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

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June 30, 2008

Alabama: state supreme courts backs gubernatorial appointment -- at least till November

The Alabama Supreme Court decided today that it was completely legal for Gov. Riley to make an appointment to fill a vacancy on the Jefferson County Commission. Thus, Commissioner George Bowman will serve until his successor is elected in November. The Supreme Court leaves it up to the Circuit Court to figure out how the political parties are going to nominate candidates.

The decision in Working v. Jefferson County Commission is here.

Disclosure: James Blacksher and I represent Fred Plump, one of the parties who argued against the right of the Governor to appoint at all.

Update: The Birmingham News story is here.

Alabama: State AG on Fox News about voter fraud investigations

News Hound reports and has a video: FOX News, right on schedule, has started the reports of voter fraud by the Democratic Party. Eric Shawn interviewed the Alabama Attorney General, Troy King, who claimed people have been selling their votes. When Shawn finally asked him to identify the Party responsible, King said Democratic counties were involved but stopped short at flatly blaming one party. However, the message was clear. -- News Hounds: FOX News Reports Alabama Voter Fraud by Democrats

Massachusetts: Attention, shoppers -- voting in Aisle One

The Worcester Telegram reports: After last year’s elections, the Election Commission developed criteria to evaluate the city’s polling locations, and based on those evaluations, it found that a number of sites had problems or deficiencies that need to be addressed. Election officials then spent the past several months working on securing potential new polling sites.

What resulted was a series of recommendations, which include eliminating nearly all public school buildings as sites for residents to cast their ballots. In their place, election officials are looking to use more spacious digs in some church or synagogue halls, community rooms within apartment complexes and nursing homes, a college (Assumption) and, yes, even three supermarkets.

The common characteristics of all the new locations are that they have ample parking and are fairly easy to get to.

Perhaps the most novel idea is using supermarkets — Price Chopper, 72 Pullman St.; Stop & Shop, 949 Grafton St.; and Shaw’s, 68 Stafford St. — as polling locations. If those sites are adopted by the Election Commission, it is believed that Worcester would become the first community in the state to tap supermarkets for polling sites.

While some people might snicker at the idea of having people go to supermarkets to exercise their right to vote, Mr. Rushford feels it makes a lot of sense.“People aren’t going to be voting next to the deli or in the middle of an aisle,” Mr. Rushford said. “The areas that we are looking at in these stores are either off to the side in a quiet part of the store, or in the case of the Stop & Shop, in a board room on the second floor. People won’t be disturbed in these locations when they go to vote.” -- Worcester Telegram & Gazette Nick Kotsopoulos

Alabama: "History is a gift from man who lived it"

The Montgomery Advertiser reports: It isn't often that young people have an opportunity to learn history from someone who actually lived it.

That's what Montgomery youngsters got Friday afternoon at the Lowndes County Interpretive Center where civil rights lessons are learned every day.

Joseph Glover kept boys and girls from the Houston Hill Summer Camp spellbound, telling them what it was like to live in a tent for 21/2 years.

He and sharecropper relatives were forced off land they had tilled for years after owners of the property punished them for taking part in efforts to register to vote. -- montgomeryadvertiser.com | Montgomery Advertiser

Alabama: judicial candidates sues after disqualification

The local NPR station reports that Ray Bryan has sued the Republican Party to keep the Party from decertifying his primary win. The latest story in the Anniston Star is behind a subscription firewall, but the Star reported a week ago: Local attorney Ray Bryan may not become circuit judge despite having won the June GOP primary election, according to state Republican Party officials.

Alabama Republican Party Executive Director John Ross said the party's steering and candidates committee has moved to decertify Bryan, and plans to appoint a replacement, after he was late filing forms required by the state's Fair Campaign Practices Act. -- Bryan may lose judgeship over finance filings | AnnistonStar.com

June 29, 2008

Alabama: GOP sues to get its candidate on the Jefferson County ballot

Alabama Politics in Doc's Political Parlor reports: There is a confusing story in Jefferson County that is turning into a pitched battle between county Democrats and Republicans.

Seems that about 18 months ago, Republican Andy Smith was appointed by Gov. Riley to fill an unexpired term as Bessemer Division Tax Assessor. That term ends Sept. 30, 2009. There is an election for the seat in this November’s general election.

Here is where it gets confusing:

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.

To keep the seat without interruption, not only does Andy Smith have to qualify for and win the election for the term that begins in 2009, he also has to win the election for the remainder of the unexpired term. For which he did not file qualifying papers. -- Parties in Heated Battle in Jefferson County

Links to the complaint and the Democrats' response is on the Political Party.

Millionaire's Amendment struck down

The New York Times reported on Thursday (note to self: don't take a vacation during the last week of the Supreme Court Term): The Supreme Court on Thursday struck down a law meant to level the financial playing field when rich candidates pay for their own political campaigns.

The 5-to-4 decision, legal experts said, was significant for rejecting the rationale behind the law, known as the “millionaire’s amendment,” and for confirming the court’s continuing skepticism about the constitutionality of campaign finance regulations.

“Supporters of reasonable campaign finance regulation are now zero for three in the Roberts court,” said Richard L. Hasen, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. “This is a signal of what is to come. What could easily fall following this case are the longstanding limits on corporate and union spending in federal elections.”

The law at issue in Thursday’s decision imposed special rules in races with candidates who finance their own campaigns. Those candidates are required to disclose more information, and their opponents are allowed to raise more money. -- Supreme Court Strikes Down ‘Millionaire’s Amendment’

Forget 527's, use cheap viral advertising via YouTube

The New York Times reports: The video blasted across the Internet, drawing political blood from Senator John McCain within a matter of days.

Produced here in a cluttered former motel behind the Sony Pictures lot, it juxtaposed harsh statements about Islam made by the Rev. Rod Parsley with statements from Mr. McCain praising Mr. Parsley, a conservative evangelical leader. The montage won notice on network newscasts this spring and ultimately helped lead Mr. McCain, the likely Republican presidential nominee, to reject Mr. Parsley’s earlier endorsement.

In previous elections, an attack like that would have come from party operatives, campaign researchers or the professional political hit men who orbit around them.

But in the 2008 race, the first in which campaigns are feeling the full force of the changes wrought by the Web, the most attention-grabbing attacks are increasingly coming from people outside the political world. In some cases they are amateurs operating with nothing but passion, a computer and a YouTube account, in other cases sophisticated media types with more elaborate resources but no campaign experience. -- Political Freelancers Use Web to Join the Attack - NYTimes.com

June 24, 2008

Democratic National Committee sues FEC over McCain's withdrawal from public financing

From a DNC press release: The Democratic National Committee today filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in D.C. to compel the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to investigate John McCain's decision to unilaterally withdraw from the FEC's matching funds program despite using the program to financially benefit his campaign - just one of many McCain campaign improprieties. To view a copy of the DNC's lawsuit, please visit: http://www.democrats.org/page/-/pdf/DNCFECMcCain_062408.pdf.

John McCain talks about setting a new standard for "transparency and accountability" yet when it comes to his campaign, he doesn't seem to think the rules apply to him. First, he used taxpayer dollars to secure a loan to keep his campaign afloat in the primary, a move that's clearly against the law. Then the Wall Street Journal reported that McCain refused to pay for his campaign's use of a corporate jet - again against the law - and last week, his trip to Canada came under question for possible violations of federal law.

Florida: Internet evangelist will sue IRS over political/religious speech

The Caucus blog of the NY Times reports: Bill Keller, an evangelist based in Florida, runs “Liveprayer.com,” an Internet call-in program. Because he receives a government tax exemption, he is prohibited by law from endorsing or opposing candidates for public office.

But during the Republican primary battle, Mr. Keller proclaimed to his followers and the news media that “a vote for Mitt Romney is a vote for Satan.”

Now Mr. Keller says he is being investigated by the Internal Revenue Service for involvement in partisan politics.

He asserts that his denunciations of Mr. Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts who is a Mormon, were religious and not political. ...

Mr. Stanley said the organization planned to send tapes of the sermons to the I.R.S., and then sue the agency for inhibiting free speech and the free exercise of religion when an investigation is opened. -- Challenging the I.R.S. - The Caucus - Politics - New York Times Blog

Florida: AG criticizes redistricting initiative

Legal Newsline reports: Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum has voiced concern over a proposed constitutional amendment that would change how lawmakers draw legislative boundaries.

In a letter to the state Supreme Court, the Republican attorney general said Friday that a proposed ballot summary fails to adequately explain the proposal would require that congressional districts be comprised of contiguous territory.

That, he said, would outlaw the multi-member districts that are currently allowed. ...

The ballot initiative is being pushed by FairDistrictsFlorida.org, which is co-chaired by former Democratic Gov. Bob Graham and former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno.

The group is essentially seeking to place on the 2010 ballot a constitutional ban against gerrymandering, where legislative boundaries are drawn to give political advantage to one party over another. -- LegalNewsline | McCollum criticizes redistricting proposal

Alabama: State AG blames DOJ over Perry election investigation

The Birmingham News reports: Alabama Attorney General Troy King said Monday that U.S. Justice Department officials have refused to help his office investigate possible election violations in Perry County.

King said federal officials, despite requests, have not sent his office a report on what federal observers saw in Perry County during the primary elections June 3. ...

Justice Department spokeswoman Jamie Hais replied in a written statement that observer reports are not released while a matter is under review by the department, "per Department practice, and in order to protect the integrity of the Department's election monitoring system and the Department's own enforcement work." -- No report yet on Perry elections- al.com

June 23, 2008

Pennsylvania: redistricting reform on the slow track

PolitickerPA.com reports: One reliable source in the state house has confirmed any redistricting reform is unlikely to happen this year, and if it were to happen at all, next year would be the most likely scenario. The problem is, any redistrict reform that involved moving the decision from the legislature to an independent board requires a constitutional amendment. For the matter to be put on the ballot for the public to approve, the same bill must be passed by two consecutive sessions. That means for there to be a change before the next redistricting occurs; a bill must be passed this summer. -- Redistricting reform most likely to happen next year, if at all | PolitickerPA

Outer space: absentee ballots via NASA

NPR's Morning Edition reports: For astronauts from Houston, who are unable to vote by absentee ballot, NASA has made it possible to cast their votes from a space shuttle or the International Space Station. NASA created special software that allows local election officials to create a ballot that is transmitted to the spacecraft. -- NASA Helps Astronauts Cast Ballots from Space : NPR

Alabama: too many absentee ballots?

The Birmingham News reports: Disproportionate numbers of absentee ballots in some counties have caught the attention of state elections and law enforcement officials, and the attorney general's office has seized voting records in Perry, Lowndes and Bullock counties. Attorney General Troy King has scheduled a press conference for this morning to discuss election fraud allegations. ...

Chapman said it's perfectly acceptable for candidates and campaign workers to urge people who can't get to the polls because of work, travel or illness to vote absentee.

What's crossing the line is when "vote brokers," armed with absentee ballots, try to sign up entire neighborhoods or when absentee ballots are filled out in exchange for cash or gifts. ...

In a poor, rural and isolated county such as Perry, lack of transportation to the polls can be a hindrance for people. More than one-third of people in Perry County live in poverty. Nearly 20 percent are disabled, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

That could account partly for the increased number of absentee ballots. -- Small counties' big absentee numbers raise suspicions in Alabama secretary of state's office- al.com

June 21, 2008

California: groups challenge anti-same-sex marriage initiative

AP reports: Gay rights advocates asked California s highest court Friday to keep off the November ballot a citizens initiative that would again ban same-sex marriage.

Lawyers for Equality California filed a petition arguing that the proposed amendment to the California Constitution should be invalidated because its impact was not made clear to the millions of voters who signed petitions to qualify the measure before the state Supreme Court legalized same-sex unions. ...

Rather than effecting no change in existing California law, the proposed initiative would dramatically change existing law by taking that fundamental right away and inscribing discrimination based on a suspect classification into our state Constitution.

The petition also claims the so-called California Marriage Protection Act should be disqualified because it would revise, rather than amend, the state Constitution by altering its fundamental guarantee of equality for all - in essence writing a law the state high court has already found unconstitutional into the constitution. -- Gay rights advocates seek to stop marriage measure - Forbes.com

Hat-tip to TalkLeft for the link.

Alabama: DOJ asks for more information on redistricting, city ponders how to hold elections without preclearance

Baldwin County Now.com reports: A letter from the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division concerning Foley’s recently submitted redistricting plan has raised questions for now about the upcoming municipal election slated for Aug. 26.

Indeed, who would run the city should a mayor and council be prevented by the Justice Department from taking office is one of the points now being researched, according to City Administrator Perry Wilbourne.

Wilbourne, in comments made Thursday, said the city received a four-page, 11-point letter from the Justice Department on Monday afternoon, June 16, a letter he saw for the first time on Tuesday.

“Each will require a response from us,” said Wilbourne of the 11 points.

“This is where they’re questioning the (redistricting) plan, they’re then asking us to explain more of the methodolgies.” -- Municipal election up in air over redistricting - Baldwin County NOW - A Gulf Coast Information Source for South Alabama

June 20, 2008

Alaska: native groups sue for Yup'ik-language voting materials

Indian Country Today reports: Plenty of attention has been paid to the importance of the Native vote this election season, but less scrutiny has focused on whether American Indians - especially those who are largely proficient in their tribal languages over English - have been given sufficient resources to understand ballots and other election materials.

The issue is reaching a boiling point for members of four tribal communities in Alaska, who are currently arguing in federal court that state and local election officials haven t provided them with effective oral language assistance and voting materials in their traditional Yup ik language. Yup ik is the primary form of communication for Natives in the Bethel, Alaska, region.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the Native American Rights Fund, both of which are representing the Native plaintiffs in the case, say that with the exception of two poorly translated radio ads in 2006, no other election information has been provided to date in the Yup ik language. ...

The Alaska Natives filed a motion in Alaska U.S. District Court in May, arguing that election officials have violated provisions of the Voting Rights Act. In mid-June, the court scheduled a hearing before a three-member judge panel in July to determine the validity of the plaintiffs claims. -- Not speaking our language : ICT 2008/06/20

Indiana: LWV challenges voter I.D. under state constitution

The Indiana Lawyer Daily reports: The League of Women Voters of Indiana filed a lawsuit today in Marion County challenging the state s three-year-old voter identification statute recently upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.

At 2 p.m. today, the organization filed the suit with the Marion Superior Court against Indiana Secretary of State Todd Rokita, arguing that it has the standing to sue on behalf of its members because the state statute burdens potential voters and would cause the league to have to spend precious resources assisting voters without the required ID.

This lawsuit comes following the April 28 ruling from the nation s highest court in William Crawford, et al. v. Marion County Election Board, 128 S. Ct. 1610 2008 , which upheld the state law that is considered the strictest in the nation. That ruling rejected the facial challenge, but left the door open for as-applied challenges in federal court and those involving state constitutional claims. -- New voter ID lawsuit filed

Thanks to Mike Pitts for the link.

And thanks to William Groth, attorney for the plaintiffs, for a copy of the complaint.

Obama's rejection of public funds threatens system

The New York Times reports: From the moment that the public financing system was created in the wake of the Watergate crisis, it was viewed as an imperfect way to rid politics of the excesses of special-interest money.

But now, with the decision by Senator Barack Obama to become the first presidential candidate to forgo public money, the system is facing the most critical threat to its survival.

At various times in its three-decade life, the public financing system has been declared close to its demise. Yet, every four years, it has continued to survive, with all presidential candidates since the system began in 1976 accepting public money to run their general election campaigns — and the spending limitations that come with it. ...

But Mr. Obama’s decision to opt out of public financing — along with the ability of the Internet to let candidates raise large sums of money from small donors — may do more to shatter the system than all of the loopholes it has spawned. --

Alabama: SOS wants online voting for military by 2010

The Montgomery Advertiser reports: Online voting is inevitable, Alabama s Secretary of State Beth Chapman says. ...

On Thursday, Chapman hosted the third meeting of the recently created task force on military and overseas voting. Chapman chairs the group founded by Gov. Bob Riley at her request.

At the meeting, three vendors briefed task force members, military members, state officials and residents on the capabilities of their systems. Currently, they are the only companies facilitating state and national elections worldwide. It was the first time they had assembled in one place, Chapman said.

She wants to have online voting available for military members and residents overseas in time for the 2010 election cycle. -- montgomeryadvertiser.com | Montgomery Advertiser

June 19, 2008

Alabama makes the "Dirty Dozen" for gerrymandering

George Skelton writes in the Los Angeles Times: Here's an indication of how rotten Democratic-led gerrymandering is in California:

A national Democratic organization is branding us one of a "Dirty Dozen" states that has rigged elections and significantly suppressed voter participation. ...

Nationally, almost 11 million votes were suppressed by gerrymandering, Dunkelman asserts. Of these, 9 million were in the "Dirty Dozen" states. Besides California, they're Alabama, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia. -- California is branded among a 'Dirty Dozen' on gerrymandering - Los Angeles Times

Hat-tip to Rick Hasen for the link.

Obama will run without public funding

strong>The Washington Post reports: Sen. Barack Obama has switched course on general-election funding, announcing this morning that he would reject public financing and raise every dime for the fall campaign on his own.

The announcement was widely expected. For months, Obama has eased back from an earlier pledge to "pursue an agreement with the Republican nominee to preserve a publicly financed general election," warning that it could impose unfair constraints.

The decision means Obama will give up $85 million in public money. But it frees him to raise $300 million or more from the 1.5 million-plus donors in his database, giving him an enormous -- almost breathtaking -- advantage over Sen. John McCain. -- Obama Opts Out of Public Financing | The Trail | washingtonpost.com
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June 18, 2008

Naturalization agency rejecting many on "dubious grounds"

The New York Sun reports: As the federal citizenship agency and the FBI say they are picking up the pace to eliminate a backlog of citizenship applications, immigrants anticipating decisions on petitions they filed months, and in many cases years, earlier shouldn't necessarily be resting easier.

Some lawyers who handle naturalization cases say U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services adjudicators appear to be more eager to reject citizenship applications of late, meaning some of those aiming to be citizens in time to vote in the presidential elections in November may find themselves left out. ...

The number of denials on dubious legal grounds seems to have ticked upward, according to some lawyers in New York.

An immigration attorney at the firm Bretz & Coven, Matthew Guadagno, said he has handled a slew of recent cases in which he said applicants were denied unfairly for long-ago criminal convictions or for mistakes on their application forms, which he says the USCIS sometimes labels fraud even if the mistakes are inadvertent. -- Citizenship Backlog Could Thwart Would-Be Voters - June 18, 2008 - The New York Sun

Environmental group "goofed" and violated electioneering rules

The New York Sun reports: An environmental group has filed federal disclosure reports on almost $710,000 worth of advertisements lobbying lawmakers in advance of a key vote on climate change legislation. However, the Environmental Defense Action Fund is not disclosing who donated the money for the television spots.

The belated reports arrived at the Federal Election Commission three days after an article in The New York Sun noted the group's legal obligation to file because some of the ads mentioned the speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, within 30 days of a primary she faced on June 3. Other ads in what the group described as a $4 million campaign to promote a so-called cap-and-trade bill ran in advance of primary elections for Senator Dole in North Carolina and Senator Pryor in Arkansas, according to the federal filings, which are supposed to be filed within 24 hours of airing a reportable ad.

"We just goofed," a spokesman for the environmental group, Keith Gaby, said. "We've never in my experience done TV ads with members' names in them, so we're just not familiar with the territory. We found out from your question that we had to do it."

The explanation did not mollify an official at the Club for Growth, an antitax group that mounted a smaller $250,000 TV campaign against the climate change measure. -- Group Files Climate Change Ad Disclosures After Delay - June 18, 2008 - The New York Sun

June 17, 2008

Spot Runner

Slate reports on Spot Runner -- a low-cost generic advertising service for small businesses and now ... political candidates.

DNC will file FEC complaint against McCain, again

CNNPolitics.com reports: The Democratic National Committee said Tuesday it plans to file a lawsuit next week to try to force a federal investigation over whether John McCain’s withdrawal from the public financing system violated the law – the latest move in an effort that dates back to February, when the Arizona senator effectively clinched the Republican presidential nomination.

Democrats say McCain’s decision to use the promise of federal matching funds as collateral to keep his financially struggling campaign afloat late last year prevents him from withdrawing from the system – and its strict spending requirements – now that he is on sounder financial footing. --

McCain-affiliated Reform Institute may have broken tax laws

The Chicago Tribune reports: Allies of Sen. John McCain opened a Washington think tank in 2001 to promote transparency and accountability in government, a signature issue for the Arizona Republican after his presidential primary loss to George W. Bush.

For the next seven years, the non-profit Reform Institute churned out position papers and offered expert testimony on campaign finance reform, the need for bipartisanship and other issues, frequently supporting McCain s positions.

But behind the scenes, the institute s practices have at times arguably been at odds with its reformist message, and with McCain s political identity as an enemy of special interests. In fact, the Reform Institute has stretched and may have broken rules governing charitable organizations, according to experts on tax law.

The institute has twice omitted the NAMEs of donors in IRS filings. IRS rules require that charities identify their contributors to government regulators. -- Group muddies McCain message -- chicagotribune.com

California: images of gay weddings will affect voters in fall referendum

The Los Angeles Times reports: Images from gay weddings, said Lorri L. Jean, chief executive of the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center, could be used by opponents in a campaign designed to persuade California voters that gays and lesbians should not have the right to marry. Those getting married, she cautioned, should never lose sight of what they might be supplying to the other side. ...

The first legal same-sex marriages in California were performed Monday night, and thousands more gay couples are expected to flood into clerks' offices in the coming weeks to obtain marriage licenses. It's all happening with both sides keenly aware that in less than five months, voters will decide whether to amend the state Constitution to define marriage as being between a man and a woman only.

With that in mind, proponents are trying hard to manage what kinds of same-sex marriage images Californians see during this year's so-called Summer of Love.

Opponents maintain that Californians' views have not changed substantially since 2000, when more than 60% of voters cast ballots against same-sex marriage. They predict that the spectacle of men marrying men and women marrying women will anger voters and spur them to support the anti-same-sex marriage amendment. -- Gay couples are emphasizing low-key weddings - Los Angeles Times

Virginia: Governor and civil rights groups pushing felons' voting restoration

The Washington Post reports: Civic and social organizations are teaming with Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine to try to add thousands of nonviolent offenders to the voting rolls in time for the November election, a move that has angered Republicans who say the effort is designed to help Democratic Sen. Barack Obama s presidential campaign.

Under Virginia s constitution, people convicted of a felony automatically lose their right to vote for life, which has resulted in an estimated 300,000 residents being disenfranchised, even though they are not in prison.

But a Virginia governor can restore a felon s voting rights. Under a process set up by former governor Mark R. Warner D , felons convicted of nonviolent crimes can apply to have their voting rights restored if they have a clean record for three years after their sentence has been completed. People convicted of violent felonies, which in Virginia includes selling drugs, have to wait five years.

Earlier this year, Kaine D promised that his administration would expedite a review of applications from nonviolent felons who submit their papers by Aug. 1. -- Groups Push to Restore Va. Felons Voting Rights - washingtonpost.com

Alabama: absentee records seized in Lowndes County

WSFA 12 News reports: Attorney General Troy King today announced that agents from his office have served subpoenas upon Lowndes County election officials and have taken custody of records relating to the June 3 primary election. -- WSFA 12 News Montgomery, AL |Attorney General Subpoenas Lowndes County Voting Records

June 14, 2008

Scotland:

The Sunday Herald reports: LABOUR LEADER Wendy Alexander faces a Holyrood ban after a parliamentary sleaze watchdog found her guilty of breaking the rules on MSPs' conduct by not declaring donations to her leadership campaign.

The Sunday Herald understands Holyrood's standards commissioner Jim Dyer has issued a report to a parliamentary committee stating Alexander should have declared most of her £16,000 leadership campaign war chest as gifts.

If the committee accepts the findings it could punish Alexander with a suspension from parliament for a limited period of time, which would mean the Labour leader being barred from taking part in debates or First Minister's Questions. Another sanction open to the committee would be censure.

The revelation comes as the Electoral Commission, which regulates election finances, admitted it allowed Scottish politicians to break the law for five years before considering using its criminal sanctions. It believed politicians needed half a decade to "learn" about new laws governing their behaviour. -- Wendy Alexander Faces Holyrood Ban After Watchdogs Guilty Verdict from Sunday Herald

You assignment: Compare and contrast with investigations by the FEC (when we have one).

Flag Day

The Gadsden Flag

Thanks to Wikimedia for the image.


FEC's rules struck down again

Court Deems Campaign Finance Rules Too Weak - Washingtonpost.com
The Washington Post reports: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled yesterday that the Federal Election Commission has failed to adequately enforce key aspects of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance restructuring that Congress passed six years ago, and urged the FEC to write new rules that help prevent corporations, unions and special interest groups from influencing federal elections.

"Basically, we re now getting into our fourth election cycle under McCain-Feingold, and we still don t know what the rules are," said Richard L. Hasen, an election law professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.

At issue in the case were regulations the FEC wrote in response to the 2002 campaign finance law -- named for Senate sponsors John McCain R-Ariz. and Russell Feingold D-Wis. . Sponsors of the law sued the FEC arguing that the rules were too lax, and the court agreed.

"The question is . . . does the challenged regulation frustrate Congress s goal of prohibiting soft money from being used in connection with federal elections ?" Judge David Tatel wrote for a three-judge panel. "We think it does."

June 13, 2008

Alabama: another county with an absentee ballot investigation

The Daily Sentinel reports: Jackson has been added to the list of counties with reports of voter fraud allegations.

According to a press release from the Alabama Secretary of State s office, more than one week after the primary election, reports of alleged voter fraud continue to come in.

Since we first exposed alleged voter fraud in Perry County, reports of voter fraud have come out of the woodwork across the state, Secretary of State Beth Chapman said Thursday.

The press release stated that reports from Jackson County have come in with the names of people who allegedly bought and sold absentee ballots. ...

“We have exposed the deep, dark corruption of voter fraud and are glad to join hands with the Attorney General to shine light on it and end this disgraceful cycle that has gone on far too long in Alabama,” Chapman said. -- The Daily Sentinel

Notice that Chapman says "alleged" and then tells us how she really feels.

Hat-tip to John Tanner for the link.

More bad news for the NRCC on the money front

DailyKos quotes a report from Roll Call: The [National Republican Congressional] committee will need to hire an outside firm to conduct a standard audit of its books for 2007, and until that audit is complete, the NRCC will not be able to take out any bank loans to fund independent expenditure campaigns in late-breaking races ...

The ability to obtain a line of credit, while standard practice for a national party committee, could be particularly important for the NRCC this fall. The committee had $6.7 million in cash on hand as of April 30 and has 30 open seats to defend and several incumbents being threatened by the cash-flush Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. -- Daily Kos: State of the Nation

Report on the argument in Preminger v. V.A.

AlterNet reports: An attorney for the Department of Veterans Affairs, which runs hospitals and homeless shelters for veterans, told a federal appeals court Thursday that the VA could not conceive of any circumstance where voter registration drives could occur at its facilities. ...

But Scott Rafferty, a Washington, D.C.-based attorney who has spent several years arguing the VA must allow voter registration drives to help wounded former soldiers register and vote, disagreed. ...

The issue before a federal appeals court in San Francisco is whether restrictions on voter registration drives at the VA's campus in nearby Menlo Park are unconstitutional.

The case has national significance. The VA has facilities across the country serving thousands of veterans. In 1994, then-President Bill Clinton ordered the VA to help register veterans. However, the VA ceased allowing voter registration drives during the Bush administration. -- Veterans Affairs Tells Court It Can't Imagine Voter Registration Drives for Its Wounded Veterans and the Homeless | Democracy and Elections | AlterNet

Criticism for V.A.'s ban on voter registration

The New York Times reports: Voting rights groups are criticizing the Department of Veterans Affairs for its decision to ban registration drives among the veterans living at federally run nursing homes, shelters for the homeless and rehabilitation centers across the country.

The groups say such drives make it easier for veterans to register and participate in the political process, which could be particularly important this year in a presidential election in which the handling of the Iraq war and treatment of veterans will be major campaign issues. ...

Although veterans are not federal employees, department officials based their decision in part on the Hatch Act, which bans federal employees from engaging in partisan political activity. ...

For years, the department allowed the managers of its sites to decide individually whether to permit such drives. In 2004, Steve Preminger, a Democratic county chairman, filed a lawsuit after he was refused permission to register voters at a V.A. campus in Menlo Park, Calif., about 25 miles south of San Francisco. A lower court ruled against Mr. Preminger in January, finding that he had failed to prove that any veteran was actually prevented from voting.

On Thursday, a federal appellate court heard arguments in the case. -- V.A. Ban on Voter Drives Is Criticized - NYTimes.com

June 12, 2008

NRCC lost $725k to treasurer's fruad

The NY Times Caucus blog reports: A scheme by a former treasurer resulted in a loss of about $725,000 to the House Republicans’ campaign arm, according to an audit released today.

Christopher J. Ward, long a trusted financial figure in Republican circles, funneled money belonging to the National Republican Congressional Committee and covered up his scheme by faking external audit reports between 2002 and 2006.

Representative Michael K. Conaway of Texas, the new head of the N.R.C.C.’s audit committee discovered Mr. Ward’s actions in late January. After Mr. Ward repeatedly put off meetings with auditors, he admitted that no audits had been performed.

An external audit has finally been performed, by Covington & Burling with PricewaterhouseCoopers, and the N.R.C.C. released a summary of the findings today. -- NRCC Lost ,000 to Former Treasurer, Audit Finds - The Caucus - Politics - New York Times Blog

Scotland: government wants to lower voting age to 16, but UK government blocks it

The Herald reports: The SNP government is determined to give 16-year-olds the vote and is demanding that Westminster hand over the power to allow this, it was claimed yesterday.

The minister for parliamentary business told an electoral reform conference yesterday that the government was determined to press ahead with a staged approach, first giving youngsters the right to vote in health board elections and then progressing that to council and Holyrood polls.

But this would require a change in the law at Westminster and there was no indication yesterday that the Ministry of Justice was minded to consider such a change.
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Bruce Crawford, Minister for Parliament, told the Electoral Reform Society that ministers had a plan to extend the franchise in order to re-engage young citizens, and avoid the current anomalies faced by young adults. -- SNP in move to lower voting age to 16

Minnesota pastor wants to throw the Good Book at the IRS

The Religion Clause blog reports: In Warroad, Minnesota, pastor Gus Booth, a delegate to the Republican National Convention, is openly challenging IRS restrictions on church involvement in political campaigns. In May, Booth delivered a sermon telling his congregation not to vote for either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama because of their positions on abortion. Two weeks later Booth e-mailed Americans United for Separation of Church and State saying:

I am writing you to let you know that I preached a sermon in my church on Sunday, May 18, 2008, that specifically addressed the current candidates for President in the light of the Bible. As you can see from the attached newspaper article, I specifically made recommendations as to who a Christian should vote for.

I have read in the past about how you have a campaign to intimidate churches into silence when it comes to speaking about candidates for office. I am letting you know that I will not be intimidated into silence when I believe that God wants me to address the great moral issues of the day, including who will be our next national leader. -- Religion Clause: Minnesota Pastor Challenges IRS Limits On Church Political Involvement

"The Ptifalls of Voter Identification Laws in a Post-Crawford World"

ACSblog reports: Today, ACS released an issue brief by Carrie Apfel of Jenner & Block entitled “The Pitfalls of Voter Identification Laws in a Post-Crawford World.” She writes that even in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s upholding of Indiana’s restrictive voter photo identification against a facial challenge, states should “resist the urge to pass restrictive photo identification regulations” for several reasons.

She first argues that the status of voter-ID laws remain in flux, with the High Court’s decision “practically invit[ing] voters to attack these laws as they are applied,” and noting that the decision “did not rule out the possibility of . . . facial challenges” as well. Apfel then argues that the laws will neither address real threats of fraud nor instill voter confidence. Finally, she explains that the laws will disproportionately affect elderly, disabled, poor and minority voters, with several less restrictive alternatives available to states. -- American Constitution Society : ACS Blog : The American Constitution Society for Law and Policy ACS

June 11, 2008

Alabama: another investigation into high absentee voting

The Randolph Leader reports: Fifth Judicial District Attorney E. Paul Jones has confirmed he has requested an investigation of absentee ballots in last Tuesday's primary but said his letter has been mailed so recently the attorney general's office may not have received it. ...

Of the county's 15,455 registered voters, in uncertified results a total of 3,856 votes were cast or almost 25 percent in a light turnout for a primarily local election. There will be no Democratic runoffs July 15; only two statewide Republican races will be decided. -- The Randolph Leader: News

Tennessee:

The Memphis Commercial Appeal reports: A watchdog group called Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and a Germantown constituent have filed a formal complaint against U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn's campaign committee with the Federal Election Commission. ...

In April, Blackburn contacted reporters to announce that she was revising most of the campaign finance disclosure reports she had filed since first seeking office in 2002 because she had failed to report $286,278 in expenditures and $102,044 in contributions.

At her meeting with The Commercial Appeal, she had her lawyer, Donald F. McGahn, explain the situation. McGahn is currently one of President Bush's nominees to fill one of four vacancies on the FEC, which can't act on a complaint at the moment because it doesn't have a quorum. ...

The CREW complaint notes that in October 2005, the campaign committee and its treasurer, Tea Hoffman, acknowledged "reporting errors" through their lawyer to the FEC's Alternative Dispute Resolution Office, and said they had taken "remedial measures to ensure against future errors."

At that time, they entered into a negotiated settlement, paid a $1,500 fine and agreed to send a campaign staffer to a seminar on compliance with FEC regulations.

The CREW complaint notes that, in April, Blackburn's campaign acknowledged more than $440,000 in unreported or incorrectly reported receipts and expenditures. -- Watchdog group, Germantown woman file FEC complaint against Rep. Blackburn : Local News : Memphis Commercial Appeal

Note: the complaint is available on CREW's web site.

June 10, 2008

Alabama: complaints about absentee voting in Bullock County

The Montgomery Advertiser reports: Two unsuccessful candidates for seats on the Bullock County Commission claim widespread absentee vote irregularities in the June 3 election and want a state investigation.

Clarence "Bubba" Blue and Terry Jackson said Monday that hundreds of absentee ballots were cast for their commission opponents and those votes made the difference in their losing campaigns.

"It's worse here than in Perry County, and we want the attorney general to seize the absentee ballots to see how many were illegal," said Blue, who lost to incumbent Commissioner Johnny Adams Jr.

Blue defeated Adams by 271 total votes in the district's 16 precincts, but was overwhelmed by Adams in the absentee box. Adams received 736 absentee votes to 76 for Blue. It gave Adams a 389 vote victory.

Alonzo Ellis Jr. won the District 4 nomination, defeating Jackson by 77 votes. Jackson held a 311 vote edge at the precinct level, but Ellis far outnumbered him in the absentee box -- 592 to 204.

Blue said Adams and members of his family "actively solicited" absentee ballots before the June 3 election.

Adams admitted he and relatives "helped" Bullock County residents apply for absentee ballots, but said it was not done to "break any laws." -- montgomeryadvertiser.com | Montgomery Advertiser

June 9, 2008

Campaign Money Watch files FEC complaint about McCain campaign

AP reports: A group that supports public financing of campaigns filed a federal complaint against John McCain s presidential campaign Monday, calling for an investigation into two financial transactions involving two top McCain aides.

The Federal Election Commission complaint by Campaign Money Watch, a group that has received financing from Democratic leaning donors, questions payments from former finance chair Tom Loeffler to campaign finance director Susan Nelson. It also questions the reduction of a debt to a Web services firm co-owned by McCain campaign manager Rick Davis.

A campaign manager renegotiating a debt with a company he partly owns raises serious conflict of interest questions, said David Donnelly, the director of Campaign Money Watch.

Donnelly also questioned whether Loeffler s payments to Nelson amounted to an illegal subsidy to a campaign staffer. Loeffler is a lobbyist and former congressman and Nelson is a former associate of Loeffler s lobbying firm. The campaign has said the payments, first reported by Newsweek, were for legitimate work and were legal. -- Talking Points Memo | Group files complaint against McCain campaign

Why campaigns need lawyers who know about more than chad and petitions

CBN News reports: The Brody File first reported that the Obama campaign will be launching The Joshua Generation Project aimed at young Evangelicals and faith voters. Well, it turns out there may be a legal issue with the NAME. Read below from Roll Call.

Sen. Barack Obama is about to launch his latest outreach to religious voters, but the NAME of the group could land him in legal trouble.

First reported on Friday by Christian Broadcasting Network's David Brody, Obama s Joshua Generation is designed to help the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee appeal to young evangelicals.

But "Generation Joshua," a division of the Home School Legal Defense Association, has been established since 2003 and is pursuing legal action against the Obama campaign.

"This is an improper invasion of our trademark and we ve retained legal counsel to notify the Obama campaign to stop this," HSLDA's co-founder, chairman, and general counsel, Michael Farris, told Roll Call on Monday morning. The conservative group plans to notify the Obama campaign later today. -- Obama Campaign may be Sued for Joshua Generation Project - The Brody File: David Brody Blog - CBN News

Note: Google the two words Joshua Generation and see how many hits you get. It's like calling your church Mt. Shiloh Baptist Church. Thousands of them.

California: Dems support, GOP opposes teen voting bill

The Sacramento Bee reports: Voting is as American as mom and apple pie – the more votes cast, the better for democracy, right?

Not necessarily.

Efforts to gradually increase California's pool of voters by targeting young teenagers are splitting the Capitol along party lines.

Democrats support, Republicans oppose.

"There's red apple pie and blue apple pie," quipped John J. Pitney, government professor at Claremont McKenna College.

The issue came to a head recently with Assembly Bill 1819, which would allow 16- and 17-year-olds to preregister to vote, qualifying them automatically when they reach 18. -- Politics - Parties split over teen voting bill - sacbee.com

Alabama: high turnout in one county brings criminal investigation

AP reports: The district attorney for Perry County says he will ask the Justice Department and the FBI to investigate an unusually high turnout and potential absentee ballot problems during the June 3 primary elections.

It’s the latest in a line of voting problems that have plagued the small western Alabama county for decades, including a 1985 trial in which three black leaders in Perry County were found not guilty of charges they altered absentee ballots. ...

District Attorney Michael Jackson said he expects there will be federal and state observers in Perry County for the July 15 primary runoff after a federal observer reported that a candidate hung around a polling place much of the day Tuesday and helped some voters cast ballots.

Secretary of State Beth Chapman has pointed to a number of irregularities in Perry County during Tuesday’s primaries. Chapman said there are 8,361 registered voters in the county, and 4,207 votes cast, which means 50.3 percent of eligible voters would have gone to the polls. That gives Perry County a turnout that nearly triples the rate in counties like Marengo, where about 17.7 percent of voters cast ballots. -- Perry County district attorney seeks federal probe of voting problems | TuscaloosaNews.com

June 8, 2008

"National Bonus" in the Electoral College

David Barron writes in the Convictions blog on Slate: Obviously, one solution for the future is to scrap the electoral college altogether, something Senator Nelson of Florida proposed today.

But as it happens, I came across this news while reading Arthur Schlesinger s updated version of The Imperial Presidency. There, he sets forth a plan for avoiding such a problem that seems to have been lost to history or at least, came as news to me and that seems preferable to dispensing with the electoral college altogether.

Schlesinger calls it The National Bonus plan. The idea is to keep the electoral college, but then augment it with additional electors for the winner of the popular vote. His proposal was to award a total of 101 bonus electors to the winner of the popular vote, which strikes me as at least 50 too many. After all, if the bonus is too big, the college gets wiped out for all practical purposes; candidates need not really compete very hard outside their natural bases of support. -- Enough With Superdelegates, What About the Electoral College

McCain may soon get an FEC to vote to give him public funds

The Washington Independent reports: Throughout this presidential primary season, the Federal Election Commission, which polices spending on campaigns for Congress and the presidency, has been dormant. This has created a dilemma for Sen. John McCain R-Ariz. , the presumed Republican nominee for president.

David Mason, the chairman of the FEC and a Republican, had questioned whether McCain could opt out of public funding for the presidential primary after using the promise of public money to get a loan. Mason, though, is but one of two current commissioners for a federal government panel that s supposed to have six members-- three Democrats and three Republicans-- and requires the approval of four commissioners to issue rulings or allot money to candidates. Without a commission ruling, McCain has proceeded to spend $80 million -- about $30 million more than allowed for candidates on public money.

McCain has a second FEC issue. While he opted out of federal financing for the primary season, he is expecting to take advantage of public funding for the general election. So he needs a working commission to sign off on providing his general election money.

A flurry of FEC-related activity in the past two weeks now suggests that McCain's dilemma is about to be solved. President George W. Bush has nominated enough commissioners to get create a working six-member FEC. But Mason is not one of them. -- Return of the FEC - The Washington Independent - U.S. news and politics - washingtonindependent.com

Alabama: provisional ballots will decide race for county school superintendent

The Prattville Progress reports: While more than one-fourth of Autauga County's eligible voters went to the polls on Tues­day, the race to determine the Republican candidate for coun­ty school superintendent could be decided by just over one-tenth of a percent of those vot­ers.

The validation or rejection by county Republican officials of eight provisional votes could provide school system person­nel director Greg Faulkner with the margin he needs to pre­vent a July 15 runoff with Pratt­ville High School Principal Lee Hicks. ...

Based on preliminary vote to­tals, Faulkner is headed for a showdown with Hicks to decide which of them would face Dem­ocrat Purvis Johnson in No­vember. Faulkner received 49.95 percent of the 6,571 votes cast in Tuesday's three-candi­date GOP primary and fell just short of a majority that would have given him the party's nomination out­right. --

Hat-tip to Doc's Political Parlor for the link.

Projecting a presidential winner

I was reading an article in the Kansas City Star, Mapping a long road to the White House, and noticed a reference to FiveThirtyEight.com: Electoral Projections Done Right. I suggest you take a look at it.

I have not fully digested their methodology, but it appears they are trying to be open in disclosing the methodology.

Note their list of states in the left column. The states are in groups of 4-6. The names are pretty standard -- New England, Pacific, Rust Belt, etc. But one stands out: "Acela." Before you look at FiveThirtyEight.com, guess the 5 states in Acela.


June 7, 2008

Black Caucus receives "offensive" T-shirt about Obama

The Washington Post's Sleuth blog reports: The president of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation is disturbed by an offensive t-shirt the group received in the mail Wednesday, the day after Barack Obama claimed his party s presidential nomination. The shirt has a cartoon image of Curious George, the beloved children s character, with a paper bag over his head holding a sign that says A Truth We Can Believe in 08!!! written underneath.

CBCF President Elsie Scott says she believes the timing of the package was no coincidence. We received it as a reaction to Obama winning the nomination, she tells the Sleuth. ...

Scott said she found the t-shirt "offensive" and when she looked more closely at the back of it, she became "very disturbed" and reported the contents of the package to the hate crimes unit of the D.C. Metropolitan Police.

The back of the shirt lists several African American organizations, ranging from the CBCF and the NAACP to the Black Surfers Association, the Black Coaches Association and Obama's former church, Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. It prints the United Nations' definition of "racial discrimination" and states, underneath the listing of all the black organizations, "Who is really causing the Racial Division." -- Black Group Offended by Delivery of T-Shirt - The Sleuth

Lobbyist money welcomed at party conventions

The New York Times reports: One of Senator Barack Obama’s first acts after claiming the Democratic nomination was declaring he would not take special-interest money for his presidential bid, even going so far as to bar lobbyists from donating to the Democratic National Committee.

But there is one important area where special-interest money is flowing into the Democratic campaign effort — the millions of dollars being raised from corporations to finance the party’s convention in Denver.

Elected Democratic officials have been calling on corporations — meeting with Wall Street executives and flying to San Diego, Philadelphia and Las Vegas — to raise the $40 million the party has budgeted for the convention, in August. In return, these Democratic officials are promising corporate donors “sponsor benefits packages” that include private sessions with federal officeholders and other influential party leaders.

This search for cash comes as national party committees, like the D.N.C., are barred from soliciting or spending soft money, the unrestricted donations to political parties. But there is one major exception to these limits: the unlimited contributions from corporations and unions for the party’s convention. Even more, donations for the conventions, unlike other campaign contributions, are fully tax-deductible to corporations as a business expense. -- Candidates Forgo Soft Money; Conventions Don’t

June 6, 2008

Alabama: human error mars election in 2 counties

The Mobile Press-Register reports on election-day problems: Mobile County election officials said they would in the future put extra emphasis on giving voters the correct ballots after a problem at a voting precinct Tuesday.

At the First Independent Methodist Church on Halls Mill Road, election workers may not have given the right ballot to as many as 44 people who voted in the Democratic primary, Mobile County Probate Judge Don Davis said.

The church is in a split precinct, meaning voters there live in different school board districts, for example. -- Officials will try to correct voting error- al.com

After learning of ballot problems at two precincts, Baldwin County Republican Party leaders will meet soon to decide whether to redo voting for the entire school board District 5 race or just at those polling sites, the local GOP chairman said Wednesday.

Probate Judge Adrian Johns said 142 total Republican voters in the Foley Civic Center and Magnolia Springs Wesleyan Church polling places didn't receive the ballot with that race on it. That includes 55 voters at precinct No. 36 in Magnolia Springs and 87 voters at precinct No. 38 in Foley, he said.

Because that is more than the 65-vote margin of victory by Angie Swiger over incumbent Margaret Long, some or all of the voting should take place again, said county Re publican Party Chairman Don McGriff. -- School board race likely headed for redo

Alabama: AG seizes voting records in Perry Co.

The Birmingham News reports: The Alabama attorney general s office has seized Perry County voting records related to Tuesday s election.

Attorney General Troy King said in a press release that the action was taken because of allegations of improprieties in Tuesday s election.

Subpoenas served on Circuit Clerk Mary Cosby Moore, Sheriff James Hood and Probate Judge Eldora Anderson sought any and all records regarding: June 3, 2008 election, including, but not limited to, applications for absentee ballots, poll list, identification accompanying absentee ballots, affidavits accompanying absentee ballots, record of elections, ballot accounting sheets, sign in sheet from each polling place, and clerk s book for each polling place. -- State AG s office seizes Perry voting records- al.com

June 5, 2008

Michigan: Feiger was acquitted, but now faces the FEC

The Detroit News reports: Though acquitted of criminal campaign finance charges, Southfield attorney Geoffrey Fieger still faces possible civil prosecution by the Federal Elections Commission for reimbursing employees and others for donations to the 2004 presidential campaign of Democrat John Edwards.

The commission, which normally will not say whether it is conducting an investigation, confirmed in an April 9, 2007, court filing in a federal civil case that it had opened an inquiry into Fieger in 2006.

Federal officials said this week that civil investigation has been on hold pending the resolution of criminal charges brought against Fieger in 2007. -- Fieger may face civil charges from FEC

Alabama: details of voting irregulatires in Perry County

WSFA-TV reports: Concern is building over what may have happened at some polls in Perry county during Tuesday s primary vote. As we reported, a federal observer notified the state that a candidate allegedly violated state law by helping people vote and by being too close to a polling site. Now, an investigation is underway. ...

That s why Jackson has asked the F.B.I. to investigate the latest allegation. Perry County Probate Judge Eldora Anderson explained how it all started. The federal observer asked a voter can I watch you and the voter said yes. The situation escalated at this voting place, the Armory, when county commission candidate Albert Turner allegedly told the federal observer to back off. Turner says The federal observer doesn t have a right to infringe on the rights of the voter. The voter has a right to vote in private.

But, there are also complaints from some citizen observers. They say Turner transported people to and from the polls and even voted for them. Turner says he has done nothing wrong. That voter asked me to carry them to the polls. Asked me to assist them while they were voting. After I completed their request, I left. I had a right to assist voters. They asked for my assistance. Nothing in the law against that.

However, Perry County voter Annette Goree says there is something wrong with that. Idon t think a candidate should, if you re running for a position I don t think you should pick up anybody and bring them to the polls because you have time to persuade them before you get there. -- WSFA 12 News Montgomery, AL |Decision 2008: Alleged Voter Irregularities in Perry County

Alabama: Supreme Court hears arguments in Jefferson County election case

The Birmingham News reports: A decision on the dispute over a vacancy on the Jefferson County Commission may hinge on whether a special election to fill it was legal or if a group of residents had the right to sue to block the vote.

The Alabama Supreme Court heard oral arguments Wednesday over how to fill the commission vacancy created when Larry Langford resigned to become Birmingham s mayor.

The justices did not say when they would rule.

Justices questioned whether the people who sued to block the Feb. 5 special election had a right to file the case. If not, the court could rule there was no valid challenge to the election, won by Birmingham City Councilman William Bell.

But the justices also discussed whether the 1977 law allowing the county's election commission to call for the vote was unconstitutional. Gov. Bob Riley's lawyer said state law gives the governor sole power to fill the seat and the county special-election law should be struck down.

If a court majority agrees, the governor's appointee, George Bowman, would be the commissioner. -- Right to sue, hold special election at heart of District 1 case - al.com

40 years ago ... Bobby Kennedy

Forty years ago today, I woke up in a hotel room in Montreal where I had gone to visit the leftovers of the prior year's World's Fair. I turned on the TV. It took a few moments for me to understand what was happening. Bobby Kennedy had been shot.

What could have been ....

Ted Sorensen remembers on NPR.

June 3, 2008

South Carolina: GOP candidate sues Democratic Party for defamation

MyrlteBeachOnline.com reports: Bill McKown, a Republican candidate for the state Senate in District 28, sued the S.C. Democratic Party Monday for conspiracy and defamation about a month after the party filed a lawsuit alleging he did not live in District 28, which includes North Myrtle Beach.

McKown is the only candidate challenging incumbent Sen. Dick Elliott, D-North Myrtle Beach.

McKown s suit alleges the Democrats forged an exclusive rental agreement to make it appear as if Elliott Realty Inc., a company controlled by Elliott, had exclusive rights to lease land McKown nearly leased for his campaign office.

McKown s suit alleges that by forging the rental agreement, it made it seem as if McKown never had access to the property and lied on his statement of candidacy form, where he listed that property s address when he initially filed to run for office. -- Republican candidate sues Democratic Party - Local - Myrtle Beach Sun News

Alabama: my personal experience with voter I.D.

When I went to vote this morning in Alabama's primary, the poll workers looked as lonely as Maytag repairmen. To liven things up a bit, when asked for identification, I pulled out my Alabama Gas Company bill. I pointed out that the name on the bill does not match my name on the voter list because I go by my middle name. The poll worker checked the address on the bill, found it matched that of the "official" name I gave her, and let me vote.

One anecdote does not make a trend. I wonder how many people in Alabama used a utility bill this morning and how many had problems with a mismatching name.

Vet.Admin. refuses to register voters

The St. Petersburg Times reports: The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs last month said it would refuse to abide by a 14-year-old presidential directive requiring it to help register veterans to vote.

It says doing so would detract from providing medical care and benefits to veterans.

On May 1, California officials asked the VA to help register veterans, citing a 1994 executive order by President Bill Clinton requiring federal agencies to undertake the responsibility if a state s top elections official makes the request.

The VA s May 19 refusal, which received little media attention, has repercussions beyond California. It provides the latest sign that the VA is vigorously resisting organized voter registration drives on its property as a presidential election nears.

Earlier this month, the agency banned any group or individual from registering voters in any of its facilities. Critics say politics are behind the decision and accused the VA of trying to prevent low-income veterans from voting. -- VA refuses to help veteran voters

Alabama: candidate reported as loitering at polls in Perry County

The Birmingham News reports: A federal observer from the U.S. Department of Justice reported potential violations of election law in Perry County to the Alabama secretary of state Tuesday afternoon.

The observer reported that one candidate was loitering in the polling place throughout the day and appeared to be telling people how to vote. State law prohibits campaigning closer than 30 feet from the entrance of a polling place.

Secretary of State Beth Chapman said she called the Perry County sheriff and County Commission to report the problems. Perry County Sheriff James Hood said he went to the voting LOCATION to look and saw nothing unusual.

She may be referring to some person going in with people to assist them to vote, he said, but I don t consider that loitering. -- Poll problems reported in Perry County - Breaking News from The Birmingham News - al.com

Alabama: R.I.P. Tim Baer

The Birmingham News reports: Former Alabama Republican Party Executive Director Tim Baer, a plainspoken political operative who helped the GOP take over the state s appellate courts, died over the weekend.

Mr. Baer, who was born near Buffalo, N.Y., and reared in Pompano Beach, Fla., had called Birmingham home since 1985. He was 57.

While he was the state GOP s executive director for a time - first getting the job in 1997 - Mr. Baer also worked as director of field operations for the Business Council of Alabama, where his job included raising money for the group s political action committee, Progress PAC. He also was an aide to former Probate Judge Mark Gaines, where one of his jobs was to oversee Jefferson County elections. -- Former Alabama Republican Party Executive Director Tim Baer dies at the age of 57- al.com

June 2, 2008

Oklahoma: legislature bans lobbyist contributions during legislative session

AP reports: The Oklahoma Legislature gave final approval on May 22 to a bill banning political contributions from lobbyists to legislators during and immediately after legislative sessions. The prohibition would apply to legislative incumbents and challengers alike.

Rep. David Dank, R-Oklahoma City, introduced the measure, H.B. 2704, which passed the House, 90-6. The Senate later approved it, 47-0. Gov. Brad Henry is expected to sign it.

This is a giant step forward for clean and open government, Dank said. It puts some important distance between giving money and passing legislation. We have succeeded in separating the lawmaking process from campaign cash.

He said it would stop the practice of lobbyists handing out $5,000 checks on Monday before action on legislation in which they are interested on Tuesday. Under the measure, lawmakers could not accept campaign cash from lobbyists or the companies or organizations they work for from the beginning of the legislative session until five days after adjournment. -- firstamendmentcenter.org: news

Iowa: election-day registration now available

The Times-Republican reports: While the time to pre-register to vote has passed, those wishing to participate in Tuesday’s primaries have an option that was not available in previous years – registering on election day.

This is the first statewide primary election where the option has been given.

Those wishing to register on election day must bring along proof of identity and residency. If no identification is available, a registered voter in the precinct can attest to the registrant’s identity.

Even if that option is not available, a registrant can still vote without proof of identity or someone to vouch for them. They will be given a provisional ballot, which is subject to verification of the information the registrant volunteers.

For those already registered, if changing parties is desired, they can do so at the voting location before casting their ballot. -- Registering on election day now an option for voters | Times Republican

Texas: suit filed against at-large voting in Irving school district

The Dallas Morning News reports: An unsuccessful school board candidate filed a federal lawsuit today alleging that the Irving school district’s system of at-large elections for trustees violates the law by denying representation to the school district’s Hispanic citizens.

Manuel Benavidez, who twice ran unsuccessfully for a place on the Irving school board, is the named plaintiff in the lawsuit, which was filed by attorneys for the Dallas firm Bickel & Brewer. The named defendants are Irving ISD and its seven elected trustees. -- Voting lawsuit filed today against Irving school district | Denton Record-Chronicle | News for Denton County, Texas | Latest News

Note: the case is not on Pacer yet. If anyone has the complaint, please email it to me for posting.

Civil Rights Commission to review DOJ plans for 2008 presidential election

From a press release of the Commission: The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights will be holding a briefing to review Department of Justice plans to monitor voting rights enforcement for the 2008 U.S. Presidential election. Among the topics expected to be addressed are voting registration issues, the best ways to address claims of voter fraud and voter intimidation, and the overall proper role of the Department of Justice in election matters.

The panelists include: Christopher Coates, Chief of the Voting Rights section of the Department s Civil Rights Division; William Welch, Chief of the Public Integrity Section of the Department s Criminal Division; Daniel P. Tokaji, Associate Professor of Law at the Ohio State University s Moritz College of Law, and the Associate Director of Election Law @ Moritz; Hans von Spakovsky, former FEC Commissioner and Former Counsel to the Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights; and Paul F. Hancock, a partner with the law firm of Kirkpatrick & Lockhart Preston Gates Ellis, LLP and former high-ranking career attorney with the Civil Rights Division. -- Civil Rights Commission to Examine U.S. Department of Justice Plans to Monitor Voting Rights Enforcement for the 2008 U.S. Presidential Election

DC: a lobbying push for DC voting rights

The Hill reports: A renewed campaign to give the representative from Washington, D.C. the right to vote in Congress is gaining ground with lobbyists for civil rights groups, ethics watchdogs and unions gearing up for a new push next year.

Money is being raised, powerful lobbyists are offering their time free of charge and supporters are traveling the country to spread the message that the city that houses the Capitol deserves a vote inside. Advocates for D.C. voting rights sense that education can help them bridge the gap in votes needed.

Washington’s city council plans to vote Tuesday on a $500,000 grant to DC Vote , an advocacy group, while Democrats in Congress are expected to lift lobbying restrictions that will allow the group to engage lawmakers more aggressively.

That could set the stage for a successful vote on D.C. voting rights in 2009. In September 2007, legislation died in the Senate, falling three votes short of the 60 needed to close off debate. -- TheHill.com - Lobbyists gear up for push to get voting rights for D.C.

Alabama: DOJ observers in Perry County for primary

AP reports: The Justice Department is sending federal observers to Perry County in west Alabama to monitor the primary election Tuesday.

The Justice Department announced Monday that its observers will ensure compliance with the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and other federal voting rights laws. -- Justice Department monitoring primary Tuesday in Perry County in west Alabama | TimesDaily.com | Times Daily | Florence, AL

Michigan: Feiger acquitted on campaign-contribution charges

The Detroit Free Press reports: Southfield lawyer Geoffrey Fieger and his law partspener Vernon (Ven) Johnson were acquitted by a federal jury in Detroit today of illegally contributing more than $100,000 to John Edwards’ 2004 presidential campaign.

The defendants smiled after the verdicts were announced following 20 hours of deliberations over four days and a 20-day trial.

“I’m very pleased with the American system and the jury. I thank the jury for listening. I hope this puts an end to political prosecutions in the age of Mr. Bush,” Fieger said.

Feiger was facing a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison had he been convicted of obstruction of justice, along with certain loss of his law license. Both Feiger and Johnson would have faced a maximum of 5 years for the other charges. -- Fieger, law partner acquitted of illegal political donations

Tax-exempt group close to McCain just happens to run ads supporting his position

The Washington Post reports: For weeks, Republican presidential candidate John McCain had been hammered for supporting the Air Force's February decision to award a $40 billion contract for refueling tankers to Northrop Grumman and its European partner. Democrats, labor unions and others blamed the senator for a deal they say could move tens of thousands of jobs abroad.

McCain's advisers wanted to strike back against key Democratic critics. But they did not mount an expensive advertising campaign to defend the candidate's position. They called a tax-exempt nonprofit closely aligned with the senator from Arizona, seeking information and help.

Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) partnered with Northrop and one of its consultants to produce a vitriolic advertising campaign defending the tanker deal. ...

The McCain campaign said that it did not coordinate with CAGW on the group's ads about the tanker deal and that Swindle played no role in initiating the attack on Northrop's opponents. "One campaign staffer called CAGW to ask for information about what CAGW had said in the past on the issue, and was told that CAGW had a policy of not talking to the campaign. That was the end of the conversation," spokeswoman Jill Hazelbaker said in a statement. -- McCain Campaign Calls; A Nonprofit Steps In - washingtonpost.com

R.I.P. -- Jordan Wright

The New York Times reports: Jordan M. Wright, who at 10 was thrilled to learn that politicians hand out self-promotional baubles, then collected more than a million bumper stickers and other campaign artifacts — from the time of George Washington to that of George W. Bush — died on May 11 at his home in Atlantic Beach, N.Y. He was 50. ...

Mr. Wright, a lawyer, businessman and publisher, died just as his political treasure chest (if “Clean Up With Ike” bars of soap can be called treasure) was getting wider notice. This year, he published a book with pictures and commentary on his vast collection, and next month, the Museum of the City of New York will exhibit some of it. In recent months, interviews with Mr. Wright have appeared in newspapers around the country, as he and a tiny fraction of his collection have toured. ...

Few could forget what the museum calls his “one of a kind” porcelain and cloth doll depicting, when held upright, President William McKinley. Turned upside down, an African-American baby can be seen. The doll was meant to be a reminder of the rumor that Mr. McKinley had fathered a black child out of wedlock.

Another proof that old-time politics were at least as dirty as today’s version, and evidently stranger, was the brochure produced by President Warren Harding’s father-in-law. His disenchantment with his daughter’s groom can be gleaned from the title: “The Serious Lesson in President Harding’s Case of Gonorrhea.” -- Jordan Wright, 50, Political Archivist, Dies

Switzerland: referendum rejects change in citizenship process

The New York Times reports: Swiss voters on Sunday defeated a measure that would have legitimized the practice of allowing secret votes by townspeople on granting citizenship to foreigners in their communities.

The vote was a blow to the powerful far-right Swiss People’s Party, known as SVP, which had initiated the measure. Over all, nearly 64 percent of voters cast “no” ballots, and the measure gained a majority in only one of the country’s 26 cantons.

The defeat shows that the Swiss people “fully back our constitutional state,” the Social-Democratic Party, known as SP, said in a statement. Legal scholars said the measure would have violated the country’s Constitution and the European Human Rights Convention because, among other things, it would have denied rejected applicants any appeals. Buoyed by the vote, the SP said it would soon introduce an initiative to automatically grant citizenship to third-generation foreigners.

The defeated measure would have overturned a Swiss Federal Court ruling in 2003 that found that secret citizenship votes by townspeople were unconstitutional. Despite that ruling, the practice has continued in some parts of the country. -- Swiss Voters Reject Secret Ballots on Citizenship - NYTimes.com

Note: a pre-election story with more background information is here.

June 1, 2008

Florida, Michigan: 1/2 vote to each delegate

The New York Times reports: To jeers and boos that showcased deep party divisions, Democratic Party officials agreed Saturday to seat delegates from the disputed Florida and Michigan primaries at the party’s convention in August but give them only half a vote each, dealing a setback to Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton.

The agreement, reached by the rules committee of the Democratic National Committee behind closed doors and voted on publicly before a raucous audience of supporters of the two candidates, would give Mrs. Clinton a net gain of 24 delegates over Senator Barack Obama. But this fell far short of her hopes of winning the full votes of both delegations and moved the nomination further out of her reach.

She now lags behind Mr. Obama by about 176 delegates, according to The New York Times’s tally, in the final weekend of campaigning before the nominating contests end.

Mrs. Clinton, who led the voting in the Michigan and Florida contests, which were held in defiance of party rules, picked up 19 delegates more than Mr. Obama in Florida and 5 delegates more than Mr. Obama in Michigan.

The deal prompted one of her chief advisers, Harold Ickes, a member of the rules committee himself, to declare that Mrs. Clinton’s fight may not be over, even though Mr. Obama’s advisers say he is only days away from gaining enough delegates to claim the nomination. -- Democrats Approve Deal on Michigan and Florida - NYTimes.com

Florida: archives still has most 2000 ballots (and chad)

The Miami Herald reports: In the final seconds of the new HBO movie Recount, a box labeled Palm Beach County ballots is shown sitting inside a gigantic warehouse. As the camera pulls slowly back, it reveals row after row of boxes stacked to the ceiling.

While the image is a pure Hollywood creation, the truth is the ballots from the chaotic 2000 presidential election are still around.

Five years ago, the state of Florida gathered up boxes of ballots from 65 of the 67 counties and stashed them inside the cramped, air-conditioned confines of the state archives in Tallahassee.

After much hand-wringing and debate, state officials decided in 2003 that they should hold onto the more than six million votes cast in the historic election between Al Gore and George W. Bush that Bush ultimately won by just 537 votes. Normally, ballots are destroyed after 22 months.

But now Secretary of State Kurt Browning says he would just as soon junk them and free up the space in his archives that hold the ballots -- more than 4,000 cubic feet. -- Future uncertain for Florida s Bush-Gore ballots from 2000 race - 06/01/2008 - MiamiHerald.com

Note: We all know Justice Scalia's advice: "Get over it."