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

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November 30, 2007

Scotland: Labour Party leader accepted illegal contribution -- with a thank-you note

The Scotsman reports: WENDY Alexander was facing a police investigation into her campaign finances last night after it emerged that she had written a personal thank-you letter to a businessman for an illegal donation.

The Scottish Labour leader disclosed this week that members of her campaign team had broken the law when they accepted a cheque for £950 from Paul Green, a Channel Isles-based businessman, for her leadership campaign. He is not a registered UK voter, so is not allowed to donate to British political parties.

Ms Alexander's aides have consistently argued that the donation was handled only by Charlie Gordon, a Labour MSP, and that she did not know the details of Mr Green's donation. Mr Gordon at first told the campaign team the money had been donated legitimately through a Glasgow company, Combined Property Services, but it later emerged that Mr Green's name had been on the cheque.

And it was revealed yesterday that Ms Alexander had written to Mr Green personally in October this year, from her home in Glasgow, thanking him for his cheque. -- The Scotsman - Bombshell for Labour on illegal donations

November 29, 2007

Over There: Citizens abroad may find voting easier and more reliable

The New York Times reports: For Americans abroad, who often feel underrepresented, overlooked and little appreciated in the United States, the approach of the 2008 elections has brought some grounds for hope that this time their votes have a better chance of counting.

Last month, the nonpartisan Overseas Vote Foundation, or O.V.F., unveiled a revamped voter-assistance Web site that has drawn wide praise (

Dorothy van Schooneveld, of American Citizens Abroad, said the new software made it “rapid, simple and almost foolproof to register” from abroad.

Members of a new Americans Abroad caucus in Congress, which has tripled in size since its formation last spring, have introduced two bills aimed at simplifying voter registration, expanding voter education, and ensuring that expatriates’ ballots are counted. -- U.S. Takes Steps to Simplify Voting From Abroad

Alabama: suit asks for ouster of Riley's appointee

The Birmingham News reports: A Fairfield man asked a federal court Wednesday to remove newly appointed Jefferson County Commissioner George F. Bowman from office and to block Gov. Bob. Riley, who made the appointment, from interfering with a Feb. 5 election to fill the District 1 seat.

Fred Plump's request for a preliminary injunction is a continuation of his Nov. 16 lawsuit, which contends Riley lacks the authority to name a replacement to the seat left vacant when Larry Langford became Birmingham's mayor.

Riley named Bowman, 59, a retired two-star general, to the commission on Nov. 21.

Plump's suit said Riley is attempting to enforce procedures that have not been approved by the Justice Department under the federal Voting Rights Act. Plump's suit said the process of appointment of a commissioner by the governor prevents blacks in majority black jurisdictions from electing candidates of their choice. -- U.S. court asked to remove Jeffco commissioner appointed by Gov. Riley, let election proceed-

Disclosure: Jim Blacksher and I represent Mr. Plump. The recent pleadings are available on my other website.

November 28, 2007

Ohio: paper trail goes blurry sometimes

The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports: A recount after next year's presidential election could mean disaster for Cuyahoga County based on problems discovered Tuesday with paper records produced by electronic voting machines.

More than 20 percent of the printouts from touch-screen voting machines were unreadable and had to be reprinted. Board of Elections workers found the damaged ballots when they conducted a recount Tuesday of two races, which involved only 17 of the county's 1,436 precincts.

The recount lasted more than 12 hours. Reprinting the damaged records and hand-counting them created an extra step that added hours. ...

Board of Elections Director Jane Platten said recounting the entire county for the 2008 presidential election could take more than a week. -- 20 percent of election printouts were unreadable -

Canada: masked voters [fill in your own joke]

The Ottawa Citizen reports: Elections Canada has informed the government there were 70 instances in the September federal byelections in Quebec of voters showing up at the polls wearing face masks, Government House leader Peter Van Loan disclosed yesterday.

The masked voters -- whose covers included at least one pumpkin -- were likely protesting Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand's decision that Elections Canada could not force Muslim women to take off religious veils to prove their identity, Mr. Van Loan said.

He made the disclosure after appearing at the Commons procedure and House affairs committee to defend a government bill amending the Canada Elections Act to require all voters to show their faces even if they have no photo ID. -- 70 masked voters cast ballots, Elections Canada reports

Arizona: challenge to clean election law back in federal court

Capitol Media Services reports: Foes of public financing of elections are trying once again to void the 1998 voter-approved law, or at least parts of it.

New legal papers filed in federal court Tuesday contend provisions of the law unconstitutionally coerce candidates to accept public money — and the restrictions that come with it — rather than finance their campaigns with private donations. That's because the Citizens Clean Election Commission provides dollar-for-dollar matches of money privately financed candidates raise, plus money spent by others on their behalf.

That's the same argument U.S. District Judge Earl Carroll rejected two years ago from the Institute for Justice. The judge said the government is entitled to enact regulations to prevent not only corruption, but even the appearance of corruption, in the election process.

Carroll will be the one hearing the new arguments.

But Tim Keller, the organization's state director, said the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has directed Carroll to reconsider the case, this time allowing the foes to present evidence and testimony. -- Publicly financed election campaigns are opposed anew

November 27, 2007

Obama's PAC still giving out money

The Washington Post reports: When Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) launched his presidential campaign in January, he stopped raising money for his Hopefund, the political action committee he used to raise millions for fellow Democrats in previous campaigns. But in recent months, Obama has handed out more than $180,000 from the nearly dormant PAC to local Democratic groups and candidates in the key early-voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, campaign reports show.

Some of the recipients of Hopefund's largess are state and local politicians who have recently endorsed Obama's presidential bid. Obama's PAC reported giving a $1,000 contribution, for instance, to New Hampshire state Sen. Jacalyn Cilley on July 25, six days before she announced she was endorsing Obama for president. ...

Cilley, who has traveled with Obama around New Hampshire and serves on the campaign's steering committee, said that she decided to endorse him before getting the donation but that the announcement was delayed. She said she even considered sending the check back at one point to eliminate any concerns about appearances. ...

Scott Thomas, a Democrat and a former FEC chairman, said "there's probably no doubt" the PAC donations were aimed at increasing support for Obama's presidential race. "But in my experience, the commission has not had the stomach to reach out and characterize those kinds of contributions as impermissible," Thomas said. -- Obama PAC Is Active In Key Election States -

Massachusetts moves primary to 5 February -- what a surprise

The Washington Post blog, The Trail, reports: Massachusetts may have an enviable record for producing presidential candidates -- think Mike Dukakis, John Kerry and Mitt Romney -- but this year's March 4 primary date made the state all but certain to be irrelevant.

That's why Gov. Deval L. Patrick (D) today signed a bill into law moving the state's primary to Feb. 5, joining more than 20 states which are holding presidential voting that day.

The idea, according to lawmakers who quickly passed the measure, is to make sure the state's voters play a role in selecting the presidential nominees. The thinking is that candidates will be obliged to campaign in the state as part of the nationwide primary day.

But the history of such efforts to game the calendar suggests they don't always work out as expected. The state's former governor, Republican Mitt Romney, may indeed be forced to spend time in the Bay State to avoid losing there. But the other Republican candidates will simply stay away, conceding the state to its favorite son. -- Mass. Primary Moves Forward | The Trail |

GOP recruiting self-financing candidates

The New York Times reports: Confronting an enormous fund-raising gap with Democrats, Republican Party officials are aggressively recruiting wealthy candidates who can spend large sums of their own money to finance their Congressional races, party officials say.

At this point, strategists for the National Republican Congressional Committee have enlisted wealthy candidates to run in at least a dozen competitive Congressional districts nationwide, particularly those where Democrats are finishing their first term and are thus considered most vulnerable. They say more are on the way.

These wealthy Republicans have each already invested $100,000 to $1 million of their own money to finance their campaigns, according to campaign finance disclosure reports and interviews with party strategists. Experts say that is a large amount for this early in the cycle. ...

Party strategists note that a 2002 rule known as the millionaires’ amendment has tended to discourage wealthy candidates from pouring large sums into their own campaigns early on. The rule raises campaign contribution ceilings to candidates whose opponents spend large amounts of their own money. -- Short of Funds, G.O.P. Recruits the Rich to Run - New York Times

Mississippi: Lott to resign but faces golden future

The New York Times reports: Senator Trent Lott’s announcement on Monday that he would resign in a few weeks added to the growing Republican exodus from Congress, but may have strengthened Mr. Lott’s post-Senate job prospects.

By retiring before the end of the year, Mr. Lott, the 66-year-old minority whip and Mississippi dealmaker who fell from power with a remark touching on segregation but then bounced back, avoids new rules forcing senators to wait two years before lobbying former colleagues. ...

James A. Thurber, director of the Center for Presidential and Congressional Studies at American University, said there was no question in his mind that Mr. Lott’s decision had been influenced by the new ethics and lobbying rules. Senators who retire this year have to wait only one year before lobbying their former colleagues, instead of the two years that go into effect in 2008.

“The new two-year cooling off period is encouraging people who have been around for a long time, especially in the minority, to leave,” Mr. Thurber said. “They know that the golden window of opportunity is immediate.” -- Mississippi’s Lott to Leave Senate Seat

Alabama: Birmingham Mayor Langford beats challenge to his residency

The Birmingham News reports: A judge ruled Monday that Larry Langford is a legal resident of Birmingham, rejecting a challenge to his election as Birmingham mayor.

Circuit Judge Allwin Horn ruled against a lawsuit filed by Patrick Cooper, who ran second in the 10-person race but failed to force a runoff.

Cooper contended that Langford never really abandoned his home in Fairfield before seeking the Birmingham office. Mayoral candidates must be older than 25, residents and registered voters.

But Horn ruled that Langford, 59, met residency requirements by renting a downtown Birmingham loft before qualifying and registering both himself and his wife, Melva, as Birmingham voters. -- Birmingham Mayor Larry Langford is a legal resident, can remain in office, judge rules - Breaking News from The Birmingham News -

The News also has the actual decision here.

November 23, 2007

California: Rudy's backers are running the electoral vote petition drive

TPM Muckracker reports: Who is Paul Singer? He and Rudy Giuliani would prefer you not think too much about it.

Singer, who founded the multibillion dollar hedge fund Elliott Associates, has raised $200,000 for Giuliani. He flies Giuliani around in his jet.

And, as of September, his $175,000 contribution was the sole backing for the Republican scheme to split up California's electoral votes. Instead of all the electoral votes in the country's most populous state going to the state's winner (almost surely the Democrat), the ballot initiative would throw the loser (the Republican) his percentage, potentially swinging the election. ...

Singer tells the Times that made the contribution because he "believes in proportional voting in the Electoral College." As the Times notes, Singer was also a donor to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth in 2004. Presumably that was just because he believes in the truth. -- TPMmuckraker | Talking Points Memo | Giuliani's California Schemin' Money Man

November 22, 2007

Michigan: presidential primary to be 15 January

Daily Kos contributors discuss the causes and effects of the Michigan Supreme Cout decision to hold the presidential primary on 15 January. Here are a few highlights:

The decision was four to three, with the solid bloc of four right-wing Republicans (Young, Markman, Corrigan, and Taylor) outvoting the two Democrats (Kelly and Cavanagh) and one disaffected Republican (Weaver). ...

Election officials, including the Michigan Association of County Clerks, had urged the Secretary of State not to appeal the original court ruling, given the now very limited time left to prepare for the election. It will now be essentially impossible for overseas absentees, such as troops in Iraq, to participate in the election via absentee ballot. ...

There are many political reasons behind support and opposition to the primary. Republicans wanted a state primary. Democrats had a quasi-caucus in 2004, and were prepared to do it again. Republicans were relying on a primary. There is no official party registration in Michigan, so nothing would keep Democrats from voting in the Republican primary. With Democrats not competing in a primary at the same time, Republicans were concerned that Democrats might cause mischief, as in 2000 when John McCain crushed George W. Bush, largely because of tens of thousands of Democrats voting for McCain in the Republican primary. -- Daily Kos: Musical Primaries

Alabama: AAUW launches "Ready to Run" for female canidates

Alabama's American Association of University Women to launch Ready to Run program to elect more women to office-
The Birmingham News reports: In recent years, Alabama women have run for such high-profile elective offices as governor, U.S. senator, lieutenant governor and the mayor's chairs in Birmingham, Mobile and Huntsville.

More women lost than won in those races, and more men still seek and win elective office in Alabama. But an effort is under way to change all that.

The Alabama chapter of the American Association of University Women has organized an effort called Ready to Run that will kick off next year with the goal to train and encourage more women to run for office and seek other government leadership positions. ...

While women have made inroads to the once almost all-male world of elective office in Alabama, a survey late last year showed Alabama with the fourth-lowest percentage of women legislators among the 50 states. That survey, performed by the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, showed only South Carolina, Kentucky and Oklahoma with lower percentages of women in their legislatures than Alabama.

New Hampshire: Sec of State moves the primary to 8 January

The New York Times reports: New Hampshire last night officially scheduled its first-in-the-nation presidential primary for Jan. 8, ending months of hedging from officials there and solidifying what has been a chaotic primary calendar that moves the nominating process closer to the start of the year.

The announcement, by Secretary of State William M. Gardner of New Hampshire, came hours after the Michigan Supreme Court decided that that state’s primary could go forward on Jan. 15.

Iowa has already scheduled its caucuses for Jan. 3. All told, the contests, along with a mega-primary day involving more than 20 states on Feb. 5, will mean an unusually early nominating season as states have battled for influence by moving up their primaries. ...

Mr. Gardner had been widely expected to choose Jan. 8, but until yesterday he left open the possibility that the primary could fall in December. He had repeatedly said he would set the date for New Hampshire’s primary only after Michigan made a firm decision on its primary. -- New Hampshire Selects Jan. 8 for Its Primary - New York Times

November 21, 2007

Alabama; Riley follows through and appoints Bowman to Jefferson County Commission

AP reports: Republican Gov. Bob Riley appointed retired Army Gen. George F. Bowman on Wednesday to a vacancy on the Jefferson County Commission — a move similar to a Mobile County appointment that ignited a court fight now before the U.S. Supreme Court.

The high court on Tuesday agreed to review the Mobile County case. A ruling is not expected until next year.

Voting rights attorney Ed Still of Birmingham said a lawsuit has been filed in U.S. District Court in Montgomery challenging Bowman's appointment on the same grounds as the Mobile County case.

Still said the cases are "almost identical." -- Riley's Jeffco appointment brings voting rights challenge

Update: A longer story is in the Thursday paper. -- Gov. Bob Riley appoints retired general to replace Larry Langford on Jefferson County Commission

Another update:
The Mobile Press-Register includes in its story: Cecil Gardner, the attorney who sued Riley over the Chastang appointment, compared the governor's decision Wednesday in Birmingham with former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore's actions in 2003.

Moore ignored a federal court order to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the rotunda of the state judicial building. He was eventually removed from office.

"Riley is taking the same path that Chief Justice Roy Moore took," Gardner said. "And Riley will find, just like Moore, that he's going to get into deep water because of this."

Jeff Emerson, a spokesman for Riley, called that comparison "totally invalid," saying the Mobile ruling had no bearing on the Jefferson County vacancy. -- Riley appointment faces challenge

FEC regulates (lightly) sham issue ads

The Trail blog on reports: The Federal Election Commission has reopened the door for corporations and unions to pay for television commercials during the upcoming presidential and congressional campaigns, so long as the ads avoid expressly advocating for or against a candidate.

The new rules come in response to a recent Supreme Court decision that knocked out a key provision of the landmark 2002 legislation overhauling the nation's campaign finance laws. The law prohibited issue advertising, paid for with corporate or union money, that named a candidate -- 30 days before a primary and 60 days before a general election -- and was considered by its supporters to be one of the bright lines in the act governing the role special interest groups may play in an election.

The new rules are expected to revive the practice by unions and special interest groups of airing ads during a campaign that purport to be about a specific issue, but are in fact intended to sway voters for or away from a particular candidate.

Loyola Law Professor Rick Hasen, who has been closely following debate on the campaign rules, said the new FEC language will provide a safe haven for groups that want to use "sham issue ads" to promote their candidate. In his blog today, he offered these hypothetical examples of advertising messages that he said would now be permitted:
"Call Sen. Clinton and tell her to stop coddling illegal aliens and terrorists by supporting the NY drivers' license plan."
"Call Mitt Romney and tell him more of our soldiers shouldn't die in an unnecessary war in Iraq."
"Call Rudy Giuliani and tell him that his support for gay rights is ruining the moral fabric of this country." -- In Wake of Court Ruling, FEC Makes Financing Rule Change Official | The Trail |

California: Sec of State sues ES&S for uncertified changes to voting machines

The New York Times reports: The California secretary of state, Debra Bowen, filed a lawsuit yesterday against a voting machine manufacturer for the reported sale of uncertified machines to five counties in northern California.

The suit follows an investigation that Ms. Bowen began in July after an employee of the company, Election Systems and Software Inc., mentioned to her that changes had been made to machines bought by the counties. After a similar suit against Diebold Election Systems in 2003, California required that all changes made to voting machines be reported to its secretary of state. ...

The suit, filed in San Francisco, seeks $9.72 million from the company for the sale of 972 machines with internal hardware changes that were not reported or submitted for re-certification. It also asks for an additional $5 million for each county, Colusa, Marin, Merced, San Francisco and Solano.

Changes to the machines, AutoMARK A200 models, are not apparent in outward appearance or function, county election officials said. -- California Sues a Voting Machine Maker Over Changes

Disclosure: About 6 years ago, I did a little securities-related work for ES&S.

Alabama: Supreme Court to hear Mobile County Commission case

The Mobile Press Register reports: The highest court in the land will weigh in on Juan Chastang's appointment to and ouster from the Mobile County Commission.

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed Tuesday to review a ruling by federal judges in Montgomery's U.S. District Court that Gov. Bob Riley violated the 1965 federal Voting Rights Act when he appointed Chastang, a black Republican, to represent the majority Democratic, majority-black District 1 on the commission.

The three-judge panel removed Chastang from the seat in May. The county held a special election to fill the post in October, and Democrat Merceria Ludgood handily defeated Chastang.

The Supreme Court will hear the appeal in March, according to a spokeswoman at the Alabama Attorney General's Office. Ludgood's term is set to end in November 2008. -- Chastang case goes to the top-

Disclosure: I am one of the counsel for the plaintiffs in this case.

November 20, 2007

Florida: voter registration system is "disenfranchisement by bureaucracy"

TPM Muckraker reports: Earlier this month, we reported on a Florida law that requires the state to reject voter registration applications if the data does not match driver's license or Social Security records. The law, first implemented in January, 2006, was based on advice from Hans von Spakovsky -- yet another addition to his legacy of voter suppression at the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division. Civil rights groups, calling the measure “disenfranchisement-by-bureaucracy," have sued to halt the law in an attempt to minimize the effect on the 2008 election.

This weekend, Southwest Florida's News-Press ran an analysis of state records, and, well, the law seems to have had a predictable effect (enjoy the spin from election officials); ...

Blacks were 6 1/2 times more likely than whites to be rejected at that step.

Hispanics were more than 7 times more likely to be failed. -- Vote Suppression Measure Hits the Mark

Riley v. Kennedy to be heard by US Supreme Corut

The Supreme Court agreed to hear Governor Riley's appeal today in the case known in the Supreme Court as Riley v. Kennedy, No. 07-77. The order from the Court is here.

The Governor's reply brief was filed a couple of weeks ago. It is here.

The Questions Presented by the Governor are the following:

This Section 5 litigation involves two decisions of the Supreme Court of Alabama, Stokes v. Noonan, 534 So. 2d 237 (Ala. 1988), and Riley v. Kennedy, 928 So. 2d 1013 (Ala. 2005). Those decisions concern the manner of filling vacancies on the Mobile County Commission and are based on valid, race-neutral, generally-applicable principles of law. The three-judge district court held that both decisions required preclearance to be enforceable. The State submitted the decisions for preclearance, and the Attorney General of the United States interposed an objection. The district court then entered a remedy order vacating a gubernatorial appointment that had relied on these State court decisions to fill a vacancy that had arisen. This appeal presents the following questions:

1. Whether the decision of a covered jurisdiction’s highest court that a precleared State law is unconstitutional and, thereby, invalid as a matter of State law is a change that affects voting that must be precleared before it can be enforced.

2. Whether the preclearance of a trial court’s ruling that affects voting while that ruling is on appeal and subject to possible reversal establishes a baseline such that the reversal of that decision is a change that must be precleared before it may be enforced.

Disclosure: I am one of the counsel for Rep. Yvonne Kennedy in the case.

I have uploaded the briefs in the Riley v. Kennedy case on my law firm website:
Complaint, answer, trial briefs,
District court decision,
Denial of preclearance,
Jurisdictional Statement and Motion to Dismiss or Affirm,
Governor's reply brief and SCOTUS order.

November 19, 2007

Kos himself quotes on Daily Kos from a press release: The Washington State Democratic Party today filed a complaint with the Federal Elections Commission regarding serious violations of election law by Congressman Dave Reichert.

On August 27, 2007, President Bush held a $1,000 a head fundraiser in Bellevue on behalf of Congressman Reichert, the proceeds of which were supposed to be placed into a special joint account that would then be divided between the Reichert campaign and the Washington State Republican Party. Instead, much of the money appears to have been deposited directly in Congressman Reichert’s campaign account, a serious violation of FEC rules. The Reichert campaign has also failed to refund at least one contribution in excess of the $4,600 campaign contribution limit for individual donors. -- WA-08: The Reichert/Bush fundraising disaster

"Did GOP Gerrymander Itself Out of Power?"

Runninonempty writes on Daily Kos about how the GOP may have screwed itself with its fancy "just enough Republicans to win" district-drawing strategy. Because the post has charts (including one animated one), it is best to view it in its original form. -- Daily Kos: Did GOP Gerrymander Itself Out of Power?

FEC fines Media Fund $580,000

AP reports: A union-financed advocacy group that played a major role in the 2004 elections has agreed to pay a $580,000 fine after the Federal Election Commission concluded it illegally ran advertising against President Bush and in favor of Democrat John Kerry.

In an agreement announced Monday, the FEC said the now inactive Media Fund spent $53.4 million during the contest on television, radio and newspaper ads and direct mail that made reference to Bush or Kerry. The FEC said the fund violated campaign finance laws because it accepted unlimited donations from labor unions and expressly advocated the defeat or victory of a political candidate.

The Media Fund is the latest in a string of so-called 527 organizations the FEC has fined for their activities during the 2004 presidential campaign. They include groups on both sides of the election, including the anti-Kerry Swift Boat Veterans and POWs for Truth as well as the liberal

Lawyers for these groups have argued that at the time of the campaign they believed they were acting within the law. But the FEC has concluded that 527 organizations that stated their desire to influence the presidential election through fundraising, public statements or advertisements violated the law. Such activity, the FEC has said, could only be conducted by political committees registered with the FEC that abide by contribution limits and public disclosure requirements. -- FEC fines group allied with Democrats - Yahoo! News

November 18, 2007

Mississippi: the prosecution of Judge Wes Teel

Casey Ann has a long impassioned post at Cotton Mouth about the conviction of Judge Wes Teel in Mississippi. I won't even attempt to summarize it. Just read it.

Adam Lynch has a long story about the same set of prosecutions in the Jackson Free Press.

November 17, 2007

Alabama: Cooper v. Langford documents

I requested that each of the parties in the election contest, Cooper v. Langford, dealing with the residency of the new Mayor of Birmingham, make their briefs available to me for uploading here. Mayor Langford's side has provided the following:

Brief in support of Motion to Dismiss PDF
Langford Reply Brief PDF
Langford Supplement to Reply Brief (without the attached case) PDF

Alabama: suit filed to ensure election for Jefferson County Commission seat

The Birmingham News reports: A Fairfield man sued Gov. Bob Riley on Friday, claiming the governor does not have the authority to appoint a replacement to the Jefferson County Commission for Birmingham Mayor Larry Langford.

The suit, filed in Montgomery's federal court on behalf of Fred Plump, said Riley is attempting to enforce election procedures that have not been approved by the Justice Department under the federal Voting Rights Act. The suit seeks to block Riley from filling the District 1 commission seat, a heavily Democratic district that stretches from Fairfield north to Fultondale and east to Roebuck.

The seat became vacant Tuesday when Langford, the District 1 commissioner, took office at City Hall.

Todd Stacy, a spokesman for the governor's office, said Friday night the office had not seen the lawsuit, but the law clearly says that the governor must appoint a replacement. -- Fairfield man files lawsuit over Gov. Bob Riley's authority to fill Jefferson County Commission seat-

Disclosure: Jim Blacksher and I represent the plaintiff in this suit.

A copy of the complaint is here: Download file

November 15, 2007

Rep. Holt introduces Provisional Ballot Fairness in Counting Act

Rep. Rush Holt has introduced the Provisional Ballot Fairness in Counting Act of 2007, H. R. 4145. Here is the most important provision: Section 302(a)(4) of the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (42 U.S.C. 15482(a)(4)) is amended to read as follows:
`(4) The provisional ballot of an individual who is a registered voter in a jurisdiction in a State and who is eligible to vote in an election for Federal office in the State shall be counted as a vote in such an election if the appropriate State or local election official to whom the ballot or voter information is transmitted under paragraph (3)--
`(A) in the case of an election for electors for President or for the office of a Senator, determines that the individual is registered to vote in the State in which the provisional ballot is cast; and
`(B) in the case of an election for the office of a Member of the House of Representatives (including a Delegate or Resident Commissioner to the Congress), determines that the individual is registered to vote in the Congressional district in which the provisional ballot is cast.'.

Virginia: Oleszek asks for recount against Cuccinelli

The Washington Post reports: Virginia's tightest General Assembly race of the year, for a state Senate seat from Fairfax County, is headed into overtime.

Democrat Janet S. Oleszek, trailing Sen. Ken Cuccinelli II (R) by about a quarter of a percentage point in unofficial returns, announced yesterday that she will seek a recount of the more than 37,000 votes cast in the Nov. 6 election. Ninety-two votes separate the two candidates. ...

To start the process, Oleszek said she will file a petition requesting a recount with the Fairfax County Circuit Court after the State Board of Elections certifies the results at the end of the month. She has 10 days after certification to do so. A special panel of state judges will be set up to monitor the recount. Electronically tabulated ballots make up the majority of ballots. Under state law, recount officials review those votes using printouts. A smaller number of votes -- such as absentee ballots -- were tabulated on paper, and those will be recounted by hand, Fairfax County officials said. -- Senate Challenger to Seek Recount -

Alabama: judge hears testimony in Langford residency challenge

Update: WTVM NBC 13 reports: Evidence included a list of Langford's personal checks, utility bills, even a pay-per-view TV receipt showing Langford's Fairfield address of 26 years, and dated after Langford says he moved to Birmingham.

Cooper, who seemed at times to be representing himself with whispers and calls for information on a computer screen, even propped up a former campaign volunteer who told a judge he rarely saw Langford's car outside his north Birmingham loft, and talked with Cooper about going to ask Fairfield neighbors if Langford stayed at that home more often. Langford and his lawyers seemed furious, after Cooper’s previous public statements that he did not know whether a campaign worker had made visits to Langford’s neighbors, or watched his house to see living arrangements.

Defense lawyers got the man to admit he did not know Langford used an indoor parking garage at his loft, making the testimony about Langford’s car-parking habits seem hardly useful. -- Cooper Takes Latest Legal Swing at New Mayor

The Birmingham News reports: A Jefferson County judge declined to dismiss Patrick Cooper's lawsuit challenging Larry Langford's qualilfications to run for Birmingham mayor but did not rule this morning on whether Langford can serve as mayor.

Circuit Court Judge Allwin Horn spent most of this morning hearing testimony about whether Langford officially moved to Birmingham or continued to live in Fairfield. -- Judge hears challenge to Larry Langford's qualifications to run for mayor - Breaking News from The Birmingham News -

The News also has links to the complaint and answer.

November 14, 2007

Idaho: GOP suit on primary rules

Following up on the story here, the suit by 71 Idaho Republicans seeking to force the Secretary of State to follow the GOP rule on eligibility to vote in the primary, the court will hear the GOP plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction and the State's motion to dismiss on Thursday, 15 November. For all the scoop, go to Grassroots Idaho GOP

Thanks again to Steve Rankin for keeping me informed on this suit.

Alabama: re-redistricting unlikely as Speaker opposes

The Birmingham News reports: The state House of Representatives won t redraw the boundaries of the 2nd congressional district in next year s regular session of the Legislature the House leader Speaker Seth Hammett predicted Tuesday. Hammett said he opposed redrawing the lines in the regular session which starts Feb. 5 and could last through May 19 because trying to do so would divide the House and waste time that could be better spent solving the everyday problems of the people of this state." The 2nd District incumbent U.S. Rep. Terry Everett R-Rehobeth announced in late September that he would not seek re-election next year sparking speculation at the State House that Democrats might try to redraw boundaries in a bid to make the district more Democratic. The position Hammett a Democrat from Andalusia is taking on the issue means the district boundaries almost certainly won t change before candidates run in the June primaries. The speaker has enormous power in the Alabama House to kill proposals he doesn t like. -- Alabama House Speaker Seth Hammett predicts House won t redraw boundaries of 2nd District in next regular legislative session-

Alabama: special election called in Jefferson County

The Birmingham News reports: The Jefferson County Election Commission on Tuesday officially called a Feb. 5 special election to fill the District 1 seat on the County Commission.

The Election Commission, made up of Probate Judge Alan King, Sheriff Mike Hale and Circuit Clerk Anne Marie Adams, called the election hours after Larry Langford resigned his County Commission post to become Birmingham mayor.

The officials set the election to coincide with Alabama s presidential primary and scheduled a runoff, if necessary, for Feb. 26. ...

However, Gov. Bob Riley maintains he has authority to fill the seat. Riley's staff says county election officials are misinterpreting the 2004 act, and that the 1977 law providing for elections to fill vacancies in Jefferson County was rendered void by the 2004 law. -- Jefferson County Commission calls special election to fill the District 1 seat vacated by Larry Langford-

November 13, 2007

Indiana: Brennan Center (et al) amicus brief filed in voter I.D. case

The Brennan Center's headline says it all: New Study Finds African Americans, Low-Income Voters, Students and Seniors Least Likely to Have Valid Voter ID at Issue Before Supreme Court -- Press Releases

Also, look at this page which has links to many amicus briefs.

November 12, 2007

Indiana: NAACP LDF files amicus brief in Crawford v. Marion Co. Election Bd.

The NAACP Legal Defense Fund has filed its amicus brief in the voter I.D. case soon to be heard by the Supreme Court. Here is the Summary of the Argument:

Although the Court of Appeals seems to trivialize the value of the right to vote, describing “the benefits of voting to the individual” as “elusive,” Crawford v. Marion County Election Bd., 472 F.3d 949, 951 (7th Cir. 2007), that characterization is plainly contrary to the Constitution and this Court’s jurisprudence. Instead, “the right to exercise the franchise in a free and unimpaired manner is preservative of other basic civic and political rights.” Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U.S. 533, 562 (1964). The Indiana statute at issue in these cases demands, therefore, not only a searching review of the burden imposed on individuals, but also consideration of the disproportionate burdens faced by voters who have enjoyed unfettered access to the vote as a result of this Court’s precedents.

We agree with petitioners that the impact on some individuals — effective vote denial — is significant and requires Indiana’s law to be invalidated. See Burdick v. Takushi, 504 U.S. 428,
434 (1992). We urge the Court to consider the likelihood that laws like Indiana’s photo identification requirement will disfranchise some of the most vulnerable communities in our nation, whose access to the ballot is critical to the integrity of our participatory democracy.

Millions of Americans do not possess the form of government-issued photo identification required under Indiana’s law, and that group is disproportionately poor and minority. Accordingly, the impact of laws like Indiana’s, which conditions the right to vote on the presentation of identification, will effectively fence out of the electorate significant numbers of African Americans, and will have a particularly burdensome impact in the places where impoverished African Americans are concentrated. Significantly, Indiana’s law stands as a barrier not only to voters who have previously participated under state voting standards that afforded greater access, as also to the political mobilization of eligible, but yet unregistered citizens whose right to participate is of no less constitutional import. The demographic profile of Indiana bears this out. Although Indiana’s law requiring the presentation of government-issued photo identification may not, at first glance, appear to have a pernicious impact, poor African Americans will bear the burden of the restriction more than any other group.

Moreover, because there can be no question that areas of concentrated poverty include a disproportionately high number of citizens who lack the type of identification that would meet the demands of Indiana’s law, there is significant reason for concern that the adoption of similar photo identification requirements would have an extraordinary impact at the local level in many places. Such statutes would threaten to disfranchise significant portions of the electorate in many cities and counties.

Taken together, the primacy of voting in our democracy, the stringency of the Indiana law, and the reality that the franchise has long provided our nation’s socio-economically disadvantaged racial minorities with the only tangible means of accessing the political process and asserting their interests, should lead this Court to employ its strictest review and invalidate the statute.

Download the file here

501(c)(3)'s jump into the campaign finance game

The New York Times reports: The so-called Wounded Warriors Act, legislation intended to improve health care for veterans, has attracted nearly unanimous, bipartisan support in Congress. So why would the newly formed Foundation for a Secure and Prosperous America begin running a television commercial urging the citizens of South Carolina to tell Congress to pass it?

The answer lies in the commercial’s glowing images of Senator John McCain, the Arizona Republican banking on a South Carolina victory to jump-start his cash-poor Republican primary campaign. The group that paid for the advertisement operates independently of Mr. McCain’s campaign, but was set up and financed by his supporters seeking to help him as much as possible up to the limits of the law.

The initial spending on the commercial, according to the group, is modest — commercials on the Fox News Channel in South Carolina only — but it represents the first trickle in a flood of hundreds of millions of dollars that are expected to pour from all sides into groups reminiscent of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth of 2004, built to influence voting outside of campaign law limitations. The amount could swamp the record-breaking tens of millions that the top candidates are raising for their own, closely regulated campaign accounts. ...

The group running the commercial in South Carolina is registered as a 501(c)(4) nonprofit corporation. As such, it is allowed to raise and spend unlimited amounts from individuals without any disclosure, as long as it can argue that it is more concerned with the promotion of an issue — like the final passage of the Wounded Warriors bill — than the election of a candidate.

The lack of disclosure makes it hard to tell how the group spends its money, and impossible to say where it gets its money, and whether its donors have already donated directly to candidates. -- A New Channel for Soft Money Starts Flowing - New York Times

Colorado: county clerk proposes citizenship-check with voter registration

The Denver Post reports: El Paso County Clerk Bob Balink brings up an interesting point but one that always raises political hackles.

If the state is going to require that people be U.S. citizens in order to vote then it should allow election officials to verify that citizenship Balink argues.

But if the state doesn t want to require a check of citizenship then the law shouldn t even mention the word in its definition of eligibility. It would make sense Balink says to remove it.

But Balink doesn t want to remove the requirement. He just wants to be able to check for citizenship. Or else he says "How can I be sure I m following the law "

Balink a Republican insists "It s not a political issue. It s a legal issue." But of course it s a political issue too.

Republicans generally favor requiring potential voters to prove they are who they say they are. It discourages fraud they say.

Democrats generally oppose identity or citizenship checks because it discourages people from voting. Voting should be comparatively easy they say. -- The Denver Post - Should voters have to prove citizenship?

Georgia: 297 students' registration challenged in Statesboro

AP reports: Robert Greene had no problem three years ago voting for president in this college town where he studies linguistics. Now he’s fighting for the same right to vote in a city council race.

When he went to the polls Tuesday night, election workers steered the 21-year-old into a line of other Georgia Southern University students whose voter eligibility had been challenged by a small group of residents. ...

Georgia Southern students, including Greene, account for nearly all the 297 voters whose ballots have been blocked, at least temporarily, in a “town vs. gown” battle for control of Statesboro City Council.

Four residents calling themselves Statesboro Citizens for Good Government want the ballots thrown out. They say Georgia Southern students can’t legally register to vote in Statesboro unless it’s their hometown. ...

The winners of two city council elections won’t be decided until the Bulloch County Board of Registrars resolves the dispute, which will require 297 hearings — one for each challenged voter. The board may not finish before 2008. -- Locals challenge students’ voter rights

Alabama: storm warnings over a re-redistricting

AP reports: In the upcoming session it could be the House that is embroiled in a bitter political fight if Democrats try to redraw the lines of Alabama s Congressional districts -- a move that might make it easier for Democrats to win an open election 2nd Congressional District seat. The district which stretches across central and southeast Alabama from Prattville to Dothan has been held by Republicans since 1964 and is being vacated by retiring U.S. Rep. Terry Everett R-Rehobeth.

The Legislature will be required to redraw both legislative and Congressional districts after the 2010 U.S. Census but the buzz among Republicans and Democrats in the Legislature is that there might be an effort to redraw the Congressional districts before next year s elections.

House Minority Leader Rep. Mike Hubbard R-Auburn said he has warned House Speaker Seth Hammett that Republicans will "lock everything down" if there is an attempt to adopt a redistricting plan. --

November 9, 2007

Alabama: Former Trooper Fowler fights murder charge in Jimmy Lee Jackson case

AP reports: An attorney for a former state trooper accused of a pivotal slaying in the civil rights movement argued in court Thursday that his client can t get a fair trial because of the death of witnesses, the loss of records and the celebration of history.

In the first day of a two-day hearing, defense attorney George Beck presented witnesses in hopes of showing that 42 years is too long to wait to prosecute former trooper James Bonard Fowler, 74, for the 1965 shooting of Jimmie Lee Jackson. Beck also tried to show that if there is a trial, it should be moved out of Marion, where historical markers memorialize Jackson and a highway in front of the Perry County Courthouse is named for him. ...

Jimmie Lee Jackson was shot on Feb. 18, 1965, when a voting rights march turned violent. Fowler, who entered a not guilty plea in court Thursday, maintains he shot Jackson in self defense when Jackson hit him with a bottle and tried to grab his pistol. --

DOJ asks 18 states for proof of motor voter compliance

McClatchy Newspapers reports: The Justice Department s Civil Rights Division is reversing course and has begun taking steps to enforce a 1993 law that s intended to make it easier for poor minorities to register to vote.

The division, which has come under attack for allegedly pursuing policies aimed at suppressing the votes of Democratic-leaning minorities, has demanded that 18 states provide evidence that they re complying with the National Voter Registration Act.

If it is fully pursued, this new action will represent the first significant return to traditional enforcement of voting-rights laws since a scandal erupted earlier this year over the alleged politicization of the Justice Department. ...

The states receiving the letters include three that frequently are battlegrounds in presidential and Senate races — Iowa, Michigan and Pennsylvania. The others are Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, New York, South Carolina, Utah and Vermont. -- McClatchy Washington Bureau | 11/09/2007 | Justice Department returns to enforcing voter laws

GOP to penalize too-early presidential primaries

The Washington Post blog The Trail reports: It's official: The five states who set their 2008 presidential primaries before Feb. 5 will lose half of their delegates to the Republican convention next summer, under rules passed by the Republican National Committee in 2004. Committee officials announced in a conference call with reporters this afternoon that New Hampshire, Michigan, South Carolina, Wyoming and Florida will be punished with the withdrawal of half their delegates. Iowa and Nevada are exempt from the rule because their nominating contests in January are caucuses in which delegates will not technically be awarded. -- RNC Rules Early States to Lose Delegates | The Trail |

November 8, 2007

Alabama: "Founding Father" of Alabama GOP dies

The Birmingham News reports: Birmingham lawyer John Grenier, considered by many the founding father of the modern-day Alabama Republican Party, has died.

Mr. Grenier, 77, died at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center on Tuesday.

"I think it is true to say that John was certainly among the founding fathers, if not the founding father, of the Republican Party we see in Alabama today," said former U.S. Rep. Jack Edwards of Mobile. -- John Grenier, Birmingham lawyer, state GOP pioneer, dies at 77-

November 7, 2007

New York: trying to prove a point may lead to perjury charge

The Glen Falls, NY, Post Star reports: When Richard Hayes Phillips tried to vote in Dresden on Tuesday morning, he probably wasn’t interested in the outcome of the local races.

Phillips, a researcher who investigates election chicanery, was trying to prove that anyone who owns property in one locality can vote there — even if they don’t live in the area year-round.

But now Phillips, who has looked into voter fraud allegations in Ohio during the 2004 presidential election, could face perjury charges, according to Washington County Attorney Roger Wickes. ...

At issue is Phillips’ registering to vote in Dresden, despite already being signed up to cast a ballot in St. Lawrence County.

When filling out his voter registration form before Election Day, Phillips stated his primary residence was an address in Dresden. But on Tuesday, Phillips apparently said he didn’t live in the Washington County town, according to witnesses.

And since the form doubles as an affidavit, providing false information on the document could be considered perjury, Wickes said. --

Alabama: Sen. Singleton says he may be a victim of voter fraud

The Tuscaloosa News reports: A state senator from West Alabama implicated in a Hale County voter fraud case said his name may have been forged on an absentee voting document that itself may have been forged.

In an affidavit, attorney general special agent George Barrows said Sen. Bobby Singleton, D-

Greensboro, is under investigation in connection with alleged illegal absentee voting in 2004 and 2005.

Singleton has not been charged with any wrongdoing, and he said that he hasn’t been interviewed, put under oath, asked for a handwriting sample or even contacted by the AG’s office. ...

Barrows said a witness told him his name was forged on an absentee voting affidavit and that “the purported signature of Bobby Singleton” appears on the affidavit as the witness.

Singleton said that he does witness absentee ballots, but since he doesn’t know who Barrows is talking about, he could not say whether his signature is on the affidavit, whether his name had been forged, or whether the witness was mistaken. -- Senator says he may be victim of voter fraud |

Virginia: recount in one Fairfax senate race

The Washington Post Virginia Politics blog reports: Sen. Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II R-Fairfax , who holds a 91 vote lead over Democrat Janet Oleszek, sent an appeal to GOP supporters at 3:30 this morning asking for donations to help him finance an expected recount.

Because Cuccinelli s margin is less than a half percent, Oleszek can ask for a state-funded recount. In his appeal, Cuccinelli says he is also looking for 10 volunteer lawyers who can help him oversee a district canvass of the votes cast in yesterday s election. -- Sen. Ken Cuccinelli preparing for recount - Virginia Politics -

Note: I have a special interest in this race because I used to live in this district.

November 6, 2007

Canada: group challenges voter I.D. law

The Globe and Mail reports: Changes to Canada s election laws over identification could shut out hundreds of thousands of voters says a coalition that has launched a constitutional challenge in B.C. Supreme Court.

The lawyer behind the legal petition is hoping for a quick decision. ...

The court petition states changes to the Canada Elections Act deprive otherwise-eligible citizens of their right to vote. It claims this year s amendments mean that even if people are on the voters list they still must have government-issued photo ID with a current address usually a driver s licence.

Mr. Quail, a lawyer with the B.C. Public Interest Advocacy Centre, said that cuts out students who don't have identification with their current address, seniors who don't drive or have picture identification, the homeless, disabled and aboriginals whose status cards don't show an address.

Before the changes, people on the voters list could arrive at the polling station with the voter card they received in the mail or apply to get one. -- Law may deny many right to vote: group

November 2, 2007

Georgia: who is without I.D?

The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports: More than 160,000 registered voters could cast ballots in Tuesday's election only to have them not counted under Georgia's law requiring photo identification at the polls.

Voters without acceptable identification will be allowed to cast provisional ballots in next week's county and municipal elections, but those ballots will be counted only if the voters show appropriate photo identification to their county registrars within 48 hours of the polls closing.

Nearly 75,000 of the voters live in the five-county metro Atlanta area, but rural counties in south Georgia have a higher percentage of voters without IDs, according to an analysis of a state database by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

In August, Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel directed her staff to compare voter rolls with records from the Department of Driver Services to identify voters who may not have driver's licenses or state IDs. That effort yielded a database of 198,000 names. ...

African Americans make up 28 percent of all Georgia voters. The newspaper's analysis found that blacks represent 46 percent of those identified as not having proper identification. In DeKalb County, for example, African-Americans make up 54 percent of registered voters, but they make up 64 percent of voters there who may not have an ID. -- No ID? Votes cast can become castoffs |

New Jersey: proposal to remove "idiot or insane" from suffrage restriction

The Asbury Park Press reports: Should New Jersey say that "no idiot or insane person shall enjoy the right of suffrage?"

"Others," said state Senate President Richard J. Codey, D-Essex, "would say there should be language in the Constitution to prevent people from voting FOR idiots."

On the sober side, Codey has been the force behind state Public Question No. 4 on Tuesday's ballot — which calls for changing the language of the state Constitution, dumping the terms "idiot" and "insane." ...

In 1976, the appellate division of Superior Court ruled that "idiot" and "insane" lack any legal definition.

The ballot question would replace the present wording with the statement that a person would be barred from voting if that person "has been adjudicated by a court of competent jurisdiction to lack the capacity to understand the act of voting." -- Constitution denies "idiots" right to vote

Florida: hearing set for 5 December in Demo primary suit

NBC12 First Coast News reports: U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle set an expedited Dec. 5 hearing Thursday for a suit filed by U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and Rep. Alcee Hastings, seeking to make their national party recognize the Florida delegation at the Democratic National Convention next summer.

The DNC stripped Florida of its 210 delegate votes because the Legislature moved the state's presidential-primary date from early March to Jan. 29 -- a week ahead of the date permitted by party rules. All major Democratic candidates for president have pledged not to campaign in states defying the national party's plan that lets only Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada allocate their delegates before Feb. 5.

Contending that the party's action violates the voting rights of millions of Floridians, Nelson and Hastings asked the federal district court in Tallahassee to make the DNC rescind its sanctions against the state. ...

The DNC responded to the original suit on Tuesday, saying it did not act as a government entity and that parties have a right to enforce rules that were agreed to by state parties when the primary schedule was set. -- Florida - Florida Delegates May Count at the DNC

Alabama: state senator and circuit judge accused by AG in vote fraud case

The Montgomery Advertiser reports: The state attorney general filed court papers Thursday naming state Sen. Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro, and others as suspects in a voter fraud investigation in west Alabama.

The court papers also accuse Circuit Judge Marvin Wiggins of trying to impede the Hale County investigation to "protect members of his family," including Singleton.

Attorney General Troy King asked the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals to force Wiggins to step aside from one part of the voter fraud investigation because his sister, former Hale County Circuit Clerk and absentee election manager Gay Nell Tinker; his brother-in-law and former bailiff, Sen. Singleton; and his first cousin, Carrie Reaves, "are suspects in the instant investigation and are directly benefiting from the court's quashing of the search warrant and subpoenas." ...

In August, an investigation by the attorney general's office led to former Greensboro City Council member Valada Paige Banks and Rosie Lyles of Greensboro being arrested on charges of possessing a forged absentee voter affidavit and four counts of promoting illegal absentee voting. The women have pleaded not guilty. -- :: Legislator suspect in vote fraud