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

« April 2008 | Main | June 2008 »

May 31, 2008

Alabama: roundup of blog commentary on Riley v. Kennedy

Janai Nelson, "Chipping Away at the VRA One Court Decision at a Time," Talking Justice

Anita S. Krishnakumar, "The 'Mischief Rule' Rule and the VRA in Riley v. Kennedy," Concurring Opinions

Lee P, " U.S. Supreme Court vindicates Riley, King," A Bama Blog

Will Bardwell, " Not-So-Educated-After-All Thoughts On Riley v. Kennedy," WillBardwell.com

Rick Hills, "Civil Rights Lawyers' Ignorance of Local Government Law," Prawfsblawg plus comments by Sam Heldman

Florida, Michigan: if you think your vote won't count, you are less likely to vote

TPM Election Central reports: As the DNC prepares to decide the fates of the Florida and Michigan delegations tomorrow, a key question has to be asked: Did those rogue primaries truly reflect the will of their states Democratic voters?

The case against that proposition, it turns out, is a fairly compelling one in statistical terms.

Here s why: If you take a close look at the numbers, it turns out that while the Florida primary turnout was high relative to past primaries within the state, the relative Democratic turnout vs. the Republican primary lagged way behind relative party turnout in other primaries and caucuses across the country, where the voting counted from the start. And in Michigan in particular, the voting level there was simply abysmal.

This suggests the possibility that far more Democratic voters would have come out in both states if they d expected the contests to count, meaning that it s hard to argue that the primaries that actually took place really reflected the will of the people. -- TPM Election Central | Talking Points Memo | Do Florida And Michigan Primaries Really Reflect The Will Of The People? Nope.

Texas: NAMUDNO loses on challenge to Sec. 5 of Voting Rights Act

The New York Times reports: A special three-judge court ruled Friday that Congress acted constitutionally when it extended the law requiring sections of the country with a history of racial discrimination to get federal approval for any changes in voting procedures.

The unanimous decision upheld a central provision of the Voting Rights Act, which Congress initially passed in 1965 and has extended several times since, most recently for 25 years in 2006. Section 5 of the law prohibits several states, mostly in the South, and some local government agencies from changing their election practices without permission from the Justice Department or the courts.

Each renewal of the law has been followed by a legal challenge from some state or local agency to this “preclearance” requirement. The latest challenge was undertaken by the board of a public utility near Austin, Tex., which said the requirement conferred a “badge of shame” over “conditions that existed 30 or more years ago but have long since been remedied.”

The Northwest Austin Utility District argued that Congress lacked sufficient evidence of racial discrimination to justify the intrusion on state sovereignty. -- Court Upholds Key Provision of the Voting Rights Act

The opinion is available here.

May 30, 2008

Alabama: summary of Riley v. Kennedy opinion

Thomas Haymore writes on SCOTUSblog: With a “preclearance” mechanism requiring Justice Department approval before a state may “enact or seek to administer” any changes in “any voting qualification or prerequisite to voting, or standard, practice, or procedure with respect to voting,” Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act has generated its fair share of public debate and legal challenge. In a carefully worded and consciously narrow opinion, the Court this week in Riley v. Kennedy, by a 7-2 vote, carved out an exemption from § 5 coverage, although the technicalities of the fact-specific ruling limit the reach of the opinion. -- Opinion Recap: Riley v. Kennedy

Georgia: Dems sue over voter I.D. law

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports: Despite a recent ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court upholding the constitutionality of requiring voters to produce state-issued picture IDs at the polls, the Democratic Party of Georgia has filed a new lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the state's voter ID law.

The Supreme Court ruled in an Indiana case on April 28 and the decision was cheered by Georgia Republicans because it seemed to protect the state's 2006 Photo ID Act.

Emmet Bondurant, attorney for the state Democratic Party, said that Indiana case actually opened the door to get the Georgia law declared unconstitutional by the Georgia Supreme Court. ...

The Georgia law already was declared unconstitutional once by Superior Court Judge T. Jackson Bedford, but the Georgia Supreme Court dismissed the case last year because it said the plaintiff, Rosalind L. Lake of Atlanta, had no standing to sue.

The court said Lake could have voted without the ID when she filed the lawsuit and as a result could not challenge the law's constitutionality.

In the Indiana case, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the state Democratic Party had standing to bring the lawsuit. Bondurant said that should help the new Georgia case clear the hurdle that derailed the last one. The new case will also be heard by Bedford. ...

But Bondurant said the case will be decided under the Georgia Constitution, which he said permits any 18-year-old citizen the right to vote as long as he or she meets minimum residency requirements, has registered to vote and hasn't been convicted of a felony or been found mentally incompetent. -- Voter ID law disputed again

Note: The case is Democratic Party of Georgia, Inc., v. Perdue et al., Case No. 2008CV151081, Fulton Co. Superior Court. If anyone has a copy of the complaint, please send it to me.

May 29, 2008

Lieberman and Graham leave board of anti-Obama group

The New York Times reports: Senators Joseph I. Lieberman and Lindsey Graham, prominent surrogates for Senator John McCain’s presidential campaign, stepped down Wednesday from their positions with an independent group that released a pair of Internet advertisements attacking Senator Barack Obama on Iraq.

Mr. Lieberman, independent of Connecticut, and Mr. Graham, Republican of South Carolina, were both on the policy advisory board to the organization, Vets for Freedom, which on Wednesday released its second Web advertisement in less than a week attacking Mr. Obama. ...

Vets for Freedom is not organized as a 527, which refers to a section of the tax code. The designation often carries a negative connotation because of the attacks of 527 groups like Swift Boat Veterans for Truth in the 2004 campaign. Instead, Vets for Freedom is organized as a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization, an increasingly common tactic for outside groups seeking to get involved in campaigns.

The group also has a political action committee, which financed the Internet advertisements. -- 2 Senators for McCain Leave Group After Ads

Texas: AG and Dems settle suit over voter-fraud charges

The Dallas Morning News reports: The Texas Democratic Party has settled a federal lawsuit against the state, with Attorney General Greg Abbott agreeing not to target people who collect legitimate mail-in ballots as part of his voter-fraud campaign.

Both sides claimed victory in the case, which was settled just before the U.S. District Court trial was set to begin Wednesday. ...

In most cases, the voters were eligible and votes weren't changed, but the people who collected the ballots for mailing were prosecuted for failing to properly sign the mailing envelope as required by law.

Under the agreement, the attorney general's focus will be on cases in which there was actual fraud, not what Democrats called "hypertechnical violations" involving mail-in ballots.

"This is an implicit recognition on his part that these technical violations that he has been prosecuting these little old ladies for are not voter fraud," said attorney Gerald Hebert, who represented the Democratic Party.

For his part, Mr. Abbott said the judge's order dismissing the lawsuit was accompanied by a renewed commitment by the state to educate political activists who collect mail-in ballots about the law's requirements. -- Texas Democrats, attorney general settle federal voter-fraud lawsuit | Dallas Morning News | News for Dallas, Texas | Texas Regional News

Alabama: Supreme Court reversal may net Chastang back pay

The Mobile Press-Register reports: If Juan Chastang gets his Mobile County Commission seat back, it will almost certainly be a temp job but it also could net him tens of thousands of dollars in back pay, a commission attorney said.

The current District 1 commission term expires in November, and Chastang has already missed the April deadline to run for the seat this fall as a Republican, said Mark Erwin, a commission attorney who is also the head of the local GOP. For Chas tang to get his NAME on the ballot, he would need to fill out paperwork to run as an independent and round up thousands of signatures by 5 p.m. Tuesday. He could also run a write-in campaign.

Even if Chastang only takes office for a few months, though, it could be worthwhile because he might be eligible to receive back pay totaling more than $75,000, Erwin said. -- Chastang could be owed back pay- al.com

May 28, 2008

Michigan, Florida: DNC lawyers recommend 50% penalty for each state

The Boston Globe reports: Democratic Party lawyers told a committee looking at the fate of disputed delegates from Florida and Michigan that at most they can restore only half of their 368 total delegates.

IN A MEmo sent late Tuesday to the 30 members of the party s Rules and Bylaws Committee, which plans to meet Saturday in Washington, the lawyers say the committee can either allow half the number of delegates from each state into the national convention or allow the full delegations to attend, but give them each half a vote.

The lawyers, however, don't suggest how any delegates should be divided between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

And the Democratic National Committee issued a statement that said the lawyers memo was not an official recommendation. -- Florida and Michigan can only get half of delegates, DNC lawyers say - 2008 Presidential Campaign Blog - Political Intelligence - Boston.com

Hat-tip to Kos for the link. Taegan Goddard has a preview of Saturday's meeting.

Mississippi: 5th Circuit vacates party registration and voter I.D. case

AP reports: The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has overturned a ruling that would have forced Mississippians to register by political party and to show photo identification at the polls to be able to vote.

The Mississippi Democratic Party sued in 2006 to keep non-Democrats from voting in its primaries. -- WLOX-TV and WLOX.com - Building South Mississippi Together |This Hour: Latest Mississippi news, sports, business and entertainment:

Thanks to Steve Rankin for sending me the opinion. Here are the first two paragraphs of the opinion:

Plaintiffs Mississippi Democratic Party and Mississippi Democratic Executive Committee filed a declaratory judgment action seeking to overturn as unconstitutional Mississippi’s semi-closed primary1 statute, Miss. Code Ann. § 23-15-575. They succeeded beyond their expectations when the district court declared the statute unconstitutional and fashioned a sweeping injunction. that required not only party registration but also photo identification in order to vote in a party’s primary. The court’s ruling spawned a free-for-all on appeal. Plaintiffs themselves cross-appeal the mandatory photo ID requirement. Intervenors NAACP and the Mississippi Republican Executive Committee also challenge separate portions of the decree. The state is divided: defendant Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood argues that plaintiffs’ claims are not justiciable, while governor Haley Barbour and the Secretary of State have filed a brief supporting photo IDs for voters. In the meantime, the state legislature has been debating changes in the primary law. We will put the parties out of their litigation misery.

Because plaintiffs failed to demonstrate that their claims involve an actual case or controversy, the claims were not justiciable and should not have been addressed by the district court. The judgment is REVERSED and the injunction VACATED.

Massachusetts: GOP candidate may be excluded from US Senate ballot

The Boston Globe reports: When the deadline for certification passed yesterday, Jim Ogonowski, the Republican leadership's choice to challenge US Senator John F. Kerry, was 82 signatures short of qualifying for the GOP primary ballot, according to the state's central voter registry.

But Ogonowski's campaign aides contend there are enough certified signatures at various town offices around the state not filed yet on the computerized registry to put him across the 10,000 threshold.

Local election clerks were legally required to finish their certifications yesterday. The majority of those clerks have shipped their results to the secretary of state's office via computer, but some may still be submitting the certifications by hand. ...

Even if Ogonowski does get the 82 signatures he needs, his fight probably is not over.

Election specialists say he will not have the needed cushion of extra signatures to insulate himself from legal challenges. -- Ogonowski falls short on signature deadline

Mississippi: "It's almost like I was exiled from the country"

The Daily Journal reports: When asked about his favorite candidate in this year s presidential race, 31-year-old Steven Hubbard didn t hesitate to say, "Obama's my man."

But that's where his political voice ends. Hubbard, a convicted felon from Tupelo, is one of nearly 150,000 inmates and convicted felons in Mississippi who've lost their right to vote, nearly 7 percent of the state s adult population.

Even though he doesn't deny guilt for the forgery conviction that caused him to lose his right to vote, Hubbard said stripping him of his right to vote while he was in prison was un-American.

"I committed a crime and I paid my debt to society for that crime by serving time in prison," said Hubbard. "But when I was released, my punishment didn't end. Being stripped of the right to vote is not fair to convicted felons who pay their debt to society and serve the time given to them by the courts. It's almost like I was exiled from the country. If I can't vote, then I can't be an American, right?"

Mississippi has a procedure that would allow Hubbard to have his rights restored. But with the presidential election less than six months away, some people have begun to wonder about the effect of having so many voting-age Americans disenfranchised, particularly black voters. -- Groups debate whether felons should regain the right to vote

Texas: 2 voting rights cases stir the state

The Gadsden Times reports: “Vote or Die,” exhorts the faded slogan on a roadway at Prairie View A&M University, where black students once marched for the right to vote here in the town where they attend school, on a former cotton plantation about 50 miles northwest of Houston.

The students won that battle in 2004, long after the United States Supreme Court supposedly decided the issue in 1979. But disputes over minority voting rights — along with accusations of election fraud — continue to rouse Prairie View, home to one of the nation’s leading historically black colleges, and other Texas locales.

“The cold war’s not over — they just moved the fence from Berlin to the Texas border,” said DeWayne Charleston, Waller County justice of the peace, who maintains that local officials failed to record hundreds of students whom he registered to vote in 2006. The federal Department of Justice and the Texas attorney general’s office say investigations are under way here, but will not give details.

Meanwhile, the attorney general, Greg Abbott, is a defendant in a separate voting rights case that goes to federal trial on Wednesday in the East Texas city of Marshall, in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision last month upholding Indiana’s tough voter identification law.

Arguing that antifraud provisions enacted in 2003 were being selectively enforced to intimidate minority voters who are largely Democrats, the Texas Democratic Party filed suit against Mr. Abbott and Phil Wilson, the secretary of state, both Republicans. -- 2 Voter Rights Cases, One Gripping a College Town, Stir Texas | GadsdenTimes.com | Gadsden Times | Gadsden, AL

Alabama: Governor crows over small "victory" in Supreme Court

The Birmingham News reports: The ability of Alabama s governor to fill a vacancy on the Mobile County Commission was strengthened by the U.S. Supreme Court Tuesday, but the decision will not stop a similar legal battle over a seat on the Jefferson County Commission.

While the two cases are not identical, they both pit Alabama s Republican governor - who wants to be able to appoint commissioners to certain vacancies - against local Democrats - who prefer special elections by the voters. They also highlight the continued, controversial effect of the Voting Rights Act on the state.

The U.S. Supreme Court, in a 7-2 decision, said Gov. Bob Riley s hand-picking of a new Mobile commissioner did not need to be reviewed by the federal government because it was simply a return to previous law, not a change to election procedures. In the opinion, written by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the court overturned an earlier ruling that Riley s appointment was invalid.

Riley's office called it a "landmark victory" and said they were reviewing how it would play out in Mobile County, where Juan Chastang was appointed by Riley in 2005 but then lost a special election last year. ...

But Democrats were not willing to concede that the Mobile decision would upend Bell's election.

On the contrary, their lead attorney noted Tuesday that Ginsburg herself described the Mobile decision as "narrow," and that the legal history in Jefferson County is different than in Mobile. Birmingham lawyer Edward Still also called Emerson's statement "far-fetched."

"He just won a technical knockout, that's all," Still said. -- Riley wins U.S. Supreme Court decision in Mobile, but Jeffco case continues- al.com

May 27, 2008

Florida: Okaloosa County to allow Internet voting by military overseas

The Miami Herald reports: A small Panhandle county that is home to one of the world s largest air bases is embarking on a sweeping experiment in Internet voting that could transform elections in the 21st century.

But the push by Okaloosa County Supervisor of Elections Pat Hollarn to use the Internet to make it easier for U.S. soldiers overseas to vote is drawing fire from voting activists who call her project unsafe and contrary to a new law that requires the state to use paper ballots.

Frustrated by the pace of overseas voting efforts undertaken by the Department of Defense in recent years, Hollarn has championed a plan that will let those living on, or near, three military bases in the United Kingdom, Germany and Japan cast ballots in the November election.

During a 10-day period just before Election Day, voters living abroad will be able to enter a computer kiosk and vote on an encrypted electronic ballot, which will eventually be shipped to Florida via the Internet and then counted. Poll workers will be on site to verify that the person is a registered Okaloosa County voter. -- Web vote offered to military abroad - 05/26/2008 - MiamiHerald.com

Arizona: state asks for dismissal of voter I.D. challenge

AP reports: State officials say a challenge to Arizona requirements for voter identification and proof of citizenship should be thrown out in the wake of a U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding Indiana s voter ID law.

The ruling on Indiana s law leaves no room for doubt that Arizona s voting identification requirement is constitutional and also backs up the requirement that people registering to vote prove their citizenship, Attorney General Terry Goddard and four assistants said in a brief filed in U.S. District Court.

Most but not all of the voting activists, tribes and other challengers to Arizona s law want to push ahead with their combined 2006 lawsuits, arguing that the Supreme Court s April 28 ruling in the Indiana case does not resolve all the issues at stake in Arizona. -- AZ seeks dismissal of voter ID challenge

Arizona: Democrats appeal redistricting decision

AP reports: Democrats challenging Arizona s legislative districts are appealing a court ruling that leaves the map in place and sets a high legal bar for challengers to clear.

Lawyers for the challengers are asking the Arizona Supreme Court to review a state Court of Appeals decision overturning a trial judge s ruling and upholding the map drawn by a commission.

The petition filed Thursday said the Supreme Court should hear the appeal because there are major conflicts between prior Court of Appeals rulings on how redistricting must be done by a state commission and that errors need to be corrected "once and for all" before redistricting begins again in 2010. ...

The conflicts concern whether the commission must favor creating competitive districts or merely consider creating them, when it must do so in its process and whether it has powers and privileges of a legislative or an administrative body, the petition stated. -- State Democrats appeal legislative redistricting ruling

Bloggers complain about lack of diversity in blogger corps selected for Demo Convention

The Washington Post reports: With the Democratic National Convention less than three months away, and with Web pundits playing an even bigger role during the four-day event, a whole other drama is chewing up the blogosphere -- and the often unmentioned Afrosphere. ...

The protracted primary has been like a bottomless glass to thirsty national and local bloggers -- so much to blog about! -- and about 400 of them have applied to attend the convention. Although four years ago the credentialing of 30 bloggers in a single pool was a historic event, this August there are two blogger pools: a State Blogger Corps and a General Blogger Pool.

The State Corps is considered the more elite; its 55 bloggers will have floor access all four days, sit next to their state delegations and be hooked up to the Internet. Those not chosen for the State Corps are competing for spots in the General Pool, which will have rotating floor access. The State Corps list was announced nearly two weeks ago; the General Pool list, DNC officials say, will be released this week. ...

But, to the frustration of black bloggers, the list appears to be mostly white -- during a primary race in which black voters turned out in droves in Georgia, South Carolina and Mississippi. And, they add, this pool is for coverage of a convention that might very well see the first African American presidential nominee. -- Democrats' Convention Pool: Is It All Wet? - washingtonpost.com

Embezzlement a problem for campaign committees

The New York Times reports: In Republican circles, Christopher J. Ward was the go-to guy for politicians who needed help managing their campaign finances. As a staff member at the National Republican Congressional Committee and its treasurer since 2003, Mr. Ward was so valued that more than $360 million in donations to the committee passed through his hands — with few questions asked. ...

Eventually, he was named treasurer for 83 other Republican committees, including leadership political action committees for members of Congress and campaign committees for prominent Republicans. He regularly managed the finances of presidential dinner fund-raising committees, and was even a partner in a private company that advised politicians on complying with federal campaign finance laws. ...

He is now the focus of a Federal Bureau of Investigation inquiry prompted by the disclosure of the National Republican Congressional Committee that hundreds of thousands of dollars was missing and presumed stolen by Mr. Ward, who was fired from the committee in January.

Investigators are examining what may have been a sophisticated embezzlement scheme involving forged audits and multiple wire transfers from political groups to Mr. Ward’s personal bank accounts. -- Awash in Contributions, Campaigns Offer Tempting Targets for Thieves - NYTimes.com

May 26, 2008

Florida: new suit against DNC over seating delegates

The Miami Herald reports: Florida s history of discrimination against African Americans should force the national Democratic Party to count all of the state s delegates at its national convention, a federal lawsuit filed Thursday claims.

The suit, filed by state Senate Democratic Leader Steve Geller and two other Democrats, claims that the federal Voting Rights Act prohibits the national party from stripping the state of its convention delegates as punishment for violating party rules by holding its primary too early.

The civil-rights-era law requires the U.S. Justice Department to approve any significant voting change in Florida to make sure it doesn t disenfranchise minority voters. Geller argues that includes the Democratic National Committee s demand that Florida switch from a state-run primary to party-run caucus system to avoid losing its delegates. ...

Federal courts have thrown out two previous challenges to the DNC s rule. In December, a federal judge in Tallahassee rejected a lawsuit by Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson that claimed the punishment would disenfranchise Florida voters, and in March an Atlanta court dismissed the case of a Tampa political activist claiming that the DNC was treating Florida unfairly. -- Democrats file suit to seat Florida delegates - 05/23/2008 - MiamiHerald.com

Note: The complaint can be viewed here: Geller v. Democratic National Committee.

Obama has too many contributors for old computer programs to handle

Politico reports: The record-shattering fundraising by Democratic presidential candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton has reshaped the financing of presidential elections and generated breathless coverage and analysis of the otherwise arcane area of campaign finance.

Yet it’s had another consequence that has gone all but unnoticed. The campaign finance reports filed by Obama and Clinton have grown so massive that they’ve strained the capacity of the Federal Election Commission, good government groups, the media and even software applications to process and make sense of the data.

A milestone of sorts was reached earlier this year, when Obama, the Illinois senator whose revolutionary online fundraising has overwhelmed Clinton, filed an electronic fundraising report so large it could not be processed by popular basic spreadsheet applications like Microsoft Excel 2003 and Lotus 1-2-3.

Those programs can’t download data files with more than 65,536 rows or 256 columns. -- FEC, media can t handle Obama jackpot - Kenneth P. Vogel - Politico.com

UK: Electoral Commission member calls for election-law overhaul

The Herald reports: Electoral law needs a major overhaul, clearer accountability to voters, with more flexible investigation powers and penalties to take on illegal fundraising, according to Scotland s chief elections adviser.

John McCormick, the member of the Electoral Commission with a special remit for Scotland, has spoken out about the confusion over responsibility when elections go wrong and votes are not properly counted.

His comments come in advance of a major report by the UK-wide commission setting out which lessons have to be learned for the whole of Britain s electoral system from the ballot paper and counting fiasco at last year s Scottish elections. Having recently taken on the commissioner role, the former controller of BBC Scotland told The Herald that election law is currently too fragmented, with 19th- century legislation being used to meet 21st-century technology and voter expectations. -- Election Law Needs To Be Overhauled Says Adviser from The Herald

Scotland: campaign finance rules will vary depending on who calls referendum on independence from UK

The Herald reports: A referendum on independence could lead to unfair and unbalanced campaigning by political parties if it were called by Holyrood, it has emerged.

John McCormick, the Electoral Commission s Scottish member, said yesterday that the current election law, passed in 2000, would set clear rules if Westminster calls another national referendum, including a cap on campaign finance, registration of non-party campaign organisations and a register of donors. The Electoral Commission chairman, currently Sam Younger, would be the national referendum returning officer, or he could delegate that role.

But that does not apply to the Scottish Parliament if it calls a referendum, meaning the campaign could be skewed by large amounts of money, without its source being open, allowing one side to dominate the campaign.
advertisement

With the SNP wanting a referendum in autumn 2010 and with Labour s Holyrood leader, Wendy Alexander, saying she will back one, at least in principle, the rules to ensure a fair fight are far from clear. -- Fairness Warning On Rules For Referendum from The Herald

Libertarians pick Bob Barr as Presidential candidate

As Rob Richie has pointed out, the Libertarians used a live-action version of instant runoff voting choose their presidential and VP candidates. To review the voting, go to the Official Website of the Libertarian National Committee. The lowest polling candidate in each round was eliminated. Also, a candidate was eliminated if he/she had less than 5% of the ballots.

While former Rep. Bab Barr lead on the first two ballots, he and Ruwart were tied in rounds 3 and 4, and Barr was slightly behind on round 5. Barr was able to pull ahead (and win) on round 6 by getting most of Root's votes when he was eliminated. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Root endorsed Barr before the 6th round and Barr returned the favor by endorsing Root for vice-president.

Congratulations to my friend Bill Redpath on being elected as Party Chair. I head Bill's voice on NPR this morning introducing Barr to the convention after the nomination.

"Military Chief Warns Troops About Politics"

The New York Times reports: The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has written an unusual open letter to all those in uniform, warning them to stay out of politics as the nation approaches a presidential election in which the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will be a central, and certainly divisive, issue.

“The U.S. military must remain apolitical at all times and in all ways,” wrote the chairman, Adm. Mike Mullen, the nation’s highest-ranking officer. “It is and must always be a neutral instrument of the state, no matter which party holds sway.”

Admiral Mullen’s essay appears in the coming issue of Joint Force Quarterly, an official military journal that is distributed widely among the officer corps.

The essay is the first Admiral Mullen has written for the journal as chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and veteran officers said they could not remember when a similar “all-hands” letter had been issued to remind military personnel to remain outside, if not above, contentious political debate. -- Military Chief Warns Troops About Politics - NYTimes.com

May 23, 2008

Texas: LULAC suit against Texas Democratic Party dismissed (updated with court docs attached)

The Houston Chronicle reports: A federal judge sided with the Texas Democratic Party on Thursday in a lawsuit filed by Latino voter advocates who said the party's method for apportioning presidential delegates is discriminatory.

U.S. District Judge Fred Biery in San Antonio ruled that the spirit and intent of the federal Voting Rights Act, which protects minority voters, was not violated, as the League of United Latin American Citizens and other plaintiffs alleged.

Biery dismissed the case. He ruled that the Voting Rights Act does not dictate to political parties how to decide on their presidential nominees as long as everyone has the right to participate.

The Latino voter advocates said the complicated Texas delegate system, which included a March 4 primary and caucus and Senate district caucuses March 29, unfairly dilutes Latino votes by allotting fewer presidential delegates to heavily Hispanic areas. -- Judge dismisses Latino suit over Democratic vote | Chron.com - Houston Chronicle

The opinion may be downloaded here.

May 22, 2008

Information needed from my readers on Voter I.D.

If you have access to one of the following, please leave a comment telling me whether the document has (1) the name and address of the holder, (2) a photo, and (3) a date showing its period of validity.

Alabama-specific documents:
hunting license
fishing license
pistol permit
public or private college, university, or post-grad school [identify the school, please]
employer I.D.

Federal or other
ID card issued by any state or federal government agency
pilot's license
military identification card
Social Security Card
Naturalization certificate

Michigan: Feiger's "I researched it" defense

Crain's Detroit Business reports: High-profile lawyer Geoffrey Fieger described Wednesday how he spent part of a weekend in his firm s library doing research that convinced him that reimbursing employees and others for political donations was legal.

But Fieger, who rose to prominence representing assisted suicide advocate Jack Kevorkian, said during cross-examination by assistant U.S. Attorney Lynn Helland that there was no reason to document that opinion.

"I've been practicing law for 30 years," Fieger said while on the stand a second day in his own defense at his federal campaign finance trial. "I don t write memos to myself ... about thoughts in my own mind." ...

Under questioning from defense attorney Gerry Spence, Fieger said there was no attempt to conceal the reimbursements, which he said clearly were listed in the books. He also said taxes were paid on them. -- Fieger back on the stand during his federal trial in Detroit - Crain s Detroit Business

NRCC spends money to find embezzled money

The Washington Post reports: As if the spring hasn t been tough enough on House Republicans, there is also the issue of bills piling up from the investigations into the alleged embezzlement scheme at the National Republican Congressional Committee.

New reports filed with the Federal Election Commission show that the NRCC spent more than $210,000 on legal and accounting bills in April. Those payouts, to the law firm Covington & Burling and the accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, bring the total amount spent by the committee to $355,000 since party officials in January accused their former treasurer of cooking the NRCC s books for several years.

The cash-strapped NRCC is paying the legal-and-accounting team to scour a decade of financial records to determine how much money was allegedly diverted by Christopher J. Ward, the NRCC s former treasurer. He is under FBI investigation for possible embezzlement and bank fraud.

The $355,000 in legal and accounting fees is almost as much as the NRCC spent earlier this month in a Louisiana special election, where $436,000 went toward campaign ads in attacking Don Cazayoux D-La. , who won anyway. -- Good Money After Bad at the NRCC? - washingtonpost.com

Massachusetts: replacing Kennedy

AP reports: People in Massachusetts suddenly are thinking the unthinkable: Who possibly could succeed Sen. Edward Kennedy, patriarch of the famed political family that has dominated the state for more than four decades? ...

Unlike most states, Kennedy's successor would be chosen by a special election, not the governor.

State law requires a special election for the seat no sooner than 145 days and no later than 160 days after a vacancy occurs. The law bans an interim appointee.

The law was changed in 2004, when Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry became the Democratic presidential nominee and Romney was governor. Before the change, the governor would have appointed a replacement to serve until the next general election. -- Thinking the unthinkable: Who follows Ted Kennedy? : NPR

May 21, 2008

Alabama: Governor files Jurisdictional Statement in another Section 5 case

Gov. Riley has filed his Jurisdictional Statement in Riley v. Plump. His questions presented are:

1. Whether the decisions of a covered jurisdiction's highest court concerning the validity of a precleared state law, or, in the alternative, an appointment made by the Governor of the State in compliance with those decisions, requires preclearance pursuant to § 5 [of the Voting Rights Act].

2. Whether § 5 requires preclearance of the implementation of a practice in force and effect on the coverage date of November 1, 1964.

3. Whether the district court erred when it entered judgment after briefing and oral argument on the plaintiffs motion for preliminary injunction, without providing the notice required by Fed.R.Civ.Proc. 65(a)(2).

This case relates to the appointment by the Governor of a commissioner to fill a vacancy on the Jefferson County Commission. It is somewhat similar to the Riley v. Kennedy case, no. 07-77, now awaiting decision.

I have the honor of being one of the lawyers for Mr. Plump in this matter.

IRS clears Southern Baptist minister's endorsement of Huckabee

The Associated Baptist Press reports: Southern Baptist pastor-personality Wiley Drake did not violate tax law by using his church’s letterhead or his radio show to endorse Mike Huckabee, he announced May 18.

Drake, pastor of the 75-member First Southern Baptist Church in Buena Park, Calif., told church members and visitors that the government had cleared the congregation. An IRS letter that Drake provided to local media outlets said that, based on “all the facts and circumstances” of the endorsements, “the IRS has concluded that Buena Park First Southern Baptist Church did not engage in prohibited political campaign intervention in violation of the requirements of [Internal Revenue Code] Section 501(c)(3).”

Federal tax law prevents churches and similar tax-exempt organizations from endorsing candidates or parties in elections. If they do so, they risk losing their tax exemption altogether. ...

But the IRS letter said that both endorsements were more properly understood as Drake’s individual endorsements rather than official church actions. The press release, it noted, was sent from Drake’s personal account and did not go out to church members. It listed his position as pastor “for identification purposes,” the letter said, and the endorsement was not “authorized or approved” by the church. In addition, it claimed, “no church resources were utilized in preparing or sending the e-mail.”

On the radio-show endorsement, the letter said the Wiley Drake Show is a separate legal entity from the church, and the church doesn’t “own, financially support, sponsor or have any legal rights” to the show. It said Drake uses his personal mobile phone to call the organization (Crusade Radio) through which the show is broadcast, and that he may do so while “at the church on his break” or when away from the church building. -- Wiley Drake cleared in IRS probe, but vows further endorsement

IRS finally clears UCC for Obama speech

The On Faith blog of the Washington Post reports:

Today the United Church of Christ, the national church to which presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama belongs, announced that the Internal Revenue Service has found “that the activity about which we had concern did not constitute …a violation of the requirements of the requirements of section 501(c)(3)."

The "concern" that apparently launched the investigation stemmed from a speech Senator Obama gave to the UCC General Synod, the all-church gathering held every two years, during the church's fiftieth anniversary celebration.

In other words, the UCC received a complete and clean review. ...

Despite the fact that the church had invited Obama to speak before he became a candidate for President, and despite the fact that UCC Nationwide Special Counsel Donald C. Clark, Esq., had carefully prepared the church leadership with the legal guidelines they needed to follow, the IRS launched an investigation. ...

In addition, the IRS waited more than six months, until Senator Obama was emerging as a possible front-runner, to investigate. -- Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite: IRS Clears Obama s Church - On Faith at washingtonpost.com

Puerto Rico has more delegates than Alabama??

Mooncat writes on Left in Alabama: Puerto Rico gets 63 delegates to the Democratic Convention and Alabama only gets 60! What is up with that? We're a state, we're bigger, we have better football teams and they still get three delegates more than us? We're being robbed. -- Left In Alabama Connecting Progressive Voices in Alabama Politics

Southern regional meeting of superdelegates

I just received an email announcing a "DNC Southern Caucus" meeting on June 19-21 in Mobile, Alabama. One hundred three superdelegates and "regional elected officials" from 13 Southern States will be meeting.

Are similar regional meetings being held in other places?

Alabama: state supreme court to hear arguments on Jefferson County commission vacancy

The Birmingham News reports: The dispute over who should be the District 1 representative on the Jefferson County Commission will be argued before the Alabama Supreme Court on June 4.

The court set oral arguments in the appeal of Circuit Judge Scott Vowell s ruling in March that William Bell is entitled to hold the seat. The vacancy was created when Larry Langford resigned to become Birmingham s mayor.

Bell, a Birmingham city council member, won a special election on Feb. 5, beating out five other candidates. -- Dispute over District 1 representative on the Jefferson County Commission to be argued before the state Alabama Supreme Court on June 4- al.com

Disclosure: I represent one of the parties to this case.

May 20, 2008

Michigan: prosecution rests in Fieger trial

The Detroit News reports: The government on Monday closed its criminal case against high-profile Southfield attorney Geoffrey Fieger and his law partner Ven Johnson.

The United States rest, Assistant U.S. Attorney Lynn Helland said after defense lawyers finished cross examining FBI Special Agent Jeffrey Rees, who spent four days in the witness box.

Fieger, 57, and 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 2004 presidential campaign of Democrat John Edwards by reimbursing employees, employee relatives and law firm vendors. Fieger is also charged with obstruction of justice, a 10-year felony.

Defense lawyers have acknowledged the political donations were reimbursed by Fieger and his firm and the key issue is whether Fieger and Johnson knowingly broke the law.

In 15 days of testimony, defense attorneys have attempted to redirect the focus to the government s conduct, portraying Fieger as a man with a bullseye on his back because of his politics and pointing to the unusually large amount of government resources directed at a campaign finance prosecution. -- Feds rest case against Fieger

Alabama: PAC-to-PAC transfers bill killed

The Birmingham News reports: A proposed ban on the shuffling of money between political action committees died on the final night of the legislative session.

The campaign finance reform measure died in conference committee despite having been the first bill passed by the House of Representatives this year.

Bill sponsor Rep. Jeff McLaughlin, D-Guntersville, said he was frustrated with the Senate delays on the bill. ...

McLaughlin has tried for several years to get legislators to approve a ban on the convoluted transfers among committees that make it difficult to tell who is funding political campaigns. Despite his frustration, he said he will once again bring the bill next session.

McLaughlin said he had not been able to get two senators on the six-member conference committee to agree to a compromise. -- Alabama legislature kills PAC transfer ban- al.com

Alabama: incumbent forgets to qualify for short term

The Birmingham News reports: "Election law is really quirky," said Sid Browning, Jefferson County supervisor of elections. "This is a prime example. It's really confusing." ...

Even if incumbent Bessemer Division Tax Assessor Andy Smith wins the November general election, he will be out of a job for a year.

Ron Yarbrough, meanwhile, will be the next tax assessor for that period - because he filled out qualifying paperwork that Smith didn t fill out.

A 1957 state law that applies only to Jefferson County requires political appointees to run for the unexpired term of their predecessor if the appointment was made more than six months before the next general election.

Gov. Bob Riley appointed Smith 18 months ago to replace the retiring Karen Tucker. When qualifying to run for office, Smith, a Republican, should have qualified to run for the balance of Tucker's term as well as a new term. -- Bessemer Division Tax Assessor Andy Smith will be out of a job even if he wins general election- al.com

May 19, 2008

McCain depending on GOP and Bush fundraising; Obama will bypass public financing

The New York Times reports: Pivoting toward the general election, Senator Barack Obama is turning again to his history-making fund-raising machine, which helped to anoint him as a contender against Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton and then became a potent weapon in their battle for the Democratic nomination.

To confront the Obama juggernaut, Senator John McCain, whose fund-raising has badly trailed that of his Democratic counterparts, is leaning on the Republican National Committee. Mr. McCain’s efforts to raise money suffered a blow this weekend when a key fund-raiser, Tom Loeffler, resigned because of a new campaign policy on conflicts of interest.

Mr. McCain is likely to depend upon the party, which finished April with an impressive $40 million in the bank and has significantly higher contribution limits, to an unprecedented degree to power his campaign, Republican officials said. ...

Mr. Obama’s fund-raising success makes it increasingly likely that he will back away from a pledge he made last year to accept public financing for the general election — and its attendant spending limits — if the Republican nominee also accepted public money.

Several major fund-raisers for Mr. Obama said in interviews that they could not envision the campaign sheathing its sword and accepting public financing, given how powerful Mr. Obama’s fund-raising could be in the Democrats’ urgent quest to reclaim the White House. Mr. Obama would be the first major-party presidential candidate to bypass public financing for the general election since the system began in 1976. -- McCain to Rely on Party Money Against Obama - New York Times

May 17, 2008

Scotland: expert casts doubt on 2007 election results

Scotland on Sunday reports: THE expert appointed to investigate last year s Scottish Parliament election fiasco has said some MSPs may have no right to sit at Holyrood.

Elections watchdog Ron Gould revealed he is not comfortable with the view that all 129 MSPs elected last year actually received more votes than their opponents. He blames the farce in which more than 140,000 ballots were spoiled.

Gould s astonishing comments last night threw a cloud of uncertainty over the Scottish Parliament s integrity, and over the SNP s historic victory.

Last May, First Minister Alex Salmond won power on the back of a one seat victory over Labour. One constituency, Cunninghame North, was won with a majority of just 49. It later emerged that 1,015 votes had been spoilt. In other seats the spoiled papers outweighed the winner s majority, suggesting different results could have emerged if they had been counted. -- Wrong MSPs elected in poll fiasco - Scotland on Sunday

Von Spakovsky withdraws, Reid claims victory

The Washington Post reports: A controversial Bush administration nominee to the Federal Election Commission withdrew from consideration yesterday, providing a likely breakthrough to an impasse that has sidelined the political watchdog agency at the height of the primary season.

Hans von Spakovsky, a former Justice Department lawyer whose nomination became entangled in allegations that political considerations influenced decisions by the agency s Civil Rights Division, sent President Bush a letter withdrawing his NAME.

Senate Democrats had refused for a year to confirm von Spakovsky, torpedoing the nominations of three other nominees and denying the FEC a quorum. Since Jan. 1, only two of the agency s six commissioner slots have been filled. Bush, supported by GOP Senate leaders, had refused to withdraw von Spakovsky s NAME.

Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid D-Nev. claimed victory yesterday and predicted that Bush would soon select a replacement who could quickly win confirmation along with four other pending nominees and put the FEC back on its feet. -- Contested Nominee To FEC Drops Out - washingtonpost.com

Missouri: voter I.D. proposal dies at end of session

The New York Times reports: Missouri lawmakers ended their legislative session on Friday without completing action on a proposed constitutional amendment that would have enabled election officials to require proof of citizenship from people registering to vote.

The bill failed to go to the Senate floor for a vote in part because of pressure by the secretary of state and grass-roots groups, said a Republican lobbyist who worked for the measure.

The lobbyist asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to speak for the backers. Sponsors of the amendment, which would have required voter approval to go into effect, say it is part of an effort to prevent illegal immigrants from affecting the political process. Critics say it could lead to disenfranchising tens of thousands of legal residents who would find it difficult to prove their citizenship. -- Missouri Legislature Ends Session With Voter ID Amendment Still on Agenda - New York Times

McCain issues conflict-of-interest rules for his staff

The New York Times reports: After expelling four advisers in the last week over concerns about their outside entanglements, Senator John McCain said Friday that his presidential campaign was beginning a new “vetting process” intended to end the embarrassments over staff ties to private interests, foreign governments or independent political groups.

A campaign spokeswoman said it was too soon to say how many campaign officials might be removed under the new rules, which were distributed to campaign staff members Thursday night with a questionnaire to ferret out potential conflicts. ...

The midcampaign staff review underscores the difficulties Mr. McCain is having in trying to build his Republican presidential campaign around his crusades for tighter ethics rules and pledges to avoid even the appearance of conflicts of interest. It is hard for any campaign to find experienced operatives who do not also sell their political connections, expertise or influence to private interests. And Mr. McCain’s emphasis on strict ethics has drawn special attention to the number of potential conflicts within his own staff.

On Friday, the campaign severed its ties to Craig Shirley, a veteran public relations consultant who had helped handle outreach to conservatives. The campaign said it would no longer employ Mr. Shirley because he was also working for StopHerNow.com, an independent political group initially dedicated to attacking Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton that is now refocusing on Senator Barack Obama (and changing its name). -- In Effort to Avoid Conflicts, McCain Issues New Rules for Staff - New York Times

May 16, 2008

Von Spakovsky witndraws from FEC nomination

TPM Muckraker reports: After a five-month standoff, Hans von Spakovsky has withdrawn his NAME as a nominee to the FEC. The move likely clears the way for the deadlock over the FEC to be resolved.

You can read his resignation here.

It is with regret that I write to request that you withdraw my nomination, Spakovsky wrote in a letter to the President today. In his letter, Spakovsky explains that Democrats opposition to his nomination has caused a battle that has been extremely hard on my family and quite frankly, we do not have the financial resources to continue to wait until this matter is resolved.

Democrats have opposed Spakovsky s nomination ever since last year, but it was the opposition of Sens. Barack Obama D-IL and Russ Feingold D-WI , who refused to allow any vote on the nominees together, that ultimately led to his withdrawal. Republicans, on the other hand, refused to allow Spakovsky to be voted on separately. -- TPMMuckraker | Talking Points Memo | Breaking: Spakovsky Withdraws as FEC Nominee

A profile of Joaquin Avila

The Seattle University Magazine has this profile: Joaquin Avila is a highly lauded legal scholar, a distinguished assistant professor at Seattle University School of Law and a leading expert on minority voting rights.

His many accomplishments—degrees from Yale and Harvard, a MacArthur Fellowship (“genius grant”) and honors from the State Bar of California and the California League of United Latin American Citizens—are even more remarkable considering how far Avila has come.

As a youth growing up in Compton, Calif., a city notorious for its high crime rate and rampant gang activity, Avila had friends with gang ties and was “teetering,” he says, on the edge of that lifestyle. But it was education and a drive to make something of himself that ultimately pulled him away. The turning point was when he hit the ninth grade and decided to take stock of what his life would be like if he didn't make a change. -- Seattle University - News & events - Featured stories

Arizona: citizenship process operating too slowly to allow voting this fall

AP reports: Although immigration officials in Phoenix are churning out record numbers of new U.S. citizens, critics say federal officials aren t working fast enough so many immigrants won t become citizens in time to vote in November.

The Phoenix office for Citizenship and Immigration Services plans to grant citizenship to 2,000 legal immigrants this month, more than twice the usual 800 for May.

Charles Harrell, acting district director of the CIS office in Phoenix, said the immigration service is responding to a surge of applications that poured in last year.

Citizenship applications spike every four years preceding a presidential election, but the record surge last year was triggered by various immigration-related factors, including a 70 percent fee increase that prompted thousands of immigrants to apply before the increase took effect Aug. 1. -- Feds coping with backlog for U.S. citizenship before election

New Hampshire: phone jamming case gets a going-over by the U.S. House Judiciary Committee

New Hampshire Public Radio reports: The phone jamming scandal from New Hampshire s 2002 election is now a contentious issue on Capitol Hill.

Democrats are investigating what they say was White House involvement in the incident while Republicans say Democrats are just fishing for headlines.

NHPR Correspondent Matt Laslo reports from Washington. -- Phone Jamming Scandal Gets Hearing in US House | New Hampshire Public Radio

May 15, 2008

Ohio: Kerry really won, says researcher

John Q. Jacobs writes: The 2004 Ohio Presidential voting results do not accurately reflect voter intentions. In Cuyahoga County, the election was flawed and the design appears to have been manipulated. At locations with several ballot orders in use, many votes were cast by voters crossing precincts, hence counted other than as intended. At precincts with the highest Kerry support, the percentage of uncounted votes is inexplicably high. The obvious inference—intentional manipulation produced concentrated undercounting, cross-voting, and vote-switching in areas of highest Kerry support—cannot be ignored in the face of the evidence and statistics. The possibility that ballots were switched to different precincts, post-voting to effect vote-switching, must be considered in a complete chain of custody context.

Many individual ballots resulted in a vote-switch, a two-vote margin difference from the intended result. Switched-votes cast for Kerry and counted for Bush had twice the impact as their actual occurrence, by each subtracting one from Kerry and adding one to Bush. Bush and Kerry votes also went uncounted as non-votes or were miscounted as minor candidate votes. A high percentage of all Cuyahoga County votes were cast at locations with multiple ballot orders. The manner in which precincts and ballot orders were combined increased the probability of a Kerry cross-vote being recorded as a Bush vote. Quantitative analyses of candidate votes and of non-vote percentages evidence the cross-voting and the patterns of cross-voting and vote-switching. -- How Kerry Votes Were Switched to Bush Votes.

May 14, 2008

Presidential campaigns seek to restrict money to 527's

The Washington Post reports: Sen. Barack Obama's top fundraisers have asked his campaign donors to refrain from contributing to liberal independent political organizations in hopes of controlling the tone and message of the general-election campaign.

At a meeting in Indianapolis on May 2, members of the Democratic front-runner's finance committee made it clear Obama (Ill.) is worried that overtly negative advertising from outside organizations could undermine his themes of unity and hope. ...

The meeting was only the most overt effort by Obama or Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), the presumptive Republican nominee, to freeze out "527" groups -- named after a provision in the tax code -- which are not allowed to openly support a candidate but have helped define recent elections through negative advertising.

The McCain campaign has been less organized than Obama's in its efforts to counter the groups, but the senator from Arizona has made clear his antipathy toward them -- without much effect. -- Obama, McCain Aim to Curb '527s' - washingtonpost.com

"How Will Clinton Resolve Campaign Debt?"

Peter Overby on NPR reports on ways to pay the debt: Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was some $10 million in debt at the end of March. Then she loaned her campaign $11 million. The campaign won't say what her total debt is. How might Clinton go about paying off some of the bills? -- How Will Clinton Resolve Campaign Debt? : NPR

May 13, 2008

Michigan: Feiger paralegal says FBI bullied her

The Detroit Free Press reports: A paralegal testified today that the FBI agent in charge of the criminal probe against Southfield lawyer Geoffrey Fieger tried to bully her when he questioned her about contributions she made at Fieger’s behest to John Edwards’ 2004 presidential campaign.

Under cross-examination by Fieger defense lawyer Gerry Spence, SueEllen Sandner said she was so disgusted with the way FBI agent Jeffrey Rees treated her, she refused Monday to meet with a federal prosecutor in advance of today's testimony if Rees would be there.

“He was fairly aggressive with me when I didn’t say the words he wanted me to say,” Sandner said of her first conversation with Rees in December 2005. He called her shortly after agents raided Fieger’s law firm looking for evidence that Fieger and law partner Vernon (Ven) Johnson recruited 64 people to contribute to Edwards’ 2004 presidential campaign and reimbursed them with law firm funds.

Defense lawyers have conceded that Fieger and Johnson reimbursed employees for contributing, but that the pair didn’t think they were breaking the law. Their lawyers have focused on federal investigative tactics. -- Paralegal: FBI agent tried to bully me in Fieger case

Companies beginning to disclose lobbying expenses

The Washington Post reports: Ever wonder how much companies really spend to influence government through trade associations? Well, a few corporations are coming clean, or at least cleaner.

The Center for Political Accountability, a nonpartisan group that promotes corporate political disclosure, has been gradually persuading companies to disclose more about their political activities. As a result, a few mysteries have been solved.

In 2006, for example, Chevron, the oil company, paid the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Business Industry PAC BIPAC $250,000 each to educate voters. Such spending has traditionally been kept secret because laws do not require disclosure, even though it is an important element in the assault on Washington. Now, shareholder pressure has changed a few minds in corporate boardrooms.

Aetna, the insurance company, has disclosed that it paid trade associations $3.4 million in 2006, the latest year for which information is available. That included $950,000 to America s Health Insurance Plans, $925,000 to the Coalition for Affordable Quality Healthcare, $226,500 to the Business Roundtable and $100,000 to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. In other words, a ton of dough. -- Jeffrey H. Birnbaum - Companies Start to Lift Veil on Political Spending - washingtonpost.com

"Street money"

The New York Times reports: In the threadbare border towns of South Texas, one of the country’s poorest regions, enterprising locals like Candelaria Espinoza have long been paid to round up votes for candidates on Election Day. There is even a name for these electoral soldiers of fortune: politiqueras. ...

The payments, known in the political vernacular as “street money,” are a legal but controversial tool that Mrs. Clinton employed at a time when she was desperately seeking a victory after losing 10 consecutive contests to Mr. Obama.

As a practical matter, the payments are now little more than a footnote to a hotly contested race that seems closer to a conclusion after Mrs. Clinton’s poor showing in North Carolina and narrow victory in Indiana last Tuesday. But they underscore how her strategists, caught unprepared for a drawn-out battle, turned to an old-style method of retail politicking to ensure much-needed victories in the suddenly critical Texas and Ohio primaries.

Not equipped with the volunteer-driven grass-roots movement that has propelled Mr. Obama’s get-out-the-vote efforts, the Clinton campaign hired more than three times as many local operatives as he to fill that role in those two states. While mostly forgoing the use of street money in Ohio and other places, the Obama campaign paid about 150 people in Texas, most of them college students, for campaign work. The payments were widely dispersed, with only a handful in South Texas and fewer than 20 in Houston. -- Legal but Controversial, It Helped Get Out the Vote

May 12, 2008

Texas: LULAC sues Texas Democratic Party over lack of Sec. 5 preclarance for "Texas two-step" (updated with court docs attached)

AP reports: The Texas Democratic Party was sued Friday by Latino advocacy groups that contend the complicated primary and caucus system used in the March 4 presidential primary unfairly diluted Latino votes.

The League of United Latin American Citizens of Texas and the Mexican American Bar Association of Houston sued in federal court, arguing the party failed to seek clearance required by the U.S. Justice Department for the so-called Texas Two Step. The groups also argue the system effectively discriminates against Latino voters by giving them fewer delegates.

Texas Democrats distribute the state s 193 delegates using both a primary election and a caucus, but the distribution favors state Senate districts that had high voter turnout in the last presidential and gubernatorial elections.

In the March 4 election, that meant predominantly Hispanic districts, where turnout was low in 2004 and 2006, got fewer delegates than others, particularly urban, predominantly black districts. Latino districts favored Hillary Clinton; black districts favored Barack Obama. -- LULAC sued Texas Democratic Party over primary delegates - El Paso Times

Note: If anyone has a copy of the complaint, email it to me. The complaint may be downloaded here. Thanks to Jose Garza for responding to my request.

It's homogenization, not gerrymandering

The New York Times reports: The buzz these days is that American politics may be entering a “postpartisan” era, as a new generation finds the old ideological quarrels among baby boomers to be increasingly irrelevant. In reality, matters are not so simple. Far from being postpartisan, today’s young adults are significantly more likely to identify as Democrats than were their predecessors. Along with colleagues at the Brookings and Hoover institutions, we recently completed a comprehensive study of the nation’s polarization. Our research concludes not only that the ideological differences between the political parties are growing but also that they have become embedded in American society itself. ...

But polarization has proceeded even further than these shifts made necessary. The great majority of voters now fuse their party identification, ideology and decisions in the voting booth. The share of Democrats who could be called conservative has shrunk, and so has the share of liberal Republicans. The American National Election Studies asks voters a series of issues-based questions and then arrays respondents along a 15-point scale from -7 (the most liberal) to +7 (the most conservative). These data indicate that 41 percent of the voters in 1984 were located at or near the midpoint of the ideological spectrum, compared with only 28 percent in 2004. Meanwhile, the percentage of voters clustering toward the left and right tails of the spectrum rose from 10 to 23 percent. ...

Our study shows that this geographical sorting worsens polarization in several ways. When counties become more homogeneous, it becomes harder to use redistricting to create more competitive Congressional districts. (Recent research indicates that gerrymandering accounts for, at the very most, one-third of noncompetitive districts in the House of Representatives.) When states become more homogeneous, presidential campaigns begin by conceding a large number of contests to the opposition, disheartening their supporters in those states and increasing the majority’s electoral advantage. Polarization feeds on itself. -- Vote Like Thy Neighbor

Missouri: new voter I.D. proposal will require proof of citizenship

The New York Times reports: The battle over voting rights will expand this week as lawmakers in Missouri are expected to support a proposed constitutional amendment to enable election officials to require proof of citizenship from anyone registering to vote.

The measure would allow far more rigorous demands than the voter ID requirement recently upheld by the Supreme Court, in which voters had to prove their identity with a government-issued card.

Sponsors of the amendment — which requires the approval of voters to go into effect, possibly in an August referendum — say it is part of an effort to prevent illegal immigrants from affecting the political process. Critics say the measure could lead to the disenfranchisement of tens of thousands of legal residents who would find it difficult to prove their citizenship.

Voting experts say the Missouri amendment represents the next logical step for those who have supported stronger voter ID requirements and the next battleground in how elections are conducted. Similar measures requiring proof of citizenship are being considered in at least 19 state legislatures. Bills in Florida, Kansas, Oklahoma and South Carolina have strong support. But only in Missouri does the requirement have a chance of taking effect before the presidential election. -- Voter ID Battle Shifts to Proof of Citizenship - New York Times

May 11, 2008

A quick in-and-out as GOP convention chief

The New York Times reports: The public relations executive whom Senator John McCain’s campaign had chosen to run the Republican National Convention this summer resigned his post on Saturday after a magazine reported that his firm had lobbied for the military junta that runs Myanmar.

The executive, Doug Goodyear, said in a statement that he was stepping down as the coordinator of the convention, which will be held Sept. 1-4 in Minneapolis-St. Paul, “so as not to become a distraction in this campaign.”

“I continue to strongly support John McCain for president and wish him the best of luck in this campaign,” the two-sentence statement concluded.

Mr. Goodyear is the chief executive and a founding partner of the DCI Group, which has offices in Washington and Phoenix. He offered his resignation after Newsweek reported that his firm had been paid $348,000 in 2002 to represent the junta.

The rulers of Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, have been widely condemned for stymieing relief efforts after a cyclone ravaged the country’s coastal areas on May 3, killing thousands. The United States has denounced the Burmese government as one of the world’s most repressive, and Mr. McCain, Republican of Arizona, has long been critical of the government as well. During the campaign, he has called for Myanmar’s leaders to halt human rights abuses. -- Official Chosen by McCain to Run Convention Resigns

May 10, 2008

Debt Relief for Hillary

The Trailhead blog at Slate.com reports: Ever since the Clinton campaign went on life support earlier this week, there’s been speculation that Barack Obama could persuade Hillary to drop out by promising to pay off her campaign debt. The Huffington Post’s Tom Edsall wrote that “it is not uncommon for winning presidential campaigns to pick up some or all of a competitor's debts and obligations, although the size of Clinton's debt and her personal loans to her campaign are unprecedented - somewhere over and above $20 million.” Meanwhile, diarists at DailyKos started hyperventilating that their Obama donations would be given to subsidize Clinton’s ailing campaign. Is their fear justified?

No it’s not. Obama can’t just “pay back” Clinton’s debt. FEC rules limit contributions from one candidate committee to another at $2000, according to FEC spokesman Bob Biersack. So even if Obama wanted to cut Hillary a $10 million check, he couldn’t. Nor could he route his money through the DNC, since national party committees can only give $5000 to a candidate committee.

What Obama can do is fundraise for her. Over the past year, Obama has established a formidable online fundraising apparatus that has raked in more than $240 million since the campaign began. If he called for supporters to chip in for Clinton, or set up a joint fundraising committee, he could probably drum up some cash. How much is unclear. -- Trailhead : Debt Relief

May 9, 2008

Alabama: PAC-to-PAC tramsfer bill is in conference committee

The Birmingham News reports: An effort to ban shuffling money between political action committees is coming down to the final day of the legislative session.

A conference committee on Thursday debated a watered-down version of the ban originally proposed by Rep. Jeff McLaughlin, D-Guntersville.

The proposed compromise bans PAC-to-PAC transfers, but would carve out one-way street exemptions for political parties and legislative caucuses and require new filings to shed light on who s getting and giving money in Alabama politics.

PACs could give money to political parties and legislative caucuses, but the parties and caucuses could not give money to another PAC, under the compromise. PACs, political parties, legislative caucuses and "get out the vote" groups would have to file new quarterly reports listing their contributions and donations in addition to the reports they file before elections. -- Alabama Legislature s proposed PAC compromise would require new disclosure- al.com

Preaching Truth (or some version of it) to Power (aka the IRS)

The Wall Street Journal reports: A conservative legal-advocacy group is enlisting ministers to use their pulpits to preach about election candidates this September, defying a tax law that bars churches from engaging in politics.

Alliance Defense Fund, a Scottsdale, Ariz., nonprofit, is hoping at least one sermon will prompt the Internal Revenue Service to investigate, sparking a court battle that could get the tax provision declared unconstitutional. Alliance lawyers represent churches in disputes with the IRS over alleged partisan activity.

The action marks the latest attempt by a conservative organization to help clergy harness their congregations to sway elections. The protest is scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 28, a little more than a month before the general election, in a year when religious concerns and preachers have been a regular part of the political debate. ...

The section of the tax code barring nonprofits from intervening in political campaigns has long frustrated clergy. Many ministers consider the provision an inappropriate government intrusion, blocking the duty of clergy to advise congregants.

Alliance fund staff hopes 40 or 50 houses of worship will take part in the action, including clerics from liberal-leaning congregations. About 80 ministers have expressed interest, including one Catholic priest, says Erik Stanley, the Alliance's senior legal counsel. -- Pastors May Defy IRS Gag Rule - WSJ.com

Bush aids McCain by nominating new commissioners to FEC

The New York Times reports: For months, the White House and Senate Republicans have been content to let a political impasse over vacancies at the Federal Election Commission persist, sidelining the regulatory agency in the throes of a heated presidential campaign.

But on Tuesday, President Bush suddenly announced three new nominees to the commission. He also backed away from Republicans’ insistence that the nomination of Hans von Spakovsky, a former Justice Department official who faces vigorous opposition from Democrats, be voted upon with other nominees to the commission.

The reason for the about-face?

Several Democratic officials familiar with the negotiations and watchdog groups said they believed that Senator John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, had been pressing the White House and Senator Mitch McConnell, the minority leader, to resolve the issue.

Although Mr. McCain has been a longtime champion of campaign finance reform, he also has an urgent pecuniary interest in the matter.

The agency, which monitors compliance of federal election laws, has had only two commissioners out of a normal complement of six for months, leaving it without a quorum and powerless to act. Without a functioning commission, campaign finance experts said, Mr. McCain’s ability to collect $85 million in federal money for the general election through the country’s public financing system would be severely complicated. -- In F.E.C. Moves, Some See Effort to Aid McCain - New York Times

The problem with "Hillary Clinton for the Supreme Court?"

Carlton Larson, writing on Prawfsblawg, suggests "Suppose Obama announced that he would name Hillary Clinton to the first Supreme Court vacancy of his term." -- PrawfsBlawg: Hillary Clinton for the Supreme Court?

There is a small problem with that idea. 18 USC § 599 provides:

Whoever, being a candidate, directly or indirectly promises or pledges the appointment, or the use of his influence or support for the appointment of any person to any public or private position or employment, for the purpose of procuring support in his candidacy shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both; and if the violation was willful, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.

May 8, 2008

Office of Special Counsel was investigating the voter registration fraud case

The Project On Government Oversight POGO Blog: Internal Draft Document Reveals Bloch-Headedness
The Project on Government Oversight Blog reports: POGO has gained access to an extraordinary internal DOCUMENT from the Office of Special Counsel, an independent federal agency charged with protecting whistleblowers from reprisal. Clearly marked DRAFT, it is a memo dated January 18, 2008, to Special Counsel Scott Bloch from the members of a special task force. The task force was created, according to the memo, in May 2007, to pursue certain complex and high profile investigations, such as the firing of the U.S. Attorneys and the political presentations given by the White House Office of Political Affairs OPA . The stated subject of the memo is Summary of Task Force Activities and Recommendations, but it reads at times like an anguished cry from investigators charged with an important mission but virtually every recommendation they make is countermanded by their boss. If they recommend going forward with an inquiry, Bloch says no. If they say they lack evidence or jurisdiction, he orders them to go forward.

The inescapable conclusion reached from poring through the contents of this 13-page memo is that Bloch was deliberately creating the impression of a huge ongoing multi-faceted investigation of the White House--at the same time that he himself was being investigated by another arm of the White House for various forms of misconduct. ...

Voter Registration Fraud Case:
Indictments were filed against four individuals associated with a liberal organization, ACORN, for engaging in election fraud. ACORN had reported the fraud itself and had fired the individuals, but a senior Justice official in Washington rushed to file the indictments a few days before the 2006 election, despite clear DOJ policy against bringing such actions right before an election because of the possibility of influencing the outcome.

The task force wrote a memo "outlining the reasons that the Hatch Act case investigating this matter should be opened.” The Hatch Act expressly forbids any Executive Branch official from taking actions that might influence an election. The task force was told they were "not authorized to open up this file." The task force protested strongly:

Because the facts raise the strong possibility of violations of two Hatch Act provisions, the TF requests that a case file be opened into these allegations. OSC is the only agency charged with enforcement of the Hatch Act…it could be perceived that the Office of Special Counsel was abdicating its responsibility to enforce the Hatch Act if we were to take no action in this matter. More importantly, [if the actions were]…an attempt to affect the results of an election, this would constitute one of the most egregious violations of the Hatch Act.

-- Internal Draft Document Reveals Bloch-Headedness

The draft document is here.

Hat-tip to Left in Alabama for the link to this extraordinary document.

How Hillarry can turn her carriage into a pumpkin

Why Clinton Stands to Lose Millions - US News and World Report
US News and World Report reports: Experts disagree on whether or not Clinton will actually stick in the fight until the Democratic National Convention in August. But the date looms large for another reason—at least, if she hopes to recoup any of the millions she has sunk into the campaign. Thanks to a little-known provision in 2002's McCain-Feingold campaign-finance reform bill, a campaign must repay the loan to a candidate before Election Day. In this case, that's the nominating convention. After the election has passed, a bankrupt campaign is limited to gathering just $250,000 from contributors, which means that modest sum is all it can give back to a candidate. In short, Clinton stands to lose $11,150,000. "If she wants to be repaid, she'd have to move on that between now and the national convention," says former Federal Election Commission chairman Michael Toner. "Otherwise, it just becomes another contribution." The campaign, meanwhile, has other debts to consider as well. According to her latest FEC filing, the Hillary Clinton for President campaign committee owes millions to vendors, including more than $4.5 million to Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates, the consulting firm of her former chief strategist Mark Penn.

That adds another wrinkle to her decision to stay in the race. Time is running out to pay off friends, allies, and vendors. Plus, by all accounts, Clinton's most ardent supporters are tapped out, either unwilling or unable by law to donate any more. If she's going to continue competing, she has to ask herself how many more millions she's willing to spend in a quest many describe as increasingly quixotic. In short, how much does she care about the money? Politics guru Larry Sabato at the University of Virginia figures not much; after all, the Clintons earned $109 million since leaving the White House. "It's like Michael Bloomberg spending a billion. Would he miss it? Is she going to miss $10 million? There's only so much you can spend yourself anyway." -- Why Clinton Stands to Lose Millions

Hat-tip to Taegan Goddard's Political Wire for the link.

DNC analysis shows turnout in Dem primaries up and above GOP's

The DNC released a memo this afternoon showing

  • From 2004 to 2008, for all states for which comparable data was available, Democratic turnout increased by significant margins—no state saw a decrease for Democrats and many states saw turnout increasing by thousands of percentage points.

  • In contrast, comparing 2008 Republican turnout to the last contested Republican primary in 2000, Republican turnout either stayed relatively stagnant or decreased. Sinking turnout throughout the country for Republicans shows the contrast between Democrats and Republicans this primary season.

  • In fact, for the 30 states for which comparable data is available, 27 of them saw more Democratic than Republican voters this year.
  • The memo contains state-by-state tables and more supporting data.

    Michigan: Feiger firm lawyer admits reimbursement of contributors at another firm

    The Detroit Free Press reports: An attorney from Geoffrey Fieger’s law office, called as a prosecution witness to testify in the high profile lawyer’s federal trial for alleged illegal political fund-raising, told jurors today that he’d followed the same practices throughout his 24-year career.

    “I’ve done exactly what I’ve done at the Fieger firm that’s the subject of this litigation on numerous occasions through my legal career at another firm,” Jeffrey Danzig testified on direct examination.

    Fieger and partner Vernon (Ven) Johnson are charged with breaking campaign finance laws. Money was collected from employees, friends, relatives and other for the 2004 John Edwards presidential bid and the donations were then reimbursed by law firm checks.

    The times he’d done the same thing while at the Lopatin-Miller law office were “too many to count,” Danzing said in later cross-examination. -- Attorney working for Fieger: I've followed the same practices for 24 years

    Kansas: legislature passes voter I.D. bill

    The Kansas City Star reports: Lawmakers have passed a bill requiring Kansans to provide photo identification when they vote — starting in 2010 — but some Democrats expect a veto from Gov. Kathleen Sebelius.

    The governor’s office was noncommittal about House Bill 2019, but Rep. Tom Sawyer of Wichita said he expected Sebelius to veto voter ID as she has in the past.

    The bill sailed through the Senate 27-3, but the House vote was 67-56, far short of a veto-proof majority. The legislation exempts people with disabilities, voters 65 and older and active-duty military personnel and their families. -- www.kansascity.com | 05/07/2008 | Voter ID bill sent to Kansas governor

    Missouri: House approves constitutional amendment for voter I.D.

    The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports: Voters could decide whether to enact a photo ID requirement for voting under a proposed constitutional amendment given first-round approval Wednesday by the Missouri House.

    Legislators approved a photo ID law in 2006, but it was struck down by the state Supreme Court as a violation of the state constitution. The proposal approved Wednesday would present the idea to voters as a constitutional amendment either in November or in a special election.

    House members gave the resolution first-round approval on a party-line vote, 89-67.

    Republicans brought up the proposal after the U.S. Supreme Court said an Indiana photo ID law was constitutional. -- STLtoday - Mo. voters may decide on photo ID requirement

    Indiana: first time voter prevented from voting in Dem primary

    The Star Press reports: A first-time voter said he was not permitted to vote in Tuesday s Democratic Primary because a poll inspector believed he was a Republican.

    The reason the poll inspector believed Ball State University student Kyle Ellis, 21, was a Republican was because Ellis told the inspector he registered to vote as a Republican.

    "I realize now that is incorrect," Ellis said Wednesday.
    It's a common misconception that Indiana voters declare political affiliation when they register to vote. Instead, voters decide party affiliation in primary elections when they choose whether to vote in the Democratic or Republican primary.

    The concept is known as an "open primary."

    Having never voted before, Ellis would have never officially declared an affiliation with either party before Tuesday's election. -- Voter says he was banned from casting Democratic ballot | The Star Press - www.thestarpress.com - Muncie, IN

    May 4, 2008

    The "Nuclear Option" at the Democratic Convention

    Tom Edsall writes on the Huffington Post: Hillary Clinton s campaign has a secret weapon to build its delegate count, but her top strategists say privately that any attempt to deploy it would require a sharp and by no means inevitable shift in the political climate within Democratic circles by the end of this month.

    With at least 50 percent of the Democratic Party s 30-member Rules and Bylaws Committee committed to Clinton, her backers could -- when the committee meets at the end of this month -- try to ram through a decision to seat the disputed 210-member Florida and 156-member Michigan delegations. Such a decision would give Clinton an estimated 55 or more delegates than Obama, according to Clinton campaign operatives. The Obama campaign has declined to give an estimate. -- Clinton Camp Considering Nuclear Option To Overtake Delegate Lead - Politics on The Huffington Post

    Comment: The only reason to float this scenario now is to send a Nixonian message to Obama's would-be supporters that HRC is willing to destroy the Party in order to get her way. By projecting this power now, she hopes to sway waverers away from Obama.

    North Carolina: "Women's Voices, Women Vote" in hot water over robo-calls

    The Washington Post reports: Women's Voices, Women Vote is one of those little advocacy organizations with a lot of big names attached: Former White House chief of staff John Podesta is a board member, Hillary Rodham Clinton campaign manager Maggie Williams has consulted, and founder Page Gardner worked for the 1992 Bill Clinton campaign, to name a few.

    But for all the paid and unpaid talent associated with the group, which focuses on registering unmarried women to vote, it's landed in legal hot water in North Carolina for robo-calling voters after the primary registration date and for not identifying the group in the call.

    Voters and watchdog groups complained about the calls, and North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper ordered them to stop on Wednesday. Some saw a turnout-suppression conspiracy because the group's allies include so many Clinton supporters, especially Podesta and Williams.

    On Friday, Barack Obama's campaign weighed in by circulating the transcript of a National Public Radio report on the calls. It noted that the North Carolina calls seemed to heavily skew to African Americans, including many women who had already registered, causing them to question whether they were eligible to vote in the primary on Tuesday.

    In a statement released on its Web site, the group explains that the calls were part of a general-election outreach effort in 24 states and coincided with mailings that conveyed a similar "hurry up and register" message. But in other states as well, the mailings and calls were placed after primary registration deadlines had passed, sowing confusion and leading to other legal complaints against the group. -- Women's Voices, Women Vote: Did the Outreach Overreach? - washingtonpost.com

    May 3, 2008

    London: Boris Johnson wins mayoral race on "instant runoff"

    BBC reports: Boris Johnson has won the race to become the next mayor of London - ending Ken Livingstone s eight-year reign at City Hall.

    The Conservative candidate won with 1,168,738 first and second preference votes, compared with Mr Livingstone s 1,028,966 on a record turnout of 45%. ...

    First preference votes:
    Boris Johnson (Tory): 1,043,761
    Ken Livingstone (Lab): 893,877
    Brian Paddick (Lib Dem): 236,685
    Sian Berry (Green): 77,374
    Richard Barnbrook (BNP): 69,710
    Alan Craig (Christian Choice): 39,249
    Gerard Batten (UKIP): 22,422
    Lindsey German (Left List): 16,796
    Matt O'Connor (Eng Democrats): 10,695
    Winston McKenzie (Ind): 5,389 -- BBC NEWS | UK | UK Politics | Johnson wins London mayoral race

    Note: Since the bottom eight candidates together had fewer votes than Livingstone, all of their ballots were re-examined and the second preferences counted.

    Guam: Obama wins by 7 votes, recount "imminent"

    Pacific News Center reports: The Democrat Party Nominating Committee said officials will look over the large amount of spoiled ballots in the coming days.

    At issue is the small margin of victory of Senator Barack Obama. He beat his rival, Senator Hillary Clinton by 7 votes, but well over 500 ballots were deemed invalid during the tabulation process.

    Herbie Perez, chairman of the nominating committee, said she will not certify the results because the Committee needs to ensure that all the uncounted ballots were properly identified as spoiled. -- Pacific News Center

    Hat-tip to TalkLeft for the link.

    Colorado: slow preparations for convention security prompts suit by ACLU

    The New York Times reports: Groups planning parades or protests at the Democratic National Convention filed a lawsuit here on Friday charging that the Secret Service and the City of Denver are threatening free speech — not because of tight security rules, but by the very lack of them.

    The suit, filed in Federal District Court, says that delays in establishing legal parade routes, and unanswered questions about security arrangements around the convention center, are undermining efforts to plan for events when Democrats gather here from Aug. 25 to 28.

    Mark Silverstein, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado, which is representing 12 groups in the lawsuit, said they had no choice but to turn to the court. With just four months until the convention, the groups want a judge to speed the scheduling and the issuing of rules governing activities outside the Pepsi Center.

    At the Democratic convention in Boston in 2004, First Amendment challenges could not be addressed by judges, Mr. Silverstein said, because security measures were announced too late. -- Convention Preparations Prompt Suit by A.C.L.U. - New York Times

    "Republicans Crossing Over to Vote in Democratic Contests"

    The New York Times reports: Even some states without open primaries seem to have experienced crossover voting. In the Pennsylvania vote on April 22, voter surveys indicated that about 5 percent of those voting in the Democratic primary were Republicans who switched their party registration; they split their vote almost evenly between the two candidates.

    Here in Indiana, both Democratic candidates are sending surrogates to campaign in traditionally Republican areas they might have ignored in years past, including in Hamilton County, Indiana’s fastest-growing and most affluent county.

    “We’re getting a lot of inquiries from Republicans asking how do you do it, how do you cross over,” Dan Parker, the Democratic Party state chairman, said in an interview here. “It’s been our No. 1 request for the past two months.”

    Clouding the picture, however, is a campaign by Rush Limbaugh, the radio talk show host, urging his listeners to cast their ballots for Mrs. Clinton “if they can stomach it,” in order to prolong the Democratic race and weaken the eventual winner. -- Republicans Crossing Over to Vote in Democratic Contests - New York Times

    May 1, 2008

    Senate says McCain is "natural-born citizen"

    The New York Times reports: The Senate on Wednesday delivered its judgment on a constitutional question involving one of its own and formally declared that Senator John McCain is eligible to be president — at least from a citizenship perspective.

    Weighing in on an arcane question that has arisen because of Mr. McCain’s birth in the Panama Canal Zone, the Senate without opposition approved a nonbinding resolution recognizing that Mr. McCain is a natural-born citizen.

    Among the basic qualifications the Constitution lays out for president is that the person be a natural-born citizen, a phrase not defined and one that has been subjected to various interpretations.

    At the request of Mr. McCain’s campaign, two constitutional lawyers studied the issue and found in favor of Mr. McCain, whose father was stationed in the zone with the Navy when the future candidate was born. Colleagues of both parties in the Senate, including his two potential Democratic rivals, concur. -- Senate Says McCain Is Qualified