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

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November 30, 2008

What I've been doing lately

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November 20, 2008

Alabama: US sues Sec/State for failing to file absentee-vote reports (link to court doc)

AP reports: The Justice Department has sued Alabama officials for allegedly violating a law that protects absentee voters overseas, including those serving in the military.

The lawsuit filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Montgomery is against the state of Alabama and its top election official, Secretary of State Beth Chapman. State officials are accused in the suit of failing to file reports on overseas absentee ballots as required by a 2002 federal law. -- WAAYTV.com - Huntsville, Alabama - News Weather, Sports | Justice Dept. sues Alabama on overseas vote report

Note: the case is not yet available on Pacer. I will post the complaint when it is available. Perhaps one of my friends in the Department of Justice will email me a copy. The complaint is now available on the Voting Section website. Hat tip to John Tanner for the link.

November 17, 2008

FEC fines Sharpton presidential campaign $497k

Ben Smith writes on Politico: The wheels of the FEC can grind slow, but they just made their way to Al Sharpton's 2004 presidential campaign, and to fining him $497,000 for illegal contributions, according to MoneyLine.

The Rev.'s spokeswoman, Rachel Noerdlinger, sends over a defiant statement, saying that what the FEC takes as illegal contributions to the campaign were in fact contributions to Sharpton's nonprofit, the National Action Network; and also the fairly novel point that, since certain American Express bills in question remain unpaid, those expenditures should be excluded.

"We must have election rules that are for Senators and Congress people, or Joe the Plumber, or Al the Preacher," the statement ventures. -- Ben Smith's Blog: 'Al the Preacher' vs. FEC - Politico.com

November 16, 2008

California: Alan Keyes files suit contesting Obama's "natural born" status (court doc linked)

BaileyWo writes on the Open Salon blog: Alan Keyes, 2008 American Independent Party candidate, filed a lawsuit in California Superior Court Friday challenging Barack Obama's right to serve under the Constitution that specifies that candidates for the presidency must be "natural born" citizens of the United States.

The suit demands that Obama produce a certificate of live birth from a hospital in Hawaii to prove his status as natural born. More specifically, the suit petitions the State of California and it's Secretary of State to withhold Californian's electoral votes from Obama at its meeting of electoral delegates in December unless he can provide documentary proof of his "natural born" status.

The suit asserts that the Hawaiian hospital that claims it holds the certificate on file but will not release it has not provided sufficient evidence to show proof of "natural born" citizenship. Under Hawaiian law, a birth certificate can be issued in Hawaii if the parents are citizens of Hawaii but the child does not actually have to be born in Hawaii. The suit asserts that if this was the basis for issuance of Obama's certificate it does not meet the requirement that he be a "natural born" citizen under the United States Constitution. -- Alan Keyes Files Challenge to Obama's "Natural Born" Status - BaileyWo - Open Salon

The blog has a link to the complaint.

November 13, 2008

Minnesota: Franken sues for information on rejected absentee ballots

AP reports: Democrat Al Franken, locked in a tight Senate race headed to a statewide recount, sued Thursday for access to data on voters who had their absentee ballots rejected.

Franken's lawsuit was filed in Ramsey County District Court, but his campaign is hoping that a ruling in their favor would be applied statewide.

Franken trails Republican incumbent Norm Coleman by 206 votes in unofficial results. The state canvassing board is due to meet Tuesday to certify the results, and the recount is scheduled to start the next day.

"We are not suing to have these in the count," said Franken's lead attorney, Marc Elias. "We are simply looking for the data so that we can identify people who were legal and lawful voters to ensure their ballots are counted." -- TPM: News Pages | Talking Points Memo |

November 12, 2008

Georgia: people liked early voting, so the GOP wants to shorten the time

AP reports: Republican lawmakers are considering proposals for next year's legislative session that would shorten Georgia's early voting season and make it more difficult for close elections to reach a runoff. ...

"Most people think it was stretched out too far," said Scott, a Tifton Republican who chairs the House committee charged with drafting electoral policy. "Maybe two weeks would be long enough."

Early voting began this year on Sept. 22 and expanded to more sites a week before the November election. More than 2 million people voted during the period, and some waited in lines as long as eight hours.

Secretary of State Karen Handel, a Republican, said the long lines proved that "voters like the flexibility of having these options" but also said a thorough conversation is needed before deciding whether to revive the policy. -- Ga. election policy could be revised | AccessNorthGa

November 11, 2008

FEC will audit McCain, but likely to bypass Obama

Politico reports: The Federal Election Commission is unlikely to conduct a potentially embarrassing audit of how Barack Obama raised and spent his presidential campaign’s record-shattering windfall, despite allegations of questionable donations and accounting that had the McCain campaign crying foul.

Adding insult to injury for Republicans: The FEC is obligated to complete a rigorous audit of McCain’s campaign coffers, which will take months, if not years, and cost McCain millions of dollars to defend.

Obama is expected to escape that level of scrutiny mostly because he declined an $84 million public grant for his campaign that automatically triggers an audit and because the sheer volume of cash he raised and spent minimizes the significance of his errors. Another factor: The FEC, which would have to vote to launch an audit, is prone to deadlocking on issues that inordinately impact one party or the other – like approving a messy and high-profile probe of a sitting president.

McCain, on the other hand, accepted the $84 million in taxpayer money, which not only barred him from raising or spending more – allowing Obama to fund many times more ads and ground operations – but also will keep his lawyers busy for a couple years explaining how every penny was spent. -- Obama likely to escape campaign audit

Alabama: Provisional ballots might make the difference in Supreme Court race

The Mobile Press-Register reports: The multimillion-dollar Alabama Supreme Court race may turn on thousands of outstanding ballots.

Trailing Republican Greg Shaw by a margin of 13,207 votes — out of more than 2 million cast — Democrat Deborah Bell Paseur's campaign is waiting for county boards to begin tabulating provisional ballots, cast by those whose eligibility to vote was uncertain at election time.

The parties estimates there are between 10,000 and 16,000 outstanding ballots left to be tabulated. ...

The Board of Registrars delivered provisional ballots to the individual county probate courts Monday. Canvassing boards will begin tabulating the provisional ballots Wednesday, and the counties will make their official reports, including the provisional ballots, to the Alabama Secretary of State's office Friday. -- Alabama Supreme Court race drags on

November 9, 2008

Minnesota: recount procedures

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports: State law triggers an automatic recount in races decided by one-half of a percentage point or less. Starting Nov. 19, after unofficial results are certified, election auditors in nearly 100 county and city election offices will begin going over each ballot by hand as representatives from each candidate's campaign look over their shoulders.

What are the officials looking for?

The voters' intent. If names are circled or checked, those ballots will go in the proper candidate's pile. Disputed ballots will be sent to the State Canvassing Board. The Canvassing Board will include Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, plus two state Supreme Court justices and two Ramsey County District Court judges who will be named soon. If the board can't agree on which pile a contested ballot belongs, they will vote on it.

How long will the recount take?

Ritchie said Friday that the counting must be done by Dec. 5 and that the Canvassing Board will meet Dec. 16 and hope to finish up by Dec. 19. But things also might depend on legal challenges. A recount after the 1962 gubernatorial election took 139 days. -- Ballot by ballot, victor to emerge

November 5, 2008

Alabama: suit filed over illegal 1998 investigation of absentee voters (court doc attached)

The Birmingham News reports: Some black Bessemer residents who voted by absentee ballot in the contentious 1998 Jefferson County sheriff's race filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday, claiming former Sheriff Jim Woodward and others illegally investigated them in his bid to challenge election results.

The suit was filed in U.S. District Court in Birmingham on behalf of Russell Trusser, Geneva Trusser, Telly Trusser and others, contending their civil rights were violated. Lawyers are seeking class-action status for the suit.

The suit relies on allegations stemming from federal charges filed against Woodward and lawyer Albert Jordan in 2000. A jury convicted the men in January 2006 of charges they conspired to run criminal history checks on absentee ballot voters to use in Woodward's 1998 election contest against Democratic challenger Mike Hale.

Jordan and Woodward continue to maintain their innocence and appealed their convictions. A judge sentenced Woodward and Jordan each to six months probation, but said, at that sentencing, he would've found the men not guilty based on the evidence.

Woodward, who maintains the federal investigation against him was politically motivated, said Tuesday a lawsuit with similar allegations already has been tossed out of court. He said the allegations are too old in the current suit. Woodward said he will consult with his attorney and is considering a countersuit. -- Federal lawsuit claims former Jefferson County sheriff, others illegally targeted some absentee voters in Bessemer in 1998 - al.com

The complaint may be viewed here.

November 2, 2008

Evidence? We don't need no stinkin' evidence

Politico reports: For weeks, Republican leaders have warned that widely reported problems with fake voter registrations could result in a flood of phony votes in pivotal states.

But Ronald Michaelson, a veteran election administrator and member of the McCain-Palin Honest and Open Election Committee, said in an interview that he could not name a single instance in which this had occurred.

“Do we have a documented instance of voting fraud that resulted from a phony registration form? No, I can’t cite one, chapter and verse,” he said. ...

Republican elected officials and lawyers for state Republican parties have made similar claims in court and in statements to the press. So far, however, they have failed to provide significant supporting evidence.

A review of prosecutors’ statements and documents filed by Republicans in the most serious new cases alleging voter fraud shows that none offer an example in which a fraudulently registered person managed to cast a valid vote. While several cases argue that such frauds are possible, none sketched a scenario for how massive numbers of people could fake registrations and then vote. -- GOP offers scant proof of voter fraud

"How to protect your vote and spot dirty tricks"

The Obama-Biden campaign has produced videos for Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio, and Virginia. The state videos at short and mention the polling hours and some forms of acceptable ID.

There is also a national video entitled "How to prtect your vote and spot dirty tricks." Topics covered on the national video are the (1) myth of voter fraud, (2) voter caging, (3) misinformation,and (4) intimidation.

All videos suggest going to VoteForChange.com for more information. That site not only gives the address of a polling place, but a map showing the shortest route to the polling place (although the one for my polling place does not seem to know that College Ave. is one-way during certain hours of the day). -- Barack Obama and Joe Biden: The Change We Need | State Election Protection Videos

November 1, 2008

A collection of voting problems

ProPublica's VoteWatch culls breaking news on voting issues from around the web, focusing in particular on key swing states where problems (ranging from voter registration to machine malfunction to alleged fraud or suppression) are anticipated. -- ProPublica VoteWatch - ProPublica

Alabama: AG seizes Evergreen voting records

The Mobile Press-Register reports: Officers with Alabama Attorney General Troy King's office have seized all city and county records pertaining to the Oct. 7 municipal runoff in Evergreen, officials said Friday.

Joy Patterson, a spokeswoman for King's office, said investigators served two subpoenas Oct. 28 that ordered any and all documents relating to the runoff to be surrendered to the state office.

One subpoena was served on the city clerk for municipal records, and the other on the county's chief registrar, Patterson said. Patterson declined to say why the records were seized.

The hotly contested Evergreen mayoral race ended with incumbent Mayor Larry Fluker winning by two votes over challenger Pete Wolff III in a campaign that divided the town along racial lines. Fluker, elected four years ago, is the town's first black mayor. Wolff is white.

Both sides raised claims of illegal tactics and voter fraud during the campaign and after the votes were counted Oct. 7. At the end of that evening, Wolff finished ahead by two votes. Ten uncounted challenged ballots surfaced, and when seven were ruled valid, the race flipped in Fluker's favor. -- Runoff voting records seized by attorney general - al.com

Disclosure: I represent Mayor Fluker in the election contest.

Election-day observers from DOJ

The Washington Post's Trail blog reports: The Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice will send 800 federal observers and justice department staff to 59 jurisdictions in 23 states on Election Day to monitor polling places and elections.

Jurisdictions will include Chesterfield County, Va., which had ballot shortages and delays during the presidential primary that received nationwide attention during Congressional hearings earlier this fall, when voters said the problems cost them a chance to cast ballots.

In 2004, 1,090 observers traveled to 25 states for Election Day. During the deadlocked 2000 election, there were 317 observers watching for problems.

The department is required to monitor polling places covered by the Voting Rights Act or related court orders. In addition, its Civil Rights Section will send watchers to counties in several battleground states.

In September, in response to concerns about voter intimidation raised by numerous civil rights and voting rights groups, the department agreed not to use criminal prosecutors as elections observers, as had been done in the past with observers from U.S. Attorneys' offices. -- Justice Dept. Will Send 800 Monitors to Polls | The Trail | washingtonpost.com

Note: the story has a list of counties with federal monitors.

Twitter Vote Report

NPR announces: If you have any voting problems, NPR wants to hear about them. As part of Twitter Vote Report – a project born out of a collaboration of volunteer software developers, bloggers and the NPR social media desk – we'll be monitoring voting irregularities, everything from long waits and broken voting machines to polling places with insufficient ballots.

An interactive map will track election problems reported by voters. The map will display eyewitness reports as they come in, so most of them will not be verified by NPR. As reporters look into some of them, you'll find stories on our voting problems page.

Here's how to participate:

Text: Send a text message to 66937. Begin the message with the phrase #votereport, include your ZIP code and a very brief description of the problem.

Twitter: Send a tweet with the phrase #votereport making sure to include your zip code and a description of the problem.

iPhone and Google phone: Download the iPhone app from the education section of the iPhone app store. For the Google phone, go to the Android Market and search for "votereport."

YouTube: In conjunction with PBS and YouTube's Video Your Vote project, you can upload a video to report any problems you experience.

Also, if you need more detailed instructions, visit Twitter's help page and the project's home page, where you will find a short video tutorial and lengthier explanation of how these tools are being used.

Tags For Your Submissions

#zip code to indicate the zip code where you're voting, for example, "#20002"

L:address or city to drill down your exact location. Example: "L:1600 Pennsylvania Ave. D.C."

#machine for machine problems, Example: "#machine broken, using prov. ballot"

#reg for registration troubles. Ex.: "#reg I wasn't on the rolls"

#wait:minutes for long lines. Example: "#wait:120 and I'm coming back later"

#early if you're voting before Nov. 4

#good or #bad to give a quick sense of your overall experience -- Vote Report: Help NPR Identify Voting Problems