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

« September 2007 | Main | November 2007 »

October 31, 2007

Ron Paul and the invasion of spam bots

From a UAB press release: Anti-spam researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) noted a disturbing new trend following Sunday's Republican Candidates Presidential debate. One of the candidates has a new spam campaign dedicated to proclaiming him victorious in the debate and extolling his virtues as the future president.

There is no reason to believe the current spam campaign is actually endorsed by Ron Paul or his official campaign engine, according to Gary Warner, UAB Director of Research in Computer Forensics, ...

The new messages have headlines such as:

Ron Paul Wins GOP Debate!
Ron Paul Eliminates the IRS!
Ron Paul Stops Iraq War!
Vote Ron Paul 2008!
Iraq Scam Exposed, Ron Paul
Government Wasteful Spending Eliminated By Ron Paul


Warner says, "We've seen many previous emails reported as spam from other campaigns or parties, but when we've investigated them, they all were sent from the legitimate parties." The important distinction between the new emails and previous emails, Warner says, is the fraudulent nature of the message. Legitimate messages tell who they are from, and provide a means of "unsubscribing" from future messages from the same source. -- "Ron Paul Spammers" Targeted by UAB Spam Team

John Tanner faces the Judiciary Committee

The Washington Post reports: House Democrats sharply criticized the head of the Justice Department's voting section yesterday for making a series of racially charged statements, including his suggestion that black voters are not hurt as much as whites by voter identification laws because "they die first."

In a tense appearance before a House Judiciary subcommittee, John K. Tanner apologized for the "tone" of his comments about elderly voters earlier this month and said they "do not in any way accurately reflect my career of devotion" to upholding federal voting rights laws. ...

But Tanner, a 31-year Justice Department career employee, also stuck by his assertion that demographic differences between racial groups temper the impact on minorities of laws requiring that voters present detailed identification, prompting several Democrats to question his fitness to be a senior official in the department's Civil Rights Division.

"You're saying you're right but your tone was wrong," said Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.). "I don't know what you're apologizing for."

Toby Moore, a former political geographer in the voting section, told the committee that Tanner regularly engaged in "broad generalizations, deliberate misuse of statistics and casual supposition" in making decisions, including overruling Moore and other career employees in approving a 2005 Georgia voter identification law. -- Justice Dept. Voting Chief Apologizes But Persists - washingtonpost.com

October 30, 2007

Florida: the intra-Democratic fight may hurt the party

Salon.com reports: Amid the swimming pools and shuffleboards, a new sense of outrage is buzzing through condo land. Democratic activist Adele Berger began to hear about it at her regular, eight-deck rummy game in Century Village, an expansive, historically Jewish community of New York retirees. "People have been coming over and asking me, 'What's going on, Adele? What's the purpose of voting if it won't be counted?' And that's sad, that's sad."

The head of the community's Democratic club, Sophie Bock, is hearing the same thing, forcing her to reassure residents in the monthly newsletter that their presidential primary vote will count -- at least symbolically. "I am trying to make nicey-nicey, because I can't stand it when the people say, 'I don't want to vote. My vote won't be counted.'" Privately, however, she is as angry as her club members, so angry that she has even begun deleting fundraising e-mails from Howard Dean and the Democratic National Committee before reading them. ...

Such is the mood these days in Florida, where the specter of election meddling is again rearing its head. National Democrats plan to deny the state's 4.25 million registered Democrats any delegates to the 2008 National Convention as punishment for the state Legislature's decision to move the primary date to Jan. 29, one week earlier than the party rules allow, in an effort to make the Florida vote more influential. At the same time, the political leaders in four early primary states -- Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina -- have bullied the major Democratic candidates to forgo campaigning in Florida until February, effectively prohibiting voters like Bock and Berger from meeting their candidates, receiving campaign mail or even seeing a candidate advertisement on TV. "We can listen to their debates," says Bock. "But, you know, sometimes if it interferes with a card came, someone is going to play cards." -- Another election fiasco in Florida? | Salon News

Alabama: 11th Circuit hears Woodward case tomorrow

The Birmingham News reports: A federal appeals court Wednesday will hear the case of former Jefferson County Sheriff Jim Woodward, who continues to maintain his prosecution on charges of illegally using a criminal database was politically motivated.

Woodward, now retired, said Monday he has been fighting to clear his and lawyer Albert Jordan's names ever since a federal grand jury returned charges against them in 2000. ...

A federal jury in 2006 convicted Woodward, a Republican, and Jordan in their second trial, on charges they conspired to run criminal history checks on absentee voters to use in Woodward's 1998 election contest against Democratic challenger Mike Hale. ...

Woodward said that the indictment was politically driven to steal his sheriff's victory in the 1998 race. He said the case was arranged by high-ranking Democrats and the Justice Department, including former U.S. attorney Doug Jones, who served during the Clinton Administration. -- Ex-Jeffco sheriff sees 2000 election case going before Appeals- al.com

Alabama: Election Commission calls for special election to fill vacancy on Jefferson County commission

The Birmingham News reports: The Jefferson County Election Commission on Monday set a Feb. 5 election to replace Larry Langford on the County Commission.

That action sets up a likely legal showdown with Gov. Bob Riley, who maintains he has the authority to appoint Langford's replacement. ...

"What the Election Commission has done is both illegal and unconstitutional," said Ken Wallis, Riley's chief legal adviser. "They are acting on a law that is invalid."

Wallis said the election officials are wrong to cite the 1977 legislation and are misinterpreting the 2004 act. The 1977 act is void because it was passed before the 2004 law took effect, Wallis said. -- Election set to replace Langford- al.com

October 29, 2007

Alabama: response filed by plaintiffs in Supreme Court suit re Mobile County Commission election

My co-counsel and I have filed a motion to dismiss or affirm the State of Alabama's appeal in Riley v. Kennedy, No. 07-77 in the U.S. Supreme Court. The State's jurisdictional statement is available here.

The case was brought by my clients under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act for an injunction against the Governor's appointment of a replacement county commissioner in Mobile County. Our suit asserted that the Governor had not obtained preclearance of an Alabama Supreme Court decision before enforcing it.

Earlier posts are here, here, here, here, and here.

Virgin Islands: Constitutional convention begins

Caribbean News Net reports: With US Virgin Islands Governor John de Jongh out of the territory on Friday, the duty of approving a bill passed by the VI legislature early last week enabling the long-awaited start of the fifth constitutional convention for the US Virgin Islands territory, fell on the shoulders of Lt. Governor Gregory R. Francis. The Acting Governor, who is bound by US Virgin Islands law to serve as Governor when deJongh is not available, immediately issued a brief statement making bill no. 27-136 an official law.

The convention was originally scheduled to begin in late July, 2007. ...

The delegates have until October, 1, 2008, to complete work on the document, which will then be submitted to the Governor for consideration; then to US President George W. Bush for review. The President will then forward the draft constitution to the United States Congress for review and possible changes. The final draft document will then be officially returned to the US Virgin Islands, where voters may go to the polls to determine a final outcome. The USVI Constitutional Convention will begin Monday at 10:00 AM with the swearing in ceremony for the delegates. -- Caribbean Net News: USVI constitutional convention set to begin Monday

October 25, 2007

Scotland: Gould clarifies report

The Herald reports: Douglas Alexander, the minister criticised over the Scottish election fiasco, last night demanded an apology from those politicians who had "impugned his integrity".

After the publication of a critical report into the voting shambles earlier this week the former Scotland Secretary, who is now at the International Development Department and Gordon Brown's General Election co-ordinator, was accused by MPs of "having his finger in the till" and of "attempted gerrymandering".

But yesterday Ron Gould, the Canadian election expert who wrote the report, said in a letter to the Electorial Commission that he had never suggested specific actions were taken by ministers to advance their own party's interests.

n the light of Mr Gould's comments Mr Alexander now wants an apology from politicians including Tory leader David Cameron, shadow Scotland Secretary David Mundell, First Minister Alex Salmond and Scottish LibDem MP Alistair Carmichael. -- The Herald : Politics: MAIN POLITICS

Tova Wang on "Reshaping the Nomination Contest"

Has America Outgrown the Caucus? Some Thoughts on Reshaping the Nomination Contest by Tova Andrea Wang, The Century Foundation, 10/23/2007 In this new issue brief, Tova Andrea Wang discusses caucuses: Because of their exclusionary nature, they go against some of the core values we express when we talk about voting rights, such as the fundamental nature of the right, equality of opportunity to participate in the process, and fair access to the ballot. -- http://www.reformelections.org/

Voter ID paper from Tova Wang

High Court to Ponder Question Plaguing Voters: "Got ID?" by Tova Andrea Wang, The Century Foundation, 10/24/2007 The United States Supreme Court recently agreed to hear a case regarding the constitutionality of Indiana’s strictest-in-the-nation voter identification law. Indiana currently requires every voter to present government-issued photo identification at the polls or be barred from voting. One of the main arguments made by the defenders of the law, in this case and in other identification litigation, is that there is a lack of data showing that voter identification requirements suppress voting or disproportionately impact particular groups. -- http://www.reformelections.org/

Pennsylvania: Democratic candidate raises Hatch Act against 3 Republicans

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports: A Delaware County Democratic candidate has asked a federal agency to look into whether three county employees are violating the law because they hold elected office and work for departments that receive federal dollars.

County Council candidate David Landau said the combination of elected office and federal dollars could be a violation of the Hatch Act, a federal law intended to keep politics out of government.

At a news conference yesterday, Landau was careful to qualify his allegation. "There may be Hatch Act violations," he said.

A Republican county official struck back. "I think this is outrageous, trying to bolster his campaign by slamming the employees," said Linda Cartisano, the council's vice president.

The county has determined that the act does not apply to the individuals Landau named, she said. -- Candidate seeks federal probe of 3 Delco workers | Philadelphia Inquirer | 10/25/2007

Alabama: voter registration database completed

AP reports: A judge ruled Wednesday that Alabama finally has a statewide computerized system for voter registration that meets federal requirements.

U.S. District Judge Keith Wat-kins praised Gov. Bob Riley for doing in 14 months what other state officials had failed to accomplish in three years. ...

The U.S. Justice Department sued Alabama last year after then-Secretary of State Nancy Worley missed the Jan. 1, 2006, deadline for developing the computerized system. Watkins turned over the duties to Riley in August 2006 and set a new deadline of Aug. 31.

Riley had to get an extension of two months, but he and his staff reported to the judge Wed-nesday that the new system began working properly on Monday.

Justice Department attorney Don Palmer agreed. -- Judge approves state's new voter system

Alabama: showdown looming on election or appointment to fill Langford vacancy

The Birmingham News reports: The Jefferson County Election Commission plans to hold a special election to replace Larry Langford on the Jefferson County Commission, setting up a potential confrontation with Gov. Bob Riley, who claims he has authority to make the appointment.

Jefferson County voters in District 1 have a right to vote on Langford's replacement when he becomes mayor of Birmingham, Jefferson County Probate Judge Alan King said Wednesday. ...

King said a Jefferson County statute calls for an election to replace an open commission seat. In addition, he said, 2004 state legislation that gives the governor power to appoint specifically excludes counties with their own rules for special elections, such as Jefferson County. ...

Hutchison said Riley, a Republican, gets his authority from 2004 legislation, and the Jefferson County law is void because it was passed before the 2004 law took effect.

Hutchison said new legislation exempting the county from the governor's appointment authority would have to be created to give Jefferson County that right. -- Langford seat election in works- al.com

October 24, 2007

California: Goo-goos propose another independent redistricting commission

The Los Angeles Times reports: The Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, California Common Cause and AARP proposed an initiative Tuesday that would change the way the state's legislative districts are drawn, taking the politically sensitive matter away from lawmakers.

Leaders of the organizations, saying they are frustrated with the political gridlock on redistricting, filed the proposed measure with the state attorney general as the first step toward putting it on the November 2008 ballot; coalition organizers said they hoped to collect 1 million signatures if the Legislature does not agree to submit the measure to voters. ...

If approved by voters, the measure would create a 14-person redistricting commission made up of five Democrats, five Republicans and four others. The commissioners would be chosen through a public application process created by the state auditor. The review panel will narrow the pool of contenders to 60. After that, the four top legislative leaders would cut the pool to 36. Eight commissioners would be selected by random drawing from the 36 candidates, and those eight would select the other six commission members. ...

"Incumbent residences may not be considered; districts may not be drawn to protect incumbents," according to the ballot measure. The final map would not go into effect unless approved by at least three Democrats, three Republicans and three other commissioners. -- Groups propose redistricting plan for state lawmakers - Los Angeles Times

Thanks to Rick Hasen for the link to this story. Rick thinks this has a chance of being adopted. But I wonder if there will be a real change in the arrangement and balance of the districts if there has to be a tri-partisan agreement on the plan.

ACS Panel on Voter ID

The American Constitution Society (ACS) hosted a panel discussion yesterday entitled, "Voter ID Laws: Preventing Fraud or Suppressing the Vote?" Video from that discussion is available here.

The panel featured:

* Julie Fernandes, Senior Policy Analyst and Special Counsel, Leadership Conference on Civil Rights
* Deborah Goldberg, Democracy Program Director, Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law
* Robert Kelner, Partner and Chair of Election and Political Law Practice, Covington & Burling LLP
* Spencer Overton, Professor of Law, George Washington University Law School
* Moderator, Tova Wang, Democracy Fellow, The Century Foundation

A transcript of the discussion is forthcoming. -- ACSBlog: The Blog of the American Constitution Society: Voter ID Laws: Preventing Fraud or Suppressing the Vote: Panel Discussion

October 22, 2007

Scotland: Gould report makes recommendations for changing election administration

The Herald reports: Scotland needs to have a national returning officer and one layer of government controlling elections, according to a hard-hitting review of the fiasco that hit the May 3 ballots this year. It is understood that Ron Gould, the Canadian elections expert who has led a five-month review of what went wrong at the Holyrood and council votes, will report this morning that the fractured nature of elections in Scotland needs to be confronted.

Instead of 32 returning officers, each having autonomy over their own count, he is thought to conclude that there should be a streamlined, national system with one person overseeing the process.

The report is understood to be critical of the division between the Scotland Office in Whitehall having responsibility for Holyrood elections, while the Scottish Government in Edinburgh oversees council elections.

Moving to a single tier taking control would be likely to mean a significant devolution of power from Westminster to Holyrood.

It could open the door to a change of voting system for the Scottish Parliament, as there is probably a majority in favour of moving to the electoral system used for the first time for local authorities this year, meaning preferential votes for multi-member constituencies. The Gould report is also thought to confront the controversial question of how parties can describe themselves on the ballot form, after the SNP used "Alex Salmond for First Minister" to gain a prominent position on the form. -- The Herald : Politics: MAIN POLITICS

The report is here (but none of the links work as of this posting).

Alabama: Langford wins Birmingham mayoral race, 2nd place Cooper contests

Catching up on Birmingham News reports of the mayor's race: Larry Langford was officially certified Tuesday as the winner of Birmingham's Oct. 9 mayoral election, but second-place finisher Patrick Cooper said he plans to contest the election on the grounds Langford didn't meet the residency requirements to run for mayor.

"I'm going to contest it," Cooper said. "Larry Langford has perpetrated a fraud on the residents of Birmingham."

Prior to the election, Langford, a longtime Fairfield resident, rented a loft in downtown Birmingham and had his voter registration changed to that address. He said he intended to buy a house in Birmingham after the election.

While he did keep some clothes in the downtown loft, he said the building didn't allow pets, and he and his wife continued to care for their family dog, Zach, at their Fairfield home. -- Langford certified mayoral winner- al.com

Thursday: Lawyer Patrick Cooper on Wednesday morning challenged Mayor-elect Larry Langford's Oct. 9 victory in the Birmingham mayoral election. Cooper finished second to Langford.

Cooper's contest contends that Langford did not reside in Birmingham on the day he filed papers to run for mayor and thus wasn't qualified to be a candidate in the race. Jefferson County Circuit Judge Allwin Horn was assigned to hear the case. No hearing date has been set.

Wednesday afternoon, Langford asked that the election contest be dismissed. His written response says he was a resident at the time of filing, is a Birmingham voter and was qualified to run for and serve as mayor. -- Cooper challenges mayoral election

Disclosure: I represent the City of Birmingham on election-related matters.

Alabama: 2002 vote fraud by Siegelman camp

The Birmingham News has a strange "something happened but we don't have the details" story: A congressional committee's attention turns this week to November 2002, which is when a Rainsville lawyer contends she heard a telephone call that included claims Republicans were plotting to prosecute former Democratic Gov. Don Siegelman.

Jill Simpson's May affidavit describing the call caught the attention of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, which has scheduled a hearing Tuesday on the Siegelman case. But another affidavit, sworn in the middle of the 2002 election recount that is the focus of Simpson's allegations, has received little notice.

During the recount challenging Republican Bob Riley's tiny edge over Siegelman, Rob Riley, the governor's son, was pursuing claims made in a sworn affidavit that accused Siegelman supporters of possible voter fraud. ...

Rob Riley in November 2002 showed The Birmingham News a copy of the affidavit signed and sworn by Eddie Spivey, who had worked with a consulting group on Siegelman's 2002 campaign. Spivey claimed in the one-page sworn statement that Siegelman supporters were manipulating votes in ballot boxes.

"The concern was there was some type of irregularities going on, some stuffing of ballots out there," Toby Roth, who was the 2002 Riley campaign director, said in an interview last week. -- Vote fraud claim pursued by Riley camp in 2002 recount- al.com

And, it was so important that, even though the News had the evidence in 2002, it did not report on it.

October 21, 2007

Obama jumps on Tanner

It's officially mainstream now -- in the New York Times: Senator Barack Obama said the leader of the civil rights division of the Justice Department should step down after suggesting that minority voters were not widely disenfranchised by laws requiring photo identification because many members of minorities died before reaching old age.

“This administration has shown very little interest in making sure that all people have equal access to the ballot box,” Mr. Obama said in a telephone interview. “It’s important for all of us to embrace the basic notion that we should try to make voting easier, not harder.”

Mr. Obama, an Illinois Democrat who is seeking his party’s presidential nomination, was responding to a remark made by John Tanner, the chief of the Justice Department’s civil rights division. In a speech to a Latino group earlier this month in Los Angeles, Mr. Tanner said that a disproportionate share of elderly minority voters did not have identification, but added that it was not a widespread problem because of their life expectancy. ...

On Friday, Mr. Obama sent a letter to the Justice Department, urging acting Attorney General Peter D. Keisler to replace Mr. Tanner for making comments that were “patently erroneous, offensive and dangerous.” -- Obama Calls for Ouster of Official After Remark - New York Times

October 18, 2007

"Newest Factor for Earlier Primaries: Grinch Effect"

The New York Times reports: Oh, the Christmas season: the scent of eggnog, the sounds of sleigh bells, the good cheer — and all those slashing political attack ads, hard-hitting mailings, pre-recorded candidate phone calls and intrusive, get-out-the-vote drives?

With the first voting now scheduled to take place right after the first of the year, the presidential candidates are hurriedly making plans to cope with the challenge of conducting all-out campaigns smack in the middle of the holidays. Unlike previous elections, there will be no real buffer this time between the family gathering, bowl-game-watching (and drinking) tradition of the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day and the initial presidential contests in the early voting states.

On Tuesday night, the Iowa Republican Party decided to hold its caucuses on Jan. 3. It is the earliest that the party caucuses there have been scheduled since Iowa established its general position 36 years ago as the first state to vote in the national nominating contest, and it put pressure on the Democrats in Iowa to settle on the same schedule. The previous earliest date for the Iowa caucuses was Jan. 19, in the 1976 campaign. ...

Do the candidates need to unleash their advertising campaigns earlier than they otherwise would have? Will anyone show up if the candidates schedule town hall meetings in Iowa and New Hampshire right after Christmas?

How will candidates allocate their time if only a few days separate the Iowa caucuses from the New Hampshire primary? And will voters think poorly of candidates for running negative television commercials between feel-good spots starring Santa or the local news team singing while dressed as elves? -- Newest Factor for Earlier Primaries: Grinch Effect

October 15, 2007

Sen. Obama opposes von Spakovsky nomination

Sen. Barack Obama writes in the Louisiana Weekly: More than 40 years ago, John Lewis and Hosea Williams, along with hundreds of everyday Americans, left their homes and churches to brave the blows of Billy clubs and join a march for freedom across the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Thousands of anonymous foot soldiers - Blacks and Whites, the young and the elderly - summoned the courage to march for justice and demand freedom. A few months later, the Voting Rights Act was signed into law. ...

This is what's at stake in the United States Senate today. President Bush has recently nominated Hans von Spakovsky to serve on the Federal Election Commission (FEC). It's the job of the FEC to regulate elections and disclose campaign finance contributions. So it goes without saying that the FEC needs strong, impartial leadership that will promote integrity in our election system.

Hans von Spakovsky is not the right person for this job, and I strongly oppose his nomination. From 2001 to 2005, von Spakovsky served as an official at the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division where he amassed a record of undermining voting rights, creating restrictions that would make it harder for poor and minority communities to vote, and putting partisan politics above upholding our civil rights. -- Louisiana Weekly - Your Community. Your Newspaper.

New Hampshire: a plea for reason on the primary date

Walter Shapiro writes on Salon.com to the New Hampshire secretary of state: As a reporter who covered his first New Hampshire primary in 1980 and who reveres its democratic values and traditions, I feel compelled to offer some scheduling advice from the sidelines.

You remain as inscrutable as Alan Greenspan before his memoirs, but I note that the Washington Post has divined from a recent interview that you are tempted to move the primary to December. (After our 90-minute phone conversation in July, about all I divined was that the New Hampshire primary would indeed take place sometime in 2007 or 2008.)

A word of warning: If you try to preserve the primacy of the primary by primly picking a Tuesday in December, you risk New Hampshire's being ridiculed by the late-night comics for voting on 2008 presidential candidates in 2007. As you know all too well, New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation status is hanging by a thread. And holding the primary while the Christmas decorations are still up in Concord will seem to most Americans as absurd as beginning leaf-peeping season in February.

New Hampshire did not cause the front-loading of the system (your primary has been at the head of the class since 1920), but your state will be blamed for it. And in 2012, New Hampshire and Iowa would probably be shoved offstage to be replaced by a national primary, open only to candidates with household names who can raise $150 million before a single vote is cast. -- Save the New Hampshire primary | Salon.com

North Carolina: Cary uses IRV for town council

The Asheville Citizen-Times reports: Cary on Tuesday became North Carolina's first test of instant runoff voting, a system the state will try out next month in Hendersonville's City Council election.

Letting voters make backup choices eliminates the need for runoff elections that cost extra money and tend to draw low turnout.

Opponents of the movement, like Raleigh resident Chris Telesca of the N.C. Coalition for Verified Voting, say it makes voting and counting the votes more complex.

In Cary, though, voters interviewed at the polls all said they understood how to vote using the system. Most of them said they had come prepared to rank candidates after receiving mailers, viewing the county Elections Board's Web site or hearing about it in the media.

"I thought it was really positive," said Alex Funk, a retired engineer who biked to the Herbert C. Young Community Center to vote. "I mean, why do this all twice?"

Corey Cook, an assistant professor of politics at the University of San Francisco who has studied instant runoff voting, said most voters understand it, but governments must spend money before every election to educate those who don't. -- CITIZEN-TIMES.com: Instant runoff gets test run

Alabama: 2008 likely to be expensive for supreme court candidates

The Birmingham News reports: Next year's race to replace retiring state Supreme Court Justice Harold See is one of five judicial elections nationwide that merit close scrutiny, the watchdog group Justice at Stake said.

Expect the kind of no-holds-barred battle between business and plaintiff trial lawyer interests that have helped Alabama set the standard for expensive and nasty elections, said the Washington-based group that monitors judicial elections. ...

Justice at Stake officials also expect a big battle for the seat being vacated by See, whose court race in 1996 gained national notoriety for an opponent's campaign ad that compared See to a skunk.

"The state's partisan system of judicial elections, combined with an absence of both campaign contribution limits and disclosure rules for special interests, suggest a raucous campaign for Justice See's seat," said a Justice at Stake news release.

In 2006, when five seats were contested, Alabama's Supreme Court elections attracted $12.4 million, more than in any other state. The $7.7 million race that year for chief justice was the second-most expensive judicial election in the nation's history. -- Watchdog group eyes Alabama- al.com

October 14, 2007

The results are in: Democrats win the Presidency, 2008

Allan Lichtman writes on History News Network: The election for president is more than a year away. Neither major party has as yet chosen a nominee. Yet the results of the 2008 election are already in: the Democrats will recapture the White House next fall, whether they nominate Hillary Rodham Clinton or Barack Obama, John Edwards, or Bill Richardson. Only an unprecedented cataclysmic change in American politics during the next year could salvage Republican hopes.

This good news for Democrats and grim news for Republicans comes from the “Keys to the White House,” a historically based prediction system that I developed in 1981, in collaboration with Volodia Keilis-Borok, an authority on the mathematics of prediction models.

The Keys retrospectively accurately account for the popular vote winners of every presidential election from 1860 through 1980 and prospectively forecast the winners of every presidential election from 1984 through 2004. The keys model predicted George W. Bush’s reelection in April 2003. -- Allan Lichtman: The 13 Keys to the White House ... Why the Democrats will take back the White House

October 13, 2007

Georgia: Secretary of State sends letters to the non-I.D.'ed

AccessNorthGA.com reports: Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel has begun Phase Two of her office’s Photo ID outreach and education campaign in preparation for municipal elections to be held in 90 counties - including Hall - on November 6. The campaign is aimed at reminding voters they must present photo identification for in-person voting. Photo identification is not required to vote with an absentee ballot.

The Secretary of State’s Office is sending letters to over 166,000 active and inactive registered voters in the 90 counties who may not have a Georgia driver’s license or state identification card. The voters receiving this letter were identified through a database match of active and inactive registered voters and Georgia Department of Drivers Services (DDS) records.

“We encourage every registered voter who does not yet have photo identification to contact their county registrar’s office or DDS center. We want to ensure that every citizen who needs a free photo ID card knows where to obtain it,” said Handel.

Registered voters in the 90 counties believed to not have a driver’s license or other photo identification will also receive an informational brochure and postcard in the weeks leading up to the November 6 election date. -- Secretary of State begins Phase 2 of photo ID outreach

Virginia: statewide voter file has many mistakes

Media General News Service reports: Voting registrars say a new statewide computerized voter registration system is so flawed that potential voters will be at best inconvenienced and at worst not allowed to vote on Election Day.

The State Board of Elections has reminded registrars in all 134 voting jurisdictions that provisional ballots could be offered as an alternative if names don’t match up with the poll books.

In a provisional ballot, a person could vote and election officials would check the day after the election to see whether the person is, indeed, registered to vote.

The election is Nov. 6. Because there are no statewide races, turnout is expected to be low. Voters will elect members of the General Assembly, boards of supervisors, school board members and constitutional officers.

But with a slew of candidates to choose among in many localities, registrars are worried that incorrect poll books will prolong the voting process. -- State's registrars reporting registration errors

Florida: touch screens being scrapped

The New York Times reports: It used to be that everyone wanted a Florida voting machine.

After the history-making presidential recount of 2000, Palm Beach County sold hundreds of its infamous Votomatic machines to memorabilia seekers, including a group of chiropractors in Arizona, the cable-news host Greta Van Susteren and the hotelier André Balazs. One machine ended up in the Smithsonian Institution. Dozens were transformed into pieces of contemporary art for an exhibition in New York.

But now that Florida is purging its precincts of 25,000 touch-screen voting machines — bought after the recount for up to $5,000 each, hailed as the way of the future but deemed failures after five or six years — no one is biting. ...

Across the nation, jurisdictions that experimented with touch-screen voting after 2000 are starting to scale back or abandon it based on a growing perception that the machines are unreliable and concern that they do not provide a paper trail in case questions arise. California will sharply scale back touch-screen voting next year after a review by the secretary of state found it was vulnerable to hackers.

Florida is the biggest state to reject touch screens so sweepingly, and its deadline for removing them, July 1, 2008, is the most imminent. For the 15 counties that must dump their expensive systems, buy new optical-scan machines and retrain thousands of poll workers, hurdles abound. -- Voting Machines Giving Florida New Headache - New York Times

October 12, 2007

The Second Great Disenfranchisement

David Schultz has posted his article, "Less than Fundamental: The Myth of Voter Fraud and the Coming of the Second Great Disenfranchisement." It will be published soon in the William Mitchell Law Review. The article begins:

When it comes to voting and voting rights, American history is marked by two traditions. One expresses a continuing expansion of the formal right to vote beyond that found at the time of the framing of the Constitution where only white males who owned property, of protestant faith, and of specific age and citizenship, had franchise rights under the Constitution. ...

But while one American tradition was marked by an expansion of franchise, Alexander Keyssar notes another one characterized by efforts to deny the right to vote. There are repeated periods in American history to disenfranchise voters or to scare them away from the polls. For example, after the Civil War many in the South used Jim Crow laws, poll taxes, literacy tests, grandfather laws, and not so subtle means such as lynchings, cross burnings, and other techniques to prevent newly freed slaves from voting. ...

A second great disenfranchisement is afoot across the United States as yet again voter fraud is raised as a way to intimidate immigrants, people of color, the poor, and the powerless from voting. This time the tools are not literacy tests, poll taxes, or lynch mobs, but instead it is the use of photo IDs when voting.

Who is registered?

Representational Bias in the 2006 Electorate
Project Vote announces "Representational Bias in the 2006 Election": The proportion of the U.S. population that registers to vote and that does vote is highly skewed towards Whites, the educated and the wealthy. Furthermore, young eligible Americans, particularly young minority males, and those who have recently moved, are disproportionately represented among those who do not participate in the U.S. electorate.

This report provides an introductory review of frequency tables for responses to some of the questions in the November 2006 CPS as well as cross tabulations showing how the responses interact with race, gender and income. Data on voter registration and voter turnout for each state and the District of Columbia for 2002, 2004 and 2006 are also provided.

Hat tip to beSpacific.

Will the first primary be before Christmas?

The Washington Post reports: The New Hampshire primary, crowded by other wannabe primaries and caucuses, may be shifted from January to an unprecedented date in early December. It all depends on the calculations of one man.

"I have a lot of discretion," said Bill Gardner, the 16-term secretary of state of New Hampshire, who is invested with what amounts to dictatorial power to set the date under state law. "We are prepared, if it needs to be early December, it can be early December." -- A December Primary in New Hampshire? It's His Call. - washingtonpost.com

California: Arnold vetoes 5 voting rights bills

AP reports: Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed a series of right-to-vote bills Thursday, including a measure that would have suspended the voter registration deadline for people who become citizens just before an election.

The Republican governor, an Austrian immigrant who became a U.S. citizen in 1983, said the measure, created “both logistical and security concerns.” It would have allowed recently sworn-in citizens to register, and then vote, on Election Day.

“Voter registration deadlines are in place to provide elections officials a reasonable opportunity to verify registration information,” he said in a veto message.

The California Association of Clerks and Elections Officials supported the bill by Sen. Jenny Oropeza, D-Long Beach, saying there were enough protections in the measure to prevent fraud. -- Governor turns down right-to-vote bills

Alabama: losing mayoral candidate cites HAVA re provisional ballots

The Birmingham News reports: Birmingham mayoral candidate Patrick Cooper plans to deliver a letter to election officials today urging that they count provisional ballots of people who voted in the wrong precinct Tuesday.

Election officials have said that, according to state law, voters must vote in their assigned precincts or their votes will not be counted.

Cooper says the federal law that created provisional ballots, the Help America Vote Act of 2002, was designed to eliminate the problems created when election officials change polling places or district lines and create confusion about where people are supposed to vote. ...

However, state and local officials say a state law that went into effect this year requires that voters cast their ballots at the precinct where they have been assigned to vote. Those voters who cast ballots at one precinct but are listed in another will not have their ballots counted, according to election officials. -- Cooper cites U.S. voting law- al.com

October 11, 2007

ACS briefing on Voter ID laws

The American Constitution Society Announces Briefing on Voter ID Laws: In light of lawsuits challenging the constitutional of voter identification laws, including an upcoming Supreme Court cases on that subject, ACS will host a briefing on how voter ID laws affect our democracy. A panel of experts, including Julie Fernandes, Deborah Goldberg, Robert Kelner, Spencer Overton, and Tova Wang, will discuss how voter photo-ID laws impact our democracy on October 23, 2007, at the National Press Club's Holeman Lounge (Washington DC), from 12 to 2:30 pm. Lunch will be served. For information and to register, please visit the ACS website.

Alabama: Governor plans to appoint commissioner even though law calls for election

The Birmingham News reports: Gov. Bob Riley plans to appoint a replacement for Birmingham Mayor-elect Larry Langford on the Jefferson County Commission, the governor's spokeswoman said Wednesday.

The governor would not specify who might be appointed or how long it would take, said Tara Hutchison. ...

Langford may take over the mayor's office any time on or before the fourth Tuesday in November, according to the city's Mayor-Council Act.

Hutchison said the governor's legal office is of the opinion he has the authority to make the appointment.

But a Jefferson County-only law in the state code calls for a special election when a seat is vacated well before a county election is scheduled. The next election is set for 2010. -- Riley says he'll name Langford successor- al.com

October 10, 2007

Alabama: lawyer testifies that Siegelman dropped 2002 contest after GOP promised to stop investigation of him

The Birmingham News reports: A Rainsville lawyer who first suggested White House influence in the prosecution of former Gov. Don Siegelman told congressional lawyers last month that Siegelman dropped his 2002 election contest after Alabama Republicans promised to end the federal investigation of him.

Jill Simpson told lawyers for the U.S. House Judiciary Committee that Rob Riley, the son of Gov. Bob Riley, told her that Siegelman ended his challenge of Riley's gubernatorial victory after receiving assurances that "they would not further prosecute him with the Justice Department."

The statement by Simpson, included in a transcript of her Sept. 14 testimony, is a significant addition to an earlier sworn affidavit of hers that Siegelman supporters used to demand a congressional investigation of his prosecution. ...

Simpson added other disclosures in her congressional testimony given under oath, including that Gov. Riley met with former White House strategist Karl Rove to discuss Siegelman's prosecution; that Rob Riley had frequent contact with Rove; and that Rob Riley and others discussed Rove's direct involvement in the Siegelman prosecution in a conference call she previously said included only references to Rove's interest in the case. -- Lawyer adds to her affidavit on Siegelman- al.com

October 8, 2007

Florida: one suit against DNC dismissed

Slate reports: What's the matter with Florida? The Florida Democratic-primary showdown appears to have reached a stalemate.

On Friday, a judge threw out one of two lawsuits against the Democratic National Committee. The suit, filed by a Democratic activist, accused the organization of violating voters' constitutional rights by stripping Florida of its delegates in response to the state's decision to move its primary up to Jan. 29. The other suit, filed by Sen. Ben Nelson and Rep. Alcee Hastings, is still pending but seems unlikely to succeed given both precedent—courts have previously called party primaries internal affairs—and Friday's ruling. So if that suit fails, what happens next?

Chances are Florida Dems will go ahead with the early primary—sorry, "beauty contest"—and try to force the national party's hand. They say they'll send delegates to the national convention no matter what, which could get ugly if the DNC ends up turning them away. (The parallels to the 1964 Mississippi convention, where black delegates weren't allowed in, wouldn't look so good.) -- What's the Matter With Florida?

Why no DOJ blog?

The New York Times has A Look at Federal Government Blogs. There are no Justice Department blogs on the list -- and more to my interest, nothing from the Voting Section or the Civil Rights Division. Maybe if those folks wrote a blog and made daily entries, they might remember more things when questioned later by Congress.


Presidential primaries: the rigged, chaotic system

Michael Scherer writes on Salon.com: It's far worse than you think -- worse than hanging chads, faulty Diebold machines, and billionaires who bankroll last-minute attack ads. The American system for nominating a presidential candidate has about as much in common with actual democracy as Donald Duck has with a lake mallard. It's not just that this year's primaries have been further front-loaded, or that the early primary states aren't representative of the nation at large. There is only passing fairness. There is only the semblance of order. There is nothing like equal representation under the law.

The whole stinking process was designed by dead men in smoky parlors and refined by faceless bureaucrats in hotel conference rooms. It is a nasty brew born of those caldrons of self-interest known as political parties. At every stage, advantage is parceled out like so much magic potion. "The national interest is not considered in any form," says University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato. "Everything is left up to an ad hoc decision. It's chaotic."

That is not an exaggeration. Consider this: If you are a Republican, your vote for the presidential nominee will be worth more in Tennessee than in New York. If you are a Democrat, your vote in the primary will not count in Florida and is unlikely to count in Michigan. If you are a Republican in Wyoming, you probably won't get to vote at all, since only party officials have a say. -- The presidential primary scam | Salon.com

Massachusetts: deciding when to bullet vote

The Boston Globe reports: When he steps into the dim privacy of a voting booth on Nov. 6, Larry Davidson - Dorchester resident, Democrat, math teacher - will circle ovals next to the candidates he has chosen based not only on politics, but on the power of math.

Like all voters in Boston, Davidson will be allowed to choose four at-large candidates for the City Council from nine contenders. And like many other voters, he will contemplate using just one of those votes as a "bullet vote:" a single vote for one candidate, not only advancing that candidacy but denying other hopefuls his remaining votes.

But deciding whether you should cast a single ballot for your first-choice candidate, mathematicians say, you have to make strategic judgments about the race and how others will vote. And that requires a sophisticated view of the election.

"It all depends, truly, on your ability to understand who are the competitors for that last one or two seats," said Arlene Ash, a professor of medicine at Boston University School of Medicine and a statistician who testified in court about voting irregularities in the 2000 presidential election in Florida. -- Voter's quandary: to bullet on the ballot? - The Boston Globe

October 7, 2007

Washington State: Lies, damn lies, and politicians

The New York Times reports: Not that they need encouragement, but politicians were given the green light to lie about their opponents by the Washington Supreme Court the other day.

More than a dozen states have laws that make it unlawful to say false things about political candidates. The laws are, in practice, mainly aspirational. By a 5-to-4 vote on Thursday, the Washington Supreme Court added that the law in that state was also unconstitutional.

“The notion that the government, rather than the people, may be the final arbiter of truth in political debate is fundamentally at odds with the First Amendment,” Justice James M. Johnson wrote for four of the justices in the majority. A dissenting justice, Barbara A. Madsen, wrote that “the majority’s decision is an invitation to lie with impunity.”

Justice Madsen added that the decision would help turn “political campaigns into contests of the best stratagems of lies and deceit, to the end that honest discourse and honest candidates are lost in the maelstrom.” -- Law on Lies by Politicians Is Found Unconstitutional - New York Times

October 5, 2007

Campaign finance developments in Congress

The Congressional Research Service has a new report on campaign finance proposals: Recent events suggest continued congressional interest in campaign finance policy. This report provides an overview and analysis of 110th Congress legislation addressed in hearings or that has passed at least one chamber. The report also discusses two policy developments: Federal Election Commission (FEC) nominations and a recent Supreme Court ruling that could affect future political advertising (Federal Election Commission v. Wisconsin Right to Life, Inc.) As of this writing, approximately 50 bills devoted largely to campaign finance have been introduced in the 110th Congress, but none have become law. The House has passed two bills containing campaign finance provisions. H.R. 2630 would restrict campaign and leadership political action committee (PAC) payments to candidate spouses. A provision in H.R. 3093 would prohibit spending Justice Department funds on criminal enforcement of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA) “electioneering communication” provision. In the Senate, an electronic disclosure bill (S. 223) was reported from the Rules and Administration Committee but has not received floor consideration. The committee also held hearings on coordinated party expenditures (S. 1091) and congressional public financing (S. 1285) legislation. Most significantly, lobbying and ethics bill S. 1, which became law in September 2007 (P.L. 110-81), contains some campaign finance provisions. This report will be updated as events warrant throughout the 110th Congress. -- Campaign Finance: Developments in the 110th Congress

Hat tip to the invaluable beSpacific.com.

Ohio: at last, someone convicted of voter fraud

The Columbus Dispatch reports: A man with two residences who thought he had to vote in two counties last fall pleaded guilty today to two counts of illegal voting.

Claudel Gilbert, 38, a citizen who moved from Haiti in 1994 with his family, said he had an apartment in Franklin County before he bought a house in Licking County in 2006. He registered to vote in both counties.

Boards of elections in both counties sent him voter verification cards, and Gilbert thought his vote would not count unless he voted twice, said defense attorney Eric Yavitch.

An investigation was launched after the Nov. 7, 2006, election when his name showed up on a statewide database of all those who voted, officials said. -- The Columbus Dispatch : Immigrant pleads guilty to voter fraud

Hat tip to Gerry Hebert (who took time away from bashing von Spakovsky to send me the link).

Georgia: Tanner defends DOJ's voter I.D. decision

AP reports: The head of the Justice Department's voting rights division told members of the NAACP that when he cleared Georgia's voter ID law he didn't look at whether it violated the Constitution.

"All we can look at is racial discrimination, we can't look at anything else," John Tanner told the annual meeting of Georgia's NAACP.

"You can't look at whether it's a poll tax, you can't look at whether it violates the Equal Protection Clause (of the Constitution)."

Tanner said that Justice Department lawyers are very limited in what they can consider when they "pre-clear" state laws under the Voting Rights Act. The voting chief faced criticism after a memo revealed that he signed off on the Georgia law in 2005 over the objections of four of the five career employees who concluded it ran afoul of the voting rights law.

Tanner said Thursday that Georgia statistics examined by Justice Department lawyers showed that minorities are "slightly more likely" than non-minorities to have a photo ID. -- Voting chief defends approval of Georgia's voter ID law

South Carolina: will the Christmas decorations be down before the first primary?

The Caucus on NYTimes.com reports: Now, Democrats in South Carolina may try to move up their voting day to Jan. 19 from Jan. 29.

The state’s Republicans have already moved their primary to Jan. 19.

South Carolina Democrats are worried that if the Republicans vote before they do, voters will think the election is over, the media carnival and the candidates will move on, and Democratic voters won’t turn out 10 days later. So state Democrats expect to ask the Democratic National Committee to let them join the Republicans and vote on Jan. 19. The national party would then have to approve the move.

Joe Werner, executive director of the South Carolina party, said that the party’s executive committee is to meet Oct. 16 to discuss the matter. There may be some dissent, he said, but he expected the committee would agree to move forward and make the request. -- South Carolina Democrats Join the Primary Shuffle

October 4, 2007

Florida: Sen. Nelson suing DNC over presidential primary date rule

Update: A copy of the complaint and the exhibits may be downloaded here.

The New York Times reports: Senator Bill Nelson of Florida is to file a federal lawsuit Thursday accusing the Democratic National Committee of violating the constitutional rights of four million of the state’s voters by refusing to seat its delegates at the party’s national convention next summer.

The suit also accuses the committee of violating the Voting Rights Act, which protects voters from racial discrimination.

The committee decided in August to strip Florida of its delegates to the Democratic convention unless the Florida Democratic Party obeyed national party rules by delaying its 2008 presidential nominating contest. The Republican-controlled Florida Legislature had voted in May to schedule primaries for Jan. 29, even though Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire and South Carolina are the only states that the national parties allow to hold primaries or caucuses earlier than Feb. 5.

Mr. Nelson will file the suit in federal court in Tallahassee along with another Florida Democrat, Representative Alcee L. Hastings, according to a draft obtained by The New York Times. The suit also names as a defendant Kurt S. Browning, Florida’s secretary of state. -- Senator Suing Own Party Over Discord on Florida

California: proxy war by Gulliani and Clinton over initiative to split electoral vote

The New York Times reports: Supporters of Rudolph W. Giuliani and of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton are embroiled in their first major affray of the political season over a ballot initiative on presidential electoral votes some 2,500 miles from the pancake houses of Skaneateles, N.Y., and the fire stations of Queens. ...

The proposed measure here would ask voters to apportion electoral votes by Congressional district, potentially giving the 2008 Republican nominee 20 of the state’s 55 votes — the rough equivalent of winning Illinois or Pennsylvania — in this otherwise reliably Democratic state. ...

Started by a Republican lawyer in California, the measure has been driven almost entirely by people who are associated with or have given money to Mr. Giuliani’s presidential campaign.

The effort to kill the initiative — executed with a swift fierceness almost unheard of for an initiative in such an early stage — has been led by a bevy of Clinton supporters, including a former Clinton White House official, prominent elected Democratic supporters and one of Mrs. Clinton’s most prolific fund-raisers. -- In Ballot Fight, California Gets a Taste of ’08

October 3, 2007

Nevada: what are the odds that NV will move its caucus date?

A Los Angeles Times blog reports: This isn't widely known yet, but Democratic and Republican officials in Nevada are now looking at moving the state's Jan. 19 caucus up a week to Jan. 12, a decision that would be predicated upon decisions over the next couple of weeks by New Hampshire, Iowa and South Carolina.

Best to take notes here in pencil, not pen, because everything keeps changing.

Nevada is one of four states to which the Democratic National Committee gave its blessing to hold nominating contests before Feb. 5, when the door opens for the other states. As has been well-reported, Florida and Michigan are trying to make like Oklahoma settlers (as in, moving too soon).

As it stands, the Iowa caucuses are scheduled for Jan. 14, followed by the Michigan primary on Jan. 15, Nevada's caucuses and the South Carolina Republican primary on Jan. 19, and the Florida primary and South Carolina Democratic primary on Jan. 29, according to the National Association of Secretaries of State. New Hampshire has yet to set its date, though the DNC has pegged it at Jan. 22 -- after Michigan's new date. The DNC has threatened to not seat delegates from Michigan and Florida if they maintain their unsanctioned dates, but so far the thumbs are on the noses. -- Los Angeles Times: Top of the Ticket: Politics, coast to coast, with the L.A. Times

Hat tip to Political Wire for the link.

October 2, 2007

Washington State: Bob Bauer's analysis of Washington "top two" case

Bob Bauer writes on ACSblog.org: Political parties are having a hard time, and as the Supreme Court meets this week, it will hear their most recent complaint. It is not the complaint most in the news, as each national party grasps for control over its own Presidential nominating schedule. The Court will hear from parties that one state, Washington State, has approved what is called a “modified blanket primary” system, the effect of which is to deprive them of their right to choose their own candidates for partisan political office. Washington State Grange v. Washington State Republican Party, 460 F.3d. 1108 (2006).

Under the Washington arrangement, approved in 2004 by initiative, all voters of all parties participate in a primary, voting for any candidate they choose. The top vote-getters face each other. But any candidate can express her party preference, at her option, and this preference is reflected on the ballot. Hence the candidate who emerges may be associated with a party, by self-selection, but without the party’s consent, and perhaps over its active opposition. In fact, this system could produce two candidates identifying themselves as, say, Republicans, and they will face each other: but neither may be truly a Republican, and neither may have any support within their own party, or the backing or endorsement of any formal party process such as a convention.

The Republican party, challenging this arrangement, has won both rounds in court, leading to the case now before the Supreme Court. The State of Washington believes that the Republicans have it wrong in imagining that their associational rights are infringed by the blanket primary. -- Guest Blogger: Does Washington State's "modified blanket primary" system violate the right of association?

Washington State: "top two" primary system argued in Supreme Court

The Washington Post reports: The Supreme Court convened its new term yesterday, and the justices immediately immersed themselves in the first of several election-law challenges the court has agreed to decide in the midst of the 2008 elections.

Skeptical justices heard the state of Washington defend its unique voter-approved election system against a challenge that it unconstitutionally prevents political parties from choosing their own nominees.

Washington has a "top two" primary system, in which all candidates on the ballot state a party "preference'' and all voters may choose among them. The top two advance to the general election, even if they prefer the same party. The major political parties have challenged the system, saying it violates their First Amendment association rights.

Washington Attorney General Robert McKenna argued that the state has a right to set its own election rules, and that the party preference listed by the candidates is simply helpful information for voters, not a sign that the party endorses that candidate's views.

But several justices were doubtful. -- State of Washington Defends Its Primaries Before Supreme Court - washingtonpost.com

October 1, 2007

Christian group threatens 3rd party effort

The New York Times reports: Alarmed at the possibility that the Republican Party might pick Rudolph W. Giuliani as its presidential nominee despite his support for abortion rights, a coalition of influential Christian conservatives is threatening to back a third-party candidate.

The threat emerged from a group that broke away for separate discussions at a meeting Saturday in Salt Lake City of the Council for National Policy, a secretive conservative networking group. Participants said the smaller group included James C. Dobson of Focus on the Family, who is perhaps its most influential member; Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council; Richard A. Viguerie, the direct-mail pioneer; and dozens of other politically oriented conservative Christians.

Almost everyone present at the smaller group’s meeting expressed support for a written resolution stating that “if the Republican Party nominates a pro-abortion candidate we will consider running a third-party candidate,” participants said. -- Giuliani Inspires Threat of a Third-Party Run - New York Times