST-TRIBUNE :: News :: Toll-free line set up to thwart voter fraud

    Kansas: voter I.D. bill stalls in House

    The Wichita Eagle reports: A bill that Democrats claim would make Kansas one of the hardest places to register to vote faces an uncertain future in the House.

    The bill, which has already passed the Senate, would require people to show a birth certificate or passport to register.

    Voters younger than 65 would also have to show photo identification at the polls. ...

    Senate Bill 169 passed the Senate 28-12.

    However, late Tuesday a House committee on elections decided not to act on the bill, raising doubt about whether it would pass this session. -- Wichita Eagle | 03/21/2007 | Bill making it harder to register to vote stalls

    Iowa: House approves Election Day Registration

    The Des Moines Register reports: The Iowa House approved a plan Tuesday that would allow Iowans to register to vote the day of an election.

    Iowa's current law requires voters to register 10 days before primary and general elections and 11 days before other elections. The change would allow people to bring records to their voting location and register just moments before casting their ballot.

    The proposal, House File 653, passed on a 54-44 vote, largely split along party lines. Rep. Walt Tomenga of Johnston was the only Republican to vote in favor of bill. No Democrats voted against the bill, which now moves to the Senate.

    House Democrats said same-day voter registration would encourage more people to vote and that, in turn, would strengthen the political process. They based their proposal on a Minnesota law that has been in place more than 30 years.

    Republicans, however, said the proposal is critically flawed because it fails to adequately protect against voter fraud. -- DesMoinesRegister.com

    Louisiana: Blanco will not run, Breaux may, but residency challenged

    The Washington Post reports: Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco (D) announced last night that she will not seek a second term this November, bowing to a political reality created by her handling of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. ...

    Attention immediately turned to former senator John Breaux (La.) who is seen as Democrats' strongest potential candidate against Rep. Bobby Jindal, the likely Republican nominee. ...

    Charlie Cook, a national political analyst and native son of Louisiana, said it is a "close call" on whether Breaux runs, but he added that recent ads sponsored by the state Republican Party seeking to raise questions about Breaux's residency and eligibility for the office may backfire. The commercials "infuriated" Breaux, according to Cook, and "nudged him toward getting in." -- Louisiana Governor Announces She Won't Seek Reelection - washingtonpost.com

    Spector and Durbin call for public financing of congressional races

    The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports: U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter yesterday joined a top Senate Democrat to call for the creation of a multibillion-dollar public financing program for congressional races.

    Mr. Specter, R-Pa., made the announcement one day after confirming that he already has started preparing to run for a sixth term in 2010, citing the exploding costs of modern campaigns and the need to raise tens of millions of dollars to be competitive. ...

    The public financing system would provide about $2.8 billion nationwide for each two-year congressional cycle. It would be voluntary.

    To qualify as participants, Senate candidates would have to raise $5 contributions from a specific number of supporters, depending on state population.

    Pennsylvania's qualification number is 11,000 donors. The state would receive $7.9 million in public funds for the primary election and $19.4 million for the general election.

    Some of that money would go to vouchers for television air time, the largest cost for most campaigns. -- Specter joins Democrats in call for public campaign financing

    The bill will be obtainable here.

    March 20, 2007

    Louisiana: will/can Breaux run?

    Kos writes on DailyDos: A ticker at the top of the WWL-TV website says:

    Governor Kathleen Blanco has requested television time tonight for a gubernatorial address that will be carried live on Eyewitness News at 6 p.m.. Sources tell Eyewitness News that Blanco will announce she is not seeking re-election.

    Coupled with the sort-of launch of John Breaux's website (just harvesting emails right now), it's clear that Breaux is 1) running, and 2) has muscled Blanco out of the race.

    Republicans are already attacking Breaux on his residency issues. That might suggest, among other things, that the state GOP isn't confident they can legally keep Breaux off the ballot. -- LA-Gov: Blanco is out? Breaux is in?

    Kos has links to the Breaux website and the GOP ad attacking Breaux (on YouTube).

    Missouri: Secretary of State finds no voter impersonation cases

    Missouri Secretary of State Robyn Carnahan' s report on the 2006 election was issued about a month ago. Here's

    an excerpt from the executive summary:

    It is particularly noteworthy that the type of voter fraud allegedly prevented by photo ID — voter impersonation at the polls — was not reported as a problem in Missouri. At the time of this report, no such cases from anywhere in the state had been reported to the Secretary of State’s office. Although there were no reports of voter impersonation or voting fraud, there were isolated incidents of alleged registration fraud that were reported in advance of the 2006 general election. Allegations of fraudulent voter registration cards surfaced and were investigated in St. Louis and Kansas City, and three individuals were indicted in Kansas City for alleged registration fraud, one of whom pleaded guilty. Such examples of investigation and prosecution of voter registration fraud are evidence that the safeguards in place in Missouri are working.

    Finally, this report identifies two significant dangers to the democratic process in Missouri: long lines or delays at polling places, and the intimidation or misinforming of voters. The incidents of long lines at the polls function as a deterrent to voting. Cases of voters being intimidated or misinformed on or before Election Day were also reported and are described in this report.

    You can download the news release or the report.

    Thanks to Michael Slater, Deputy Director, Project Vote, for sending these links.

    Alabama: judge dismisses suit over senators' campaign reports

    AP reports: A Montgomery judge has dismissed a lawsuit challenging the election of four powerful Democrats in the Alabama Senate.

    Circuit Judge Charles Price ruled he lacked jurisdiction to hear the suit filed against election officials by former Republican appeals court judge Mark Montiel.

    Montiel's suit asked the judge to revoke the state certificates of election for the four senators on grounds they did not file the proper campaign finance reports with the Secretary of State for the Democratic primary last June.

    In an order received by the attorneys during the weekend, Price sided with arguments raised by attorneys for the Democratic party and attorney general's staff that the four senators are already in office and only the state Senate has jurisdiction over their service. -- Judge dismisses election suit over four Alabama senators | TimesDaily.com | Times Daily | Florence, AL

    March 19, 2007

    More money to PACs last year

    The Politico reports: PACs are back.

    Political action committees shifted their giving slightly last year but remained among the most generous and fastest-growing sources of campaign cash, a byproduct of sweeping finance reforms that banned unlimited donations from unions and corporations.

    An analysis of PAC contributions provides a window into the dynamics of the Republican-controlled 109th Congress: PACs linked to hot issues such as health care and Social Security gave more money. Nearly all contributions went to incumbents. And Republicans received more than Democrats, a tilt likely to change since Democrats seized the congressional majority in November.

    Setting aside the details, the growth of PAC giving – $385 million to federal candidates in the 2006 elections, 17 percent more than in the 2004 cycle, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics – highlights a fundamental change in campaign finance. The growth stems from an effort to more tightly regulate money in politics and, barring substantial legislative or regulatory reforms, the trend seems likely to continue. -- Last Year Saw Huge Rise in PAC Donations - Politico.com

    Washington State; court enjoins Secretary of State from "matching" registrants' names

    Justin Levitt at the Brennan Center emails: after a preliminary injunction last August, the parties have now reached a settlement in Washington Association of Churches v. Reed, the first case regarding "matching" information on registration forms to other databases under HAVA (what we've been calling the "no match, no vote" case). The court entered the final order on Friday — I've attached the signed version for you here.

    Download the file here.

    Congratulations to the folks at the Brennan Center and their esteemed co-counsel.

    District of Columbia: White House signals concerns about DC vote in House

    The Washington Post reported on Saturday: The White House declared its opposition yesterday to a bill that would give the District its first full seat in the House of Representatives, saying it is unconstitutional, and a key Senate supporter said such concerns could kill the measure.

    "The Constitution specifies that only 'the people of the several states' elect representatives to the House," said White House spokesman Alex Conant. "And D.C. is not a state."

    He declined to say whether President Bush would veto the bill, but the White House appeared to be sending a message to Congress just as momentum for the measure was building. It cleared two House committees this week, and the Democratic leadership has vowed to pass it on the House floor next week.

    The bill seeks to increase the House permanently to 437 seats, from 435. In a bipartisan compromise, one seat would go to the overwhelmingly Democratic District, which has a nonvoting delegate in the House. The other would go to the next state in line to pick up a seat based on the 2000 Census: Utah, which leans Republican. -- White House Opposes D.C. Vote - washingtonpost.com

    "So you think you know politics" -- National Primary edition

    Walter Shapiro writes in Salon.com: Back when baseball was indeed the national pastime, the Saturday Evening Post (a major weekly magazine from the era when reading words on paper was also a national pastime) boasted a feature called "So You Think You Know Baseball." By challenging readers to guess the rules governing wacky three-men-on-third-base plays, it underscored the complexities of a game that all red-blooded Americans assumed they understood.

    These days, we are in a similar situation with presidential politics. Almost daily a news organization releases a new 2008 poll -- and often it contradicts the prior one. The press also breathlessly chronicles the campaign-finance wars and the horse-race ratings. But the clichés that govern cocktail-party chatter about the presidential race can often be questionable, misleading or even flat-out wrong. So, in the bygone spirit of the Saturday Evening Post, we are beginning an occasional campaign feature dubbed "So You Think You Know Politics." -- So you think you know politics | Salon.com

    Michigan: Feiger claims he was political target of DOJ

    The Detroit News reports: Attorney Geoffrey Fieger fired fresh accusations Thursday at embattled U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, accusing Gonzales of personally approving a 2005 raid on his law office that Fieger says was part of a political witch hunt.

    Gonzales faces congressional calls for his resignation over the firing of eight U.S. attorneys since December. Critics say the firings were political and reasons included aggressive prosecution of Republicans -- charges Gonzales and the White House deny.

    Fieger said legislators need to focus on prosecutors who were not fired but rewarded, such as U.S. Attorney Stephen Murphy in Detroit, nominated by President Bush for the federal appeals court. Murphy is awaiting confirmation.

    "The Detroit federal prosecutor's office has agreed to take the lead for the Bush White House by engaging in numerous political prosecutions of Democrats," Fieger said. -- Fieger says Gonzales targeted him

    March 18, 2007

    Alabama: PAC-to-PAC transfers could be replaced by candidate-to-candidate transfers

    The Mobile Press-Registers says in an editorial: STATE GOVERNMENT reformers should hold the applause for the House-passed ban on hiding the source of campaign donations by routing them through a thicket of political action committees.

    The 103-0 vote on banning PAC-to-PAC transfers is a step toward more open and honest politics in Alabama, but lawmakers need to leap out of the unsavory past with legislation that makes campaign cash totally transparent. The bill approved by the House is fine as far as it goes; it just doesn't go far enough to ensure that big-dog political contributors can't cover their tracks. ...

    If the House bill becomes law, you can bet that reformers will soon be casting a critical eye on "candidate-to-candidate transfers."

    As part of his agenda for ethics reform, Gov. Riley proposed banning both PAC-to-PAC transfers and the practice of transferring donations from one candidate to another. In candidate-to-candidate transfers, a donor may give to Candidate A's campaign committee with the expectation that he or she will pass it on to Candidate B. The net effect is the same as a PAC-to-PAC transfer: It conceals the real source of campaign donations. -- Campaign reform bill has major loophole

    Massachusetts: judge may halt testimony in Springfield trial

    The Springfield Republican reports: Following eight days of testimony in a federal voting rights trial, a judge announced yesterday that he may halt the court battle pending the outcome of a related petition before state lawmakers.

    U.S. District Court Judge Michael A. Ponsor made the announcement on the heels of the plaintiffs' final witness. The judge asked lawyers in the case to research the status of a home rule petition that is before the Legislature and favors ward representation on the City Council. It was approved last year by the council and Mayor Charles V. Ryan.

    Lawyers agreed to report back to Ponsor on Friday. Testimony has been suspended in the meantime. ...

    The petition proposes to change Springfield's nine-member at-large City Council in favor of a hybrid of eight members elected by ward and five elected at-large. -- Voting rights trial may be halted

    New Mexico: Iglesias was chosen by DOJ to teach other federal attorneys about vote fraud cases

    The Washington Post reports: One of the U.S. attorneys fired by the Bush administration after Republican complaints that he neglected to prosecute voter fraud had been heralded for his expertise in that area by the Justice Department, which twice selected him to train other federal prosecutors to pursue election crimes.

    David C. Iglesias, who was dismissed as U.S. attorney for New Mexico in December, was one of two chief federal prosecutors invited to teach at a "voting integrity symposium" in October 2005. The symposium was sponsored by Justice's public integrity and civil rights sections and was attended by more than 100 prosecutors from around the country, according to an account by Iglesias that a department spokesman confirmed.

    Iglesias, a Republican, said in an interview that he and the U.S. attorney from Milwaukee, Steven M. Biskupic, were chosen as trainers because they were the only ones identified as having created task forces to examine allegations of voter fraud in the 2004 elections. An agenda lists them as the panelists for a session on such task forces at the two-day seminar, which featured a luncheon speech by Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales.

    According to Iglesias, the agency invited him back as a trainer last summer, just months before a Justice official telephoned to fire him. He said he could not attend the second time because of his obligations as an officer in the Navy Reserve. -- Justice Dept. Recognized Prosecutor's Work on Election Fraud Before His Firing - washingtonpost.com

    Nevada: FEC dismisses complaint against Reid

    The Las Vegas Review Journal reports: The Federal Election Commission has dismissed a complaint against Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada for using $3,300 of his campaign funds to give Christmas bonuses to workers at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Washington.

    Reid lives in a condominium at the hotel.

    Describing the complaint "a low rated matter" and the amount of money as insignificant, FEC Deputy General Counsel James Kahl urged the commission to "exercise its prosecutorial discretion and dismiss the matter."

    Kahl made his recommendation on Feb. 2 and the FEC dismissed the complaint on Feb. 21, according to documents released by Reid's office.

    The FEC notified the attorney of Reid's committee about its decision on March 7. -- reviewjournal.com -- News - Officials dismiss Reid charge

    Kentucky: former aide files campaign-finance complaint against Henry

    AP reports: A former campaign aide to gubernatorial candidate Steve Henry filed an election finance complaint Friday alleging Henry improperly raised money for his state race through a federal campaign committee.

    Leslie Holland, who served as Henry's campaign manager and spokeswoman last fall, made the allegations in a complaint filed with the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance, according to Oliver Barber Jr., an attorney representing Holland.

    Henry is one of seven Democrats seeking the nomination in the May 22 primary. ...

    Holland's complaint said the lists contain donors who gave to Henry before he filed to run for governor in January and selected Renee True, the Fayette County Property Valuation Administrator, as his running mate.

    Kentucky law has no provision for exploratory committees for gubernatorial candidates - they must file to run in order to raise campaign funds. -- The Cincinnati Post - Henry's former manager files finance complaint

    New Mexico: registration-fraud case lead to Iglesias' ouster

    The New York Times reports: The first whiff of something suspicious came when a 15-year-old boy received a voter registration card in the mail. Soon a second one arrived. Then his 13-year-old neighbor got one, too.

    Neither boy had applied for the cards, and it looked as if their signatures and birthdates had been forged. It was August 2004, and the local authorities quickly traced the problems to a canvasser for a liberal group that had signed up tens of thousands of voters for the presidential election in this swing state.

    State Republican leaders demanded a criminal investigation. And with the television cameras rolling, the United States attorney, David C. Iglesias, a boyish-looking Republican, promised a thorough one. “It appears that mischief is afoot,” Mr. Iglesias said, “and questions are lurking in the shadows.”

    The inquiry he began, however, never resulted in charges, so frustrating Republican officials here that they began an extraordinary campaign to get rid of him that reached all the way to President Bush. -- G.O.P. Anger in Swing State Eased Attorneyā€™s Exit - New York Times

    March 15, 2007

    California: the big state joins the February National Primary

    The Los Angeles Times reports: California today joined the national scramble to choose presidential nominees far earlier, as Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed legislation to advance the state's presidential primary election to Feb. 5. ...

    The move has already sent ripples across the country, pushing other states toward earlier primaries and rocking campaign strategies. But experts are not predicting what effects a de facto national primary election on Feb. 5 will have on the traditional proving grounds of New Hampshire and Iowa, or whom the upheaval will benefit. ...

    The full impact of California's move will not be clear for several months. It will take at least that long for the two major political parties to set their nominating calendars, and campaign strategists cannot make final decisions about money or staffing until then.

    Only New Hampshire, Iowa, South Carolina and Nevada will vote before California, but eight other states are tentatively scheduled to vote Feb. 5. And more than a dozen states -- including Illinois, New York, New Jersey, Texas and Florida -- are eyeing the same date, for fear of being shut out of the campaign action if they hold their elections later. -- Calif.'s presidential primary set for February - Los Angeles Times

    It really is "voter fraud" at the heart of the Gonzalez 8

    Devilstower writes at Daily Kos: When someone lies habitually, you come to expect more of the same. So when the Republicans gibber about concerns over "voter fraud" as the primary reason the eight US attorneys were dismissed, it's easy to laugh. Since when has this administration, or Republicans in general, been interested in stopping voter fraud? It's as if the pope had come out against silly hats.

    Only in this case, the Republicans are quite serious. Voter fraud really is at the heart of the matter. But this is a different kind of voter fraud story. It has nothing to do with anything you might recognize by that name. What first stirred Karl Rove to wake up Bush, and then drove Bush to grouse to Gonzo, and finally ended up earning the attorneys steaming brown phone calls from Republican senators, congressmen, and staffers, is something that goes right to the core of both parties. ...

    Republicans have always been at the other end of this fight. Republicans fear that, if Americans find it too easy to vote, Americans might... vote. They're especially concerned that minorities might vote. Having unequal access to polling stations is good for Republicans. Forcing people to make multiple trips and obtain new IDs to vote is good for Republicans. Anything that restricts voting in areas that lean toward Democrats is good for Republicans. In fact, with a Republican Party that's built around a collection of issues meant to appeal to the most radical on the right, every obstacle is a good thing. If Republicans could, they'd surround every polling station with a moat. And alligators.

    Voter suppression is a lynch pin of the Republican strategy. They look on every "get out the vote" campaign among the general public, no matter how nonpartisan, as a direct threat. And well they should, since Democrats hold the edge not only in overall numbers, but in their position on issue after issue. -- Daily Kos: Selling Suppression

    District of Columbia: committee hearing on legality of giving DC a House seat

    The Washington Post reports: A congressional committee yesterday heard sharply differing opinions on whether a bill giving the District a vote in the House of Representatives is constitutional -- with one scholar predicting it would be swiftly overturned by the courts and others saying it would most likely be upheld.

    The hearing came on the eve of a key vote on the bill by the House Judiciary Committee. If the measure is approved today as expected, it will advance to the House floor, where the Democratic leadership has pledged to pass it in the next few weeks. It would then go to the Senate.

    The bill attempts to overcome partisan concerns by adding two seats to the House -- one for the District, which is heavily Democratic, and another for the state next in line for an additional representative. That is currently Utah, a Republican stronghold.

    Legal doubts are the main issue cited by opponents of the bill, who note that the Constitution limits membership in the House to people from "the several states." Jonathan Turley, a constitutional scholar from George Washington University Law School, told the Judiciary Committee yesterday that such concerns are well-founded. -- Legality of D.C. Seat in Congress Debated - washingtonpost.com

    Massachusetts: state representatives testifies for plaintiffs in voting rights case

    The Springfield Republican reports: State Rep. Benjamin Swan, D-Springfield, testified during a federal voting rights trial today that he believes abolishing the city's at-large election system will provide more racial balance in local politics.

    Swan, a seven-term Democrat who is black, was called by the plaintiffs in the case. They include Swan's nephew, the Rev. Talbert W. Swan II.

    Local civil rights groups and black and Latino voters filed a lawsuit against the city in 2005 to gain a district-based City Council and School Committee. Currently, members are elected to those bodies through a citywide system, which the plaintiffs argue largely shuts out black and Latino candidates.

    A nonjury trial began on March 6. Putting a string of black and Latino political candidates and civil rights leaders on the witness stand, lawyers for the plaintiffs have probed 20 years of race relations in Springfield. Civic leaders have portrayed the city's police force as brutal, its government detached, and the political landscape bleak for minorities. -- Breaking News: Rep. Swan testifies to bias in elections

    Alabama: House passes PAC-to-PAC transfer ban

    AP reports: The Alabama House voted 103-0 Tuesday to ban the practice of transferring campaign donations from one political action committee to another.

    It's the sixth year in a row the House has passed by near unanimous votes bills to ban the practice known as "PAC to PAC transfers." The sponsor of the legislation, Rep. Jeff McLaughlin, D-Guntersville, said the transfers create a "shell game" that makes it impossible for voters to figure out the source of a candidate's money.

    McLaughlin has watched for the past five years as his bill passed the House and then died in the Senate without coming up for a vote. House Speaker Seth Hammett said he has been assured by Senate leaders the bill would be considered in the upper chamber this session. -- 103-0 vote in House to ban PAC transfers

    Iowa: proponents tout Election Day Registration

    The Council Bluffs Daily Nonpareil reports: It's like grabbing hold of someone's hand who is reaching out to become part of the Democratic process.

    That's how one advocate described a new voting method the Iowa Legislature is discussing - the ability to register on Election Day.

    "Our goal is to increase participation and reduce the barriers to participate," said Stuart Comstock-Gay, democracy program director for Demos, a nonpartisan public policy research and advocacy organization. "Election Day registration is in place in seven states, and those states that have it tend to get 10 percent to 12 percent higher turnout."

    "Somebody who is not registered can go to the polling place on Election Day and register right there," said Betty Ahrens, executive director of the Iowa Citizen Action Network.

    The voting registration deadline in Iowa is 10 days prior to an election. A lot of people, especially those who recently moved from other locations, apparently don't know that, according to Pottawattamie County Auditor Marilyn Jo Drake. -- SW Iowa News - Election Day registration has backers

    Minnesota: strip club owner cleared of voter fraud charges

    The Pioneer Press reports: Exotic dancers, drunken patrons and employees registered to vote for Richard J. Jacobson as mayor in 2002, using his Coates strip club — Jake's — as their fake home address.

    The scheme was illegal, unethical and completely "cockamamie," Jacobson's defense attorney acknowledged this week.

    But a Dakota County jury found that the club owner himself was not guilty of voter fraud.

    Jacobson, 36, of Prescott, Wis., was cleared Wednesday of criminal wrongdoing for unlawfully registering dozens of dancers and patrons to vote in Coates under a false address, a felony under state voter law.

    The jury deliberated for more than six hours Tuesday and Wednesday before finding Jacobson not guilty of two felony charges — conspiracy to commit forgery and conspiracy to procure unlawful votes.

    Jacobson maintained at trial that he was relying on the advice of his former attorney, Randall Tigue, when he mounted his failed mayoral campaign.

    For legal precedent, Jacobson and Tigue pointed to a letter written by a Dakota County prosecutor in defense of a group of Minneapolis police officers who listed their precinct station as their home address on their voter registration cards. -- St. Paul Pioneer Press | 03/15/2007 | Dakota County / Strip club owner wins in vote case

    Voter fraud -- easy to charge, hard to prosecute

    NPR's Morning Edition reports: The Bush administration says it has received complaints that some U.S. attorneys are not pursuing voter fraud aggressively enough. But collecting enough evidence to prosecute such claims is rarely easy. -- NPR : Voter Fraud: A Tough Crime to Prosecute

    Alabama: ex-SOS Worley indicted on campaign charges

    The Montgomery Advertiser reports: Former Secretary of State Nancy Worley blamed her indictment Wednesday on a Republican conspiracy, a theory dismissed by a fellow Democrat whose complaint is believed to have sparked it.

    Worley, indicted on five felony counts and five misdemeanor counts accusing her of soliciting campaign funds from employees in the secretary of state's office, said she has no plans to resign her vice chairmanship with the state Democratic Party because of a "mean-spirited" legal attack based on a campaign letter that didn't ask for contributions.

    "It's another Republican political witch hunt," Worley said.

    Ed Packard, her former employee who ran against her in the Democratic primary, filed the complaint believed to be the basis of the indictment. He doesn't see how Republican Attorney General Troy King could get a Montgomery County grand jury to join a vendetta. -- montgomeryadvertiser.com :: Worley alleges GOP 'witch hunt'

    March 14, 2007

    "The DoJ's Favorite Crime"

    The Explainer on Slate says: On Tuesday, the White House revealed that President Bush had met with Attorney General Alberto Gonzales back in October to discuss the lackluster performance of U.S. attorneys on voter-fraud cases. The Department of Justice fired seven prosecutors on Dec. 7. What's so important about voter fraud?

    It could theoretically cost a party or candidate an election. The term voter fraud refers to cases of voting illegally or conspiring to promote illegal voting by others. For example, it's against the law to knowingly vote twice in the same election or to vote with the knowledge that you aren't eligible. But states rarely prosecute these crimes, because most individual cases boil down to administrative error, voter mistakes, or small-scale fraud. -- Why is the Bush administration pushing so hard to stop voter fraud? - By Melonyce McAfee - Slate Magazine

    Louisiana: Jindal says Breaux is not eligible to run

    The Advocate reports: U.S. Rep. Bobby Jindal said Tuesday that former U.S. Sen. John Breaux is not eligible to run against him for governor.

    Breaux cannot even cast a ballot in the Oct. 20 race because he is registered to vote in Maryland, Jindal said in a telephone interview from Washington, D.C.

    “It doesn’t seem to me that he’d be eligible,” Jindal, R-Kenner, said.

    Breaux, a Democrat who is said to be nearing a decision on whether to run, declined to comment. -- 2theadvocate.com | Politics | Jindal says Breaux canā€™t run

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

    “The Presidential Primary System’s Democracy Problems”

    The Century Foundation says in a press release: As states clamber to move up the dates of their presidential primaries, politicians and political parties are scrambling to rethink their campaign strategies. Much of the news coverage of this issue has focused on the impact of those changes on particular candidates. However, in a new issue brief from The Century Foundation, Democracy Fellow Tova Andrea Wang warns that more attention needs to be paid to the impact of a changed primary schedule on voters and on the democratic process. She argues that, while the news about frontloading the primaries may not be all bad, the voting rights and civil rights communities need to make sure that any changes to the primary system enhance the democratic process by serving the rights of the voters.

    In “The Presidential Primary System’s Democracy Problems,” Wang examines the current primary system as well as two widely discussed alternative primary plans: a proposal from the National Association of Secretaries of State, which recommends regional primaries with the order of the regions voting rotating each cycle, and a plan promoted by the Center for Voting and Democracy, called the America Plan, which features a schedule consisting of ten intervals, during which randomly selected states may hold their primaries. This plan would require that smaller states hold primaries in the earlier rounds. -- www.reformelections.org

    Cherokee Nation: Congressional Black Caucus asks for federal action on exclusion of Freedmen

    AP reports: Black leaders in Congress asked the federal government yesterday to weigh in on the legality of a vote by the Cherokee Nation earlier this month to revoke citizenship from descendants of former tribal slaves.

    Saying they were "shocked and outraged," more than two dozen members of the Congressional Black Caucus signed a letter to the Interior Department's Bureau of Indian Affairs questioning the "validity, legality, as well as the morality" of the March 3 vote. -- Black Caucus Seeks Federal Action on Cherokee Vote - washingtonpost.com

    Pennsylvania: judge puts sheriff referendum on fast track

    The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports: Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Eugene B. Strassburger III has until March 28 to decide whether a referendum on making the sheriff an appointed rather than an elected position will be on the ballot in May.

    That leaves very little time for the attorneys challenging the legality of the referendum, and those from the county supporting it, to get their arguments before the judge. -- Judge to decide on sheriff referendum

    Missouri: legislature tries to patch up voter I.D.

    Missourinet reports: Legislation filling the gaps in the voter photo identification law passed last year by the General Assembly and tossed out by the courts has been heard before a House committee. Representative Bill Deeken (R-Jefferson City) sponsors HB 1044 that allow currently accepted voter ID to remain in effect through September 1st of this year. After that date, photo identification would be required. ...

    The legislation addresses one of the key concerns raised by those who objected to the voter photo ID concept: It would require the Secretary of State to pay for all forms of identification necessary to vote. This would benefit anyone without a driver's license who claims he or she cannot afford a non-driver's license photo ID. -- Missourinet: House Committee Considers New Voter Photo ID Bill

    District of Columbia: House committee passes voting rights bill

    The Washington Post reports: A congressional committee approved a bill yesterday granting the District a full vote in the House of Representatives, giving the measure its first victory in what will probably be weeks of fierce wrangling as it moves through Congress.

    The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform voted 24 to 5 for the bill, an endorsement its supporters expected. But in a likely sign of things to come, there was feisty sparring, with opponents calling the measure unconstitutional and marshaling amendments to derail it.

    The voting rights bill, co-sponsored by Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.), would expand the House from 435 to 437 seats. In a political compromise, one seat would go to the overwhelmingly Democratic District, which has sought full representation for decades. The other would go to the next state in line to expand its delegation based on census figures: Utah, which leans Republican. ...

    Even if it clears the House, though, the bill faces big hurdles. It would have to be approved by the Senate, where so far it has elicited little support from Republicans. It also would have to be signed by President Bush, whose staff has expressed doubts about its constitutionality. If it succeeds in becoming law, it will almost certainly face a court challenge. -- Committee Endorses Bill to Give D.C. Full Voting Rights in House - washingtonpost.com

    Massachusetts: judge questions redistricting plan

    The Springfield Republican reports: Shifting population trends have complicated a federal voting rights trial, prompting a judge yesterday to question the wisdom of a proposed redistricting plan designed to benefit blacks and Latinos.

    U.S. District Judge Michael A. Ponsor yesterday peppered a witness with questions about a proposal to create nine voting districts across the city, wondering whether the plan would truly advance equal voting rights.

    "It does collide with logic," Ponsor told witness Doug J. Amy, a professor of politics at Mount Holyoke College, who did not design the proposal. "I'm, frankly, surprised to see a proposal in which ... five of the nine districts are overwhelmingly white."

    Ponsor also wondered whether the so-called ward representation plan comes too late, now that blacks and Latinos represent a collective majority in Springfield. -- Realities muddle voting rights suit

    Gonzalez 8: voter-fraud cases may be a key

    The Washington Post reports: White House officials, in providing new explanations of how and why several U.S. attorneys were fired in December, have said that President Bush mentioned to Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales in October that he had heard complaints from Congress that some federal prosecutors were lax in pursuing voter fraud.

    In attributing the firings at least partly to an inattentiveness to voter fraud, the White House is invoking a contention that has gained prominence in Republican circles starting with the 2000 presidential election, as both political parties have become aggressive in trying to leverage election law into Election Day victories.

    The GOP allegation, repeated in several swing states where voting margins have been narrow, is that Democrats have illegally ratcheted up their tallies by permitting ballots to be cast by felons, by residents without proper identification, or by people who forged signatures on absentee ballots.

    Democratic-leaning groups reject that allegation and counter by accusing Republicans of blocking fair elections by suppressing the votes of some eligible citizens.

    Glimpses of the role those charges and countercharges have played in firings of at least some of the U.S. attorneys have begun to emerge in recent days. Yesterday, Dan Bartlett, counselor to the president, told reporters accompanying Bush in Mexico that "over the course of several years, we have received complaints about U.S. attorneys, particularly when it comes to election-fraud cases." Bartlett said those complaints have stemmed from New Mexico, where U.S. Attorney David C. Iglesias was fired, as well as Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. -- White House Cites Lax Voter-Fraud Investigations in U.S. Attorneys' Firings - washingtonpost.com

    Gonzalez 8: "loyalty" and voting cases may have shped the hit list

    The New York Times reports: Late in the afternoon on Dec. 4, a deputy to Harriet E. Miers, then the White House counsel and one of President Bush’s most trusted aides, sent a two-line e-mail message to a top Justice Department aide. “We’re a go,” it said, approving a long-brewing plan to remove seven federal prosecutors considered weak or not team players. ...

    The White House said Monday that Mr. Bush and Mr. Rove had raised concerns about lax voter fraud prosecutions with the Justice Department. And several of the fired attorneys told Congress last week that some lawmakers had questioned them about corruption investigations, inquiries the prosecutors considered inappropriate. The documents do not specifically mention either topic.

    While the target list of prosecutors was shaped and shifted, officials at the Justice Department and the White House, members of Congress and even an important Republican lawyer and lobbyist in New Mexico were raising various concerns. ...

    The focus on Mr. Iglesias intensified in June 2006, when Mickey Barnett, a Republican Party activist in New Mexico, requested “a meeting with someone at DOJ to discuss the USATTY situation there.”

    The e-mail message alerting Justice Department officials, sent by a senior official in the White House Office of Political Affairs, noted that Mr. Barnett is “the president’s nominee for the US Postal Board of Governors. He was heavily involved in the president’s campaign’s legal team.” The next day, Mr. Barnett and Patrick Rogers, a New Mexico lawyer who has led a campaign against voter fraud, met with Justice Department officials. Conservatives often worry that Democrats will inflate their vote count with fraudulent or illegal immigrant voters. -- ‘Loyalty’ to Bush and Gonzales Was Factor in Prosecutors’ Firings, E-Mail Shows

    March 13, 2007

    "The Politics of Voter Fraud"

    The Advancement Project Project Vote has released "The Politics of Voter Fraud" by Lorraine C. Minnite, Ph.D. The main findings are these:

    • Voter fraud is extremely rare.

    • The lack of evidence of voter fraud is not because of a failure to codify it.

    • Most voter fraud allegations turn out to be something other than fraud.

    • The more complex are the rules regulating voter registration and voting, the more likely voter mistakes, clerical errors, and the like will be wrongly identified as “fraud.”

    • There is a 200-year history in America of elites using voter fraud allegations to restrict and shape the electorate.

    • The historically disenfranchised are often the target of voter fraud allegations.

    • Better data collection and election administration will improve the public discussion of voter fraud and lead to more appropriate policies.

    Thanks to Praveen Fernandes of the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy for jogging my memory about this.

    Stanford Conference on Elections and Democracy

    Registration is now open for the April 6-7 "Conference on Elections and Democracy," a conference jointly sponsored by ACS, the Stanford Constitutional Law Center, the Stanford Law and Policy Review, and the Stanford ACS and Federalist Society student chapters. The conference will be held at Stanford Law School and there is no cost to attend. For more information and to register, click here. The conference will focus on elections, voting rights, and democracy. In particular, the panels will examine issues pertaining to election participation (including fraud and corruption), voter ID requirements, the use of new voting equipment after the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), campaign finance reform, and voter representation (including redistricting and the renewal of the Voting Rights Act). The conference will also feature discussions that look at the US electoral system through an international lens, addressing approaches to voting, districting, and election financing in other democracies.

    "Undocumented Citizens" Part 2

    Justin Levitt, at the Brennan Center for Justice, reminded me of the following: A recent national survey sponsored by the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law reveals that millions of American citizens do not have readily available documentary proof of citizenship. Many more – primarily women – do not have proof of citizenship with their current name. The survey also showed that millions of American citizens do not have government-issued photo identification, such as a driver’s license or passport. Finally, the survey demonstrated that certain groups – primarily poor, elderly, and minority citizens – are less likely to possess these forms of documentation than the general population. --

    New York City: council member to introduce residency requirement

    The New York Sun reports: A City Council member from Queens, Tony Avella, is planning to introduce a bill requiring future council candidates to live in the district they are seeking to represent for at least one year prior to Election Day. He said the legislation is designed to prevent a repeat of the special election blunder in Brooklyn's District 40.

    "Living in the district gives you a credible stake in what happens in that neighborhood, as well as knowing what the issues are," Mr. Avella said yesterday. "I truly believe that should be a requirement, and I don't think one year of residency is asking too much."

    On Friday, Mayor Bloomberg called for a second special election in the central Brooklyn district after the winner of the first, Mathieu Eugene, refused to cooperate with a council investigation to determine if he was living in the district on Election Day, a requirement to hold office.

    The first special election, held February 20, cost $380,470, and the second, scheduled for April 24, is expected to cost the same. Dr. Eugene said last week he is planning to run again. -- Council Candidates Could Face Yearlong Residency Minimum - March 13, 2007 - The New York Sun

    Louisiana: still paying to play

    The New Orleans Times-Picayne reports: It's no secret that many of the same contractors who appear on agenda after agenda before the Jefferson Parish Council also appear in campaign finance reports filed by the politicians who routinely give public business to the firms.

    Familiar names also cropped up when Parish President Aaron Broussard had emergency powers to issue contracts without following public bidding laws immediately after Hurricane Katrina.

    Now a campaign finance reform that was designed to stamp out the appearance of partiality to contractors who give generously to campaigns is expected to have limited reach among Jefferson's eight top politicians, all of whom face election this fall.

    State lawmakers passed Act 849 last year to send a message to Washington, D.C., that the "Louisiana way" of contractor favoritism had gone out of favor, leaving no tolerance for even the appearance of rewarding firms whose dollars helped win elections.

    It prohibits politicians from accepting donations for three years from anyone who received no-bid emergency work after the hurricane, including contractors and their first-tier subcontractors. Violations cost both the banned firms and the elected officials a penalty twice the amount of the donation. -- Despite new law, campaign cash flows

    North Carolina: Rep. Wright resigns committee positions during ethics investigation

    The Charlotte Observer reports: Rep. Thomas Wright, a top ally of former House Speaker Jim Black, resigned his chairmanships of two House committees Monday amid a criminal investigation by the State Board of Elections.

    "In order not to cast disfavor upon the Democratic Party, and more importantly, this House of Representatives, I hereby wish to step aside," Wright, a Wilmington Democrat, wrote to House Speaker Joe Hackney and fellow House members in an e-mail Monday. ...

    Wright, 51, is under investigation by the elections board over whether he properly disclosed campaign contributions and whether $8,000 in contributions from nurse anesthetists were tied to his blocking a bill they opposed in 2005. The board can judge and pass sentence in a criminal case or forward to the District Attorney.

    In an interview with reporters Monday evening, Wright denied trading legislative favors. -- Charlotte Observer | 03/13/2007 | Wright resigns 2 House positions

    California: Speaker struggles with redistricting-reform plan

    The Tri-Valley Herald reports: Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez insists he will produce redistricting reform this year, taking away the authority to draw political boundaries from the Legislature and giving it to an independent commission. But roadblocks put up by his own party may test his optimism just as he begins to put pieces in place.

    Nunez, D-Los Angeles, returned from a meeting with members of the Democratic congressional delegation in Washington, D.C., this week with a singular message in hand: In no uncertain terms, they told him an independent commission drawing congressional boundaries was unacceptable.

    And for the obvious reason. Any losses to the Democratic congressional delegation from more competitive seats created by redistricting could threaten the Democrats' tenuous control of Congress.

    "Originally, I was going to include congressional districts, but at this point, I'm not," Nunez said this week. "But I'm open to discussions with all groups and members of the Legislature. We're not drawing the line in the sand." -- Inside Bay Area - Nunez's redistricting dreams face new bumps in road

    Georgia: state supreme court hears arguments in voter I.D. case

    The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports: After two years of heated public debate, Georgia's highest court will decide whether a law requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls is constitutional.

    The Georgia Supreme Court heard oral arguments Monday about the state's 2006 law mandating voters to show one of six forms of government-issued photo ID at the polls.

    The issue has pitted Republicans against Democrats, black lawmakers against their white colleagues, and liberal advocates for the poor and disabled against conservatives who championed the sanctity of the ballot box. It has also created a new battleground for former campaign rivals Gov. Sonny Perdue and former Gov. Roy Barnes.

    Barnes, a Democrat, filed the lawsuit against Perdue, the Republican who beat him, and the state on behalf of Rosalind Lake, a disabled Atlanta woman who does not have a state-issued photo ID. In a booming voice, Barnes told the court Monday that the law violates the state constitution because it imposes an unnecessary condition on the act of voting in person. -- Justices weigh voter ID lawsuit | ajc.com

    White House wanted prosecutors fired because of voter fraud cases

    The New York Times reports: The White House was deeply involved in the decision late last year to dismiss federal prosecutors, including some who had been criticized by Republican lawmakers, administration officials said Monday.

    Last October, President Bush spoke with Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales to pass along concerns by Republicans that some prosecutors were not aggressively addressing voter fraud, the White House said Monday. Senator Pete V. Domenici, Republican of New Mexico, was among the politicians who complained directly to the president, according to an administration official. ...

    In early 2005, Harriet E. Miers, then the White House legal counsel, asked a Justice Department official whether it would be feasible to replace all United States attorneys when their four-year terms expired, according to the Justice Department. The proposal came as the administration was considering which political appointees to replace in the second term, Ms. Perino said.

    Ms. Miers sent her query to D. Kyle Sampson, a top aide to Mr. Gonzales, the Justice officials said. Mr. Sampson, who resigned Monday, replied that filling so many jobs at once would overtax the department. He suggested replacing a smaller group, according to e-mail messages and other memorandums compiled by the Justice Department.

    Karl Rove, the senior White House adviser, also had rejected the idea of replacing all the prosecutors, Ms. Perino said. But as Ms. Miers worked with Mr. Sampson on devising a list of attorneys to oust, Mr. Rove relayed to her complaints he had received that the Justice Department was not moving aggressively on voter fraud cases. ...

    Justice Department officials said Monday that they had only learned recently about Mr. Sampson’s extensive e-mail and memos with Ms. Miers about the prosecutors. The communications were discovered Thursday when Mr. Sampson turned over the material to officials who were assembling documents in response to Congressional requests.

    The documents did not provide a clear motive for the firings. Some suggested that department officials were dissatisfied with specific prosecutors, but none cited aggressive public corruption inquiries or failure to pursue voter fraud cases as an explicit reason to remove them. ...

    John McKay, the ousted United States attorney in Seattle, said last week while in Washington to testify before Congress that White House lawyers interviewing him for a possible federal judgeship had asked him why he had “mishandled” an investigation into voter fraud allegations in his state following the 2004 elections. -- White House Said to Prompt Firing of Prosecutors - New York Times

    March 12, 2007

    GSA chief may face Hatch Act inquiry

    The Federal Times reports: A series of charges leveled against the head of the General Services Administration could hinder her ability to lead the agency, procurement industry officials say.

    Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., in a March 6 letter to GSA Administrator Lurita Doan, aired allegations that she illegally pressured staff to help Republican political candidates and intervened on behalf of a contractor in a dispute with the agency.

    Waxman, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, has scheduled a March 20 committee hearing to examine those allegations. ...

    But Waxman’s letter raises new issues:
    • Citing unidentified sources, the letter says Doan convened a January teleconference of her senior staff and 40 GSA political appointees to encourage the officials to help Republican candidates in the next election through public events such as the opening of new federal buildings. ...

    GSA’s inspector general has referred the allegation to the Office of Special Counsel as a potential violation of the Hatch Act, which outlaws partisan campaign activity on federal property, the letter states. -- Federal Times

    "Undocumented citizens"

    I did not pay enough attention to this story in the New York Times this morning, but Rick Hasen's title, "And the Relevance for Voter I.D. Laws and their Potential for Disenfranchisement?" made me think of "undocumented citizens" -- a new term I just made up to cover these folks: A new federal rule intended to keep illegal immigrants from receiving Medicaid has instead shut out tens of thousands of United States citizens who have had difficulty complying with requirements to show birth certificates and other documents proving their citizenship, state officials say.

    Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Ohio and Virginia have all reported declines in enrollment and traced them to the new federal requirement, which comes just as state officials around the country are striving to expand coverage through Medicaid and other means.

    Under a 2006 federal law, the Deficit Reduction Act, most people who say they are United States citizens and want Medicaid must provide "satisfactory documentary evidence of citizenship"¯ which could include a passport or the combination of a birth certificate and a driver's license. -- Lacking Papers, Citizens Are Cut From Medicaid - New York Times

    Presidential campaign fund falls on hard times

    The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports: Fifteen years ago, one out of every five taxpayers designated a dollar of their taxes for the U.S. presidential campaign fund.

    But since then, the number of those checking that box on their IRS forms has plummeted by 43 percent, pushing the publicly funded account to near-record lows.

    Like their constituents, more presidential candidates are bypassing public financing — to the point where the system designed to reduce democracy's cost is becoming useless, experts say. ...

    Congress established public financing for presidential campaigns in the 1970s as a response to the Watergate scandal during Richard Nixon's presidency. It was widely heralded as the best way to erase the influence of money in politics and make campaign fundraising as transparent as possible. -- STLtoday - News - Story

    Georgia: arguments today in state supreme court on voter I.D.

    The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports: The drawn-out fight over whether Georgians should be required to show photo identification when voting resumes today when the state Supreme Court takes up the issue.

    The heated debate over photo voter ID has been on hold since September, when a Fulton County Superior Court judge ruled the requirement violated the state constitution.

    Former Gov. Roy Barnes, now a lawyer in private practice, argued successfully that requiring voters to produce a government-issued photo ID at the polls placed a condition on voting above what is called for in the Georgia Constitution. Judge T. Jackson Bedford Jr. agreed, calling it an unlawful "prerequisite" to voting. -- Debate over voters' photo ID goes to state Supreme Court | ajc.com

    Kenya: "Kenyans in Diaspora Want Right to Vote"

    The Nation (Nairobi) reports: Kenyans living abroad want Parliament to enact a law to allow dual citizenship so they can register to vote.

    Through a lobby group, the Kenya Movement for Democracy and Justice (KMDJ), they say they want the Government and the Opposition to pass such a law because it was among the non-contentious issues contained in the rejected draft constitution.

    There was fear the matter might not be given its due recognition now that it has been politicised by leaders every time they met Kenyans outside, KMDJ United Kingdom chapter chairman Ng'ethe wa Mbiyu said

    They want Parliament to take up the matter now that the Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK) had made it clear they had no powers to amend the law to allow dual citizenship as well as voting outside Kenya. -- allAfrica.com: Kenya: Kenyans in Diaspora Want Right to Vote (Page 1 of 1)

    "In Romney’s Bid, His Wallet Opens to the Right"

    The New York Times reports: In the months before announcing his bid for the Republican presidential nomination, former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts contributed tens of thousands of dollars of his personal fortune to several conservative groups in a position to influence his image on the right.

    Last December, a foundation controlled by Mr. Romney made contributions of $10,000 to $15,000 to each of three Massachusetts organizations associated with major national conservative groups: the antiabortion Massachusetts Citizens for Life, Massachusetts Citizens for Limited Taxation and the Christian conservative Massachusetts Family Institute.

    Mr. Romney and a group of his supporters also contributed a total of about $10,000 to a nonprofit group affiliated with National Review. Over the past two years, he contributed $35,000 to the Federalist Society, an influential network of conservative lawyers. And in December 2005, he contributed $25,000 to the Heritage Foundation, a leading conservative research organization.

    The recipients of Mr. Romney’s donations said the money had no influence on them. But some of the groups, notably Citizens for Life and the Family Institute, have turned supportive of Mr. Romney after criticizing him in the past. -- In Romneyā€™s Bid, His Wallet Opens to the Right - New York Times

    The National Primary has campaigns scrambling

    Adam Nagourney begins his reports in the New York Times with a mixed metaphor:
    The trickle of states moving their 2008 presidential primaries to Feb. 5 has turned into an avalanche, forcing all the presidential campaigns to reconsider every aspect of their nominating strategy — where to compete, how to spend money, when to start television advertising — as they gird for the prospect of a 20-state national Primary Day.

    In the last two weeks, Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, dispatched the director of his political action committee to run his primary campaign in California, where a bill to move the primary to Feb. 5 is on the desk of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. John Edwards, the North Carolina Democrat, announced that he had won the endorsement of Richard J. Codey, a former acting governor of New Jersey, testimony to the state’s new status as it readies to shift its primary to Feb. 5 from June.

    Senator Barack Obama, Democrat of Illinois, held a rally the other day in Texas, and aides to Rudolph W. Giuliani, the New York Republican, said staff members would be sent to California, Florida and Missouri, as both candidates prepare for expected Feb. 5 primaries in those states. ...

    For the most part, the candidates and their aides cannot quite figure out what all this turmoil means for them. The changes, which are shaping up to be the most substantial alteration ever to a campaign calendar in a single election cycle, have heightened the volatility of the most wide-open presidential race in 50 years, one with large and well-financed fields of contenders. -- Early Primary Rush Upends ā€™08 Campaign Plans - New York Times

    March 9, 2007

    Dems start creating Leadership PACs

    The Politico reports: Born Fighting. Brave. Giving Willingly, Empowering Nationally. Follow the North Star.

    Sound like qualifications for righteousness?

    Actually, they’re just a few of the names of fundraising slush funds Democratic members of Congress have established since Election Day to raise big contributions from lobbyists, corporations and interest groups seeking to capitalize on the party’s newfound majority.

    At least eight Democratic members – including three freshmen – for the first time registered so-called leadership PACs after their party won the House and Senate Nov. 7, according to non-partisan research group Political Money Line. The Politico also confirmed one PAC created by a Republican in that same span, though many PACs’ ambiguously lofty names and occasionally cloudy stewardship make it tough to tell who’s actually running them.

    Still, the apparent imbalance in the creation of new leadership PACs reflects the rise of Democrats on Capitol Hill. It may take them some time to catch up with Republicans, who opened a string of them in the past ten years when they were in power. -- Emboldened by Control, Junior Democrats Launch Leadership PACs - Politico.com

    California: court denies part of VA's motion for summary judgment in voter registration case

    Scott Rafferty emails: Only one veteran at the Menlo Park veterans home voted in the 2004 primary. Under new Army policies, many acutely injured soldiers will be discharged and transported directly to Menlo Park, which has major facilities for brain injury and “polytrauma.” Like all incoming patients, they will lose their right to vote unless they re-register (or change their absentee mailing address).

    I represent two persons who were threatened with arrest after they asked permission to register voters in April 2004 – ostensibly under color of a VA regulation banning “demonstrations.” Because the Federal Circuit has exclusive jurisdiction over VA rulemaking, the Ninth Circuit has required the district court to “deem” the regulation constitutional pending the action to set it aside in the Federal Circuit.

    Yesterday, Judge Fogel issued a decision granting in part and denying in part the VA’s motion for summary judgment in the “as-applied” First Amendment challenge. The facial challenge to the 38 CFR 1.218 was fully briefed last week before the Federal Circuit and is awaiting oral argument.

    Arkansas: legislative committee fails to pass voter I.D. bill

    The Morning News reports: A bill requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls stalled Wednesday in a House committee.

    House Bill 2120 by Rep. Jon Woods, R-Springdale, failed in a voice vote in the House State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee.

    Woods' bill required voters to show photo identification issued by the Arkansas or U.S. government at the polls. The bill was amended Wednesday to add a provision that voters who do not show identification would be asked to sign a form attesting to their identity, and would then be allowed to vote on a provisional ballot.

    Rep. Dan Greenberg, R-Little Rock, who presented the bill to the committee, said the legislation would aid prosecutors in investigating and prosecuting voter fraud. -- The Morning News: Topics : Voter identification bill stalls in committee

    Pennsylvania: Sheriffs' association sues to stop referendum on appointed sheriff in Allegheny County

    The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports: The Sheriffs' Association of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania filed suit yesterday to try to stop a referendum that could make the Allegheny County sheriff an appointed position instead of an elected one.

    The litigants say the ballot measure is illegal and that it would place too much power at the hands of the county chief executive. ...

    Their suit, filed in Allegheny County Common Pleas Court, seeks an injunction against the referendum that was backed by County Council and Chief Executive Dan Onorato. It proposes elimination of the sheriff as an elected officer. The referendum is on the May 15 primary ballot. ...

    "First and foremost, there's a simple reason that this is wrong: Allegheny County's charter says that you cannot submit to the voters a substantial change in the form of government except once every five years,'' Mr. King said.

    Because the voters had the opportunity to eliminate row offices and the charter was amended, effective May 17, 2005, it is illegal to change the form of government set forth in the charter until May 17, 2010, the plaintiffs said. -- Lawsuit defends elected sheriff

    Arkansas: National Popular Vote defeated in legislative committee

    AP reports: Legislation calling on other states to adopt a system of electing the president by popular vote was defeated before a House panel today.

    The proposal, by Representative Monty Davenport, a Democrat from Yellville, failed on an eight-to-five vote after members questioned the impact it would have on Arkansas' role in national politics. -- Bill to alter Electoral College fails in committee

    Alabama: legislative committee delays voter file contract

    AP reports: The Legislature's Contract Review Committee voted Thursday to hold up a contract between the governor's office and an Omaha, Neb. company to create a court-ordered statewide voter registration list.

    But Gov. Bob Riley's attorney says the company that is receiving the $6.2 million contract, Election Systems and Software, has already begun work on the project and that the committee's action will not delay efforts to meet a federal judge's Aug. 31 deadline to have the list compiled.

    A federal judge put Riley in charge of developing the list after former Secretary of State Nancy Worley missed a federally mandated deadline. U.S. District Judge Keith Watkins gave Riley until Aug. 31 to complete the task. -- Committee holding up voter list contract

    March 8, 2007

    Ohio: Kidwell cert petition filed in U.S. Supreme Court

    A cert petition was filed yesterday in Kidwell v. City of Union, Ohio. The question presented is: "Whether the Sixth Circuit erred by holding that the government speech doctrine allows the government to spend public funds directly to influence the outcome of an election." Here are the opening paragraphs of the Statement of the Case:

    This case arises from a series of disputed ballot initiatives relating to the creation and funding of a fire department by respondent City of Union, Ohio. Before 1997, Union’s fire and emergency services were provided by neighboring Randolph Township. In that year, in response to a potential merger between Randolph Township and the nearby Village of Clayton, the Union City Council passed an emergency resolution establishing its own city fire department. App. 2a Petitioners Ronald Kidwell, Julie Johnson, and Charles Arnett, Union taxpayers, challenged the resolution via a ballot initiative. App. 2-3a.

    The election was preceded by a lively campaign in which the Union City Council used public funds to oppose the initiative. App. 3a. It is undisputed that the Union City Council used city workers and city equipment to hang a “Vote No” campaign banner across Main Street, mailed campaign leaflets to residents, advertised in local newspapers, and used the town newsletter to exhort city residents to vote against the initiative. Id. The city manager also worked closely with members of a local Political Action Committee (PAC) that opposed the initiative to coordinate the campaign expenditures of the city and the PAC. 6th Cir. App. 188-89, 216.

    Thanks to Christopher Landau, one of the counsel for the petitioners for sending the Petition to me. You may download it here.

    "Reforming Redistricting: Why Popular Initiatives To Establish Redistricting Commissions Succeed or Fail."

    American Constitution Society announces: ACS is pleased to distribute an Issue Brief by Nicholas Stephanopoulos entitled "Reforming Redistricting: Why Popular Initiatives To Establish Redistricting Commissions Succeed or Fail." In this piece, Stephanopoulos argues that election district lines have often been drawn -- in such a way that fundamental democratic values are subverted." He then closely examines one avenue for redistricting reform: popular initiatives to establish redistricting commissions. Given other solutions and their limitations - legislators often having a vested interest in preserving the status quo, and recent Supreme Court decisions (such as Vieth v. Jubelirer and LULAC v. Perry) limiting judicial review - Stephanopoulos suggests that redistricting initiatives are the only realistic way to curb political gerrymandering. The initiative, available in some form in 24 states, enables the general public to place statutory and constitutional proposals directly on the ballot. The author reviews each of the 12 redistricting initiatives launched over the course of American history and identifies several factors that appear to predict their success or failure. He finds that the most important reason for the frequent failure of these initiatives is the concerted opposition of the majority party in the state legislature. In fact, redistricting initiatives succeed only when some factor (e.g., favorable national developments, the enthusiastic support of the state's media establishment, or division between the majority party's executive branch officials and its legislators) defuses majority party opposition. Stephanopoulos concludes by drawing lessons for the future, specifically offering to proponents of redistricting initiatives a playbook for increasing their chances of success.

    Arkansas: legislature passes instant-runoff procedure for overseas voters

    The Arkansas News Bureau reports: Another bill that passed the Senate, HB 1509 by Rep. Horace Hardwick, R-Bentonville, would allow voters who are overseas to use "instant runoff" ballots that allow making a second choice when voting in the primary or general election.

    Both bills passed 35-0. Steele's bill goes to the House. Hardwick's bill goes to the governor. -- Arkansas News Bureau - House approves school funding appropriation

    Thanks to Rob Richie for the tip.

    Alabama: PAC to PAC transfer bill approved in House committee

    Associated Press reports: Ethics and election campaign reform were a priority Wednesday as Alabama House committees began work on proposed legislation for the 2007 regular session.

    A bill endorsed by Republicans, Democrats and Gov. Bob Riley to ban the practice of transferring campaign contributions from one political action committee to another was approved unanimously by the House Constitution and Elections Committee.

    The panel also approved another election reform measure that requires disclosure of those paying for advertisements about a candidate, including mailouts and calls from a phone bank. -- al.com: NewsFlash - House committees approve PAC to PAC ban, other ethics bills

    March 7, 2007

    Cherokee Nation: Freedmen will challenge vote

    Reuters reports: Black Cherokee Indians said on Tuesday they will challenge a weekend vote to kick them out of the tribe that once owned their ancestors as slaves.

    They threatened legal action to overturn the vote on Saturday in which 77 percent of those who cast ballots said they should no longer be Cherokees. ...

    The vote would remove from tribal rolls 2,800 people who were mostly "freedmen," or descendants of slaves owned by the tribe before the U.S. Civil War brought their freedom.

    They were adopted into the tribe under a 1866 treaty with the United States, but there has long been controversy among Cherokees about whether they belonged. -- Black Cherokees to challenge ouster from tribe | U.S. | Reuters

    Pennsylvania: Tullytown gets protests over barring councilmember from phoning in from Afghanistan

    AP reports: Dozens of veterans gathered outside the Tullytown Municipal Building with an American flag to protest a decision not to allow a borough councilman serving in Afghanistan to vote on borough matters.

    Councilman Joe Shellenberger, a 46-year-old Air Force reservist, was sent to Afghanistan in January. Councilman Ed Czyzyk made a motion at the Feb. 6 council meeting to allow Shellenberger to vote while overseas, but the motion died for lack of a second. Czyzyk argued that Shellenberger should have a right to vote because, "He's over there defending our right to vote here."

    During public discussion on the matter Tuesday night, many argued that Shellenberger was staying informed and should be allowed to vote via Internet or phone. He has been receiving borough documents through his wife and borough staff. -- AP Wire | 03/07/2007 | Veterans protest barring councilman from voting while on duty

    March 6, 2007

    New Jersey: Hatch Act restricts work of Monmouth Co. GOP chairman

    The Asbury Park Press reports: New fundraising restrictions on Monmouth County GOP Chairman Adam Puharic have led prominent Republicans to question whether Puharic can continue leading the party. ...

    Puharic said his duties as GOP chairman have been altered because of his new job as a federal employee. Puharic began work last week as a public affairs officer at the Newark office of the U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. His salary is $91,700.

    Because of the federal Hatch Act — which spells out permitted and prohibited political activity of executive branch em-ployees of the federal government — Puharic said he is no longer directly participating in fundraising for the party. ...

    The new arrangement could be problematic for Puharic, according to Edward Still, an Alabama elections attorney who maintains a Web site and blog called Votelaw.

    "This will mean that if he even signs a fundraising letter or puts his name on fundraising material, that can be considered soliciting under the Hatch Act," Still said. "There's going to be a whole range of things he can't do. He's sort of going to become half a chairman." -- APP.COM - GOP split on whether chairman should resign | Asbury Park Press Online

    Colorado: Supreme Court throws out GOP suit over redistricting

    The Denver Post reports: The U.S. Supreme Court dealt a final blow Monday to Colorado Republicans, ruling against their challenge to a congressional-redistricting plan.

    The justices unanimously found that four Colorado Republican voters, who filed suit to supplant a court's redistricting plan with one subsequently passed by the GOP-controlled state legislature, did not have standing to bring their case. ...

    The Denver District Court judge's plan, adopted from the Democrats, kept three congressional districts that lean heavily toward Republicans, three seats leaning Democratic and created one seat, the 7th Congressional District, that is fiercely competitive.

    Republicans said the plan favored Democrats. And in 2003, the Republican-controlled legislature passed a new plan in the waning hours of the session that Democrats said favored the GOP. -- DenverPost.com - Redistrict challenge flops in high court

    The opinion in Lance v. Coffman is here.

    California: DOJ to monitor several Southern California city elections

    AP reports: The U.S. Justice Department said Monday it planned to monitor municipal elections in four Southern California cities to ensure they comply with federal voting law.

    Federal observers on Tuesday will visit polling places in Azusa, Gardena, Paramount and Rosemead.

    Last year federal investigators visited polling places in the region and determined that Azusa and Paramount failed to fully translate election materials into Spanish, as they are required to do under the federal Voting Rights Act. Authorities also said Rosemead failed to offer all voting materials in Spanish, Chinese and Vietnamese. -- AP Wire | 03/05/2007 | Feds to monitor Tuesday elections in four SoCal cities

    March 5, 2007

    Idaho: bill to regulate robocalls introduced

    AP reports: Many state lawmakers around the country want to slam down the receiver on pesky automated phone calls like the ones that interrupted suppers before last November's election.

    On Thursday, Idaho joined Missouri, Maryland, Florida, Connecticut, Nebraska, Tennessee and North Carolina, among other states, which since November have agitated for more oversight over automatic dialing-announcing devices, or "robocalls."

    A bill in the Idaho House would require political and charitable organizations at the start of every automated call to disclose who is behind the message, and how they can be reached. Sponsors say giving those on the other end of the line more information allows them to choose to listen further -- or hang up. ...

    A handful of states, including Indiana, Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, Minnesota and Arkansas, already have laws restricting political robocalls. -- SR.com: Idaho Legislature: Bill would limit 'robocalls'

    Alabama: legislators expect PAC-to-PAC transfers ban to pass

    AP reports: Speaker Seth Hammett says he expects legislation to ban the transfer of campaign contributions from one political action committee to another to be among the first bills considered by the House after the regular session begins Tuesday.

    A ban became a hot issue in the 2006 elections, drawing support from Gov. Bob Riley and both the Democratic and Republican caucuses in the Legislature.

    In an Associated Press survey of legislators, 82 percent of House members responding and 78 percent of senators said they favor banning the transfer of campaign contributions between PACs. Ban proponents say the PAC transfers make it difficult for voters to figure out who is giving money to a candidate. ...

    The sponsor of the measure since he was first elected to the Legislature seven years ago has been Rep. Jeff McLaughlin, D-Guntersville. McLaughlin is an outspoken advocate for election and constitutional revisions and has refused to take contributions in his election campaigns. -- montgomeryadvertiser.com :: Lawmakers back ban on PAC-to-PAC transfers

    March 4, 2007

    New Mexico: CREW will file ethics complaint against Sen. Domenici

    CREW states on its website: Hearings on the firing of the U.S. Attorneys start next week. David Iglesias from New Mexico will be testifying. As first reported on TPM Muckraker, CREW will file an ethics complaint against any members who Iglesias testifies pressured him. -- Citizens Blogging for Responsibility and Ethics In Washington

    Expect something soon, since Sen. Domenici has now admitted calling U.S. Attorney Iglesias: I called Mr. Iglesias late last year. My call had been preceded by months of extensive media reports about acknowledged investigations into courthouse construction, including public comments from the FBI that it had completed its work months earlier, and a growing number of inquiries from constituents. I asked Mr. Iglesias if he could tell me what was going on in that investigation and give me an idea of what timeframe we were looking at. It was a very brief conversation, which concluded when I was told that the courthouse investigation would be continuing for a lengthy period. -- Domenici: "I Regret Making That Call and I Apologize"

    Cherokee Nation: referendum kicks out the Freedmen

    The Tulsa World reports: Cherokee Nation voters overwhelmingly chose to remove freedmen from their tribal rolls in a special election Saturday.

    Complete results late Saturday show 77 percent of the voters supported the proposed amendment to the Cherokee Constitution. About 8,700 votes were cast in the tribe's 14-county district.

    The question put to voters proposed a constitutional amendment to require that only descendants of "by blood" tribal members on the 1906 Dawes Rolls would remain in the tribe, excluding about 2,770 freedmen descendants, who were affirmed by the tribe's high court as tribal citizens in March 2006. ..

    The amendment also removes non-Indian descendants of "intermarried whites," according to the ballot wording.

    Members of the Shawnee and Delaware by blood rolls, who also are Cherokee Nation citizens, will remain on the rolls.

    The amendment excludes from Cherokee tribal rolls the descendants of freed Cherokee slaves categorized as freedmen.

    Freedmen often intermarried with the tribe and lived within the
    Cherokee Nation boundaries. -- tulsaworld.com: News

    March 3, 2007

    Oklahoma: Cherokees voting on expelling the Freedmen

    The Washington Post reports: The 250,000-member Cherokee Nation will vote in a special election today whether to override a 141-year-old treaty and change the tribal constitution to bar "freedmen," the descendants of former tribal slaves, from being members of the sovereign nation.

    "It's a basic, inherent right to determine our own citizenry. We paid very dearly for those rights," Cherokee Principal Chief Chad Smith said in an interview last month in Oklahoma City.

    But the Cherokee freedmen see the vote as less about self-determination than about discrimination and historical blinders. They see in the referendum hints of racism and a desire by some Cherokees to deny the tribe's slave-owning past. ...

    People on both sides of the issue say the fight is also about tribal politics -- the freedmen at times have been at odds with the tribal leadership -- and about money.

    Advocates of expelling the freedmen call it a matter of safeguarding tribal resources, which include a $350 million annual budget from federal and tribal revenue, and Cherokees' share of a gambling industry that, for U.S. tribes overall, takes in $22 billion a year. The grass-roots campaign for expulsion has given heavy play to warnings that keeping freedmen in the Cherokee Nation could encourage thousands more to sign up for a slice of the tribal pie. -- Cherokee Nation To Vote on Expelling Slaves' Descendants - washingtonpost.com

    March 2, 2007

    Wisconsin: voter I.D. bill may be dead for the year

    AP reports: Republicans tried again Thursday to require Wisconsin voters to show photo identification, but the measure looks doomed.

    The GOP-controlled Assembly gave preliminary approval on a voice vote to a constitutional amendment that would require the identification. But Democrats objected to moving to a final vote on passage.

    Republicans fell 15 votes short of the two-thirds majority they needed to override the objection. That means the amendment will be back for a final vote on the next Assembly calendar, likely on March 13.

    If the body approves it then, it goes to the state Senate, which is controlled by Democrats. Senate Majority Leader Judy Robson, D-Beloit, said the amendment will die there. -- AP Wire | 03/01/2007 | Voter ID requirement likely dead in Wis. Legislature

    Texas: Amarillo lawsuit pauses

    The Amarillo Globe News reports: The two sides in the federal voting rights lawsuit are putting the case on hold. ...

    The suit seeks a court order that would order a new election on the issue of single-member districts. The suit alleges the city should have allowed voters to vote separately on two proposed city charter amendments on single-member districts, instead of combining them.

    If the single-member districting measure had passed, it would have drawn electoral lines across the city. The city's charter would have been amended to up the number of commissioners from four to eight and they would have been required to live within their districts and be elected by voters in their district. -- amarillo.com | Local News: Voting lawsuit on hold 03/02/07

    Alabama: state considering change in judicial elections

    The Birmingham News reports: Alabama Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb says she has millions of reasons the state should change the way it picks top judges:

    $14.8 million was spent by candidates in partisan elections in appeals court races last year. Outside groups and political parties spent at least $1 million more.

    $7.7 million was spent in the three-way contest for chief justice. It was the second most expensive court race in United States history.

    Alabama is one of 13 states looking into changing how their judges are chosen. ...

    Since 1993, Alabama Supreme Court candidates have raked in $53 million, tops in the nation. Most has come from groups with an economic stake in how judges rule in Alabama, including trial lawyers, businesses and gambling interests. -- State considers new way to pick judges

    The News also carries two related stories: here and here.

    March 1, 2007

    FEC approves Obama's contingency-funding request

    The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports: The Federal Election Commission unanimously agreed this morning to let Sen. Barack Obama to have a backup fundraising plan, in a vote experts say could help revive the flagging public financing system in presidential campaigns.

    In an unprecedented request, Obama, D-Ill., asked the commission whether – if he wins the Democratic nomination – he could use public financing if his Republican opponent would also agree to do so.

    At the same time, Obama wants to start collecting private donations for the general election in the event his GOP opponent in 2008 declined to take part in the public financing system.

    The commission gave Obama the thumbs-up, provided that money raised for a potential general election campaign be kept in a separate account and fully refunded to donors within 60 days of deciding to accept public funding. -- STLtoday - News - Washington

    11th Circuit affirms decision for FEC and against Reform Party

    The 11th Circuit issued its opinion today in FEC v. Reform Party of the USA. The first two paragraphs of the opinion say: The Reform Party of the United States (“the RPUSA”) appeals the district
    court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the Federal Election Commission (“the Commission”), and its entry of an injunction limiting the manner in which the RPUSA may spend its money pending satisfaction of its repayment obligation. The Commission filed suit against the RPUSA, and its treasurers William D. Chapman, Sr. (“Chapman”) and Lee Dilworth (“Dilworth”), and the Reform Party 2000 Convention Committee (“Convention Committee”) and its treasurer, Gerald M. Moan (“Moan”), pursuant to 26 U.S.C. § 9010(b). In its suit, the Commission sought the recovery of $333,558.00 in public funds previously determined by the Secretary of the Treasury to be owed by the RPUSA pursuant to 26 U.S.C. § 9007, as well as injunctive and declaratory relief. The RPUSA and the other named Defendants presented several defenses, filed a counterclaim against the Commission, and filed cross-claims against Defendant Chapman and the Convention Committee.

    The RPUSA argues that summary judgment was improperly granted because (1) the district court erroneously found it did not have jurisdiction to hear the RPUSA’s defenses and claims against the Commission; (2) the RPUSA was denied discovery; and (3) the injunction violates the RPUSA’s first amendment right to free speech. We conclude that the court correctly determined it lacked jurisdiction to entertain the defenses and counterclaim, and that the RPUSA was not improperly denied discovery. We do not reach the merits of the first amendment challenge to the injunctive portion of the order. Accordingly, we AFFIRM.

    The entire opinion may be downloaded here.