Votelaw, Edward Still's blog on law and politics: January 2008 Archives

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January 31, 2008

Symposium on Electoral College Reform

The Michigan Law Review’s companion journal First Impressions today published an online symposium on Recent Proposals for Electoral College Reform.

Several proposals for changing the manner in which electoral votes are assigned have been increasingly debated since the 2008 presidential campaign began. Among these are recent suggestions that states assign their electoral votes based on the popular vote results in individual congressional districts or assign their electoral votes statewide based on the national popular vote. The symposium contributors explore the viability and advisability in today’s political climate of these and other Electoral College reform proposals.

Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law Professor Daniel P. Tokaji argues that the thirty-five day period in which states can take advantage of the “safe harbor” provision under federal law offers insufficient time for the resolution of post-election disputes over electors. Professor Tokaji proposes a new timetable that would allow states more time to complete recount and contest proceedings in the event of close, contested elections—a change he feels is justified on both fairness and federalism grounds.

Sacramento-based election law attorney and former legal counsel for California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and the California Republican Party Thomas W. Hiltachk explains and defends his proposed statewide initiative that would change California’s winner-take-all system of awarding its fifty-five electoral votes to a system that arguably would make California more relevant to the election process. If the California initiative took effect, the state would award the presidential candidate winning the popular vote in each of the state’s congressional districts one electoral vote while awarding the winner of the state’s overall popular vote two electoral votes.

Washington, D.C.-based election law attorney and former Democratic campaign manager Sam Hirsch critiques Hiltachk’s proposed initiative, arguing that the congressional-district system increases the chances of the presidency being awarded to the second-place finisher in popular votes, is significantly biased to favor one political party, and is founded on the erroneous assumption that congressional-district lines are politically “neutral” and thus well suited to functions other than electing members of the U.S. House of Representatives.

University of Chicago Dean of Social Sciences John Mark Hansen examines the effects of the Electoral College system and the proposed reforms to it on the prospect of equal voice in elections, concluding that if every vote is to count equally, the only solution is to elect the president by direct popular vote.

University of California’s Hastings College of the Law Professor Ethan J. Leib and Hastings College of the Law J.D. Candidate Eli J. Mark critique three state-based reform systems—reforms granting electoral votes based on winning congressional districts, reforms granting electoral votes in proportion to the state’s popular vote, and reforms granting all of a state’s electoral votes to the nationwide popular vote winner—and note the effects of partisan principles on defenses and critiques of them.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology Visiting Scholar Alexander S. Belenky discusses instituting direct popular election of the president as well as the National Popular Vote interstate compact but also evaluates a third option that makes the nationwide popular vote a decisive factor in electing a president but retains the Electoral College as a safeguard against failure to elect a president.

University of Michigan J.D. candidate Daniel Rathbun contends both legal and sociological theory can explain the National Popular Vote compact’s failure to take hold. Legally, Rathbun argues, the NPV overlooks significant constitutional and practical-institutional obstacles. Sociologically, he contends, the NPV is structurally incapable of dis-embedding the federalist theory underlying the Electoral College.

To download a PDF of the entire symposium, feel free to click here.

January 30, 2008

Alabama: early voting heavy in two Mardi Gras counties

AP reports: The turnout Wednesday by voters in Mobile County may signal a lively ballot battle statewide Feb. 5 in the tightened Democratic and Republican presidential primary fields.

Mobile County Democratic Chairman Brad Warren said he was impressed with Wednesday's turnout, and his Republican counterpart, Mark Erwin, had a similar view.

"Looks like everybody that intended to vote got out today," Erwin said.

But with the votes in Mobile and Baldwin counties sealed until all Super Tuesday ballots are counted in Alabama, there was only anecdotal evidence of what drew voters to the polls.

Voters in the two coastal counties were allowed to cast ballots Wednesday because Feb. 5 also is a Mardi Gras holiday in both counties, with Fat Tuesday parades drawing huge throngs to downtown Mobile. -- Alabama's early voters signal lively races Feb. 5 - NewsFlash -

West Virginia: Senate committee kills National Popular Vote

The Register-Herald reports: An attempt to lead West Virginia into a new era of voting for president by tying the hands of electors to the popular vote got nowhere Tuesday with the Senate Judiciary Committee.

For nearly 45 minutes, senators shuddered at the thought of a few electoral-heavy states making the decision on the occupant in the White House.

More than one panelist recalled the thinking of the Founding Fathers before resoundingly killing SB52. -- The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia - Panel nixes popular vote measure

Tennessee: DOJ and State reach UOCAVA agreement

From a press release by DOJ: The Justice Department today announced that it has reached an agreement with Tennessee officials to help ensure that military servicemembers and other U.S. citizens living overseas have an opportunity to participate fully in the state's Feb. 5, 2008, federal primary election.

The agreement, which was filed at the same time as a lawsuit by the Civil Rights Division, creates emergency procedures for next week's presidential primary election to ensure eligible military and overseas voters have sufficient time to cast and return their ballots and to have their ballots counted. ...

The lawsuit was necessary after many counties in the state failed to mail requested absentee ballots to Tennessee's military and other citizens living abroad in sufficient time for them to vote in the federal primary election. The availability of ballots was delayed by difficulties stemming from the state's decision to move the primary date to Feb. 5.

The agreement, which was approved by the federal district court in Nashville today, provides extra time -- until Feb. 15 -- for the receipt of overseas ballots and allows eligible military and overseas voters who did not receive an absentee ballot to download and return a federal write-in absentee ballot. -- Justice Department Reaches Agreement to Protect Rights of Military and Overseas Voters in Tennessee Presidential Primary Elections

Virginia: bill to create independent redistricting commission approved in Senate committee

The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports: Boosted by support from Democratic Gov. Timothy M. Kaine and Republican Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, a bill to create an independent redistricting commission sailed through a Senate committee yesterday.

Currently, the parties that control the state Senate and the House of Delegates after a 10-year census get to draw district lines.

Supporters said a change in the redistricting method would increase competition seats, decrease partisan polarization and make government more accountable to the voters.

Senate Bill 38, endorsed by the Privileges and Elections Committee, however, would leave a big loophole, giving the General Assembly the final say over the boundaries of congressional and legislative districts.

Still, its outlook remains dim in the Republican-controlled House of Delegates, where leaders dismissed its chances. -- Redistricting bill advances - News -

Maryland: Wynn alleges Edwards coordinating her campaign with other groups

The Washington Post reports: The campaign of U.S. Rep. Albert R. Wynn (D-Md.) filed a complaint yesterday with the Federal Election Commission, alleging that his leading primary opponent has illegally coordinated her campaign efforts with independent organizations that support her -- charges that she immediately rejected as last-minute electioneering by an embattled incumbent.

In unusually strong language, Wynn accuses Prince George's County lawyer Donna F. Edwards of colluding with a small network of people to affect the outcome of the Feb. 12 election, a closely fought match in Maryland's 4th Congressional District that has received national attention. ...

Edwards, who came within three percentage points of defeating the eight-term incumbent in 2006, has the support of progressive organizations that have targeted Wynn because they think he too often votes with Republicans and accepts contributions from corporate interests. ...

Wynn's complaint, filed by campaign manager Lori Sherwood, contains 34 points and 126 pages of documentation. Among his allegations are that Edwards is being supported by two groups on whose board of directors she has served. -- Wynn Files Campaign Complaint -

Reform Institute issues report on presidential-candidate ballot-access rules

From a Reform Institute press release: Raising large sums of money, building an organization and attracting grassroots support are among the many challenges facing those who seek the highest office in the land. However, one of the greatest obstacles to candidates for the presidency is simply getting their name on the ballot. Presidential Ballot Access: State by State Report Card, a new report from the Reform Institute, a nonpartisan public policy group, provides a comprehensive analysis of the complex and often overwhelming process of getting a candidate placed on the ballot in all fifty states.

The report finds that campaigns face a daunting task in navigating the varied and sometimes Byzantine procedures required by each state. For Independent and third party candidates, the undertaking can be downright Herculean. These candidates often face considerable obstacles, such as petition signature requirements that are higher than those required for candidates from the major parties. The result is that electoral competition and correspondingly, voter participation, suffers.

“We are currently seeing in both the Democratic and Republican primaries that when the contests are competitive and voters have real choices, voter participation is strong and interest and involvement in the process increases significantly,” stated Cecilia Martinez, Executive Director of the Reform Institute. “As more voters become dissatisfied with politics as usual and look beyond the two traditional parties for solutions, it is critical that they have ample options on the ballot.”

Presidential Ballot Access provides a state-by-state examination of ballot access requirements and grades each state on whether the rules are reasonable and equitable across party lines. The report card focuses on petition signature requirements and registration fees because they are consistent variables across states and they represent the most common means of limiting ballot access. -- Limiting Ballot Access Means Limiting Voter Choice

Obama can't stop them, so they help him

The New York Times reports: After months of denouncing the influence of special-interest money in politics, Senator Barack Obama is nonetheless entering a critical phase of the presidential campaign benefiting from millions of dollars being spent outside campaign finance rules.

Mr. Obama has repudiated a California group, Vote Hope, that is working on his behalf. But it has pressed on and, along with a sister organization called, is planning to spend up to $4 million promoting him in California and conducting voter registration drives aimed at blacks in 11 Southern states.

The group has already run radio advertisements with local ministers in South Carolina. New advertisements, some for television, have been prepared for California, one with the rap star Common and others focusing on black and Latino voters.

As the campaign treasuries of Mr. Obama and Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton are rapidly draining heading into the nominating contests in more than 20 states on Tuesday, independent political groups — whether so-called 527 groups, political action committees, nonprofit organizations or trade unions — are stepping in to help fill the void. The efforts of these groups, particularly 527s, which are named for a section of the tax code under which they fall, worry campaign finance watchdogs because many can take unlimited contributions from donors and have limited oversight. -- Outside Groups Aid Obama, Their Vocal Critic - New York Times

January 29, 2008

Alabama: historic win by black candidate

The Cullman Times reports: Democrats appear to be headed for a historic win by James Fields in the Alabama House District 12 special election With 20 of 38 precincts reporting, Fields leads his Republican opponent, Wayne Willingham, with 1,929 votes to 1,386. If Fields wins, he will be the first African-American elected to represent Cullman County at the state level. --, Cullman, Alabama - Homepage

Doc's Political Parlor quotes a Republican, "Fields won by a significant margin."

According to the official data, H.D. 12 was 1.60% black in 2000. Yes, less than 2%.

That sound you hear is pigs flying.

Texas: film on voter I.D. fight

Gerry Hebert emails: The Lone Star Project in DC has produced this 12 and a half minute video on the fight over the voter ID bill in Texas during the 2007 legislative session. It is a tribute to the courage shown by Senator Mario Gallegos, who risked serious health issues to stay in Austin and fight the bill. It’s well worth watching. Full disclosure: I make a cameo appearance.

It is available here on Google Video.

Florida: DOJ observers in Broward today

The Miami Herald reports: The Justice Department will be monitoring the presidential primary election in Broward on Tuesday to ensure compliance with the Voting Rights Act.

Justice Department personnel will monitor polling place activities in Broward.

Under Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act, Broward is obligated to provide all election information, ballots and voting assistance information in Spanish as well as in English. -- Federal monitors will watch over polling sites - 01/29/2008 -

Ohio: ACLU sues to block touch-screens (court docs linked)

UPI reports: A rights group filed a legal challenge on voting technology to be used in and around Cleveland in the March 4 presidential primary elections.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio filed the challenge Monday in U.S. District Court to Cuyahoga County's move back to paper ballots away from electronic touch-screen systems, a release on the group's Web site stated. ...

A hearing was set for Tuesday on the ACLU's request for an injunction, the report said. -- Ohio ACLU challenges primary ballots -

The ACLU website has the press release and court documents.

California: Wanted -- unmotivated, suspicious voters

The New York Times reports: The conventional political wisdom in delegate-rich California is that the roughly three million registered voters without a party affiliation are ripe for the picking by the Democratic candidates for president.

Democrats began allowing independents to participate in their party’s presidential primary in 2004, and campaigns now see them — the fastest-growing group of registrants in California — as potentially pushing a candidate over the top in the primary on Feb. 5. ...

(Republicans only allow their own party members to vote; the state’s American Independent Party also allows decline-to-state voters to cast ballots in its primary, but the party’s presence is very small.) ...

It is also true that decline-to-state voters must be quite motivated — and knowledgeable — to cast a ballot in the Democratic primary. The voters must ask for a Democratic ballot at their polling station; otherwise, they are provided with a nonpartisan ballot that has statewide measures only. -- California’s Unaffiliated Voters Are Sometimes Unreachable

January 28, 2008

"Low complexity wins elections"

The Washington Post reports: Mitt Romney wants to round up 12 million illegal immigrants and deport them. John Edwards wants to put an end to lobbyists. All the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates rail against the ways of Washington.

The question is not whether we agree with these views: Politicians stake out such positions precisely because they strike a chord with many voters. The question is why we like our bromides so simple -- especially when the same promises have been offered to us time and again in previous elections.

In an unusual study analyzing State of the Union addresses like the one President Bush will give tonight, psychologists found a curious pattern in the speeches delivered by 41 U.S. presidents. The pattern explains a lot about why politicians such as Romney and Edwards talk to voters the way they do.

The study found that in the first three years after a new president takes office, his speeches displayed higher levels of complexity compared with addresses in the fourth year in office. In the first three speeches, presidents were more likely to acknowledge other points of view, potential pitfalls and unintended consequences. In the fourth year, however -- as they were about to run for reelection -- the complexity of their speeches plunged. -- Shankar Vedantam - The Science of Presidential Complexity -

"Races Entering Complex Phase Over Delegates"

The New York Times reports: The presidential campaign is entering a new phase as Democratic and Republican candidates move beyond state-by-state competition and into a potentially protracted scramble for delegates Congressional district by Congressional district. ...

It is the first time in over 20 years in which the campaign has turned into a possibly lengthy hunt for delegates, rather than an effort to roll up a string of big-state victories.

This development reflects the competitive races in both parties, with neither a Republican nor a Democrat yet able to claim front-runner status. It has forced the campaigns to master complex delegate-allocation rules as they make a series of critical decisions about how best to allocate campaign resources to produce the greatest return of delegates.

Many of these decisions involve as little as a single delegate. ...

For Republicans, this means, for example, turning to approximately 10 heavily Democratic Congressional districts in California where there are relatively few registered Republicans, making it easier, and less expensive, to win a district and its three delegates. Both Senator John McCain of Arizona and Mr. Romney are heading there on Wednesday.

For Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Mr. Obama, it means investing resources — mailings, telephone banks and candidate visits — in Congressional districts where there are an odd number of delegates at stake, creating an opportunity to pick up an extra delegate.

Under Democratic rules, two candidates who do well in a Congressional district are likely to end up evenly dividing the delegates; where there is an odd number of delegates, the extra one goes to the candidate who wins more votes. -- Races Entering Complex Phase Over Delegates - New York Times

January 27, 2008

Scotland: Vote-counting firm refuses to appear before Scottish parliamentary committee

The Sunday Herald reports: THE FIRM that provided the e-counting technology at last year's botched Holyrood election is refusing to appear before a parliamentary inquiry into the fiasco.

DRS, which supplied the equipment for scanning and reading the ballot papers, said it has had to "regrettably decline" a request for oral evidence.

The company believes the "quantity of information" it provided to a previous inquiry makes an appearance at Holyrood unnecessary.

The snub comes as the parliament's local government and communities committee looks at the problems surrounding last year's Scottish elections.

Around 140,000 ballots were spoiled last May after voters failed to get to grips with the new single ballot paper.

An official inquiry into the bungled election, led by Canadian Ron Gould, blamed political parties and the Scotland Office for putting their own interests above those of the public. -- Votecount Firm Snubs Holyrood Inquiry (from Sunday Herald)

January 26, 2008

Alabama: federal court clarifies its order on Riley's appointment of Jefferson County Commissioner [court docs attached]

The Birmingham News reports: Three federal judges who ruled Gov. Bob Riley needed federal approval before naming a Jefferson County Commission replacement issued a clarification Friday outlining how long appointee George Bowman can remain in the position.

The three-judge panel initially issued an opinion and two-page judgment Tuesday. Lawyers in the dispute over Riley's appointment of Bowman then asked for clarification.

In Friday's filing, the judges say if Riley chooses to immediately appeal the ruling and notifies the court by Feb. 5 - the date of Jefferson County's special election - Bowman's appointment will be voided the same day without further order.

If Riley notifies the court by Feb. 5 that he will seek Justice Department approval of his appointing power, Riley would have 90 days, until about April 21, to receive the OK or Bowman would be out. -- Bowman term may end Feb.5-

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

The plaintiff's motion to alter the judgment is here. Download the Governor's response here. Download the Court's amended judgment here.

January 25, 2008

Michigan: Feiger to get recusal information in his campaign finance trial

The Detroit News reports: A federal judge on Thursday ordered the Justice Department to tell indicted Southfield attorney Geoffrey Fieger why U.S. Attorney Stephen Murphy and two of his top officials disqualified themselves from overseeing Fieger s criminal investigation.

It s a partial victory for Fieger -- charged with making $127,000 in illegal donations to the 2004 presidential campaign of Democrat John Edwards -- as he attempts to show he was unfairly singled out for prosecution because of his politics.

The information is quite relevant and essential to that claim, U.S. District Judge Paul D. Borman said in a 30-page order.

Borman said he has not decided whether Fieger was unfairly singled out, but said he finds it significant that contributions related to a re-election campaign for Michigan Supreme Court Justice Stephen Markman have been part of the federal investigation of Fieger since the probe began in April 2005. -- Judge s ruling favors Fieger

North Carolina: federal court hears GOP arguments to stop legislative primaries

AP reports: Elections must be delayed in North Carolina because boundaries for dozens of state House and Senate voting districts are unconstitutional, a lawyer representing a group of Republican voters told federal judges Friday.

The voters' lawsuit accuses state lawmakers of intentionally using incorrect population figures when they redrew district lines in 2003, and asks that the maps be corrected before elections are held for the General Assembly this year.

The candidate filing season is supposed to begin Feb. 11. State attorneys supported the maps and said granting the voters' request would delay all the May 6 primary elections, which include races for governor, U.S. Senate and U.S. House, in addition to state legislative races.

"There comes a point when it's that close to an election and you just cannot stop the train," Alexander Peters, a special deputy attorney general said during 2 1/2 hours of arguments at the New Bern federal courthouse. "It's too late to stop the election, even if (the maps) are ultimately found to be unconstitutional."

The voters, who sued the state in November, said legislative leaders used incorrect census data when they knew updated data was available. The adjusted district boundaries have been used since the 2004 elections. -- - AP Article Page

January 24, 2008

Super Tuesday may not turn out so great

Jeff Greenfield writes on Remember all the lamentations, the rending of garments, the gnashing of teeth over the outsize power of two small, unrepresentative states over the presidential nomination process? Well, never mind. It turns out that the apparent pattern of 2000 and 2004, when Al Gore and John Kerry won Iowa and New Hampshire and sailed to the Democratic nominations, was not a pattern but a two-off.

This year, a raft of states, big, small, and mid-size, will have a real say in choosing the candidates for president for both parties. The problem is that many would have had a far greater say had they not succumbed to mass hysteria and rushed to hold their primaries as early as possible—before or by Super Tuesday on Feb. 5. Indeed, other states that were more patient may turn out to have the loudest voices of all.

Once upon a time—from the dawn of the modern primary system in 1972 through 1992—the primaries played out through the spring. In the 1980s, the race went from a Southern "Super Tuesday" to a series of big states through March, April, and May, and finally to a California-New Jersey bicoastal finale in early June. But this year, misled by the Gore-Kerry sweeps into thinking that early momentum was a permanent, decisive element of the nominating system, some 24 states moved their primaries or caucuses to the first date permitted by the national political parties: Feb. 5. -- The Late State Gets the Worm

Colorado: governor calls for all-paper election

The Daily Sentinel reports: Gov. Bill Ritter asked lawmakers Wednesday to require counties to conduct the 2008 election using paper ballots so that the election will be secure.

“We have a bipartisan agreement struck in the Legislature that would take us to paper ballots with precinct voting,” Ritter said.

He said voters still could cast absentee ballots through the mail, and there would be a verifiable paper trail of each ballot following the election.

Ritter said he wants an all-paper election because he fears the “specter of litigation,” citing a 2006 court decision that nearly barred counties from using electronic voting machines.

The governor said Secretary of State Mike Coffman’s decision in December to decertify most of the electronic voting equipment used in Colorado made him doubt the reliability of the machines. -- Ritter wants ballots on paper statewide

Florida: DOJ approves 3 laws tightening voter I.D. requirements

The St. Petersburg Times reports: Six days before Florida's statewide presidential preference primary, the U.S. Department of Justice on Wednesday approved three recent changes to state election laws and took no action on a fourth because it is the subject of a federal lawsuit.

Despite the federal approval that the state sought, the changes will not be put into effect at the polls because the decision came so close to the Jan. 29 primary.

In a letter to state officials, the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division approved legislative changes excluding employer IDs or buyer club IDs as acceptable forms of identification at the polls; reducing from three days to two the period a voter who casts a provisional ballot can provide supporting documentation; and increasing penalties for third-party groups that violate the law in conducting voter registration drives. -- State: Feds approve state election law changes

Alabama: Riley likely to appeal federal court ruling on power to appoint Jefferson County commissioner (court doc attached)

The Birmingham News reports: Gov. Bob Riley on Wednesday said he likely will appeal a ruling by a panel of three federal judges that said Riley needed approval from the U.S. Justice Department to appoint George Bowman to the Jefferson County Commission, approval he didn't seek.

"Right now, I think we'll probably appeal it," Riley said, adding that he likely would decide for sure "within the next few days," after meeting with lawyers.

Also Wednesday, Riley's legal adviser, Ken Wallis, said lawyers in the dispute over Bowman disagree on the meaning of the judges' ruling and what it said about Bowman's right to remain on the commission. ...

Ed Still, an attorney for Plump, filed a motion with the panel Wednesday, saying he believed the opinion and judgment said different things about how long Bowman might remain on the county commission.

"I think it's just an editing error," Still said, adding that he wanted the panel to clear it up. -- Alabama Gov. Bob Riley likely to appeal judicial ruling on Jefferson County Commission appointment-

Disclosure: Jim Blacksher and I represent the plaintiff.

You may download the motion here.

Ohio: county elections board revokes prosecutor's voter registration because of non-residency

The Coshocton Tribune reports: The Morgan County Board of Elections has determined Prosecutor Rick Welch is not a qualified elector and his right to vote in the county has been revoked.

Now the acting county prosecutor will be reviewing whether further action should be taken after it was determined Welch does not live in the county.

Welch withdrew from the March primary on Tuesday after a complaint was filed with the elections board concerning his residency. The elections board met with a special prosecutor and a representative with Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner to discuss the matter on Wednesday.

Welch, who has been prosecutor since 2000, sent a letter to the board members stating he was withdrawing from the race due to his becoming a "catalyst for division and not unity." -- Coshocton Tribune - - Coshocton, OH

January 23, 2008

Georgia: Obama asks for investigation of pro-Obama robo-calls

AP reports: The heated racial politics in the Feb. 5 Democratic primary in Georgia just got turned up a notch.

Barack Obama's campaign has asked Georgia's attorney general to investigate anonymous "robocalls" made to Atlanta-area residents taking aim at Rep. John Lewis, who worked closely with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in the civil rights movement.

Lewis is supporting Obama's chief rival, Hillary Rodham Clinton. The calls urge listeners to call Lewis and tell the congressman, who represents King's hometown, to support a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, according to a transcript.

Obama's camp wasted no time denying responsibility for the automated calls. In an e-mail to supporters Tuesday, Obama's Georgia director, Eureka Gilkey, said they had received "disturbing reports" about the calls from metro-Atlanta area residents. -- Obama camp asks Georgia AG to investigate calls attacking Lewis

UK: Electoral Commission admits "weakness"

The Herald reports: The Electoral Commission has admitted fundamental weaknesses in its ability to probe allegations of illegal donations to political parties.

An official document seen by The Herald shows that detailed procedures and guidance on how investigations should be carried out remain "in development", despite the fact that high-profile probes into allegations against senior Labour figures, including Scottish leader Wendy Alexander, are currently under way.

The 12-page paper, entitled Handling Allegations, also reveals that the commission does not have "any prescribed method for making decisions" and that it is "unclear" when discussions with the UK Ministry of Justice on increasing the range of sanctions it can hand down will be concluded.

The commission also admits many cases will go unpunished even if they find the law has been broken. -- Watchdog Admits Probe Weakness (from The Herald )

Alabama: "Let my people vote" campaign

WSFA TV reports: An organization working to restore the voting rights of ex-felons is touring the state. On Tuesday, the Let My People Vote Campaign stopped in Montgomery to get their message out.

For the past five years the Let My People Vote campaign has traveled to prisons educating and informing current and ex-prisoners that certain felonies should not result in a loss of voting rights. -- WSFA TV Montgomery, AL - Let My People Vote Campaign Stops in the Capitol City

New York: Port Chester at-large system violates Voting Rights Act [updated: court docs attached]

The Auburn Citizen reports: A suburban village has been violating the Voting Rights Act by using an election system that leaves its rapidly growing Hispanic population without representation, a federal judge said Tuesday.

The decision against Port Chester, on the Connecticut border 25 miles from New York City, is expected to force a revision of the village's at-large election system, in which all voters cast ballots for each of the six trustee positions that run the village government.

The likely alternative is a district system, in which each district would elect one trustee. One district would be drawn around Hispanic neighborhoods to increase the chances that a Hispanic-backed candidate would be elected.

Judge Stephen Robinson, who held a trial last May when the village and the Justice Department could not settle the case, said the at-large system "prevents Hispanic voters from participating equally in the political process in the village."

The government had alleged that the at-large system allowed candidates preferred by whites to win all the trustee elections because whites tended to vote in a bloc. No Hispanic has ever been elected trustee or mayor in Port Chester, although the population is almost half Hispanic. The white population votes in greater numbers. --

You may download the decision and order here.

Thanks to Steve Pershing for noting my faux pas in calling Port Chester "Port Arthur." Maybe it is because there is a Port Arthur in Texas and I was just reading that case recently, or I was thinking of Chester A. Arthur.

Alabama: federal court rules, Governor must seek preclearance in order to appoint a commissioner in Jefferson County (news story)

The Birmingham News reports: A three-judge panel ruled Tuesday that Gov. Bob Riley should have obtained federal approval before filling the Jefferson County Commission's District 1 seat, but the judges did not immediately remove his appointee, George Bowman, from office.

Meanwhile, a Jefferson County election official said the Feb. 5 election to fill the seat vacated by Larry Langford, scheduled since October, will proceed.

The three federal judges gave Riley until Feb. 5 - the date of Jefferson County's special election - to file a notice that he intends to appeal their decision or that he intends to seek Justice Department approval of his power to appoint a replacement.

If Riley notifies the court on or before Feb. 5, Riley will be given 90 days to get the Justice Department's approval. If Riley misses that deadline, the judges said, Bowman's appointment will be set aside. -- Judges rule Alabama Governor Bob Riley needed federal OK to appoint Jefferson County commissioner-

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

January 22, 2008

Alabama: four amicus briefs filed on Governor's side in Section 5 Supreme Court appeal (court docs attached) [updated]

Two Four amicus briefs have been filed today supporting Gov. Riley's position in Riley v. Kennedy, a Section 5 case. More later.

You can download the briefs here: Thernstrom brief , Project on Fair Representation, Charles Fried brief, and the brief of Florida and several other states.

Disclosure:I am one of the lawyers for Kennedy et al. in this case.

Alabama: fed court rules, Governor must seek preclearance in order to appoint a commissioner in Jefferson County (court docs attached)

The 3-judge district court has ruled for the plaintiff in Plump v. Riley. More on this later.

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

The opinion and judgment are attached.

North Carolina: NAACP protests GOP lawsuit to force legislative re-redistricting

The Daily Tar Heel reports: The N.C. NAACP is protesting a lawsuit that seeks to make North Carolina comply with the Voting Rights Act of 1965, claiming the suit undermines the act's intent.

The lawsuit, filed by a group of N.C. Republicans in November 2007, calls for the state's congressional [sic: legislative] districts to be redrawn before the 2008 elections are held.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People claims that the redistricting would concentrate minority voters into fewer districts, leaving the rest of the state primarily white and Republican.

Al McSurely, chairman for the legal redress committee for the N.C. NAACP, said the plaintiffs want to "black-pack" minority voters into one district, which would give them fewer opportunities to elect representatives. -- NAACP protests redistricting suit - State & National

North Carolina: GOP sues for re-redistricting of legislative districts (court docs attached)

AP reports: It's another election season and North Carolina voters could again be confused by a redistricting lawsuit that alleges state legislative boundaries drawn by the General Assembly are illegal.

If a federal three-judge panel in New Bern sides this week with a group of Republican voters who sued after a state Supreme Court decision last year involving one state House district, the May 6 primary election could be delayed.

And not just the legislative races _ state law requires that primaries for governor, Council of State races, U.S. Senate and U.S. House also would have to be rescheduled for the same date. And the presidential primaries also set for May 6 would be in jeopardy.

Legislative redistricting litigation delayed two of the three previous even-numbered year primaries, in 2002 and 2004. -- Redistricting lawsuit threatens NC primary schedule again

The case is Dean et al v. Leake et al, No. 2:07-cv-00051-FL-AD-RC (E.D. N.C.). The court docket sheet shows this order on 17 Dec. 2007:

The instant dispute raises questions of federal and state law in the context of electoral apportionment in the North Carolina state elections process. A three judge court presides over the dispute as mandated by 28 U.S.C. section 2284. Section 2284 allows a "single judge [to] conduct all proceedings excepts the trial," with limited exceptions that do not apply here. The court conducted this conference at the United States Courthouse, New Bern, North Carolina, on 12/17/07, with plaintiffs appearing through counsel Robert N. Hunter, Jr., and defendants appearing through counsel Tiare Smiley & Alexander Peters. The court addressed a number of matters with the parties, and engaged in preliminary dialogue with Ms. Anita S. Earls, counsel for the proposed intervener, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People ("NAACP").The court memorializes the determinations madeat this conference below: 1. Request for hearing on the motion for preliminary injunction was allowed and hearing set for January 25, 2008 at the United States Courthouse at New Bern, North Carolina, pending final confirmation in the form of clerks office notice, confirming New Bern as the place for hearing and setting the specific time of hearing on January 25, 2008. and hearing set for January 25, 2008 at the United States Courthouse at New Bern, North Carolina, pending final confirmation in the form of clerks office notice, confirming New Bern as the place for hearing and setting the specific time of hearing on January 25, 2008.The court ordered today that any perceived need by the parties, particularly plaintiffs, for discovery or live witnesses which reasonably can be discerned upon the making of defendants' responsive pleading, due tomorrow, shall be presented to the court in telephonic format not later than Thursday, December 20, 2007. The court indicated in view of the expedited scheduleit dispenses with requirement for any written filing raising issues in discovery or the purported need for live witness testimony at hearing, and directed that the parties confer with it by the close of business Thursday through the offices of Ms. Rudd, the case manager. The court herein allows plaintiffs an additional fifteen (15) pages for the making of a consolidated reply not to exceed a total of twenty-five (25) pages except by leave of court. The parties will present to the court by Friday January 18, 2008, a joint report The parties will present to which shall roughly follow the form prescribed by Local Civil Rule 16.1, EDNC, for the making of proposed final pretrial orders. Signed by Chief Judge Louise Wood Flanagan on 12/17/2007.

The complaint is here.

Florida: MLK Unity Breakfast honors Gov. Crist

The Miami Herald reports: As the nation celebrated the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s quest for justice, Gov. Charlie Crist was honored Monday for reforming state clemency rules and helping the family of Martin Lee Anderson, the black teenager who died in a North Florida boot camp.

Crist said he was humbled by accolades at the 15th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Unity Breakfast at Jungle Island in Miami. ...

Last year, the Board of Executive Clemency, chaired by Crist, approved a rule change that almost automatically restores the civil rights of many ex-offenders who have completed their sentences. The change does not apply to murderers and sex offenders.

State Sen. Frederica Wilson said the group honored Crist not only for his support of Anderson's family but also for his efforts to make it easier for Floridians convicted of minor crimes to recover their right to vote. Crist promised black leaders he would work on the issue during his gubernatorial campaign, she said. -- Crist is hailed as civil rights hero - 01/22/2008 -

Mississippi: "it was time for me to get out of my comfort zone" reports: Mississippi was a brutal place in the civil-rights era of the 1960s, from the perspective of two veterans of the movement who were there -- Flonzie Goodloe Brown-Wright and Hellen O Neal-McCray.

They shared their experiences Monday morning at Denison University during the Martin Luther King Jr. Day commemoration breakfast. Their presentation was "The Power of Story: A Dialogue Between Two Women."

"The date June 12, 1963, was the defining moment in my life," Brown-Wright told the standing-room-only crowd in the Welsh Hills Room of the Burton D. Morgan Center. "That s the day Medgar Evers was assassinated in his front yard in front of his wife and his children for trying to help people register to vote. I realized it was time for me to get out of my comfort zone. I began to work in the movement to get people registered to vote."

When Brown-Wright, now 65, tried to register to vote she was asked to define habeas corpus as part of the registration form -- a form only black Mississippians were expected to answer. She didn t know what it meant at the time, but she studied the state constitution and later returned to successfully register to vote.

Subsequently, she vowed she would get the job of the man who denied her the right to vote, and she did. She became the first black woman to be elected the county registrar. She frequently was persecuted for her efforts. -- Central Ohio - - Central Ohio, OH

Florida: felons' voting rights restored, but with long delays

NPR's All Things Considered reports: Shortly after he was elected a year ago, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist pushed through changes that make it easier for released felons to get their civil rights restored. That process, though, has left many dissatisfied.

Only about 45,000 of some 950,000 people eligible have had their voting rights restored. The ACLU and other groups have been holding seminars to reach out to felons and have started a campaign to get them registered to vote. -- NPR : Florida Falls Short in Restoring Felons' Voting Rights

January 21, 2008

Nevada: Clinton and Obama trade charges of infractions in caucuses

The Trail blog of the Washington Post reports: Apparently the adage "whatever happens in Vegas stays in Vegas" doesn't apply to politics.

Tensions between the Obama and Clinton campaigns escalated today when officials traded charges about conduct on the ground during the Nevada caucuses Saturday.

Aides for Sen. Barack Obama, who lost the first-in-the-West contest, announced they would ask the state Democratic Party to review reports that Clinton caucus organizers had sought to block entry to certain sites a half hour before the official deadline, as outlined in a Clinton campaign caucus manual.

The Clinton campaign fired back that it was considering its own legal options in response to a barrage of voter intimidation complaints about Obama tactics. -- After Nevada Caucuses, Charges of Foul Play | The Trail |

Over there: Democrats Abroad to hold Internet primary

AP reports: This year, for the first time, expatriate Democrats can cast their ballots on the Internet in a presidential primary for people living outside the United States.

Democrats Abroad, an official branch of the party representing overseas voters, will hold its first global presidential preference primary from Feb. 5 to 12, with ex-pats selecting the candidate of their choice by Internet as well as fax, mail and in-person at polling places in more than 100 countries.

Democrats Abroad is particularly proud of the online voting option - which provides a new alternative to the usual process of voting from overseas, a system made difficult by complicated voter registration paperwork, early deadlines and unreliable foreign mail service. ...

U.S. citizens wanting to vote online must join Democrats Abroad before Feb. 1 and indicate their preference to vote by Internet instead of in the local primaries wherever they last lived in the United States. They must promise not to vote twice for president, but can still participate in non-presidential local elections. -- The Modesto Bee | Americans abroad can now vote online

Arizona: Dems accuse Shadegg of violating campaign finance laws

The Arizona Republic reports: The Arizona Democratic Party is accusing Republican U.S. Rep. John Shadegg of using his political-action committee to skirt laws that limit the amount of money donors can give a candidate.

Democrats say they have drafted a complaint to the Federal Election Commission, but Shadegg maintains nothing was done improperly and doubts whether the FEC will take action.

At issue is money that elections records show was transferred from Shadegg's political-action committee into his election campaign.

Two Valley businessmen who made the maximum allowable individual donations to Shadegg's campaign in 2007 also wrote additional $5,000 checks to Shadegg's PAC, Leadership for America's Future. Eleven days later, on June 26, the PAC wrote two identical $5,000 checks to Shadegg. -- Democrats say Shadegg violated law

January 18, 2008

Nevada: federal court refuses to shut down at-large caucus sites

The Washington Post reports: A federal judge on Thursday refused to shut down nine casino-based sites for Saturday's caucuses, delivering a victory to Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) in what has become an increasingly bitter Democratic contest here.

U.S. District Judge James C. Mahan rejected the argument that conducting some of the caucuses in casinos would give Obama an unfair advantage because he has been endorsed by the state culinary workers union, which employs thousands of casino workers. Siding with lawyers for the Democratic National Committee, he said federal law "recognizes the parties have the right to determine how to apportion delegates."

The DNC, working with Nevada Democratic officials, approved the at-large precincts last summer to accommodate people who will be working when the hour-long caucuses are held at noon on Saturday. Any shift worker employed within a 2.5-mile radius of the Strip is allowed to participate, but those sites are expected to be dominated by culinary workers, many of whom are Latino. State party officials estimate that casino caucusgoers could account for as much as 10 percent of the total turnout.

The lawsuit, brought by a state teachers' union that has endorsed Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), led to a nasty dispute between her campaign and Obama's, escalating tensions just days after the two tried to defuse a racially tinged dispute. -- Judge Allows Casino Sites for Nevada Caucuses

There is no written order yet. The plaintiffs' brief is here. The defendants' brief is here.

Ohio: ACLU sues to require counting OCR ballots in precincts

The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports: The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio filed a lawsuit Thursday to block Cuyahoga County's switch to a paper ballot voting system for the March 4 primary election.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Cleveland, argues the county's new system violates the U.S. Constitution and Voting Rights Act of 1965 because it doesn't give voters a chance to fix mistakes on their ballots.

The ACLU said it will seek an injunction next week to block the voting-system switch.

The county already is deep into its transition to paper ballots. Poll-worker training is under way, and ballots compatible with the new equipment are being designed. -- ACLU files suit to block paper ballots -

The case is American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio, Inc. et al v. Brunner et al, No. 1:08-cv-00145-KMO. Download the complaint here.

Alabama: RIP Prince Albert Jones Sr.

The Montgomery Advertiser reports: Prince Albert Jones Sr. never lived more than five miles from where he was born in the rural Montgomery County community of Mathews.

A farmer by trade, the 91-year-old Jones was among the first black landowners near the town of Pike Road. He is best remembered as a mentor, a good Samaritan to countless generations of neighbors and an early voting rights pioneer.

Jones died Sunday at his country homestead surrounded by family. He was one of 15 siblings and had 15 children. ...

Morris Dees, co-founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center, said Jones was one of rural Montgomery's first registered black voters, when fewer than 1 percent of the county's black residents were registered.

"Mr. Jones was one of the area's most dedicated advocates for equality and used his good reputation with the white farming elite to help black neighbors and church members obtain the right to vote decades before the enactment of the 1965 Voting Rights Act," Dees said. -- :: Jones family celebrates life of a pioneer

Florida: 11th Circuit hears argument on SSN-matching

AP reports: Tens of thousands of Floridians will be barred from voting in the 2008 national election if a state voter registration law is allowed to go back into effect, lawyers for minority groups said Friday.

In a hearing before a panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta, lawyers for the Florida NAACP and other groups asked that a temporary injunction against the 2005 law stay in place.

The law requires that information on voter applications match driver's license or Social Security card databases. Florida officials - still haunted by the election of 2000 - say the law is a centerpiece of their efforts to prevent fraud and restore public confidence in the electoral process.

But the law created a system in which a simple mistake on a voter registration application can knock would-be voters out of an election, even if the present a valid driver's license or passport.

"If the injunction is not upheld and if the law is allowed to take effect, tens of thousands of Florida residents will be denied their right to vote because of a typo," said Justin Levitt, the New York-based lawyer arguing on behalf of the Florida NAACP and its co-plainitffs. --

January 17, 2008

New York: Scotus says, no right to a "fair shot" at judgeship nomination

The New York Times reports: The challenge to New York’s method for choosing candidates to run in judicial elections ended in failure at the United States Supreme Court on Wednesday when not a single justice accepted the plaintiffs’ claim that the system was unconstitutional.

Voting 9 to 0, the court overturned a 2006 ruling by the federal appeals court in New York that declared the party convention system for choosing nominees to the state’s trial court unconstitutional. The case, brought in early 2004 by a group of voters, unsuccessful judicial candidates, and the civic group Common Cause, had shaken the state’s judicial politics.

The appeals court had ordered the state to substitute a direct primary election for the judicial convention system, which it said deprived candidates who lacked the backing of party leaders of a realistic chance of getting on the ballot. The order was held up awaiting the Supreme Court’s decision.

Justice Antonin Scalia’s succinct 12-page opinion for the court was dismissive of what he characterized as the lawsuit’s premise. “None of our cases establishes an individual’s constitutional right to have a ‘fair shot’ at winning the party’s nomination,” he wrote. -- Justices Uphold New York’s Judge System

January 16, 2008

New York: court approves plan to bring state into HAVA compliance

AP reports: A judge who had threatened to jail elections officials Wednesday approved the state's plan for bringing New York into compliance with federal voting law by making it easier for disabled voters to cast ballots.

New York is years behind federal deadlines under the Help America Vote Act, which was enacted after the contested 2000 presidential elections to ensure better accuracy and access for the disabled.

If the state acts on the timeline approved by U.S. District Judge Gary Sharpe, voting machines accessible to the disabled will be available in every polling place around the state by this fall's federal elections. The state would then follow up by replacing all pull-lever machines by the fall 2009 state elections.

The state Board of Election must send a progress report to Sharpe every Friday to verify it has met each deadline. -- Judge OKs NY state voting remedies

Nevada: more background on the caucus lawsuit

AP reports: A last-minute federal court battle over caucus rules demonstrates just how important a tight three-way Democratic presidential contest in Nevada has become in the battle for momentum headed into Super Tuesday's votes.

Hillary Rodham Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards are in a statistical dead heat in polling here before Saturday's caucuses. And Nevada's sizable blocs of Hispanic, union and urban voters could provide an indicator of where the race is headed on Feb. 5, when hundreds of delegates will be awarded in states with significant minority populations. ...

At issue in a federal court hearing Thursday is whether Democratic caucuses will be held in nine casinos along the Las Vegas Strip. The special locations were designed to make it easier for housekeepers, waitresses and bellhops in the state's biggest industry to caucus at midday near their jobs rather than returning home to neighborhood precincts.

The rules were unanimously approved by the state Democratic party last March and ratified by the Democratic National Committee in August.

But last Friday, six Democrats and a teachers union, which has ties to the Clinton campaign, sued to shut the sites on grounds they allocate too many delegates to one group. Of roughly 10,000 delegates to Nevada's presidential nominating convention, more than 700 could be selected at casino caucuses, depending upon turnout, which could make them more valuable than some sparsely populated Nevada counties, the lawsuit said. Four plaintiffs are on the committee that approved the sites. -- Court Case Could Alter Nev. Outcome - Ap - Headlines - The Columbus Telegram - Columbus, Nebraska's Community Newspaper

Alabama: federal court hears arguments on Governor's appointment of Jefferson County Commissioner

The Birmingham News reports: Two people might be able to stake a claim to the Jefferson County Commission's District 1 seat after an election scheduled Feb. 5 if a three-judge panel doesn't intervene, attorneys said after a federal court hearing here Tuesday.

But Ken Wallis, Gov. Bob Riley's legal adviser, warned that the District 1 seat might be vacant for several months if the panel does get involved.

The comments came after attorneys gave arguments on whether the judges should void Riley's appointment of George Bowman to the commission. Riley appointed Bowman on Nov. 21 to replace Larry Langford, who left the seat to become mayor of Birmingham. But the Jefferson County Election Commission in October had scheduled a special election to fill the seat.

Fred Plump of Fairfield filed suit saying Riley lacked the authority to appoint Bowman. He's asking the judges for a preliminary injunction that would remove Bowman from office and prohibit Riley from interfering with the Feb. 5 election, in which both men are running. -- Flap over filling Jefferson County Commission seat could result in 2 commissioners or none-

Michigan: few Dem crossover voters in GOP primary

The Detroit News reports: Fears of a large crossover vote deciding the contentious Republican primary didn't materialize.

The electorate in the GOP contest was predominantly Republican, about one-quarter independent and less than 10 percent Democratic, according to National Election Pool exit polling.

Arizona Sen. John McCain captured about half of the Democratic vote and one-third of the independents, but there weren't enough of them to overcome Mitt Romney's dominance among Republican voters. -- Romney did well in most GOP demographic categories

Important Public Health Announcement

Even though the video "Why Don't We Do it in Our Sleeves?" is funny, it contains a serious message about not spreading germs from coughing and sneezing. Spend 5 minutes being educated and amused.

January 14, 2008

Mississippi: judge rules, primary must be held within 90 days

The Clarion-Ledger reports: A Hinds County Circuit judge ruled today that Gov. Haley Barbour exceeded his constitutional authority by setting the special election to replace former U.S. Sen. Trent Lott for November. ...

DeLaughter voided Barbour's proclamation that scheduled the election for Nov. 4, 2008.

In his order, DeLaughter said the election should be held "within 90 days of the governor's Dec. 20, 2007 proclamation of writ of election...on or before March 19, 2008. -- Judge: Special election should be within 90 days | | The Clarion-Ledger

Hat tip, as always, to Old Southwest.

Nevada: judge says, let Kucinich in

AP reports: A Nevada judge said Monday that Democratic presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich must be included in Tuesday's candidates' debate in Nevada. ...

The judge sided with a lawyer for the Ohio congressman, who says debate host MSNBC at first invited Kucinich to take part and then told him last week he couldn't.

A lawyer for the network said MSNBC decided to go with the top three candidates after the Iowa and New Hampshire primaries. -- Talking Points Memo | TPM News Headlines

I'm glad to find out what we election lawyers are good for

Allen Raymond, author of "How to Rig an Election: Confessions of a Republican Operative," writes on TPM Cafe: As a Republican campaign operative at the Republican National Committee it was drilled into me that election law attorneys serve the purpose identifying the bright line of the law so it could be taunted but not crossed. Anybody who has a problem with that or doesn’t get it doesn’t understand America. America is about self interest, within the rule of law. That’s where I erred. -- Morality vs. Politics and My Job as a GOP Operative

Michigan and Nevada: open primaries cause mischief

The assignment for today is to read the following two posts and write a paragraph comparing and contrasting the efforts to get "crossover voters" in the two primaries.

Adam B writes on Daily Kos:
Well, it seems like our site's Inspector Javert Clouseau is back, and John Bambenek has really got us on the ropes now:

Yesterday, I filed a complaint with the Michigan Attorney General against Daily Kos' blogger Markos Moulitsas, requesting an investigation into whether Moulitsas is encouraging voter fraud in next week's Michigan GOP primary.

The idea of the freedom to vote is part of the bedrock foundation of this nation. Vote fraud is not a new concept; likely it reaches back even to the time of the founders. However, once vote fraud is discovered, it should be prosecuted aggressively like all flagrant violations of the law. Daily Kos' call, under the direction of Markos Moulitsas himself, for a conspiracy to commit massive vote fraud during the Michigan primaries may be one of those serious attempts to circumvent election law.

-- Michigan's Open Primary, and a Fraud

Big Tent Democrat writes on TalkLeft: An Obama Nevada precinct captain (Taylor Marsh has a copy of the flier) is circulating a flier with the following language:

You can be a Democrat for one day. Vote for Obama and then return to your voting status as you chose [sic].

Everyone regardless of party is welcome to be a Democrat for one day and vote. Republicans, Independents, Everyone, you can make THE difference. If you think a Democrat will win in November and you don't want Hillary you can come to the Democratic Caucus and vote for Obama.

-- Obama Nevada Flyer: "You Can Be A Democrat For One Day"

One possible answer is that Kos is pushing a raid on the other party ... not that there's anything wrong for that, but Obama is trying to get independents and perhaps Republicans to come into the Democratic Party for a day.

Another answer is that Obama is trying to get people who support him sincerely into the Democratic Party. You know, give them a free sample and hope they will become steady customers. Conversely, Kos might be viewed as low-down skunk for trying to get insincere people to make mischief in the GOP.

What's your view?

Alabama: Governor files his opening brief in Section 5 case in Supreme Court

Gov. Bob Riley has filed his opening brief in Riley v. Kennedy, No. 07-7, in the U.S. Supreme Court. You may download the file here.

Michigan: DOJ objects to closure of Secretary of State office in ... BuenaVista Township

The Saginaw News reported on 27 December: Backers of the secretary of state office in Buena Vista Township are declaring a "huge win for the community" after a federal opinion that appears to derail state plans to close the branch.

The U.S. Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division has sent a letter to state officials declaring the pending shutdown "legally unenforceable" because of the potential disenfranchisement of minority voters, among other issues. It's the latest development in a six-month battle to keep the office at 4212 Dixie open. ...

The Saginaw Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People joined the fight to keep the branch open after Land's June 13 announcement. Land said that residents could drive to Saginaw Township's location, 4404 Bay, where she would expand the hours. Opponents decried the inconvenience, especially to those with limited transportation. -- BV secretary of state office won't close - The Saginaw News -

Nevada: Obama attacks the source of his woes -- "a bunch of lawyers"

The Caucus blog of the New York Times reports: At a rally this afternoon, Senator Barack Obama questioned the timing and legitimacy of a lawsuit that had been filed here seeking to prevent caucuses from being held Saturday in nine casinos on the Las Vegas Strip.

“Are we going to let a bunch of lawyers try to prevent us from bringing about change in America?” Mr. Obama said, speaking to members of the Culinary workers union, which has endorsed his candidacy.

A federal judge is expected to rule this week on a lawsuit filed against the Nevada Democratic Party by the state teachers’ union, which believes that nine “at-large” caucus locations at casinos provide an unfair advantage to Mr. Obama. Why? Culinary union members and other shift-workers who are on the job Saturday will be allowed to take an hour break to caucus near their workplace in a hotel ballroom, rather than return to their home precincts. -- Obama Questions Nevada Caucus Lawsuit

Campaigns chase mail-in ballots

The New York Times reports: The first Tuesday in February, when 22 states hold primaries, may turn out to be the biggest day of the presidential campaign. But for many voters, half or more in some states, the polling place will be the kitchen table, the ballot box will be the mailbox and the choice in many cases will be made weeks before a voting machine lever is pulled.

In California, the biggest prize on Feb. 5, state election officials estimate that more than half of voters may vote by mail, which has forced campaigns to adjust their strategies and has some political observers worried that people may make hasty choices they may later regret.

Mail ballots went out last week, and some campaigns have been stepping up efforts to reach voters before they open the mailbox. ...

Nationwide, 31 states allow some form of early voting with “no excuse required,” and analysts say interest in voting by mail has increased mainly because it is more convenient than going to, and sometimes waiting in line, at a polling place. Several states in the last decade have changed their laws to allow all voters to cast ballots by mail for any reason, as opposed to limiting it to the infirm or those who will be out of town. (New York, whose primary is Feb. 5, requires voters to state a reason when they apply for an absentee ballot, leading political professionals to speculate that such voting by mail will not be as large a factor there as in other states.). -- Mail-In Voters Become the Latest Prize - New York Times

January 13, 2008

Another test re the presidential candidates

Have you heard of the "implicit association test"? If not, get a bit of background on it at this site. You can take a quick (about 10 minutes) test to test your implicit associations between the main presidential candidates of one or the other party at this site.

Hat tip to The Monkey Cage.

January 12, 2008

Nevada; Nevada Teachers sue to stop at-large caucus sites inside resorts

The New York Times reports: Nevada’s state teachers union and six Las Vegas area residents filed a lawsuit late Friday that could make it harder for many members of the state’s huge hotel workers union to vote in the hotly contested Jan. 19 Democratic caucus in Nevada.

The 13-page lawsuit in federal district court here comes two days after the 60,000-member Culinary Workers Union Local 226 in Nevada endorsed Senator Barack Obama, a blow to Mrs. Clinton. Mr. Obama addressed the Culinary Union at their hall earlier Friday.

The lawsuit argues that the Nevada Democratic Party’s decision, decided late last year, to create at-large precincts inside nine Las Vegas resorts on caucus day violates the state’s election laws and creates a system in which voters at the at-large precincts can elect more delegates than voters at other precincts. The lawsuit employs a complex mathematical formula to show that voters at the other 1,754 precincts would have less influence with their votes. -- Teachers Sue to Block Hotel Workers’ Union Vote in Nevada Caucus

Download the complaint here.

Update: The Washington Post has a longer article on the politics behind the suit.

January 11, 2008

Rs vs. Ds -- interesting findings

Law Librarian Blog quotes "Republicans are significantly more likely than Democrats or independents to rate their mental health as excellent according to data from the last four November Gallup Health and Healthcare polls. Fifty-eight percent of Republicans report having excellent mental health compared to 43 of independents and 38 of Democrats. This relationship between party identification and reports of excellent mental health persists even within categories of income age gender church attendance and education." RJ -- Law Librarian Blog: Republicans Report Much Better Mental Health Than Others

Political Wire quotes Playboy: # 25% of all Republicans and 35% of all Democrats have had more than 10 sexual partners in their lifetime -- a higher percentage than vote in congressional and local elections.
# 55% of Republicans have sex at least once a week, compared with just 43% of Democrats.
# 14% of Thompson supporters and 12% of Obama supporters claim to have sex "almost every day." Just 5% of Clinton and Giuliani supporters have sex that frequently. -- The Politics of Sex

Do you suppose there is any connection between the findings of those polls?

Changes at DOJ Voting Section

Paul Kiel writes on TPM Muckraker: The changes keep on coming in the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division. Less than a month ago, former voting section chief John "minorities don't become elderly the way white people do: They die first" Tanner got canned. And today, his replacement, Christopher Coates, a veteran of the section, demoted Tanner's controversial deputy chiefs, Susana Lorenzo-Giguere and Yvette Rivera. The changes were announced in an email to voting section staff. ...

Rivera has been accused of discriminating against African-American employees. She oversaw the important Section Five unit, which has the responsibility of reviewing election laws in parts of the country with a history of discrimination. Encouragingly, her replacement is Tim Mellett, one of the staff attorneys who in 2003, found that Tom DeLay's Texas redistricting plan violated the Voting Rights Act, a finding that was overruled by political appointees. -- TPMmuckraker | Talking Points Memo | Controversial Voting Section Deps Get Demoted

Forget eHarmony, got to VoteMatch

Find Your Candidate: VoteMatch - TalkLeft: The Politics Of Crime
Jeralyn writes on TalkLeft: Courtesy of the Dutch, you can answer a quick 25 questions and find the top Democrat (or Republican) that most closely matches your positions on issues -- you can even rank the issues in terms of importance to you before they calculate the final results.

Comment: Like Jeralyn, I came out with Edwards, Clinton, Obama, and like several commenters, I was amazed that Clinton was higher on my list than Obama.

January 10, 2008

Mississppi: Governor responds to AG's lawsuit re Senatorial election

Alan Lange writes on Y'all Politics (and provides copies of the relevant pleadings): On January 9, Governor Barbour's legal team unleashed a load of legal documents and answers in Hinds County Circuit Court for the lawsuit that Attorney General Jim Hood has filed over the election to replace former Senator Trent Lott. Jim Hood's office has gone against the advice of both Governor Barbour and outgoing Secretary of State Eric Clark, who both believe that a November 2008 special election is the appropriate measure for replacement. Of course, Governor Barbour has appointed former Representative Roger Wicker to the post. The Democratic Party and Hood have both claimed that a special election must be held within 90 days (approximately March) to satisfy the requirements of Mississippi Code. The political ramifications are substantial as the Democratic Party and its two main candidates, former Governor Ronnie Musgrove and former US Rep. Ronnie Shows, do not relish a long and expensive fight against a sitting US Senator. Plus with the litany of charges in the trial lawyer community, stalwart donors for Democratic candidates may not answer fundraising calls from Democratic candidates. -- Yall Politics

Hat tip to Old Southwest for the link.

January 8, 2008

"Voter ID Laws Are Set to Face a Crucial Test"

The New York Times reports: In April 2006, a federal judge upheld Indiana’s law on voter identification, the strictest in the nation, saying there was no evidence that it would prevent any voter from having his ballot counted.

But on Election Day last November, Valerie Williams became that evidence, according to lawyers in a case that will be argued before the Supreme Court on Wednesday. After Ms. Williams grabbed her cane that day and walked into the polling station in the lobby of her retirement home to vote, as she has done in at least the last two elections, she was barred from doing so.

The election officials at the polling place, whom she had known for years, told her she could not cast a regular ballot. They said the forms of identification she had always used — a telephone bill, a Social Security letter with her address on it and an expired Indiana driver’s license — were no longer valid under the voter ID law, which required a current state-issued photo identification card.

“Of course I threw a fit,” said Ms. Williams, 61, who was made to cast a provisional ballot instead, which, according to voting records, was never counted. Ms. Williams — who has difficulty walking — said she was not able to get a ride to the voting office to prove her identity within 10 days as required under the law, and her ballot was discarded.

The incident is at the heart of the highly anticipated case, which challenges the constitutionality of the Indiana law and, according to Daniel P. Tokaji, a professor of law at Ohio State University, is “the most important case involving the mechanics of election administration in decades.” -- Voter ID Laws Are Set to Face a Crucial Test

January 7, 2008

Scotland: Scottish Parliament begins debate on Gould report

The Scotsman reports: SNP ministers hope a majority of MSPs will back plans this week to transfer responsibility for Scottish elections to Holyrood.

Parliament will debate the issue on Thursday as part of the long inquest into last year's voting fiasco which resulted in more than 140,000 spoiled ballot papers.

Ron Gould, the Canadian expert brought in to review the chaos, concluded that responsibility for elections should be handed over to the Scottish Parliament.

This is something the SNP is keen to secure as it would allow MSPs to change the voting system for Holyrood and make the Scottish Parliament more autonomous.

The Gould Report will be debated by MSPs this week and Scottish Government sources made clear last night that they wanted to send a message to the UK government that Holyrood wants control of its own elections. -- Holyrood hopes for remit to run Scots elections - The Scotsman

January 2, 2008

Mississippi: AG sues Governor over date of Senatorial election

AP reports: The dispute over an election to fill the U.S. Senate seat formerly held by Republican Trent Lott is now headed to court.

Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood on Wednesday filed a complaint in Hinds County Circuit Court against the Nov. 4 election date set by Gov. Haley Barbour. The two have been at odds over when the election should be held. ...

Hood, a Democrat, said the law requires a special election much sooner than the date Barbour set.

Mississippi law states that after receiving official notice of a Senate vacancy, the governor has 10 days to announce an election to fill the seat. That election must be held within 90 days of the announcement, unless the vacancy occurs during a year when "there shall be held a general state or congressional election." -- : Hood files lawsuit over Senate seat election

January 1, 2008

"Outside Groups Spend Heavily and Visibly to Sway ’08 Races"

The New York Times reports: Spurred by a recent Supreme Court decision, independent political groups are using their financial muscle and organizational clout as never before to influence the presidential race, pumping money and troops into early nominating states on behalf of their favored candidates.

Iowans have been bombarded over the last few days with radio spots supporting John Edwards that were paid for by a group affiliated with locals of the Service Employees International Union, which just kicked in $800,000 — on top of $760,000 already spent.

Senator Christopher J. Dodd, Democrat of Connecticut, rolled across Iowa on Monday in a customized black-and-gold bus emblazoned with his picture and the logo of the International Association of Firefighters, which has spent several hundred thousand dollars supporting him. And at campaign events in Iowa, backers in A.F.S.C.M.E. union shirts turned out Monday to show their support for Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, Democrat of New York. Those appearances come in addition to the union’s $770,000 advertising campaign promoting her candidacy.

The groups are prohibited from coordinating their efforts with the campaigns. But the candidates, while often distancing themselves from these efforts, certainly benefit from their activities. Iowa airwaves have been filled with commercials from these groups as they take advantage of the June ruling that lifted a ban on broadcast messages from independent groups within 30 days of a primary or caucus.

Independent groups also act as a vehicle for negative advertising that campaigns are reluctant to engage in. The Club for Growth, for instance, has spent $700,000 so far, largely on broadcast spots here and in other early voting states that criticize Mike Huckabee’s record on taxes while he was Arkansas governor, an effort that has received several hundred thousands of dollars from an Arkansas political rival of Mr. Huckabee, a Republican. -- Outside Groups Spend Heavily and Visibly to Sway ’08 Races