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

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April 30, 2008

Alabama: GOP sees green light to pass tough voter I.D. law

AP reports: Republicans in Alabama say they will push for a stronger law requiring voters to show photo identification at the polling place during next year’s regular session or possibly during a special session later this year.

The renewed push for a photo ID law comes after Monday’s 6-3 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court upholding a strict Indiana law.

Republican Attorney General Troy King says he plans to push voter identification legislation in next year’s regular session or possibly in a special session. After Tuesday, the five days remaining in the Legislature’s current session likely won’t be enough time to pass voter photo ID legislation that is expected to be hotly debated. ...

State Rep. Gerald Allen, R-Cottondale, introduced a bill requiring photo voter identification earlier this year, but it has been held up in a House committee. He also said he expects to try to revive voter ID legislation, saying that his bill would offer citizens who do not have a photo ID a chance to get one. -- GOP to push for stronger voter ID law in Alabama

Florida: agreement allows voter registration organizations to keep registering til July

From a press release via email: Today, the parties to LWV v. Browning, a lawsuit challenging Florida’s onerous restrictions on third-party voter registration, entered into a binding agreement filed in federal court. The agreement comes the day after plaintiffs sought a temporary restraining order that would have barred state authorities from enforcing the restrictions. Under the agreement, Secretary of State Kurt S. Browning stated that he will not enforce the restrictions until the administrative rulemaking process is completed, which he estimates will occur no earlier than early July 2008. As a result, groups and individuals who conduct voter registration drives in Florida can proceed with their voter registration activities without fear of being fined under the law, until at least early July 2008.

Plaintiffs to the lawsuit, League of Women Voters of Florida, the Florida AFL-CIO, and Marilyn Wills, president of the Tallahassee League of Women Voters, are thrilled with this result.

Plaintiffs are represented by the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law and the Advancement Project, and by pro bono counsel Debevoise & Plimpton (representing the League of Women Voters of Florida), and Becker & Poliakoff, P.A.

April 29, 2008

Tennessee: woman arrested for voting-while-felon

The Leaf Chronicle reports: A Clarksville woman has been arrested on three counts of illegal voting.

Carla Thomas Smith, 36, who gave a 718-1/2 Central Ave. address, was booked Friday into the Montgomery County Jail and has since been released on a $1,000 bond.

According to court documents, Smith has a felony conviction, which deprives her of voting rights. ...

The indictment against Smith alleges she broke the law when she registered to vote in August 2004, when she voted in November 2004 and when she voted in November 2006. -- Woman arrested on 3 counts of illegal voting | theleafchronicle.com | The Leaf Chronicle

New Jersey: independent reivew of e-voting machines approved

Ars Techinca reports: In a decision issued last week, superior court judge Linda R. Feinberg ruled that a technical review of voting machines used in New Jersey may proceed despite the objections of the manufacturer, Sequoia Voting Systems.

Serious problems emerged in five counties where Sequoia voting machines were used during the New Jersey presidential primaries. Audits conducted by election officials revealed that the electronic tallies didn t match the total counts from the paper trail generated by the machines. Sequoia attributes the problem to operator error and argued that it isn t indicative of a technical malfunction.

In response to that glitch and other irregularities, election officials from Union County decided decided to subject the voting machines to an independent review. They went to Ed Felten, a voting machine security expert who serves as the director of Princeton s Center for Information Technology Policy. Although preliminary evidence from the audit indicated the potential presence of some serious malfunctions, Union County decided not to go forward with the review after receiving legal threats from Sequoia. The voting machine company claimed that an unauthorized third-party review would violate the county s license agreement. Sequoia also argued that unauthorized examinations expose the its proprietary trade secrets to public disclosure and threaten its intellectual property rights. -- Review of NJ e-voting approved; won t be in time for election

Michigan: lawyer testifies he was reimbursed by Fieger firm, but was not pressured

The Detroit News reports: A lawyer who works for indicted Southfield attorney Geoffrey Fieger testified Monday that Fieger s law firm reimbursed him for $8,000 in political donations he made on behalf of himself, his wife, and his two college-age children.

But attorney Paul Broschay testified he was not promised he would be reimbursed for the checks he wrote to the 2004 presidential campaign of Democrat John Edwards and would have donated to the Edwards campaign even if partners at the firm had not asked him to do so. He did not think he did anything illegal, Broschay told a jury in U.S. District Court.

Fieger, 57, and his law partner, Ven Johnson, 46, were indicted in 2007 on conspiracy and illegal campaign contribution charges. They are accused of making $127,000 in illegal donations to the Edwards campaign by reimbursing employees, employee relatives and law firm vendors. Fieger is also charged with obstruction of justice, a 10-year felony. Both have pleaded not guilty. -- Fieger paid for political donation, lawyer testifies

The Detroit Free Press explains how he can to testify: Paul Broschay, a former Detroit and Trenton police officer, said agents came to his home under the guise of serving a grand jury subpoena, but proceeded to play "good cop, bad cop" in hopes of getting him to say something damaging about Fieger and his law partner, Vernon (Ven) Johnson. Both men are on trial in U.S. District Court in Detroit on charges of illegally reimbursing 64 employees, friends, family members and vendors to contribute $127,000 to Edwards' ill-fated campaign.

Broschay said he tried to cooperate at first, but asked the agents to leave after his daughter, then a Michigan State University student, called home and was hysterical because agents confronted her in her apartment.

"It kinda pissed me off," said Broschay, who testified under a grant of immunity from federal prosecutors. -- Agents bullied me, Fieger lawyer says

Florida: LWV sues over restrictions on voter-registration groups

The New York Times reports: The League of Women Voters of Florida sued state election officials on Monday to challenge a law that fines voter registration groups for losing registration forms or returning them late.

The lawsuit, filed in Federal District Court here, is likely to amplify the political battle over a handful of laws that have tightened the rules for registration and voting in Florida.

It comes less than two weeks after the league suspended its registration drive, fearing penalties of up to $1,000 per volunteer. And in its complaint, the group said the law “severely burdens efforts by the league and other plaintiffs to encourage civic engagement and strengthen democracy.”

State officials have defended the law as an effort to preserve the integrity of the voter registration process. Jennifer Krell Davis, communications director for Secretary of State Kurt S. Browning, said Monday that she could not comment on the league’s complaint because she had not yet received it. -- Voting Group Sues Florida Over Penalties - New York Times

Indiana: Supreme Court OKs voter I.D. law

The New York Times reports: The Supreme Court upheld Indiana’s voter identification law on Monday, concluding in a splintered decision that the challengers failed to prove that the law’s photo ID requirement placed an unconstitutional burden on the right to vote.

The 6-to-3 ruling kept the door open to future lawsuits that provided more evidence. But this theoretical possibility was small comfort to the dissenters or to critics of voter ID laws, who predicted that a more likely outcome than successful lawsuits would be the spread of measures that would keep some legitimate would-be voters from the polls.

Voting experts said the ruling was likely to complicate election administration, leading to both more litigation and more legislation, at least in states with Republican legislative majorities, but would probably have a limited impact on this year’s presidential voting.

The issue has been intensely partisan, with Republicans supporting increased identification requirements for voters and Democrats opposing them. In what the court described as the “lead opinion,” which was written by Justice John Paul Stevens and joined by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, the court acknowledged that the record of the case contained “no evidence” of the type of voter fraud the law was ostensibly devised to detect and deter, the effort by a voter to cast a ballot in another person’s name. ...

The three others who made up the majority, Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel A. Alito Jr., said in an opinion by Justice Scalia that the law was so obviously justified as “a generally applicable, nondiscriminatory voting regulation” that there was no basis for scrutinizing the record to assess the impact on any individual voters. “This is an area where the dos and don’ts need to be known in advance of the election,” Justice Scalia said. -- In a 6-to-3 Vote, Justices Uphold a Voter ID Law

Nina Totenberg on NPR has a good roundup of interviews with Rick Hasen, Pam Karlan, and others.

The Washington Post had a live discussion with Roy Schotland yesterday. The Post has an article today.

Joan Biskupic has an article in USA Today.

Alabama: Homewood mayor apologizes for cut rate to McCain

The Birmingham News reports: Homewood Mayor Barry McCulley apologized Monday for granting the McCain presidential campaign a reduced rental rate at Rosewood Hall for an April 21 fundraiser.

The campaign was charged $250 to rent two rooms, which have a posted rate of $1,200.

I did exceed my authority by changing the rental rate of Rosewood Hall prior to the John McCain event, McCulley said in a three-page statement. At that time, I believed that I had been given that authority. ...

McCulley reiterated that he wasn't attempting to give the McCain campaign a special deal: "My motives were simply to implement what had already been discussed, in order to create additional revenue for the city where there had been none due to rates for Monday and Tuesday nights being too high."

McCulley said he asked the McCain campaign to pay the balance of the rent.

"Short of that, I will find a way to pay the difference myself," he said. -- Homewood Mayor McCulley apologizes for reduced rental rate to McCain event- al.com

April 28, 2008

United Kingdom: report calls for photo I.D. and safeguards on postal voting

The Guardian reports: UK elections fall short of international standards and are vulnerable to fraud, a report published today claims.

Measures introduced to improve choice for voters, such as postal and electronic voting, increase the risk of fraud, according to the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust study.

The trust is calling for the use of photo ID at polling booths and a cap on campaign spending at constituency levels as way of keeping elections fair.

The report, entitled Purity of Elections in the UK: Causes for Concern, comes ahead of Thursday s local elections in England and Wales.

There have been at least 42 convictions for electoral fraud in the UK in the last seven years. -- Electoral system vulnerable to fraud, report finds | Politics | guardian.co.uk

Military forces and electronic voting

AP reports: U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan can speak to their families by Web camera and fight insurgents using sophisticated electronic warfare. Yet when it comes to voting, most troops are stuck in the past.

Communities in 13 states will send overseas troops presidential election ballots by e-mail this year, and districts in at least seven states will also let them return completed ballots over the Internet, according to data compiled by The Associated Press and the Overseas Vote Foundation.

That still leaves tens of thousands of service members in far-flung military bases struggling to meet voting deadlines and relying largely on regular mail to get ballots and cast votes -- often at the last minute because of delays in ballot preparations in some states.

Adding an electronic boost to the process would ease those problems, but it raises security and privacy concerns. -- Military struggling with electronic voting

April 27, 2008

It's so nice to have a jet in the family

The New York Times reports: Given Senator John McCain’s signature stance on campaign finance reform, it was not surprising that he backed legislation last year requiring presidential candidates to pay the actual cost of flying on corporate jets. The law, which requires campaigns to pay charter rates when using such jets rather than cheaper first-class fares, was intended to reduce the influence of lobbyists and create a level financial playing field.

But over a seven-month period beginning last summer, Mr. McCain’s cash-short campaign gave itself an advantage by using a corporate jet owned by a company headed by his wife, Cindy McCain, according to public records. For five of those months, the plane was used almost exclusively for campaign-related purposes, those records show.

Mr. McCain’s campaign paid a total of $241,149 for the use of that plane from last August through February, records show. That amount is approximately the cost of chartering a similar jet for a month or two, according to industry estimates.

The senator was able to fly so inexpensively because the law specifically exempts aircraft owned by a candidate or his family or by a privately held company they control. The Federal Election Commission adopted rules in December to close the loophole — rules that would have required substantial payments by candidates using family-owned planes — but the agency soon lost the requisite number of commissioners needed to complete the rule making.

Because that exemption remains, Mr. McCain’s campaign was able to use his wife’s corporate plane like a charter jet while paying first-class rates, several campaign finance experts said. Several of those experts, however, added that his campaign’s actions, while keeping with the letter of law, did not reflect its spirit. -- McCain Frequently Used Wife’s Jet for Little Cost

April 26, 2008

Michigan: Feiger criminal trial opens

TalkLeft reports: Flamboyant attorney and legal analyst Geoff Fieger, perhaps best known for his defense of Dr. Jack Kevorkian, is on trial in federal court in Detroit. He and his law partner, Van Johnson, are charged with having employees at their law firm and others donate to John Edwards' presidential campaign and then reimbursing them, in violation of federal campaign laws. Fieger is also charged with obstruction of justice for allegedly concealing a memo and tampering with grand jury witnesses. -- Gerry Spence Opens for Fieger in MI Criminal Trial - TalkLeft: The Politics Of Crime

Virginia: VA GOP files FEC complaint against Dems' anti-McCain ad

AP reports: Virginia Republican Party chairman John Hager filed a complaint Friday over a Democratic National Committee ad attacking John McCain.

Hager alleged in an affidavit to the Federal Election Commission that the DNC coordinated the ad with the campaigns of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. That would violate federal election law. -- Va. GOP complaint targets DNC ad -- dailypress.com

Note: If anyone has the complaint, please email it or a link to me.

Alabama: who has the authority to set the rate for the McCain fundraiser?

The Birmingham News reports: A brewing dispute over a $250 rental rate charged to Republican presidential candidate John McCain has pitted Homewood s mayor and the City Council on opposing sides.

Mayor Barry McCulley authorized renting two rooms in Homewood s Rosewood Hall to the McCain campaign for a Monday night fundraiser at a rate that was nearly 80 percent below the posted booking price of $1,200. McCulley said Friday the $250 rate was not a discount, but a new rate he decided to set for any events taking place on Monday nights, when the hall is rarely booked.

I just simply went ahead and established that for Monday night, McCulley said. If the Democrats want to bring Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama in here and have it Monday night, they are going to get exactly the same deal that McCain got.

But council members and City Attorney Michael Kendrick said McCulley exceeded his authority. -- Homewood mayor says he has authority to set rental rates; council members disagree- al.com

Michigan: Clinton supporter files challenge to exclusion of delegates

Political Diary - WSJ.com
The Wall Street Journal 's Political Diary reports: Yesterday, a key supporter of Hillary Clinton's filed a challenge demanding that the Democratic National Committee seat all of Michigan's pledged delegates – 55% of whom backed Mrs. Clinton in a January primary that Barack Obama didn't participate in and whose results the national Democratic Party has so far refused to recognize.

DNC member Joel Ferguson says Michigan's 128 pledged delegates should be given half a vote each at the Denver convention and its 28 superdelegates – such as himself – should be given a full vote. He says such a settlement would represent a fair punishment for the state's decision to break party rules and hold an early primary.

Note: see the story below.

Michigan and Florida: DNC Rules Committee to meet on 31 May

AP reports: A plan to award half-delegates for the disputed Michigan and Florida Democratic presidential primaries will get a hearing before party leaders.

The co-chairs of the Democratic National Committee s Rules and Bylaws committee sent members a memo Friday announcing a meeting May 31 to consider the idea.

The committee stripped Michigan and Florida of their national convention delegates because they held primaries too early. DNC members in Michigan and Florida have filed challenges to restore the delegates.

Under the challenges, all superdelegates from both states would get to vote. The pledged delegates would only count for half votes.

Hillary Rodham Clinton won both contests and has been pushing for the delegates to be seated.

Her rival Barack Obama has said it isn t fair to award delegates based on the votes because all the candidates agreed to boycott the contests and his NAME wasn t on Michigan s ballot. Most of the Democratic candidates had their NAMEs removed, but Clinton left hers on. Forty percent of Michigan voters chose uncommitted rather than vote for Clinton. -- The Associated Press: Delegate challenges concerning Florida, Michigan to be heard

April 24, 2008

Missouri: civil rights groups sue state officials over Motor Voter non-compliance (court docs attached)

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports: Voting-rights activists filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday against Missouri public aid officials and election authorities in St. Louis and Kansas City, saying that agencies have failed to help poor people stay active on the voter rolls.

The suit, filed in Kansas City by the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, focuses on a 1993 federal law that requires voter registration to be offered at drivers license facilities and government assistance offices — those that offer aid such as food stamps, Medicaid and welfare. But although registering at drivers license offices is now commonplace, activists claim the Missouri Department of Social Services has shirked its obligations.

ACORN, represented by lawyers from national groups Project Vote, Demos and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, also says election authorities need to better instruct local public aid offices.

The lawsuit carries all the overtones of a traditional political brawl, pitting groups allied with minorities and the poor — who typically lean Democratic — against a key department of a Republican administration. -- STLtoday - Civil rights groups sue state officials over voter registrations

The case is Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now et al v. Scott et al, #: 2:08-cv-04084-NKL (WD Mo). You may download the complaint here.

Judicial Watch files FEC complaint against McCain

From a press release: Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, announced today that it filed a formal complaint, dated April 22, 2008, with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) related to a fundraising luncheon held at London's Spencer House to benefit Senator John McCain's presidential campaign. The venue for the event was apparently donated to the campaign by foreign nationals, in violation of federal campaign finance laws.

"Recent news reports suggest that Sen. John McCain and John McCain for President may have accepted an in-kind contribution from foreign nationals Lord Rothschild OM GBE and the Hon. Nathaniel Rothschild of Great Britain in contravention of federal election laws," Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton wrote in a complaint letter dated April 22, 2008. "On behalf of Judicial Watch and its supporters, I hereby request that the FEC investigate the matter." -- Judicial Watch Calls on FEC to Investigate McCain Presidential Fundraising Luncheon Held in London: Financial News - Yahoo! Finance

Alabama: Homewood mayor gives McCain 80% discount on city meeting space

The Birmingham News reports: Republican presidential candidate John McCain got a deal when his campaign rented gathering space from the city of Homewood for a private fundraiser earlier this week.

His campaign was given a discount of about 80 percent off the standard booking rate for Rosewood Hall. In September, Jefferson County Democrats rented the same facility and were charged the full rate.

The McCain campaign was charged $250 to use two rooms in the hall, which normally would book for $1,200 on a weeknight. The campaign also was given free labor from Homewood City Jail inmates to set up tables and chairs for the event, avoiding a $100 set-up fee, but did pay a standard $50 cleaning fee.

Homewood Mayor Barry McCulley said the rental rate was discounted because the event was on Monday, a slow day for business. City Council members say they always vote on such discounts but didn't get a say in this deal. They're upset, as are local Democrats. -- McCain campaign gets almost 80% off on Homewood gathering space, plus free labor from Homewood Jail inmates - al.com

April 22, 2008

Pennsylvania: polls will close on time, judge rules

Philly.com reports: Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Ramy Djerassi has rejected a request to extend Philadelphia poll hours to 10 p.m., and to distribute emergency paper ballots to all precincts where there have been reports of broken voting machines. -- Judge: Polls Will Close As Scheduled | Philly | 04/22/2008

Voter Action, a national voter rights group, has asked a Philadelphia judge to extend voting hours tonight until 10 p.m., and to use paper ballots at all voting places where broken machines have been reported. The city's Board of Elections seems certain to object. The hearing is expected to begin momentarily. -- Voter Group Requests Extended Poll Hours

Alabama: $40,000 for "exclusive" donor events

The Mobile Press-Register reports: At least 86 individuals will enjoy access to Alabama Gov. Bob Riley, thanks to their pledges of $40,000 each to a Republican fundraising committee designed to gain control of the Legislature. The state GOP says it won t release their names until January, when campaign finance reports are due.

Alabama Republican Party Executive Director John Ross also said the party would not specifically identify donors to the Governor s Circle on the party s report.

Members of the Circle have pledged $10,000 a year over the next four years as part of the fundraising program called Campaign 2010. In return, the donors have been promised access to exclusive events and conference calls with Riley. ...

State law does not require the disclosure of donors until the January reports, and neither Democrats nor Republicans are known to disclose donors before legal requirements kick in. -- Donors in Riley s Circle kept under wraps- al.com

April 21, 2008

Davis' challenge to "Millionaire's Amendment"

The Washington Post reports: Wealthy, self-financed congressional candidate Jack Davis says the McCain-Feingold Act s Millionaire s Amendment, which raises the contribution limits for opponents of wealthy, self-financed candidates, is not only unfair but also unconstitutional, and his lawyers will try to persuade the Supreme Court of that tomorrow.

The provision violates his rights under the First and Fifth amendments, gives an advantage to his opponent and imposes reporting requirements that force him to reveal his campaign strategy, says Davis, an industrialist who unsuccessfuly ran for Congress as a Democrat in 2004 and 2006.

But that hardly means he has tired of trying. He announced last week that he will again run for the western New York seat of Rep. Thomas M. Reynolds R , who is departing the House. This time Davis, 75, is pledging to spend $3 million of his money on the effort.

That would bring to about $7 million the amount Davis has spent trying to be elected to Congress -- a total that might serve as Exhibit A in Congress s defense of the law, which was passed to combat the impression that congressional seats can be bought. -- Justices to Hear Challenge of Law That Affects Self-Funded Candidates - washingtonpost.com

April 20, 2008

Alabama: Joe Mallisham, RIP

The Tuscaloosa News reports: Joe Mallisham, a pioneering civil rights leader and former Tuscaloosa County commissioner, died Tuesday. He was 79.

Raised by his father, the Rev. L.S. Mallisham, on the Bible, Shakespeare and history books, and as a member of the U.S. Army and a participant in the Korean War, Mallisham was never one to accept injustice where he saw it, his friends and relatives said Tuesday. ...

Mallisham returned from Korea in the early 1950s, and, facing the racism in Tuscaloosa that he had almost forgotten, he helped form the county’s chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, founded by young Montgomery preacher Martin Luther King Jr., Williams said. ...

For years, Mallisham was also the local president of the Alabama Democratic Conference. When the Alabama Legislature changed the manner in which county commissioners were elected, from an at-large, countywide basis, to a district system, he became the first black to serve on the commission — and only the second black to be elected to any office in the county — since Reconstruction. -- Pioneering civic leader Joe Mallisham dead at 79 | TuscaloosaNews.com

McCain using "hybrid legal structure" to raise more money

The WSJ's Washington Wire blog reports: To help ease their fund-raising woes, John McCain’s campaign has devised a new system to increase the maximum amount an individual can donate to the unofficial Republican nominee’s election efforts.

Campaign manager Rick Davis released the details of the “McCain Victory 08” fund on Friday. He said the entity is a joint committee, combining the McCain campaign, the Republican National Committee and four key states under a “hybrid legal structure.”

The idea is to tap donors for more than the $2,300 limit set by campaign finance laws. Under legislation pushed by McCain in his role as a senator from Arizona, an individual can donate a maximum of $2,300 to a presidential primary campaign and the same amount to the general election campaign. Although McCain received the number of delegates necessary to secure the nomination in March, he will not be the party’s official nominee until the convention in September—so he is still running a primary campaign.

The new structure allows up to $70,000 in individual contributions by channeling the money into different McCain-centric funds. The first $2,300 of that would go to McCain’s primary campaign. The Republican National Committee would receive $28,500 of the donation. The remaining funds would be divided equally, up to $10,000 a piece, among four states the campaign has designated as battlegrounds for November: Wisconsin, Minnesota, Colorado and New Mexico. --
Washington Wire - WSJ.com : New McCain Fund Gets Around Donation Limits

Hat tip to Daily Kos.

April 17, 2008

New Jersey: Andrews sues for proper ballot position

Politiker NJ reports: Rob Andrews wants to render Frank Lautenberg’s county line advantage obsolete.

Andrews announced today that he’s filing suit against 13 mostly northern county clerks to seek a “fair and open Democratic primary” that requires county clerks give “fair and equal” ballot position to both U.S. Senate candidates at the State Superior Court. The challenge was first reported on the liberal Web site Blue Jersey.

While Andrews has the county line in seven southern counties, Lautenberg has the line in the 12 other counties that award it -- a big advantage in a primary with an expected low turnout.

Andrews cited a state statute, N.J.S.A. 19:23-26.1, that says primary candidates for Senate or Governor must appear in the first column and apart from candidates for lower offices. -- Andrews sues for an open primary | Politicker NJ

Maryland: legislation moves special for 4th CD

CQ Politics reports: A special election to fill a pending vacancy in Maryland’s 4th Congressional District will be held June 17 under legislation, signed Thursday afternoon by Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley, that allows a speedier schedule than usually allowed under state election statutes. The law, tailored to be effective only for this contest, will allow Maryland officials to skip a step in the state’s special election process following the upcoming resignation of eight-term Democratic Rep. Albert R. Wynn .

O’Malley, in a statement released Thursday announcing his signing of the bill, said he would issue a proclamation Friday establishing June 17, a Tuesday, as the special election date. That date would conform to the procedure embodied in the new law.

The law authorizes O’Malley to issue a proclamation, setting the special general election date, within 10 days after the date that “an office of representative in Congress becomes vacant or the governor accepts a written notice from the representative announcing a future date of resignation.” The date would have to fall between 36 days and 60 days after the notification, which he received from Wynn last week. The law also requires O’Malley to set deadlines for the candidates nominated by their parties to qualify for the ballot. ...

District Republicans are likely to opt for Peter James, a technology consultant who won the Feb. 12 GOP primary to face Edwards in the November election. James, though, has said he might sue to block the new law, charging that district residents’ right to choose party nominees in a primary is being abridged and that the legislation creates a short time frame that would restrict the ability of third-party candidates to gather enough signatures to qualify for the special election ballot.

The law allows the Democratic and Republican central committees in each of the two counties to recommend candidates to run as the parties’ nominees in the special election. A candidate is automatically nominated if both counties agree on their choice. If not, then the party’s state central committee would make the final decision. --
CQ Politics | Maryland House Special Election to be Held June 17

Alabama: federal court grants 1 more month of a free pass on VRA violation (court docs attached)

The Birmingham News reports:
A panel of three federal judges granted Gov. Bob Riley s request Wednesday to extend George Bowman s tenure as a Jefferson County commissioner, but not for as long as the governor wanted.

Riley now has until May 19 to get clearance from the U.S. Department of Justice for his appointment of Bowman to the District 1 vacancy on the County Commission. ...

Last week Riley asked the federal panel to extend its deadline until after the U.S. Supreme Court and Alabama Supreme Court decide separate cases challenging the governor's contention that only he has the authority to fill vacancies when commissioners leave office early.

In Wednesday's order, the judges denied Riley that much time, but said a shorter extension is reasonable. -- George Bowman gets one-month extension as Jefferson County commissioner- al.com

Note and Disclosure: I am one of the attorneys for the plaintiff. The order is
here.

April 16, 2008

Pennsylvania: Provisional ballots

NPR's Morning Edition reports: With lots of new voters showing up at the polls for this year s primaries, election officials are also seeing many problems. Some people are going to the wrong polling sites; others can t find their NAMEs on voter registration lists. Still others don t have the proper ID. The fallback for these voters is often something called a provisional ballot. But those votes do not always count.

Cecilia Martinez is executive director of The Reform Institute, a non-profit group that helps operate a national voter assistance hotline, 866-MyVote1. The hotline has received thousands of calls so far this year from voters. Many are trying to find out where they are supposed to go vote. But Martinez says many others have encountered problems.

Oftentimes what happens is when a voter goes to the polls, and they have registered, but they for whatever reason are not listed on the registration rolls, they are supposed to be voting provisional. That s sort of the backup plan, she says. -- Pa. Officials Pin Hopes on Provisional Ballots : NPR

April 15, 2008

FEC nominee Lenhard withdraws

The Washington Post reports: A Democratic nominee to the Federal Election Commission yesterday withdrew his name for consideration, choosing private-sector work rather than waiting out a confirmation impasse between Senate Democrats and President Bush that has hobbled the agency.

Robert Lenhard, whose two-year recess appointment to the commission expired in December, accepted a position with the law firm Covington & Burling. Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said it would take "at least several months" to offer up a replacement nominee, meaning the electoral watchdog commission will remain at gridlock most of the campaign season. -- FEC Nominee Withdraws Name After Long Impasse - washingtonpost.com

Judicial Watch files FEC complaint against Clinton over Elton John concert

Judicial Watch has requested that the FEC investigate the Elton John concert-fundraiser for the Clinton Campaign. The problem is that Elton John is not an American citizen. -- Judicial Watch complaint

April 14, 2008

Idaho: GOP files suit against open primary system (court docs linked)

Update: Steve Rankin has sent me a link to the complaint.

Free Citizen blog reports: In an open primary, a party's primary ballot is available to any voter who wants it. There are two types of open primaries: Mississippi is one of the 13 states with "open primary, public record," meaning that each primary voter's choice of party is publicly recorded. Idaho, in contrast, is one of the eight states with "open primary, private choice": each primary voter picks a party in secret, and no record is made of this choice. ...

The recently-ended session of the heavily-Republican Idaho legislature failed to pass legislation modifying the primary election law. The Senate did pass a bill, 20-15, to switch to "open primary, public record," but the House refused to consider it. The Republican governor opposes changing the primary setup, as the state GOP chairman also steadfastly has. The chairman is up for re-election at the state convention in June, and he may have a contest from former state Sen. Rod Beck, who has spearheaded the efforts to change the primary election law.

Late Friday, the Republican Party filed a new federal lawsuit against the state-mandated open primary. The Idaho GOP will be able to cite U. S. District Judge Allen Pepper's 2007 ruling that Mississippi's open primary law is unconstitutional. If the 5th U. S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans agrees with Pepper, the Idaho Republicans will also be able to cite that decision. Mississippi Democratic Party v. Barbour. -- Free Citizen: Idaho Republicans Again Challenge Open Primary Law

DNC will sue FEC today over McCain (court docs linked)

Update: The suit has been filed and the complaint is available here.

UPI reports: The Democratic National Committee wants to get its dispute with John McCain s campaign on public financing into the U.S. courts, party officials said.

The committee plans to file suit Monday, asking the U.S. District Court in Washington to order the Federal Election Commission to investigate McCain s decision to reject public financing for the primary, The New York Times reported.

The six-member commission has four vacancies and is unable to take any action because it cannot meet with a quorum. The Democratic majority in Congress has objected to some of President George W. Bush s reappointments. -- Democrats want to sue McCain over loan - UPI.com

Dept of Expected Results: Why primaries are good for demoncracy

The Washington Post reports: If this were Britain, Russia or India, Rudy Giuliani '08 caps would not be on the clearance racks. In those countries, where bigwigs and insiders get to nominate party leaders, the former Republican front-runner and establishment favorite would have long ago been anointed the winner.

Giuliani's inglorious fall, and the ascendance of Sens. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.), send an important message to the world about the importance of intra-party democracy: Interesting things happen when you allow rank-and-file voters to choose their leaders. Primaries don't just eliminate over-hyped Giulianis; they also discover underrated Obamas and never-say-die McCains.

"Barack Obama is Exhibit A about the value of holding primaries," said James Adams, a political scientist at the University of California at Davis, who studies how political parties around the world choose leaders. "A lot of Democratic Party elites did not know what a good campaigner he was or would prove to be. Candidates like Fred Thompson and Rudy Giuliani may be Exhibit B about the value of holding primaries, in that they proved less appealing than their press clippings would have suggested."

If the eyes of the world are glued on the U.S. presidential primaries, the most important lesson others take away might have to do with the importance of having such races in the first place. New research by Adams and others shows that primaries are the most efficient way to discover political phenoms such as Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton -- politicians who might never have been chosen if it had been left up to party insiders. -- Shankar Vedantam - Lost in the Smoke-Filled Room: Unexpected Talent - washingtonpost.com

April 12, 2008

"Scotland on Sunday": "Carter and Gore to end Clinton bid"

Scotland on Sunday reports: DEMOCRAT grandees Jimmy Carter and Al Gore are being lined-up to deliver the coup de grâce to Hillary Clinton and end her campaign to become president.
Falling poll numbers and a string of high-profile blunders have convinced party elders that she must now bow out of the primary race.

Former president Carter and former vice-president Gore have already held high-level discussions about delivering the message that she must stand down for the good of the Democrats.

"They're in discussions," a source close to Carter told Scotland on Sunday. "Carter has been talking to Gore. They will act, possibly together, or in sequence."

An appeal by both men for Democrats to unite behind Clinton's rival, Barack Obama, would have a powerful effect, and insiders say it is a question of when, rather than if, they act. --
It s Obama, stupid: Carter and Gore to end Clinton bid - Scotland on Sunday

Conservative 527 group fails to live up to its expectations

The New York Times reports: The conservative group Freedom’s Watch, headlined by two former senior White House officials, had been expected to be a deep-pocketed juggernaut in this year’s presidential election, heralded by supporters on the right as an aggressive counterweight to MoveOn.org, George Soros and the like.

But after a splashy debut last summer, in which it spent $15 million in a nationwide advertising blitz supporting President Bush’s troop escalation in Iraq, the group has been mostly quiet, beset by internal problems that have paralyzed it and raised questions about what kind of role, if any, it will actually play this fall. ...

Independent groups not constrained by the limits placed on campaign contributions to candidates and parties have increasingly become major players in races for federal offices. Those known as 527s, named for the section in the tax code they fall under, raised more than $400 million in the 2004 election cycle alone, according to the Campaign Finance Institute. Such efforts could be especially beneficial for Mr. McCain, who has badly trailed his Democratic counterparts in fund-raising. ...

Although the organization was founded by a coterie of prominent conservative donors last year, the roughly $30 million the group has spent so far has come almost entirely from the casino mogul Sheldon G. Adelson, the chairman and chief executive of the Sands Corporation, who was recently listed as the third-richest person in the country by Forbes magazine.

Mr. Adelson has insisted on parceling out his money project by project, as opposed to setting an overall budget, limiting the group’s ability to plan and be nimble, the Republican operatives said. Mr. Adelson, who has a reputation for being combative, has rejected almost all of the staff’s proposals that have been brought to him, leaving the organization moribund for long stretches, the operatives said. -- Great Expectations for a Conservative Group Seem All but Dashed

Is Catalist an end-run around campaign finance laws?

The New York Times reports: [Harold Ickes] is president of Catalist, a for-profit databank that has sold its voter files to the Obama and the Clinton presidential campaigns for their get-out-the-vote efforts. With his equity stake in the firm, Mr. Ickes stands to benefit financially no matter which candidate becomes the Democratic nominee.

In creating Catalist, Mr. Ickes, who was deputy chief of staff in the Clinton White House, has formed a rare entity on the political scene, a for-profit limited-liability corporation that allows wealthy Democratic donors to help progressive organizations and candidates by investing in the company. And if Catalist, which has data on 230 million Americans, is successful as a business, these donors-turned-investors stand to reap financial returns from using their money to help elect Democrats.

But some campaign finance watchdogs say they wonder whether Catalist was established not so much to make money but to find a creative way to allow big-money liberal donors to influence the election without disclosing the degree of their involvement or being subjected to other rules that would govern spending by an explicitly political organization.

Catalist has raised over $11 million in venture capital, including more than $1 million from the billionaire financier George Soros, according to his aides. It also counts on such large unions as the Service Employees International Union and the A.F.L.-C.I.O., to buy its products and create revenues. And it plans to be the go-to source for voter data for a broad swath of groups often aligned with Democrats — like the Sierra Club, Emily’s List and Clean Water Action — as they embark on ambitious get-out-the vote efforts this fall. -- Clinton Aide’s Databank Venture Breaks Ground in Politicking

April 11, 2008

West Virginia: arguments in case strict disclosure requirements for political ads

The Charleston Gazette reports: Anonymous advertising in West Virginia political campaigns would open the door for a repeat of the 2004 Supreme Court race, where voters did not learn until later who was spending millions of dollars on behalf of candidates, several lawyers told a federal judge Wednesday.

But the Center for Individual Freedom argued that West Virginia s election laws - which require the group to disclose its donors if it buys political advertising - violate its free speech rights under the First Amendment.

The Virginia-based organization asked U.S. District Judge David A. Faber to grant it an injunction allowing it to advertise in the upcoming state Supreme Court election without disclosing its spending or its donors. The state s primary election is May 13.

Last month, the center filed a lawsuit against the state s top election official, Secretary of State Betty Ireland. Mercer County Prosecuting Attorney Timothy Boggess was also NAMEd in the suit as a representative of all the state s prosecutors.

Three of the four Democratic candidates for state Supreme Court have joined in fighting the injunction, as have the West Virginia AFL-CIO, the state Education Association, the Council of Churches and other groups. -- Lawyers argue over rules for political ads

Arizona: appeals court upholds legislative districting plan

The Arizona Republic reports: The boundaries of the state s legislative districts for this fall s elections will remain the same as they have been for the past three years.

That s the immediate impact of a state Court of Appeals ruling handed down Thursday in a redistricting dispute.

And it could spell the end of the seven-year legal battle, since any continued fight would only affect legislative elections in 2010. After that, a new census is taken and new lines are drawn.

The court rejected an appeal from a coalition of Latinos and Democrats who claimed the map outlining Arizona s 30 legislative districts was drawn without consideration of the districts competitiveness. -- State s legislative-district boundaries to remain same

The court's opinion is on its website, Arizona Minority Coalition v. Arizona IRC, CA-CV 07-0301.

April 10, 2008

Iowa: charge that Fallon's business is financing his campaign

The Courier reports: A state senator has filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission, arguing congressional candidate Ed Fallon is using his for-profit business to assist his bid for office.

State Sen. Dick Dearden, the Des Moines Democrat who is making the complaint, is backing U.S. Rep. Leonard Boswell, who is facing Fallon in the 3rd District Democratic primary. ...

During Fallon s time as a state legislator and his run for governor in 2006, he was a strong advocate for reducing the influence of money in politics.

But Dearden said Fallon s business, I m for Iowa, raises and spends money without having to disclose it.

Dearden also says the group s Web site is being used to further Fallon s campaign. -- Complaint filed against congressional candidate

Mississippi: blacks' suit wants students excluded from Hattiesburg district numbers

The Hattiesburg American reports: A decision on whether Hattiesburg s City Council wards should be redrawn now rests with U.S. District Judge Keith Starrett.

The trial of a 2006 lawsuit against the city ended Wednesday with the city s attorneys not calling any witnesses.

Starrett did not provide a date for a decision but gave attorneys for both sides 30 days to submit written arguments. The plaintiffs attorney is Ellis Turnage; representing the city is Jerry Mills. ...

The group of black residents who filed the lawsuit want Starrett to eliminate college students from the mix and redistrict the city in accordance with 2006 data that suggest blacks would comprise at least 55 percent of the total voting age population when transient students are excluded.

The lawsuit says the City Council unfairly included more than 3,000 transient University of Southern Mississippi students in the equation used to draw Hattiesburg s 2002 redistricting plan.

They argue that including the students in the city s voting age population dilutes the strength of black voters. -- Hattiesburg American - www.hattiesburgamerican.com - Hattiesburg, Miss.

The complaint can be downloaded here.

Alabama: Governor asks for stay pending appeal in Jefferson County case (court documents attached)

The Birmingham News reports: Gov. Bob Riley asked a panel of federal judges Tuesday to grant Jefferson County Commissioner George Bowman more time in office while other courts decide legal disputes over who fills county commission vacancies.

Cases are pending before the Alabama Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court over whether the new commissioner should be chosen by the governor or elected by voters.

Riley appointed Bowman in November to the District 1 seat on the Jefferson County Commission, after Larry Langford resigned to become Birmingham s mayor. -- Alabama Gov. Bob Riley asks for extension to keep Jefferson County Commission seat filled as courts rule- al.com

Note and disclosure: I am one of the counsel for the plaintiff in this case. Governor Riley's motion is here.

Public financing -- Obama maybe no, McCain maybe yes

The New York Times reports: Senators Barack Obama and John McCain are beginning to lay the groundwork for divergent ways of financing fall campaigns for the presidency.

Mr. Obama, who has shattered fund-raising records for candidates of either party, is sending fresh signals that he may bypass public financing for the general election. He argues that his small contributors, many of whom have given again and again over the Internet, have injected a new democracy into fund-raising, with the result that a kind of “parallel public financing system” has been created.

Mr. McCain, conversely, increasingly offers indications that he will partake in public financing, a decision that would bar him from accepting private donations for the fall and limit his general spending to the $84.1 million that the Treasury would provide. His campaign recently began returning contributions that had been designated for the general election, asking the donors instead to contribute to a special fund, not subject to the public financing limits, for legal and accounting costs in the fall campaign.

In a comment at a fund-raiser Tuesday night, Mr. Obama appeared to be offering a hint at how he could back away from a pledge he made last year to accept public financing if the Republican nominee did the same. The remark set off a debate Wednesday, with the McCain campaign accusing Mr. Obama of flirting with reneging, and the Obama campaign responding assertively. -- Public Financing? Obama and McCain Appear Split - New York Times

April 9, 2008

Colorado: CREW files complaint against U.S. Term Limits for pro-Schaffer ad

The Rocky Mountain News reports: A Washington, D.C.-based group has filed an elections complaint over an ad where school children repeatedly thank U.S. Senate candidate Bob Schaffer for his commitment to charter schools.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington says the ad violated election laws in two ways.

The spot was paid for by U.S. Term Limits, a Virginia group, to thank Schaffer for keeping his pledge to serve only three terms in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Schaffer, a Fort Collins Republican, left office in 2002. He faces U.S. Rep. Mark Udall, D-Eldorado Springs, in the U.S. Senate race.

CREW noted that a written disclaimer at the end of the ad says U.S. Term Limits does not endorse candidates for public office. But when the group posted the ad on YouTube.com, it labeled the spot Bob Schaffer for Senate video. -- Pro-Schaffer ad draws complaint : Elections : The Rocky Mountain News

April 8, 2008

Ohio: Elections commission fines PAC $5.2 million for illegal transfer

AP reports: The Ohio Elections Commission has levied a record $5.2 million fine against a political action committee headed by former Michigan Republican Chairwoman Betsy DeVos that supports candidates who favor school choice.

All Children Matter s political action committee in Virginia sent $870,000 to its PAC in Ohio for the 2006 election cycle. The contribution was illegal because All Children Matter s Virginia PAC wasn t registered in Ohio, said Philip Richter, the commission s executive director.

Former Michigan gubernatorial candidate Dick DeVos, Betsy s husband, set up All Children Matter in 2003 to promote efforts in other states to push vouchers and tax credits for businesses that create scholarships for children to attend private schools. ...

The bipartisan Ohio Elections Commission voted 5-0 Thursday to fine each of the two PACs $2.6 million, or three times the amount of the contribution.

It's easily the largest fine the Ohio commission has levied.

All Children Matter attorney Bill Todd said Ohio law allows PACs affiliated with each other to make unlimited money transfers. The group will appeal the ruling in Franklin County Common Pleas Court. -- DeVos PAC fined record $5.2 million by Ohio elections board - Latest News - The Grand Rapids Press - MLive.com

April 7, 2008

Florida: "Without Walls" church staffers may have been directed to contribute to Crist's 2006 campaign

The St. Petersburg Times reports: Staff members of Tampa Bay s largest church were directed two years ago to make $500 contributions to the campaign of Gov. Charlie Crist, a television network has charged.

The church denies the allegation.

MSNBC, in a report posted on its Web site this week, said it obtained an e-mail in which a staff member of Without Walls International Church wrote to others: I need each of your checks for $500 made payable to: Charlie Crist for Governor. I need to send these our sic tonight.

Tax-exempt churches are banned by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service from supporting candidates for public office.

A roster of Crist contributors includes a $500 contribution on Feb. 2, 2006, from Marisol Mendoza, assistant to Pastor Randy White of Without Walls. Crist received simultaneous $500 contributions, the maximum allowed in Florida, from three Tampa Bay area residents whose terse descriptions of their occupations appeared to link them to Randy or Paula White, who was his wife and co-pastor then. -- Religion: Were Crist campaign donations coerced?

Overseas voting: new website aims to make it easier

Stars and Stripes reports: A new Web site unveiled last week will give overseas military voters a one-stop site for voter registration, ballot requests and other election-related needs.

Organizers with the Overseas Vote Foundation, a nonpartisan voter advocacy group, unveiled the site — https://military.overseasvotefoundation.org — during the foundation’s second annual overseas voting summit Friday in Munich.

Using drop-down navigation menus divided by state, the site features election official directories, a voter help desk, state-specific information and write-in ballot services.

After military personnel or their eligible family members choose a state, the system prompts the user for the information required to register there, according to a news release. Billed as an alternative to voters navigating bulky and confusing regulations on their own, the site features safeguards to ensure forms are filled out correctly and legibly for stateside election officials, the release stated.

Once a voter fills in their information, the site generates a PDF file with the address of the voter’s county election office. Users print it out, sign it and throw it in the mail. -- Stars and Stripes: Web site aims to make absentee voting easier

Alabama: John Tanner working in Alabama now

AP reports: The former chief of the Justice Department's Voting Rights Section, who stepped aside in December after apologizing for remarks about minority voters, is now working on election-related issues for the Alabama Law Institute.

John Tanner, who is being paid by the Justice Department under a federal program, also will teach at two Alabama law schools.

The law institute's president, Alabama House Speaker Pro Tem Demetrius Newton, said he personally contacted Tanner when he heard the long-time voting rights specialist wanted some time away from Washington. At the institute, a part of the University of Alabama, Tanner's work includes developing handbooks for public officials on getting Justice Department approval of election-law changes. ...

He will also teach about election law in the fall at Alabama's law school and then in the spring at Samford University's law school, McCurley said.

Tanner said Justice Department policy limits what he can say publicly.

But he is participating in the federal government's program to loan personnel to other government agencies. The Justice Department is paying Tanner's salary and benefits to be in Alabama through next spring. "It's not costing me anything," McCurley said. -- Justice's former voting rights chief now in Alabama

April 4, 2008

Indiana: Terre Haute mayoral election approved even though winning candidate was violating Hatch Act

The Tribune Star reports: The battle for Terre Haute City Hall continues with the latest shots coming from Mayor Duke Bennett’s legal team.

Lawyers for Bennett filed a new appeal with the Indiana Court of Appeals this week asking the court to overturn Vigo Circuit Court Judge David Bolk’s Dec. 21 ruling that Bennett was subject to the Hatch Act while he was running for mayor.

Former Mayor Kevin Burke, who lost the Nov. 6 election to Bennett by 110 votes, earlier had appealed another part of Bolk’s ruling. Burke appealed the part that allowed Bennett to take office because he was no longer in violation of the Hatch Act when he took office on Jan. 1. ...

Burke contended that Bennett should not have been eligible to run for mayor because he worked as director of operations at the Hamilton Center, a not-for-profit mental health organization that receives federal funding through its Head Start program. The Hatch Act is a federal law that limits the political activity of employees of some not-for-profits that receive federal money.

In December, Bolk ruled Bennett was indeed subject to the Hatch Act; however, Bolk also ruled that Bennett would no longer be in violation of the Act when he took office as mayor. As a result, Bennett took office as mayor. In his ruling, Bolk also noted other avenues had existed for challenging Bennett’s candidacy before Election Day. -- Bennett’s lawyers file new Hatch ruling appeal

Cherokee Nation: CBC threatens housing funding over exclusion of Freedmen

The Hill reports: Members of the Congressional Black Caucus have promised Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid D-Nev. that they will try to block a Native American housing assistance bill if the measure does not include language that prevents the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma from receiving any of the benefits.

The House included such a prohibition in its Indian housing assistance bill passed in September. But the Senate version does not include similar language. ...

The dispute between the CBC and the Cherokee Nation arose last year after the tribe amended its constitution to exclude the Freedmen — a group of freed slaves who have been members since the Civil-War era – from tribal membership. Black lawmakers have charged the tribe is ignoring the Treaty of 1886, an agreement the Cherokees signed with the U.S. government that gave tribal citizenship to the Freedmen. ...

Cherokee leaders argue that as a sovereign nation they have a right to amend their own constitution. -- TheHill.com - CBC warns Reid on Cherokee funds

What we lost 40 years ago

Martin Luther King Jr, leaning on a podium
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., 1964, (Picture credit: Library of Congress via Wikimedia Commons)

April 3, 2008

"The Irony of Judicial Elections"

Introduction to The Irony of Judicial Elections by David E. Pozen in Columbia Law Review: Judicial elections in the United States have undergone a dramatic transformation. For more than a century, these state and local elections were relatively dignified, low-key affairs. Campaigning was minimal; incumbents almost always won; few people voted or cared. Over the past quarter century and especially the past decade, however, a rise in campaign spending, interest group involvement, and political speech has disturbed the traditional paradigm. In the “new era,” as commentators have dubbed it, judicial races routinely feature intense competition, broad public participation, and high salience. This Article takes the new era as an opportunity to advance our understanding of elective versus nonelective judiciaries. In revisiting this classic debate, the Article aims to make three main contributions. First, it offers an analytic taxonomy of the arguments for and against electing judges that seeks to distinguish the central normative concerns from the more contingent, empirical ones. Second, applying this taxonomy, the Article shows how both the costs and the benefits of elective judiciaries have been enhanced by recent developments, leaving the two sides of the debate further apart than ever. Finally, the Article explores several deep ironies that emerge from this cleavage. Underlying these ironies is a common insight: As judicial elections achieve greater legitimacy as elections, they will increasingly undermine the judiciary’s distinctive role and our broader democratic processes. There is an underappreciated tradeoff between the health of judicial elections and the health of the judiciary, the Article posits, that can help recast the controversy over the new era. -- Columbia Law Review

Maine: Senate passes National Popular Vote bill

PolitickerME.com reports: The state Senate passed a bill Wednesday allowing Maine to participate in the National Popular Vote interstate compact. The bill will next go before the House for consideration.

The Senate was deadlocked over the bill, voting 17 to 17 in early March. Proponents of the bill vowed to lobby heavily until the tie could be broken.

It was a partisan divide, Democrats for and Republicans against, with the exception of Sen. Bill Diamond, D-Windham, who had voted against it.

The bill was able to pass today when Sen. Peter Mills, R-Cornville, jumped ship and voted with the Democrats, for an 18 to 17 final tally. -- Senate approves National Popular Vote initiative | Politicker ME

Maryland: Governor asks Legislature to skip primaries for Wynn vacancy

PolitickerMD reports: Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Mechanicsville) both expressed support today for Gov. Martin O’Malley’s proposal to bypass a special primary election and hold a special general election in Maryland’s 4th Congressional District.

Leggett’s spokesman Patrick Lacefield said, “He’s in support of Governor O’Malley’s proposal.”

Stephanie Lundberg, Hoyer’s press secretary, told PolitickerMD.com, “Congressman Hoyer believes there is potential for this proposal to have the dual positives of seating a new representative in the current Congress and saving on the additional expense of a special primary election.” ...

O’Malley will ask the General Assembly to amend the state code or grant a special order allowing for the special general election to be held without the primary.

The governor’s decision came less than a week after Rep. Al Wynn (D-Mitchellville) announced that he would resign in June, leaving the House of Representatives seven months before the end of his term. -- Leggett and Hoyer express confidence in 4th District special election proposal | Politicker MD

Kansas: Voter I.D. bill in conference committee

Harris News Service reports: Democratic and Republican negotiators clashed Wednesday over how strict to make legislation requiring most voters under age 65 to show photo identification to cast a ballot.

A conference committee of six lawmakers, three from each the House and Senate, have started discussing what elements to include in a compromise bill designed to pass both legislative chambers.

Each body has passed its own legislation enacting a photo ID requirement but the Senate s proposal is more stringent than the House-backed measure that passed last week.

The two Democrats on the panel, though, suggested that Gov. Kathleen Sebelius was likely to veto either measure. They urged Republican negotiators to proceed with what they say are less onerous ID requirements that have a better chance of becoming law. -- Hutchinson News Online

Iowa: judge enjoins Sec of State over English-only law

The Des Moines Register reports: A Polk County District Court judge has ordered Iowa Secretary of State Michael Mauro to stop using languages other than English in the state’s official voter registration forms.

Judge Douglas Staskal ruled in favor of U.S. Rep. Steve King, an Iowa Republican, who sued state officials last year, contending they were violating the state’s English-language law. He brought the suit against Gov. Chet Culver, who previously served as secretary of state, and Mauro, contending they had placed illegal voting forms on the secretary of state’s Web site.

The dispute began shortly before Election Day in 2006, when King demanded that Culver remove voting information in languages other than English from the Web site. The site offered information in Spanish, Laotian, Bosnian and Vietnamese.

Non-English voter forms were removed from the the state's Web site late Thursday afternoon.

King, a former state senator, said the materials were illegal because under an English-language law authored by King and signed by Democratic Gov. Tom Vilsack in 2002, all official government communications must be in English. -- Judge: Iowa voting forms violate official English law | DesMoinesRegister.com | The Des Moines Register

Florida: 11th Circuit reverses injunction on new registration law

In Florida State Conference of the NAACP v. Browning, the 11th Circuit has reversed the injunction against Florida's voter registration law. Here is the opening paragraph of the decision:

This is an appeal of a preliminary injunction barring enforcement of a Florida voter registration statute as being preempted by two different federal statutes. The state law would require as a precondition of registering to vote for the first time in Florida that the voter disclose her driver’s license number or the last four digits of her Social Security number on the registration application, and that this number match up with the number for this voter contained in the state driver’s license database or the Social Security Administration’s database, respectively. The district court held that plaintiffs, several organizations representing the interests of minority communities in Florida, had standing to challenge the statute, would likely succeed at trial on the merits of their claim that federal law preempts the enforcement of the state law, and would suffer irreparable injury absent provisional relief. Accordingly, the court preliminarily enjoined the enforcement of the state statute. We affirm the district court’s decision on plaintiffs’ standing to prosecute this action and reverse its decision granting the preliminary injunction.